Made it to Manila…
We’ve not long finished a month in the Philippines. We’re that far behind on updating, we’re sorry but we’re having too much fun. The month has flown by and it’s been incredible, though it did start off a little rocky. We touched down into Manila as the sun was setting so by the time we got our backpacks from the carousel it was dark and humid. We had no idea where we were going, but thanks to modern technology we bought a local SIM card and booked a Grab Taxi from an app to our hostel. The taxi driver was very friendly and started driving us into winding back alley streets that were full of tiny shop fronts, with big metal bar gates. He pulled into one of these dark alleyways and stopped saying ‘Here it is’. There was no sign for our hostel, there was however random people coming to look at the taxi, dogs barking and scratching at high metal fences and litter strewn across the ground. Nope, this was not the place… surely?
Emma was ready to get back in the taxi and sleep at the airport since we were flying early in the morning anyway. The taxi driver wouldn’t leave us, he was amazing, he asked the locals where our place was and eventually a boy on a moped tried to tell us where to find it. We set off walking down another dark alley and waved goodbye to our driver. Eventually a sign for ‘Christopher’s Hostel’ appeared, we were saved… or so we thought. We had a warm welcome from the lady at the front desk and were told to walk down yet another street to where our room was. A lovely man with the essence of ‘Lurch’ walked us there, letting us know that he could in fact take us on a tour the next day even though we were getting straight on a plane. Stuie added another new contact to his phone, a friend was made. After passing a tiny dead kitten, making this situation even better, we rounded the corner and saw our bright orange hostel. It was clean, there was a shower over the toilet and 2 fans. The room felt hotter than the sun, we didn’t sleep at all, just laid there in the bunk beds and sweated for 6 hours. Manila…. we’ll see you in 27 days.
We wanted the white sands, the beaches, the option to lay out on a towel and drink beer. Cebu city was a far cry from this. The whole city is full of traffic and security men on every business premises with a pump action shot gun. It didn’t feel extremely safe. Why the need for the mass armed security on every corner? The first taxi we got we were asked, are you married? To which the reply is no. Are you boyfriend and girlfriend? Yes for 10 years nearly. ‘Do you believe in God? Nope… said in a worrying where is this going tone. This was not the first time this will be asked of us. The Philippines is a mainly Catholic country, on every Tuk Tuk and Jeepney there are words from the Bible graffiti’d all over, there are billboards and signs with messages from the Church. Most schools are religious with the commandments at every chance at the front of the buildings. We had the feeling that not being married but having a shared bed in the hotels wasn’t ideal here, we made a conscious effort not to hold hands or touch in public. Standard practice anyway!
Walking around Cebu was not what we had in mind. It’s definitely a pit stop for tours further down the island that we didn’t feel comfortable going to. It’s on the foreign office website to only go if necessary due to an amber warning of terrorism. In hind sight we would have gone to visit, major tourist sites are very well looked after and safe, especially if you go with a company organised tour. We took the time in Cebu to get the next week or so organised, booking hotels and researching where to visit in Bohol and how to get there. We found a great ferry company that only took an hour and a half and was close to get to from the hotel.
The main activity here is massive shopping Malls with air conditioning, it feels like they are on every corner in Cebu. It felt like this was the only thing to do in this city. There was random old school department stores that had the vibes of Cole Brothers in Sheffield… We asked what the best food in the Philippines was and we were quickly told, fried chicken and that fast food place called McDonalds, KFC and their very famous Jollibees. Stuie’s eyes lit up at the thought of a country of fried meats, but we knew this would be a challenge for the vegetarian.
The ferry ride to Bohol was great. They start off with a prayer for safe travels and then they put The Kingsman The Golden Circle on, which was a juxtaposition to the religious aspect to say the least. We arrived in Bohol to find what we were looking for, not just the 3 Canadians we quickly made friends with to share the transfer costs… the beach! That white sand and see through glistening water that was clean and warm. We both had massive smiles on our faces as this was exactly what we was hoping for. We had a great first afternoon with happy hour at every bar that lasted at least 4 hours, sipping beer with the sand in between our toes. We bumped into the Canadians and had a fun night drinking, and playing pool.
Our favourite day was being daring and renting a moped to ride around the island at our own leisurely pace instead of a planned tour. We’ve been warned several times and by many different people not to ride mopeds, but it was too much fun not to. Stuie had experience riding before and the island wasn’t busy on the roads like the main cities. We made our way towards our first stop which was to visit the Tarsier Sanctuary. Tarsier’s are the smallest cutest monkey’s to walk this planet, they are nearing extinction and this sanctuary helps around 100 to thrive in their natural habitat. They only have 8 monkeys in the visitors area.The staff search in the morning to see if they can spot them so visitors can come and tip toe around to view them. There was only 6 found on the morning we paid a visit, if they don’t find any they don’t try and coax them out for visitors so we were lucky to see so many. They have large fixed eyes that take up the majority or their teeny tiny faces. They can turn their heads 360 degrees and have a very long tail that keeps them balanced. Unfortunately the Tarsiers are very sensitive, if they are touched by a human they try and commit suicide and loud noises can make them jump off the tree to their deaths below. You can tell at the sanctuary that these creatures are loved and well nurtured in their environment. It was amazing to see them up close.
We rode onto the next adventure spot which was another zip lining experience, this time it was over a beautiful river and just like Superman! We got hoisted into a hammock style wrapped garment and told to lay down into thin air. It’s a very odd feeling but the climbing equipment they used worked, we were suspended in the air and after a count of 3 we were hurtled over the edge and flying to the opposite hill. It was beautiful, the river looked mint green almost, contrasting with the dark green of the jungle like trees. The fresh air whizzing by was also a welcome break from the humidity, just like the moped as well, though it doesn’t feel as quick as the zip lining.
Along the way we found a butterfly farm that was hidden down a track, we saw the biggest butterflies and moths. We had our own guide that took us around and liked to talk to us and show us the butterflies mating, which can take a whole day. They had many different species, they also make sure the surrounding land was full of beautiful flowers and plants that attract and help butterflies survive. After the enclosed off space there was many butterflies floating around which was wonderful to see. Our guide was hilarious and made us take staged photos to make us look like fairies, making us jump up and down, apparently wonderful photos for Instagram. The woman in front of us was even telling Emma how to jump and directing her, which made for awkward laughs and faces from us both! Got some great photos out of it though…
We headed for a waterfall, Bohol is full of them but most recommend an off road vehicle to access them. We had the beast of a 125cc moped and some determination. It was 15 mins along a road of rocks and massive pot holes, but was worth. From here we made our way to the famous Chocolate Hills. These hills have been a big draw for us to come to Bohol, unfortunately we aren’t the right season just yet to see them brown to give them their name, but it was still great to see them. There are over a thousand of them, they were naturally formed by the uplift from coral when the sea once had been where the island is now. Though we like the local legends that tells the story of two giants having a fight and throwing rocks at each other and forgot to clear up after themselves when they made friends… It was busy and full of people taking posed selfies, which obviously we had a go at but we’re not as professional as some! We’re glad that we came to see them, the hills themselves looked like there were moving due to the swaying of the long grass, there was a cooling breeze which was handy after the steep climb up to the viewing deck.
It took us around an hour and a half to ride back to the hotel, the scenery was stunning going from man made cooling forests, to the jungle hills and back to the coastal roads. A beer from a local brewery and one of the best vegan burgers we’ve had ended our day perfectly. As Annie once said…
Boracay here we come…