We’ve been in the Philippines for 18 days now and to Bohol, Panglao, Alona in Bantayan and back to Panglao.
After Cebu, Bohol (an island in the Visayas) was a bit of light relief. Tagbilaran is quite hectic but we based ourselves there to do the obligatory sightseeing that included a very cool hanging bridge made of bamboo, very Indiana Jones, the amazing chocolate hills that despite the dank weather were still very special and of course the uber-cute tarsier monkeys that look like gremlins. It was a full day out with eight stops that also included a butterfly sanctuary, church, monument plus the offer of a boat cruise with buffet that we declined as it was too expensive.
There’s little to say about Tagbilaran and where we stayed apart from the beds being the hardest in the whole of Asia and the room being the hottest and noisiest.
Panglao is a dot of an island at the bottom of Bohol and has a beautiful beach, really white powdery sand and clear water. There’s not much to see in the way of snorkelling or not as far as we have been so far – apart from an abundance of fat, dotty starfish and menacing, black sea urchins. We will take a trip to a nearby island to see more soon though.
The food is good here, we enjoy barbecues, have had a French meal, excellent Thai curry and even a not too bad chilli. There’s a relatively high amount of hassle from people selling sunglasses, massage, pedicures, boat trips, etc on the beach but easy enough to pretend to sleep. Hard life!
We decided to head to Bantayan island for Christmas which, in hindsight, was a mistake. We’d spent so much time emailing the owner of our resort, asking questions to make sure it was as perfect a Christmas as it could be, that it was a bigger disappointment when we arrived. To get to it, we had to travel through some pretty rough, rural paths and once we were there, it wasn’t easy to get out. The restaurant shut at 9pm and that was that. Plus the beach wasn’t nice and the cottage flooded when we had a shower!! All in all a bit of a bad choice – but it was easy enough to move and the next place seemed better and was in the heart of Santa Fe, described in the Lonely Planet as charming but after too many experiences with moody staff, we actually found it charmless!
Christmas Eve was the highlight for all the wrong reasons. We met a mad Swede and openly self-confessed sex tourist called Gustav who spent his time yelling obscenities at people in the Swedish bar we’d stumbled upon while handing out shots of some unidentifiable brown, slightly salty liquor before being tasered by his friend up his fat posterior without any effect. Surreal is an understatement. He then latched on to Dave and I and insisted on showing us two karaoke bars – the second being a shack in the middle of a pretty much deserted road where a transvestite pretty much forced us to sing a Carpenters song we didn’t know in front of at least 100 people. I felt quite hysterical by the time I got home gone 3am.
Needless to say the majority of Christmas Day was a write-off which wasn’t a problem as there wasn’t much going on and it wasn’t beach weather.
We had drinks and dinner with a couple from Slovenia before all agreeing that it was time to exit Bantayan. Dave and I had decided to go back to Panglao for NYE as we knew we would like it and the Slovenians (Yanni and Manya) decided to come with us.
So after two choppy boat rides and a three-hour bus ride in torrential rain, we made it back by Boxing Day evening.
All was looking good until on night two of being back, during dinner, we spotted (from a distance) mad Gustav. I am just not sure I have the energy for him, he’s so full-on.
Here’s a taste of one of our first conversations:
Me: So, what brings you to the Philippines?
G: The cheap women.
Me: So you’re a sex tourist?
G: Yes, what’s wrong with that? I suppose you’re one of those types who fights for women’s rights chanting with a banner?
Me: Yes, and I’m proud of that and can just see we’re going to get on like a house on fire….
I wonder if we’ll have to go undercover and disguise ourselves or if we are destined to be in the same place as Gustav…I might just have to post a picture of him if I can bring myself to.
I have to say the amount of really old men who sit around leering and drinking to excess from about 11am onwards has taken some of the shine off the Philippines for me, it’s really hard to avoid. Unlike in other countries where you can just avoid certain areas – here it is literally everywhere.
However, we’re only three islands in to more than 7,000 so I suppose I should plough on giving it a chance! Siquijor and Negros next I think…but not for a few days.