For us the aptly named Sugar beach conjured up thoughts of fine white sand, beaches lined with palm trees stretching as far as the eye can see, beautiful crystal clear water lightly lapping against the beach and an overwhelming feeling of tranquillity. To our surprise it turned out to be all of the above, although the sand was more golden brown than white.
At Sugar beach we were treated to the most tranquil 3 mile beach, everything in some way was perfect, but was this paradise for us? Well if you would have asked us before ever travelling we may have answered Yes. However now, things have changed.
Getting here from the popular expat epicentre of Dumaguete was a full days undertaking including 3 buses and a small boat. We caught our first bus from the Dumaguete bus terminal to the small yet busy town of Bayawan and after a 45min wait caught a bus to Hinoba-an before our third and final bus to the town of Sipalay. All 3 were long, sweaty and cramped rides and took a total of around 5/6hrs. With the heat it was difficult to stay awake but the bumps in the
road and the changes also made it difficult to fully relax. Plus there were no area to store our bags so they either sat on top of us or were at our feet leaving us with no leg room at all. We thought our bags were small too. I think we need to rethink and downsize some more.
After arriving in Sipalay we avoided offers from the tricycle drivers, and walked to the river where we caught the smallest boat to our beach and lodging. Whilst walking however we were followed by about 10 smiling, giggling and laughing children who were revelling in their enjoyment of following us. All of them between the ages of about 4 to 12 and all very adorable.
Due to the 2 rivers and the backdrop of mountains Sugar beach is a secluded place cut off from the town, meaning we pretty much had the accommodation and the beach to ourselves with a few others the whole time. There were no cheap eateries or shops other than the 'resorts'. We stayed in Driftwood Village that came equipped with bamboo huts for all price ranges, hammocks, a restaurant and a little shop.
Our budget priced bamboo hut (550pesos/£8) was at the back of the resort (wifi id aptly named 'The Ghetto') surrounded by palm trees which sounds nice in theory but was home to a gang of mosquitos. We couldn't relax comfortably on our porch front complete with chair and hammock due to getting bitten so often.
Like we mentioned the sea was beautifully clear, even at depths of 8ft you could still see the sea bed. Unfortunately for us there was no coral & no fish, making our snorkelling gear redundant. The water was warm though and had its calm moments making it perfect for swimming. We walked the whole beach taking in the scenery and the green mountainous backdrop. The beach was pretty much empty so you felt like you had the whole thing to yourself at times, save for the harmless dogs running up and down.
During our 2 nights stay here, dare we say it but we actually got a little bored! Our routine was wake up, swim, blog, lunch, read/nap, dinner and then cards. Yes that might sound perfect if you are reading this at work on your lunch, but for us who
like being active and seeing/doing things regularly then you'll understand we need a bit more excitement and variety to our day. There was no culture to take in, nowhere you could explore (apart from the beach) and no other place to eat apart from the resorts which were well overpriced given comparable food prices in the rest of the Philippines and we could not fully forget about this.
Our only other option for food was walking the hour walk to the end of the beach crossing 2 rivers (40pesos each), then walking another 20 minutes to town. We did ponder on doing this but decided it wasn't worth the effort and we could possibly end up spending a similar amount due to the cost of crossing 2 rivers twice.
Instead we purchased the resort food which was a decent size and actually tasty. Even the 14inch pizza we scoffed on our last night tasted good (no sugar in the sauce. Happy days!). On our first night Chris ordered Thai noodles with chicken & veg and P opted for the large tuna sandwich, both very filling.
One enjoyable past time here was watching the sunset. Having
the time to relax and do nothing but take in the sun setting into the horizon with the beautiful blue skies topped with a layer of bright orange spreading throughout. The evolving colours and skies were mesmerising, from the deep reds shortly after the sunset to the light sprays of pink and purple all blended so perfectly with the cloud formations. The sky eventually becoming a dark orange that deepened into the darkness. And just when we thought it was all over we were treated to a beautiful night sky with thousands of stars all lighting the sky. For us its the simpler things in life that can really make us happy.
This is something that happens on a daily basis all across the world but while at home we do not fully take the time to appreciate it because a) our views are mainly restricted from the built up city we live in, b) the city lights obscuring the stars, and c) most importantly our preoccupation with everything else. Something we should seek out more.
After 2 days we decided to leave the secluded sugar beach as eating there was beginning to eat into our
budget. Don't get us wrong, we did not dislike it, we enjoyed the tranquillity and the calmness of the place, but it was not somewhere we could have stayed for a week or two. It was just not our idea of paradise.
Our journey back to Dumaguete followed the reverse journey getting there. One boat, and 3 buses, leaving at 8am arriving at our budget hotel in Dumaguete at 14:40.
Being squashed on the back seats (6 of us sitting on what would be 4/5 seats back home) allowed us to get comfortable, talking to the strangers sat next to us. They were a group of teachers who were eager to practice their English and get to know us whilst we got to know them and found out more about the country.
Some interesting things that we found out was that although yes; every child is entitled to a free school place and thus a free education, due to the lack of resources of things like text books, it can be difficult to gain a good education in a public school.
Although the system is changing, many adults in the country lack
an education and so cannot read.
One difficulty is the levels of poverty and the large family sizes that make it difficult for the family to support their children to attain a further education. This is especially the case with the villages in the mountains and the lack of safety planning and early young marriages leading to plentiful children.
As the children grow and start achieving in school/work they have a responsibility to provide for their family and the further education of their siblings. Thus although these teachers we were talking to had the means to live independently they all live together in a shared house to provide for their own sibling's education. One girl had a little daughter, very sweet as she shared some photos.
Interestingly many children here in the rural areas of the Philippines aspire to be security guards or house cleaners in Manila!
Lastly something we did not know is that coconut wine is the thing here. They pointed out a few palm trees on our journey with rubber pipes coming from the top. Why have we not tried this?
Onto the next beach...
Tot: 2.53s; Tpl: 0.067s; cc: 42; qc: 176; dbt: 0.1344s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.9mb