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    • Day 41

      Port Barton

      August 22, 2017 in England ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

      We have had the most UNREAL/AMAZING/SPECTACULAR (that's a new word I've never used) DAY!!!! We have been in actual paradise - by far the most beautiful day of the whole trip. It has been breathtaking !
      We woke up at 5.50 am in Sheebang hostel, got ready, checked out by 6.10 am, and got the tricycle at 6.15 am to San Jose bus terminal. We got the 6.45 bus to Port Barton (and ended up having a private van which was ideal!).
      We arrived at around 9.30 so just under 3 hours (in comparison to the bus which would have taken 4 hours minimum). However, they did drive pretty quickly so sleeping was impossibility.
      It was the first day that the weather was actually sunny and looked like it could be clear! We were so happy!
      When we arrived, the man found us accommodation which consisted of beach front cottages for only 500 each a night so it was fine. They were very basic but looked cleaner than our previous accommodation so we were happy.
      The man at the accommodation told us about an island hopping tour they did but seeing as we had missed the scheduled tour (and I doubt it would have ran as there were barely any people around), we could only do it if we got a private boat which was more expensive. We decided to do it – it was 1000 each (£15 pounds) and Hope didn't get to do the island hopping the other day.
      It was fantastic!
      Firstly, we stopped and did some snorkelling. The reefs here are incredible! Although some are damaged from where the boat men have put their anchors, parts of it are beautiful (however we did see the man touching the coral later which was frustrating, as it damages it). We saw so many beautiful fish of all different shapes, sizes and colours. Not many tourists know about Port Barton, so we felt like we were in a secluded little area.
      The first island stop was German island. It was beautiful. We paid a minimal fee (so minimal I can’t even remember what it was!) and spent a few hours there. The island only had a few tourists on. There were many hammocks, and swings on the island and we spent a few hours lazing about before the man made us some lunch (vegetables and rice). We said we didn’t want fish (I was put off from the overwhelming full fish on my plate at Honda Bay) but I was quite jealous after seeing the freshly grilled fish on the plates next to us!!
      After lunch we did some snorkelling around the island. Sadly we didn’t get to see any of the giant turtles which are sometimes around here, but we saw a cute little turtle.
      We went to a couple more snorkelling spots, and then went to the most incredible sand bar. It was so tiny, but was full of starfish, and we had it all to ourselves! We loved it.
      We were incredibly lucky with the weather, incredibly lucky with how quiet everywhere was, and overall had an incredible day!
      When we got back to the cottages at around 3 pm – the heavens opened. It POURED it down. We had a nap whilst we waited for the rain to stop, but didn’t end up waking up until 9 pm !!! From 4 pm – we must have been shattered! We woke up, luckily the electricity was on (it is only on 6 pm – midnight), and went for some dinner. However, the rain was still so bad that the restaurant with wifi was shut so we had to go to a small one further down. I had vegetables in oyster sauce with rice, and Hope just had a Fanta.
      It's now 22.39 and we are shattered so I'm going to go to sleep now so we can get up at 7 am to hopefully go and see some waterfalls.
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    • Day 37

      A VERY LONG DAY !!

      August 18, 2017 in England ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

      We had such a great night last night in Kuching! We arrived at the hostel which Hope booked on Hostel World, Singgahsana - which was great! It had a lovely little rooftop bar, and we had a nice private room with a shared bathroom.

      We chilled for an hour, then went and had some noodles from a 7/11 (we weren't starving after having the massive lunch before we flew) so just had a snack. Then...funny story, we were supposed to go and buy some vodka to have some pre drinks but ended up sat in a bar with a load of locals and were drinking beer! It was a strange but very fun couple of hours to say the least.
      We did also buy vodka though, so after a few beers, we got ready at the hostel and had a few drinks before going out to a couple of bars. We had a great night!

      Our alarms went off at 4.45, which I'm sure you can only imagine how we felt after going to sleep at 2 am ish. We sort of dragged ourselves out of bed and booked an uber (and passed out the whole journey there of course). We went through security, then passed out again for an hour before boarding. We slept the 1 hour and a bit journey from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur.

      In KL (our dreamland) we had a couple hours wait before our next flight to Manila at . For some crazy reason, we weren't that hungover and we were both in hysterics over the most random things on the plane - it was hilarious! I'm not sure what came over us (probably still drunk).

      We landed in Manila at 2 pm and had 4 hours to kill before our next domestic flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan at 5.50 pm. Palawan Island of the Philippines is located in Region IV-B. Palawan is the largest province in the country and Puerto Princesa City is its capital. Palawan is stretch from Sablayan tip of Mindoro Island in the northeast to Kudat island of Borneo in the southwest. It lies between the Sulu Sea and South China Sea.
      It took a little while to get through security and wait for the shuttle to get to the correct terminal though so a few hours flew by! We couldn't wait to get out of Manila - it was so humid that you're sweating within seconds of walking outside, and to be honest it's the first time where we haven't felt completely safe. Not because of all the 'terrorist arrack warnings' but just because we were sat waiting for a shuttle, being the only western young girls, getting stared at by locals ... and eventually two armed guys stood in front of us. It was strange!

      Once we were in the correct terminal though it was absolutely fine. Unfortunately there was a bad storm (not surprising in the Philippines as it's peak rainy season right now so we are to expect lots of rain and storm), so many flights were delayed and ours was 'put on hold' (I didn't really understand why it didn't just say delayed but apparently it's because the plane was ready, everything was ready to go so we just had to wait for the storm to stop!). From what we gathered, the weather got so bad that one plane had to turn back around straight after take off!

      Our flight ended up leaving at around 8.30 pm (so we had been waiting for a very long time - we had a pizza whilst we waited though of course). It took around 1 hour 20, so we landed just before 10 pm.

      I text the lady at the hostel as soon as I knew the flight was put on hold, so presumably she would have told the transport man that we didn't need picking up as I thought it would be easier for us to get a local man at the airport. However, the poor man waited for us at the airport for 4 hours! For some reason he got there an hour early (Sophie, the lady at the hostel said he always goes early) and then when he was told that there was a big delay, he decided to wait anyway as he had already paid the entrance fee. Bless him!

      So he drove us to our hostel on his tricycle. It was supposed to cost 150 pisos (100 pisos is approximately £1.50) but we gave him 500 (still only £7.50 to us) but he was over the moon with that!

      We discovered how cheap the Philippines was within our first 10 minutes of arriving!

      We arrived at the hostel (after going down many dark dirt tracks) and it was such a cute hostel. However, one night was definitely enough! The lady said the dorm with beds is full SO asked if we wanted to see the hammocks. We saw them, but although we may not be cultural for wanting beds - we were absolutely shattered! Maybe another time we would try and sleep on one, but that moment in time we just wanted to pass out in a bed. So she said she would upgrade us to a private room with beds for the same price as we thought we would have beds. We think she was annoyed though because she said no one ever wants to go out of their comfort zone haha oops!

      She messaged me earlier and asked if we wanted food, so at the time when we thought our arrival was 7pm - we said yes! But with a 3 hour delay, of course we ended up eating at the airport so we were really not hungry. But the man had already made the food, so we sat and ate as much as we could haha!

      Sophie (who is from Belgium) and her local friend chatted to us for about 45 minutes/ an hour and then we went to our room. The room was cute - it was a little hut. However, there was a massive praying mantis on the roof, the toilets were basically outside, and we were unsure as to what would be crawling on us in the night.

      Luckily we were so tired that we fell asleep straight away - after completely tucking the mosquito net under our beds.

      We thought we would be up at 7/8 ish as that has been the pattern every other day, but we must have been tired as we ended up sleeping until 11.30. I did wake up at 7 though and see the heavy rain so thought what is the point in getting up early.

      We got ready, and checked out at 12. It was so awkward because Sophie asked what our plan was that day, and where we were going. So it was very awkward saying that we were moving to Sheebang hostel which is a hostel only 10 minutes away. If the weather was nice then I'm sure the huts and hostel there would have been great - it had cute hammocks and swings and was right near the sea!
      But in the rain we just wanted to have a proper shower inside (after such a long day travelling the day before). We said it was because we had friends over at the other hostel (though I'm not sure how believable that was!).

      Anyway, we got a tricycle over to the hostel by the same man for 150 pisos. We checked in to our room - it was alright! First impressions of hostels are never great - sharing a room with many strangers and a bathroom is never going to be particularly appealing.

      We decided to visit Iwahig Prison and penal farm which is the Puerto Princesa rehabilitation prison. It was one of the best experiences of our lives!

      We paid 700 Pisos return for a tricycle to the 26,000 hectare prison which holds 3,186 convicts, and was about 15 km away from Puerto Princesa City.
      Iwahig is unique among penal institutions. The Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm were originally set up in 1902 by the United States to house Philippine prisoners who had fought against the American colonization of the Philippines. It served as a depository for prisoners who could not be accommodated at the Bilibid Prison in Manila.
      Now, the open-air Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm offer a unique approach to reforming criminals. It is one of the largest open-air jails. Instead of concrete walls, the prison is surrounded by a wire fence. A single guard at the entrance greets tourists and criminals’ relatives without inspecting them. He just took my driving licence for security. The idea of the prison is to rehabilitate criminals, so that the minimum-security inmates feel integrated within the community. Their main mission is no longer only punitive but information and restorative justice (Iwahig’s Superintendant Antonio C Cruz)
      As many as 200 minimum-security inmates are responsible for farming and office-related work, as well as for supervising the tasks of the medium-security inmates. Aside from the maximum-security inmates, who are kept isolated, all convicts learn a trade, including farming, fishing, forestry and carpentry. This is so that they can be reintegrated back into society, and bring something back into society as opposed to being released as a better criminal (which we believe occurs in our British prisons as a result of the urgent prison crisis!).
      As Hope and I entered, we arrived by the gym where a group of criminals greeted us. They took us over to the souvenir shop, showing us dream catchers, keyrings, magnets etc. – many of which they had made themselves. We bought some peanuts to give to some of the prisoners, and started talking to many of them.
      They showed us a dance – it was great! We ended up staying for a few hours, and so were lucky enough to see them perform 3 dances – Backstreet boys, cheerleader by Omi, and another one that I can’t remember.
      We spent hours talking to them – we were fascinated. The main man we spoke to, Jason, had the two tear tattoo on his face – so we immediately were aware that he was a murderer. Though we could not see any guards nearby, we did not feel unsafe at any point. He told us his life story. Two mafia members were searching for someone who they were going to murder, and on their mission searching inside Jason’s house, they shot Jason to leave him for dead, and killed his family. Jason spent 3 days in hospital, and woke up to find that his family were dead. He did what Hope and I personally believe most 20 year old men would want to do in that situation – and he killed the two men. He was given a life imprisonment sentence. He spent his first 17 years in Manila prison – which I think is the Quezon City Jail. He told us stories of the gangs there, the high drug use, the prisoners running the prisons, the over crowdedness - the hell life! After 17 years of good behaviour, he was moved to Iwahig Prison and Penal farm to spend his last 5 years – to be released after 22 years imprisonment. He told us of the many journalists who have visited him, people want to hear his story. We spoke to him for hours and couldn’t believe his life. He shared his experiences in both prisons – and talked through with us the differences, and his opinions. He said that some people here can have their family living inside the prison with them. He shared how they feel less like animals in cages here – and more like free human beings who are earning their space back in to society!
      Hope and I are so passionate about this area, and were truly amazed. We really believe that the British system need to adopt some of the beliefs in prisoner rehabilitation of this prison, and then the urgent prison crisis could make some way of improvement.
      Jason also told us about how many visitors, particularly Russians, have come in to the prison to just ‘laugh at the animals.’ We cannot believe how uneducated, rude, and shallow some human beings really are. If only people worldwide could understand the successes of the rehabilitation of offenders – instead of just listening to the media and wanting more punitive punishments, maybe we could make some way of improvement.
      We bought some peanuts for Jason and his friends, played with their lovely big teddy bear dog, and enjoyed learning some more.
      Our tricycle driver took us around the prison showing us the medium security area – all areas wear different coloured t-shirts depending on the security level. Each section has a boss – who is a prisoner who has earned their place.
      These prisoners are learning skills that are going to help them to reintegrate back into society. They are able to bring something to society, and are helping to reduce the over crowdedness of Manila prison. We just wish England could introduce something as amazing as this – Hope and I have set our new aim to open a rehabilitation centre in England…. Watch this space !!! Haha
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