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A happy 2009!
Pandan Island (Philippines) to Guintubdan (Philippines), Dec-13-08 / Dec-31-08

It is raining cats and dogs. And that is a pity because we planned to go today into the forests of Mount Kanlaon National Park (in the northern part of the island Negros in the Philippines) with a guide. We arrived this morning at 05.30 am at the guide’s house in Guintubdan, but at that moment we knew already that is was not the right weather to go into the forest, climbing the slippery paths of the volcano. We agreed with the guide to give it another try tomorrow. And as mentioned in articles before, we are nice weather hikers.

It is around noon and it is still raining. It doesn’t look like the rain will be over today, so we will be spending the remaining part of today in our small room inside the national park. This is also the place where we are going to celebrate New Year, because today it is December 31t 2008. We don’t think we will be awake at 0.00 hours, because we arranged to meet the guide tomorrow at 06.00 am for another try. Last year we spend our New Year’s Eve in Kathmandu, Nepal. At that time, we just returned from a beautiful hike in the Nepalese Himalayas. Also 2008 was a great year for us. It was the first full year away from Europe after we left The Netherlands in June 2007. After spending New Year in Nepal we went back to India. This time we went to Northeast India and we are glad we did it. We had a bad feeling about India after our trip to the north-western part (mainly Delhi and Rajahstan), but were glad to see that the north-eastern part of India was so different. It is also beautiful and the people are so much nicer. The absolute highlight of our second visit to India was Kaziranga National Park, in the state of Assam, where we the Rhino’s and Elephants in the wild.

Ivonne on the ferry from Roxas (Mindoro) to Catlican (Panay)
After our stay in north-eastern India, we crossed the border to Bangladesh, a country with a very bad name in the tourist scene. A big part of that image is undeserved. Of course, Bangladesh is poor and has almost no class ‘A’ tourist destinations, but the country is very friendly and pure. It is so different from India. You feel like a movie star, because people love it that you decided to visit their country. They want to know everything about you and are dying to be on the picture with you. Just as evidence that they met a foreigner. Bangladesh was also very special for us because we encountered our first wild tiger in the fabulous Sundarbans National Park. We saw the tiger before in the Indian National park Ranthambhore, but that was not really a wild tiger. Ranthambhore is more like a semi-zoo. But Sunderbans NP is still one of the hidden treasures of our planet. Bangladesh is the perfect place to visit if you want to go to a country that is still off the beaten track. After Bangladesh, we flew to Yangon in Myanmar (Burma) after spending some days in Bangkok. We travelled to Myanmar before, five years ago, but were a little bit disappointed this time. It became much more touristy, and we met the first Burmese people who tried to rip off foreigners. Something that was unheard off five years ago. We probably also visited Myanmar during the wrong time of year. It was so extreme hot, travelling long distances in non-airco trains and busses was like committing suicide. For that reason, we didn’t move a lot outside the tourist trail in the country.

The visit to Malaysia afterwards, was great and a real relief. The country is organised well, the people are friendly and the food is delicious. We travelled through Malaysia with the parents of Edwin who came over for five weeks. We hired a car which made it possible to see also parts of the country that are difficult to visit by public transport. We saw parts of both the Malaysian Peninsular and Malaysian Borneo. We definitely will go back to Malaysia soon to see also the other parts of this beautiful country. After we said goodbye to the parents of Edwin and landed on the airport of Banda Aceh, we had the feeling to be back at zero again. We had returned our car, left the well organised Malaysia and the Malaysian food was substituted by steamed rice and a meagre chicken leg. Welcome to Indonesia is what was written on a poster in the airport of Banda Aceh, in the northern part of Sumatra. But three days later we forgot all this when we encountered a wild Orang Utan mother with her little baby in Gunung Leuser National Park. That moment was unforgettable. We eventually travelled four months through Indonesia and only saw a part of it (Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi). Another highlight of our visit to Indonesia was the open water dive course that we did on Bunaken Island in the northern part of Sulawesi. It was in one word: fabulous. More then ever we realise that the world under the sea level is so much different than above sea level. And it is absolute not less beautiful.

Edwin in our hotel room in San Augustin (Tablas)

After our visit to Indonesia, we flew back to the Netherlands for a short ‘holiday’. Especially the weeks before our flight, we were yearning for the moment to meet our family and friends again. As expected, these weeks at home flew by, and before we really realised, we were at the airport again to say goodbye. After our arrival in Bangkok we were stuck for a week because the international airport was occupied by angry protestors, who wanted the government to step down. But with a week delay we flew to the Philippines where we still are. In these first three weeks we have experienced the Philippines as a great country to travel in. The people are well-tempered and they all speak English. Not only the well educated Filipino’s, but also the vagrants on the street and the villagers in the rural areas. That makes travelling through the Philippines easy and relaxed. It is not difficult to carry on with our journey in The Philippines for some weeks more. Afterwards we will fly back to Bangkok where we will pick up the parents of Ivonne. Together with them we are going to explore Cambodia, Laos and the northern part of Thailand. So, also the year 2009 has a lot of good things in prospect for us. A happy and especially healthy 2009 for you all!


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