The Tarsier Diaries: Adventures in the Philippines (6)

In Which Stacey And Rhys Finally Find Paradise


Tuesday 20th July 2010

We have abandoned Dumaguette for the tiny off-the-tourist-map island of Siquijor. We have just arrived on at Coco Grove Beach Resort. There is a parrot in reception. There is a private marine sanctuary. There are hammocks (regular and, distressingly, banana). All ambitions to go on energetic cultural missions have dissolved like the ice in our complimentary drinks. We could stay here for a while.

After a somewhat turbulent couple of days where we could not decide what to do with our remaining vacation time, we have finally found the tropical paradise that we had both been craving. Siquijor is a 45 minute ferry ride from Dumaguette. We are both ecstatic to be staying somewhere fancy. Not only have I spent a pleasant day mostly eating and lying down (French onion soup followed by baked macaroni and cheese, if you were wondering) I also had the best massage of my life in the hotel’s own mini-spa. It was…painful actually. It felt like she was trying to rip my shoulders out of their sockets and snap my spine, but actually it was an oddly satisfying kind of pain, like getting a bikini wax, or watching reality TV.

Wednesday 21st July 2010

The day began with a delicious cheesy omelette but was followed by a disastrous attempt (on my part) at snorkelling the house reef. Without the reassuring orange life jacket strapped to me, my instinctive cave-man like fear of the ocean took over. My nervoursness of sea-urchins, horned star fish and other beach nasties left me paralysed in my flippers. I wimped out, whimpering and headed for the pool where I tried to calm my nerves with a rum heavy mango colada.

Later that day, I tried again. Rhys had come back from his solo snorkelling trip absolutely enchanted by all that he had seen, with tales of huge schools of parrot fish, baby nemos and caverns you could swim through. I had to give it another shot. This time was much better. I was so damn determined to reach the reef. After a few false starts and deep breaths, I started to enjoy myself. The coral and the fish were beautiful, and Rhys had slowed down to keep an eye on me and make sure I was okay. I actually started to enjoy being unencumbered by a life jacket and felt more mermaid-like than I ever had. (Except maybe that time when I was 6 and dressed up like a mermaid). All would have been fine in the end I think, were it not for the sudden appearance of a red rash on my arm and a burning, stinging sensations. Leaping to the wrong conclusion in a single bound, I immediately thought some killer sea creature had stung me and I was moments from death, so shrilly demanded that we head back to shore. The dive shop owners, looking somewhat bemused at my panicked expression – possibly because they’d witnessed my meltdown earlier in the day – calmy explained that I’d been stung by jellyfish. They then nonchalantly doused my limbs in vinegar and sent me on my way, smelling like a chippy.

Friday 23rd July, 2010

We awoke on Thursday to find that the sea was (mercifully) too rough for snorkelling, or in fact, anything. We decided to spend the morning relaxing by the swimming pool with all the families.

That afternoon, we rented a motorbike and took a short tour of the rest of the island. We were slightly nervous, because Rhys had left his driver’s licence back in Korea which, apparently, can result in a hefty fine if the police catch you. But we were suffering a little bit from cabin fever due to staying at the hotel all day, so decided to risk it.

Bombing around on a semi-automatic which spluttered and bucked like a rodeo pony trying to dislodge me, we realised just what a treasure we had stumbled upon. Unlike Bohol or Panglao or even Koh Samui, Siquijor, at least what we saw of it, is completely un-touristy outside of the whole town. All we saw were people going busily about their everyday lives, although not to busy too wave and smile a quick hello. The people of Siquijor are unfailingly friendly.

Friday was a bittersweet day. Despite feeling a little relieved at the thought of getting home and back into our routines, it was sad to say goodbye to Coco Grove. It really is a wonderful hotel. We paid our bill and discovered that all our accommodation, meals, massages, snorkel and motorbike rentals and even SHOPPING came to only about 110 pounds each! For 3 days! I love the Philippines.