The Tarsier Diaries: Adventures in the Philippines (4)

In Which Stacey And Rhys Leave Panglao, Hate Piers, Eat Goat and Love Sheets

Last look at Alona Beach, Panglao

Thursday 15th July 2010

Last night was our last dinner on the island. On the advice of some fellow travellers, we took a long and bumpy tricycle journey away from the beach and into the hills to dine at Bohol Bee Farm. It’s a very cool little hotel with an organic-only restaurant hidden amongst the cool, green and leafy grounds, overlooking the sea.
Our food was running a little late, so they brought out some complimentary snacks (always music to my ears): Compote bread with two spreads – mango and pesto. It was heavenly. Then came the starter – Cab Cab, which is crunchy dried cassava (like nachos) with a pesto and green tomato dip. For mains, I had a simple mountain of pasta tossed in pesto and (I think) a little bit of honey – because it was a little sweet, and we were on a bee farm.

A romantic moment, despite the vampire eyes we are both sporting.

We checked out of Oops cottage this afternoon and headed for Tagbilaran pier in the hopes of getting a boat to Dumaguette but still none of the direct ferries are running. So, now we are on a Supercat (best/worst super hero name ever?) Ferry to Cebu. Hopefully, from there we’ll be able to make our way to Dumaguete. Even if there is a boat from Cebu though, it will take another 6 hours to get to Dumaguete anyway.

Later that day, around 5.30pm

I hate piers. If there is a hell, it is a series of piers which I am forced to roam indefinitely.
We have been traipsing up and down, up and down the docks of Cebu in search of a ferry to Dumaguette. Now we have given up and are, in sheer desperation, sharing a van with another couple and driving down to Santander. Apparently, from there we should be able to get a ferry to Dumaguette tonight.

On the advice of our friends Nick and Vanessa, who’ve been to Dumaguete before, I have booked us a room at Harold’s mansion, a well-known hostel not too far from the pier. Hopefully we will get there sometime tonight?

Scenes from a van:

Even later, around 9.30pm

Result! After a three hour drive down the coast, we made it all the way down to Santander. All the fast ferries had already left, but we managed to get tickets for one of the slower crafts. After toasting the success of our mission with some San Miguel and a plate of goat (how else would we celebrate?) we hopped aboard the biggest cargo ship I have ever seen.

Goat 'n Beer

Some thoughts on Time.

Okay, so the ferry from Cebu to Dumaguete was tomorrow at 7pm and would have taken 7 hours. Our ETA would have been 17th July at 2am.
Instead, we took a 3 hour van drive and a 45 minute slow cargo ship (and will have another 30 minute taxi drive ahead of us once we get there). Our ETA is 15th July at 11pm.

I mean, seriously! I don’t know if our Lonely Planet guide is just kind of old and that’s why it doesn’t mention the van-boat route but SOMEONE should mention it.

Friday 16th July 2010 (Sometime in the afternoon)

We eventually got to Harold’s Mansion last night at around 11pm, with a driver who seemed to be playing Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ on a continuous loop inside his  own mind. Unfortunately, as I’d been unable to confirm our room via email (due to all the time spent pier wandering, goat eating and cargo ship hopping) it was ALL BOOKED UP. At this point, it took all my self-control not to collapse to my knees in the hostel lobby and let out an Anakin Skywalker style “NOOOOOOOOOO!” of utter despair. It was too much. Fortunately, the receptionist kindly managed to book us the one remaining room in the hostel up the street. We didn’t even care that it was a twin room with two single beds.

It was absolutely HEAVENLY to fall into a bed with clean sheets and a stiff mattress, after a blissfully hot shower, and flick channels between a mindless Sandra Bullock romantic comedy and Animal Planet, and have air conditioning, and not have sand in unfortunate places. It was magic. At one point in the evening, I said, “Rhys, isn’t it nice to cuddle on clean sheets?” To which he replied: “Yes! And so nice to cuddle a clean person too!” (Except we didn’t say cuddle. Um).

We woke up naturally around 8am (what?! Damn sleep cycles!) and walked across to HM to check in and eat breakfast. I ate some muesli with fresh fruit and rhys had a beautiful looking breakfast of eggs and bacon and some kind of fried potato deliciousness.

I cannot get over the joy of staying in a proper room with actual walls, and hot water, and plumbing, air conditioning, a good shower, a good bed and a TV – all for half the price of what we were paying on Panglao. Everything is cheaper here. The highlight of the day for me was discovering the most amazing little café near the promenade called Sans Rivals. Half is a restaurant where the lunch is served cafeteria style by a group of cheerful teens, who, despite all the time they spent teasing, laughing and flirting with each other, were very sweet and attentive.

And here, we had the best lunch of our trip so far. Nothing fancy – just a slice of home made lasagna and two slices of garlic baguette. Simple…beautiful. Whoever first thought to combine meat and cheese, I salute you. And all for about 85 PHP so…about 1.20 pounds. Perhaps this holiday has not been as relaxing or luxurious as we envisioned, but we have eaten some amazing food at ridiculous prices.


The Tarsier Diaries: Adventures in the Philippines (1)

In Which Stacey and Rhys Make Their Great Escape, Find A Tropical Island And Offend Senior Citizens.

Arriving in Bohol

9th July 2010

I am sitting in a café in Seoul’s Incheon airport and feeling like there is no giddier high than waiting to board a plane out of South Korea. (Fellow English teachers in South Korea – Am I right?) It’s about 2 hours til we (my boyfriend Rhys and I) fly to Cebu. We haven’t made any plans for our arrival, figuring that we’ll just hang out in Cebu (of which we have very little knowledge) between the hours of 1am and 6am, when we will get a ferry to Tagbilaran, on the island of Bohol. From there, we’ll catch a taxi to Panglao, Bohol’s even littler sibling, where we will be staying at Oops Cottages, a collection of Nipa huts literally a minute from the beach.

In the meantime, we have stuffed ourselves with Bennigan’s finest imitation Mexican food (chicken and bean spring rolls anyone?) which is actually quite good. My body, which has been subjected to an unfairly strict diet and exercise regime over the last month in preparation for the beach holiday is practically zinging with joy at the taste of guacamole, sour crème and deep fried goodness. A sign of things to come, I think.

Saturday, 10th July 2010

I’ve been known to complain a fair bit about the arrivals area in Incheon Airport, most notably because (a)it means the end of vacation and (b)where the heck is the perfume and the Captain Morgan? WHAT AIRPORT doesn’t have DUTY-FREE?

But I digress. My point is that the arrivals area in Cebu makes Incheon airport look like freakin’ Heathrow. It was, granted, around 2am at this point but everything was dark and deserted with maybe 3 staff members, or maybe they were just helpful members of the public. Anyways, the guy at the arrivals desk (I think that’s what it was) told us that if we were looking for a place to crash near the docks, our best bet was Sugbutel, a supercheap hostel. Fair enough. We hopped in a taxi and were on our merry way.
He wasn’t wrong. Sugbutel really is a decent place to crash for a few hours near the docks. I think the way the website describes it as having a “spacious and elegant toilet and bath” is going a little too far. And I hate that it’s impossible to spoon on a bunk bed (Rhys very quickl evicted me from his bunk). But aside from that, it’s not a bad place for a few hours of restless hostel sleep especially for only PHP250.

Saturday 10th July 2010

Well, today was not the most relaxing of days. After a few hours in Sugbutel, we jumped in a cab to take us to the pier. Of course, despite getting there like, 45 minutes early, the lady in the cubicle informed us that there were no tickets to Tagbilaran for another 4 hours or something crazy. After some more pier-wandering (my new least-favourite activity – sorry, paintballing!) we found another company with available seats, booked our tickets and then had an hour to kill which we squandered drinking Dunkin Donuts coffee (haunting us all the way from Korea) and eating tuna and rice.

Anyways, after a smooth ferry journey and a bumpy tricycle ride, we arrived safely at Oops Cottages.

The road connecting Bohol to Panglao

Nearly there...

Tricycle - our mode of transportation for most of the vacation.

Unfortunately, being occasionally mentally challenged, I forgot to pack any contact lens solution. Despite being blind as a bat without my glasses/lenses, I wasn’t too panicked when I realised this on the plane; after all, in SK you can get lens solution in even the most basic convenience store and there’s one on every corner. Korea 1, Philippines 0. After spending a ridiculous amount of time and money zipping around Panglao in a tricycle, it became apparent that the only way we’d find any would be in the more urban area of Tagbilaran where we’d just come from. (Do people on Panglao have freakishly perfect vision?) By now, Rhys had the look of pained exasperation which I think he’s only invented in the three years since we’ve met, and my bottom was uncomfortably numb from being tricycle bound all day. Nevertheless, to Tagbilaran we went. Also, we had to go there to buy sunblock, because for whatever bizarre reason, nowhere on Panglao can you buy more than a thimble-full.

Not too impressed with the transport situation/ contact lens mission

Tagbilaran is an even scarier place to be a pedestrian than Korea.The only way to cross the street is to momentarily convince yourself that you CANNOT DIE. One thing that I did LOVE, was the fact that all the tricycles had random prayers and excerpts from the bible written above their license plates, in that embellished olden days script that I like to call “chav tattoo.” If this works, I think it’s something the taxi drivers in Korea should adopt as soon as possible.

Later that evening…

We eventually tracked down enough lens solution to last me a good long while, but not before venturing into the mall and offending an entire queue of senior citizens in the pharmacy. I did not mean to invade their queue – I didn’t know it was their queue! We also found out that our Korean bank cards work in the ATMs here – result! Bye bye, responsible budgeting.

A beautiful Bohol evening

It is a gorgeous evening, and it’s wonderful to be relaxing after the missions of the day. Rhys is taking a quick swim while I do some writing, slumped in a beach chair and watching the world go by. The place where we are staying is called Oops cottages – it’s a series of simple nipa huts set slightly back from the beach in a green and leafy area, and it’s attached to Oops Bar which is, according to internet reviews, where all the night life can be found on Panglao.

For dinner, we had chicken sweet and sour and chicken abodo, a traditional filippino dish where the chicken is marinated in a hell of a lot of soy sauce (my favorite quantity, you can never have too much soy!) and served with rice and calamansi. SO good. I could get used to this.

Chilling in Oops Bar

Epic Battle