The Tarsier Diaries: Adventures in the Philippines (2)

In Which Stacey And Rhys Eat Pasties, Hate Disco, Watch Dolphins and Contemplate Thailand.

Sunday, 11th July 2010

First, a word on last night – we did NOT get a good night’s sleep. I was passed out by 9pm, just how I like it because, as Rhys says, I “could sleep through a war.” This is a trait that served me well, because it meant I could also sleep through the dodgy boom boom-ing of the Oops Bar Saturday night disco (!). Rhys however, was tortured by the dodgy 80s tunes. He decided to wake me up the best way he knows how (his usual subtle combination of nudging and boob-grabbing) and complained that I HAD to wake up because he didn’t want us to be on different sleep cycles. Um…what? The sad thing is that in my barely conscious sleep-deprived state, I absolutely believed him. I even recall propping myself upright against the headboard in a desperate attempt to stay away and sync up our bloody sleep cycles. Only in the cold light of morning did I realise that he was, in fact, talking utter bollocks.

Oops Bar Restaurant

Today was spent in typical chilled fashion – morning swimming, afternoon sun-bathing, beach meandering and of course, room “cabbaging” (a Rhys-ism meaning chilling/chillaxing/doing nothing much out of sheer exhaustion/laziness). Of course, all these activities have been interspersed with eating delicious foods. There was a time in my life when I swore never to be one of those Britons who travels abroad and then insists on ordering egg and chips or similar, but nearly three years living in Korea has given me an (un)healthy appreciation for Western food. It would shock people to see how excited Rhys and I were after discovering that the bar where we were staying served Cornish pasties! Pasties, for the love of God!

This evening was the long-awaited World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands, which really interfered with the 9pm bedtime I was trying to cultivate. It wasn’t the best match of the tournament (and kick off was at about 2am, so my judgement may have been impaired) and I think pretty much every Dutchman got at least one yellow card. In all honesty, I was not in the mood to stay up til 2am to “watch a Spaniard get kicked in the heart.” (Thank you Richard Hammond for putting that so eloquently on Top Gear). But anyways, I’m glad Spain won. And David Villa, if you’re reading this, SHAVE OFF THE SOUL PATCH! Damn.

Tuesday 13th July 2010

Needless to say, Monday was a complete write-off. After staying up til sunrise to watch the football, we collapsed in our little hut (this time, without the accompanying disco soundtrack) and slept and slept. The next day was devoted to more sleeping, and to planning some actual activities that involve more than eating, drinking and tanning.

Which is why, this morning, I was awake at 5 AM. What?! What happened to syncing up our sleep cycles? Well, today we had to sync up with dolphin-time. It turns out that these fun-loving mammals like to have breakfast like, really early.

What 5am looks like (who knew?)


Sigh. So, with the sun barely up, Rhys and I mounted a little white banca and headed for the ocean on a dolphin watching trip. And it did not disappoint. Although the sea was worryingly choppy, and it took a while to find any, every dolphin sighting was ridiculously exciting, although you only got to see them for a few seconds at a time. This is why I love travelling – for these experiences that make you feel such fresh and innocent excitement and enthusiasm. It’s like being a child again. Albeit, worldly wise child with a passport full of stamps who can legally travel alone and drink in bars.

After the dolphin watching, we headed for the Virgin Islands, not to pick up a virgin, but to check out the 7km sandbar which curves out to sea. Unfortunately, it was high tide, so we couldn’t walk along the sandbar so much as paddle along it. The most notable thing about this part of the journey was that Rhys managed to take the single most unattractive photo of me that’s ever been taken:

Future Miss World

This was followed by a snorkelling trip off the coast of Balicasag island, which is rumoured to have some of the best snorkelling in the Philippines. Unfortunately, the water was ridiculously choppy (due to the typhoon the previous day which had hit Luzon in the north of the Philippines, but blessedly left our little island in the Visayas in tact). Even with my ever-chic bright orange life jacket, I was finding the whole experience somewhat terrifying. It’s difficult to marvel at a kaleidoscope of fish folk when you’re trying not to (a)hit your head on an oar (b) float out to sea (c) die. My poor boyfriend sans lifejacket, ended up drinking a lot of sea water, which we know from reading Life of Pi and watching Bear Grylls, is never a good thing.

Some fish

Dolphins aside, it’s been a bit of a disappointing day. We are both trying (and failing) not to make comparisons between this holiday and our last one, which was in the most perfect hotel ever in Koh Samui, Thailand and included hot water, calm seas and a breakfast buffet. Not once did I have to wash myself using a bucket of cold water, as is my privilege on Panglao. Sigh.


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