Bohol

Hey party people! Writing to you from an overnight bus that is fancy enough to have wifi but not enough to have even moderately comfortable seats. Since the probability of sleep tonight is looking pretty low, I figure I might as well try to throw up an update. Please excuse my being exhausted and probably slightly incoherent. Sorry in advance.

So, Bohol. We had a lot of trouble getting to Bohol because the ferry schedule we found online turned out to be quite inaccurate. We were hoping to catch a 12:50 boat that apparently doesn’t exist. We did a lot of running back and forth via jeepney between the different ports looking for the earliest ferry possible before reluctantly buying tickets for 2:00. Any wait time we might have been annoyed about was eaten up by a typical miscalculation on our part (forgot we needed money for a terminal fee yet again) and scramble to get to a working ATM and back. Wouldn’t be a travel day without a little anxiety sweat, would it?

We got a pretty sweet deal on tickets (500 pesos/person roundtrip) by skipping A/C and instead sitting outside, which was perfect for the first hour or so. Luckily, when the torrential downpour started the boat people were very friendly and let us move inside free of charge.

We decided to stay at Bohol Coco Farm, having read rave reviews about the place and it’s location a few kilometers from Alona Beach, which has a mixed reputation. More on that later. To get to Coco Farm, and anywhere in Panglao for that matter, there are a few options. The most expensive is a private taxi. The easiest is hiring a trike for 200 pesos from the port. The cheapest is to take a trike to the museum/jeepney jump-off point, and cram into a public jeepney heading south for 25 pesos/person.

We went for the cheapest, which was absolutely not worth it. First we had to haggle aggressively with uncooperative trike drivers who wanted to charge 2-3xs what the fare should have been to take us to the museum. They were clearly hoping for the full 200 for the whole trip, and formed a stubborn trike mafia when we told them we just wanted to go to the museum and knew how much it should cost. Ugh. Finally we settled for an amount that no one was happy with and got where we needed to go. Sadly, that was the least awkward part of the journey.

The jeepney, we thought, was full when we arrived. We squeezed on, though, and felt fortunate for a minute to have fit. Ha. Ha. Ha. Defying science, 4 or 5 more people managed to squeeze their bottoms onto the packed benches on either side before they were deemed full. Then, wooden benches were pulled out and squeezed down the middle, and 3 or 4 more people plopped down on each! And, just when I thought it was as ridiculous and unsafe as possible, a bunch of young schoolchildren climbed on top while several more filled the entranceway, hanging halfway out the door. I would have taken a picture if I could have moved, but breathing and avoiding awkward eye contact were challenging enough. Sardine status.

From there we set off down the unpaved, bumpy road for our slow, hour long ride to our destination. It ended up getting dark before we made it, making any chance that we would be able to see our sign to jump off officially impossible. We ended up missing our stop and having to pay some random guys to take us back on their motorbikes, which was actually way more comfortable even with our huge backpacks.

When we finally made it to Coco Farm, we were immediately filled with relief. Our little bungalow was simple but very comfortable. Upon arrival we were quickly served a home cooked meal of local BBQ pork, veggies, and some cold beers. The next day we were able to wander around the property a bit more, and the whole place is really cool. Besides having walkways dotted with informative signs throughout the area, they also have a “sky walk” which allows workers to reach the coconuts for picking, and tourists to soak up some sweet views of the farm. Plus, everyone there is super friendly. Overall just a really relaxing place.

Skywalk!

Skywalk

DSC_0281 - Version 2

DSC_0255 - Version 2

We ate yummy, local dinners at the farm almost every night. These fried noodles are actually made from coconut meat!

We ate yummy, local dinners at the farm almost every night. These fried noodles are actually made from coconut meat!

Day 1: We headed to Alona Beach on our first full day after deciding that we wanted to go ahead and book ourselves some more scuba diving! I was really hesitant about it (surprise, surprise…) but we had read such good things about diving in the area that I didn’t want to miss out. We began the day with a 5km walk that started out very peaceful but got less so the closer we got to Alona. The touts here really live up to their reputation of being relentless and we could barely walk five steps without aggressively being offered a ride. Alona Beach overall was a huge disappointment to us– the actual beach is small and not ideal for swimming. The town is headache-inducing with sales pitches being sung at you from every direction. We arranged our dives for the next day, grabbed some lunch, and got out of there, back to the peace of our out-of-the-way accommodation. Phew.

The beach near Bohol Coco Farm was actually quite nice, and much quieter!

The beach near Bohol Coco Farm was actually quite nice, and much quieter!

Enjoying some halo halo @ Alona Beach

Enjoying some halo halo @ Alona Beach

Day 2: We both felt nervous about diving again but were happy with the deal we got from Mr. Diver (2,300 for 2 dives not including lunch). We arrived on time at 8:15, expecting to leave right at 8:30. We noticed a huge difference in professionalism this time around, and felt a bit stressed out by everyone scurrying around- and no one telling us what was going on- especially once it became clear we were going to have to wait for a long time. We were rushed to try on our gear, and I wished they would have let us do it the day before when we offered like the folks in Coron had. The gear was uncomfortable, everyone seemed rushed, and it became very difficult to feel relaxed about the situation. For those who are more experienced, none of this is likely a big deal, but I would have had preferred to have our hands held a bit more. In that moment we really wished we had paid extra for a foreign-run dive shop.

Once we finally got going, about an hour behind schedule, things got a bit more organized, and Kevin and I felt more at ease. The boat ride was really nice, through some of the most beautiful royal blue water I have seen and past perfect white sand beaches. We eventually got the briefing that we had hoped for, and our dive master finally introduced himself and explained the details of each of our dives.

DSC_0298 - Version 2

so wish I had rented an underwater camera for this day, because after all the fuss and worry, this turned out to be our best diving experience so far. For some reason going down was easy for me this time around, with absolutely no ear discomfort! This plus the crystal clear water immediately gave me a rush of euphoria. We both were able to relax and comfortably enjoy each dive, and do some swimming and sunbathing in between. It was a pretty perfect day!

The best part, though, was that we saw turtles! Huge, magnificent creatures that were way more majestic (and gigantic) than I could have ever expected. Definitely a highlight of my time in the Philippines, and probably my life. Amazing.

DSC_0320 - Version 2

Day 3 was our last day, and the only one where we actually made it out of Panglao and around Bohol Island. Bike rentals were expensive at 500 pesos/day from Coco Farm, but we went for it and were glad to have the independence of having our own transportation. Yet again, the drive itself was possibly the best part. Once we got off of Panglao Island and it’s bumpy unfinished roads, the rest was smooth sailing.

We first headed to the Chocolate Hills (50 pesos/person admission), since that was the main attraction for the day. Because of the season, the hills weren’t exactly chocolate-colored, but they were still lovely. From there we planned on seeing the tarsiers, but missed the turn and decided just to keep going. We stopped for lunch at Simply Butterfly Conservation Center before paying 40 pesos each and taking the tour of the garden. Good food and friendly guides. Our final stop was at Baclayon Church, one of the oldest stone churches in the Philippines. Around here we unfortunately got a flat tire, but were able to get it fixed up for 200 pesos (~$4.50) in about 15 minutes on the side of the road, so it wasn’t the damper on our day that we were expecting. Overall, we had a great time and saved a lot of money on a bundled group tour.

DSC_0399 - Version 2

DSC_0364 - Version 2

DSC_0409 - Version 2

DSC_0468 - Version 2

DSC_0515 - Version 2

DSC_0497 - Version 2

DSC_0536 - Version 2

DSC_0542 - Version 2

Driving through the Manmade Forest

Driving through the Manmade Mahogany Forest

DSC_0613 - Version 2

Another perfect day of driving.

DSC_0659 - Version 2

DSC_0660 - Version 2

Once again, I wished we had just one more day in Bohol to squeeze in the rest of the attractions. This is always the way– there is never, ever enough time. Even with 9 months of travel. We ultimately decided to keep moving because I just couldn’t pass up stopping in Boracay, arguably the most perfect stretch of white sand beach in the world. I was fully expecting to be disappointed by this choice (recent reports say it is way too crowded and touristy to be enjoyable) but I wasn’t. At all. We had a fabulous time at our last beach destination in Southeast Asia.

Should be a quick post and I hope to have it up in the next few days! Much love!

2 Comments

Got something to say? Feel free, I'd love to hear from ya! Leave a Comment

  1. Lee says:

    That butterfly picture is creative!

    • Erin says: (Author)

      I wish I could take credit, but our tour guide took it without me even knowing what was going on. I was pretty impressed when I saw it!

Leave a Comment

Let us know your thoughts on this post!