I’ve decided to do our Philippines posts in 5 parts based on the 5 towns we based ourselves in a few days at a time. The whole two weeks in the Philippines was an adventure in itself and I enjoyed the time Flo and I spent together getting to know each other better, and also experiencing what Philippines has to offer – both the good and the bad.
We left for Pang Lao first thing Sunday morning on Day 2 of Chinese New Year. It was quite a journey having to fly over to Cebu Airport before catching a taxi to the ferry terminal.
We managed to only get the 2pm ferry, instead of the 1pm one, that took us another 2 hours to get us to Bohol.
I pretty much slept through the plane and ferry ride. When we finally reached Pang Lao, it was wet and grey, and our initial plan to try and get ourselves a GrabTaxi didn’t work on the island,
so we had to settle with their motor-trikes to get us to our humble abode – Chiisai Natsu Resort.
Our place was roomy and clean albeit a little dim; simply furnished and clean although not the plushiest of accommodation. I have to admit I’m more used to modern hotels with sleek finishings and fancy toilets so this was a little different for me. We found out later though that Chiisai Natsu while not being the most luxurious, was also far from the dingiest place we put up at. In any case, it was about a 10min ride away from Alona Beach where we managed to catch the sunset.
Alona Beach is definitely a place for tourists – lots of activity, lots of restaurants, lots of tours being sold. We took a quick walk around after the sun had set in search for dinner and found ourselves at a place where we could pick our own seafood, have them grilled fresh, and have a leisurely dinner just along the beach.
The grilled squid and prawns, as well as the portion of ‘chop suey’ we ordered was ok. Not great in terms of the price we had to pay as well as the long wait. Again, we soon came to learn that in the Philippines, time is not of the essence and food often takes 30min or more to arrive.
One of our favourite dining spots ended up being Bohol Bee Farm and Restaurant which we regret not visiting one more time before we left. It’s located not too far off from our resort and pretty much runs as an educational facility growing organic plants and showing visitors how honey is harvested from bees.
They also run diving trips in addition to running the resort and restaurant. Their restaurant serves organic fare and Flo and I made sure to grab a table overlooking the beautiful clear blue waters.
I cannot stop raving about their complimentary Squash Bread served with honey butter and pesto butter. They were so good – fluffy, chewy, flavourful and dense in a good way. I made sure to have my fill both times we were there so much so that my dear sweet bf gave up most of his share for me.
We finished our first meal there were a dessert of Squash Muffin which I requested to be warmed up, and a side of Buko (aka Coconut) Ice-Cream made in-house. They were both so good together.
The muffin was so soft and moist, and I’m on a mission now to try and replicate it. The ice-cream was creamy and luscious – a perfect complement to the warm muffin. It felt immensely indulgent but also really good to be able to let go finally for once.
With tummies full, we set off towards Chocolate Hills via the Sipatan Twin Hanging Bridges and the Manmade Mahogany Forest.
I truly enjoyed the Hanging Bridges more than I thought I would. I mean seriously, they’re just a pair of bridges right? But they were more bouncy that I’d expected and not all that easy to walk across.
Then with the drizzle, most of the other people around cleared off and Flo managed to take some gorgeous pictures of the bridges with the clear river running below, and of ourselves on the bridge with his drone.
The Mahogany Forest was yet another beauty in how serene it looked flanking both sides of this road for about 100m(?). It reminded me a lot of the Bamboo Forest picture that everyone takes in Osaka. Only this one was along a stretch of winding road and taking pictures on the road while cars and trikes passed often didn’t seem like the best of ideas. We saw a few groups of people attempting this only to get honked at every few seconds.
The grey clouds started to gather as we were about 10min away from Chocolate Hills so Flo and I sought refuge at a Catholic Church for a good half hour before we felt confident enough that that skies would hold up. We were wrong and soon found ourselves under a banana tree for shelter. It didn’t take long before we went on our way again, this time managing to cross the official entrance to Chocolate Hills, before we had to stop a third time at the one-foot wide shelter of an unopened store. Buuuuuuut… We eventually made it! Only to have it pour again before we could make it to the viewing platform – which I might add was not such an easy feat to climb.
As soon as we were at the top, the fogs appeared and pretty much blanketed the hills. We patiently waited it out and thank God they lifted at around 5.30pm, just before sunset.
It was nice that we managed to accomplish all that we’d set out to do for the day despite the weather. Flo had to do that hard work of riding the scooter which took a good hour and a half to return home, and even longer towards Chocolate Hills with our two stops along the way. Thank you baby!
We decided to go back to Alona Beach for dinner at Hayahay which turned out to have amazing Tom Yum Seafood Soup!
It was impressively authentic in taste, had a good kick of spiciness, and was filled with chunks of fresh fish, squid and prawns.
We had a really lazy morning in as Flo was having a bit of a headache. I thought it might have been due to all the riding while he felt it was from smoking too much shisha the night before. We went to unwind after dinner but as soon as we started on the shisha, the skies opened up to unleash a torrent of rain upon us. So we ended up having to wait it out and while I gave up on the shisha about an hour in, Flo continued until the rain finally slowed to a drizzle. By that time it was past midnight.
I managed to get him some paracetamol from the reception and after a bit more sleep, we popped by one of their local malls to get him a new iphone cable and then stopped by Bohol Bee Farm once more for lunch.
This time, we tried their Spicy Flower Salad which was amazing, with finely chopped, nicely seasoned chicken below the bed of gorgeousness.
Flo had the seafood pizza that contains coconut flour in its crust. I had two slices along with my salad and I have to admit that the crust was ace!
We they shared a Carrot Muffin alongside a scoop of Salted Honey Ice-Cream, of which the latter I had most of. The carrot muffin was good but couldn’t quite hold a candle to the squash muffin from the day before.
It felt so good but so bad that I wasn’t sure I could manage the joy of having eaten all those carbs and fats. Even though I felt happy, I still felt uneasy and texted Mum to share that I was feeling fearful of gaining all the weight that I need to gain by the time I returned home to Singapore. It also made me wonder whether I would be able to keep up with eating well or lapse back into my usual eating patterns once back.
Anyway, Mum gave me the reassurance that I needed, and Flo also encouraged me offering me words of comfort all day. I’m lucky to have family who care so much for me and a man who is supportive of my predicament even if he is unable to fully grasp ED in its entirety.
So this was our last full day in Bohol and Flo and I planned to go on an Island Hopping Tour first thing in the morning before going on a Kayaking trip to see fireflies at night. We were supposed to meet this tour sales-guy Renan at Alona Beach at 9am so that we could depart for the islands at 9.30am. Only he didn’t show up! This other guy, Reenz, then offered his help when he realised we’d been ditched, and trawled the entire beach looking for a tour boat that still had space available for Flo and I to join.
Thankfully we hadn’t paid Renan anything the night before! We were considering booking a private boat out at 10am when Reenz returned and told us that he’d got us on a boat together with 2 Korean girls and a family of 5 from Hong Kong – although truth be told, they acted more like they were from… somewhere else.
Anyway, Flo and I enjoyed Balicasag where he managed to fly his drone.
All the locals along the beach got so excited about the drone that they gathered around Flo to have a look at his iphone screen, oohing and aahing at how beautiful their island is from above. It was incredibly cute!
Flo and I then took a small boat out with a guide to go round to a different side of the island to snorkel and hopefully catch sight of some of the sea turtles the area is known for. Now, I can swim but I usually swim in a swimming pool. With no currents. Or waves. With goggles. So when Flo and I jumped into the water, I couldn’t help but become so aware of hearing myself breathe through the snorkel.
It felt so foreign to be ‘breathing’ under water and when I looked up for our little boat and saw it floating yonder, I panicked. All I wanted to do was cling onto the side balancing bars of the boat for dear life that I literally kicked Flo and swam straight to the bars. I pretty much spent the rest of our snorkel time hugging the bars and looking down into the water where I did manage to see about 5 amazing looking sea turtles apart from the brightly coloured fishes and pretty corals around the area.
We next set off towards the Virgin Islands where the weather once again took a turn and the blue skies became heavy with grey clouds. Virgin Islands was interesting in that it appears during low tide and some parts get covered over during high tide. I preferred Balicasag though.
Flo and I returned to our resort around 3pm and had a wonderful hot shower before preparing to be picked up by Kayakasia. We arrived at their location just after sunset and were quickly put into tandem kayaks to kayak about 2km up the river and then back down. It totalled about 2 hours but time flew by so quickly we hardly felt it!
And yes, we managed to catch the fireflies. They were so magical on the trees, lighting them up in a way that was so hypnotic. I could have stared at them all night in the quiet of the river. Fireflies only pick trees that are healthy and nearer the river where they can lay eggs. For only 2 weeks in their life do their illuminate with light in order to reproduce. And once those 2 weeks are up, they cease to exist.
Sadly, a lot of locals are trying to profit off of them by organising motorboat tours to go up and down the river at night thereby threatening the habitat of the fireflies by their noise, pollution, strong waves and bright lights. It may be more convenient for tourists to get to see the fireflies but in the long run, the fireflies will suffer and possibly die out. Kayakasia sees this as a problem but can only fight back by persevering in having organised kayak tours, as well as sharing information and educating the young locals living around the area to learn to conserve their environment.
Once our kayak tour ended, we were treated to a sumptuous traditional Filipino spread for dinner – steamed rice, ginger soup noodles, stir-fried vegetables and chicken adobo, with bananas for dessert. We were famished and a little cold from the water so the soup was very comforting and the hot food was more than welcome!
Flo and I pretty much fell into bed after our day of water activities – but not before packing our bags and preparing to wake up early in order to catch our 5.30am(!) boat to Oslob, of which I will share more about in my next Philippines post! 🙂