As I received deep, lasting scorn regarding my lack of names in my last blog post, I will start this one by specifically calling out the people with whom I traveled with:
- Tanny Data (from who the most scorn was brought on)
- Rory Tufano
- Charlotte Grysolle
- Durham Brown
- Jolien Decleer
- Conor Dickson
- Kim Chow
- Margot Truyens
Okay, now that the names have been accounted for, let’s move on to the trip itself. Where did we go? Bohol, Cebu, Philippines: a province of the Philippines, in the country’s Central Visayas region (south central Philippines). Bohol is apopular tourist destination with beautiful beaches and resorts, the famous Chocolate Hills (see below for more on these…disappointingly not made of cacao like my Candyland dreams suggested), along with beautiful countryside and wide roads made for motorbiking.
So what was this trip all about? It started off with a 2AM flight from Changi, where the group of us met (some of whom had made the responsible decision to go home and pack, and some of whom decided to check out the new microbrewery that had recently opened up downtown and head straight to the airport. Ahem, that would be the author of this blog. Moving on). There’s not much to say about the flight except that I slept through it entirely, followed by the two-hour ferry upon landing that brought us out to the island of Bohol at 9AM Friday (it was a long holiday weekend in Singapore, in observance of Hari Raya). We checked into our super cute hotel, split up our villas, and hopped in the pool to cool off. A few of us decided to eat lunch, but for the most part we spent the late morning relaxing and rebooting after the long journey.
After some solid relaxation time, it was time for adventuring. The group was getting antsy. So where to? We were in Bohol—to the islands, of course! Our receptionist hooked us up with a sweet tour that included stops at two different islands off the coast: Virgin and Balicasag Islands. The ride out was gorgeous. One of those moments where my photos will serve as a better sample of the experience than my words: so, see below.
We first arrived at at Virgin Island Bohol, and trudged through the shallow water to make it onto the tiny island, where we were greeted by several vendors selling pearls, fresh seafood and coconuts, and jewelry. The shallow, crystal clear water is also incredibly expansive, with a lengthy sandbar that allowed us to walk out for nearly half a mile (.8 km for my non-American readers). The sandy runway is truly breathtaking, and made for a postcard-perfect backdrop to the 10(000) photos we took there.
Next stop: Balicasag Island. This one is a beautiful marine sanctuary, with a white sand yet rocky) beach and beautiful corals in the shallow water. It was a nice place to spend some time as the sun began to set, but is small enough to be explored and appreciated within 45 minutes, so after a nice walk on the beach and a swim in the sea, we headed back to the main beach.
One of the best things my boyfriend has ever given me is knowledge of the phrase FOMS: Fear of Missing Sunset. Similar to the fear of missing out, FOMS is the anxiety that an exciting sunset may currently be happening or about to happen, in a place where you are not poised to see it. I understand the insanity of this anxiety, but yet I am a sufferer. We needed a good sunset spot! So we polled a few locals and ended up atop a beach cliff at a nice bar/lounge, which also had a CLUTCH 2-for-1 happy hour special to fulfil our alcoholic hearts.
Following an extensive happy hour (as every happy hour should be), it was time to fill our stomachs with some food. We are responsible adults, after all. We trekked along the main beach and found a nice Greek place called Hera’s to grab some food in. And by “grab” I mean it was the slowest service I think any of us had ever experienced. So slow that I personally was wondering if they were out back crushing the grapes to make the wine we ordered. It was really no matter though, as it was a nice, big and fun group, so while it was a bit of an ordeal, it was fun to laugh about and nice to spend time all together. We ordered a LOT of food, and were so hungry by the time it came that we scarfed everything down and were extra full by dinner’s end. Thanks, Hera!
No one was really ready to go home after dinner, so we walked to the main square in town, where we stumbled upon a poi show. For those unfamiliar with poi, it is:
- A performance art that involves swinging tethered weights that are on fire through a variety of rhythmical and geometric patterns around the body
- A tradition that originated with the Māori people of New Zealand
If you’ve never seen it before, I recommend you watch this video for context (this woman is a lot more graceful than the dancers we saw, but it’s good as a setting-of-the-scene). I really wish I could post some of the videos of the show we saw, but unfortunately either WordPress hasn’t caught up with 2018 to let me post videos, or I just can’t figure out how that works. Let’s assume it’s the former. We were completely mesmerised (and appreciative of their carefully curated playlist that included Whitney Houston). By the time it was over, and it was pretty late at that point, so the squad called it a night and headed to bed. There is nothing to report about that night EXCEPT that Rory (villa roomie) and I accidentally set our air machine to “heat” instead of “cool” and I woke up at 5AM feeling like I just had spent 10 years in a sauna. DID NOT SLEEP WELL. Never making that mistake again, nope!
Per the above, I was awake quite early, and after unsuccessfully attempting to shower (with approximately one droplet per minute coming out of the shower head), I decided to head down to breakfast by the pool. The breakfast menu was LEGIT, and I enjoyed my coffee and oatmeal with fruits in the warm sunshine while waiting for the rest of the gang to wake up. Once the gang was awake and fed, we headed into town to for the big event: renting the motorbikes that would whip us around town for the rest of the weekend. I was excited but already feeling a bit nervous hearing my friends talk about some motorbike crashes they had been in/seen, and after Kim had a nasty incident while testing out her bike, I decided to hop onto the back of Jolien’s for the day and live that #PassengerLife. We were heading to the Chocolate Hills, about 1.5 hours from Bohol by car, or about 2.5 by motorbike. We were ready for the scenic route though, and the drive there was not only relaxing (again, #PassengerLife), but also gorgeous. We cruised along the wide roads past pretty villages, surrounded by nipa palms and lush foliage of the mahogany tree forests for the next three hours, taking in the natural beauty and fresh air (something we don’t get living in a city).
We reached the Chocolate Hills around 3PM, and while I thought it was an area rich in cacao that would provide me with more chocolate than my stomach could handle, I was sorely mistaken. The hills (which are really limestone geological formations) are green, but turn brown during the dry season. Hence, the name (apparently they also look like Hershey’s Kisses from above, which was definitely something an American spotted). WOMP WOMP. But while my chocolate-addict dreams were crushed, my eyes were not. The Chocolate Hills are a wild and beautiful place, and while people are not allowed to hike the hills, there is a viewing deck 214 steps up that provides a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Also, I have just learned from Google that the Chocolate Hills have been declared the country’s third National Geological Monument, and have recently been proposed for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Baller!
After a ride which was two hours of fun, one hour of GET US HOME NOW, we reached the main town. We had passed by a cute-looking restaurant called the Gun Bar on our ride over, so we decided to check it out, and I am SO glad we did. The restaurant is a re-conceptualized garden-turned-bar, where we were seated in a treehouse atop a stage featuring a fantastic live band playing a STRONG setlist of acoustic hits. The food was delicious, the drinks fabulous, and the company even better. Following the band’s set the DJ at the bar decided to put on his music, which was subpar at best, so I had to take things into my own hands (did I mention we had been having drinks?). I went down to the bar and plugged in my party playlist, and the group immediately hit the dance floor. And stayed there the rest of the night.
The next morning was a bit of a slow start for all of us, but we managed to get back on the bikes (#PassengerLife, thanks Jolien) and head out to find a beach club for breakfast and lounging. We didn’t manage to find one that we liked or that was open, so instead we headed to the main beach for a late breakfast (and quick 15-minute massage for me). Following breakfast it was time to board the ferry back to Cebu, where we would take an evening flight back to Singapore.
This trip absolutely solidified a place in my heart for the Philippines. I think it is officially my favourite place to visit in Asia, with its perfect beaches, epic sunsets and warm spirit. And on a trip like this, the people I was with only made it better. Until next time, Phils!
Some photos from Bohol: