Cruising to Carabao Island, Philippines.

1 Week into Asia and its off to Carabao Island.

This island is near Boracay just across the sea, it is a small island about mid Philippines. It only has a few hotels, electricity is only on between 14:00 until 06:00, no ATM’s, no one takes credit card and the internet is poor. Sounds idyllic and it was!

Prior to setting off Deb and Steve head off to go to the ATM and get some cash. Small problem?
It’s the weekend, Korean and Tiawainese had cleared the ATM out as you can only get 10, 000 PHP at a time, so they use multiple cards to get more, worth remembering should you want cash at the weekend.

Luckily for us the hotel in Bulabog takes PayPal and we still have the Monday morning before the speed boat comes to collect us from station 1.

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We pack up and grab the 1st tricycle we see then head off to D’Mall to go cash hunting. This was an experience, we head off and then realise he had no tricycle number, the guy couldn’t have had a licence as he was blind but he slowly made his way down the alleyways and negotiated all the pot holes like he could see, it did the trick and we got close to the ATM. He had to drop us off close to the main road as he said he would get in trouble with the police if he went any further . As we pulled over and got out the local boys on motorbikes were having a good giggle. Deb turned to them and said were we brave or stupid and made them laugh even more! 😂😂😂

Out boat arrives at 12:00 and off we go.. It looked calm until you get in the open sea.. Turned out to be very wavy. Whilst Deb was enjoying being bounced around and zipping about, Steve really wasn’t so sure but the guy steering certainly new his stuff and negotiated the big swell well.

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Within 25 minutes we arrive at Lana Beach and to our beach front apartment and an amazing view that looks just like a postcard! We sit and have a drink and a lovely lunch, prawn cocktails have never tasted so good that Deb decided to have the same for dinner but with the addition of rice. Meanwhile, Steve munches his way through Ronnies special Thai Curry and a beef stir fry. Before we know it it’s dark and we are into our third local beer and rum and coke….Well at £2.80 a round would be rude not to.

So what’s Carabao Island like? Some of the beaches are more coral than sand, much better for beachcombing and shell finding.. The sea is still as blue and clear and the corals are closer to the shore as the beach is not so shallow as Boracay. How many starfish were there, so many everywhere you look at a range of big to small and loads of colours. No product placement here, this was just as it was!

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You can sit and watch the locals fishing from their small boats, go kayaking or snorkeling.We even saw the biggest pig on the beach being chased around as the guys try and load him on a boat to take him to market.

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The main road is a small concrete path in some places and in others just a muddy track, you really are in the real Philippines.

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10 mins walk and you are in rice fields, all the locals seem to own one carabao, a few chickens, goat and pig or wild boar.  Although we didn’t do an island tour, you can arrange to buzz around on the back of a motorbike with a local and go to the main town San Jose. We just did a lot of chilling 😎😎😎, swimming and wandering.

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Everyone is so happy, they all say hello and the kids all wave at you.. It’s so lovely! We even got invited to join into the locals karaoke at their house. As Debs version of Tom Jones “My Delila” could burst the ear drums of anyone close by we thought it would be best not too..

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Strangely we come all the way over here from the UK to be staying on a little know Island and are met by Mark and Amanda from Brighton in the UK who run the hotel and Ronnie the German chef, the owner of the hotel is Norwegian, crazy hey?
The hotel is in a lovely setting, right on the beach front, the price is great (less than an average B&B in the UK) and the most amazing horizon for the sunset, just the place to chill and enjoy the natural local culture.

Off to the airport for another plane to Manila and meet our daughter to fly out to the next island Palawan.

Live Happy

Debs and  Steve

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Bobbing About in Boracay, Philippines.

1st day in Boracay and it rains all day! Things flood alot!

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This gives us the chance to catch up with ourselves after flying from the UK, Dubai, Manila, Caticlan, bus to the port, boat to Boracay and finally a minibus to Ralph’s Place where we are staying on Bulabog Beach.

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Boracay is a small island in mid Philippines just 7km long, it has a very famous beach called White Beach. We are staying on the quiet more local side but this is still only a 15min walk from White Beach.

It really is an island of two sides.

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White Beach.

Beautiful beach with more restaurants than you could ever need, everything is catered for from Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Fish Restaurants, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, BBQ, you name it you will find it.

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There is even a place called the Hobbit Bar, Steve and Deb being rather short finally found a place that they were taller than the staff as it’s run by a group of Philippine midgets! There is D’Mall, where all the clothes shops, massage shops and loads more restaurants are. If you come down at sunset the beach is packed full of people, sellers of tourist tat, street entertainment, beach massages and men wanting to sell you boat rides etc..The beach is divided into stations.

Station 1 – There are some very nice restaurants and hotels in this area. It is also where all the watersports boats leave from. Nicest softest sand.
Station 2 – More mid range hotels and vendors selling tourist “stuff”. Crazy that it costs £17.00 for 2 sunbeds for the day when you can sit on super soft sand that doesn’t get too hot unlike the sand in Canary Islands.
Station 3 – Much more low key, you get much more for your money here and alot more local influence. The sand is not so soft here either but it’s much quieter.

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Best time to hit the beach is the morning. We went about 10:00am as the party people are still asleep and the Japanese and Chinese don’t come out until later 😉

Bulabog Beach.

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The beach is not pure and white and there is an amount of seaweed and, pending the weather, some debris could be washed up but don’t let this put you off, the sand is still soft and as we said you can walk to White Beach in 15 minutes or a 5 minute tricycle. You also have to remember that this is the local side, this is where real life happens, fishing boats are built, kids  play and dogs roam. It’s Deb’s photographing paradise 😉

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The hotels are cheaper this side, it is windyer this side. Good thing when it’s plus 30° most of the time. There are windsurfing schools, kitesurfing and a good selection of chilled bars and restaurants full of the easy going traveller types. The local’s petrol station is here, pull up with your motorbike at the little shed and buy your liter of petrol out of a 1lt coke bottle.

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Example of the price difference.
Local beer
Station 2  – 110 Pesos
Bulabog – 45 Pesos
Tricycle from Bulabog to White Beach – 60 to 70 Pesos for up to five people.
We will leave you to do the maths?

The Island has something for everyone’s budget.
Prices per day start from
Hostels – £5
3 Star Hotels – £30
Or you can go Super Luxury – £500

So where do you think Deb and Steve went, of course Bulabog, but if you’re a rich beach bunny glamorous type, stick to station one or somewhere like Shangri-La Hotel.

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Where did we stay? Ralph’s Place, from the outside you can’t see much as you have to walk up a dirt track but inside it’s lovely, clean, has A/C, super shower and a bar and restaurant. The staff are great and very friendly and attentive. We paid £200.00 including breakfast for 5 nights. You can also get a selection of breakfasts here from Philippine specialities like, Debs favourite Tapsilog (beef, egg and rice) and Steve enjoyed his bacon and eggs. Bowls of fruit were huge and full of fresh mangos, pineapple, papaya and banana.

A short walk away is a tower that you can see the whole island from, it’s only a short walk but a mighty warm one! On route you will walk through the real Philippines, local houses made of just about anything you can find for free. The kids are running around happy and the people shy.

Did we feel safe here? Yes, the Phillipine people here are happy and kind. Even the street vendors only ask you once if you want to buy something and if you say no thank you, they just wander off. Next stop Carabao Island.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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Counting the Days Until Asia🌴🌴😎🌴🌴

Planning Christmas in the Philippines and most probably the most boring blog post although it covers the answers to lots of peoples questions to us.

Flights booked, suppose we better figure out where we are going to stay and plan some stuff. Then there’s a knock at the door and the postman delivers a parcel for us. What could it be? It’s flowers and chocolates from Merlin the dog to say thank you for looking after him, what a lovely surprise!

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Where do you start, well we started a while ago.

Health.
Don’t under estimate travel vaccinations. Yes these are expensive but if there is one thing to spend your hard earned money on this has to be the one. If you’re in the UK don’t rely on getting the NHS injections done in time. Deb has had her appointments cancelled on various occasions to the point that it became too late to be fully covered as the appointment was 4 weeks too late. For peace of mind she ended up paying to go private.

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Off we went to the local doctors recommended clinic in Southampton for a consultation. Well if there were nominations for the rudest, most intimidating travel nurse, Southampton Travel Clinic would surely win. Considering we have to pay a private charge just to see this women you would have expected at least some customer service. “What do you mean, you don’t know where you are travelling in Asia and you don’t know for how long, how can I do risk assessments based on this information.” Sorry, have you never met a backpacker, Lady? (Well that’s what we were thinking in our heads, goodness knows what would have happened if we would have said it out loud) Scary lady 😨

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Deb sets to Googling and ends up finding Go Global who has a private clinic not far away from home. So refreshing, turns out to be a good call. You couldn’t wish for a better person. Andrea is really nice and welcoming. If your local to Chandler’s Ford, Southampton, UK area, she’s your travel lady.

Deb looks at all the countries on the wish list and Google searches the vaccinations then works out which country needs the most and if any are different to other areas.

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Sorted! Prepare for Myanmar and confirm with Go Global.
Hepatitis A – Already covered
Hepatitis B – Some say it’s not needed but we wouldn’t go without it.
Japanese Encephalitis – Got to get
Typhiod – Already covered

Rabies – Another that some say not required but on our list to have. Some of these animals may look cute but you just never know if they have rabies. Steve foaming at the mouth wouldn’t be a good look.
Polio – Already covered
Tetnus – Already covered
Diptheria – Already covered
Malaria – Complicated but Andrea helped us sort it out and Asda supplied cheaper than anywhere else without the need of a prescription!

Total cost £1167
Yes it’s very expensive and some are only recommended but not essential but if you’re wise it’s better to have them rather than pay for it later. You can’t put a price on life, it’s priceless so why risk it? This is the cost without Dr Debs 1st Aid Kit, more about this later.

Next  – Check out the country, is it safe?

Get it in perspective..
Safe?
Check its not in a war zone or in a state of lawlessness.
Check you’re covered under your travel insurance.
Look at the latest government advice from the country you’re visiting.
Do you need any special cover, natural disaster recovery?
Look at the risk and measure against how safe your country is for a visitor from another country?

Example.
Lets look at the Phillipines.

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In the UK media the president is shooting all drug dealers, it’s carnage. They have employed local people from the slums to assassinate their fellow neighbours if they are involved. People are saying to us is it safe for you to go there, won’t you get kidnapped?

A – Are you telling me that you are going to wander around the the dodgy parts of town? 🔫                                                               Check out the no go areas where you are going and don’t go there! 🚫
B – Are you going to be involved in drugs? 😲 If you have prescription medication to take or want to take your 1st aid supply of pills, take the instructions and get a letter from your doctor for prescription drugs. Remember that a drug may be legal in your country but not in the country you are going to. Example: Codeine is classed as an illegal narcotic. That means no migraine tablets for Deb.. Well only until landing in Philippines. They can come on the plane 🙄  Just not off it and it’s the long flight that gives her a migraine!
C – Are you really going to just book the 1st cheap hotel you see without checking out why it’s so cheap? 🛏

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Check out on google the best area for tourists to stay, this may not always be the area you thought. In Manila it’s the financial district of Makati, right next to the red light district.. It wasn’t Debs 1st choice but after research and recommendations this is where we have booked.. Will let you know in January how it went.
D – Are you just going to jump in any old taxi you see? 🚕  You have the Internet, yes? Use it. Google how much is a taxi, best taxis to use. We land at 23:00hr and have pre booked a taxi, after a long journey we are happy to pay the extra to have a person standing there with our name ready to take us straight to the overnight hotel. This adds to the comfort of travel. Before you ask, yes of course we checked out the taxi company reviews  😉
E – Are you going to open your wallet full of cash in front of everyone, remember some of these countries are poor, what is only £10 to you is 4 days wages to someone else?

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After a morning of rushing around, the time has suddenly come. Off to the train station we go. 6 minutes before the train arrives its cancelled! 2 trains, 4 taxi’s, 1 boat, 3 flights, various minibuses, overnight hotel in Manila and a coach later, we are in Boracay!

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Live Happy

Debs and Steve

November in Austria

Imagine this, 5am and Merlin the dog is asking to go out..

Up we get as we know it must be unsettling for him and he must be missing his owners, we put his lead on and off he rushes tugging us. Noooo…. Upset tummy time.

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We settle him back down and pop back to bed for a further little nap as it’s dark. Unbeknown, until we get up that poor Merlin had already had a mishap or three… So off Steve goes for a walkies and Deb has the lovely task of cleaning up… Wasn’t a good moment in our travel.

Lucky for us he soon settles in and spends most of his time either trying to sit on Steve’s lap whilst he’s working at the table or putting his paw on Steve’s foot to stop him going anywhere!

The Christmas markets start opening in November so off we go to explore. 1st Strobl, complete with real deers and open fires. Another day it’s St Gilgen, full of Asian tourists taking more photos than Deb! Last was St Wolfgang, the prettiest village, very traditionally Austrian and a big floating candle in the lake.

The Salzkammergut area of Austria is lovely and we know it well as we used to own a small flat in the area. If you ever fancy a look around we know of various places you can stay and will receive some lovely hospitality. Check out the links below.

Haus Bergheim – Steeg

House on the Lake – Steeg

Landhaus Kesmi – Gosau

Haus Anastasia – Bad Ischl

Weather changes so much in this area, one place it can be lovely and warm and the next cold, Icey and snowy, the lake and glacier below were only about 20mins over the mountain pass from the lake we were at and what a difference.

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We spent plenty of time walking with Merlin and discovering new paths, everyone in the village seems to know Merlin and waves hello or stops for a chat. We also get to catch up with a couple of friends who have sold up in the UK and made the brave move of living full time in the country. When people think we are brave and have made a ballsy move. We can tell you about loads of people we have met on our travels who have done many braver things.

THEN THERE WAS KRAMPUS 😲😨😲

It’s a local tradition that goes a long way back in time. So Santa looks after the good children, but what happens to the naughty ones.. So this is where Krampus comes in. Local villagers dress up in very scary costumes, handed down from generations and we are talking years old. Think of an old costume made of goat skin, kept in an musty attic and never dry cleaned, that’s the best way Deb can describe the smell.

There is a big gathering, like a carnival and plenty of gluhwine to keep you warm. The local people all come out to watch. So what happens to the naughty kids? They get beaten with birch sticks by some devil looking creature and we mean really do get a bit of a whipping! If you stand near to the show boundary tape you are classed as fair game. We had never been to one before. Scared the life out of Deb, although it was maybe because she was very close to the edge of the show.. or was she just a naughty one?

The creatures seem to like her, perhaps it was the squealing when they came near! The guys in costumes do get a bit over excited and some get a bit caught up in the moment, most have been drinking all day and are a bit hyped up. Where was Steve, he wasn’t as stupid as Deb and stood back chuckling away..

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3 weeks went so quickly, now time to go home to prepare for Asia, 1st stop The Philippines 🌴🌴😎🌴🌴
Live Happy
Debs and Steve

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Dog Sitting in Austria

Experienced dog sitters we aren’t or should we say we now are!

As we come to land at the airport we see the big traffic jam and say about how our lift to Steeg is probably in it and we were right, they were. We grab a coffee and take a seat in Salzburg airport. It’s only a small airport but very nice and relaxed and if you’re off to Salzburg town the buses are so easy to find to get you there.

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Once our lift arrives we hop in and are on route to meet our new friend for the next three weeks, Merlin the 3 year old black Labrador. Within the hour we arrive after non stop chatting all the way. Merlins owners are off to South Africa on holiday, we have heard so many good things about it that we have it on the ever growing wish list. Trying to satisfy our wanderlust is proving so difficult when you hear about places from everyone. We are already talking about when do we need to go back to work so we can refill the pot of money to continue having our yearly holidays!

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The door is opened and out bounces an excited dog. We have a few days before the owners set off to allow time to settle in and run through the routine of Merlin and the house. We have a lovely apartment to stay in and use of the owners house too. We are situated about 50 meters from Hallstätter lake. The views from each room are beautiful, high in the mountains sits loads of white snow contrasting with the blue sky and the air is so crisp and clean. It is like you have stepped into a holiday brochure. The weather was so lovely we all went for a walk up in the mountains near by. Merlin ran around to his hearts content and then at about 16:00 hr the sun starts to disappear and the cold air arrived very quickly, back to the warmth of the house we go.

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On the 1st night we visit a traditional Austrian restaurant with Merlins owners and eat a special local dish that is not on the menu but available to the regulars. Venison fillet in red wine sauce, potatoes and red cabbage, so tasty and of course how could Deb resist a glass of Austrian wine. Once we are settled in we will be off to find some local garlic soup, sounds bad but tastes so good! 😋

Never tried Austrian wine? If you have the chance, give it a go. They produce red, white and rose and in the UK it is starting to appear on a lot more wine lists. Deb and Steves favorite vineyard is Schloss Gobelsburg, one of the oldest in Austria situated in the Kamptal wine growing region in Lower Austria, about 50 miles to the north west of Vienna.

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Following morning we go with the owners to take Merlin for his normal morning walk before dropping Sue and Les off at the train station to start their holiday and we start our life as house and dog sitters exploring the local area around Hallstätt.

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1st stop is an invite from the neighbours, Liz and Geoff for coffee and cake and we learn all about HyperZoom photography, then it’s off to start exploring.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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