Day 9 – Tour A
Gold Star Day. I woke up about 6 am and arranged a tour with Emil (from Hadafe’s) to take us island hopping. Call Emil at 09209815699.
Here are some basics if you are heading to El Nido for the snorkling trips
There are 4 main tours that everyone offers they are Tours A, B, C, or D. A and C offer snorkeling, B is mostly shore and caves and D I think is a half day tour. Most tour prices include lunch- which was fresh, local and amazing and normally includes snorkel gear. But best if you at least bring your own snorkel. And earplugs – bring LOTS of earplugs for the Philippines – we couldn’t find them ANYWHERE to buy.
Today we chose Tour A and our first stop took us to Small Lagoon on Miniloc Island which was really cool. We swam in found a couple really cool caves and headed back to the boat. Wish we took the waterproof camera in that one. Next was Big Lagoon, also on Miniloc Island which we just took the boat around in and didn’t swim on. Also really pretty. After that we headed to Entalula Island were Emil and Elby cooked an incredible lunch of squid, crab and fish, with salad, fruit and rice. We had the beach to ourselves. After lunch headed to Shimizu Island where we docked in the water and snorkeled some more. Emil took us around and we saw a lobster, more starfish, some big fish, really cool heart like coral that was bright orange with purple veins, big rose like/flower like coral, and watched Emil pick up jellyfish and throw them away so we wouldn’t get stung. It was some really great snorkeling. After that we actually headed to Snake Island (which I think is part of tour B) and headed up a small hill to a cool lookout. Snake Island gets it’s name because of the long sandbar that looks like a snake tail. It was pretty cool. One more stop at 7 Commandos (Buena Suerte) which is very near to El Nido for one last snorkel. This tour was a full day from about 9am-4pm. There was a total of eight of us on the boat.
That night Chris and I had dinner at the Alternative Café and had two really great meals – I had Banana Heart Curry and Chris had chicken Adobo. It was a really cool restaurant – no shoes upstairs and you could sit in a “birds nest” overlooking the ocean. Great vibe, good food – will totally go back. It was nice to have a night to ourselves and Chris had an awesome massage as well.
Day 10 Tour C
Today we started out with breakfast at Hadafe’s. It was great – eggs, toast, fruit and tea sitting out admiring our view. We met up with Emil to do tour C today at 9am. Slightly different – same idea of tour a but different stops. It was a great tour but we were a bit “toured out” after having spent the last 4 or 5 days on small, loud boats. The highlights of this tour was hidden beach which was our first stop, secret beach where we had to swim through a small opening and ended up in a circular area with a small beach – really cool. After that we went around Matinloc Island and had lunch, (chicken instead of crab today) and snorkeled at a place with a giant drop off wall. We headed over towards heliopter island but Survivor Swenden was being filmed so had to do a different stop for more snorkeling and then to a pretty beach not far from El Nido. Got home about 5pm, showered and then headed to The Alternative for dinner again.
Day 31 – Shopping day
Our first day in Kuta was just to get a feel for the area which was loud, crowded, busy and full of shops. We spent the morning with breakfast overlooking the pool, buying fresh fruit on the beach, lunch at the Rainbow cafe and checking out the shops.
Day 32 – Off to Ubud
Chris had found a guy to take us to Ubud for 200,000 rupia (same as the ride from the aiport, hmm.. think we might have gotten ripped off a bit). It was a two hour ride to Ubud. We checked into the Sunti Ubud Resort – just south of all the hustle and bustle of Ubud- with a nice with a pool.
Ubud offers tons of shops, markets, restaurants, hotels, spas. We were both pretty beat and broken after two full days of wandering through towns in flip flops dodging motorbikes.
We found where Wayan from Eat, Pray, Love lives, but didn’t look amazing or exciting and ended up having a nice juice from a café across the street. I like the feel of Ubud and think I could spend more time there in a future trip. We walked through the monkey sanctuary and that was nice just to be somewhere without bikes. The monkeys are crazy!
That night for dinner we were both pretty tired and ended up eating a pizza at Pizza Bagus – it was pretty good and they also had a nice beetroot, carrot and apple juice – yum!
After our long day of travel Chris and I just wanted to get some sleep. We had booked a room at Hotel 81 and grabbed a cab at the airport. Apparently, there are two types of cabs waiting at the airport – we must have gotten in a nicer one because our ride was about $30 to the hotel, about twice as much as the other cab. We jump in and say we want to go to Hotel 81, Geylang. What learned a couple things very quickly from the cab driver.
1. There is a Hotel 81 on just about every street in Singapore, sometimes more.
2. Hotel 81 is a “love hotel”.
3. Don’t stay in Geylang, apparently it’s the red light district.
Looks like we’re going to be in for an exciting night in the red light district of Singapore. We had read some reviews confirming it was in the red light district but most people still seemed to have a pleasant enough stay. We were literally going to sleep about 8 hours and explore Singapore in the morning. We finally found the correct hotel but had to wait a while before checking in because there was some random guy asking the clerk how much the rooms are for every night of the week and explaining that they were cheaper the last time he was there, which was probably a few years ago. The clerk explained that they had gone up in price for the weekend but the guy still asked over and over again. It’s about 2am, Chris and I just want to get some sleep and here is this guy arguing that the price of the room is more expensive on Friday’s than Wednesday’s. Overall, the room wasn’t bad but I sure was glad not to be spending multiple nights there. At 2am there were still tons of people out and about, but I didn’t feel unsafe, scared or nervous. Kind of reminded me of downtown Freemont street area in Vegas. Not the best area but not the worst. It was also relatively cheap. Singapore is more comparable to American prices than Philippine prices.
Day 30 Singapore explore
We had most of the day to explore Singapore before flying out that evening to Bali.
First stop was Clarke Quay. It was Saturday so nothing was open that early in the morning. We wandered around until we found a Starbucks that was open and had a light breakfast. After that we wandered some more, checked out the Art at the Ritz Carlton and then went to the top of the Marina Bay Sands building which was actually really cool. Amazing infinity pool, restaurant, very cool view of the city. It was worth the $20 to check it out.
After that we headed to the marina near Sentosa and saw that island from far away. It was time to head back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to the airport. On our ride back to the hotel we were told we shouldn’t have stayed where we did and that it wasn’t a good part of town. After we grabbed our bags we got in a different cab and asked to go to the airport but were unsure of which terminal. After our 20 min commute in Manila to change terminals we had learned our lesson to know which terminal we were flying out of but never got a chance to get on line before having to head to Singapore’s giant airport. We had plenty of time so weren’t worried about it and assured the cabbie we would be fine. He continued to remind us we needed to know what terminal. Fortunately we got dropped off at the right one, and even if it was the wrong one we would have been fine. Lesson learned – we’ll know our terminal. We arrived 3 hours early so had plenty of time to check out the airport – which was one of the coolest I have been in.
It had an orchid garden, statues, art, butterflies, free wi-fi, grocery stores, shopping, giant slides, gym, movie theaters. It was really cool, definitely a hightlight of our layover in Singapore.
Landing in Bali we had to buy our visas and they accept just about every currency for a $25US Visa and there are ATMs if you don’t have any cash. Got our bags and then got a cab that cost 200,000rupia, later we figured that we probably got WAY overcharged. We got dropped off at The 101 near Kuta, which was much nicer than Hotel 81. Found some dinner and called it a night
Day 28 Bike rides on Bantayan
Chris and I were both craving a bit of outdoor exercise and found a place to rent them for about 30p an hour and booked two hours. For not caring for Bantayan Island we did enjoy our bike ride. We rode through the villages, seeing massive cows, pigs being butchered on the side of the road and of course the kids playing and on the streets. We saw 4 kids on one bicycle, an entire school of children turned and yelled “hello” to us as we rode past. It was pretty cool. We aren’t sure exactly how far up we rode but got a nice view of Virgin island.
Day 29 – Travel from Bantayan>Cebu City>Manila>Singapore
This was probably one of our worst days traveling –not horrible but just long, exhausting and unfair.
We’ve gotten used to being overcharged and get that most of the people are “brokers” for their friend/cousin/brother/neighboy. I just felt that Cebu was the place that we felt the most ripped off, starting from our boat trip to Malapascau, to our “island hopping” and then the upcoming taxi ride to Cebu City.
Our day was mapped out and every hour had something filling it.
6:00am wake up and go for a bike ride, followed by breakfast
8:45 Leave hotel for ferry. We kept getting hounded by one of the guys that hangs around the Blue Marlin Hotel (either Jerry or Roy) to book a taxi to take us to Cebu airport – his friend/cousin/brother Rumel has a taxi, blah blah, blah. We never commited to him but I took his number just in case.
9:00 Buy ferry ticket and try to wiggle around porters. It wasn’t as bad and didn’t have to wrestle our bags out of anyones hands this time. Check in to boat (170 per person) then pay terminal fee (10p per person) then pay some other fee to drive up next to the boat – 5p per person, have correct change if possible. The boat is a giant shipping ferry with space for 2-3 cars plus a big rig on the boat and two levels of plastic benches – nothing fancy but it got the job done. With the rougher than normal seas it was a loud and jerky crossing. We were supposed to leave at 9:30 but didn’t actually pull out till 9:42 and then because of the seas it took until about 11:10 to arrive. As long as we are in a taxi by 11:30 we should be golden to make it to the airport 2 hours in advance.
11:20 Off the boat. Look at that! Rumel has found us and tells us that he can get us a taxi for only 1500p! We explain we have a plane to catch and need to be at the airport (2 hours away) by 1:50pm. We pay Rumel who somehow decided that the cab is now 2000, I didn’t argue but should have – why 2000 when before it was 1500, and then the nerve to ask for a tip. Rumel says the taxi is just 5 min away. We wait. Don’t worry, it’s just a couple minutes. We wait. Finally after 15 minutes – here’s a taxi. It’s 11:35am, no big deal, just five minutes behind schedule, except that now we find out first the cab driver needs to grab some food for lunch. Ok, but please, make it fast. So we sit in the cab and wait. 11:45, 11:50 – ok, come on dude, 11:55 – seriously? Where IS he? I get out and track down a different porter, because of course the guy we paid to get us the cab in the first place is no where to be seen. The second porter texts the cabbie and he comes from his lunch and gets in the cab. We are frustrated and worried we are going to be late. We finally pull out of there just after noon. I did get a little chuckle, while waiting for the cab I couldn’t help but notice that American Idol was on the front page of the local newspaper.
On our ride to the airport we apologize to the cabbie for our stressed out attitude and our driver starts asking how much we paid for the ride and I hesitantly said 2000. Next thing you know I am hearing how bad this Rumel guy is and that he is only paying the cabbie 1000 (about $24US) for the two hour journey. The gas alone would cost that. What do we do? Is this a big scam that they pull together so we feel bad and give him a big tip? It makes me mad that not only is the guy ripping us off but also the cab driver. It really put a bad taste in my mouth and made me glad I never have to go back there. We were told from our cab driver that these “brokers” keep the cab drivers out of the area where the customers get off the ferry so the only way they get a fare is through this mafia system where the broker keeps a 50% commission. The cabbie explained how if he were to drive his car into this area the guys would have slashed his tires or broken the windows. It made me sick to know I was a part of it but what am I supposed to do?
We made it to the airport, tipped the cabbie and checked in for our flight to Manila, and paid our Cebu terminal fee of 200p.
We got to Manila probably about 5pm, got our bags, changed some money, and then found out where we had to go Terminal 1 to check in for our JetStar flight. To get to Terminal one we had to take a shuttle ride, 20p that ran every 15-20 min. We barely got on the first one that came – once again, crammed in the back with all the luggage. We had no idea that Manila’s airport was so spread out and the difference between Terminal 1 and the terminal we arrived in was a 20-25 minute shuttle ride literally through busy city streets. It’s a good thing we had a 4 hour layover in Manila’s airport.
Once at the right terminal, we mistakenly waited in the wrong line for about 20 minutes. We finally got successfully checked in, had to pay yet another terminal fee, this time of 750p, and then finally boarded our flight to Singapore. Money is flying out of our pockets just for this terminal transfer and flight change!
We finally arrived at our hotel in Singapore in the middle of the night. It was a long, long day of travel.
Day 27 – “Island Hopping”
Karen, Chris and I had an “island hopping” tour scheduled for 8am. This trip was kind of a joke. Off of Bantayan there are two main outlying islands – Virgin and one that starts with H that I can’t spell. We chatted with a “broker” and agreed on 800 for three of us to go on the boat plus 75 for snorkel gear, which consisted of leaky masks and non-purging snorkels. We were instructed to bring our own food and plenty of water because there was nothing to buy on Virgin island (there is a small shop with sodas, water, chips, but not actual food to buy.) Finding food to pack a lunch was not easy – basically consisted of some bread, chips and fruit. The first stop was Virgin Island where we had to pay our entrance fee. It’ll be somewhere between 400p and 600p per boat. We were quoted 500p, charged 400p then asked for a additional 50pm. Snorkeling was not amazing by any means, and we almost didn’t go because we were told we had to wear life jackets while snorkeling. Thankfully that silly rule wasn’t enforced and we snorkeled the dead reef, lots of dynamite fishing to thank for that. Virgin Island is a tiny island with a small beach with some shade coverings that you can pay extra to rent for the afternoon. There was one small pit toilet with no toilet paper and that was about it. We got to Virgin and were told we had to leave there by 1pm to head back, got a little confused by if we were going to the other island or not and were told that would cost more and that there is nothing to see over there. Hmmm. So our island “hopping” trip was really “island hop.” Whatever. I would not recommend this trip, or for that matter, Bantayan Island, there isn’t much to do there and it wasn’t one of the prettier places we saw in the Philippines. After all the cool places we had been I didn’t even bother taking any pictures of this particular outing.
If you do end up on Bantayan the restaurant ACROSS from Blue Ice – with the ice cream shop, has good food, good value and internet! D’Jungle was also a good place to eat. We were happy enough with our stay at Blue Marlin.
The end of the day Chris and I finally made a decision about where to go next after looking everywhere from China to just going back to the States early. I was over it. I had a bad belly on and off since I had gotten to the Philippines, it was hot, constant noise, people trying to sell you something, or take you somewhere. We finally decided on Bali and booked the tickets for 2 days later and were glad to have made a decision. One thing about the Philippines is everywhere takes SO long to get to. It’s not just as easy as get in a car and be there. It’s 7000 islands so travel requires planes, boats, cars, ferrys and schedules of course don’t always fit with when you want to go. We were happy to know where we were headed next.
Day 25 – Off to Bantayan
On our last full day on Malapascau we met a couple, Sylvia and Philip who was going to travel by private boat to Bantayan where they lived in Atop-Atop. We stopped at Virgin Island for a quick swim and continued on. It was a fine ride, saw a sea snake and some skimming fish – pretty cool. Very loud boat – earplugs!!!
We got to Sylvia and Philip house and they explained that they would make us lunch and then drive us to Bantayan town which was about 20 minutes away. Sylvia’s sister, neice and brother in law live on the property and basically served us. Lunch was bitter greens, banana salad with chicken, fish soup, leftover pizza, rice and dried fish, followed by tea/coffee and chocolate. They offered to let us stay there, and as nice as the house was, we were ready to be on our way.
The only ATM on Banatyan was in Bantayan Town we got a ride with Sylvia’s brother in law there and then caught a jeepny/scooter to Santa Fe. It was a scooter but it had a mini jeepney on the back that would easily hold 6-8 people. I wonder how long the little motorcycles last carrying WAY more weight then they probably should be. Philipe recommended the Blue Marlin Hotel and we took his advice and checked in.
I wanted to check out some other places I had heard about so we hired a pedicab and went to Tickity Boo (porters recommended it to us), Beach Placid (heard about it on a blog) Yooneek (saw it on bumper stickers) and all had pluses and minuses and seriously considered moving but after seeing them all we decided we had it pretty good, comfortable beach, there was a lightning storm coming in and we enjoyed watching that and were treated a pretty cool rainbow. After that we found a restaurant to eat at – Blue Ice, I had the sizzling pork which was really good. We also met a solo traveler, Karen from England, and we made plans to meet up with her the next day.
Day 26 – Sick Day
Both Chris and Karen weren’t feeling well so we took a pretty chill day. We checked out Ogtong Cave Resort. Cost was 100p to get in and we took a 20p/each pedicab ride. It had a pool, a small cave, pretty bay, little cave and that was about it.
We still have 2 1/2 weeks scheduled for the Philippines and Typhoon Songda is scheduled to hit exactly where we were planning on going. We started debating on if we should go somewhere else in the Philippines, stick to our original plan or just head to a completely different country.
Day 21-24 Days blur together
It doesn’t take long to explore the main part of Malapascau. We found a hotel with a nice pool and decided to have breakfast there and pay some extra money to have use of the pool for the day. We took a look at the hotel and decided to upgrade to the hotel room for three nights. Big comfy bed, tv, pool, AC all for a special price since numbers were low. We got it for 2500p a night.
The next few days were spent reading, relaxing, walking the beach, watching American Idol (I had never watched a full season but somehow caught most of it this trip), eating, hiring a bike for a ride around the island – very cool. We also took a boat ride around the island. Snorkeling wasn’t amazing. My favorite part was watching the kids jump off a big cliff into the ocean. They are braver than me. As I sit here and write this I am kicking myself that I didn’t give it a go. If a 6 year old can do it I should have womaned up and jumped! Check out the video – love it!!
If you head to Malapascau definitely eat at The Exotic – it was great, some of the best food we had – plus they had the only working internet on island. Legends restaurant was only ok. There was a decent restaurant insland – Ging Ging’s Garden, or something like that. There are a few book exchanges at some of the bars as well.
One of our highlights of Malapascau can’t be duplicated, unfortunately. As Chris and I were walking home one night a group of 7 boys aged 5-11 started chatting with us. They wanted to know our names, where we were from, how old we were and so on. We asked them the same questions and asked them if they liked Justin Beiber. They are HUGE fans and next thing you know we have this group of young boys serenading us with “Baby, baby, baby, OH, like baby, baby, baby OH” and they knew all the words, not just the chorus. I was a bit sad when we got to our hotel and had to part ways. They were so cool. Didn’t ask for money (but Chris gave them some anyway to buy some ice cream) and they made my night.
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.