This is part two of our recent holiday to South East Asia. It has taken me far too long to get this post up, but life has a way of getting in the way of your plans 😉
You can read the first instalment here. Like part one this post is long.
Wow, the Philippines. I have been struggling to come up with the words to describe how utterly incredible this place is!
We stayed at a resort on the Panglao Peninsula on Bohol Island and it was everything you would imagine a tropical island to be. I loved it so much. I would go back there in a heartbeat.
It was quite a mission to get to. We left Hong Kong at 8.30 in the morning on a two hour flight to Cebu. After the super efficiency we experienced in Hong Kong, Cebu was a little bit of a shock to the system. It felt a lot more rural and disorganised. We spent forever in passport control and then even longer waiting for our bags to come out at baggage claim. It was such a mess.
My sister had arranged for a shuttle to collect us at the airport and take us to the ferry terminal. Once again we were faced with chaos. Thank goodness Carmen had bought our tickets online. But we still had to get our bags checked through, pay our terminal fee and then get on the ferry. Once we were on we could sit back and relax for the hour and a half it took to get to the city of Tagbilaran.
What we found in Tagbilaran made Cebu look like the height of organised. Getting off the ferry was a challenge, and then we still needed to try and locate our luggage -all in stifling heat and humidity. Again, my sister, the queen of organising had a shuttle waiting for us. So once we got out luggage we were able to sit in the air-conditioned bus for the 20 minutes it took to get to out resort.
The resort itself is like something out of a movie. They are currently upgrading their facilities, but we were incredibly comfortable during our stay and I would have stayed in a hovel if I could have that view. It was breathtaking!
But our room was no hovel. We had a sea facing bungalow with an incredible view and a Jacuzzi in our own private grotto. It was lovely.
That first evening we all just chilled by the pool, waiting for my parents and Kyla to get there (they came on a different flight). We also got to meet up with two more of Ricky’s friends, adding to the surprise that had been going on all week.
We had an incredible dinner on this gorgeous deck with incredible sea views. But most of us were worn out by the intense journey it took to get there so we all turned in early for the night.
The next day we went to town after breakfast. We had decided to go buy some snorkelling gear and when we saw the centre the sports shop was located in, a few of us decided to stay to do some shopping. The prices in the Philippines are incredibly good and we ended up buying quite a bit in that centre.
After shopping, we decided to find some local food for lunch. We walked around the town for a bit and discovered this magnificent church, but could find the food we were looking for. So we decided to head back to the resort. Our little group split up and A and I and our friend Andrew ended up in this little burger joint for lunch. After that, we took a tuk tuk back to the resort. The afternoon was spent snorkelling on the little reef they have and hanging out by the pool. In the early evening, the final two people in the surprise joined our party, making it complete.
The next day was Ricky’s birthday and he had organised a day trip to go explore more of Bohol. We went to the town of Carmen where the Chocolate Hills are located. As you can imagine, there were jokes for days about this and my sister being the mayor of Carmen. The Chocolate Hills are a world heritage site and a natural wonder of the world. I hadn’t heard of them before this trip, but they are really cool and I’m glad we got to see them.
After that, we went to an adventure park where the others did zip lining and an obstacle course. I’m not great with heights so I kept my feet firmly on the ground. My mom and I wandered through the butterfly garden and then I took photos of the others on the skateboard zip line.
Our final activity for the day was a buffet lunch and river cruise on the Loboc River. It was spectacular. The food was incredible and the river cruise was so chilled and beautiful. There was live music and we got to see people who lived on the river banks swimming, kids were jumping into the water off of trees and such. It was such a lovely afternoon.
That evening we had Ricky’s birthday party on the private island in the lagoon in front of the resort. We were taken to the island on a little boat and were treated to the most spectacular sunset. The dinner was, again amazing, and I even got to try sea urchin for the first time.
We danced, and chatted and had a great time. A and I left a little early to walk my parents back to the beach. By the time it came to go home the tide was so far out that the boat couldn’t get back to the island. So we walked in the warm water all the way home. A and I ended the evening by chilling in our Jacuzzi listening to the music from the party.
The next day was quite chilled. The main group went snorkelling at a reef about 10minutes by boat from the resort. My sister, Kyla, and I as well as two others decided to go to a nearby dive resort to scuba dive. Unfortunately, I had problems with equalising my ears and wasn’t able to finish the dive, but I had a great time chilling on the boat chatting with the skipper. I also saw a school of flying fish, which blew my mind!
We met up with everyone else for a fish barbeque on the beach. It started pouring down with rain while we were there, so we were moved to a covered deck area. The food was great and we had a great time chatting and laughing. Most of the people had hired scooters for the time we were there, but I did the sensible thing and went home in the taxi, leaving A to drive the scooter with the rest of them in the rain 😉
On Thursday the main group when to go see the dolphins at the marine sanctuary. Normally you are able to swim with the dolphins, but due to the fact that the pod had babies, no swimming was allowed, but they got to go snorkelling in the marine sanctuary.
A and I stayed behind along with my sister and a few others. Kyla’s boyfriend was joining the group that day, so we decided to wait for him. A and I decided to drive our scooter into town. We had a few errands to run and we wanted to explore more. Kyla and Dave joined us and we found my parents in the centre buying souvenirs a little later on. It was awesome to have Dave with us. He’s lived in South East Asia for a while and knows how to find the local haunts. He found this awesome little restaurant that served local Filipino food. We had seaweed salad, Jackfruit, chicken stew and more. It was awesome!
We got to drink some more awesome cocktails, eat another incredible dinner (by this point I was struggling to eat food. I had eaten so much that there was just no more room!). A and I went back to our bungalow to pack after dinner then found the others for a game of Jungle Speed before saying goodnight. It was the perfect way to end off our final day.
The next morning, we managed to get the boat to take us to the reef for one last snorkel before we headed home. We saw giant clams as big as a table, seahorses, so many different kinds of fish and starfish and moray eels. It was lovely. They give you bread when you snorkel so you can feed the fish and get them to come right up close to you. It’s incredible.
Once the boat got back to the resort I had to hot foot it to the shower, finish up the last of our packing and then go to check out. There were four of us leaving on the early ferry, with another group leaving later in the afternoon and the rest leaving on Saturday.
This time the ferry ride was not as intense as the first time. I think we had more of an idea of what to expect and were able to negotiate it quite well. Once back in Cebu we found a taxi to take us to the airport. We wanted to have plenty of time because the traffic can be hectic. Once you’ve driven around in the Philippines you’ll understand. There is no discernible system.
It was a really long travel day. Our flight out of Cebu was delayed and we had a really tight window in Hong Kong to catch our connector. We were met at the end of the gangway by a Cathay Pacific air hostess who marched us through that airport at lightning speed (Hong Kong is not a small airport!). At one point we were literally running to keep up with her. But she got us through all the various check-in points and onto that plane in good time.
And that is the grand tale of our tropical adventure. It was a time I will treasure for always and I will go back to the Philippines in a heartbeat!