Within six hours of landing back in Hong Kong, I had completely written myself off in Wan Chai and had somehow managed to lose a shoe. I needed to leave. The following day, I caught the earliest flight to the Philippines.
I flew from Hong Kong to Busuanga, via Manila. I obviously didn’t leave Manila airport because I would prefer that my vital organs remain unharvested. I spent the four hour layover searching for my travel partner, H, and subsequently having hallucinogenic dreams on the most unforgiving airport furniture in South East Asia.
Jet lagged, hungover and very anxious, I wanted to kill someone, anyone, as we meandered from Busuanga Airport, through the jungle, in a dilapidated mini van. Despite making my hostility towards other human beings patently obvious, there is always one. I had the great pleasure of sitting next to some gap year imbecile, who, much to my disdain, was quite the conversationalist. Fortunately, H fielded all of his puerile questions, as I quietly gouged my eyes out.
Arriving in Coron Town, we aptly christened our first hostel, ‘the church’. It was a dingy, oak-panelled squat, filled with a worrying amount of religious paraphernalia. The hostel owner resembled a shrunken head in a dress and was approximately 103 years old. She spoke no English and would stand in our bedroom for inappropriate periods of time, grimacing. Finding the whole ordeal somewhat unnerving and desperate to escape from Gollum, I insisted that we left after two nights. Terrible.
Our next hostel was a welcome contrast: it was a beautiful wooden structure, built on stilts in the water; the views were incredible. We spent a significant quantity of time lying in hammocks and drinking bottles of San Miguel Pilsen (45 pence each). There were however, a couple of mild quandaries. The first: the distinct lack of air conditioning. The hostel, in a considered attempt to mitigate this, provided us with antiquated fans from the 1970s: mine sounded like a jet turbine and worked somewhat erratically thanks to the intermittent power cuts on the island.
The second issue: no running water. The ‘washroom’ was approximately 2ft2 and crawling with ants. To my utter horror, I was forced to wash using a bucket, a scoop and a trickle of glacial water. It was all fairly degrading and in hindsight, packing my Jo Malone bath products was horribly, horribly naïve. H managed to evade to whole ordeal through boycotting all acts of sanitation.. for nine days. I made no attempt to disguise my revulsion.
Most days, we hired a small boat to explore the the truly mesmerising outlying islands. The beaches were adorned with the whitest sand and framed by crystal clear waters. We spent our afternoons snorkelling around ship wrecks and diving in hidden lagoons. I Instagrammed the fuck out of everything, obviously.
The supreme beauty of the islands, however, had a peculiar effect on my comrade, who decided that she was going to pack in law school, become a turtle whisperer and live in a cave. Naturally, I feared and loathed all facets of the idea. H thus spent the week in a state of delusion, preaching about how ‘phenomenal’ life is. I meanwhile, desperately sought ways to euthanise her.
The Philippines is undeniably exquisite. The food, however, is fucking atrocious. And I thought German cuisine was bad. Most meals involved some dubious looking meat and badly fried rice. Their local delicacy is balut, a boiled egg containing a developed duck foetus: I have no words. As a result, H and I pursued a strict liquid diet of San Miguel Pilsen, which, on one occasion, almost resulted in us purchasing an acre of mango farm.
Despite definitely giving myself malignant melanoma and acquiring mosquito bites that almost had me banished to a leper colony, I had the most wonderful week.
Palawan, we shall meet again.
Gfy, Hong Kong