12.05.2016 - 14.05.2016
Next we set off for the small island of Panglao, just off the south-west coast of a bigger island called Bohol, and a few islands east of Palawan where we had been staying. Our journey involved a flight to the island of Cebu, before taking a taxi to the port and then getting a 90 minute ferry across to the next island (Bohol). After that we had to get another taxi from Bohol port to Panglao (fortunately it's connected by road to Bohol). The journey felt quite long and we had a bit of a wait for the ferry from Cebu. Inside the ferry terminal was quite busy and bizarrely there seemed to be a lot of people travelling with chickens and cockerels. There was a lot of cock-a-doodle-doo-ing going on and people travelling with lots of boxes and parcels. Travelling with lots of large (sometimes battered) boxes, whether it be by ferry, air, or train, seems like quite a common thing in SE Asia.
Our hotel in Panglao was mainly a dive resort but we picked it as it was away from the beach area which was supposed to be noisy, and it was reasonable price-wise. If the weather had been any kind of normal we could have walked to/from the beach but as it was blisteringly hot and humid we took a tricycle - effectively a motorbike with a sidecar that we struggled to both squeeze in (we definitely have bigger hips than most Asians!).
Unexpectedly we found a Greek restaurant which we ate at twice, as well as an organic one that did vegetarian dishes and fresh salads. We found the food selection quite limited in The Philippines so we were surprised to find other cuisines on the small island of Panglao. There was also a long beach but it was fairly narrow and busy so we didn't really use it. Again there was a bit of a stray dog problem, and there were also local children begging for money. Seemed quite innocent at first as they would play a small battered ukulele and sing... but then when someone refused to give them money they would come out with lines like "I wish you will die".
Anyway we did a few trips whilst we were on Panglao. One day we hired a car and driver to take us round some sights on Bohol. It was wonderful having an air conditioned car and being driven around all day. We went off to see the strange chocolate hills - hundreds of natural conical mounds that turn brown in the dry season (hence 'chocolate'):
Our second stop was at a forest that the driver seemed to think was wonderful (and so did others apparently as it was a popular tourist spot); it was nice to see some greenery but I think we had been spoilt with all the Bornean rainforest as we were a bit underwhelmed. But it was definitely a plus for The Philippines to be maintaining some green areas. Along the journey there were roadworks and our driver told us they were still rebuilding the road from the 2013 earthquake. You could see areas where the roads had been badly damaged and where landslides had occurred.
Next we visited a very rickety bridge made of bamboo spanning a river. It's hard to tell how flimsy it felt from the photos and to make things worse it was totally uneven and appeared to be held together by cable ties and some hosepipe casing. You walk across one bridge and then return on another. I'm fairly confident it wouldn't pass any kind of western safety standards but it was good fun and the locals had you stop to do all kinds of silly poses.
We decided we'd then go zip-lining. After all we were in one of the worst countries for health and safety standards so it was the obvious thing to do! We drove to another point, high up above a river gorge, and got clipped in to half-a-sleeping-bag and then pushed off the edge and whizzed across the canyon at two different spots. It was lots of fun and the uncertainty of whether an unconvincing piece of rope would be enough to stop you when you reached the rocks just added to the experience!
After that we did a more leisurely river cruise which included lunch (not the best, I survived on the watermelon). It was quite interesting as alongside the river locals were using rope in the trees to swing across the river and throw themselves in. We also stopped for a local dance performance on one of the riverside piers, and saw the zip lines that we went across earlier.
We drove for a little while before stopping at one of the oldest churches (Baclayon, completed in 1727) which had been badly damaged in the 2013 earthquake and was still being rebuilt. The Spanish influence in The Philippines was interesting to note - everywhere, not just at the church.
Before we got dropped off at home we visited the Sandugo (Blood Compact shrine). This is a monument depicting the Spanish-Filipino treaty of 1565 where a Spanish explorer arriving in Bohol, and the Chieftain of Bohol, drank a small amount of one another's blood mixed with wine to signify a bond of friendship. The Spanish colonised The Philippines until 1898, after which it became a US colony, and was then occupied by the Japanese during WW2.
As this is quite a long blog post I'll return next time to tell the story of our other day trip which wasn't as plain sailing...