Philippines

Bohol Island

Day 1

I took a ferry from Cebu to Bohol, which took a little over two hours and walked through the thick humidity to my hostel 2km away. I could have taken a taxi, but figured the exercise was good for me and I just hate dealing with taxi drivers sometimes because I feel like they are always trying to rip me off.

I got to my hostel fine and was dripping from head to toe in sweat. After being shown my room and bed for the next few days, I got myself sorted and updated on things to see and do from a roommate that was heading out. There was also a guy from Finland who I would end up hanging out with a bit during my stay on Bohol. We ended up going out and tracking down some Filipino food for dinner that first night.

The Filipino restaurant we found was set up like a buffet, sort of. There were about twenty or so pots of food and whatever looked good you just point to and the worker scoops out a bit and put it on a small dish. The servings were really small, so I ended up trying 3 or 4 different foods, plus a plate of rice and a soda. I thought the food was good, but it was cold from sitting out for who knows how long. This was the problem I had at every Filipino restaurant I went to, cold to lukewarm food. I also found it to be very salty.

After dinner we walked around to see if there were any interesting bars around, with no luck, and also got a feel of the downtown area.

Day 2

The Finnish guy and I both rented motorbikes and cruised to Corella to visit the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. Tarsiers are the smallest monkeys in the world and have huge eyes because they are nocturnal. The guide just walked us around a small patch of woods and pointed out four of them. I got a bunch of pictures in, and checked that off my to do list. The next stop was the Chocolate Hills.

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Tarsier

I really enjoyed riding the motorbike and feeling a sense of freedom. It was the first day on my trip I finally felt like I broke away from the mundane activities in my life and the busy of the city, which can really wear me down. Feeling the wind against my body, with music playing in my ears, and just having some time to think as I drove through this beautiful landscape was something I needed. One attraction that I happen to drive through on the way to the Chocolate Hills was the Man Made Forest, which is mostly made up of Mahogany trees. Basically, it is just a reforestation project created after all the trees in that area were cut down. This was still pretty cool to see and drive through.

When I arrived at the Chocolate Hills, it was a nice little break from riding. My butt was feeling it pretty good! We paid our entrance fee and then hiked up a small hill of stairs to the lookout point. I was able to get some pretty sweet shots. When this was over, we tried to get a move on to beat the sunset back to the hostel, which we were unable to do. But, I did get some nice sunset pics going down into the water!

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Bohol Island Sunset

Day 3 & 4

I ended up going it alone the rest of the trip because my Finnish friend was a bit under the weather. I decided to ride around Panglao Island, which is just a small bridge crossing away from Bohol Island. First I went to the Hinagdanan Cave. I thought there would be more to it, but all it was was a big cavern. The cool thing was that you could swim in it. I did not end up partaking, but there were about 10 young kids having a great time jumping off the rocks into the cave pool, and then getting out and jumping back in. I remember I was like that when I was a kid. My siblings, cousins, and I would go to the local swimming park every day during the summer.

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Hinagdanan Cave, Panglao Island

After seeing this cave, I then headed to Alona beach. There I went out and tried getting some sun for about an hour, so I could avoid burning, and then I just hung out at a little beach bar. The next day I would do the same. Go to Alona Beach and then hang at the beach bar for a couple beers. The second day I did attempt to go to White Beach, which is supposed to be much better, but I realized it was more of a locals beach and it did not have the beach bars and restaurants set up like Alona beach. I’m not much of a beach person, but I did fit some time in on this trip!

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Alone Beach, Panglao Island

That night I went out for a Filipino BBQ. Basically, there are a bunch of buckets full of different meats on a stick that you pick from. Then they are re-fired on a grill and covered with BBQ sauce. I found the sauce to be pretty good, but again the food’s core temp just wasn’t were I’d like my meat to be. Of course I could probably have had them throw it on the fire longer, but the place was packed and the last thing I wanted to be is even more of a foreigner than I already am.

Another interesting thing that happened at this dinner was a number of kids coming up to us rubbing their bellies with their hands out. One of the girls that was with us was suffering from food poisoning and had decided not to eat her meat. She gave it to one of the kids and they ran away not wanting it. One kid did take it and tried to share it with his friends, but none of them were interested. Another reason why I don’t give money to people begging. Many do eat fine. They may not have the best living conditions, but it is impossible to give to everyone. Also, when people see you give to one, suddenly you are swarmed.

These same kids came up to us about 5 times, but suddenly I heard a hiss from the people at the other table and the kids scampered away pretty quickly. I’ll have to do some research on what that was all about. I’m guessing it means, “Go the beep away!”

One last thing I did try was balut. Balut is a duck egg that is going through it’s gestation period. The egg I ate was about 16-17 days old. I guess this is the best age to eat them. Some people do eat it up to about 21-24 days old when the beak and bones have started forming. Lets just say it tasted edible, but I don’t think I will eat again. I’m glad I had a soda with me, because I needed something to wash it down with. I also ate it with the dude from Finland. We had planned to do it together since the first day we had met. Without doing it in a group setting, I probably would not have tried it. I also had a chance to sit with some local university age girls eating balut and was able to ask different cultural questions that I had going on in my head from my trip. I guess balut is good brain food too!

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Tarsier

Day 5

The night before, my new friends from Scotland and Poland checked in to my hostel. They pretty much went everywhere I should have over the course of the last week. So, if I come back to the Philippines, I may have to follow their little trip path! I would have joined them for the day, but I had already seen the sights they were going to see. I ended up taking a long moped ride.

Since I had this extra day, I wanted to try and be productive. I decided to ride to Anda, which is about 107 km away. Its a little peninsula that can be reached by following the southern road along the coast. It really was a great ride, even though my rear-end was so sore from the ride! My destination was Lamanok Island. I though it would just be an overlook, take a picture, and head back sort of trip. But, there was a little stand set up off the side of the road with a girl’s head peering out from behind the desk. I turned around my bike because I had passed the stand not thinking much about it and stopped to talk to her. I guess there was a tour to Lamanok Island by boat with a tour guide showing me the caves on the island. I asked if any other tourists had come today, and I guess I was the only one except for a Korean guy in the morning. I’m not sure what his story was because when I was brought to the boathouse, there he was passed out listening to Korean radio. I thought to myself that maybe he was working of a soju bender!

The guide lead me on to a boat and he paddled us off to this island. We had to get out in an area of water that went half way up my leg, so good thing I was just wearing sandals. The water was so warm too and I sort of wished I was swimming in it. The man lead me into the forest and up to some caves. All the caves he showed me were used for burials or Shamanic rituals. It was really neat seeing all the volcanic rock formations and fossilized clams and fish everywhere. One interesting piece of history he mentioned was that it wasn’t the Spanish who “discovered” the Philippines. He said that people from the Middle East had come long before and they were also trading with countries like China before the Spanish too. Another case of history misrepresented by those who write it.

After the tour, I gave the receptionist girl a ride to her home about a km up the road and made my way back to Tagbilaran City. It was about 4pm at this point because I got on the road late and I needed to try and get back before 6pm when the sun was setting. I didn’t feel like driving when it’s dark.

That pretty much sums up my time on Bohol. I will take a ferry tomorrow and fly to Manila. In Manila, I will stay at the same guesthouse I was at before because they were really great. The place was clean and I didn’t come across any cockroaches. Hopefully I won’t have any issues at the airport with transportation. I’ll have one full day in Manila, but I don’t plan to go anywhere in town. I have an MBA class starting and want to just get a jump on that and take it easy on my end of trip spending.

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Cebu City, Philippines

Day 1

After my travel day from Manila to Cebu, I was looking forward to seeing what Cebu City was like. I have a couple of full days here, so I was hoping to make the most of my time before my next destination. Honestly though, if you come here, just do one full day and hop off to someplace more interesting. There is a lot of hustle here (not as bad as Manila), so if you need a place to just chill out, you should leave the city quickly.

I got a late start as usual and headed to a few of the main attractions in Cebu City. I pretty much walked about a mile down one of the main roads from my hostel to get there. It was hot! People wonder why I don’t always take the public transportation. Three reasons… The first is that I like getting a little exercise that I normally lack in my daily life. When I travel I’m easily putting on 20,000 steps or more (according to Apple). Second, it allows me to essentially stop and smell the coffee (and believe me the smells are far from anything resembling coffee) and feel the buzz in the air. Third, I like to avoid scams and sometimes can’t be bothered if I’m unsure how to do something.

As I made my way through the crowded sidewalks of people trying to sell me something or beg for money, I came to Basilica Minore del Santo Nino de Cebu. There was a mass going on that had people flooding out into the streets. I recalled thinking to myself that if us American Catholics showed that kind of devotion to our faith, I perhaps could see myself finding religion again… or maybe not. Either way, it is interesting to smell a strong Catholic essence in the air. Reminds me of Catholic school growing up.

Just around the corner there was the Magellan’s Cross and another block away the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. After viewing these places, I then made my way a couple more blocks down to Fort San Pedro. From there, the Heritage of Cebu Monument. This was really all there was to see in the area, other than a couple of museums. I was pretty tired of walking and the heat, so I headed back to the hostel for the night.

Day 2

Today I planned to go to Tops Lookout, the Temple of Leah, and Taoist Temple Cebu. First, this involved taking a walk for about a mile to JY-Square where I could pick up a motorbike taxi. This is a much cheaper option and cost me 300 pesos ($6.35) round trip (Lonely Planet said it would be 200 pesos). Also, it’s always fun taking a bike ride up and down a mountain road.

I should have started my day a little bit earlier because Tops Lookout was just fog. I even ended up paying the admission fee, which was stupid. Next down to the Temple of Leah. This place was pretty cool and there was a much better view over the city. This place was only partially constructed, but it looks like it will be pretty nice when it is completed.

Lastly, the motor bike dude took me to the Taoist Temple and then stranded me there. Not happy about that. I was only about a mile from my hostel anyways, so I decided just to huff it back.

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Taoist Temple of Cebu

That’s pretty much my two days in Cebu City. I found it pretty boring, partly because I had no interaction with other travelers. My hostel lounge was just dead, except for the twenty Korean teenagers that stayed there night number two. I head to Bohol Island by ferry tomorrow, so I hope to finally find a beach and meet some new people to drink and cruise around with.

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Manila, Philippines

 I chose to come to Manila this January because I was able to get round trip tickets for about $180 last August. Like last year, I chose the cheapest flight I could find from Korea and went with it. People sometimes ask why I don’t just save up and go to a place I really want to go. Well, my problem is I want to go everywhere and one of the most expensive parts of traveling can be just getting there. Plus, economies and change rates are always changing. It’s not a bad idea to assess where one can go and get the biggest bang for their buck.

Day 1

When I got to Manila International Airport (has a different name, but too lazy to look it up), everything was fine until I stepped outside. The traffic was horrendous. It probably didn’t help that I flew in on a Friday, mid afternoon, on a holiday weekend. I didn’t think about this when I booked my ticket! Saturday was the Feast of the Black Nazarene. This festival attracts over 3 million people. So, at the airport there were no taxis and a line of people waiting for a taxi that stretched on forever. I ended up getting persuaded into taking a shuttle van for 2,000 Pesos ($42) because I didn’t know what else to do. I also ended up sitting in traffic for about 4 hours and finally said I would just hike it to my hostel and hit up a McDonald’s before my bladder was about to burst. I don’t think I have ever been in a more congested and crazy driving situation in my life. Seriously, the driving here is so screwed up!

After McDonald’s, I walked through the neighborhood of Makati. This is basically the red-light district. As you walk through, prostitutes are trying to get your attention, along with poor kids trying to get money, or someone else trying to sell any number of items from water to cigs. I did finally make it to my hostel and also found I was basically in the middle of Korea town too Many of the restaurants and marts in the area were all Korean, including the signage. And I mean scary identical. For example, there was nothing in a small supermarket that wasn’t Korean and it had nearly an identical set up to the market near my home in Korea. Also, I then started to notice a lot of Korean men walking around. No Korean women (I wonder why?). I realized pretty quickly that this neighborhood is for Korean men to come and have the comforts of home while paying for the pleasures and company of Philipeano women. You catch my drift!

After I checked in to my hostel, I decided to hang out down in the lobby for a bit. Here I met a Scottish guy and his Polish girlfriend. They had also just arrived and we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood together to get our bearings and have a few beers.

Day 2

I got up and headed down to the lobby around noon. Right away I ran into Steven, the Scottish fellow. I found out where some old Spanish buildings were in the city, so we all decided to go check out some history. We took a cab there and got to see Fort Santiago, the Cathedral of Manila, Church of San Agustin, and a number of other historical buildings as we walked through the old neighborhood. Honestly, the driving and hustle and bustle of Manila is crazy, so being in an area that was much more relaxing was nice. But, it didn’t come without the annoyances of people trying to sell me on a small tour around the area at every corner I turned.

That night, the Scottish/Polish couple and I decided to go out for a Korean BBQ. It was cool to show them something I know very well. I was amazed at how authentic tasting all the food was. It was also their first taste of soju. That didn’t feel good the next morning, which is also authentic. It was also interesting to watch some of the Korean men interact with their Philipeano girls. All of the men I witnessed projected a superior arrogance. I feel bad for the women who married these a-holes.

Day 3

I spent most of the day just trying to figure out where to go next, which was really stressing me out. I was supposed to check-out, but extended my stay one more night. I finally decided to book a fight to Cebu for $125. That’s what I get for booking the day before and not planning ahead. Still, I can live with that price and I look forward to getting out of Manila to see something new tomorrow! I was originally going to take a night bus to a place with whale sharks to dive with, but read that recently many ventures out to find them have failed. I guess I can do that near Cebu anyways, so we’ll see when that time comes!

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