So the plan for this trip is to go find some of the most beautiful places in the world. Things don't usually go according to plan, but in the case of Batanes, it was flawless.
Batanes is a chain of ten tiny islands in the far northern reaches of the Philippines, about a two hour boat ride south of Taiwan. Only three of the ten islands are inhabited. I stayed on Batan, the largest of the islands.
After a shaky landing in a small plane, the first thing you notice is the prominent mountain on one end of the island. It's a dormant volcano whose summit is usually covered in clouds which just adds to the mystique. The colors you see in Batanes are simple and beautiful. Green grass, blue sky, green mountains, blue sea, green trees, copper roofs, white clouds, stone rocks, white lighthouses, and orange sunrises. Cows spot the interior rolling hills and beaches spot the coastline.
We stayed at My Father's Inn, a small homestay. Dong and Jhing are the most amazing hosts. It was within walking distance to the airport. The airport was really just a small open building next to a runway in a field at the base of the mountain. We were in the town of Basco, the capital of Batanes. There is a post office and a police station. There are about five towns on the island of Batan and none are much bigger than a small neighborhood. Biking around town, motor or pedal, is the preferred method of transportation. Maybe that is because the island is so beautiful people want to slow down and take in the scenery. Maybe it's because the roads are too narrow for much else. Either way, the roads are few and all concrete making it easy to get around the island.
I was there for two full days. In that time I went around the entire island. I saw it from every angle and never once did I have a bad view. I could seriously drive to a random spot on the island, close my eyes, spin in a circle taking pictures, and I would come out with amazing photos.
Being a small isolated chain of islands, the food in Batanes was local, fresh, and fantastic. There were several meals of crab, lobster, and blue marlin. These are the staple foods of Batanes. Not a bad trio. The crab was Coconut Crab which is found sparingly around coasts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are the largest land dwelling crab and primarily feed on coconuts, making them extra delicious. There are regulations to protect these crabs from being over hunted and exported because they have gone locally extinct in many places. I guess these rules did not apply to locals because we ate a ton of it. The blue marlin was found everywhere too. I ate it several different ways including the Philippine version of ceviche. There was a point when I had a large chunk of lobster tail I had just pried from a whole lobster in one hand and a San Miguel beer in the other and I was sitting next to a seriously beautiful beach. This was a great place to eat.
The people are relaxed and friendly, like most islanders. At lunch on the beach one day, I met one of my favorite people ever. His name is William. He's a salt and pepper long haired, scraggly bearded Filipino. He's always smiling through his front bottom teeth - because he had no front top teeth. He's in his early sixties and very fit. He biked to the beach where we had lunch. He said his grandmother showed him a picture of the Panama Canal when he was younger and asked if he would ever see it. I that point he decided he would make it to Panama one day. He made his way across the Pacific by boat to Los Angeles where he saw the Hollywood sign. He continued south to Panama and eventually reached the Panama Canal. On his way back to the Philippines, his ship sailed to New Zealand and Australia. He said he wanted to see if he could make it in another country. He jumped off the boat with his passport and an extra pair of underwear and swam to the shore. He lived in Australia for 12 years illegally before he was caught during a routine traffic stop and deported. Twelve years is a pretty good run. He was a professional boxer for about three rounds before he was knocked the fuck out during a match on live television. He talked about the women he loved and the people he had met. He loved the peacefulness of the island. He was happy and healthy. What else could you ask for?
There's a shop on the island called The Honesty Coffee Shop. It is always open and stocked with coffee, snacks, shirts, wigs, whatever. No one tends the shop. There is a money box on the counter. Take whatever you like. Pay for whatever you take. Just another example of how beautiful this place is - the people, the beaches, the mountains, the hills.
Everywhere is so different. It's difficult to compare one place to another, but it's hard to believe I will find a more beautiful place than this. I'll keep trying though.