Andrea (Guangdong)

ANDREA SPAKOVA

THE WINTER VACATION (JANUARY-FEBUARY)

We went to the Philippines and then to Japan. Japan has been on our travelling to-do list for too long to ignore it and living 5 hours away from Tokyo is just about as close as you can get to this country (Japan is remote. Really remote.) The Philippines was kind of a natural choice.

First, it’s an amazing tropical country. Second, it was cheap enough to balance our ravaged budget from expensive Japan. Also, having two massive international airports (Guangzhou and Hong Kong) within a four hour radius gave us loads of options for flights. We got a bargain and flew from China straight to the Philippines for £40.

It was great.

The Philippines is a paradise on Earth and unlike Thailand, not many people have realised that yet. We tried to aim for more of an active holiday this time. I mean, yes, we spent a lot of time sipping rum and coke on a beach but you have to do that when it costs just about 80p (it seems that every hour is a happy hour in the Philippines).

Active we were though. We tried a traditional shamanist healing procedure on the island of Siquijor, looked for the bush babies on the island of Bohol, survived a tropical storm on the sea in Negros and jumped from 15 meters high rock into a ridiculously tiny waterfall pool during canyoneering in Cebu. We hiked an active volcano and consequently talked the staff at a random hotel in town to a private visit of the 30th floor as it had the best views of that volcano. And then of course, Filipino sunsets.

The highlight, however, was definitely scuba-diving. Neither me, nor Jack had ever tried it but when we realised that all of our fellow travellers went to the Philippines TO scuba-dive, we enrolled on the Open water course and started on the same day.

Needless to say, It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. We saw cute clownfish, creepy lionfish and loads of turtles. The only problem with scuba-diving is, as I heard from the more experienced divers, once you start, you’ll never want to finish. It must be true because we’re already looking at the tickets back to the Philippines for our next holiday (it should be short and sweet four days in spring).

Obviously, it was a completely different experience in Japan. It was very much like Europe but… everything was so Asian! I honestly think that it is impossible to dislike the country. From the delicious sushi, to clean streets, to drunk businessmen at 8pm, to manga girls. The Politeness of people is just unbelievable. And did I mention the sushi?

I wish our holiday was longer than five weeks but the fact is, travelling is more tiring than what it looks like in those “Checked in at Alona Beach” Facebook posts and we definitely managed a lot. Now we are back at school and I entertain kids with holiday stories and pictures of me in a wetsuit. Oh, how much they love it.