The Tarsier Diaries: Adventures in the Philippines (7)

In Which Stacey And Rhys Bid Farewell To Paradise and Take A Midnight Boat.

Saturday, 24th July 2010

To get back to Cebu in time for our flight, here’s what we did: a ferry from Siquijor to Dumaguette, which took less than an hour. Followed by a few hours stay in the Vintage Inn for showers, relaxation and a quick cut-throat shave across the street (for Rhys. Not me). And then a midnight boat trip from Dumaguette to Cebu.

The midnight boat was huge, and at first we were worried that we’d have to sleep on one of the innumerably bunk bed cots on the deck, but that turned out to be economy class. We were sleeping in tourist class, which still included small, metal bunk beds but with bedding, down below deck. I did worry that in the unlikely event of a Titanic-esque situation, surely it would be better to be up on deck rather than in the middle of the boat as it filled with sea water? Perhaps. We’ll never know (and don’t call me Shirley).

Once we were snuggled in the bottom bunks across from each other, it was oddly comfortable and I managed a few hours of shut eye. Rhys, on the other hand, had yet another run-in with his nemesis, the mighty cockroach. The next morning he recounted the thrilling tale of how he’d killed one that was trying to climb ONTO MY BUNK! My hero!

We headed up the deck about 20 minutes before the boat was due to dock. Leaning over the rails and looking out over the pier, we noticed some people approaching the ship in tiny paddle boats. We didn’t realise what they were doing until they got up close and raised their hands, palms upturned, pleading. They were beggars, asking for something – anything – from the passengers. On one boat was a young girl with a tiny toddler, on the other was a man with two small children. Some of the passengers, ourselves included, gave what they could – some change, some fruit – and the man would dive down into the water to retrieve whatever he could. I have never seen anything like that before. It was difficult to watch.

Once we got to Cebu Airport, we checked in for both flights – to Manila, and then to Incheon. . Manila Airport is mental, by the way. No clear directions of where to go, NO SECURITY flying in from Cebu, and home to what must be the only surly people in all of the Philippines (they live in duty free).

The end of a holiday always brings me the same rush of contrasting feelings. There is some sadness that this carefree existence of eating/tanning/travelling is coming to an end. There’s a healthy dose of neurotic fear – did I frolic enough? Is my tan deep enough? Did I eat my fill of fried foods and dried mango? (Yes, No, Definitely).
I must admit as well, to a feeling of relief – what a joy it will be to sleep in our own bed, have hot showers, type away at the laptop, catch up not only with real life family and friends but also TV loved ones, like Richard Hammond and Eric from True Blood. Also, not to be hounded by mosquitoes, sand in pants, the fear of drowning (me) or being burnt to a crisp in the sun (Rhys). And of course: no cockroaches.


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.