South East Asia - Winter 2012 travel blog

Shrimp curry lunch

Oops restaurant on Alona beach

Alona beach (+ next 2)



"Blood Compact" monument

Inside a Spanish coral church (built 1727)

Sitting inside a python...

Buffet lunch on river cruise

A boat similar to ours

Entertainment on the riverside

Loboc river



Me at the Chocolate Hills

Chocolate Hills

Bamboo bridge

Local kids piled up inside/on a jeepney!

Main street toward the beach

Pool at ChARTs resort

Spa at ChARTs

ChARTs resort

Going back to last Monday, the flight from Manila to Tagbilaran (on the island of Bohol) was delayed, but only by half an hour (plus they had somehow changed the flight time to be 25 minutes later than what my ticket said). After a one hour flight, and a 30-minute tricycle ride, I arrived at my hotel near Alona Beach on Panglao (a small island attached to Bohol by a land bridge).

The ChARTs resort is a beautiful place (see photos), designed and built by a German couple. The buildings are in the adobe style, painted white, and surround a dolphin-shaped pool, next to an open-sided "spa" where you can get massages. The upstairs cafe displays local art that is for sale. The rooms at this resort are clearly out of my budget (over $100 a night) except for one... the Flashpacker room. This is a small bamboo bungalow without a/c or ensuite bathroom. The bathroom is across the lawn, on the other side of the pool. This is not a huge inconvenience except at night, when I'm half asleep and have to be careful not to trip or fall in the pool! This bathroom was only used by me and had hot water. I was paying 1500 pesos a night (about $35) and that included breakfast. As I may have said before, the Philippines is not as cheap for tourists as the rest of southeast Asia. Not sure why that is... Anyhow, I stayed for 3 nights, and was able to enjoy all the amenities.

On my first night (Monday), I had a nice dinner at a French restaurant (chicken breast in Madagascar vanilla cream sauce) and was planning to go to bed early (travelling days are always tiring) but I ran into a problem trying to reserve a room in Hong Kong for my last night. I was trying to book a room at the same place where I stayed at the beginning of the trip. The owner doesn't take credit cards and wanted a deposit (one night – so my whole stay in this case) via Paypal. This should be a simple operation but Paypal decided to give me a hard time and suspend the payment ability on my account for some supposed "security reasons". I had no idea how long it would take them to restore my account so was trying different alternatives, which consumed way too much of my time and created a lot of stress and frustration. Finally got a friend to pay for me through his account, and then my payment went through, so the hotel has now been paid twice. Now that's another thing I have to deal with! I don't know what's going on, but ever since I arrived in the Philippines it's been problem after problem.

Anyways, on Tuesday, I spent some time at the beach and had a swim. This beach is much shorter and less busy than Boracay. It caters mostly to divers, with dive shops and a few restaurants lining the beach. The water is pretty decent as well. However touts plague the beach, trying to sell you sunglasses and pearls (!!) and give you massages.

I had a fruit shake at Oops restaurant (was already melting in the heat after the 7-minute walk from my hotel), then a swim, then lunch, then a walk along the beach. I also had an interesting chat with a Philippino woman who lived in England and then Bahrain (from where she worked as a flight attendant) before deciding to return to her birth country. Interesting personality. I liked her. :)

After booking an island tour for the following day, I had a dip in the hotel pool and read for a while, enjoying the shady garden. Then I had a 1-hour massage at the adjoining spa (a mixture of Swedish and Shiatsu) which was very good, but made me realize just how tense my neck and shoulders were. This is normally where all my stress goes!

That night, I had dinner in a very popular italian restaurant. I was lucky to just show up and get a table, as most people seem to make reservations. The place was full when I arrived, but a table soon opened up. I had some penne with seafood, and this was probably the best and most authentic italian food I've had this whole trip. I washed it down with a glass of white house wine.

On Wednesday, I got picked up around 9 am and joined 6 other passengers in the mini-van for the day trip around Bohol. There is a very definite package of "sights" around Bohol, and every company seems to offer the same tour. The main attractions are the "chocolate hills" (a geological feature) and the Tarsier centre (tarsiers are small lemur-like creatures). But we also stopped at a monument representing a historical event (the "Blood Compact") between Spanish colonizers and natives, a Spanish colonial church, a small zoo (with snake photo opportunities), a lunch-cruise along the Loboc river with entertainment galore (felt so touristy it was funny), a butterfly sanctuary (not much to see but funny guide) and a pair of suspended bambo bridges that would have been fun to cross were it not for the fact that it was pouring rain by the time we stopped there. That was a busy 8-hour trip, but fortunately the mini-van was air-conditionned. For most of the time we rode, I spoke with Jim, a divorced American from California who works in construction and likes to take diving vacations around the world. He was travelling with his buddy Bob. Laid-back guy. He told me that on his first morning in Manila, while still jet-lagged, his wallet got stolen by a gang of kids. He was obviously staying in a rougher area of Manila, not Makati!

The interior of Bohol is very green and pastoral, with boungainvillae hanging over the road, rice paddies, and small villages. Unfortunately it was almost impossible to take pictures from the moving van.

On Thursday I had to check out of the hotel, but still hung around all afternoon, as my ferry wasn't departing until 5:45 pm. I used the pool and sat around the garden and bar, sorting through the photos for the previous entry. Since I had no idea what this ferry was going to be like (only that the ride was about 2 hours and 40 mins) I took some sea-sickness pills. Around 4:00, I went out looking for a tricylce to take me to the ferry port. I figured it would be a piece of cake since they're aways bugging you on the street. But this time, not only none where in sight, but when I finally waved at two of them coming down the street, none ot them stopped! WTF? But a taxi saw me and came around. I told him that taxis cost too much and I was looking for a tricycle. But he made me a very good price (300 PHP - $7 - instead of 400, and only about $1 more than the tricylce charged me on the way down!) And the taxi was air-conditinned and actually had suspension! :) Chatting with the driver, I also found out that he was born only one day before me – ha ha ha. Yes, Philippino men routinely ask foreign women their age, especially after finding out that they have no husband. Actually women ask exactly the same questions. It goes something like this:

Philippino: You're travelling alone?

Me: Yup

Philippino: Where is your husband?

Me (somewhat proudly): I don't have a husband

Philippino: How old are you?

I don't think it's meant to be judgemental, just curiosity.

I got to the ferry terminal with plenty of time, and the taxi driver even stopped at a convenience store so I could pick up some snacks. The ferry depature lounge was air-conditionned with TV monitors announcing the departing ferries, just like an airport. As I suspected, my boat was a catamaran, an old one from the look of the interior (worn out viny chairs, and chipped concrete floor) and in the end I was glad I took my sea sickness pills as there was noticeable side-to-side movement at times. This boat was pretty fast but the engine was very noisy, completely drowning the sound track of the movie they were showing. It felt almost like flying in a very old wide-body plane, especially since it was dark outside, The ferry left only 15 minutes late so that was good. There was a quick stop in Dumaguete, and we arrived at my next destination, Siquijor (where I am now) around 8:50 PM.

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