We had rented a motorcycle the night before with the intent of making a trip into the island of Borneo. Since I was a young kid I had always heard of the mystical creatures and plants that grew on this tropical island. Of course a day-trip into just a piece of the island is never enough, and I was a little disappointed to go away not seeing a rafflesia in full bloom (which is trickier than I thought). It is the largest flower on the planet and is supposed to smell like rotting flesh, which is also why it is known as the “corpse flower.” We talked to some local farmers and were shown some wild buds, but since they take many months to mature, then only bloom for a couple weeks, and are worth a small fortune (+4,000 USD), many are stolen or are sold-off before maturing.
Either way, we snaked ourselves around the impressive Mount Kinabalu, passing the Tamparuli Suspension Bridge and headed into the natural reserve to have a short hike up the mountain. Climbing back onto the beastly 4-gear bike, we directed ourselves inland once again visiting hot springs, waterfalls and of course plenty of jungle.
It was incredibly hot during the morning and day, but since the dramatic changes in altitude I had read to bring along a sweater, which I reluctantly did… but thankfully I did, because as soon as the sun started setting it got pretty cold up there, especially going downhill on a motorcycle!
Arriving back in the town of KK that night, after a day of riding almost 300km of mountain roads, we retired back to the restaurant we had eaten at the night before. A great market-type deal located next to the fishing port, I couldn’t recommend it more. A collection of severalteen restaurants clustered together under tents right next to where the fishermen come back and unload their fresh catches. I kid you not, I had one of the most amazing dishes of my life here… buttered and battered prawns. A light and crunchy batter that I can hardly describe in any terms other than simply amazing. The mango and avocado shakes are pretty refreshing too!
The final night in the Philippines… walked around the majestic night skies of Quezon Hill/San Carlo Heights, Baguio once again (I can’t get enough of those colors!). Sitting here in Shanghai now, and I can’t wait to see them again while breathing that fresh crisp air… good thing I’ll be there in less than a month. See you soon Baguio!
That final photo is of the firework display (as seen from Quezon Hill) marking in the end of the Panagbenga, Baguio’s annual flower festival (see previous posts for photos).
On the drive from the coast up into the mountains around Baguio we stopped to get some lunch (pic #1), and right across the street is the Darf Cockpit Arena. Check it. We then drove further up the Naguillian Highway (yes, that 2 lane road is a highway!) and into Baguio… sweet drive if you ask me!
Outside Hoi An, on the outskirts of Da Nang there is a set of 5 curiously tall rock formations… known as the Marble Mountains, each named after an element (metal, water, wood, fire, earth). Tucked away in/on them is an array of caves, Buddhist temples, pagodas and religious sanctuaries, which allow for spectacular views of nearby Da Nang city, as well as down the entire coastline. Which, much to my dismay, will soon be littered by hotel resorts crammed right next to each other. We drove the 30min via motorbike down the coast to Hoi An, and passed several brand-spanking-new resorts, with mapped out lots in between… all in the process of being built on. One can soon expect a Vietnamese version of horrible horrible Cancun (*barf*).
The streets that surround the mountains are filled with countless workshops and showrooms that house piles and piles of statues carved out of limestone… which is apparently shipped in from China.
Shhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone.
The highest peak surrounding Baguio City belongs to Mount Santo Tomas (map). The peak is littered with radio & tv towers and 2 radars built by the American military post-WWII. The views of the city and South China sea are stunning, not to mention the beautifully crisp fresh air, which is something I can only dream about back here at my office in Shanghai. Bah.
One of the two guards gave us a personal tour of the radars are the peak, which has been off-limits since a bombing recently which aimed at taking out one of the radars (even though they haven’t been used in decades). Apparently back in the day tourists visiting the peak could even climb the metal radars, with no fences or anything holding them back. Now the area is fenced off and kept away from curious eyes by 2 security guards, who must be the loneliest around, considering the near 60 minute trip up the mountain from Baguio City below, much of it off-road. Which is probably why the guard gave us a tour, as he was pretty wasted, even offering us some drinks after his tour.
An epic evening of verpertinesque skies above Upper Quezon Hill, Baguio City!
There was also a lightning storm occurring out over the South China Sea, check it out in some of the images.