Archive for September, 2011
Day 20 Travel to Malapascau
The day after our adventure tour we had a LONG day of travel to get us from Panglao to the ferry (600p, 30min) for a 9:30 ferry ride (550each) to get us back to Cebu. Once in Cebu we had a taxi take us the 2 or so hours to get from Cebu to Maya (2500p). Our driver stopped about ½ way for the cheapest lunch we have had so far – 130p for three of us to eat – even had some vegetables!
We were really glad we bypassed Cebu. Neither one of us are fans of city life and what we saw just solidified our desire to stay far away. Loud, dirty and crowded. Smack dab in the middle of the city we saw naked kids bathing in the street/gutters. Nothing like seeing how other people live to help you appreciate what you have.
We arrived at Maya port and was greeted by a boat captain explaining that the ferry would go when there are 26 passengers or we could pay 1500p and go immediately. We were the only white people there, the rest of the passengers were all Filipinos. We decided to wait a bit and then “miraculously” there were 15 people ready to go and now we could go for just 1000p. Oh, and of course the 100p to get us and our luggage to the boat. I guess that is cheaper baggage costs than the airlines. We jumped on board and were given the center most seats, “first class”. Chris and I wouldn’t be surprised if we were the only ones who actually paid a fare.
We felt a little bit scammed but were tired from the 8 hours of travel so far just wanted to get there. Plus, when you really look at it, 1000p is about $24US. It’s not that we mind paying, we would just prefer that the price is the price.
When we arrived and had some porters take our luggage without us really asking and then carry it to meet our friends, and then of course ask for money. Our friends had sorted out a cottage for us on Malapascau at White Sands, it the best cottage we have stayed in so far. 09058615616 is the number if you want to stay. We paid 1000, had a nice view of the bay, an upstairs, nice bathroom where everything worked and a big porch. The only thing that wasn’t good was there was loud music on Bounty Beach the two nights we stayed. A big turnoff from the entire place actually as you could hear it from any accomodations near by. Again, bring earplugs! Seriously – we never found a place to buy them.
Malapascau was nice, a dive resort island at the northern tip of Cebu. It doesn’t have any cars, some motorbikes if I remember correctly. We also went to Bantayan and Malapascau wins hands down.
Day 20 – Danao Adventure Park
This was a good day. Chris had heard that there was a swing in the Philippines and we found out that it was on Bohol.
If you don’t know, Chris started the Canyon Swing in New Zealand so he takes full advantage of checking out all the fun adventures that are offered.
It was a 2 ½ hour car ride from Panglao. We left about 8am and paid 3500 for the car and driver for the day. The drive was pretty and we saw plenty of chocolate hills along the way.
It’s weird having a driver. I feel bad making them wait – we were at the park from about 10 am to 3:30pm – so a long day for our driver to hang out and wait for us. We arrived at EAT Danao Adventure Park (Extreme/Eco/Educational Adventure Tour) and checked out all the activities you could do – the Plunge, Suislide, kayaking, caving, rappelling, climbing, etc and picked out the swing and the zipline and the caving.
For two people it cost 2800p (700, 250, 550 respectively). We did the plunge and it was fun, not as good as Chris’, not as scary as you don’t jump yourself. They yell: “Three, two, one, bombs away!” After that we did two zip lines across the canyon. We had to lay down and face down in our harnesses which was a cool view point.
We finished those two activities and it was about 11:15 am so we snuck in some kayaking since our caving didn’t start till 12:30. The kayaking was ok – water buffalo, flat water, nothing too exciting but it killed an hour and was only 200p each.
Our caving tour started at 12:30 and was actually a highlight of our day. We went with 8 people and three guides. It involved a bit of climbing, crawling, submersion and squatting. We went about 250m to the back of it, saw some cool rock formations and got lots of pictures. Most of the visitors at the park were Philippinos, it seems to be a very local holiday.
If you have never done something like that before I would definitely recommend checking out Danao Adventure park – it was a great way to spend a day. If you have done lots of adventure items you’ll probably find it pretty low key.
Day 19 – Chocolate Hills and Bohol Tour
As we are becoming more and more aware things work differently here than they do where we are from. Everytime you walk on the beach you get hounded by guys on the wanting to take you on tours. Depending on where you are you start thinking your name might actually be “taxi”, “dolphin watch”, “island hopping” or when you are on Bohol “chocolate hills.” We finally organized one with a guy on the beach for 2500p. He basically called us a taxi and was our “guide”. The taxi cost probably 2000 and our “guide” was 500. We didn’t really need a “guide” – as we basically just got driven from place to place and honestly our taxi driver was more of a guide than our “guide” was. Similar to our van ride from El Nido to PP we felt a bit duped. If you jumped in any taxi you could have easily said – take me on the chocolate hills tour. Our “guide” took a few pictures for us.
The chocolate hills are one of those “must do’s” while on Bohol, so being the good tourists that we are we went got it done. There are a handful of sights you’ll see on your tour. We skipped a few of them. We are fast tourists. We skipped the blood compact and the church. We drove through the man made forest which was pretty and then headed to the chocolate hills. I thought they were pretty but wouldn’t make a special drive out to see them again. After that it started raining so we got wet at the butterfly place (the Bellagio’s was better) and the bamboo bridge (pretty cool). Everything costs extra money – 10p for the bridge, 50 or so for the hills, 50p for the butterflies, etc.
It was finally lunch time and we headed to Lobuc River for our river cruise and lunch. It was touristic. Is that a word? It is now. We loaded onto a boat with a bunch of other tourists, ate a pretty decent buffet lunch and then cruised up the river on this big barge. It was… pleasant. We stopped at another pontoon to watch some children singing and dancing (give a donation) which was the ultimate in cheese (but I guess also some culture as they were doing some native dances) and continued our cruise up to a “waterfall” which was pretty much a class 5 rapid. Chris and I laughed most of the trip at the cheesiness of it all. After the cruise we went to check out the tarsiers. I didn’t want to pay to see a small primate in a cage and our driver took us to the sanctuary (50p) and we saw 4.
If you can’t stand doing touristy things skip the chocolate hills tour and river cruise. This was not a highlight of our trip. If you don’t have a ton of time in the Philippines there are probably better ways to spend your days.
Day 18 – Panglao tour
Chris and I headed back to Panglao, just off of Bohol and our friends stayed one more night on Balicasag to do a dive. We checked back into Bohol Divers Club and this time upgraded to a room with electricity – it was that or the step BELOW the fan room… you mean it gets worse? I’m not too picky about where we stay but I had barely walked into that tiny economy room with the ratty wallpaper, dim light bulb, and the small, hard single beds and turned to Chris and told him we needed to upgrade. I can’t remember the price – maybe the cheap one was $10 and the nice one was $30. I’m worth it, right?
We hired a tricycle and went to lunch at the Bohol Bee Farm which I really enjoyed. It was a 200p tricycle ride.
I had an organic spicy flower salad which was yummy and pretty and some pasta and basil iced tea. Everything was really tasty.
After that we wanted to see the Bohol Beach Club Resort and their white sand beach. It wasn’t really all that amazing and we were quite happy we were staying where we were, we liked Panglao and would stay there again. The beach infront of the Beach Club and Resort was covered in sea weed and lots of people everywhere. That night, back near the hotel, we enjoyed a nice massage on the beach which knocked Chris and I both out for the count.
Day 15 – Relax then explore Balicasag
After a full day of travel yesterday all I wanted to do was relax, read, jump in the pool and do a workout. I got a good workout done in the morning and then had some internet time. We had met back up with our friends, but one was really sick. Chris decided we were going to rent a boat and head to Balicasag Island to check it out and do some snorkeling.
We got over there, snorkeled, it was awesome! The water was clear and warm, the reef was alive, there was a huge drop off of the reef, saw tons of fish, some big ones even.
After that we checked out the island, grabbed some lunch, and found the two accommodation options. We had a choice of a fan room with limited electricity or a hotel with a pool, a restaurant, AC and electricity. We chose to go fancy and stay at Balicasag Island Dive Resort for 2500p a night it was well worth it. Plus with one of our friends still feeling pretty sick the cool air would feel WAY more comfortable.
We headed back to Bohol Divers Club, ate another very mediocre dinner and called it a night, looking forward to our two days ahead on Balicasag.
Day 16 and 17 – Balicasag
I had some Beachbody work to do in the morning. I was going to be without internet for 2 days so wanted to get a bit caught up. We were on our way back to Balicasag at 10am to check into our cottage.
Everyone but me was ready for a nap after we had lunch. I swam, read and snorkeled and hung out. When our friends woke up we went for a snorkel, saw trigger fish, big yellow/black/white fish, pretty blue and rainbow fish, a lion fish (my first one!). It was a fantastic day. Read in the hammock, wrote, and had a great dinner of chicken, pineapple and mushroom. This quickly became a highlight of our trip. Quiet, peaceful and relaxing. Not
sure if it beats out El Nido or not, maybe you can help me decide…
Day 13 Underground River
I had heard that the Underground River was one of the not to be missed trips in Palawan. We booked it through the hotel for 1500p/person. We got picked up a little after 8am then spent about an hour going around town picking up the rest of the customers. Then we had about an hour and a half drive to Sabang.
Sabang was really nice – nice beach, decent lunch and a pretty boat ride to the underground river.
Next we saw some big lizards and waited a while before going into the actual river.
The cave was pretty cool inside, pics really don’t capture it. You float the river for around 1.5km. Not as cool as Waitomo Caves in New Zealand It was totally touristy, but hey, we’re tourists!
If we did this trip again we would have just booked a ride to Sabang and spend a night there. The beach was great, there was hiking, it was more pleasant than Puerto Princessa and we could have done just the Underground River as a 1/2 day trip instead of spending hours in the car.
That night we had a great dinner at Kalui’s – coconut eel and veggie plate. By this point in the trip I was over loud noises – loud motorbikes, loud boats, loud music. I just want quiet. My stomach still wasn’t feeling great which doesn’t help the situation.
Day 14 Travel day PP to Cebu to Bohol to Panglao
After spending three nights at La Charica in PP I was thankful that it was going to be my last free “breakfast” which consisted of 1/2 a banana, a piece of stale white toast and a cold fried egg. Uck. It wasn’t until our very last day that we actually found a decent place to eat breakfast next to One Rover’s Place – we would have been there everyday.
We had an appointment to extend our Visa and got that sorted out in about 30 minutes. We had to bring a photo copy of passport and entry stamp, fill out the form, pay your 3000ish pesos and you got your extension. Our friends did it in Cebu and it took longer. I compare it to going to the DMV in a small town versus a big town.
We flew Cebu Pacific from PP to Cebu (left at 12:40pm, arrive 1:50 – about 3000p each). It was a fine flight. Not sure why we needed to be at the airport 2 hours early but not going to mess with it. The airlines are pretty strict on baggage – if you paid for 15kg you aren’t going to get more than 15kg. We arrived in Cebu, got our bags and got a taxi to head immediately to Pier 1 (300p) to get our ferry (Ocean Jet) that left at 3:35 to Tagbilaran on Bohol. Timing wise it worked out great, we had about 20 minutes to wait in the ferry terminal after buying tickets. The main complaint was the absolutely horrible, LOUD, gory movie they played on the boat, Dayroamers or something like that. Somehow I escaped into my book, and surprisingly even took a nap. We arrived in Bohol, grabbed a cab (600p, 30min) to Alona Beach where we met our friends at Bohol Dive Club. (800p fan room). It’s not a bad place, right on the beach, really hard beds in the fan rooms and paper thin walls but location works and they have a pool and wifi. They had many room options for upgrades. We ate a mediocre diner at the hotel and pretty much called it a night.
Day 11 Travel from El Nido to Puerto Princessa
El Nido was great and I would definitely go back. It was our favorite spot in all of the Philippines. When we first arrived we really liked it and were excited to do all four tours. That changed after the second day due to a few different factors.
1. Chris had a meeting coming up that required internet access which was tough with the electricity being off most of the day
2. We were all kind of tired of being on load boats
3. Two of us weren’t feeling 100% after getting a little stomach bug
4. Weather for the day wasn’t looking amazing, rain was coming
Chris proposed that we just leave that morning and we all said – sure! I went back and found a van to take us to Puerto Princessa. We opted to split a private van, with AC that would be ready to leave in an hour. We found one for 6,000pesos – which later found out the booking office kept about 2,000pesos – which hardly pays for the gas and time the driver spent taking us to PP. This will come to be a norm while traveling through the Philippines. The road was part dirt road, part paved. The drive was fine. We stopped for lunch just in time to watch the last part of the Mosley vs Pacquiao at a tiny little restaurant on a small tv.
We went back to the same hotel at Puerto Princessa. It was nice to have internet, electricity, AC and flushing toilets. Not excited about being back in the crazy traffic of Puerto Princessa. It’s pretty entertaining.
This is just a typical day, on a typical corner in PP. Love it!
Day 12 Massage and chill
Chris had his meeting this morning. After Chris’ meeting we went looking for some more food, phone cards, a post office and the immigration office to extend our Visa. When you come into the Philippines you can get a 21 day visitor visa and can extend pretty easy for a longer visit. After that we headed back to the hotel until I got hungry and needed a snack. I was STARVING and finally I found some meat on a stick so I asked if it was chicken and the guy said yes so I ordered two. Chris came up to me looked at what was getting grilled up for me and the rest goes like this:
Chris: You know that’s a chicken head.
Mandy: No it isn’t, is it? (He’s always messing with me)
Mandy: (takes first bite and something juicy and liquid pops out) Ewww, what’s that?
Chris: That’s its eye.
Mandy: (spits out chicken head and throws the rest in the trash)
Chris laughed at me until I found him fried banana pancakes. Sometimes he still laughs at me because of this story.
Click here if you missed Part 1 of Coron.
Day 7 – Wreck Diving
The rest of the group wanted to do a dive and I just went out on the boat. We went with Rock Steady Divers, a German company and they did three dives. I was able to snorkel at the first site and would have been able to snorkel at the third but chose to jump ship and head back to town after the second dive to catch up on some internet stuff. Kind of disappointed that I didn’t do the third snorkel as it turned out to be their favorite of the three but glad to have a shorter day. It was a long day for me out on the boat, not being a diver. Chris looks great in neoprene – don’t you think?
This was our last full day in Coron. Overall it probably got a 3 1/2 out of 5 for me as far as places in the Philippines. I think my friends got more out of it as they are divers.
The highlights were definitely the day trip to Coron Island -MUST do, hiking Mt. Tapayas and the hot springs. If you aren’t a diver 2 days is probably enough time – unless you wanted to go to the nature park.
Town is LOUD and busy – we were really glad we stayed out of town at Sunz en Coron. We liked it enough
We would eat at Mannekin Pis again for sure.
Day 8 – Ride the Joe
We had booked a boat from Coron to El Nido with Ride the Joe (2200p) and had to meet the boat at the pier at 8am. El Nido has no ATMs so we needed to make sure we had enough cash for the week and to get us back to Puerto Princessa. We made it on to the boat quarter to 8 but had to wait for the coast guard to check us which took until quarter to 10. It’s just part of the procedure so we had to suck it up. The Joe had plenty of food and clean drinking water and was moderately comfortable – use the lifejackets as pillows and cushions, it wasn’t too full or crowded which was nice, we were able to stretch out on the top. Our bags stayed dry and secure on the top covered by a tarp. The ride took 7 hours and was pretty. We considered doing an overnight boat at one point but glad we did it during the day. I say all of this because as we did our research for other boat companies we heard a bunch of negative stuff about the Joe but come to find out it was basically a sabotage because he stopped docking the boat in water too shallow at the Sea Dive Resort, so they are spreading rumors about how The Joe is unsafe. By the way – the Joe also has two motors – something VERY useful if one dies in the middle of the ocean.
We made it into El Nido and had found out there were some decent beach cottages, Hadafe’s towards one end of town. I called a lady named Diana and arranged for her to meet us and take us there. I got a good feeling for the town right off the bat, much nicer than Coron town in my opinion. We headed to Hadafe’s and were shown our simple beach cottage for 700p a night. It has the best view of the sunset, no electricity from 2 am to 6pm, a simple bed, cold shower, toilet (non flushing) and small porch with outside sink. It’s a lot like camping – just in a bigger tent. I like it more than I thought I would.
That night we grabbed dinner at a restaurant on the way into town. The food was good but they were slammed and missing a staff person so it took over an hour to get three veggie curries and a rice dish. Other than that it was fine.
Day 4 – Flying to Coron
We woke up early in Puerto Princessa pretty much used the day to search out money. Many ATMs only let you take out 4000-10000 pesos a day and many were empty due to a holiday weekend. Our flight left for Coron at 1:50 but it actually left when everyone was there and on the plane, about 40 min early. A big surprise actually. The airport in Coron is 30 min drive from Coron town where all the accommodations, restaurants, etc are. You don’t get your own cab, instead there will be about 5-6 shuttles and you’ll share it with anyone else who happens to get in. I enjoyed the back seat to see the view of where we were although I was crammed in with the luggage.
The van was comfortable and the ride was fine. 150pesos per person. Tell the driver where you want to get off and he’ll take you there. We checked in to Sunz en Coron, took a dip in the pool and headed to town.
The hotel was a bit out of town – 10peso tricycle ride per person. That night we met up with MJ a couchsurfer and tour guide at a restaurant called Manekin Pis. Really good burgers, would definitely recommend going here.
Day 5 Hike, chill out, hot springs
I woke up early and headed out to hike Mt. Tapayas before it got to hot. 719 steps to the top and nice view of town. Good to get my heartrate up.
Came back to the hotel to play on the internet a bit, jump in the pool and then Chris and I went to the Manquit hot springs. Really cool tricycle ride through the other part of Coron town – 150p each r/t from the hotel. The hot springs were pretty and a nice place to hang out. 100p entrance fee. Nice view of the water. Would definitely recommend going there.
Day 6 – Coron Island
Today was dedicated to a tour of Coron Island. First stop was Kayagan Lake – very cool seeing the limestone cliffs especially how they wear down at the bottom and hang over the edge.
Next stop was Baracuda Lake – different temps of water made it interesting.
We had lunch at twin lagoon and did some snorkeling. Then to skeleton island for a snorkel of a wreck and finally off to Atawayan Beach – nice place for a sunset but we didn’t make it that long. It was a loooong day.
We were back about 5 but could have stayed out later if we wanted to watch the sunset. Knowing how long it takes to get food from a restaurant we chose to just head to dinner. The tour with was good but we didn’t NEED a guide – most of the boat drivers know where to take the tourists.
This me FINALLY putting together my travel journal from our trip to the Phillipines and Bali in May/June, 2011. We traveled 4 weeks in the Philippines and 2 in Bali. Here were the first 3 days.
Day 1 QT>ChCh>KL>Hotel
We left Queenstown, NZ about 7 am to head to the airport to catch a plane to Christchurch, NZ where we had a 6 hour layover. While in ChCh I went to the Antartic Exhibit for $65NZ. It was ok but a lot more money than I think I got out of it. Rode in a hagland and the 4D movie was beautiful but the 4D aspect of it was basically get squirted a handful of times. I probably wouldn’t go back or recommend spending the money unless you are REALLY REALLY interested in Antarctica. I think I would have gotten more out of it using the audio guide but for $65 I think it should have been included.
Because of the cheap flights on Air Asia we just wanted to GET to Asia and booked the flight to KL before we even decided on going to the Philippines.
Day 2 – Explore KL
After very little exercise the last 24 hours or so I took advantage of the gym at the Novotel and got a workout in. Walked around KL for most of the day. Saw China Town (went too early in the am) then went to one of the big malls in Bacuit Square. 10 stories of the same stores over and over again. Got our feet cleaned by fish – very cool and tickly and rode the roller coaster. The roller coaster was fun but not amazing. Headed BACK to China Town to see one of the famous temples in town then back to the hotel. I went on my own to see the Twin Towers in KL then called it a night after some dinner.
Day 3 KL>Clark>Manila to Puerto Princessa
Another huge travel day. Woke up at 4:30, left at 5 for another hour long taxi ride back to the airport, and a 3 ½ hour flight to Clark. We landed in Clark and had to take a cab (reserved through Avis) to Manila. It took 2 hours on a Saturday afternoon to go the 70k. The traffic wasn’t too bad – but the driving was unlike anything I had seen before. Everyone turned 3 lanes into 4-5 swerving in and out, but it was all very calm and it wasn’t scary. We were nervous about getting to the Manila airport because we heard it could take 4 hours in bad traffic. Made it to PP and headed to our hotel via tricycle. Arrived at One Rovers Place but they didn’t have any room for us even though we booked on line and was charged through Agoda. The arranged for us to stay at another hotel, shuttled us over there and we had a pleasant stay at La Charinga (?)
Small room, fast internet and close to town, but off the main drag. Ate at Balinsasaya Restaurant. Due to a bank holiday and the weekend we had problems getting money out of the ATM that night in Puerto Princessa.
Lessons learned -
Be ready for terminal fees in all Philippine’s airports – cash!
Cash is king in Palawan! Bring Philippine Peso’s BEFORE you leave!
Travel with US$$
Make sure to know what airport you are flying in and out of in Manila – there are two and about 2-4 hours apart depending on traffic.
Don’t buy 3 Heineken’s at the bar at the Novotel – $50US… WHAT???