With so little time in the Philippines we decided to pick only one of the 7,407 islands and make the most of our time there. While Palawan appealed there wasn’t much chance of us doing it right in the timeframe. While we’d had recommendations and marked up a few options we plumped for Bohol as a balance between good beach, diving options and general things to do.
We’d arranged to stay at L’Elephant Bleu for the first evening on Panglao just off Alona beach and they offered an airport pickup which always makes things easier. We couldn’t check-in when we arrived as we were too early so we wandered out for lunch. Bohol was on a twelve-hour brownout meaning no water or power except for those places with their own private generators so we picked one such place and over-faced ourselves with a salad wrap that used soft pizza bread rather than tortilla.
The place was similar to a lot of places in the Philippines – the majority of its patrons were middle-aged+ Caucasian men looking sleazy hanging around with teenage or slightly older local girls who spent their time looking uncomfortable. It doesn’t make for much of an atmosphere.
After lunch we checked in and then took a wander to the beach. While it was fairly long and fairly white it was also fairly narrow and the offshore fairly packed with boats and rocks. Given the plaudits it had when we were researching the place it was a bit of a disappointment. It was also overcast and incredibly muggy which didn’t do much to improve matters.
After a dip we took a look around accommodation alternatives and soon realised that at least some of our research was sound and we were already in the best place for us anyway. Extending our stay there meant a stint in the slightly more expensive cottages but it was still better and one less thing to worry about.
Now beyond the supposed 5pm return of power yet still without we popped out for a couple of the staple beer of the Philippines. San Miguel. Magical Spanish influence. As we put away our beers the electricity eventually returned. We grabbed a light bite to eat before retiring for the evening to get cleaned up and crash.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that throughout my entire time in the Philippines I did not have a single good local meal. The food in general wasn’t notable. The vast amount of fare on offer was western and while it often filled a hole it was never exceptional and given the regular culinary delights of Thailand it was a big come-down.
Bad weather held sway for a couple of days confining us to our cottage but to be honest this made for a welcome break and we pottered about writing, photo processing, reading and generally relaxing. We also planned our last couple of days on Bohol to be much busier affairs.
First up were a couple of dives. Highlights included plenty of turtles and a first experience of strong current drift-diving along a reef wall. The latter was brutally exhausting. We met a technical diver whose name now escapes me which is probably due to the amount of beer we drank afterwards. We think it was Andy but we’re probably wrong. It doesn’t help that I’m writing this over a month after it happened. Who’d be a blogger eh?
The next day was a great tour around Bohol’s main sights. The most unique attraction and also the primary tourist destination on Bohol are its chocolate hills. The island has an area covered by over a thousand hills shaped like Hershey’s Kisses. In the dry season they turn brown causing Nancy Reagan to liken them to the famous US chocolates and the locals liked it so much they picked the name up and ran with it.
We visited just as the dry season was starting so the hills were a fairly lush green but it was still an impressive sight. Most of them only have grass growing on them and the land on which they sit is flat but for them.
As well as the chocolate hills we scooted around a load of other places the most notable being the Tarsier reserve. These tiny primates with huge eyes are nocturnal but we found ourselves lucky enough to wander by several that were awake and happy enough to pose for a photo op. Unlike some of the places we’ve visited the reserve was run really well with volunteers dotted around making sure everyone is keeping quiet and not touching the little critters.
We saw churches, monuments, rope bridges and had lunch on the river [an awful cold buffet of local-ish foods – the most disappointing part of the day] and by the time we returned we were pretty tired and ready to hit the sack before our flight back to Manila the next day.