Thursday, March 15, 2012

Travel Thursdays: Island Hopping in the Philippines

The next leg of our Filippino adventure involved getting our butts to a sunny, palm-lined beach on a not-so-remote island as quick as possible. (You can read about the first leg and our fun day with no luggage here.)

Up until the minute we actually purchased our plane tickets at the airport, we didn't really know where we were going to go. First we had planned on heading to Boracay, on a recommendation from Sam, who had just been in the Philippines and had heard good things. But that fell through (tickets were pricier and it wasn't close enough to our other destination), so we considered a few other spots before settling on Bohol. Bohol has the Chocolate Hills, which I'd heard lots about, but it won me over when I read that we could visit the super tiny bug-eyed primates called tarsiers. Look at those eyes!

But I've gotten ahead of myself. First, we flew to Cebu (the second largest city in the Philippines) and spent a night there before catching a ferry to Bohol the next day.

Our Cebu Pacific flight (the flight attendants, sadly, did NOT dance in aisles like Kai had let us to expect) gave us brief glimpses of the kind of paradise that awaited us

Outdoor barbeque grubbing near our hotel. That whole plate cost about 40 cents. And then I saw a rat. And then the rat stared me down (I swear!). And the place wasn't really so cool anymore.

There ended up being this super cool pavilion right near our hotel that we stopped in after dinner for a drink and ended up staying for about...six beers (in all fairness, their beers are small. Compared to German beers). To wait out the torrential downpour that greeted us. (Funnily enough, we experienced basically the exact same thing our second to last night when we returned to Cebu.) Tropical rainstorms are so exciting but my god, the mosquitoes that swarm towards me when they occur! It's like they search for the palest person around so they can add some colored bumps to those pasty legs...

We were also highly amused watching a security guard (there are security guards EVERYWHERE in the Philippines. For everything. Gotta keep people employed.) pick up a giant umbrella from one of the tables and just march around with it from time to time. For kicks.

The next day, after an iffy breakfast in the hotel on a stomach (mine) that had not yet taken to the new surroundings, we took a taxi to the ferry station at around 8:17 and arrived there about 10 minutes later planning to buy tickets for the 9:30 ferry. As soon as we got out of the cab, he and another security guard (of course) bustled us into the ticket office as quickly as they could, much to our confusion. We got our tickets, handed them our passports, and as we were asking where we should wait, we hear a broken English response of "go!" (pointing), "there, straight ahead! now!" Another security guard hurried us over to the ferry building to go through a security check and then a re-examination of our passports (where they took down our information on a passenger list in case we sunk and they needed a list of casualties! REALLY! I found this out after the fact, thank goodness), where we were then pushed onto the deck and nearly shoved into the boat. Not 10 seconds later, we were speeding away. Apparently, they really really wanted to get us onto that 8:30 ferry. (It was already 8:40 by the time we were buying our tickets.) Punctuality isn't really their priority, I suppose...

So there we were, merrily on our way in a boat full of old American and Japanese tourists to Bohol. (Because who else gets a ferry at 8:30am, I mean really.) On Valentine's Day. This fact did not escape the Filipinos, though - unlike the Germans - and they handed every woman on board a rose. It was like an everybody-wins episode of The Bachelor!

And then we arrived here. Well, first we arrived in the ugly port city of Tagbilaran, where about 15 taxi drives swarmed Micha as we walked out of the ferry building (none paid me any attention :), but he fought his way through them and negotiated a tricycle ride (our first of many) instead. (Oh, I have a great video of this ride that I have yet to upload. You just wait.) And then we actually arrived at Alona Tropical Resort, our little slice of paradise that we'd get to call home for the next four days.

Alona beach at night is bustling and lively and perfectly cozy, with chairs on the beach and colorful lanterns hanging from the trees

A harp serenade for dinner? Yes, please!

Fresh buko (coconut) juice. I really want to like it. But it just tastes so...blah. And lukewarm. And oddly milky-but-not. (Natalie backs me up on this one, she knows from her trip to Fiji.)

Fresh fish and prawns and corn and mango juice. Enjoyed on chairs in the sand.

Valentine's Day evening - music played at the restaurant nearby as we stargazed on lounge chairs.

The resort - view of our cabin (they were burning things, as usual, hence the smoke) and the beautiful but slightly too shady pool.

Mmmm, fresh mango juice

We spent the next few days doing not terribly much. We went snorkeling (there was so much to see so close to the beach!), tried out the different restaurants, tested the bar at our resort (at which primarily a pair of German couples hung out all the time, by whom we were highly entertained. They, on the other hand, were not. The women looked like they'd rather have gone to somewhere safe and comfortable like Mallorca and the two men looked like they wished they hadn't asked their wives to come with them after all, why can't she just loosen up and have a good time?!), and lazed in the pool. Pretty much the perfect beginning of vacation activities, if you ask me. And yet somehow, we didn't get much closer to being tan in those first few days...

Next up: the Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, and a real life jungle boat cruise! (No really, I kept swaying to the music and exclaiming, "It's JUST like the Jungle Cruise! They copied Disneyland!" while Micha smiled his crooked smile and rolled his eyes at me.)

All photos by Nicole or Micha

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