After spending the night in Manila airport domestic terminal watching the worst children’s films that happened to be on, we boarded our next flight from Manila to Cebu. Apparently they like air con a lot here, as it’s seemed so cold that it water condensed forming fog on board the airplane.
After the flight, we found our hotel and slept for most of the morning. In the afternoon we stumbled out of the hotel to wonder around to see what the city is like. A very different experience to wondering around in Japan. It’s obviously a lot poorer with tin roofed houses and children asking for money. And the pollution was horrible, worse than Beijing, it made it unpleasant to breathe. All the jeepneys (public transport here) don’t seam to have any kind of filters as they are merrily bellowing out black smoke as they go past.
As alot of the food in Philippines is fast food, we thought we would try the local fast food chain called Jollibee. We got the ‘big meal’ that was basically a bit of each of their main dishes. These were KFC type chicken, McDonald’s burgers and spaghetti with sweet tomato sauce. It was a strange combination, but the chicken was quite good.
We had one more day in Cebu, so we went to the museum, which was a cool little place made up of multiple rooms. It told the history of the Philippines, about the Spanish rule and then the American occupation. It described it “the country had 300 years in a convent and then 50 years in Hollywood”. This also meant that most people could speak English as a second language. The other main language was Taglish, but there are apparently many other languages spoken in each of the islands.
Then to the second thing to do in Cebu, the cathedral. It was a large building, without most of the decorative frilly stone work/art that you get in cathedrals in Europe. It was more a structure that did the job, and still looked grand and cathedral like. It was defiantly well used though, it was packed with people preying and giving there respects. There was a statue of a child saint that people were queueing up (“falling in line” according to the sign, seems the Americans tought them the wrong English) to talk to and kiss it. We wondered into the nave, and found a space in the pews to sit. Starting at the back of the nave, we saw some women kneeling and preying in the isle and then, while still on there knees, shuffling a few metres forward towards the alter. They would then stop and prey some more and then repeat the cycle until they were at the altar. It was a bit bizarre.
The next day we got the ferry to the smallish island south of Cebu, Bohol. It was about 100 km east to west and about 50 km north to south. The ferry had incredibly cold Aircon, abit like walking into a fridge. They put in a film on the screen at the front, well timed so that we arrived at Bohol about 15 minutes before the end of the film. We wondered from the port to somewhere to rent mopeds (with helmets), as these were described as the best way to get around the island. It was only an hours mopeding to our hotel.
After riding around in circles for a bit and then finally asking someone where it was, we arrived at the hotel. It even had a swimming pool, very posh. We checked in and had some lunch of some local food, which was very nice. We soon realised that we were probably the only guests in this hotel. After lunch we went to explore the area, the hotel was on the side of Loboc river in a small village with the same name. The roads around this island didn’t seem to trafficky or dangerous, as long as you remember to use your horn.
The next day we went to see the local wildlife that the island was known for. These are little monkey things (not technically monkeys, but whatever) called Tarsiers. They are well odd. They are about the size of your hand with a really long tail and they have enormous eyes! We arrived at the Tarsier sanctuary after a short windy ride. It was a little building with some information about the tiny creatures and they had a fenced off area where you get shown round to see them. You get given a guide and before entering we were told to be quiet and turn off our camera flashes. This was because these animals don’t like to be stressed out too much, and they also sleep during the day.
Our guide took us directly to the first one to see and started telling us about them. She said that “they live a long life, 25 years, but a boring life, alone with no family”. Apparently they were often taken for pets, but they didn’t like this and killed themselves. Which is quite odd for an animal, although we never did find out how they did it. The more we learned, the more we realised that they don’t seam to be very good at coping with anything and we started to wonder how this thing ever evolved without dying out. And we were not surprised to learn that they are endangered. But they are really cute!
For the ready of the day we went across a rope bridge across a river that was cool, and then went to “eco adventure park” which was essentially a zip line across the same river but higher up. It was pretty fast and great fun. After all the fun, we decided to try and do a scenic loop around cool bits of the island. Mopeding was fun around some winding roads and a great way to see the country side up close. We got about a third along the loop, but decided to turn around so we didn’t end up driving in the dark.
The day after, we drove to the chocolate hills. These are a strange geological formations, they are lots of strange hills that are brown (at the right time of year), they looked pretty cool.
At this point the author has had to change as Jethro prepares for a PhD interview and as anyone reading may have noticed we are falling behind a little with posts. So I apologise if the next couple feel a bit brief but I’ll do my best to keep it interesting.
The chocolate hills are indeed cool. Cool and odd. The landscape looks like it has a colony of colossal moles living beneath it. There are a few theories as to how they were actually formed but nothing conclusive so I’m sticking with giant moles. Our plan had been again to attempt the scenic loop around the island but yet again we ran out of time as we had booked ourselves in to go sup-boarding later in the afternoon so we headed back to go paddling.
We arrived by the river where guide for the trip. We got some brief instruction on how to paddle a supboard and then set off. Contrary to our guides comment than padding a sup board is more difficult than paddling a kayak, I think he’s wrong. At a basic level there’s not much in it but with sup-boarding that seems to be about all the is to it. It is good fun though and quite a relaxing way of going up a river (provided it’s flat water anyway). Our journey took us up the gently meandering course of the river until we eventually, having worked up a bit of a sweat, arrived at a cascade in the gorge right below where the zip lines were that we’d raced across and back previously. After admiring the waterfalls, and eventually persuading the guide to see how close we could get, we set off back down steam letting the river do the hard work. We collected a couple of fresh coconuts on the way which made for a refreshing end to the trip. Jethro, this being the first time he’s tried it, now shares my view that this is the only real way to enjoy coconut. None of this desiccated nonsense.
The next day we decided to have one more go at riding the scenic loop on the mopeds, third time lucky and all that. We made a slightly earlier start, by our moderately lax standards, to give ourselves a good chance of getting it done this time. We made good progress getting to the town past the chocolate hills in good time so we had a little detour down a side route just for the hell of it. Heading further round we took a slightly longer route than planned and ended up riding down a very rough dirt road through some tiny settlements before eventually getting back to the main road where it started the fun looking winding ascent up to the mountains.
More or less as soon as we pulled out onto the main road, the started. A gentle shower at first but after a minute or so and with ominous looking clouds ahead we pulled over and got the brollies out. Not a moment too soon either. The heavens well and truly opened. I can honestly say I have never seen so much rain. It’s hard to describe really but even with our feet pulled up on the seats of the mopeds and huddled beneath the umbrellas, we were still getting pretty damp just from the water bouncing off things. We decided to just sit it out as most of the really heavy rain showers had only lasted 15-20 minutes before now.
30 minutes later the rain was still going strong.
We were getting to the point of not having enough time to finish the loop unless the rain stopped soon and neither of us really wanted to do the mountain roads with the thunderstorm still raging. After another five minutes or so we grudgingly decided to abandon the loop and turn back to the hotel. That was still about an hour and a half away though, in good weather, and it was still cows and horses. We did it anyway and put the brollies back under the seats. By the time we had the bikes started, a good ten seconds I think, we were soaked to the skin but on our way back. The rain didn’t really relent much over the next couple of hours riding back but there were a few lulls with slightly less torrential rain. I think that to this point that ride back was the coldest I’ve felt on the whole trip. Being wetter than sitting in a bath and riding at 40 km/h will do that.
We did make it back to the hotel and squelched into the shower to warm up and dry off before making plans for a dryer day tomorrow going snorkeling.
The snorkeling was fantastic in short. Fantastically vibrant coral and lots of fish swimming around in the shallows. And a lightly overcast day meant minimal sun cream. The boat trip was meant to include spotting dolphins but sadly the weather was too rough for us to stand any hope of seeing them. Also sadly was the absolutely cacophonous sound of the boat’s engine. I’ve absolutely no idea how the guy driving the boat had any ear drums left. Even sat eight meters away at the front of the boat with fingers in my ears the noise was unbearable. Still, the snorkeling was great and we made a stop on the way back at an “island” that was actually a sand bank a meter below the water where a number of locals come to set up little stalls to tout their wares at passing tourist boats.
All done we headed back for our last night in Bohol. We weren’t the only ones at the hotel, though we did get the impression that it wasn’t their busiest time of year. We caught the occasional glimpse of another couple of people from the UK, we think though they never stopped to say hi, and made with a couple from Germany, whose names I’ve forgotten writing this (sorry if you happen to read this), and a couple from Israel too (for the sake of balance I’ll leave your guys names out too). We all got on well and learned a couple of new card games over a couple of beers, before promptly forgetting the games again. I’m about as bad at remembering card games as people’s names. Eventually we called it a night for the last time and packed our bags ready for the next morning.
The ride back to Tacloban was spent perpetually waiting to get drenched by rain again but it never got worse than light drizzle until we were basically back to drop the bikes off. The owner was very appreciative as apparently he doesn’t get many people renting bikes for six days. Not that I’m surprised but it was definitely worth it, even in the rain. We hopped on the ferry for the last bit of the journey back to Cebu before heading off to the island of Palawan. As with the journey out the air-con on the ferry was trying to get the temperature freezing. This time I was prepared with actual trousers and my jumper so all was well.
This one turned into a bit of a long post really but hopefully it will keep you all satisfied while we carry on playing catch up with the rest.