On Sunday 20th October we caught a boat from Oslob over to Panglao, an island just off Bohol. It was a long, thin wooden boat with bamboo framework either side to help it balance in choppy waters. We booked it through our hotel Lagnason’s Place and we were told that it left at 11am. Two hours later we were still sitting on this wooden boat waiting to leave. The Filipino crew were waiting for the boat to be full, so a few extra people were joining now and then, probably after seeing the whale sharks. It was annoying but the long wait gave us time to get to know an Irish couple, Scotty and Nicole, who were on the boat with us. We exchanged travel stories before we decided to go with them to the accommodation they had booked called Coco Farm, when we eventually arrived in Bohol (we hadn't booked any yet). After a three hour crossing sitting on an uncomfortable wooden bench of course it would decide to rain whilst we were getting our luggage off of the boat. And the boat literally dropped us off in the middle of nowhere. There was no boat port or ferry terminal. Just a few local houses along the rocky beach. So we were soaked, and our backpacks were soaked, and we had to walk for half an hour to get to the main road in order to work out how we were going to get to Coco Farm. Thank goodness there were tricycles driving past so each couple got in one and they took us to Coco Farm, about 4km out of the main town area. Luckily Coco Farm had both dorm rooms and private rooms available. It was only 200 pesos more a night to stay in a private room compared to paying for two beds in a dorm, so we went for the private option. We'd read online about Coco Farm and how lots of backpackers liked it but unfortunately we just didn't feel the same way. It rained quite a lot during the two days we stayed there and our room became very damp and sticky. The showers and bathrooms were all shared and the showers consisted of a simple pipe on a wall with freezing cold water shooting out. Normally if we're in a hot country, we welcome a cold shower. But as it was fairly chilly there at night, a warm shower would have been just what we needed. The rest of our first day in Bohol, we didn't really do much as we got there late in the day. We had some food at the restaurant at Coco Farm which was average (although the zucchini fries were very good) and all had a sleep and a chill. Jordan wasn't feeling great so he slept most of the afternoon/evening.
Our first full day in Bohol we rented peds from Coco Farm (400 pesos for 24 hours) with the Irish couple Scotty and Nicole and tried to find some nice beaches. We firstly drove into town to change up some money and get some cash out, then went to Dumaluan beach which turned out to be pretty much walking distance from our accommodation. The beach was heaving with locals, and unfortunately they leave rubbish everywhere and get a bit hyper splashing about in the sea. We walked to the right of where all the locals were, to an area near to one of the private resorts which was much cleaner and quieter. This part of the beach was lovely. Soft white sand and pretty turquoise sea.
We had just got in for a swim when we noticed thick black clouds heading our way. Sure enough it hammered it down, so we had to take shelter back where the locals were hanging out in front of a few BBQ restaurants. It was the perfect opportunity to order some food and drink a few beers whilst we got to know each other better. The rain took a few hours to pass but once it did we chilled on the beach for a bit longer, before heading back to Coco Farm.
That night we drove the peds back into the town near Alona beach and did the typical thing of walking around to lots of different restaurants, and ending up eating at the first one we saw. The restaurant Trudis Place was right on Alona beach and had a huge variety of dishes which all went down well. This was Halloween evening so there were lots of people out and about, but we weren't up for a big one so we bought some local rum and a large bottle of coke and went back to Coco Farm to socialise with some of the other travellers.
The next day we were checking out of Coco Farm as we just didn’t enjoy our time there, so we drove around on the bikes to find somewhere else to stay. Were about to give up when we went into a place called Bananaland Cottages and they said they would give us two adjoining rooms with separate en suites for 300 pesos per person. This was by far the cheapest and nicest accommodation we had had in the Philippines. After giving the hotel a deposit as we had to go back to Coco Farm to get our luggage, we found a place called Nikita’s that did an amazing breakfast menu. It was run by a man from London so we knew the fry ups would be similar to a typical full English. After filling our tummies we gave the mopeds back to Coco Farm and moved into our new hotel. Bananaland gave us passes to get down to the private beach of one of the resorts close by (Alona Tropical Beach Resort), so we took full advantage of this and had a wander down to the beach, handing in our passes as we went. Not even 20 minutes after we got down to the beach and the heavens opened once again. So we sat at the bar and ordered a few drinks and snacks whilst using their wifi. The rain just didn’t stop and we spent the whole afternoon sheltering undercover before heading back to our hotel when it had calmed down. That evening the rain wasn’t as heavy and we walked into town to have dinner at a local BBQ restaurant.
On Wednesday 2nd November we rented mopeds from someone our hotel knew and drove to the Chocolate Hills, and Anda beach. The drive to the Chocolate Hills took about an hour, during which we had to drive through an area called Man Made Forest which was high up in the mountains so it was much cooler and the enormous trees offered a lot of shade.
After having a few breaks from driving to stretch our legs and work out where we were going on the map, we arrived at the Chocolate Hills. They were very cool and very random, but we were disappointed you couldn't drive through them all properly, or climb up any of them. They've been made into a really touristy spot with only one viewpoint and a large restaurant. So of course the one platform that gives you a 360 degree view of the hills is heaving with tourists, both local and foreign, so it's hard to get a good picture and actually take in the beautiful surroundings. But it was still awesome to see nonetheless. Apparently they are called the Chocolate Hills because when it rains they turn brown from the mud, which looks like chocolate from afar.
It then took nearly 2 hours to then get to Anda beach and once we did we were all so tired and hungry. We had some lunch at Old Castle (the only hostel and decent looking restaurant there) before crashing on the beach for an hour or so.
We were keen to leave Anda before it got dark, so about 4:15pm we got back on our bikes to do the painfully long journey all over again. Unfortunately we quickly learnt that Scotty’s bike had blown a tyre and we had to get it fixed or there was no way we were getting back to Panglao. Every bike repair shop seemed to be closed due to a holiday they were having. One place was open but when the guy took the tyre off he realised it wasn't repairable, and Scotty would have to buy a whole new tyre. Of course the repair shop didn't sell that particular tyre so the boys had to drive off on Jordan's bike to find somewhere that sold them while Nicole and Natalie waited for them at the repair shop. By this point it was getting dark and a little bit chilly (it was quite cool in Bohol at night) so we were very relieved when the boys came back about half an hour later with a new tyre. As soon as the repair shop put the new tyre on we were off, ready to start the 3 hour journey home. Luckily we had all brought our rain macs with us in case it rained, because it got pretty cold driving on the bike and we all felt the benefit of having an extra layer in the wind. After the longest and most uncomfortable moped journey, we finally arrived back at Bananaland about 8pm and we were shattered! We couldn't wait to have a hot shower and get something hot to eat. There was a small restaurant next door to our hotel which made pizzas in a stone oven. We needed comfort food so decided to have a pizza each before collapsing into bed.
Thursday was our last full day in the Philippines as after a year and a half away, we were heading home for a week. (A quick trip home wasn’t planned and we wouldn’t recommend doing so in the middle of travelling the Philippines, but it was a family emergency and certain circumstances make you want to be at home for your loved ones). As it was our last day, we spent most of it on the beach soaking up the rare sunshine. We got down to the beach about 11am as it was cloudy first thing. Luckily the clouds cleared and we had lovely sunshine until about 4pm when the heavens opened. Of course by this point we were pros at spotting the rain clouds and judging when they were going to let rip, so we had time to get undercover to have a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant near the beach. Both couples had nachos and we also went for some traditional Filipino meatballs served with sweet chilli sauce which were delicious. We sat under the shelter for a few hours, using their wifi and drinking beers, until we realised that people were coming out for dinner and we thought we should do the same. So we headed back to Bananaland for a hot shower and to get ready for our last evening in Bohol. That evening we walked along the beach and settled on a small restaurant with tables and chairs in the sand. Sadly it was probably our worst meal during our time in the Philippines so far, but it was made up for by the cheap beers and rum and coke. Wanting to save money, the four of us bought a bottle of rum from the shop and sat on our balcony drinking and teaching Nicole and Scotty how to play poker. It was a great way to end the first held of our time in the Philippines. Home time tomorrow.
Special shout out to Scotty and Nicole. Thanks for making our time in Bohol even better. Travel friends for life!