Fannying around in the Philippines
Trip Start Sep 12, 2005
51Trip End Sep 11, 2006
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Whilst sitting on the plane to Cebu on Thurs (22nd), watching the excellent Christmas edition of The Office, laughing and crying in equal measures, I was flicking through my Lonely Planet book on places to stay and found an idyllic place called Nuts Huts on the island to the east of Cebu, Bohol. My reasoning being the weather was looking like it was going to be pretty wet, so best to go inland to the jungle before heading out to the beaches hopefully once the weather had perked up a bit. In this whimsical moment (which I blame entirely on mother), I neglected to consider what items might be handy for such an area. Namely mossie repellent, a torch and suitable clothing. No, no, no, I didn't let such trivial matters bother me.
So off I trotted, catching a taxi to the pier, and boat to Bohol, a tricycle to the bus stop, a jeepney to Loboc and a boat down the river into the depths of the jungle to my destination
Now I'm by no means a city slicker, but it also transpires I'm no country bumpkin either. My hut was gorgeous - to look at - from the outside. A closer inspection revealed the real meaning of 'rustic'. I was also drawn to the idea that this place had dorm rooms and would therefore give me a chance to meet other people as I had done in Beijing. Not so. Even though it was called a dorm, it just meant there were several rooms to the one hut, all sharing the same bathroom, not that it mattered because there was only one other guy staying there, and that was for the 1st night only. But, this wasn't going to get me down. I was, afterall going to get a shower! It was Thurs evening. I hadn't showered since Monday, and was getting the distinct feeling that flowers were wilting as passed by.
Now I've encountered a fair few 'basic' Asian showers in my time. As Liz can vouch, I've had countless 'wetroom' showers where the shower head is next to the toilet and everywhere gets wet. NO worries. If, that is, you can squeeze yourself into the tiny gap between the loo and the wall where the showerhead is. Also, again am well used to those wooden slatted doors - however, these slats were 2 inches apart and had a gap of about a foot at the bottom and top. Couple that with the 'lock' (a nail in the door frame and a piece of string with a loop on the end attached to the door - only the string was a couple of inches too long) and I was beginning to feel slightly exposed
I felt super clean for all of 2 minutes before I started sweating again. But nay mind, mission accomplished.
Then went to have dinner in the dining area - located up the side of the cliff - 120 steep steps up. Had a great dinner - hadn't eaten since breakfast on the plane, and found a completely trashy romantic novel (though, alas Cherry, there was no Mills and Boone on offer). There were few other guests. A group of six Danes who seemed perfectly happy with their own company, the North Korean who was about to leave and a Dutch couple who chose to try to talk to the S Korean as opposed to me. I could take a hint. Went to bed early.
Fri (23rd) I did sweet Fanny Adams. Managed to make it up to the dining area by midday, got in a hammock with aforementioned trashy book and spent a blissfully happy day doing nothing. That evening, with the S Korean gone the Dutch couple were forced to chat to me - the Danes had also left. They were really nice actually and we had a few beers together and exchanged travel tales. They suggested I hire out a motorbike and go to the small island to the south of Bohol for the beaches (the weather has been fine)
Sat (24th) Almost careed (spelling?) off the cliff (it's another hundred steps up to the top). Yup, I can't ride a motorbike for sh*t. Thought it'd be an automatic scooter, it was a 150cc beast, and I could not learn in the 30secs the Filipino instructor was willing to spend with me on the dirt track. Thankfully, he offered his services and so, for an extra 2 quid I paid him to take me around for the day. Got to see some fantastic things - paddy fields, tropical forests and then out to the beach. And everywhere you go everyone shouts out 'Hello' as they rarely see a foreigner. We went to the most gorgeous beach, where I was the subject of much amusement by the local kids, who, it turned out, where there for their friend's birthday party. They were fascinated with me, and it has to be said, they are the most beautiful kids in the world. I may be slightly biased though - they said I looked like a mermaid - for 2 minutes I couldn't keep the image of Ariel from Disney's the Little Mermaid out of my mind - then I realised they were probably referring to the Manatees you find in Florida. Ack well, they were still cute. By the end of it, I was invited to join then up in the huts for the Birthday meal, but I thought my driver might get a tad peeved off so I declined. They all ran off and I was left to finish my book when back scurries a little boy of 8, who proudly gave me his mobile number
Sun (25th) I decided it was time I visited the Chocolate Hills which Bohol are famous for - over a thousand hills rising up formed from ancient coral reefs. Apparently in the summer, the sun burns all the grass brown, hence the name, though they were still green when I visited. Well, I CLIMBED up to the view point (214 steps, so I was told, though these were quite easy) and got a great view of all the hills around. However, it appeared the only way to go through them was to take a motorbike ride. This was 250 pesos for 90mins. I asked the guy if he would just take me round for 30mins for 150 pesos. A huge grin spread over his face and he agreed. He was Satan himself. These roads were no more than muddy, stony tracks, and he took great delight at going at top speed. Sod the hills, I couldn't take my eyes off the road with unsuspecting carabao, dogs and chickens sent fleeing for their lives. Anyone ever get so scared they break out into laughter? I began to imagine all the contorted faces I was pulling as the back wheel would slide out from under us and started to giggle. Unfortunately, the driver took this as a sign that he should go even faster. Talk about windswept. I had so many bugs splattered over my face when I shakily got off that I was offered a cloth. It turns out he had taken the same trail as usual, just went 3 times as fast so as to only take a half hour
Mon (26th) had my 2nd whimsical moment (2nd of many, no doubt). The previous night I had read about the island of Leyte to the east of Bohol, where at certain times of the year you can spot Whale Sharks and occasionally swim with them. Well, this is my all-time dream. So... I got up at 6:30am and packed, showered and left. Was on a bus by 7:30, heading to the north end of the island to catch the ferry. Within 5 mins I had the whole bus discussing the best possible route for me to take there. Apparently it wasn't as straightforward as I'd assumed. Various suggestions were being flung at me - the Filipinos are soo helpful. The bus I was on was only going half way, and there were sections where roadworks were occurring. Anyway, after a motorbike (with my backpack) and another bus ride , I eventually reached Ubay, the port, at noon. I discovered the one and only ferry for Leyte leaves at 8am. Balls. Ubay isn't exactly a tourist hotspot - just a industry town, and on closer inspection of my guide book, I found out that it wasn't the right season to spot whale sharks and it takes up to 3 days to organise a boat when there to take you out looking for them
So, turned around and spent the next 5 hours on another bus heading all the way to the south (desperate for the loo), with the obligatory chickens, of course. Coming into Tagbilaren, in the south (about 40mins from where I started out from at 7:30 that morning), I got out my book to find a suitable place to stay. Consequently inundated with offers of help. In the end a girl took me to the hostel by tricycle, insisting on paying so I bought her dinner. She went home to get her boyfriend and then we went to a bar/restaurant that evening with her boyfriend, where she gave me a bracelet as a memento - bless them all - they truly are the kindest nation of people I've ever come across.
Today (Tues 27th) I've obviously learnt nothing. Got up early, was leaving my key behind reception when and inquired about ferries to the island to the west - Negros, thinking I could catch a ferry around midday after I'd been on the internet. He told be the boat left at 9:30. I legged it back to my room, packed faster than ever before, and pegged it to the pier. The boat actually left at 8:30, but it's ok, another one leaves at 5:30. SO, just wasting the day, again, and looking forward to Negros, where the beaches and snorkelling/diving are supposed to be grand.
Wish me luck, I'll obviously need it.
Hope all's well. Had time to upload my photos so it you can be bothered you can trawl through those. Love to everyone. x