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Published: February 7th 2013
For our time in the Philippines we had a rough idea of where we want to visit but no real set plan on the order and how to get there. We knew we wanted to head south after Boracay so after we’d waved off Eleanor in Caitaclan we caught a bus down to Iloilo with the plan to head over to Negros and beyond. We’d forgotten we’d actually done the 6 hour ride before in the opposite direction 3 years back and it was painless enough on a nice air-conditioned bus (386PHP) and with some good, bad and truly awful movies to keep us occupied along the way.
We arrived in Iloilo in the dark and had chosen a guesthouse from the LP along the way so we had somewhere to head to. Unfortunately for us the one we’d chosen probably ranks in the top ten worst rooms we’ve stayed in. Even the cockroaches had given up and died but it was late, it was only for one night and was cheap so we made do with the mint green cell we were allocated. To make matters worse the local nightclub was pretty much behind our room so we were
lulled to sleep with the sound of Filipino reggae which is always a delight. These are the times you thank God for earplugs!
We had a big travel day ahead of us the next day, Sophie had said she wanted to get started early but hadn’t factored in her alarm managing to run an hour fast so we were up with the cockerels (literally) and in McDonalds by 6.15am enjoying breakfast, sometimes this is just the only place open at this time of the morning!
Our travel day today would consist of the following..
TAXI → FERRY → JEEPNEY → BUS → TRICYCLE → PADDLE BOAT → FOOT
We always like to see how many modes of transport you can fit into one day and this must be up there with the best of them! The journey went though some beautiful scenery, at one point we passed some guys cutting down sugar cane which in itself isn’t that unusual but they were doing it all by hand with machetes which must be back breaking work and we later found out that these guys only get paid 80PHP a day (£1.25). Once the cane was
cut they were then loading it onto a water buffalo drawn cart to transport it to the road to be loaded again on the truck for transport. In 29ºC heat this must be exhausting beyond belief and we were sure they were glad of the occasional rain shower that day.
Our destination was a beach on Negros but we’ll leave the name to those who like the sound of it and want to find out for themselves. As others before us have said sometimes you don’t want to sound the bell too loudly about these places, if you want to go there you’ll find it easy enough but for those who don’t then they probably don’t belong here anyway so we’ll leave it to you to decide which category you fall into.
We had met a German couple, Anita & Achim on our final bus ride, they were heading to the same place so we teamed up with them and made our way to our destination. We immediately fell in love with the peace and tranquility of this place, there are just a small handful of homely resorts and we opted for the one we liked the look
and sound of the best as we walked along the beach. There were a selection of rooms available from the basic nipa huts (500PHP) though to some of the weirdest and wackiest rooms we’ve seen on all our travels.. who would have thought that calculators would make nice décor?!
Days were spent doing what we love doing the best.. not a lot! You are spoilt for choice between reading, swinging in a hammock, swimming in the crystal clear water or, for the more adventurous amongst us you could kayak, perhaps snorkel or even branch right out there and take a dive if you really wanted. Predictably we were split on our days with Sophie opting for the former and getting though 2 books while Dale teamed up with Achim to discover what lay around the rocks at the end of the beach!
Evenings were spent enjoying the fabulous food, we visited a couple of the places for a change of scenery and didn’t once have a meal we didn’t enjoy. We had both assumed we’d lose weight when we came away again but we both think we’ve probably put it on.. the portion sizes here are enormous! Our
place had a nice bar where people would congregate in the evenings but it wasn’t a wild party scene.. just a few SMB’s over a game of pool and some great travellers tales. We liked the fact that there were no laptops allowed in the restaurant & bar, it made a nice change to have people chatting rather than having their nose stuck in their own little world while everything goes on around them. Don’t get us wrong we all need to catch up on the internet, do our blogs etc but sometimes people are more intent on doing this rather than enjoying what they came all this way to do… there is a world outside the internet and it really is a nice one!
After 4 glorious days here we had to move on along with Anita & Achim.. there aren’t any ATM’s within easy distance and funds were running low so we headed off bound for Dumaguete where Dale was looking forward to diving one of the places on his bucket list, Apo Island. The staff at our beach resort were so lovely and it really is a highlight of staying here, they are a close knit
group of girls who constantly have a smile on their face and make everyone’s day a bit brighter no matter what side of the bed you wake up on. There was quite a large group leaving the day we went so they all came down to the beach to wave and sing us off which made everyone a little emotional as it’s not every day you find somewhere so special.
The journey to Dumaguete is a little broken up and as we’d missed the bus for the first part, Christina (another in our party from NYC) negotiated us two tricycles to take our group of 6 the 23km journey to Hinoba-an which was hilarious. There are some quite steep hills to get up and our rider had to lean forwards to get us up there.. we thought we’d have to get out and push at some points and 23 km’s is quite a long way when you are crammed in like we were. Again the scenery on the journey was beautiful, we travelled along a coastal road with little stalls all along selling all manner of fish the fishermen had caught that day.
We headed for the backpacker
mecca that is Harold’s Mansion when we arrived in Dumaguete and were glad to bag one of the last few rooms. This place is huge and you can see why it’s so popular with a good range of trips, a nice roof terrace and a super friendly owner and staff who make you feel right at home. We didn’t waste any time in booking onto the Apo Island tour for 7am the following morning with Dale opting for 2 dives along with Anita & Achim while Sophie would go along for some snorkeling.
We’d heard about how good Apo Island was while we were doing some research back in the UK. This island is a 15,000m² protected marine reserve and the benefit of this is clear to see as soon as you get into the water. The reef is just off the island itself and the coral here is out of this world with a huge range of both hard & soft in a multitude of colours. There aren’t a huge amount of fish but the ones you do see are beautiful. Dale was treated to his first sighting of a Mandarin fish which he’s been searching for ever
since he passed his PADI, he also saw his first frog fish and leaf fish. While all this was going on Sophie snorkeled to her hearts content, again seeing beautiful corals and she also got to see 2 turtles chilling out in the shallower waters which made her day, especially when she was the only one on the boat to spot any! It really was an excellent day although it was a shame it was a little cloudy as doubtless the corals would have looked even more spectacular if the sun was shining down to show the colours off in all their glory, but the island didn’t disappoint and we would highly recommend it if you are over this way.
The evening brought another first for us as we’d arranged to go to our fist KTV bar with one of Harold’s friends Bambi. The 4 of us were a little nervous about singing in public but the fear was soon broken down as soon as we stepped in our VIP KTV room and we were all soon grabbing for the mic at every opportunity… especially Dale who seemed to have found a new vocation in life and there was
no stopping him! Who knew he was a secret Tom Jones at heart!? Seriously though if you haven’t tried a Karaoke bar then go… it’s the most fun we’ve had for ages, our room was jam packed with Bambi’s friends and groups from the hostel to the point that we could hardly move at times! We won’t say that the bottles of rum didn’t help the evening go a little more smoothly and it was 3am before we knew it… this place is open until 3am every night so it must be popular!
Our final day in Dumaguete was spent have a wander around.. something we haven’t really managed to do on this trip so far, we also had the usual chores to do so caught up on ourselves before we head to our 17th
island in the Philippines.. just the remaining 7,090 to go then!
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