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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Manicure 20,000 leagues under the sea (sort of)

Ruins of Mile long Barracks on Corregidor
Our trip began with a brief stopover in Manila, a crowded bustling city  of 1.6 million people.   Manila was bombed flat by the Japanese in WWII; then again by the Americans when they liberated it, so almost anything of historical significance is gone. You can easily cover what is there in one day.  If you are going to stay a bit longer the day trip to Corregidor is definitely worth the effort.  Corregidor, an island guarding the approaches to Manila, is where the Americans, against all odds, held out for five months, before surrendering.  It’s where Douglas MacArthur issued his  famous “I shall return.”  The ruins are quite spectacular, including the tunnels where the Americans held out for months, the mile long barracks, and the sophisticated artillery that was made instantly irrelevant  when the airplane was invented. 

Coron on Busuanga Island
From Manila, it is a one hour flight to Coron on Busuanga Island.  Coron is visited chiefly by backpackers and scuba divers. The little town is perched on the edge of the ocean and much of it is built on stilts.  The town looks like the movie set from the Popeye movie.   It also has pristine beaches, and one can live quite well there for a modest sum. Accommodation in Coron can best be described as “Spartan.”  We each have one of the deluxe rooms on the third floor of the Seadive Resort.  Our rooms are up several very steep flights of stairs, have a comfortable bed, air conditioning, and hot water  - some of the time.  The walls are paper thin, but it’s clean and comfortable.  It rents out at the princely price of 30 dollars Canadian a night and includes a great breakfast.  If you are on an even tighter budget you can rent a ground floor room (shared bath) for only $15.00 a night and most of these rooms have multiple beds.  Almost everywhere in Coron has free Wifi!!  

Our hotel
Coron is one of the “must do” places to visit if you’re a wreck diver.  A large Japanese fleet sunk there during WWII  provides some fantastic diving.  One of most fascinating dives I have ever done was at Barracuda Lake.  It’s a reverse thermal lake.   That means the top twenty feet is fresh water, and below that is a layer of salt water. The lake is so warm you don’t need a wetsuit.  You can just dive in a t-shirt and swimsuit. The water temperature of the fresh water layer is about 28 Celsius (80F).   Because fresh water is less dense than salt water you rocket down 5 meters till you
Manicure on the bottom of the lake
hit salt water and then bounce a bit before you float just below the interface.  The salt water layer is over 40 degrees C! (104). It’s like swimming in a hot tub, minus the band-aides, beach towels and bikini tops.   The lake is populated by some unique marine life: barracuda and manicure shrimp.  If you put your hand down on the sand, the shrimp appear and begin cleaning your nails! 

For twenty dollars a day you can rent a banka (a small trimaran  with captain and crew and cruise from deserted island to island with time to sample snorkeling at each stop.  Lunch is also included.  The cost of the excursion wouldn’t even cover your parking in Hawaii!!!

Our private yacht
The diving went well at Coron except for the “BCD” incident. I was doing quite well and everyone seemed impressed with my abilities as a diver. I was regaling everyone with one of my stories as we were suiting up to dive. However I was having difficulty getting my BCD (dive vest) on. It seemed to have somehow shrunk during lunch, and no matter how hard I tugged on it, I couldn’t get it to fit. Finally I asked my dive buddy to come over and give me a hand. He tugged and tugged, but still couldn’t get it to fit. Finally he suggested I take it off and proceeded to examine it to see if one of the buckles was jammed. While all this was going on I noticed a little Japanese girl looking strangely at me.
diving with just a t-shirt.... and bathng suit

“Excuse me,” she said politely, after Bruce has completely taken the vest  apart, “but I think you're trying to put on my vest!”
I looked down, and sure enough, her extra small vest was sitting on the floor by my feet - it wasn’t even the same color as mine. When I looked up Bruce was banging his head against a post. My credibility among the other divers sort of went downhill from there. Good thing it was our last dive day in Coron.

Room at Los Flores on Cebu
From Coron we took a flight to the island of Cebu. We are staying at Los Flores resort which is the complete opposite of our previous accommodation.   The Las Flores Country & Beachside Hotel is a four star resort that looks and feels more like a five star property.  The hotel is immaculately decorated and at times it feels like you’re staying in an art gallery. The hotel has a small swimming pool and a private beach and is not far from a public golf course.  The cost per night was about $90.00 Canadian.

Our own personal staff
 The only “slight” problem is that Bruce and I are the only guests here and the three Filipino staff members hover around us like hummingbirds around a feeder trying to cater to our every need. If we want a beer they get it, pour it and stand by while we drink it. I think one of them tried to “burp” Bruce.
If we mention we might want to go swimming towels magically appear out of nowhere and when we go to the pool they turn on the showers and wait for us to come out of the pool.
One strange thing is the fire instructions on the door. In case of fire we are given precise instructed to:
“ Leave my room immediately, firmly close the door and yell “Fire! Fire! Fire! Then run up and down the hall and knock on each door and again yell ‘Fire! Fire! Fire!’ ”
What happens if I only yell it twice, or four times? Does it count?

Today we're going to hang around the hotel, and get massages. Tomorrow it's off to Malapascua for more diving.

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