Breaking down in Bohol (Day 212 - 218 by Chris)


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Asia » Philippines » Bohol » Panglao
April 15th 2016
Published: May 1st 2016
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Friday 15th April 2016

Today we leave Port Barton after a very short time here, it’s actually a shame as it was such a relaxing place and if time permitted we would’ve extended our stay without hesitation. We were awake by 7am and packed up our stuff and sadly left the tree house, which has to be said, was one of the best places we’ve stayed during our 7 months so far.

After we had breakfast, instead of waiting for the mini bus to collect us at 9am we decided we’d walk the short distance to the resort that arranged the bus thinking that we could beat any rush and get some decent seats, as we were unable to reserve specific spots on the bus. We arrived at the resort for 8:30am and as we arrived were told that the bus had already left to collect us. We were then told to wait whilst the bus did its rounds to pick people up and would then return to collect us. Our plan of beating the crowds had backfired and now we would no doubt be the final people on the bus and be given the rubbish seats. Our departure time was 9am and by 9:15 the bus still hadn’t returned. We were getting a little concerned as we had a 3pm flight from Puerto Princessa and the drive can take up to 4 hours. We enquired how long the wait would take and was met with a concerned looking face from the lady on reception. Basically the mini bus had a flat battery and was in the garage. We had no choice but to sit and wait.

We got chatting to and English mum and daughter from Colchester who it transpired were meant to be on the same bus as us. The bus finally arrived at 10:30am and to our disappointment, but in hindsight not surprising given our original bus was broken, this minibus was quite basic and not to the quality that we’d paid for. We weren’t that bothered though as we were quite confident we would make it in time for the flight and when everyone got onto the bus there were only 5 of us and we had plenty of space to stretch out. After a quick 3-hour journey we were dropped off at the airport and 5 minutes later we were in the departure area where we had a 2 hour wait for takeoff.

The flight itself was very smooth and literally flew by. We arrived in Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines at 4:30pm and after collecting our luggage and a short wait at a taxi rank we were in the taxi and only 10 minutes away from our hotel. That is 10 minutes without any traffic, however we arrived in rush hour and the actually journey took 1.5 hours. Whilst in the taxi, which obviously moved very slowly, we were able to get a glimpse of Cebu City life. What we noticed was how many beggars there were. At each set of traffic lights, for which there were lots, we saw adults and their children begging at car windows. Whilst fully engrossed in a bag of cashew nuts, a lady spotted us and came over to the car with her 3 children and started knocking on the window asking for food. I felt like I should offer them something, but at the same time was quite nervous of engaging with them as the taxi driver was shooing them away and looking quite concerned/embarrassed. In the end we just ignored them and were happy when the lights turned green.

After a very long taxi ride we arrived at ‘Diplomat hotel’ which for £18 for the one night was quite good value. It was an actual hotel and the bell boy looked quite put out when I picked up our bags and carried them to the lift. The lady on reception told us to leave them and they would be carried up later, I was quite happy to take them myself, showing that we were clearly not used to this sort of service. The room had cable TV and after grabbing some food in the downstairs restaurant, we sat and watch some TV before heading to bed just before midnight.

Saturday 16th April 2016

We were only booked to stay in Cebu City for 1 night as we were told there wasn’t much to see and we had plans to head straight to Bohol, a neighboring island. After grabbing some breakfast at Starbucks down the road, which we noticed was quite heavily supervised by security (Cebu might be quite unsafe, or so it seems?) we got a taxi to the port which was only 5 mins from the hotel. We paid approx. £8 each for a one-way ticket to Tagbilaran port on Panglao island, which is just off the coast of Bohol island. We had to wait in a surprisingly modern and professionally run terminal. We had a drink and used the free Wi-Fi before boarding our ‘SuperCat’ boat that would take 2 hours to arrive at Tagbilaran. We had vowed never to take this mode of transport after a dodgy catamaran experience in Thailand, but the water was very flat and allowed for a smooth journey.

When we arrived at Tagbilaran port, we found a taxi and asked to be taken to Calypso Resort on the island of Panglao, which is connected to Tagbilaran town by a small bridge. After a 40-minute journey we arrived at our hotel. When we tried to check in though, the owner told us that Agoda, the website which we found and already paid for 3 nights, had double booked us. I was ready for a bit of a rant, but they said that we could stay at their neighbours guesthouse which was just next door and was told that it was a better room. When we arrived next door we saw a very basic room with a fan, which was exactly what we’d paid for next door. We couldn’t really complain as the room did seem bigger than the one we were meant to stay in and I figured out how to turn on the aircon which we were told we couldn’t use as we hadn’t paid for it.

We were still entitled to the free motorbike from Calypso Resort, the only real reason we decided to book our stay there. Each room is given a motorbike, which we discovered we really needed as we weren’t staying in the best location and most places were at least a 20 minute walk away. For dinner we took the bike out and headed for a pizza restaurant. We ordered 2 pizzas which were enormous and couldn’t finish them, one would have been enough. After eating we headed back to the room where we played with sueshine the dog (odd name) before illegally turning on the aircon in the room and relaxing into a comfortable sleep.

Sunday 17th April 2016

We didn’t have breakfast included in our room rate, so we had to find somewhere nearby to eat. I found a café on Trip Advisor which was apparently run by an English bloke and the reviews said how authentic the breakfasts were. We hopped onto the bike and drove to ‘Nikitas Café’ and when we sat down to eat our beans on toast we agreed that this has been the only place we’ve found in Asia that does real English breakfast. The full English looked as you’d expect from a greasy spoon back home and we were happy. We got chatting to Dave, the owner who was originally from Brixton but moved to Panglao 14 years ago and he was telling us how you can make a fortune from the tourists here as the wages you pay to your staff are very low. He also told us he was flying to London the following day because he had a meeting with someone from Morrisons to buy a shed load of beans so that he could export them to Panglao, because he “Loves Morrisons beans” and this helps to give foreign guests a proper taste of home. Whilst chatting we told him that we were on Pangloa for 6 nights, but had only booked 3 at our current place and would need somewhere else, but our budget meant we had to stay quite far away from the beach and unfortunately couldn’t stay in the Alona beach area, which is where the café was. He asked what our budget was and we told him it was 1200 pesos and he said he would give us a discount because we are English and we could stay in one of his apartments, as he also runs a guest house. We then hopped onto our bikes and followed him to his private apartments and his wife showed us round. We selected the largest apartment with its own kitchen, sofa, cable TV, ensuite bathroom, sofa, aircon and garden which was only a stone’s throw away from the beach. We paid a deposit and cannot wait to check in in 2 days time. What a lovey bloke!

Two of the major attractions in Bohol, which is the main island connected to Pangloa (a much smaller island where we are staying) is to visit the chocolate hills and the Tarsier sanctuary. The chocolate hills are huge mounds in the middle of the countryside which are thought to be tears of a giant (probably not!) and are chocolate coloured (so brown then…) during the dry season (which is now) as a result of the vegetation drying out. The tarsiers, which are the smallest primates in the world and are about as small as a large rat, are native to Borneo, an Indonesian island and a few islands of the Philippines, including Bohol. They are tiny, but have enormous eyes on account of them being nocturnal, the can spin their tiny heads almost 360 degrees and can jump 5 metres. They feed off insects such as grasshoppers, bees, locusts, butterflies etc. and only produce one baby per year which it nurtures for 6 months. All these facts were taken from the walls in the Tarsier sanctuary – thank you very much!

To get to the Chocolate Hills and the Tarsiers, we had a bit of a journey ahead of us. We would have to drive for approx 2 hours to get to the Tarsier sanctuary and a further 45 minutes to the chocolate hills. We set off about 11am and the drive was very smooth. We had a semi-automatic bike which was quite annoying as I had to manually select the gears, which I found to be quite stiff and problematic. After a steady journey though which took us through some lovely countryside we arrived at the Tarsier sanctuary. We paid only £1 each to enter and was greeted with a picture of Prince Charles holding a Tarsier, which must have been taken in the early eighties because his suit was dreadful. We also read lots of handy info on Tarsiers, which I have already provided for your reading pleasure and we then headed off, just the two of us, into the sanctuary. We were met by a guide who told us to be very quiet as the Tarsiers were sleeping. They are nocturnal so visiting by day meant that we would only see them sleeping and the guides didn’t want to disturb their sleeping patterns, which was good to see. The guide took us to a bush where she pointed to the ground. We had been looking up in the trees hoping to see some Tarsiers, but to our surprise there was one sleeping at the foot of a tree. We couldn’t believe it. We were surprised to see one at all, as they state that there is no guarantee, but we were even more shocked that one would decide to sleep on the floor. We stood and looked for a minute before moving on. Around the next bend, the guide pointed out another little tarsier, this one though was awake and clinging to a branch. It was the cutest looking thing ever. It had the most enormous eyes and the daintiest little fingers with what looked like suction pads on the end. Again, we didn’t want to disturb it too much so moved on. Over the next 10 minutes we got to see 5 in total and we were both thoroughly happy as they had been on our list since leaving home. We left feeling very happy.

The next stop was the Chocolate hills which would be a further 45 mins away and along the way we drove through the ‘man made forest’ which was a road than ran through the middle of some trees which we overhanging the road and creating a tunnel to drive though. This felt like being back in England and driving through the New Forest. When we arrived at the chocolate hills, we parked up and climbed approx. 200 steps to the viewing platform, along with tour buses full of people. We spent 10 minutes at the top taking in the 360 degree views of chocolate mounds before climbing back down. The day was toasty and dry and we were lucky to see the chocolate hills looking rather chocolaty. We headed down to the café where we had an ice cream and a rest before deciding to make the 2 hour journey back before it got dark.

30 minutes into our journey we got a puncture and annoyingly we were between 2 towns, but far enough from both to cause us some concern. We didn’t want to ride the bike on a flat tyre because when we did that in Bagan, back in Myanmar, the whole tyre came off. Instead we tried to flag down some passersby, but no one stopped to help. We decided that Gemma would stay with the bike, which we had pushed into a bus stop and I would run into the nearest town. After a 10-minute jog, and realising how un fit I was, 2 guys pulled up in a tuk tuk and told us that they had spoken to Gemma who had explained what had happened and they would drive me to a garage. When we got to the garage the guys working there were unwilling to come to the bike and said I had to bring the bike to them. The 2 guys in the tuk tuk then drove me back to Gemma and told us both to get into the tuk tuk. One of them then took the motorbike and drove it very slowly to the garage, which I should explain was actually a wooden hut by the side of the road. They told us that they would wait to ensure we don’t get ripped off. And after only 5 minutes we had a new inner tube and only paid £2. I tried to pay the 2 guys as a way of thanking them as they’d spent almost an hour with us, but they were happy to just drive off knowing that we were safe. The people in the Philippines are almost on par with the Malaysians for friendliness.

We then set off on our journey home, taking it very slowly and drove into the sun set. We arrived back into our town almost 2 hours later and headed straight into the pizza shop we visited the previous night. We were exhausted and I had pins and needles from the vibrations of the bike running into my hands. We sat down (on bruised bum cheeks) and ate our pizza and drank our coke both looking at each other with tired brown faces due to the dust and said we should head back home. We popped into the bar at the guesthouse we were meant to be staying at, and had a couple of beers before heading to our room to shower and relax. Before entering the room though we fussed over shoeshine the dog and fed her a couple of biscuits. She had a little burp to thank us for the snack before doing a huge, loud human burp which had us both in hysterics. What an exhausting, but action packed and fun day.

Monday 18th April 2016

After a tiring day yesterday, we planned to take it easy today, but were up and out of the room by 9am. We took the motor bike to Nikitas café, the place we ate at yesterday and enjoyed a couple of hours sat drinking coffee with our scrambled eggs, toast and beans. Some real comfort food to remind us of home, which incidentally is only 2 weeks away now – a scary thought!

After leaving the café we decided that because we had the bike for today only, we might as well travel to a beach a little further away. Alona beach is the most popular on this island and is where we will be staying for the next 3 days, so it made sense to check out a different one today. We drove for only 10 minutes when we arrived at a resort and paid only £1 to park our bike there for the day. We had arrived at Dumaluan beach which was beautiful. The beach itself was very wide and there was amble sand to find a nice spot to sit down. The sand was white and powdery and the water was white for the first 15 metres before gradually becoming darker. It really was a stunning beach and strangely didn’t seem very popular with westerners. The majority of people on the beach were Filipinas and we did feel a few eyes on us as we strolled along the beach, but in a friendly manner, not aggressive at all. For the next few hours we sat in the shade of a tree occasionally popping into the water to cool off, where we found a small star fish, and also catching some rays on the beach. All in all it was a relaxing day and in stark contrast to the previous day.

At 3pm, having had enough sun for one day, we drove the bike to a resort we’d passed previously called Regents Park resort. It was a lovely hotel and we felt quite jealous of those staying here compared to the dreadful place we were in. I had a quick look on booking.com to check the prices and was happy to see that it was way out of budget for us. We spent an hour or so eating a late lunch and drinking a couple of beers there before taking a walk down to Alona beach just as the sun started to set. We then headed back to our hotel where we had some pork Adoba, a traditional Filipina food and then headed back to our room but not forgetting to fuss over shoeshine the dog for a while. We were quite excited to be leaving this room tomorrow and to be checking into an apartment. We’ve already discussed getting some beers and take away pizza and enjoying a few evenings watching TV. Very excited for the next few days.

Tuesday 19th April 2016

Excited to be leaving our rubbish accommodation for the private apartment, we were up early to pack. We checked out and took a tricycle to Nikitas café to have some breakfast before being shown to the apartment. We dropped off our bags, had a look around feeling very content before heading out for the day. As we were locking up and pulled out the key from the door, the whole locking system came out with the key – brilliant! Not to worry though, as we popped next door to inform the owners and they said they’d get it fixed for us.

We were not too sure what we wanted to do today as the main aim was to get into the new apartment. As we walked past the hotel where we’d eaten a yesterday, the Regents Park Resort, we thought we’d pop in to enquire whether they had a day rate to use their facilities. To our surprise they did and to our great pleasure, they only charged 500 pesos (£7) of which 300 pesos could be used towards food or drink, so we were only paying £2 to use their pool. We couldn’t believe our luck as the whole resort was empty except for a couple of people sleeping by the pool on sun loungers. We found a couple of loungers ourselves and spent the whole day reading or swimming in the beautiful pool. We had a couple of the best mango shakes in the world before getting ready to leave in the late afternoon. As we began to mobilise ourselves, the lady on the lounger next to me started talking. We got into a conversation and ended up sharing a couple of buckets of happy hour beers with her and her partner. We didn’t leave until almost 9pm. She was called Julie and her partner Dean and were both from Rotherham and were in their late 50s. We chatted for hours and they were so well travelled and were currently at the end of a 5 weeks stay in the Philippines. It turns out that they occasionally visit a pub called The Masons which I’ve frequented a few times whilst visiting my mate Dan in Rotherham. To offer another mark as to what a small world we live in, we also got chatting to an older couple from Romford who were in the Philippines visiting their son who lives here. They only lived a mile or so away from where Gemma grew up and the husband went to the school that backs onto Gemma’s parents’ house. It’s weird how you travel the world and somehow gravitate to people that you might have passed in the street back home. After a few drinks we said our goodbyes and headed home.

Wednesday 20th April 2016

Having been in this area for 5 days now we are yet to spend a day at Alona beach and that is what we had planned today. Considering it’s the most popular beach in this area it would be a shame to not visit. Just as we were about to leave the apartment to head out for breakfast it started raining. We grabbed an umbrella and continued to walk towards the café. Half way there the rain really started to fall and we had to make a quick dart into the café slightly wet. We had breakfast and waited for the rain to stop which it didn’t seem to want to do. With no other options on where to go, we reluctantly headed back to the apartment and wait for the rain to clear up.

In the mid afternoon the rain had gone and we headed out for a walk. We made to it Alona beach but were not overwhelmed by the beach as it was fully of green seaweed and broken coral. The sea had dozens of boats anchored giving a marina look and along with the restaurants and massage tables on large parts of the beach we were left quite bewildered how this particular beach is the most popular and highly talk up. We much preferred the beach on our second day and after a walk up and down Alona beach we decided to head into a café for a coffee and a doughnut. After taking it easy during the rest of the afternoon we grabbed some food to take back to the apartment and had a beer whilst watching a movie before calling it a night at 10pm.

Thursday 21st April 2016

To mark our final day in Panglao as we leave the following day to fly to Boracay where we’ll spend our final 6 days on a beach (a change from the norm then?!), we decided we would like to pay to stay around the pool in the Regents resort again. After breakfast we headed to the resort and as with the other day, the place was pretty much empty. We didn’t do anything for the remainder of the day other than relax around the pool, swim in the pool and drink amazing mango shakes. At 5pm, the waiter came over with our bill and we took it as a sign they wanted us to leave.

We headed back to the apartment to watch a film and pack for the following mornings early-ish departure at 8am. And this is the end of our stay in Panglao which has been very relaxing and a break from travelling and felt more like a holiday which is very much welcome at this time during our trip. Much of the same is yet to be had when we arrive in Boracay which is the Philippines number 1 holiday area.

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