We were staying at a new hostel called Pink Manila which turned out to be very hard to find for our cab driver. When we arrived I was impressed at how nice it was. This was a old penthouse of someone very wealthy that they had turned into a hostel. There was a pool, bar and great view of Metro Manila. We quickly made friends with the others staying there as well as met up with Bryce, Zev and Ali who had all flown in from different parts of California.
Everyone was up early the next morning and we walked into the city with no idea where we were going. Ended up in a little barrio street with all the locals starting their days working on projects, carting supplies and cooking food. Our group of 5 Californians was quite a scene here and everyone stopped what they were doing to say good morning and stare as we passed. The genuine smiles and curiosity of the locals was great.
Stopped at a little food stand in a alleyway and ordered whatever it was they were cooking, I did not really know what it was but it looked good. The cook woman invited us into her house and she served us a huge meal at their dining table while the rest of the family smiled and laughed and took pictures of us. I take it they had never had foreigners over as we were in a place you would never normally come.
The woman's son spoke good English and offered to take us on a walk around the city to show us his home sector. We gladly accepted and walked about 3 miles through little alleyways and across chaotic intersections. The level of poverty in some of the areas is horrible but everyone is still smiling like they are millionaires. That's what enticed me to come back to the Philippines again is its amazing local people and their positive and content outlook on life.
We had a very late night out on the town with the other hostel folk so was not up till almost noon today. Our reservations to pick up the dirt bikes was the next day and we needed to get up to Angeles City about 80km north to pick them up. Hopped in a taxi that was going to take us to the bus station but after negotiating with the driver we ended up just paying a bit extra to drive us all the way there.
Angeles City is known as the sketchy sex tourism capital of the Philippines and it lived up to its name. We had to see what all the hype was about so we took a walk down the main street which was also the red light district. Brightly lit neon clubs lined the street as far as you could see with hundreds of scantily clad girls constantly yelling and grabbing at you to come inside. We cruised around for a while until it got to hectic and headed back to our hotel to get ready for the long day of riding ahead of us.
Picking Up The Bikes (the moment of truth)
Up early today and packed up all our gear with what we were bringing on the motorcycles and what we would leave at the shop and walked to the bikes. I was quite apprehensive about what the condition of the bikes would be but was pleasantly surprised to see rather new and in good shape Honda XR200s.
I had reserved these bike about 4 months prior and was constantly emailed them to say we really needed the bikes in good shape and with good dirt tires as we were going to be riding about 1500km on and off road and the last thing you want is a breakdown in a foreign country. Guess the message got across :)
Packed up the bikes with our wolfman moto luggage and waterproof bags and set off north with the destination of 100 islands about 150km away.
Traffic was instantly insane and there seem to be no rules at all on the road, no stop signs or lights at massive intersections you just have to go for it and avoid everyone else as they try to avoid you. It was rather intimidating but we quickly got the hang of it and soon were driving just like the locals. You have to be very aggressive yet also defensive, its a fine line that could easily end in disaster but somehow just works!
Now mind you we did not have a good map so were basically just heading the direction we thought we need to go and ended up way off course. I learned that when you ask for directions you have to ask 3 different people to get a correct answer. The locals are so polite they would never just say they don't know but rather would point in any random direction. You learn to read their face to know if they are guessing or actually know where to go.
Everywhere we stopped we were instant celebrities. An XR200 in this country is like a Ferrari and is the top of line motorcycle here so when you mix that with 3 tall white guys its quite a spectacle for everyone. People are constantly cheering, yelling, waving and staring as we ride by like the circus is coming through town, its rather fun.
Back on track we headed through rice fields, small villages and more crazy cities until we reached Alaminos which is the staging area to get out to 100 islands on a boat. Arrived in this small coastal village and found a hotel room by the water that was sweet with a pool and everything. Riding in the intense heat and constantly trying to stay alive on the road really takes it out of you. We hit the pool to clean off all the excess dirt, smog and grime off of us and the met up with my friend Connor whom I had met in Nicaragua 4 years ago. We happened to be in the same place this evening so we hung out and caught up over beers, it was great to see him again. The world is a small place if you chose to explore it.