Published: December 12th 2010November 22nd 2010
After a day and a half of food poisoning in Cebu city, we were hoping that the bus journey over the hills of Cebu wouldn’t be too arduous on our stomachs or bowels! As it was, the bus journey was ok…apart from the signs saying ‘Slow down, accident prone area’ which gave the driver the impression that he should speed up and drive like a complete maniac. The warp speed we went on the winding roads (with some sheer drop offs too we might add) and the few near misses with other buses well and truly kept our mind off the possibility of the food poisoning coming back to haunt us!
Three hours later we arrived in Moalboal town, although quite why the 89km journey took so long with the warp speed we reached we will never quite understand. Getting off the bus we were confronted with the usual trike mafia demanding silly prices to take us to Panagsama beach which was 4km away. We finally found a driver who would take us for (a still overpriced) 80 pesos so we jumped into his trike which was obviously made for very short people…we were both bent double inside and whacked
our heads on the roof every time it went over a bump, which seemed like every 2 seconds.
On reaching Panagsama we quickly got a drink (we were too scared to drink that morning due to the bowel issues we had suffered!) and Neil sat in the restaurant while Donna headed off to find a room. After calling into EVERY guesthouse/hotel on the beach she finally scored a winner for 800 pesos / £12 a night after a lot of haggling and convincing the staff to not include breakfast...it was a nice clean room with a fan and hot water; the only downside was that it was two single beds but not to worry as we pushed them together which resulted in an argument every night before we went to sleep about who would sleep ‘on the crack’. Our place even had a pool, something which we hadn’t had in a while!
Panagsama is a strange little seaside town, well more of a strip of hotels, restaurants and dive shops. There isn’t a beach to speak of – the story goes that it was destroyed by a huge typhoon in 1984…we aren’t sure how a typhoon destroys a
The swimming pool
It's been a while since we had a hotel with a pool!
beach but we think people mean the accompanying storm surges swept the beach away and it’s never recovered. Panagsama is definitely a lesson regarding tourism development, as we think even if the beach did have a chance to come back (disclaimer – we really have no idea if beaches can ‘grow’ back!) it’s been all but made impossible by the resorts here building huge walls right on the miniscule amount of sand there is left! We have seen quite a few places like this on our travels and feel that the laws which are implemented in some places regarding not being able to build within a certain distance of the high tide mark are definitely a good idea…we aren’t eco-warriors, just real beach lovers who think beaches are beautiful things that should be protected for the future!
The restaurants in Panagsama served decent food with large menu selections; although the dishes were slightly more expensive than they should be and the service in the restaurants was slapstick! As an example, on our last night we were in our favourite restaurant and a group of 10 German tourists came into eat; after they had ordered drinks and had them served
the waitress called their attention and told the group that the restaurant only had 2 portions of chicken, 3 portions of pork and 2 portions of beef, no fish or seafood!! It was the fish and seafood we didn’t understand as there was the sea (FULL of aquatic life) right outside the restaurant so we weren’t really sure why they didn’t have fish. The Germans couldn’t leave at that point as they had drinks and some had ordered starters…really bad practice for a restaurant…we just thanked our lucky stars that we got in before them and had the pick of the menu hahaha, cruel but true we didn't want to be left hungry!
The Moalboal locals were a mixture of people who had lived there all their lives, they welcomed tourists, were friendly and relied on this income to feed their families and then there were the others that had moved there to exploit the tourists and milk as much money as possible from them. So half the time people said hello and genuinely meant it and the other half it was followed by the ‘you want…’[insert whatever piece of tat, massage, bike, trike etc in here]. It made
Neil talking to the little kiddie winks
...ok they were trying to sell him tat necklaces!
for a really weird experience which kept us a bit off guard!
We have to name and shame a restaurant called Little Corner which incidentally (and puzzlingly) charged around 60% more for a fish curry than a chicken curry – fish in seaside places is surely a 100% profit dish as it’s free to catch? This isn’t what the shame is for – every night we went into the restaurant and had drinks; usually a couple of beers and some chocolate banana shakes. We also went one afternoon when it was a little cloudy and had shakes and drinks. On our second to last night, we went to Little Corner and ordered drinks as usual, we stayed a few hours and had 2 beers each, a shake and a coke. The bill came and we had been charged more than we should have been, it was the equivalent of about £1 more, so we queried it in a friendly way with the (admittedly scary) ladyboy waitress. She snapped at us that it was because we only had drinks and no food; we queried this again as we had been in there the previous 3 nights and during the day
without being charged more when we didn’t eat. She snapped at us again and started getting a bit funny and nasty with us…to be honest it wasn’t the fact that we were overcharged, we didn’t really care that much about the money, it just annoyed us because we had said when we sat down and ordered that we didn’t want food only drinks and nothing was mentioned. It was the whole dishonesty of the overcharging we objected to.
Anyway, all that aside, we spent our days lounging in the nice pool during the morning and then splashed around in the sea during the afternoon. The sea was really clean and clear and Panagsama has got a good reputation for diving and snorkelling. We didn’t dive but we did make attempts to snorkel, we say attempts because every time we tried to hire a snorkel and mask we were told that it was 300 pesos each (that’s £4.40!) so we gave up on that idea. We also had the idea to go to another beach in the area, which is called White beach and is about 8km away from Panagsama but the trike drivers had other ideas about that one!
Neil walked out one morning to have a chat with the trike drivers about taking us to White beach, the trike drivers wouldn’t drop below 350 pesos for this trip - which for 8km is a silly price, the real price (as confirmed by our resort) should be 100 pesos. We were willing to pay 250 pesos but no amount of haggling would get them to drop (just a bit of perspective here that the average national wage in the Philippines is 150 pesos a day!). So we didn’t go to White beach. We did laugh though later in the day when we walked past the trike drivers who were all fast asleep in their trikes…Donna commented to Neil that if that’s all they did all day then they could have been sleeping in their trike at White beach AND earning 250 pesos…such a lack of common sense that they are happier not to earn money and sleep than earn a fair amount of money for a short trip and still be able to sleep. But such is life in Asia!
Panagsama Moalboal is quite a unique place, it's developed without there being too much in the way of
big posh resorts, some nice restaurants and not too many tourists. We have rarely been to a place where there is crystal clear water which you can wade out in and have snorkelling just off the shore. It's an ideal distance from Cebu city for a few days break to relax in the sunshine and a relatively cheap break away too. Unless you are into diving, however it's not the type of place you would go for a beachside holiday...we think we were the only ones there who weren't diving.
We had a fun few days in Moalboal, we were very glad we had taken a big plastic bag of snacks (Ruffles – specifically mentioned to make Donna’s Dad jealous, Oreo cookies and oranges) as there were no real shops at Panagsama, so if you are going there be prepared and take your snacks! We psyched ourselves up for the bus journey back over the mountains, luckily the food poisoning had well and truly cleared but it was still a slightly harrowing journey with another crazy driver. We also managed to be unlucky enough to fly on the day that ALL flights were delayed from Cebu airport and ended
up spending 6 hours in the departure lounge…on the plus side the coffee was really cheap!
So next week we have a flight booked for our Christmas on the Beach experience.™ After spending the last 2 years in India we have a different destination planned - it’s a country we have been to before but a place we have never visited…we are soooo excited!
Just a last note…we are very sorry to all our friends and family for publishing this blog showing the sun and warmth when you are all freezing cold there in the snow, ice and freezing temperatures but on the bright side at least you have easy access to good chocolate!
There are more photos below