Disclaimer: this is a long blog post, but I hope you find it interesting / entertaining / useful if you are planning your own trip.
Right, wow… where should I start? We have seen, done, explored and eaten lots and had an amazing month and we are a bit sad to be leaving, but also excited for the next stage of our adventures.
I have to admit, we were dubious as to whether to come to the Philippines with the way it is sometimes presented in Western media, but we are so glad we did. There are areas that our government has advised against travel to, and although there are some really interesting looking places in those restricted areas, there’s definitely enough to be doing without needing to void the travel insurance. Some of the locals were saying there is more than 7500 islands, although the exact number depends on the state of the tides. More than 3000 of the islands are apparently inhabited. So this meant there was definitely enough to keep us occupied. We actually don’t think a month was long enough here and are hoping to come back after we have done a loop around SE Asia, vaguely from Malaysia. We want to visit some of the areas we didn’t get around to this time, such as Palawan, and possibly revisit some of the areas we did go to.
I think I will start by giving you a breakdown of the timings we spent where and later go into some more detail about specifics of most places. But before I do I will just say that for a lot of our trip 65 pesos (P) = ~ £1.
We arrived in Manila on the 20th September and stayed at the Red Planet, Binondo for 3 nights. This hotel was nice enough and we stayed in the room for a lot of the time we were in Manila but I will go into that more later.
We then caught a flight to Cebu City with Air Asia and then a bus into the centre. We stayed at AllSon’s Inn for 3 nights (23rd -25th September). This hotel was cheap and cheerful, but had a lovely rooftop bar and also a spa and a gym, but of these, we only visited the rooftop bar. I would also like to mention the pizzeria across the road from this hotel was really good. The pizza was delicious and the venue had a lovely rustic feel.
Then we used Grab taxi’s to get to Moalboal as this seemed to be the cheapest taxi option, although the driver did ask for more to cover the return journey as there would be no passengers for him to take back so it worked out about the same as some of the other options we had seen. We stayed here for 1 week (26th September – 2nd October) at Maya’s Native Garden. I have mixed feelings about this resort. It was absolutely stunning setting, the hut we were in was a beautiful wooden place which was pretty big. The garden area was very well maintained and also very pretty. And as for the surrounding area, well it was absolutely gorgeous. Saying that, there was heavy duty construction work going on immediately outside of our room which started at about 6am each day. I think maybe Sunday was an exception to the early construction works. There were also lots of cockerells running around and sometimes underneath the hut, these would make noise all through the night at times so these things made it difficult to get a good night’s sleep here. We spent a lot of the social time at the bar opposite, the Last Filling Station. If we were to return to this area we would be likely to stay in this resort instead. It had a path down to the beach area and was far enough away from the construction that I think it would not be an issue, also there was no area under the rooms for the cockerells to get into so they would likely be further away too. We made good friends with the German owner and the Philippino guy that ran Action Planet Adventure which was attached to this establishment as well as some other tourists that were also in this bar.
From here we got a Shuttle Daddy taxi to Oslob where we stayed for 4 nights (3-6th October) at Stay n Save which again had a beautiful garden area with lots of chairs, and covered areas with bean bags to sit back and relax and enjoy the beautiful ocean view. We were in one of the tree houses, which was not actually in a tree but just up some steps. It was quite a small room but it was nice enough. It had shared bathroom facilities which were small wet rooms. It had a private beach area which was lovely but was quite hard work to get to, with 229 (I believe) steps of varying widths and heights down to the beach. Although there were some stopping areas with seats/hammocks to take a rest on the way. There seemed to be someone living under our tree house in a hammock, which was a bit strange but it was fine. Just over the fence next to our room there was another cockerell, and this one was tethered so made even more noise than the free roaming ones. We were due to get a trike from here to the ferry port although another couple also needed transportation to the ferry as well so ended up with the hotel jeepney. We made good friends with this couple and spent a lot of time with them in the next island.
Then we caught a direct ferry to Siquijor island (one per day at 10am with Maayo Shipping). We had initially booked to stay at Eastern Garan Garden Resort for 3 nights but ended up extending for another night (7th -10th October). This was another place with a beautiful garden. It was definitely more aimed towards Chinese customers than English as some of their staff in the restaurant basically didn’t speak English but it was fine. Our villa was really quite big and had a sea view, with a window in the bathroom facing out to sea. It had a small private outside area with a rocking chair which also looked out to sea. There was a veranda area on top of our room, although this was less private as other guests went up there also. Immediately next to our villa was a lovely shared covered area with table and chairs and weaved hammocks and speakers that you could hook up music devices to. This area had a great view out across the ocean which faced the right way for sunset so we watched several of the sunsets from here. I also managed to do a small bit of yoga in this area. While we were in this area we met a lovely French couple who mentioned the Anda region of Bolhol was a good place to be. We were planning to go to Bolhol next but had not booked accommodation yet so we looked for some in this region, and I’m glad we did, this region was absolutely stunning.
We got an Ocean Jet ferry to Tagbilaran City on Bolhol island and then got a trike to the main bus centre. The bus to Anda wasn’t going for a few hours so we were all set to grab food and look around the market area and just wait but there was a guy who asked where we were going and directed us to a van going that way and leaving much sooner. We had heard that the van would drop you at the door of the place you intended to go so we were happy with this as it meant we didn’t have to think about further transport at the other end. This was a long and very cramped, and pretty bumpy journey. People kept getting on and off but at one point there were 17 people in the van. Our bags took up one seat as they were too big to fit under. This meant we had to buy another seat but that was OK as seats were P130 each (~£2). The van stopped a few times for people to buy fruit and other bits and pieces from random vendors. I think this journey took about 3 hours with all the stops. The trikes and the vans here are definitely not made for people of our size and we’re both quite uncomfortable to ride in, but it was an experience. The van dropped us right outside Anda Long Beach resort where we stayed for 3 nights (11th – 13th October). We got this place as it was really cheap, especially with a £20 discount from AirBnB. It worked out at about £6.50ish per night. The room was quite basic. As it was so cheap it was fine, but we won’t be staying there again. It did have a fridge, but this was not clean. The window had panes of glass missing both in the bedroom and the bathroom. This meant the efficiency of the air-conditioning was limited and more bugs could get in, despite the net on the window intended to keep them out. The key broke in the door on our second night there, which happened slightly after midnight, the lady took a while to come to the door but honestly I would have done too at this time of night. She said this had happened to one of the other rooms recently and had also happened to one of the other keys for our room as well meaning 2/3 keys were broken for that room. She gave us the master key for this room and told us to be careful as that was the last key, so if that one had broken too we would have been quite stuck.
We really liked this area but we’re not so keen to stay in this hotel for more time. We really liked the look of the Old Castle, where we had spent a lot of time at the bar and rented the bike from. We had gotten to know the owner which happened to be another German fellow. This was unfortunately a bit out of our price range, although we did end up in the sister resort owned by the same guy without even realising it until his son was there in the morning sorting dive gear. This place was called Anda-Divers-Enjoy Garden Resort. Again, this place had a nice garden area and a big pool which we unfortunately did not get a chance to swim in as we were too busy with other things. The bar area was nice here with cool art work on each wall and tables with sand and cool shells inside. We stayed here for 4 nights (14th-17th October) making 1 week in total in Anda.
We then got a trike, van, trike combo back to the ferry and got a ticket for the next ferry available to Cebu City which happened to be Ocean Jet again although there did seem to be a few options. These Ocean Jet ferries had similar rules to air travel with having to check in the big luggage and taking only one small item of baggage with you on board. On the ferry to Cebu the luggage checkin was P100 per person but I can’t remember if it was the same for the other ferry to Bolhol. The ferry cost P500 per person and the port fee was P20 per person from Bolhol to Cebu, again I forget the prices for the ferry to Bolhol but I don’t think it was much more than this, I think the port fee was P17 but the actual ferry and bag checking price I can’t remember. The port fee needed to be purchased in a different area to the main ticket in Siquijor although this could be done at the same kiosk in Bohol.
We shared a taxi with a Chinese guy who was going to the airport as our hotel was right beside the airport. This cost P600 total and took slightly over an hour, but we did have to stop for cash and it was rush hour. We stayed 1 night at Park Hill Hotel Mactan which again was very cheap and near to where we needed to be. The room again was pretty basic, and hadn’t been decorated in quite a long time by the looks of it but it did us OK for the night we were there. There was a really big spider in the room missing 2 legs when we first got there, clearly a hardy little beast. Alex got the Porter to remove it for us but it was super quick even with its missing legs. The bathroom looked a little mouldy in the grouting but the shower was nice and hot which was exactly what I wanted as my neck was stiff and sore. We went to Ricco’s Lechon restaurant just down the road from the hotel and I have to admit, we were a little disappointed with it. The rice and the meat were cold, the veg was the only hot thing that came out . There were a lot of bones and gristly bits and the price was quite high for what it was, especially with the service charge that we hadn’t considered before we sat down. This was a shame as I had enjoyed every other Lechon that we have had throughout the Philippines and always looked forward to the next time we could get it, but this place put a bit of a dampener on this.
Honestly, 3 nights in Manila was too much, but our jetlag was pretty bad so we spent a lot of time in the hotel room, which was quite a nice hotel, although I would suggest perhaps other parts of Manila might be preferable if you do need to stay here. Our taxi driver mentioned that this was not such a great area of the city as he dropped us. The taxi we got was with the recommended company at the airport and this had a fixed price (P2800 if I remember correctly which is approximately equal to £43), but we were still not used to the exchange rate and this turned out to be a total rip off as the return journey cost slightly shy of a 10th of the price when we booked a taxi through the hotel going the opposite way (P340 ish (~£5) but again this might be me slightly mis-remembered pricing). So just be careful with this and if you do need to stay in Manila maybe check if your hotel offers airport transfers and organise this before you go, or perhaps get in contact with them and ask if they can book the taxi for when you land. Or there are other transport options such as buses and jeepneys which I’ll go into more detail later, although for us we just wanted to get to where we needed to be at this stage.
The driving in Manila in particular was like something I have never experienced before. Everyone was playing chicken with horns blaring constantly, whether they were on a bike, in a car, lorry, bus etc it didn’t seem to matter, everyone keeps pushing forward into space that I didn’t even realise was there until someone stops because they can’t physically go any further without crashing, so the other vehicle wins that round. Witnessing this immediately after about a 21 hour journey time was pretty intense and a bit scary in all honesty. Generally the air quality in Manila is very poor. There is so much traffic around at any time of day or night that it hardly surprising. Both Alex and I had sore phlegmy throats for several days due to the pollution here. You see lots of people with face masks and you can understand why.
The first night we just went for food nearby the hotel in a chain restaurant but I forget the name of it. It was OK food, we weren’t expecting much from it and it fed us enough to get to sleep that night which was all we really wanted from it. We did nearly get robbed by a young ish boy on our way back to the hotel, and had he been older we probably would have found ourselves light of my bumbag or its contents. After this we were more careful and in the city I didn’t wear this again here as it drew too much attention to where my money was. I also learnt that despite them trying to be cute, don’t let people touch you.
There are some nice areas of Manila that we found though such as the Philippino – Chinese friendship bridge (which I posted a picture of in the last blog post), Fort Santiago and the bar we found which had some great live music playing and was called something like the home of music and art, although I forget the exact name. There was a plaza area where we got a very expensive litre of beer and saw people in very fancy, traditional Spanish style clothing gather to greet a performing arts conference. We also had some great food in Ying Ying Tea House and in China town (again cant quite remember the name if the restaurant here).
There was still a lot of traffic and pollution in Cebu City, although it was not anywhere near as bad as Manila. Again, 3 nights here may have been just too long. The beauty of the Philippines is basically not in the cities. But we learnt that lesson after this and basically stayed out of the cities from this point. Saying that, we still enjoyed our time in Cebu City. We walked around the city and found some cool spots such as Fuente Circle, Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu, and Plaza Independencia.
We also found a cool food market that had all sorts of bbq food on offer, as soon as we stepped into the place we were flooded with people trying to get our custom. This happened to locals as well, although I feel it was amplified because we are tall, white folk. Easy to spot. We walked around initially, trying to politely decline offers of discounts etc as we wanted to see what was on offer throughout the food court, then eventually settled for one near the entrance which I am fairly sure was because Alex liked the beard of the guy who owned it. It’s as good a reason as any I guess! We had a mix of pork, prawns and various fish. My favourite part of the food we had here was one of the types of marlin that we selected. It was so tender and juicy and absolutely delicious. We had another type of marlin which was good but the one I just mentioned was divine. Unfortunately I am not sure on what the different types we had were as I would love to eat that again.
We decided to get slightly further out from the city for the second day. We were intending to get a bus to near to the Taoist Temple. As far as we could tell online, the bus should have dropped off about a 20mins walk away which we thought was perfect. The bus was in fact a jeepney but that was quite cool as we wanted to go on one of these anyway. I shall describe these more later. Anyway, the jeepney got part way and then they informed us that they were not going that way, and that we would have to get on the motorbikes (habal habal). I initially didn’t really want to get on the motorbike, I had seen loads of people missing limbs and kept thinking to myself that is maybe how it’s happened… but we got on it anyway, no helmet, no protective clothing, just summer clothes. The guy who took me was like this is your first time, yes? I nervously agreed. He kept telling me to just relax; when he initially went around a bend I was pretty terrified and think I leant away from the bend which is probably a terrible idea as it kind of misbalances the bike, he told me again to relax. Inside I was like “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh? What am I doing? I could die. This could be how I die!” But I told myself to breath like I do in yoga and it helped. I noticed that we drove past a temple turning, which confused me somewhat. I thought there must be another entrance but we kept going for AGES and I was trying not to panic. It started to become really beautiful scenery so I tried to focus on that, and breathing. We finally arrived at the Sirao Gardens. I didn’t realise that Alex had said yes we want to go there too. It was absolutely stunning and I am glad we went but wish I had realised that was the plan before hand haha. The drivers waited for us and took us to the Temple of Leah and then waited for us again to take us back. By the third time in the bike I was fine. The actual ride was quite pleasant, but I was so nervous to get back on it each time. The drivers were very skilled and safe but it certainly got the adrenaline pumping. I didnt realuse until much later (weeks) that this was not even the temple we initially thought we were going to, but it was lovely all the same.
We really enjoyed our stay in Moalboal, so much that we were wondering whether to extend our stay here. Alhough I enjoyed the other places we explored too, so I’m quite glad with our decision. We bought ourselves some snorkel masks here and used them almost every day here, and some days twice. The snorkeling here was spectacular. Lots of different corals and beautiful types of fish, including puffer fish, and cleaner fish and fish of all different colours. Also there are so many turtles here! One of the days we went in the sea twice we saw about 9 of them. They are such beautiful creatures. We also saw massive school of sardines which was very impressive. Alex says he saw a seahorse here but I didnt, although I did see a sea snake. After snorkeling we would often grab a beer in Andi’s Talisay and watch the sunset. And if we weren’t here for sunset, then often we were in Chili Bar. Both of the venues had great views out across the sea, as did many of the other venues along this strip, some of which we visited but didn’t spend as much time in them.
One of our favourite things we have done, probably the entire holiday was the canyoneering at Kawasan Falls. We did this with the Planet Action Adventure. I mentioned earlier that we made friends with the guy who ran this. This happened to be the pioneering place to offer this activity in the Philippines, or at least on that island – they have been doing it for over 20 years. I have to say, you could see that the guide we had was miles better than the other guides around. Our guide made sure we knew where to put our hands/feet if we were unsure and waited for us as we went along, whereas others seemed to be oblivious to struggles and walked off ahead. In short, if you want to do this I would definitely recommend Planet Action Adventure. For those of you who are not sure what canyonering is, it involves swimming, hiking (particularly if it had been dry before hand like it had for us), scrambling over rocks and jumping into deep pools of glorious, blue, refreshing water. At Kawasan Falls there was also a rock slide, and a rope swing (which had an additional charge) and obviously, just being underneath the waterfalls. Being in the water was just the absolute best feeling. It was so cool and clear and beautiful. Then when you looked up, there was beautiful jungle. We saw some cool wildlife on this trip, including a millipede, a big frog, lots of big damsel flies, a big lizard and this great little butterfly that landed on me, along with many other beautiful birds and bugs etc. This particular canyonering option had a 1km zip line which took about 1 min, with 10 min walking rather than a 40 min walk to the first jump into the water. We were told initially that we could sit or lie flat for this, although when we got there they didn’t allow us to sit due to “safety”. I am not quite sure how this works for safety, although it was a lot of fun. There were 2 lines, and each line could hold 2 people. The zipline cost P450 each. The walk down from here was steep enough and we were both desperate to get into the water at this stage as we were so hot. Our legs were shaking going down the steep walkway, whether this was purely to do with the steepness or the adrenaline from the zip line, I am not entirely sure. Another recommendation if you want to do this is to go midweek rather than weekend as apparently it gets super busy at weekends, due to lots of Chinese tourists doing weekend trips. It was just the two of us on this tour which was minimum number required to run it, but there was another couple who did a different canyonering tour with the same company, this meant that the van dropped us at the enterance to the falls and we had to get another unexpected habal habal ride to the top of the mountain.
We were both pretty sore after this adventurous day, so the next day we went for a 1 hour, full body, Swedish, couples massage and it was delightful. So relaxing! We are both looking forward to the next massage greatly after this. This cost us P650 each (~£10). We went to the spa just opposite Venz kitchen but there are so many places here offering massages. Speaking of Venz kitchen, we went here several times as the food was great! I would definitely recommend the pork sisig from here, it was my favourite sisig we tried and it was a dish we kept coming back to over our time in the Philippines. Although all the food we tried at Venz was great, as was the mixed fruit shakes (we had mango and orange, with the vegan option of coconut milk rather than milk).
In Moalboal, but not really anywhere else, there was lots of children in the evenings (after a school) walking around with baskets of souvenirs on their heads. You’d sometimes see them on the beach picking shells and things to go into these baskets. They were quite persistent at times. There was a similar tactic used by a lot of them, “Where are you from… oh England, the capital there is London…, what’s your name?”. Or “just look, you haven’t even looked”.
We also went to the public market in Moalboal centre and got some great, interesting fruit. The market was smaller than I was expecting but still fun to look around.
Surprisingly enough, we did not go to see the whale sharks here. People seemed shocked when we said this, especially when we said we had 4 nights here. The fishermen feed the whalesharks so we weren’t sure if it was good or bad. Everyone who went said the tours were very strict and didn’t let you touch the whalesharks, and someone pointed out that instead of their lives being threatened in anyway, they were now more protected as a tourist attraction. But overall we were not sure which way to go on the matter, and also didn’t want to get up so early, so didn’t go to see them.
We did hike up to Tumulog Falls, semi unexpectedly. We were hoping to get a trike on the main road but none came along. One guy stopped and gave us a lift to the turning and said it was too steep for a trike, and we’d have to get another habal habal… we had already decided that this wasn’t something we really wanted to do so decided to walk it. It was really hard work and slow going, but we had a huge sense of achievement when we got there. The waterfall felt like well-earned bliss as it poured over us. I kept coming out from underneath it and realising I was not done yet so going back under to cool off more. It was obviously much smaller than normal due to dry weather but it was still beautiful. Alex found all sorts of things with his monkey toes in the water, including a pair of in tact sunglasses (which I have kept as a backup) and several broken sandles. We got a fresh buko (coconut) juice when we reached the gate again on the way back which helped fuel and hydrate us for the walk back. The walk back was much easier than the way there. The mountainous/sea landscape was easier to see this way so it wasn’t just daunting steep hill staring directly back at you with pretty bits if you turned sideways or backwards.
We also visited Sumilon Island, which was sold as this “don’t miss – top attraction” with lots included, like boat transfers, lunch, welcome drink, kayaking, paddle boating (which I thought was standing up paddle boarding but seemed to be more pedlo), hikes around the island, and infinity pool, free snorkel masks etc… And sure, I guess it had all of these things, but it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and simply way too expensive for what it was – P2500 (~£40). The kayaking/paddle boating was around a tiny lagoon in mangroves, which was lovely, although we had done the entire lagoon in about 5 mins, and we had a stop in the shade to look at the fish for awhile – bit disappointing to be honest… There may have been an option to rent clear bottom kayaks or SUP boards to take into the ocean, but I think these were additional costs. The buffet lunch was alright, but it wasn’t really what I fancied that day which was a shame. We did enjoy the infinity pool, although in the welcome video it said this was for guests staying at the resort only, but no one stopped us due to wrong type of wrist bands so we did it anyway. There was also a couple of Jacuzzis with various jet styles which we also enjoyed for awhile. We took our own snorkel masks, and this was probably the best bit of the day. It was a marine sanctuary area and the snorkeling was fantastic here. The fish were much bigger here than we had seen in Moalboal or at the private beach at the hotel in Oslob. We saw a small sting ray, and I saw some swordfish which I got very excited about and then just the biggest Angel Fish (and generally other fish) I’d ever seen! We also walked around to the sand bar which took about 10 mins and was quite nice. We then got a couple of drinks back at the bar to wait for the ferry, and they were very expensive. It was a good day, although I probably would not recommend it unless it comes down in price a lot.
Snorkeling from the private beach at Stay n Save was a bit different to Moalboal or Sumilon Island, it had pockets of coral rather than a full reef, but it was still great. We saw a turtle with parasitic fish which was quite interesting to see. I saw more swordfish here. And I also spotted 2 beautiful black and white fish fanning the coral with their flowing fins and tails, presumably for oxygenation of eggs.
The final day we were in Oslob we went to the monkey viewing platform, which is not a zoo, they are still wild – although they are fed. There were quite a lot of monkeys here and they were very cute. Some snatched the food quickly as they were still a bit unsure of humans, whereas some of the older ones were much gentler when taking the food.
From here, we went on to see the Cuartel Ruins, which were made from coral, alongside a still standing church also made of coral. We got our first full coconuts here, top sliced off, straw inside! Yummy! Then the guy hollowed them out for us to eat.
After this we went on a full blown mission to get some cash out. Our trike driver didn’t think the ATM is Oslob centre usually worked so he took us to one near to our hotel, which we hadn’t realised was there, although this didn’t work for either of us with our international cards. We then had to go back to the hotel to pick up the US dollars to then go all the way to Santander to try and exchange it. The first place we went to required a passport in order to change money, we hadn’t realised that we would need this, so this was still in the hotel. They said a place down the road might accept the driving licence so we tried it and eventually got sorted. That trike journey cost a lot more than we were hoping to spend that day, but he did help us to get sorted and drove back and forth a lot so OK. So pointers if you go to exchange cash would be to have US dollars in Asia which several friends mentioned to us and we are glad we had them as it seemed like other currencies might not be accepted, and also take your passport!
As for food in Oslob, there was a new, big, flashy restaurant called Choobi Choobi that had just opened right next to Stay n Save which we tried one night but it was very expensive and had no fans which meant there were an excessive number of flies – the food was OK here but wouldn’t recommend it. There was a better restaurant going down the hill called Cocina En Acantilado that we went to several times. We also found a Philippino bbq stall further down the hill where we both fed for about £2.
We got transport from Stay n Save with a couple of guys who were also going to Siquijor and we made good friends with them and spent the whole next day with them and then met for dinner on their final night after missing each other at the same venues throughout the day. We had been told it was hard to get around on this island without bike and decided that two unexpected journeys on the backs of habal habals were enough for us, so Alex hired one here.
We went to Salagdoong Beach (P40 or P50 each I think) with our new friends, after making a pit stop at the Century Old Balete Tree (P10 each I think) and having fish munch on the dead skin on our feet until we had smooth and soft feet.
We went swimming / snorkeling at the beach but it wasn’t as good as the other places we had been. We went for lunch here and then continued around to Lagaan Waterfalls (P70 I think) where we had great fun jumping into the greenish lagoon from the rope swing, or scrambling up through the cave and then jumping or sliding back into the water via the rock slide. After this we went for BBQ food. It was a good and tiring day.
The next day we didn’t meet up with our new friends until dinner but we went to a lot of the same places and just missed each other. We went to the butterfly sanctuary (P100 each I think) in the mountains then used this road to cut South East through the island.
We stopped at a proper lechon place for lunch and then went back to the Cambugahay Falls which our friends had gone immediately after arrival on the first day and recommened highly.
There were 3 levels of waterfalls, the top one had a cave, and the bottom one had swings to jump from. Here you had to pay P50 to use the swings an unlimited amount of times, and each swing had a different owner, so we picked one and stuck to it although some people went for all of them and just paid several times. I think we paid P20 to go down to the falls and then a donation to the guide and the guy watching over the bikes. This guide took lots of pics and videos for us here and watched our stuff while we were in the water. You could do these trips without a guide but we have also enjoyed having the guides at the ones we have done as they show you where to jump, and it was the guide who showed us to go up through the cave at Lagaan falls and that we could jump from that section also. They also have been helpful for me as I don’t really like walking on slippy rocks and they helped me across them.
On our last day in Siquijor, we drove the whole way around the island. In all honesty it was a bit much at times but it was interesting to explore the place and see that there were development projects happening all over the island, so I think it will become more touristy in years to come.
Whilst we were in Bolhol we enjoyed more time in the water, including beautifully cool cave pools, one was crystal clear (Combento – P20 each I think) and another you could jump into (Tibaw – P30 each I think), as well as the tallest waterfalls on the island, Can-umanted falls (I forget the entry price here but think it was P20 each which also may have included entry to the rice terraces, although we didn’t go so it might have been an additional charge), and obviously we spent some time in the sea also, snorkeling at the beach outside the Longbeach resort or just splashing our feet in the water while we watched the sunset at Talisay Beach which is apparently slight less well known by foreigners.
While we were snorkelling here, we saw 4 hermit crabs commencing battle for shells, it was amazing to watch. There was a big one that ripped another big one out of its shell while a little one and another big one stood near by. The little one kept getting pushed away by the big one that won the shell, then the big one that won the shell tried it on and didn’t like it so went back to its original shell but was still defending it against the little one. The little one eventually managed to get inside the bigger shell. All this time the crab without a shell was on the back of the other big one and it looked like the one with the shell was trying to shake off the shell-less one. The big one that initially won the shell tried to get the little one out of it again but the little one wasn’t budging, so the one that won it initially seemed to storm off and it was hilarious. Then the other big one with the shell tried to pull out the little one that had won it, but did not try very hard and then also walked away, still with the shell-less one on its back. Then the one without the shell realised it was getting carried away from the shells so jumped off the back of the other one and also tried to get the little one out of its original shell but it didn’t work, so it tried to get in with it, and that didn’t work either so it got back out and took the little shell and gave up. It was so funny ans bizarre to watch.
We also explored the mountain areas a bit and climbed to a viewpoint which was so steep to get to and really hard work, despite not being far from where we left the bike.
We spent 1 day exploring Lamanok Island and hearing tales of witches, spirits and shamans throughout the ages.
We were told by the French couple that recommended the Anda region that the Alicia Hills were very similar to the famous Chocolate Hills, but much closer to this region so we went there one day. We would have liked to explore more on foot here but Alex had a bad heat rash at the time and we didn’t want to aggravate it further so we didn’t hike much, just far enough to get a great view across these beautiful hills.
Our last day we drove all the way to Loboc to do the floating restaurant cruise which was an absolutely beautiful trip through the jungle. They stopped at a group of Philippino ladies playing ukuleles and dancing with bamboo. The guy also on the deck convinced me to get off and join them for the bamboo dance which was fun but quite tricky, my big feet kept standing on the bamboo.
Then we went further around to the Tarsier conservation area and saw these adorable creatures before making the long trek back to Anda. We were sarting our drive back just as it got to sunset so most of the journey was in the dark but Alex managed driving in the dark very well. The thought of wine at the Old Castle kept us going for a lot of that journey. It was a long way! In the morning we had had to stop several times due to terential downpours so we weren’t sure we were going to make it the whole way there but the rain cleared up and it was a fantastic day, just a bit sore on the buttocks.
Whilst we were in Anda we ate a few times at Coco Loco which we we thought had great food and lovely people working there. Virtually all the food options had coconuts in it in one form or another and there were some vegan options including a coconut burger. We also had a rum coconut cocktail.
We also had breakfast at the Old Castle a few times, the bread here was deliciou. We got the Old Castle special breakfast and made it into a beasty sandwich.
Generally, the most common way of getting around is motorbikes. You can hire these almost anywhere, or if you prefer, get the habal habal but we found these journeys to be a little nerve wracking. Then there is an assortment of trikes; metal frames attached to bikes in many different ways. These seemed to be a main form of transport for many bigger things, including many people (I think we saw more than 8 people on some but they were hard to count), sometimes standing on the back or hanging out the sides, we saw someone with a 32″ flatscreen on the back of a trike going up the mountain, or massive buckets with fish or vegetables, or people absolutely laden down with sticks and twigs for firewood, we even saw singular cows in more of a side car than a trike type creation, or multiple goats in a similar bike accessory. In most places you could wait on the road and a trike would stop for you (eventually). Although you might not want to rely on this, especially if time is tight.
There are also jeepneys which is the local bus service which is basically a slightly elongated jeep with no windows, where passengers are sat facing each other. Passengers hand the money down the length of the jeepney to the driver, or assistant and then bang on the handrail when they wish to exit. Again, people would often be standing on the back of these and generally perched where they could. There were also trikes that looked like jeepney layouts, although they were generally quite a lot smaller than a jeepney. Both jeepneys and trikes were vibrantly and uniquely painted.
Buses and vans would often have similar routes which seemed to be covering more distance than the jeepneys and trikes. I believe that the buses are cheaper, although the vans will drop you at the door of your destination. That being said, the vans can be very cramped and take longer due to these stops and other stops for people to get fruit etc. Often there are air conditioned and non-air conditioned bus services, with air-conditioning generally costing a few pesos more.
Of course there are always taxis. I would recommend asking hotels to book or using services such as Grab (like Uber) in cities or possibly Shuttle Daddy which gives you a price before you go which you can pay on card or in cash I believe. Avoid taking the first taxi you see, especially at aiports or ports as these are likely to cost a lot more than they should.
Often you would see people hitching rides on top of lorries and I wonder how they got on top of them, and also how this first started.
The farming seemed very local which was nice. If you saw food on a menu, you’d be likely to see evidence of those animals living near by. Some areas had beef and dairy on menus and cows nearby whereas other places didn’t seem to have these food options, or seemingly the animals suggesting the food production is local. Often animals were tethered just to trees or buildings at the side of the road, these included cows, goats, cockerells, and pigs.
When we were in the Anda region we also saw many people drying rice on big tarpaulins at the side of the road and raking it flat, then gathering it in again before it rained.
We also saw things like firewood, and coconut shells drying at the sides of roads.
Generally the Philippino people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. They love seeing white people and chatting to them. We only got asked for 1 photo because we were white which I am almost surprised it was only 1 to be honest. Most people can speak at least reasonable English which is great for us. We got called over a couple of different times to have a drink with people. The first time it was beer from a make-shift cup cut from a plastic bottle, natually red horse which is the strongest beer usually on offer. The second time was straight rum, sometimes with ice. They ran out of ice part way through and one guy got on his motorbike to get some more, I was already feeling thr rum at this stage and they had been drinking before we got there so I doubt he was safe to drive. But the rum did taste better with ice in it! It was quite a smooth rum and we toyed with the idea of buying some and having it for Alex’s birthday but decided it was a bad idea to buy spirits.
Generally the service in the Phillipines was great. Most of the time as soon as you sit down and order, a fan is placed near you which made it way more comfortable.
Karoke is a big part of Philippino culture, it happens any time of day or night. In the Longbeach resort in Anda we were woken up with karoke at 7am one morning. You would also just be driving through the mountains in the middle of no-where and still be able to hear karoke. We met some locals who just had the day off and were about to join up with some friends they didn’t get to see often and they were meeting to go do karoke.
Other than loving to sing, they also just seemed to love having a good time. They would often be joking around with each other or you and giggling. It was really nice to see and be a part of. There should be more laughter in the world.
Philippino food was generally bbq. A lot of the food had a sugary sauce on it. If you went to a local place it could be very cheap, but often tourist strips would cost a lot more.
They often only provide a fork and a spoon for eating with in the Philippines, which took some getting used to. You might get a knife if you ordered a steak but I quite like this mix of utensils now, for the most part.
Overall, we loved our time in the Philippines and hope to be back soon. I would absolutely recommend Moalboal, Anda, and even Siquijor although the other areas were also very enjoyable.
I hope to post another blog with some of our adventures in Vietnam in about a month, we have already been here about 2 weeks. 1 week of this time we spent in Siagon (AKA Ho Chi Minh City) being dazzled by the bright lights and people watching. We spent a few days in Nha Trang and are currently in Da Nang and we are making our way up to Hanoi to be there for Alex’s birthday next week as he has several friends there. After that, we may come south again but our route is undetermined. We will hopefully get some good tips on where to visit from the friends in Hanoi.
If you have been to Vietnam and loved a particular area, please let me know in comments below about where you think we should visit. Also please feel free to let me know if you found my blog useful or entertaining or maybe too much detail – I am still new to this so any feedback is appreciated.
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