The Great Escape

Rediscovering life in Palawan Philippines

Archive for the tag “adventure tourism”

Photos from the Shoebox: Overland From Kathmandu to Lhasa 1990

If you had a 35mm camera you probably have a shoebox full of pictures that you never got around to sorting and putting in an album. In this series “Photos from the Shoebox” I take them out of the closest and shine light on them once more.

Often the journey is as interesting as the destination. My best friend and I had been in Nepal for almost two months. We had done the obligatory mountain treks and explored the city and its surroundings to its extent. We started to get that feeling. You’ve probably felt it too, the feeling of itchy feet, the need to move. It was November in Kathmandu and winter would soon arrive.


The Friendship Highway

“Why not journey into Tibet?,” we mused. We found a tour operator who had one last overland trip to Lhasa before snow made the highway impassable. Back then in the 1990’s you had to join an approved tour. There was no opportunity for lone, off the beaten path type of travel.


Life along the highway

We spent days in line-ups getting our visas and cashing in some traveller’s cheques to join an eclectic group of geriatric Americans, mid-aged Brits, a pair of young Swedish female backpackers and a couple of mysterious lone travellers.


The pass

The best place to sit in a bus? Front seats. From this point of vantage the windshield becomes your big screen TV. On one leg of the journey we drove for about seven hours over stark scenery that was beautifully barren and monochromatic.


Curious nomad

What started out as a black dot on the horizon soon materialized into flesh and blood. A curious nomad left his herd to come and check us out. It was not often they came across foreigners.


The arid land looked like a moonscape

As hours and kilometres ticked by we had the luxury of immersing ourselves in personal reflection. It was the perfect condition for an introvert like myself.


On the road again

Every Tibetan we came across greeted us with an excited exuberance, always laughing and asking for the same thing. They all wanted a picture of the Dalai Lama, forbidden by the Chinese.

Tibet children

Curious Tibetan children

The locals were peculiarly the same colour as the landscape – mottled shades of brown, blue and grey and often covered with dirt.

On the raod again

Life passes by

I can’t imagine living in this environment. It may be a simple life but it’s a harsh existence.


Our bus took a beating

Our bus took a beating breaking two springs and putting up with a bunch of progressively cranky travellers confined inside its metal box.

Beautiful Yamdrok Lake

Beautiful Yamdrok Lake

On the fourth day the browns and greys gave way to a beautiful turquoise. We’ve made it to sacred Yamdrok Lake, one of Tibet’s three holy lakes.


One last stop before Lhasa. Boiled eggs for lunch again.

Time always seems to pass slower as you get closer to your final destination. Patience is in short supply. Anxiousness takes its place. Finally, we reached Lhasa where a nice Holiday Inn greeted us with a hot shower, comfortable bed and decent food. After a long, tiring journey who doesn’t like a little pampering?

Photos from the Shoebox: Rafting on the Trisuli River, Nepal 1990

If you had a 35mm camera you probably have a shoebox full of pictures that you never got around to sorting and putting in an album. In this series “Photos from the Shoebox” I take them out of the closest and shine light on them once more.

My months long trip to Asia began with the desire to seek adventure. Back in the 90’s, without the influence of the internet, the world was still a huge mysterious place. The pages of the National Geographic, with its colourful, glossy photos sparked the imaginations of those seeking the exotic. And so, with my like-minded best friend, I left Canada to explore the far side of the world.


A broken axle gave us the opportunity to hike ahead

One of those exotic places was Nepal. We thought a nice and easy introduction would be to take a white water rafting trip down the Trisuli River. We would plunge into the unknown with the help of a guide and fellow travellers. Getting out of Kathmandu was easy. Traversing the chewed up, pot-holed dirt road was another thing. Read more…

WPC: Refraction


Hike one hour on a moss-covered trail and you’ll reach a narrow canyon where Grouse Creek spills 35 metres over Mouls Falls. The roar of the water is seductive, drawing me in and encouraging me to follow a path that disappears behind the falls. Before continuing I stop to snap a photo of my friend’s son as the fall’s cool mist gently covers my face.

Wells Gray Provincial Park is in British Columbia and is known as the land of waterfalls. I was there in August 2013.

To see how others interpret the word ‘refraction” visit the Weekly Photo Challenge.

ABANDON PARADISE: Camping in Palawan

Luke emerged from the darkness. He was excited. “You’ve got to see this.” We put down our glasses of ‘Filipino style’ pina coladas and followed him to the edge of the water giddy with excitement. To put it politely, he had been making a golden arch to the sea when he got something more than he bargained for. He kicked sand into the water and the sea lit up with a subdued neon glow. “Wow!” Everyone’s inner child came out and soon everyone was kicking sand to activate the water’s bioluminescence.

Our Bangka

Our Bangka. Let’s Get This Trip Started.

We were on the last night of our 3 day, 2 night island hopping expedition with Don the owner of Abandon Paradise. Three of our friends from Canada and two of Don’s friends joined us on this adventure. With only our small knapsacks, snorkelling gear and sense of wonder, we left the town of Coron and made our way to the western side of Busuanga passing beautiful scenery along the way.

Coral Garden. Time to Snorkel.

Our first stop was an amazing coral garden.

I’m floating on the sea with the sun on my back letting the current take me slowly back towards the bangka. Below the surface of the water, my ears fill with the sounds of crackles and pops. My eyes focus down and I spy multi-coloured parrot fish zigzagging between the coral. As I look up I gasp with surprise. Small needle nosed fish are inches from my mask. I’m in a joyful place and tingling with anticipation of what I’ll see next.

The Sun Sets on Tear Drop Island

The Sun Sets on Tear Drop Island

I’ve seen the sun set on the Himalayas, watched a dramatic display play out over the Arabian Sea, sat on the edge of Lake Superior as an orange hue took over the sky but I hadn’t experienced a sunset quite like the one on Tear Drop Island. As the sun began it’s daily decent the light had an extraordinary, almost enchanted quality. This sunset, this island and all it’s beauty was ours. Four tents. One bonfire. Seven happy campers.

Hiking Through the Fields

Hiking Through the Fields

The following days we visited a picturesque fishermen’s village, hiked through tall grasses and derelict ruins to get a scenic view of Black Island, failed hilariously at skim boarding and cruised through breathtaking lagoons of Coron Island. We even managed to chase down the illusive dugong.


Just Chilling.

“The Chef” and I had been in Coron for four weeks on a fact-finding, research mission to see if we really want to move here. We thought it would be prudent to end our trip doing something we love to do. There’s nothing better than the wind in your hair, the sun on your face wandering  the sea without a care in the world. One day we hope this will be our backyard.

Don. A Man and His Guitar

Don. A Man and His Guitar

If you are looking for a real “Robinson Crusoe” adventure and want to learn more about Abandon Paradise Expeditions you can visit their website at or Facebook Page.

Just a note:

If you intend to do a lot of snorkelling in Palawan I recommend bringing your own snorkel, mask and fins. We weren’t keen on using a snorkel that everybody else puts in their mouths (even though they are cleaned). We found the best travel snorkel sets are made by U.S. Divers. Be aware they are made for the recreational, novice snorkelers. You can find travel snorkel sets at Take a look at our ‘Recommended Travel Accessories for Palawan.’

Journey into the Unknown

There is no such thing as a straight line in the Philippines. You never know what twists and turns your journey will take. It took awhile to decide on staying at Kaba Kaba Cottages. It seemed to have everything we wanted. It’s in our budget (read cheap), has a location set on the fringe of the jungle (appealing to our love of nature) and has a ‘presumed’ level of comfort we are satisfied with (simple). It also has favourable reviews. Reservations were made months in advance. Correspondence was good. We were ready and excited to go. We just had to get there.


Flying Cebu Air

We made it to the airport early and ofcourse our plane is delayed. No matter. We pretty much knew it was going to happen. Read more…

Seduced by Palawan

Have you ever visited a place that felt so right, a place that spoke to your heart? Palawan is that place for “the Chef” and I. It has intrigued me since the first time I read and saw photos of it in a National Geographic Magazine. It looked exotic and lush and unspoiled.  I had only been to Manila with my family on visits from Canada and we didn’t stray far from there. I remember thinking, “Wow, this is the Philippines?” I dreamt about going there.

Life kept getting in the way so it took many years but we finally made it there. We travelled to Palawan in January of 2012 and the trip was everything we thought it would be and more. This video really captures our Palawan experience.

I have done so much research and been asked so many questions about our trip to Palawan I’d like to share this info with others so that they may discover their own path of exploration and plan their own trip. I’ll be working on adding another section to this blog called ‘Palawan Travel Guide.’

Photos from the Shoebox: Northern Thailand 1991

If you had a 35mm camera you probably have a shoebox full of pictures that you never got around to sorting and putting in an album. In this series “Photos from the Shoebox” I take them out of the closest and shine light on them once more.

In the 1990’s Thailand was on top of the list of places to see in Southeast Asia. It was the perfect place to go for adventure if you were young and had a shoestring budget. Going north to Chiang Mai to do a hill tribe trek was on the circuit of most travellers.

Read more…

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