Who says $5 can’t buy you any thrilling adventure? As I found myself supplanted atop a Filipino bus, dangerously comfortable on this artistically bold transport hurling through the remote highways of Palawan in the Philippines, life could not have been any better. To the locals it is an everyday occurrence. I defiantly told the driver, er, man in the tank top and cut off shorts, I would like to sit on the roof of the bus for the upcoming four hour trip. “Go ahead,” he says without a second glance. Apparently not as big of a deal to a Filipino, I still proudly climbed the ladder onto the metal roof and threw down my bag next to a crate of toilet paper and a large box of soap. I would soon find out this was a trip much longer than previously anticipated.
My travel buddy Tim and I sipped San Miguels and Red Horse beer (both local Philippines products), ate fresh fruit, and chatted up locals to pass the time. Our departure was scheduled for noon. However, we would soon find out how Filipino travel works. As I am now somewhat of a seasoned pro on Filipino travel, the safer bet is to be incredibly patient and realize that the vehicle will leave once it is packed full of paying customers. So, bring a book, drink a local beverage, and take in the surrounding flavors of the Philippines.
Another good tip is to bring a couple packs of cigarettes on the journey. I personally don’t smoke, but found out that Filipino males love two things: foreign cigarettes and Bon Jovi. Mention the fact that you are from the U.S.A and you might have a friend for the duration of the journey. Also, take advantage of the roadside eateries and vendors. For two USD, 100 PHP, I was able to enjoy pancit (a noodle dish with vegetables and chicken) and a drink. From the perch of my seat I would just hand down my bills and reach out for the delicious food in return. I definitely recommend having a packed meal or small bills in order to buy snacks at the small markets because the length of the trip may be much longer than expected.
Above all else, remember to relax and embrace the local way of traveling. This may not be the best way to travel for most people, but it was truly an unforgettable travel moment for both Tim and myself. The scenery is majestic and the accompanying passengers, albeit timid at first, certainly becoming a great source of information and extremely friendly when all is said and done.
What are some of your best travel experiences? Share them below. I would love to hear about any wacky or exciting overland trips from your travels.