A Travellerspoint blog


Last days in the Philippines

and a ferry to Borneo

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Initially we just planned to make it back to Cagayan and we completed the return journey with no problems. However once we arrived we both felt that there wasn't a lot to the place and made the decision to just keep moving. Once we'd found the correct bus station we began to wait for one going to Pagadian City which is about half way to Zamboanga. Unfortunately we missed our chance with one and then it seemed that every bus was going to a place called Illigan which is only about a quarter of the way. It was beginning to get a little late and we were tired so we decided to go to Illigan as at least it was in the right direction.

We disembarked about an hour and a half later and set about finding a bed for the night. We avoided the few taxi drivers who wanted silly money and began to walk up the main road. It was dark by now and it was hard to know whether we were going to come across a hotel or pension house in the near future, so when a taxi pulled over we gave in and got a ride. We never could have known but it was a bit of a mistake, he took us to the pension house the other taxi drivers had mentioned which ended up being only a short distance away and he charged us way too much. He then proceeded to claim commission for bringing us there, we thought about explaining that we'd actually told him where we wanted to go but we weren't really in the mood for a squabble.

The upside was that it was a great place and was really, really cheap. Definitely the best value for money we have had in the Philippines. So once we had popped out to feel up our empty tums we fell into a contented sleep.

Next morning we walked back up to the main road and caught a jeepney to the bus station for a fraction of the price the taxi had cost us. Although we'd been assured the night before that there were buses going to Zamboanga every hour this was in fact not the case and so we boarded a bus bound for Pagadian where we would have to catch another bus. The journey went smoothly, in Pagadian we transferred to a more comfortable a/c bus with a tv which was showing a pirate dvd containing a number of disaster movies including Dantes Peak and Titanic. It made the trip go a little quicker.

Once again we arrived in the dark which is always a little frustrating because it makes you more reliant of the local tricyle/taxi drivers. You feel a little less inclined to wander around in an attempt to get your bearings when you can't see so much and you're sleepy. We squeezed into the tricycle cab with our backpacks piled on our laps and he took us to the first hotel. This one felt like it was an old mental asylum, the room we were shown was huge and the limited furniture was metal as was the door to the bathroom. I couldn't see us finding this place very relaxing. The second one was being run by completely uncommunicative staff who just kind of stared at us when we asked to see a room, and so we stood for a little while feeling like idiots before we gave up. Adam went to view the next one on his own but came back to report it was dirty and had a healthy infestation of cockroaches. When he went to look at the next the driver asked me why we didn't want the other ones and when I told him the last one had cockroaches he just laughed. This time Adam returned with a fairly resigned look on his face, it wasn't really that nice and it was quite expensive but it was the best of a bad lot.

Next morning we got up early and had a tricyle driver take us to the office of Aleson Shipping so we could buy our tickets to Borneo. After we found out how much it cost we then did a bit of running around town to get the money out and have copies of our passports made, soon enough though we had paid our passage to Sandakan, Sabah, Borneo. We had planned to get a cabin but you have to share it with two other people and in the end we decided it wasn't worth the extra money so we just went for the large a/c cabin. This was mainly because on the last over night ferry we'd been on it was much quieter and we thought we were less likely to be awoken by a Cockerel!

We spent the rest of the day walking around Zamboanga, unfortunately the weather was not great and we ended up getting quite wet. We were also slightly unnerved by the amount of attention we we received. We hadn't seen a single Westerner since we arrived, which is probably due to the bad reputation Mindanao has. There have been a few terrorist attacks especially in the West (which is where we were) over the years which I suppose has deterred people from visiting. This means that the people don't see us lot very often and as we walked along we created quite a stir. By now we are used to the prolonged stares and fits of giggles which we hear as we pass but here we people were much more vocal. They were calling out to us left, right and centre and there was no way we could even attempt to merge into the crowd. Neither of being the kind of people that crave the limelight we felt a little exposed. Still it was nice that people were so friendly and in many ways it's better than the death stares we received in India.

We visited the Fort Del Pillar which was built in the 17th Century by the Spanish as a defence against pirates and raiders of the sultans of Mindanao and Jolo. Upon the requests of the Jesuit missionaries and Bishop Fray Pedro of Cebu, the Spanish governor Don Juan Cerezo Salamanca approved the building of a stone fort in1635. The fort was originally called “Real Fuerza de San Jose.” It has faced a number of attacks over the years and has had to be rebuilt several times, it is now an outdoor Catholic Marian shrine and a museum. We sat on a bench in the outdoor shrine and watched a number of people light candles and pray.

Afterwards we decided to go into the fort and have a look round the Marine Life museum which it is home to. We were one of only a few visitors and it had a slightly abandoned feel to it but it was reasonably interesting. They had lots of shells to look at and we managed to identify some of those we'd collected while in Camiguin. Despite the drizzle we walked round the courtyard and I snapped some shots of the pretty flowers, now I've discovered (thanks to Adam) the macro mode on my camera it's becoming a bit of an obsession!
On our way back to the hotel we made a quick stop at the supermarket to stock up on food for our ferry journey to Borneo. Tomorrow we would be waving goodbye to the Philippines.

As we off to a new country we had to get to the port early enough to get through immigration, although this all seemed fairly pointless as they waited until they had filled the hall to capacity before they began the slow process. With the H1N1 situation every where we go we have to go through a medical check and fill in a form so this makes things even slower. In the hall we spotted a white guy which took us a little by surprise and once we were on board waiting to leave we got talking. It sounds a little silly now but we never actually exchanged names so since parting company we have “affectionally” referred to him as Fritz. I cannot tell you why.

He was a Dutch guy who had been away for 14 months and had definitely seen a lot of the world. Initially it was really nice to speak to another traveller but when he told us he wasn't bothering with most of Asia because it was “all the same” and he wasn't bothered about culture, just natural beauty he got our backs up a little bit. Nonetheless we chatted for a while and ignoring his slightly superior attitude it was good to talk. We all shared the opinion that our a/c accommodation was incredibly claustrophobic and dingy. We ended up going our separate ways when Fritz went off to find food and then we moved on to the upper deck to a couple of bunks out in the open. The boat wasn't as nice the previous over nighter we had taken but it served its purpose.

We whiled away the hours listening to our ipods and gazing out at the sea.
It was a spectacular sunset and we were even treated to a few brief sightings of some dolphins. They were far off in the distance but it was still quite magical, the sky looked like it was on fire and the sea was dark and mysterious.
I thought one of the dorsal fins looked a little large to be a dolphins and could even have been a killer whale's but Adam wasn't so sure. Either way we were really happy.

We both slept relatively well and thankfully there wasn't a Cockerel in ear shot! Around 10am we began to see the coast of Sabah, which is the eastern state of the Malaysian part of Borneo. Before we were allowed onto land the Westerners, all three of us, were asked to gather in the canteen to undergo a quick interview by a Malaysian official relating to H1N1.
I suppose as we've been travelling around they presume we're more likely to contract it and so we had to explain where we'd been and have our temperature taken. Once we'd jumped through that hoop we were set free to find out what Borneo had to offer.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 00:47 Archived in Philippines Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Small but perfectly formed

Volcanoes, waterfalls and the best beach

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Still a little bleary eyed from our sort of restful night aboard the ferry we managed to find our way on to a jeepney, then a bus and finally at around 8am we were making the crossing between the Mindanao mainland and Camiguin. This island is about 300 s/km and is home to five volcanoes, only one of which is still considered to be active and hasn't erupted in a few decades. So we were quite confident we weren't heading straight into the clutches of a natural disaster.

Our guide book only had a couple of paragraphs about the island but it did mention a place to stay which was something. First we made our way by jeepney to Mambajao which is the largest town and then we got a minicab, which is basically an enclosed trailer attached to a motorbike, to takes us a little further North to the Caves Dive Resort. The main building of the hotel sat right at the edge of the beach and provided a very beautiful setting for the lovely meals we were to enjoy.
As this a volcanic island the sand here is a chocolate brown colour, which gives the place a different feeling to the pristine white beaches we have visited. There is something more wild and undiscovered about it, this feeling may have been slightly aided by the fact that we seemed to be the only people staying.

The bungalow style accommodation was set back amongst the palm tree groves and it was just overwhelmingly peaceful. We immediately felt an affinity with our new surroundings and in the end we would have stayed longer if time had permitted.
Once settled we set about making the best of the time that we did have here and organised a boat to take us out to the sunken island/s. As we stood on the beach we could see two little slithers of white sitting on the glistening horizon and we knew it was worth a closer look.
After the usual back and forth of price negotiation we were bobbing along atop the miniature waves, the island had been broken in two by the tide and we headed for the patch of sand that was completely deserted.

Once ashore we organised for a pick up in a couple of hours and we were then left alone to marvel at how amazingly gorgeous this spot was. I am not going to do it justice when I try to explain because it was not only the shallow turquoise water which surrounded the island or the unblemished white sand beneath our feet.
Or even the view back at the volcanic island that loomed over us from this low vantage point, looking like the perfect setting for Jurassic Park or some other movie depicting prehistoric life. It was more than that, it was ours to enjoy alone, our own little slice of paradise.
We had our own desert island and were safe in the knowledge that someone was coming to get us before we starved to death or had to make an attempt at constructing a fishing rod!
It was the first time on this trip that we haven't had to share an experience, which these days unless you charter your own jet is fairly rare. Even those who make it to the summit of Everest have to enjoy their time at the top of the world with a steady flow of other climbers. Anyway maybe you get the picture that we were happy to be alone!

We spent the next couple of hours snorkelling around in the shallow water, searching out the best shells we could find.
We continued the hunt on land and Adam made friends with a fish.
As our time came to an end we pooled our loot and set about a ruthless review of each specimen, discarding any which didn't make the grade until we were happy that we had a good selection. It was a very simple afternoon but it was great and when the vessel arrived to take us back we didn't really want to go.

Once back on the main island Adam did a bit more snorkelling and I sat in the sun for a little while longer. Then we quickly went to get cleaned up so we could be back in time for the sunset. It was a pretty one and we were also entertained by a few of the local men playing beach volley ball.
Despite it appearing to be a light hearted bit of fun I could see it getting quite competitive at points and there was quite a few people who had gathered round to watch. The spectators included a couple of young girls who must have waved and said hello to us fifty plus times, they were so cute and I wanted to take a picture but felt too embarrassed to ask their mum.

When the sun had set we went and had a lovely dinner, it was the best food that I had had in the Philippines and rounded off the day perfectly. We discussed with the manageress the possibility of renting a motorbike the next day as it seemed the best way to see the island and arranged for it to be ready at 8am.

The next morning we were up bright and early, eager to get on with exploring the interior of the island. Once we had eaten breakfast, acquired two helmets instead of the one they had provided and Adam had refreshed his memory in relation to controlling the bike, we were off!
First stop on the tour was the Walkway to The Old Volcano and The Stations of Christ. This really was just a walk which slowly climbed up the side of the volcano and at intervals along the way there were statues depicting times in the life of Christ, for example when he carried the cross. It didn't really grasp our attention, although we were a little taken aback when we reached one set of statues which had been decimated by falling rocks and now Jesus lay broken on the floor.

We decided we weren't going to make it to the top and in any event it would take too long and there were other things we wanted to see. The next stops were firstly the soda pool, which was a public outdoor swimming pool full of natural soda water. We momentarily considered going in but in the end decided it didn't really appeal and so we headed on to the cold springs. Again this had really been made in to more of swimming pool and lacked some of the natural charm we were hoping for. There was a bit of a chill in the air as by now we were higher up and surrounded by the cover of trees so we declined a dip in the cold water and instead opted for a wander around the stalls close by.

Back on the bike once again we were looking out for a giant clam farm but there didn't seem to be any signs for it and by the time we made it back to Mambajao we had to presume we'd missed it somewhere. Although the bike was great and it gave us so much more freedom, as we didn't have to continually negotiate for people to drive us places and so on, it wasn't half hurting our rear ends! We parked up and eagerly climbed off for a walk round and a spot of lunch. Whilst stuffing our faces with another good meal we decided to go to Katibawasan Falls next and then go hunt down the giant clams.

We found the waterfall no problem and despite expecting a bit of a walk from where we paid the entrance fee, it was in fact just round the corner. It wasn't exactly a torrent of water which plummeted to the pool below but it was impressive none the less.
The steady stream of water fell straight down 50m and the force of it was visible when it impacted with the still pool. We sat transfixed and watched it for a while, and then gazed around at the setting. Again it looked like a Pterodactyl could have swooped down or a Diplodocus could have broken through the trees in search of a drink.

Our time at the waterfall having come to an end we went to find those giant clams. As we drove along Adam went with his gut and turned down a side road, it turned out to be a good call and soon enough we were parked up by a small white beach. We were greeted by a group of young girls who guided us toward a large wooden shack, just outside of it on a table were some very large shells. Including the largest clam shell I have ever seen.
We had a bit more of a look round the small set up that they had and in some ways thought they could do more to lure the tourists down here, as it is an interesting natural wonder that they have to offer.

We were then offered the opportunity to go out and see the giant clams as they grow in the sea just off shore. It was a little more than maybe we were hoping to pay but we got a guide and they threw in the snorkel equipment for free. As we swam out with our guide he began to explain the names of the different clams (which I can't remember) and he also said a lot of other things which I'm afraid I can't remember. It was quite hard to view the clams and concentrate on understanding what he was saying but he was very cheery and clearly enthusiastic about the work they were doing here. It is really a conservation area and a nursery where they create the best environment possible to grow these silent giants. The biggest clams they have here grow to a massive 36 inches in diameter and they are really quite majestic as they sat nestled into the sea bed. My snorkel pipe had a hole in it so there was a continual flow of sea water filling my mouth. Our guide told me to just keep blowing it out and so as long as I kept up a Darth Vader impression it was just about bearable!

We had forgotten to bring a towel so we were a bit wet when we climbed back on the bike, soon enough though the wind would blow us dry. Our final stop was the Ardent Hot Springs and we were hoping for something a little more than the pools we'd visited earlier. The area around the springs has been made into a resort with a hotel but the springs themselves still had a rustic feel to them as they are divided up and still completely housed within the rock. It was only a quick dip as it was beginning to get dark but it was a relaxing way to end the day and eased some of our tired muscles and soothed our sore bums!

Once back at the hotel I had a quick go on the motorbike in the car park which was quite fun, although I'm not sure I want to be out on the open road! In the end we were too tired to go out for dinner and the food here was good so it wasn't a difficult decision. It turned out to be a wise choice because the heavens opened and we were hit by quite a thunderstorm. We watched the lightening brighten the sky above the sea as we ate and then we borrowed an umbrella to make the dash back to our room.

We'd had such a great time here that we were both a little sad at the thought of moving on again but we had to get to Zamboanga to catch our ferry to Borneo in just a few days.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 00:43 Archived in Philippines Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Chocolate Hills & Tarsiers

A perfect combination

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The bus to Carmen stopped a fair few times but it didn't take too long to get to there. Once we had disembarked it soon became apparent that there wasn't a single place to stay in the town itself and also we quickly realised that there were no tricycles. Having the huge packs on made me a little reluctant to get on the back of a motorbike but we didn't really have a choice. Adam had done it before and once we were on our way I completely relaxed.

Our options when it came to accommodation were somewhat limited and we ended up staying at a lodge just down the road. It had a slightly strange atmosphere, somewhat kooky I guess you could stay. There were two pools which were surrounded by a weirdly sculptured backdrop including a water shoot/fountain which was shaped like a hand.
It was pretty cheap though and we stayed in a bungalow style room which we really liked.

The motorcycle drivers who'd taken us to the lodge waited around for a bit while we tried to make ourselves feel a little more human after the hours of travelling and then they ferried us up to the chocolate hills. I couldn't tell you how many hills there are because when you go up to the viewing platform they seem to stretch on and on, there just isn't an end in sight.
They number in the hundreds though. They are all quite uniform in their shape; small, rounded mounds, almost exactly like how you would have drawn hills when you were a child. No one is exactly sure how they came to be, but geologists believe that they were created by the weathering of coralline limestone lying above heavy clay. As ever mythology has a far more colourful explanation, claiming that the hills are the debris of a rock fight between two giants. However they came to be they are unique to the Philippines and in fact to the island of Bohol. Although for most of the year the hills are covered with green grass, by the end of the dry season much of it has died and turned brown, giving these hills their name.

A viewing platform has been built atop one of the largest hills and we climbed up to get the full panoramic view.
The light was a little dim as the clouds began to close in on us, but it was still delightful. It may sound silly but there is something very cute about these little hills and they are well worth going to see.

We decided to walk back to our hotel because we began to think our motorcycle drivers were trying to rip us off. Unfortunately thunder was beginning to rumble in the distance and intermittently the sky would brighten every so slightly, rain was definitely on the way. Thankfully as we left the Chocolate Hills complex a guy called out to us and his price was not extortionate so we got him to take us back to town so we could buy some dinner. It started to bucket it down on the way and by the time we'd made the 5 minute journey we were quite damp. We quickly purchased a roast chicken and got another motorcycle back to the lodge.

The rest of the evening was spent firstly drying off, then eating and finally sleeping. Next morning we planned to make our way back to Tagbilaran where we were going to catch the ferry to Cagayan. This is a town on the North coast of Mindanao, the most Southern island in the Philippines and probably the largest. We just wanted to make a quick stop on the way to see a little mammal called the Tarsier which is native to the Philippines.
We'd heard that it was possible to see them in a town on the way back to Tagniliaran so we waved down the bus and then about half an hour later we jumped off again.

Adam had seen a sign saying “see the Tarsier” just before we entered the town so we headed back the way we came, not really sure what to expect. I was kind of imagining that we would have to trek into the jungle/forest a little bit and because we were carrying our full backpacks I thought it was going to be hard work but in fact it was all very simple and accessible. Right on the side of the road there was a small wooden shack and as we entered, a little confused at this point, we were met by a man and we enquired about the sign and whether we could see the Tarsier. He pointed to the corner of the room where there were about five potted plants and said they were in there. It took a little while for our eyes to adjust in the dim light but sure enough, spaced out among the foliage were five little, furry creatures.
They looked a bit like shrunken gremlins with their huge eyes and they clung to the plants with their elongated fingers and toes.
We spent quite a while there, trying to photograph them without being too intrusive and watching them scurry about. They jumped around quite a bit from branch to branch and were a little uncoordinated on the ground but quite inquisitive and undeniably cute.

We purchased a couple of magnets and a key ring, made a donation and then went out to hail another bus. It didn't take very long to get back to Tagbilaran and then what we presumed would be fairly easy ended up taking a little longer than we expected. We made it down to the port expecting to just get on a boat to Cagayan but it turned out there were only three a week which departed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We thanked our lucky stars that it was Friday and also that it was a night boat, so we hadn't missed it.

When we boarded the boat later that day we weren't quite sure what to expect but we soon realised where we would be sleeping. The middle portion of the boat was all open and had been filled with rows of bunk beds.
I wouldn't have thought I would like this but it turned out to be really good. There was a nice atmosphere with everyone chatting away and there was a lovely sea breeze which meant that it wasn't too hot. Before we set sail we were looking over the side at the sunset and a woman paddled over in a little boat, her baby daughter asleep in the middle of it.
As we watched people began to throw coins down to her and she dived in to retrieve them. We threw down one as well and I guiltily snapped a couple of pictures. Another time when you have to remember that this is what they appear to want, even if it does seem a very degrading situation.

It was a very relaxing voyage and I slept surprisingly well. Adam did too, well up until the cockerel that was in a box directly behind his head alerted everyone to the fact that it was morning. A little earlier than usual for us but thankfully the boat docked at 5am anyway. We now had to get to a little island off the coast called Camiguin, once again we just had to figure out how.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 00:19 Archived in Philippines Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

A Beachside Birthday

Dolphins, Snorkeling and Cocktails!

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We woke up on June 24th and it was Adam's Birthday, unfortunately we were currently still in Cebu but we were hoping that soon we would be sitting on a lovely beach. Thankfully the rain had eased and despite some uncertainties raised by the hotel employees, when we made it down to the port we were pleased and relieved to discover that the ferry was running. The crossing was perfectly smooth, the only problems were the freezing air con that blasted out just above our heads and the pirate movie they were showing which was experiencing severe sound problems. The voices were a distorted mumble and were fighting against a constant screech in the background, it sounded like someone dragging their nails down a blackboard. It kind of fit with the film though which was a horror, at least a 15 certificate, very appropriate at nine in the morning.

However we made the crossing in one piece, our ear drums still intact and were eager to get to more relaxing surroundings. Alona Beach is located on the island of Panglao which is connected by a bridge to the larger Eastern Visayas island of Bohol. We caught the ferry from Cebu to the town of Tagbilaran on the East coast of Bohol and then a tricycle drove us the 15km or so over the bridge and on to Alona. We were not exactly sure what to expect but we were hoping for a quieter version of Boracay. Ideally there would be some nice accommodation because we were willing to splash the cash a little bit, what with it being a certain persons special day.

Initially we were a little disappointed when we arrived. It didn't really seem to be a very well established resort at all, and what accommodation there was seemed to be over priced because of the location.
We heading right up to one end of the beach and came across the Alona Beach Hotel & Resort which looked very nice indeed. Despite looking like your typical backpacker we decided to check how much a room would cost. As we made our way to reception we passed the infinite pool, complete with waterside bar and then there were the clearly wealthy patrons enjoying a quiet and sophisticated lunch. We therefore weren't surprised when the price for a room was over four times what we were willing to spend.

We decided to have some lunch while we decided what to do and we enjoyed some good food, sitting on the patio of a Thai restaurant and gazed out on the sea which glistened in the sunlight and was a beautiful patchwork of turquoise and deep blue.
After lunch we tried a few more places along the beach but continued to be disappointed by the quality of the accommodation versus the prices. In the end we walked a little further away from the beach and came across another hotel. From the outside it looked a little like a building site and definitely had that unfinished feel, however inside the room was bright, clean and most importantly brand new. The price was also good and although we were hoping to stay somewhere a little more opulent for Adam's birthday we also could not see the point in wasting money on somewhere which just wasn't worth it.

Later on we went down to the shore and walked along the beach. One of the reasons we came to the beach was because we wanted to go Dolphin and Whale watching and this was meant to be a good area for it. We were approached by a number of people asking us if we wanted to go the next day and also visit a couple of other islands. By the time we reached the other end of the beach we had got a few quotes and after a little more negotiating we chose one guy to take us the next morning. We were told be back here at 6am. Now that tomorrows activities were sorted we went for a quick dip. It wasn't as warm as it had been in India but the surroundings were truly beautiful and we were quickly warming to Alona. It's certainly a lot quieter than Boracay and this definitely appealed to us.

We went back to get cleaned up and get ready to go out for Adam's birthday dinner. We ended up at a little bar and ordered a couple of cocktails, then we stuck up conversation with the barman.
The wind had picked up a little bit and we asked him about the Typhoon. He turned on the tv, and it was all over the news. It had been named Feria and we saw one guy broadcasting from Roxas Boulevard in Manila, very close to where we had stayed. The road was no longer visible as it was hidden beneath about a foot of water. We were pleased that we were no longer there! We enjoyed a few more cocktails in celebration of Adam now being a quarter of a century and in the end decided to stay here to eat as well.
Adam went for the sizzling fish platter and I had shrimp curry, both of which were very nice. By the end of the evening we were both a little tipsy but knew we had to be up early, so we headed back to the room to get some sleep.

The alarm seemed to go off just after we shut our eyes, but the early morning light suggested otherwise. We quickly got dressed and put our essential items in one of our waterproof stuff sacks that usually contain our clothes and headed down to the beach. It was about 5:45am and there was already quite a hive of activity as other people climbed into boats, all of us hoping to see some Dolphins. We'd been told that Whale sightings were quite unlikely, you really had to go to another island for this and by all accounts it was quite expensive. As long as we saw more than we had in India then we would be happy!

We bounced along over the small waves as we made our way to the right spot, all of the boats heading in the same direction. In some ways it would have been nice to enjoy the experience alone but in the end the excitement took over and you looked to other boats to guide you slightly on where to head and where to look. One minute we were just staring out a vast expanse of blue, broken only by other boats. Then suddenly there was a low murmur and we strained our eyes to see a few dorsal fins in the distance.
At once the boat was angled in that direction and we were off.

I couldn't tell you how many dolphins there were, certainly at least twenty. They came very close to the boat, arching in and out of the water just in front of us.
It all seemed to be a game to them and they put on a bit of show. A few jumped clean out of the water, the whole motion looking to be completely effortless.
That said one of the babies attempted this and appeared to do a little bit of a belly flop, practice makes perfect! Photographing the spectacle was not an easy task, our fingers were just a second or two too slow. Adam took a couple of videos though and so the memories will be forever saved.

The numbers began to thin out a little bit and we made our way over to one of the little islands in the vicinity. Once we were on the beach we swapped the bigger boat for a little paddle boat so that we could go snorkelling on the coral reef. The bigger boat is not allowed to go into the area in case it does any damage. I was a little nervous about the snorkelling, I've only done it once before and although I've always felt very happy in the water I'm more of a hold your breath kind of girl. Just breathing through your mouth doesn't come very naturally to me. Still we were both excited to get a view of the underwater world.

Getting out of the boat was a little tricky as we didn't want to cut our feet on the sharp coral but once we were in it was great. We got out just as the coral came to an end and the sea cliff dropped away to open out into much deeper water. This provided us with the best of both worlds as we gazed at all the brightly coloured fish as they weaved in and out and fed on the coral. We also saw shoals of huge fish spiralling around in the deep abyss. I wish that I could have taken some photos but obviously that wasn't an option, I did find Nemo though!

The only downside for me was my mask which persistently let in water which got a bit annoying after a while but all in all it was an amazing experience. Adam definitely enjoyed himself and I was really pleased that we were doing this close to his birthday. Getting back into the boat was even trickier, well for me at least as my upper body strength is pretty much non existent. I got a leg up from our guide though and soon we were heading back to the bigger boat.

Once back in the larger vessel we headed over to another island called Virgin Island.
It was very small indeed, just a little expanse of white and green above the water. There was an aquamarine path leading you in and soon enough we had hopped out of the boat and we were once again snorkelling and just enjoying lounging about in the shallow water. Despite the tranquillity and sense of remoteness we could not avoid the touts and soon enough I was accosted by a guy wanting to sell me pearl earrings. More for the location than the earrings themselves I decided to make the purchase, I will always remember where I got them. Adam also spent some money, he bought a couple of shells from a man in a little paddle boat who came up to us on the water. Once again something we will never forget.

As we had got up so early it was not even 10 o'clock. We had planned to spend the day here but as we were a little behind schedule because we'd got delayed in Cebu we made the decision to move on again. We got back to the hotel, had a shower and packed up our stuff. We had to make our way to Tagbilaran and catch the bus to Carmen, we were off to see the Chocolate Hills.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 00:12 Archived in Philippines Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

The City of Cebu

an extended day thanks to Typhoon Feria

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The majority of our trip to Cebu was spent on the coach. It was a very short hop over from one island to the other as we crossed the narrow Tanon strait. We then drove South around the perimeter of the island and then made our way North up the East coast and arrived in Cebu City in the mid afternoon. We again avoided getting a taxi, there are no tricycles in Cebu City, and instead walked in what we were hoping was the right direction. Thankfully we made the right choice and found the Pacific Pensionne House which was had a good feel about it and the room was good value for money.

Later on that day we went out to get some dinner and found the supermarket where we bought our fruit and veg and again we purchased a whole chicken. It certainly is the best option food wise, unless you want to spend a lot of money or eat something which has been heavily processed. While out and about we slowly began to get our bearings and develop a feeling for this new place. Although population wise Cebu is the third largest city in the Philippines, it certainly feels a lot smaller than Manila and has more of a large town feel rather than a sprawling and congested metropolis. Overall on first impressions it seemed like a pleasant place.

On our first morning in Cebu we decided to head to the Taoist Temple which is situated up in the hills above the city.
This is where the richer people live, the majority of which are Chinese. The area is actually called Beverly Hills, which we thought was quite amusing.
We never really found out if it was named after the posh LA suburb but it certainly had a similar feel. There was a security check point before you entered the area and instantaneously the roads became quieter and the houses larger.

As we entered the Taoist Temple there was a sense of peace that washed over you. The grass, shrubbery and all the buildings are immaculately maintained.
The calm atmosphere and beautiful surroundings for me seemed conducive with spirituality and marked a stark contrast to the temples and religious buildings that we visited in India. From the temple grounds you could look down over the city which stretches out to the sea and is slowly expanding into the hills which surround it.
We had a taxi driver waiting for us so we could not spend too much time at the temple but I enjoyed my time there and really liked the ambience of the place.

After the temple we decided to do a spot of shopping. It was only a couple of days until Adam's birthday and with us spending twenty four hours a day, seven days a week together it is a little tricky for me to buy a present without him knowing about it. I therefore decided that I would tell him what I was intending to buy and he could help me pick out. I had chosen to give him a watch and I'm glad I let him in on it because he had a specific idea of what he wanted. Unfortunately we we weren't very successful, having searched high and low we could not find anything which fit the specification and prices were a little higher than we were expecting. We would have to keep trying.

We planned to leave the next morning but it had begun raining the night before and when we woke up the rain was still heavy and persistent. Nevertheless we decided that we would still pack up and go down to the port, after all rain couldn't stop ferries leaving. Or so we thought. When we made it down to the correct pier we were immediately turned away, apparently there was a typhoon coming and therefore no boats were leaving. We had read in the book that Cebu never really gets heavily impacted by typhoons because it is well protected by the islands which sit either side of it, however things are clearly different on the open water and at the end of the day there is just no point taking the risk.

We were really quite disappointed about not being able to move on because tomorrow was Adam's birthday and ideally we wanted to wake up in a nice surroundings and enjoy a full day of fun activities. However we just had to accept that when travelling like this things do not always go to plan and we would make the best of it. We got the taxi driver to take us back to the Pacific Pensionne House. He dropped us on the other side of the road and we decided to check out another one, just in case we were missing something better. Also it was closer and it was still pouring with rain. Unfortunately the grass was not greener on the other side and the room they showed us had no window and was a little dingy. We headed back over the road and ended up back in the room we had vacated a couple of hours earlier, it was freshly cleaned though, so that was nice.

On our way back from the port we had spied a mall and as it seemed the rain was here to stay we came to the conclusion that indoor activities were the best option. It also meant that we could continue the search for Adam's watch. Luck just did not seem to be on our side though and despite finding one watch which ticked a lot of the boxes it wasn't quite right. We took a break from hunt and went to the cinema to see a horror film called Amusement. It certainly was not a relaxing hour and a half, and it reminded us both why the horror genre is our first choice. Still for fans of that kind of thing it seemed to contain all the key elements, I spent the majority of the film cowering behind my jacket.

Once again we left consumers paradise empty handed and I was a little glum that Adam would have nothing from me to open on his birthday. Still we both told ourselves that it was better to get it right. We went back to the pensionne house, stayed dry and kept our fingers crossed that tomorrow the weather would be better and we could make our way to Alona Beach.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 00:05 Archived in Philippines Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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