Friday, June 17, 2011

Looking back.

I have no gardening to talk about today. We went out for lunch with a couple of visiting family members (Hello, you two!), and as we got home it started to drizzle a little, and two minutes later it was pouring. Sideways. So we spent the afternoon inside, which looks a bit like a dry cleaners' thanks to the mountains of laundry attempting to dry, draped over the table and chairs and couch.

Anyway, when I can I try to take part in the Weekend Rewind at the Pink Fibro Blog. Nights like tonight are good, when SP has consented to actually go to sleep at a reasonable hour, and even stay asleep for a decent interval, so not only do I put my link up, but I actually get to read a goodly number of blogs by people I might not have found otherwise, but I even get to thinking about my own post, about travel, broadly, and the Philippines more specifically. The Philippines - that land that I can never remember how to spell, two Ls, or is it two Ps, or is it both? - taught me something important about travel: You won't like everywhere.

When I started travelling at 17, everywhere I went was tinted with gold, the food was fantastic, the people were wonderful, etc etc. Of course, there were the bad parts too. The poverty which rose up and slapped us in our Western faces, the occasional dodgy meal (although my Stomach of Steel saved me many times), the horrendous and frequent road accidents and so on, but overall I wore my rose coloured glasses and managed to gloss over the scuffed parts.

Then, in 2008, we went to the Philippines. I have mentally divided the trip into two parts. The first part is Palawan, which I 'rewound' today here: Palawan. Palawan, on the far western side of the Philippine archipelago, is beautiful. It's my kind of Asia: dusty streets, palm trees and papaya, happy kids, bamboo huts, nice food, noisy markets, deserted beaches, and monkeys.

The second part of our trip I call 'everywhere else.' I like to blame the food. From north to south, on the half a dozen different islands we visited, the food was universally terrible. Meals stand out for being exceptionally awful, rather than good. Not only did they taste bad, on several occasions they were actually poisonous. There's nothing quite like choosing to eat at Pizza Hut three days in a row because it seems to be the best option in town! But really, it was more than the food. The constant presence of guns bothered me a lot. We never felt very connected with anyone or anywhere. Don't get me wrong, there were good things about the Philippines. We were lucky enough to see the famous Banaue rice terraces on a glorious clear day, tarsiers proved to be quite cute, and the overnight ferry trip from Cebu back to Manila is a stand out memory from all our travels. I will never get over the amazement as our fellow passengers stared up at the full moon overhead as we glided through the islands. A ferry of that size cannot possibly be silent, yet I remember that night as being hushed and full of low murmurs, as though people didn't dare to speak too loudly on deck (inside, however, was the karaoke machine where all bets were off.)

All in all, the Philippines was the first time we have ever changed our flights and left early. After a salmonella-laden chicken sandwich, we decided to withdraw, not very gracefully, and we went to Singapore for a couple of whirlwind nights instead.

But, anyway, I learnt something. I won't love everywhere in the world, some places I just won't 'get,' and that's perfectly OK. Admitting that once seemed somewhat shameful. How could this backpacker who loves everywhere have not loved this land of 94 million faces and stories and places? But I didn't, and it doesn't matter. There's still the entire rest of the world to see, and man, I'm looking forward to it!

Wot chu lookin' at?


The Sage Butterfly said...

I agree...there are some places I like better than others. And there is still so much to see..

Nina Tobin said...

Hi! I found you after you commented on my blog via the Fibro rewind. I've really enjoyed checking out your blog. Your post rings true. And I think it's ok to like some places less than others. I remember back-packing in Egypt. We had a fabulous time, but also a mixture of frustrating and terrifying experiences in Cairo. I remember breathing a sigh of relief as our plane took off at about 3.30am, hubby and I ordering wine and beer soon after, then swiftly spitting out a toast leaving Cairo before sucking that grog down our gullets like there was no tomorrow. I felt a bit guilty for feeling that way. We were so lucky to have gone. But at that particular moment, it was so wonderful to leave. Not all places float your boat. But hell, it's a load of fun trying to find the ones that do!

I love gardening too, so will be following your blog.

Thanks for taking the time to tune into my travel blog.