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Cebu Island Part I

Cebu City

When I started this post, I’d been in the Philippines for about two weeks. I spent the first few days recovering from either food poisoning, or just adjusting to the food. It was hard to tell. I had some KFC in the Mumbai international airport at midnight that didn’t agree with me, and yeah I know it was stupid, but it was late and I was hungry and not a lot was open (stupid chicken sandwich). I went up to the roof at my hostel and met a bunch of people including a friend named Jelmer from Holland. It was on the roof of that hostel that I met a lot of friends and people that I would later end up travelling with. It was a tiny little rooftop commons area. This was both it’s problem and it’s saving grace. It was so small that when people went up there to smoke, or to drink everyone had to be in one tight circle. This, of course meant that that everyone had to interact, and there were no small groups as happens sometimes. Jelmer invited me to Moalboal in a few days after he got some work done, so I stayed at the hostel and killed time.

I mostly recovered my health in the next days, but I did have a fun night with a Swedish guy named Felix. I asked Felix if he was going out that night. He said that he had just flew in from Sweden and was pretty jetlagged. I said I was recovering from food poisoning, but we both agreed that a couple of beers on the roof sounded good. Of course one beer turned into three, which turned into several bottles of rum as more and more people from the hostel came to the roof. People came and people left, but Felix and I remained. We couldn’t figure out why people were going to bed so early until the sun rose. Now the funny thing about Felix is that he couldn’t really drink, but he was keeping up with me all night. When the sun rose I was surprised he hadn’t passed out. I found out later that Felix was 18 years old, and then I understood. I could do things like that when I was 18 too.

Oslob

So Jelmer hit me up a day or two later, and we went down to Oslob, because the only hostel in Moalboal was booked up. We met back up with Matt, who we had met in Cebu. We all three went to swim with the whale sharks the next day and decided to stay in Oslob for another day because it was so chill and everyone was so nice. We stayed in Luzmin BH, which is ran by Lucy, and she’s helped by her son Mark. Almost every evening people come by and play pool on the pool table in the back. The cost for a game is 5p (about $0.10USD) and the standard bet is 20p (about $0.40USD). It was fun even if I almost never won. The people in that area play a ludicrous amount of pool, as did the people in Moalboal. Some of my fondest memories of Lagunda, and Oslob in general, are just hanging out in that back courtyard area and losing pool consistently to the local guys. While we trash talked each other and feigned pain when we missed, all without any grasp of each others language. It was good fun. Matt was actually the first person I met travelling who played serious pool. I used to, many years ago, but my skills have atrophied to the point where I can only beat my friends. Although they like to think I’m really good, I’m not, but it makes them feel better about losing.

We went to swim with the whale sharks pretty early in the morning, or at least for me it was. We got up and around 7 and got out there maybe 7:30. It was one of the more expensive touristy things I’ve done since travelling, 1000p (about $23USD), but it was so worth it. That included the snorkelling as well, so it would be a few hundred pesos cheaper if you didn’t want to go in the water, or a few hundred more if you wanted to dive. You go out on a little bangkha about 50-60 feet from the shore and just jump in. The snorkels they rented us were terrible and I kept inhaling water and ended up ditching the snorkel and keeping on the mask. The whale sharks were 8-10 meters long. That is around 30 feet. That doesn’t quite due them justice, because they are also very big around. Google some images, because I forgot my camera, but suffice to say they are HUGE! The people in the boat feed the Whale Sharks, so they are constantly moving around trying to get the food. You go through an orientation before you go, and it mostly consists of, “DON’T TOUCH THE WHALE SHARKS!!!” also maintain a 10-15 foot distance at all times. That is easier said then done and I had to frequently dodge the sharks when they almost ran into me. They are so big that you don’t even register to them. At one point I was hanging off of the side of the boat with a whale shark coming by beneath me with the man driving the boat yelling at me, “UP! UP! HIGHER!!!” I was completely out of the water at this point and hanging on trying not to fall on the whale shark inches below me, and then the man yelled at me, “BUT RELAX! RELAX!!!!” I wanted to yell back at him, “QUIT YELLING AT ME TO RELAX! IT’S NOT HELPFUL!!!” However I was out of breath and trying not to fall. Over all it was one of my favorite memories in the Philippines and I would highly recommend it.

So now we went to Moalboal. Unfortunately the rain started coming down. I was reminded that the Philippines doesn’t have Summer or Winter. They just have the rainy season and the not rainy season. Typhoon season is generally at the beginning of the rainy season. We had been making jokes about the rain for a bit while we were lounging in the sun, but then it started coming down. Jelmer sat on a little chair in the rain with an umbrella while we were trying to wave down a bus. It was one of the saddest most pitiful things I had ever seen. I wanted to take a picture, but it seemed inappropriate. Also my camera was all the way in my bag. I offered to take a shift with him, but he said that there was no sense in getting two of us wet, and I didn’t argue very hard.

Finally we got a bus. Unfortunately it was the wrong bus, but we didn’t realize that until we arrived at the end of the line. It was not the town we thought we were going to catch the next bus at. We asked the driver if we could just flag down another bus on the way. He assured us that it would not be a problem. It was a problem, and illustrates something that happens a lot in the Philippines. People will tell you where something is, because they are helpful, but they might not have any idea what you’re talking about. If you get directions I would recommend asking a few different people and getting a consensus. It will save you many of the days I spent looking for restaurants and landmarks. None of the buses stopped and we ended up taking a trike to the next bus station. We still had to wait an hour or so in the rain huddled with everyone else under some thatched roofs trying to edge out the vendors and the chickens.

Moalboal

We got our bus and went to Moalboal. When we got to Moalboal I thought immediately that I would hate it. It was packed, noisy, and everyone was yelling at you trying to get you to take a trike etc. I was pretty wet and beat so we grabbed a trike for like 150p (we found out later the going rate is 30p/person). So the way that Moalboal is laid out is that there are two major areas around the water, and the city. The city sucks. The other parts are called the little sun and the big sun. The little sun is where all the backpackers and cheap diving people hang out. The big sun is resorts and private beaches. I did not go to the big sun. The little sun was cool though. Good food, nice bars, not too expensive. We grabbed some beers, met up with the girls and just hung out. The next day was a bit of an adventure. I accidentally went canyoning. That day warrants another post, so I’ll link it here when I’m done. Although Seven Sins bar was pretty cool and is worth noting because it’s a little bar in Moalboal that takes bitcoin. It was pretty awesome and Jelmer and I had a great talk with Abraham, the owner of the bar, about cryptocurrencies.

I ended back up in Cebu after Moalboal. It’s a 4 hour bus ride North from Moalboal to Cebu City, but in rush hour its more like 5-6 hours. I relaxed in Cebu for a couple of days and met up with some guys. Till from Switzerland, Hao from Vietnam (but who lived in LA), and Maikel from the Netherlands. We were all thinking about heading to Bohol. We decided that after Christmas Eve we’d roll out.

We went out on Christmas Eve. We started the night at an Irish Pub, and there was a hilarious exchange when an American guy we we were hanging out with tried to order Irish car bombs. Keep in mind this was an Irish pub, that I’m pretty sure was owned by an Irish guy. After half an hour of trying to explain to the bartender and the bouncer how to make them he just asked for the ingredients. So if you’ve never tried to make 10 Irish car bombs from shots and cans of Guiness and pint glasses on a rickety table in a crowded bar I will tell you it’s challenging. We finally succeeded. Serge felt triumphant, and I was happy to get free Jameson and Guiness, and then went to the club. We danced our asses off, but the club didn’t seem very Christmassy to me. I headed back to the Hostel with Maikel and Dora, from Australia. We got back to the hostel and heard merrymaking across the street. The two shops were having street parties. One had house music playing loudly, and people dancing. The other shop had an amp, and two guitarists, or maybe a guitarist and a bass player. We grabbed beers and started listening to the music. However in the Philippines if you know the words to the song then they’ll just pass you the mic. I sang some Janes Addiction with Dora, but had issues because I blew out my voice at the club. I could only sing bass very low. We partied, then went to bed. I have a video of it somewhere that I might upload.

The Friday before we leave for Sweden

Taking Sweden by storm, or at least leisurely walks.

Ah, Sweden. When I think of the time spent in Sweden I think of a few things. I think of the night that Zach and I ran into some other Americans and went bar hopping, and I think of Zach’s Swedish family reunion in Falun, I think of bars with his aunt and uncle and dinner with all of his family, and finally I think of so much walking.

One Friday we ran into some Americans at this Swedish rocker bar we had been going to for the cheap (relatively) pints. It looked pretty dead so we were in the process of leaving, but then one of the guys at the bar grabbed Zach and started yelling about the Red Sox. Zach was wearing one of his Red Sox hats, so that made a bit of sense. It turns out several of the guys that were there were from Boston, and all of those were Sox fans. We started talking with the guys, they were in Stockholm for a couple of days before they headed to Munich for Oktoberfest. We told them about our upcoming travels and we all hit it off pretty quickly.

They asked if we new some good bars and Zach said that not only did he know some good bars he stays just around here and knew the area pretty well. Then we were off towards Sodermalm. We started walking. We started slowly losing guys, one at Medusa, but were still rolling 6-7 deep. We had to stop for gyros for the guys, but Zach and I had already eaten. I don’t remember that much of what we talked about on the walk, but it was the general back and forth that all men know well. The drunken getting to know people that you will probably never see again. I’m not dismissing it, because it is fun, but calling it like I see it. We traded stories, and talked with them about where they were from. Aparrently a couple of them were from this town outside Tampa Florida. That immediately peaked Zach’s interest because that is one of the places that we were looking at coming back to. They said it was really cool and way better than Miami.

We got to Soder and went to Pet Sounds, which was the bar Zach and I went to briefly the night before with Anna’s friend Elin. They were about to close so we couldn’t get any beers. They even resisted the charms of the Boston guys trying to bribe the bartender to serve us anyways. We then tried to leave, but some of the Bostonians were reluctant. Finally all of us left. Zach, me and the lead Bostonian? The lead Bostonian noticed we were about 5 people short and we went back, and noticed that they had picked up a couple of people. A few girls and their assorted boyfriends. More the merrier as I always say. The new Swedes had an idea for some bar that Zach hadn’t heard of. They said it was open late so we were all down. They tried to GPS us there, but were having issues, but we eventually ended up in front of this club.

So clubs in Sweden are even more expensive than the bars, up to $15/pint, way out of our price range. Most of the Bostonians opted to stay, but Zach, me and two of the guys went back to Medusa for a nightcap. We had a couple of pints at the Medusa, and the Bostonians decided to head out. It was a weird goodbye. I’m not used to picking up new friends at the bar like that and bonding that quickly. We shook hands and they took off. Zach turned to me, “Well that doesn’t mean that we can’t drink for the rest of the night.”
“Agreed,” was my witty rejoinder.
Then some drunk guy came up to us to try to get us to watch him beatbox on the set. He was speaking in an odd mix of Swedish and English I’m told they colloquially refer to as, “Swenglish.” Zach’s Swedish is much better than mine, which is basicallly non-existent, and he tried to talk with the guy. He was very drunk and insistent on something. I don’t speak Swedish, so I’m not sure what it was, but he sure wanted us to know. After maybe a half hour of this we decided to head back to the apartment. We then sat at the kitchen table and drank and talked, just like we had earlier in the night. I don’t remember going to sleep, but I was awoken by the church bells. They seemed to come from everywhere. I later learned from Anna that the apartment was between two different churches whose bells went off at the same time. So it was bells in stereo to wake you up in the morning, fine most mornings, but a little rough on that one.

The Thursday before we left we went into Stockholm to get our visas and have dinner with Zach’s uncle Johan. It turns out that the consulate was closed on that day for Ghandi’s birthday. Ghandi, always messing up our plans. This meant that we had to get our passports/visas the Friday before we left. We were cutting it pretty close, but we like to live on the edge (heh).

We met up with Johan, and his infant son Jonathon and walked around Sture Plan. We took in the sights, and just enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t raining.. He walked us through some of the French style open markets. I assume they were expensive because there weren’t any prices on anything. I asked Johann about it and he said that it was probably a “If you have to ask, it’s too much for you,” kind of thing.

We grabbed some Texas Style ribs and stuff for slaw, and went over to Johann and his wife Karin’s place. It was very nice and we picked up Zach’s other cousin from daycare. Johann had grabbed some ciders, and some beer at the store and we started chatting about a little bit of this, and that. We talked of Johan’s plans for living in the city, our upcoming departure for India, Johan’s travels in the past, and the lessons he learned from them. It was one of the nicer conversations I’ve had in a good long while. Dinner was equally pleasant, and the ribs and slaw were great, true southern style. Also known as the best style (keep your vinegar off my meat New Orleans GLARE).

We left when the children were going to bed. Zach and I were going to stop by Medusa for a pint, but it was completely empty. So instead we stopped by the store, grabbed a couple of what the Swedes call light beer (3.5% abv), but back home we call “near beer”. We then walked to the waterfront and watched the city and drank our beer. We eventually wandered back to the apartment and saw Anna who had just got back from her business trip. It was a pretty early night, so that we could go out the next day for a quick beer with Anna before we took the train back to Saltsjobaden.

On Friday we got up and had some trail mix, then we goofed around online for a few hours. After that we went on a long meandering walk around the city, and grabbed our passports/visas. There were buildings and people, I think I went through some part I hadn’t seen before. I’m not super good at remembering that kind of thing, but it was nice.

So then I set up some networking stuff for Anna and we said bye to Zach’s other uncle Anders and his wife Annika. We got to the bar at maybe 5-10 mins before 8PM. You might ask me, “Noah why does that matter? Isn’t the bar open until like 2AM?” Why yes it is randomly nosy person, but until 8PM the beers are only 24kr. Yes that’s right they are only $3.32 USD. That’s a pretty good price for a pint in the states, but it’s unheard of in Sweden. That’s less than a dollar more than you pay for a cold near beer at the grocery store. Pints in Sweden are about $9 at a cheap place and up to $15 at clubs. Fortunately the bartender was OK with selling us 2 a piece. We sat down and drank our beers, figuring that we would head out after that. I grabbed the next round, then there was another, and another, as these things tend to happen.

At some point during these rounds a very drunk Swede started talking to Anna in Swedish. I had seen this guy sitting next to us for a while eyeing Anna. He looked at us oddly then Anna said something and he laughed. He had been talking to us and wondered why we hadn’t responded. Then he realized that we don’t speak Swedish. He started referring to us as Englishmen, and started chatting. He was in that perfect meet new people level of drunkenness. He was a bit boorish, but still entertaining, and he had avoided pissing anybody off too much. He was drinking slowly, which was probably for the best because he was already clearly drunk.

He asked where we were from and we said Oregon. I have learned since coming to Sweden that almost no one knows where Oregon is. Zach mentioned that he’s originally from California, and I said that I’m originally from Oklahoma. He kept trying to ask me a question that I was having trouble hearing in the very loud bar. He wanted to know what Oklahoma was known for being better at then almost anybody else in the world. I had to think about that. I like Oklahoma, but it’s not really known for being really good at anything. In Oklahoma we generally fight with South Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee for being the worst at things, or the best at bad things. Like highest teen pregnancies, muders per capita, childhood obesity, and lowest teacher pay. I really thought about it for a minute then I had it.
“We make the best meth in the world!” He started laughing and asked,
“Really?”
“Yes, three of our biggest exports are marijuana, corn, and meth.” We also have the musical, but I try to never bring that up because, especially with drunk people, they start singing it. He seemed to accept my answer, and said that I was alright. Hey, if a drunken Swede thinks it, it must be true right?

Pretty soon after that he had to go before he passed out. He seemed convinced that Anna and Zach were a couple no matter how many times they said that they were family. As an aside Anna started introducing Zach as her brother because she thought being called his aunt made her seem old. I find no end of amusement in this by the way. Also because having a brother from another country is odd, but I guess it could be possible with step-siblings.

We finished up our last rounds then walked to the train station and went back to Saltsjobaden. On the train we were hoping that the kebab place would be open. It was not, much to our chagrin. We walked back, and had an argument about something inane. Zach kept trying to get me to bet him. I knew that I was a little drunk at this point because the only time Zach tries to bet me money is when I’ve been drinking. Over the years he’s won a lot of money off of me in these bets, but I made a rule never to bet while drinking. I have been pretty good about this as well, so I wouldn’t. It ended up being for the best though because I was wrong (but I won the moral victory, also known as the useless victory).

Goan Edition Road

A day in the life of the Bromads: Goan Edition

The direct sunlight finally reaches our room and the temperature quickly rises. The quick increase prompts us both to slowly open our eyes, by now we already know that it is roughly 10 a.m. It takes a second to adjust to the fact that we are once again waking up in a tropical paradise halfway across the world. But with it comes the morning body inspection of insect bites obtained during the warm humid night. Our daily life is rather simple and we know the first thing to do is to go for our morning swim.

Jack’s Corner is roughly a kilometer from the beach. As we walk down the long stretch of road we pass local women laying out thousands of fish from the morning catch by the local fishermen. The women must start early in order to have the fish sorted and perfectly laid out in order to catch the blistering afternoon sun for drying. Greetings of “hello” and “where are you from?” are a daily occurrence during our morning stroll. Halfway up the road we pass through wide open fields of palm trees and water buffalo washing themselves in the warm ponds of water. We reach the end of the road and there is the beautiful white sand beach with fishing boats every few meters, followed by the warm water of the Arabian Sea.
A half an hour is all we need before we head back to the hotel for our morning shower. While I typically do a bit of reading, Noah enjoys recounting the previous days events in his notebook. Around 12 or so we decide it is a good time to head down the other street towards town for lunch and our daily trip to the supermarket for mixer, sweets and water. Lunch is usually pretty light as we enjoy a heavier meal at night when the sun is no longer beating down on us for the walk home. By 2 we are back in our room ready for our midday siesta by the fans and break from the hottest hours of the day.

We know it is time to get up when we hear the call of the birds out our window and the sun has slowly begin to set. Following our post nap showers, we grab our soda we bought earlier in the day and make a couple rum and cokes to enjoy out on our balcony over looking palm trees and local passer-byes. By 6 we are on the road again headed for the beach for our evening swim and to watch the sunset with locals alike. After yet another shower, it is time to venture out to find some delicious Indian food for dinner.

There are numerous restaurants in the small, sleepy beachside village of Benaulim. We make it our goal to try and eat at every establishment before our time here is up. While we try to keep lunch around 100 Rupees apiece, this allows us to splurge a little on dinner and post meal drinks. Mind you splurging is roughly 250 Rupees, or about $4. We are never disappointed with our meal nor the amazing service we receive throughout, as the owners and waiters make sure we are pleased with their establishment. After dinner drinks usually consist of the local favorite Feny, a clear strong liquor made from either cashews or coconut. Due to the unknown strength of this locally made spirit, we mix it with either water and lime or soda. Trust us, one 60ml shot of this stuff is all you really need. That is unless you are looking for someone to carry you home.

By 10 o’clock our day has come to an end. Laying down while my eyes slowly begin to shut, the days events pass through my mind. Here I am, laying in bed in a country that I have longed to visit ever since I was a child. A year ago if you would of told me this is where I would be, I would of told you that you were crazy. I had a wife, kids, a good but stressful career, bills and of course never ending responsibility. Though if I had my choice, things may be a little different then they are now. But how can I possibly complain knowing what a stress free and calm day tomorrow will bring.

Oh what a difference a year can make!