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Category — Travel

Winter Vacation Part 4 – El Nido

Hi Everyone!  here is the El Nido installment!  This is a rather large post laden with videos that I suggest you watching.  We got a little obsessed with our water proof camera case!

January 12, 2010 06:19 PM

I don’t know if Chad mentioned that it was raining A LOT when we were in El Nido.  Above is a picture of Chad on our first day.  We were famished and dirty from the bus ride.  We just sat and watched the waves.

January 12, 2010 06:21 PM

A view from the restaurant in our hostel.  Watch out for sea spray!

January 13, 2010 11:20 AM

I have to say, yes, I went to the Philippines because I wanted some Vitamin D.  That being said, it was really wonderful to see the islands surrounded by storms.  You never see clouds in a postcard.  Despite the fact that we couldn’t run around in the sand without being pelted by rain drops, it was very beautiful.

January 13, 2010 05:30 PM

One our second day the weather cleared up by the late afternoon so we decided to take a sunset cruise.  Cleared up meaning we could walk without being drenched.  It was a rocky boat ride but it was nice to get out and Chad took some magnificent photos.

January 13, 2010 05:36 PM

On the third day we decided to sign up for an island hopping tour and brave the weather which cooperated above and beyond our expectations.

January 14, 2010 09:40 AM

Island Hopping Boat Tour – Sea Level

January 14, 2010 09:44 AM

Sunshine!  We are so happy!

Next is a video of me waving.  Woot.  You can tell we were adjusting to the underwater filmography.

Kate Waving – UNDER WATER!

January 14, 2010 09:49 AM

My mask was a little tight.

January 14, 2010 10:14 AM

Chad has some awesome nautical moves!

January 14, 2010 11:07 AM

This is probably me favorite video (LaGOONy).  Chad head butts the camera and when the lens is in and out of the water it looks like we have HUGE bodies and tiny heads.  Oh, and NAME THAT TUNE!  Sorry, it’s me and not Chad singing!


January 14, 2010 11:17 AM

We finally found fish!  This spot was amazing.  We saw more fish here that our entire diving trip in Thailand last year!


Look forward to another fish video at the marine sanctuary on Panglao.

January 14, 2010 12:31 PM

This is our lunch spot.  Look at the video for a panoramic view!

Lunch Break Beach

January 14, 2010 06:15 PM

Relaxing after a long and wonderful day on the water – wow we got roasted!

January 14, 2010 06:15 PM

The porch area of our hostel.

January 14, 2010 06:17 PM

Our final day we decided to do a cliff climb.  It was fantastic.  Just us and the guide and limestone!

January 15, 2010 02:52 PM

The view was incredible and terrifying!  Look at the video!

Cliff View of El Nido

January 15, 2010 03:07 PM

January 15, 2010 03:10 PM

We could see that red flag from the beach in front of our hostel – it was soooo tiny!

January 15, 2010 03:11 PM

Me with our guide.

January 15, 2010 03:50 PM

Water break!

January 15, 2010 03:50 PM

Whoa Nellie!

January 15, 2010 03:50 PM

So, after the sunset sail we went on an evening swim in the ocean.  I got in a fight with a stray board – it won.  While we were snorkeling my wounds got sunburned!  You can tell that I had fun!

January 16, 2010 06:58 AM

Time to go back to Puerto Pincessa.  Above is the kind of bus we took to El Nido.  Below is the less comfortable option we took back.

January 16, 2010 06:59 AM

Next, Bohol!

In other news, we are doing really well!  I can’t believe that our time here is almost up.  We finish at school next Wednesday, we leave Samcehok a week from tomorrow, then we take off for Beijing on the 4th!  Also, we will officially be back in Chicago on the 19th of April at 3:10 PM!  YAYY!!  We can’t wait to get home and see all of our family and friends!

Thank you for keeping Grandpa Baird in your thoughts – keep it up!  He is improving to the point of serenading Grandma Baird on her birthday/Valentine’s Day!  We are very happy!

Well, it’s time to look for some more Couch Surfers for our trip.

See you two months from today!

Love, Kad & Chate

February 19, 2010   Comments Off

Winter Vacation Part 3 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido

The 3rd post from our Winter Vacation is from one of our more memorable adventures. After Manila, we took a small plane for about an hour to another island called Palawan.  (Video Soon!)

January 11, 2010 04:36 PM

On the Plane…

January 11, 2010 05:09 PM

Over this… :)

Palawan is often called the “last frontier” of the Philippines.  It was only claimed by the Philippines in the 1960s after being tossed around between Japanese rule in WWII, American rule earlier in the century, Spanish rule before that, and Malay long ago.  So, as expected this island was much less developed than Manila or our later stops on Bohol and Cebu.  We flew into Puerto Princesa (the capital of the island) and had to stay the night before heading up to El Nido.  We arrived at Manny’s guest house by tricycle (there are no taxi’s on the island – WATCH THE VIDEO HERE!) just in time to catch this great view of the sunset!

January 11, 2010 06:12 PM

January 11, 2010 06:13 PM

January 11, 2010 06:13 PM

We took off into town to find some internet and came across this church.  They had 3 masses a day 2 in English and 1 in the local dialect.  Pretty cool!

January 11, 2010 06:53 PM

January 11, 2010 06:56 PM

I think we were hungry!

The next morning we left at 7am on a local bus for our next stop – El Nido.  We had the option to take a local bus for 300 pesos each (~$4) or a minivan with aircon for 600 pesos each.  We opted for the cheaper version hoping for more of an adventure …   The bus was a huge open air giant of a machine and looked like it had been in use since about WWII or so.  The bus slowly filled with all local Philippinos …. and us (the only foreigners in sight).

January 12, 2010 07:56 AM

This was our navigator :)

January 12, 2010 08:18 AM

This was our seat…

January 12, 2010 08:39 AM

She was our entertainment…

The bus ride took a solid 8 hours to get from Puerto Princesa to El Nido.  We spent most of the trip admiring the amazing scenery, clinging to the railings as we hurdled down rough pavement, gravel, and dirt roads, or we watched the children sitting in front of us.

January 12, 2010 10:18 AM

January 12, 2010 08:49 AM

On top of the bus, people packed on loads of goods to ship, bags, and at one point in the trip… a motorcycle!  When the bus was full, people sat on the roof.  No one fell off, but I’m sure there were some close calls with the rough roads and crazy driving.

January 12, 2010 09:12 AM

One of the many amazing views on the bus ride up to El Nido.

January 12, 2010 10:27 AM

Here’s another…

We made it safely to El Nido.  Luckily it only rained for about 20 minutes near the end of the ride.  We’ve heard horror stories of the bus getting stuck in the mud on rainy days and taking 12-15 hours to get to El Nido.  We also avoided flat tires (another common occurrence).  Video of our arrival into El Nido is below.

The bus ride was definitely an adventure.  We chose it because it we wanted to have a more realistic Philippines experience and we got it.  We saw a lot of beautiful sites, but also so the shanties and shacks of rural Philippino life.  We stopped a few times and encountered some begging children, hungry and dirty.  A sad sight and a strange reminder of Manila.  The restrooms along our trip were shacks with holes in the ground or a basic toilet with no seat or water.  Needless to say we limited our water and food so we could avoid them as much as possible.  Many of our companions on the bus didn’t speak, or didn’t want to speak English so it was hard to know what was happening when we stopped, or how long we had left on our journey.  But that was all part of the experience.  It was one of our more memorable experiences of the trip and I’m glad we did it.

Up Next – the town of El Nido and it’s paradise limestone islands!  Oh.. and some great underwater videos!

Please keep my (Chad) grandfather in your thoughts.  He’s having a rough recovery from knee surgery a few weeks ago.  He’s doing better the past few days but still has a long road to recovery ahead.  Nothing makes us feel farther away from home than when someone we love is sick.  We just thankful for the wonders of Skype that help us keep in touch.

All the best,


February 14, 2010   Comments Off

Winter Vacation Part 2 – Manila

Hello Everyone!  Chad has been doing an amazing job arranging all of our pictures.  I thought I could contribute and regale you with the tales of our 36 hours in Manila!

January 9, 2010 12:56 PM

As Chad mentioned in his last post, Molly, Chad and I all left Incheon the same day.  One slight snafue in our planning – Molly took off at 9:30 AM, we took off at 9:30 PM.  Little did Chad and I know that we would fall in love with the Incheon airport.

Once we had our MacDonald’s breakfast we headed upstairs to find a cozy place to catch up on reading/sleep/picture taking.  Incheon has huge bean bags all over upstairs.  We saw one open up and pretty much sprinted to claim it.

Chad took lots of pictures.

I read lots of D.H. Lawerence’s Women in Love.

January 9, 2010 01:01 PM

I love this picture.  Notice there is only one man who is standing still.  Can you find him?  Ill give you one hint – he’s Korean!

January 9, 2010 01:35 PM

Sleepy heads!

January 9, 2010 01:13 PM

Hangin’ with D.H.

So, we landed in Manila at 12:30 AM.  It was beautiful and balmy and the airport made the Indianapolis airport look like the biggest airport in the world!  We got into a cab and had an experience.  The cab driver was appalled at the location of our hostel and spent the entirety of our drive telling us we shouldn’t go there.  This was between wrong turns and police checkpoints!  Wow.

When we finally arrived at the hostel it was very nice and the owner was incredibly welcoming.  It was very clean and we had great roommates.  The location was slightly dodgy but we’re here to tell the tale!

The next morning we walked around Rizal Park.

January 10, 2010 02:30 PM

These kids got super excited when Chad was taking pictures.  They all lined up and jumped around for him!  They are much more active picture takers than our students!  I wish I had my camera out to take picture of Chad taking their pictures – it was pretty cute.

January 10, 2010 02:33 PM

This is me, Ana (German), and Blanca (Columbian living in China).  They were our roommates in Manila and we spent the day with them.  They were quite lovely ladies!

January 10, 2010 02:42 PM

January 10, 2010 02:45 PM

There were ice cream trucks everywhere and they all constantly played the same ding-dong tune!  After about 3 minutes of wandering around the park we all had it stuck in our heads.

January 10, 2010 05:09 PM

January 10, 2010 05:12 PM

A view of Chad at work.

January 10, 2010 05:15 PM

A view of Chad’s work.

After the park and some lunch we headed to a fort commemorating Jose Rizal (every main street in Manila is Rizal Avenue).  Rizal was a huge nationalist/martyr in the Philippines in the late 1800′s.

January 10, 2010 05:18 PM

Below is a view from the top of the fort wall.

January 10, 2010 05:29 PM

The Manila metropolis.  Vastly different from what we left in Seoul.  I had no idea how different it was going to be.

January 10, 2010 05:31 PM

Gazing at . . . . ?

January 10, 2010 05:33 PM

January 10, 2010 05:39 PM

By the end of the day we were very tired.  Instead of fighting to get onto the subway system we decided to hop into a jeepney.  They are bus-jeeps that people jump into for a quick, cheap ride.  Hold on tight!

January 10, 2010 06:17 PM

The next day, right before we headed to the airport, Chad and I decided to check out the Chinese cemetery that was right outside of our hostel.  It vaguely reminded me of the tombs I visited in Cortona 4 years ago.  In the Philippines people really go all out for their deceased loved ones.  Some of the tombs have air conditioning, running water, full fridges, etc.  I think we should have just stayed in one of those!

January 11, 2010 01:23 PM

We wanted to take this little guy home but he was too big for our backpacks.

January 11, 2010 01:24 PM

Manila was a very interesting and educational experience.  We saw a ton of poverty and many people with a much different standard of living then we are used to seeing as the norm.  Chad mentioned some of it in a post he made while we were traveling.  I  felt like a naive voyeur the entire time we were in Manila.  It was very sobering and prompted a lot of discussion for the trip.  Who are we to decide what is comfortable and not comfortable?  Who are we to live in a three bedroom apartment with plumbing?  Do they want that?  How do we help?  Do they want help?  Maybe they are perfectly and happy and just because it wouldn’t make us happy doesn’t mean they aren’t even happier than we are.  There is a fine line and  seeing it is a huge challenge.  I hope that Chad and I remember how that felt and that we manage to do the right thing and not ignore it.  We both want to get back into volunteering when we get home and maybe even while we are traveling.

One a lighter note, we are in the midst of arranging our trip for the spring.  Right now we plan to be in China for about a month then we’ll head through Vietnam to Cambodia.  After that we plan to fly from Bangkok to Paris.  We plan to be home in mid to late April.  We’ll let you know as things firm up!  We are incredibly excited and each time we sit down to plan we just talk about how crazy it is that we get to see all these amazing places!

Well, we only have one computer now and I need to get a few things accomplished before I hand it over to Chad.

I hope everyone is doing well and staying warm!  Anyone buried in the snow?

February 7, 2010   5 Comments