3 Mar

The day we arrived in Bohol was pretty dreary. It wasn’t exactly raining, but the clouds looked as if they were going to start bawling at any moment. For that reason, we were in no rush to make it to the beach and decided we would try to take the cheapest possible transportation to Alona, a beach on Panglao, which is a smaller island connected to the west of Bohol. When you get off the ferry in Bohol, numerous van companies are trying to lure you into their grasp. We headed over to tourist information booth, where she tried telling us we should take a van. We assured her we wanted the cheapest option and asked about the bus terminal, where we read that you can take a bus to Alona Beach from. She warily told us we could take a tricycle to the bus terminal and get the bus from there. We hopped into a tricycle and it took us about five minutes to explain to the guy that we wanted to go to the bus terminal, which cost us 100 pesos, not straight to Alona, which would have cost 300. The whole ride he kept cracking jokes, bringing his offer down to 250 pesos, saying “AND NOW 250 TO ALONA!” We got a kick out of the guy and enjoyed the fact that he was able to laugh at himself as well. He even played Anne Murray, singing along to every word and telling us how she is his idol. We arrived at the bus terminal, which was really just an empty lot, and were told to wait for our jeepney, which is not exactly the bus we were expecting. We sat around with the locals and watched the unmarked vehicles pull in and people pile in or out. Luckily, an exceptionally nice woman asked us where we were going and told us she was getting on the same one. When the right one pulled in we piled ourselves in. Jeepneys are like covered pick up trucks with benches in them. People are shoved in from the side and the back and there is no such thing as a full jeepney. However many people are there will fit in. We felt like idiots with our big bags, and they definitely forced us to sit in uncomfortable positions, but we were happy to be doing the local thing in these parts. After about 20 minutes on the jeepney, the woman who had helped us get on yelled to the driver that we needed to get off. We hopped off and paid the 25 pesos each for the ride, feeling satisfied that we were able to get ourselves to Alona Beach without having to use the tourist vans.

Accommodation in Bohol is quite a bit more expensive than that of beach towns in Cebu. It’s more of a resort spot and caters to Koreans more than anyone else (there are Korean minimarts everywhere). We booked the cheapest possible hostel we could find, Alona Hammocks. We had no idea what we were in for, and there was definitely a possibility we were paying 300 pesos to sleep in a hammock. We approached the hostel to find everyone sitting around a table about to eat lunch, in a bit of a cultish manner. The place was fully open to the elements, with the shower smack dab in the middle of the place, toilets that didn’t have flushers, and tents or mattress pads on the floor for beds. Christine and I were given a tent since we were two people, which was far more privacy than any of the solo travelers were getting. Aside from the grunginess of it all and the fact that it seemed like the people staying here had all lived here for too long, it actually wasn’t a terrible place to stay. The people turned out to be very nice and welcoming, there was a new puppy, Jeffrey, there for entertainment, and a TV that was constantly playing movies. On our first night there, we all ordered food in and watched Bad Moms before going out to a Western bar that was serving up 25 peso cocktails for the night. Additionally, free shots of sambuca and tequila made their way around, as one of the girls who works at the hostel used to work at the bar so free shots were a regular thing here. After spending barely any money, we headed back to our tent to get some sleep before our Chocolate Hills tour the next morning.

The Chocolate Hills were the main reason that we came to Bohol, along with tarsiers (the small monkeys with massive eyes), and we would get to see both these things and more on this tour. We had initially thought about renting a scooter to go out and do all these things on our own, but we were so tired from all the travel throughout the Philippines that we figured we deserved a nice air-conditioned bus and a thoughtless day with a tour group. There were a few activities that we decided to skip on, simply because they weren’t worth paying for, like the butterfly sanctuary and a small zoo-like place where they had large snakes and lizards. The first thing we participated in was the zip line, the longest in Bohol that takes you over the Loboc River. They lay you horizontally in what feels like a straight jacket hooked up to the rope above you and it feels like you’re going to fall out of the mechanism. I was definitely scared at the start, but once I was off soaring over this river in what feels like slow motion, all fear was gone. Except for at the end of course, when you think you can’t possibly slow down before hitting the wall and yet somehow, by some contraption, you do. Afterwards, we headed to a dock at the Loboc River and did the Loboc River cruise. You’re on a boat that serves you lunch, and while the boat route was pretty short, the food was good, the musician was surprisingly enjoyable and the river was a beautiful emerald green.

Next up were the tarsiers, at a sanctuary where they are housed. We walked around in search of them and when one group seemed to be looking at one and taking pictures, Christine and I were completely confused. We idiots had come into this knowing nothing about tarsiers, and thought that they were normal sized monkeys. However, they are TINY, like fit in the palm of your hand tiny, and oh so adorable. We had to follow the groups of people that were finding them because we were completely unable to do so ourselves. The mini monkeys would hold onto the tree, hiding under a leaf, with their sleepy eyes slowly opening, if we were lucky, as we stared at them. They were virtually impossible to take a good picture of, even when I blockaded Christine from the guards and had her lean over the barrier. Yes, we were yelled at and no, the picture was not good enough to be worth it. After a nice van nap, we made it to the Chocolate Hills in a bit of gloomy weather. We ascended the steps to the viewpoint and were greeted by multiple grassy mounds in the distance, there are apparently at least 1,260 of these formations, that seemed too perfect to be a natural occurrence. The reason they’re called the chocolate hills, we learned, is that during the dry season when the plant life withers, the hills turn brown. Yup, as simple and kind of stupid an explanation as that. After multiple selfie stick opportunities and laughs, even bringing Ollie the Octopus out for some pictures, we made our way to the last stop, the hanging bridge. In its past, the bridge was composed solely of bamboo and built out of necessity by the locals to get things across to the village. These days, a suspension holds the bridge up, but it still maintains its bamboo slats which definitely don’t feel very safe as you walk across. It was kind of a gimmicky tourist stop, but we enjoyed wobbling across it.

We had such an exhausting day that by the time we made it back to the hostel, we were ill-equipped to make any movement. We showered, watched whatever movies were on the TV and then headed out to a restaurant to get wifi so that we could book our flight to Palawan because, as is often the case in the Philippines, our hostel had wifi that was not strong enough to do anything if more than a few individuals were on it at a time. Relieved that we finally booked our flight we treated ourselves to big pasta dishes and of course, Cornettos. We got into our tent and had a terrible sleep. People are coming and going at all hours and we were astonished that people were always up and functioning when, when we would get up, we were depressed and sleep deprived from all the noise of the previous night. Our plan for the final day was to go hang out on Alona Beach, before heading out to the ferry to Siquijor, an island Southwest of Bohol. Given our ferry luck, we were nervous about catching this night ferry, which leaves at 8:00 PM. However, the people at the hostel assured us that it is massive and rarely fills up. But, we didn’t really want to mess it up, so we went at 6:00 PM, the time that the ticket booth was supposed to open.

We arrived to a closed ticket window and a few people standing around it. We figured they were just delayed in opening and waited a few more minutes before I asked the guard at the terminal entrance where we should be buying tickets for Lorena (the port we would be entering in Siquijor). He directed us back to where we were previously standing. Another half hour passed so we asked a different guard wandering by the booth, who told us that it should open soon where we were standing. At around 7:45 we were starting to lose hope and at 8:00 PM we heard an announcement for final boarding call for the ferry to Lorena. Shocked and confused, we ran to the guard who I had originally questioned about tickets. He told us nonchalantly that the ferry was sold out, as if he had know it all along. Of course we were furiously asking him how could that be if they never even opened the ticketing window. He informed us that basketball teams were on the ferry, so it was sold out before we had arrived. I asked him why he hadn’t just told us this originally and he just stared at me. I was so furious and fed up with the ferry system here that I would have had a breakdown if it weren’t for Christine remaining calm. So, we would have to take a ferry the following morning instead, one that cost 950 pesos compared to the 250 pesos we were supposed to be paying on the night ferry. The guard told us where we could stay up the road and when we arrived, we were poorly greeted by a woman who tossed a key at us so we could look at the room. While it was fine, we were so tired and defeated that we wanted to look at something a little better. We ventured to a hotel across the street that was definitely beyond our price point and asked the woman there about a room. We weighed the pros and cons and, eventually, Christine convinced me that we should stay in the hotel. After putting our bags down I declared that we should search for wine and we both bought ourselves a bottle of red that we enjoyed after our first (and probably last) hot showers in the Philippines, while watching terrible reality TV shows on big comfy beds. It was luxury at its finest and pulled me out of my terrible mood.

The next morning, we had to wake up at 5:00 AM and make our way to the ticket booth to ensure that we would get a ticket for the 10:00 AM ferry since they wouldn’t let us book it the night before. We strolled sleepily and in pajamas down to the pier, bought the tickets, and were back in bed thirty minutes later. We said an emotional goodbye to our hotel room, went down to the free breakfast of omelets, fried potatoes, sausages, coffee, juice and fruit, and made our way over to the ferry, ready to get to our next destination.


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