Sunday, January 31, 2016

More Filipino Fun

I think my favorite thing about our trip to the Philippines is that I can now correctly spell "Philippines".  Try doing it without looking, it ain't easy!  Though I have mad spelling skills I have no idea why it's spelled Filipino with an F and not a Ph, but it is.

Since my last post I've come into possession of a detailed map of our journey.  I think it is a super handy overview of where we went, what sites we saw and which camps we stayed at:


While this looks like quite the distance I can assure you it was not.  Using the same map I showed you last time, this is how far we went:


So we've only seen a teeny, tiny slice of the Philippines.  There's tons more to see.

Most of our days were spent snorkeling, so it's only fair I show you some pictures of the nifty underwater world we got to explore.  The highlight of the sea being several turtles:


They are incredibly difficult to capture on film.  I was shocked to see we got such good footage of this one (all underwater pics are stills from a GoPro)!  There was lots more to see down there.






The fish in these pictures were pretty tiny, so you have to blow up the photo in order to see them well.  Their colors were insane!  I didn't know colors that bright were found in nature.  They were legit neon!

This pic does not do justice to what it is:


 It's a lion fish!

Much better pic courtesy of Wikipedia
These are venomous to humans and can kill you if you're old, young or have a compromised immune system.  Healthy adults like us would just suffer miserably for days and days if stung by one of these.  As you can see we weren't close enough to it to be in any danger.

Another huge highlight for my fat ass was, unsurprisingly, the food, which can be summed up in one word: Fish.

Everyday, fish!  Almost every meal, fish!  Fish, fish, fish.  Locally caught, too, very locally caught.  Either by our crew off the back of our boat or bought from local fisherman along the way.




Fish weren't the only sea creatures we dined on, however:

Crabs
Squid
Octopus
Sea urchin
But only 98% of our food came from the sea.

Peek-a-boo!
The fanciest camp we stayed at just happened to be on New Years eve, which also happened to be at the official Tao farm., which was a fun coincidence.  It was a real, working farm.





My favorite were the little piglets.  So cute!  So I should have felt extra bad about loving the hell out of our NYE dinner (the only one we had without fish):


The cruel, cruel circle of life.  More like the tasty circle of life!  This pig (not the mama pig pictured above, by the way, what do you think we are, monsters?) weighed 43 kilograms (95 pounds) and we picked it completely clean.  It fed not only the 22 guests and 8 crew but various other Tao staff at the farm.  Everything organic, nothing wasted.

Crackling
(fried pig skin)
Dessert was for the most part absent from our journey, and I think I understand why.  Because what they consider dessert is really rather heinous.  I present to you, macaroni dessert salad:


Ingredients include macaroni, sweetened condensed milk, fruit cocktail and...cheese.  Bits of cheddar cheese.  It was the most bizarre thing I have ever eaten.  It wasn't bad per se, but it was just so random.  I stuck to drinking the sweetened condensed milk straight so it was actually quite pleasurable.

I can't complain about lack of sweets, though, as we had some great sweet snacks on the boat like fried bananas:


We had very little time off the boat in which to explore Filipino cuisine that wasn't fresh fish so we tried hard to make the most of our limited time on dry land.  I wish we had more time there just to eat!  Filipino food has not made the global rounds the way other Asian cuisines have, which is unfortunate.  So let me educate you on the culinary delights that the Philippines has to offer:

Chicken adobo



Adobo, to me, is the quintessential Filipino dish.  It's the one thing I had heard of before going there.  It's any type of meat marinaded in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic.  Surprisingly un-vinegar tasting.  A must try.

Sisig


This may or may not be the face of a pig.  Traditionally sisig is made with pork jowl, ears and liver, which I knew from my research.  I was hesitant to order it because, hello, pig face, so I asked the woman at the restaurant if this was "normal pork" or "face of pork".  She assured me it was just normal pork, which I believe roughly zero.

So I very well might have eaten pork face!  It was very tasty, though, I don't regret ordering it.  But holy man was it greasy.  I think it's safe to say that the Philippines is the fattest country in Asia and I'm beginning to see why.

Tapa



This is dried, marinated beef with a really interesting texture.  You can tell it's dried, like jerky, but it's still moist.  It's not the easiest thing to chew, I don't recommend it for denture wearers, but it's good.  And it's served for breakfast with rice.  The chef on our boat called rice "Filipino power" I think because it's so ubiquitous.

The shining achievement of Filipino cuisine, in my opinion, is garlic rice.  It is incredibly delicious, and eaten at any meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I truly think my favorite meal of the entire trip, also a breakfast dish, was this:


Fried chicken for breakfast!  In my defense it was lightly fried.  Served with garlic rice, of course.  Again I refer to the obesity epidemic.  It was so tasty and satisfying!  The perfect way to start your day (and angina).

More breakfast fun:

Spam
Whole squid
Keep in mind we chose these breakfast selections.  We could just as easily have picked pancakes or some other lame western dish we could eat any day of our lives.  But no!  Trying local stuff is far more interesting.

I like Filipino food because it's Asian-y, without being distinctly Asian.  It's unique, that's for sure, and a crying shame that the world doesn't see more of it.

The final dish I will present is not a dish at all, but rather leftover garbage from the cooking process.


Fish eyeball.  This crazy Scottish chick ate a fish eyeball!


I will spare you the gruesome rest of it, but that bad ass chick ate it without barfing or dying. I'm impressed!  I included that here to knock myself down a few pegs, lest you start thinking I'm adventurous for eating something as boring as pig face.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Return to Fraser Island


Before I begin, I demand you travel back in time - all the way to April 2012 - and read about our first trip to Fraser Island.  We went a mere 6 weeks after moving here, and here we are today almost 4 years later, returning for the Australia Day long weekend holiday.

Priority first, this time we saw dingoes!



It seems like everybody who has ever been to Fraser has seen dingoes, so for the past 4 years I have felt defective because we didn't see them the first time.  Well, let me tell you, we more than made up for it this time.




This was not our first dingo sighting in life; we'd seen one in rural Queensland before.

As you can see they were getting real cozy in our presence.  I suspect they were buttering us up hoping to get fed, which we of course did not do because there are warning signs everywhere, but they were dreadfully skinny.  I keep telling myself we've unnaturally fattened up domesticated dogs so much that this is how wild dogs should look.  I hope I'm right and they're not starving.  It's hard to imagine these are wild animals and not cute dogs that should be cuddled!

As a lover of wildlife I think the dingoes were the highlight of the weekend for me.  We saw much more wildlife this time than the first, so yay!  Another highlight was this goanna that was all up in our business:



This little (one meter/3.2 feet) turd took it upon itself to help himself to our garbage.  I know we shouldn't do this, but we fed it eggs for our amusement:


Hey, whatever keeps it out of the bin.  It was so fun to watch it gulp it down whole!

Other wildlife sightings included this crab with gnarly red eyes:


It looks like it's waiting patiently and politely for something, and I think that's adorable.

And a rare sighting, a manta ray!


Not the greatest picture in the world, but they're hard to capture.  You get the idea.  

Though dead, I thought this cracked nautilus shell was really groovy and also worth a mention:


Not to be outdone by fauna, this flora really float my boat:


There was a mango tree in our front yard and this guy was ripe for the pickin'.

My blogging style has really changed over the past 4 years.  I'm sure you were super interested in my talk about my unemployment, love of cookies, etc. in my previous post.  Nowadays I'm more down to business and less chit chat.  So here are the places we visited:

Lake McKenzie


Fraud alert: This picture was taken in 2012 on our first trip.  We visited this lake again this time, but it was cloudy and overcast so the pictures came out looking like absolute shit.  The water in this lake is crystal clear and beautiful...in sunlight.  Only.

Lake Wabby



We didn't go to this lake the first time (there's roughly 50 to choose from) and had to hike in the blazing, blazing sun to get there.  Do you know how sand feels to your flip flop'd foot when it's been baking in the sun all day?  I hope you never have to find out!

Maheno Shipwreck


Allow me to history you for a moment (warning: none of this has been fact checked): The SS Maheno was shipwrecked near Sydney in 1935, so they decided to tow it to Japan.  During the trip it got loose and shipwrecked again, in 1936, on Fraser.  Everybody said "screw it" and left it right where it landed.  The end.

Eli Creek

Still my favorite part of Fraser.  The water is ice cold, and anywhere in Australia I can remain sweat free is tops in my book.

Champagne pools

Still not made of actual champagne.  *sobs quietly in corner*

Now that we own a 4WD and fancy ourselves Queenslanders we drove ourselves this trip, no tour.  It wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be, terrain-wise.  It was a very bumpy, unpleasant ride at times but I am happy to report we didn't get stuck once.  Our compatriots, however, were not so lucky:


Not ten seconds into driving off the beaten track and this Land Rover got stuck.  My prediction has come true: "If you're driving a Patrol chances are...you'll be doing the recovering, not be the one who's stuck".  100% true!  Martin to the rescue to save the day.

Fraser is near the top of the Must Do list for all backpackers and tourists traveling the east coast of Australia.  I think the reason it's so popular is because of the dingoes, though I don't necessarily think it's superior to the other large sand islands nearby, Straddie or Moreton.  Compared to those two, Fraser is ridiculously...busy.  Populated.  We were never out of sight from other humans.

To wrap this up, I offer you a before and after:

2012
2016
Bonus points if you noticed I'm wearing the exact same shorts in both pictures.  Proof positive all my monies go toward traveling, not fa-shun!