It’s more fun in Philippines! Manila-Bohol-Panglao Island in 5 days
As my trip is slowly coming to an end, I wanted to savour every moment of the next country as it will be the last “new” country I visit. As usual, I haven’t done much research on it prior to arriving there. I did make some plans with Sarah, a friend I met back in Japan and again afterwards in Korea. As she had a short holiday in Korea, she was quite specific with what she wanted during her 4-5 day stay in the Philippines. It was her first time in The Philippines so she wanted to see some culture with a bit of activities with time to spare for some relaxing on the beach. And all that in less than a week. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
First things first, some (if not most) of the taxi drivers are a pain in the ass to deal with when you’re a tourist. When taking my first taxi from the airport to our hostel, I almost got in a fight with the skin-headed taxi driver after an argument over the fare. You’ll probably hear this a lot, but ALWAYS negotiate your fare before getting in or on any transport! Anyways, a day or so before arriving in Manila, I looked up some stuff online and most people said to stay out of the capital and just use it a transit hub to other places within the Philippines. Sarah had a place she wanted to visit as she has some history with it within her family, it was a school where her aunt was kept captive. I have no idea what it was, I didn’t even wanna tag along, but I can’t just leave a white girl alone in Philippines, me being SUCH A GENTLEMAN! We stayed in a rather local area where I think they don’t often see white people and Sarah was white as day. As we were making our way to the school, people kept staring at Sarah like she was some weird mythical creature. I’ve been around white people before in other Asian countries, but these stares didn’t seem as friend, almost intimidating and you could almost read the expression from their faces. “Is she lost?”, “What is she doing here?”, “What does she eat?”, “That dude must be rich”. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating here, but you get the idea.To get to the school, it took us probably close to 2 hours to get there on all kinds of transport. The hostel owner gave us the cheap option and slow option and the fast and expensive option (taxi). We tried to get the taxi, but even that was a challenge! Long story short, to get there we had to first take tricycle (pedicab), a jeepney (bus), train, another, jeepney and another tricycle. Needless to say this all went quite chaotic as well since riding a jeepney is quite a local thing and hard to do when everyone tries to rip you off. Thank god we were only staying 1 day in Manila as we were flying out to Cebu the next day to take the boat to Bohol! So in less than 2 days, I think we took nearly every possible way of transportation in the Philippines.
Loboc was the location for the action-packed part of the challenge. In my Lonely Planet I found only 1 accomodation they recommended and it was in the middle of the jungle after a 30min ride in the van from the port and a 20min walk from the main road. The fun part about this was, we had to get there at night, on a dirt road, in the dark, in the rain, with our backpacks, with 1 umbrella and no (real) flashlight. Thank god for smartphones with flash, really!We arrived at Nuts Huts all soaked and craving for a hot meal after full day of travel and planned out the activities for the next 2 days. In the morning Sarah was really amazed by the surroundings and the location in the jungle next to a river. I’ve gotta admit it was one heck of a place to stay at just because of the location and the chill atmosphere there. But you’ve gotta put in some work to get there. Anyway, first day we rented a kayak each and went up and down the river and had a swim in a fresh water pool thingy. They had these huge restaurant/karaoke tourist boats passing along the river around in the afternoon and since we were the only 2 people on a kayak there and Sarah being white, we become a minor attraction itself. Afterwards we took a bus to the centre to look for internet cafe since I had to check some stuff. The centre wasn’t big at all, so we walked around a bit and afterwards decided to just walk back to Nuts Huts, which took maybe an hour or so. Bohol is actually famous for its Chocolate Hills, rounded mounds resembling chocolate drops and Tarsiers. We didn’t see either…. probably because we didn’t put much importance in them and because we were on a tight schedule. Neither of us cared much about Chocolate Hills since it was just a view point thing and the fact that they weren’t really made out of chocolate was rather disappointing.
Next up was the relaxing beach part as we made our way from Loboc to Panglao island. The place was actually thémajor tourist area since we saw so many more other tourists here. Suprisingly, a lot of Chinese and Korean tourist are staying here. Probably to enjoy the pristine Alona beach and enjoy some first class diving. I checked around myself for dive prices and hot spots, but since a typhoon has just passed or was about to pass, the best dive sites, who were further out, weren’t accessible, so I just passed. We did book a small tour that went island hopping and snorkeled with probably 20 other boats around us and packed with tons of Asians who can’t swim… JOY!Virgin Island is one of the many islands in the Philippines where a big area of the beach sink during high tide and only the palm trees in the middle of the island are visible. Known to many locals as the “hidden oasis”, Virgin Island is clearly an attraction due to its long stretch of white sand beach during low tide which spans around 1 hectare. Well, afterwards I had to say goodbye to Sarah as she had to get all the way back to Seoul. So she was in for one heck of a ride as you can read on her blog. I made my way to Dumaguete for some diving!