Day M216: General Santos

Mon 30.04.12: After arriving in the port of General Santos I met with Vincent, the local agent for Mariana Express, who took me to see Manny Pacquiao’s mum’s house. It’s a pastel-coloured concrete mansion off a dirt track – the dirt track on which the octuple world boxing champion himself grew up. The other houses in the area were typical concrete hovels, overflowing with people, with kids, with hustle and bustle. I don’t get it – Filipinos are some of the sweetest and most hard-working people I’ve ever met. Why do they have so little to show for it? The other night, Third Mate Michael and I were chatting about the world and he said he wished the British had colonised The Philippines rather than the Spanish. I thought this was a bit of an odd thing to say – I mean, who wants to be…

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Day M215: A Big Fat Croc

Sun 29.04.12: On our way to Hong Kong now, but we still have a couple of pitstops along the way. First up, Davao on the Philippine island of Mindanao. Now Mindanao gets quite a bad press on account of those murderous muslim militants, who, amusingly enough, call themselves the MILF (I guess they didn’t get the memo). But the city of Davao is remarkably safe. Why? Because if you’re naughty, the mayor will have you killed. Seriously. Like Boris Johnson. Third Mate Michael is getting off the ship today, his tour is over so he’s flying home for a few weeks. I’ll miss sitting up on the bridge with him drinking tea and making fun of the MILF. Since we would be in port all day, Second Mate Kenny offered to take Chief Engineer Arkadiusz and I to the nearby Crocodile Farm. The crocs looked happy…

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Day 664: Return To Sanda

26.10.10: It was early afternoon before the ship pulled into Sandakan.  I’m now going to be backtracking over the exact route I took last week, so if you like you can just read those blogs again but backwards. At the taxi rank outside the port a woman overheard me asking the cab drivers how much it would be to the bus station and, since she was going the same way, suggested that we share a taxi.  This unfortunately required a short fight with the drivers.  Not only do the taxis in Malaysia not have meters (SO annoying) these guys were insisting that we took separate cabs.  Seriously – what is this?  Saudi? Eventually they relented.  It was about half three by the time I got to the bus station and I was left with two options: I could get on the 4.30pm bus back to Kota…

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Day 663: And The World Will Be Better For This

25.10.10: I was woken by Jenn knocking on my hotel room door at 7.25am.  It was time to go.  We grabbed some breakie in the Chowking restaurant downstairs and then headed out to the ferry office to buy my return ticket to Borneo – this time I thought I’d splash out and get a berth in a four-person cabin.  The ship was due to leave at midday, so we had time to go to the supermarket and grab some supplies (wet-wipes, mainly) and then it was down to the docks through the surprisingly cheerful mean-streets of Zamboanga. I said my fond farewells to Jenn and thanked her for looking after me all weekend (although do I shake her hand or give her a kiss?).  I wished her the best of luck getting to Thailand and promised to give her a shout next time I’m in town.…

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Day 662: Surviving Zamboanga

24.10.10: After a (much needed) lie-in I head out to the park 'Jardin Maria Clare Lobregat' with Jenn, safe in the knowledge that ladyboys to Muslim fundamentalists are like garlic to vampires.  Maria Clare Lobregat was the previous and (seemingly very popular) mayor of Zamboanga and this delightful park, filled with birds and butterflies, was built in her memory. Funny – here’s me expecting Beirut in the 1980s.  However, all is not sweetness and light - there are parts of Zamboanga that I was told – in no uncertain terms – I was ill-advised to visit, but we stayed away from them in the same way that you’d stay away from Scunthorpe if you ever visited Britain.  Easy. Jenn’s dream is to move to Thailand.  She currently works in Malaysia and gets on with most people there, except for the few who call her haram and…

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Day 661: The People’s Republic of Spock

23.10.10: I had purchased a AC ticket for the ferry to The Philippines.  I didn’t really know what the difference would be, but after sleeping in cockroach central on the way from Jakarta to Pontianak, I had no intention of repeating the experience.  Happily, the Tim Marine ship from Sandakan to Zamboanga was nowhere near as bad and at least a million times more fun. As on the ferry from Pulau Batam to Jakarta, I shared a large-ish cabin (only this one had bunk beds) with about forty or fifty other people.  It was a nice communal atmosphere and everyone who spoke a bit of English was happy to sit and have a chat with me, amongst them was a guy called Zakaria who was the Secretary General of the Foreign Relation Office of the Sultanate of Sulu. Where’s that eh?  Next to the Kingdom of…

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