We were disappointed not to be able to get a Russian visa. The plan had been to travel North to Vladivostok from where we would take the Trans Siberian Express to Moscow and then catch a cheap flight back to the UK. Instead, we decided to travel to the Philippines and Hong Kong to spend the last few weeks of our travel adventure in the sun.
We flew with Philippine Air from Osaka to Cebu on a plane that encountered significant turblence somewhere over the China Sea. We were grateful to reach the stability of a bed and we stayed a night near Cebu airport in a hut up a track in a rough part of the city. The next day we were quickly out of there, taking a ferry to the more pleasant surrounds of the beautiful island of Bohol.
We stayed about three weeks on Bohol first at Panglao, then at the brilliant Nuts Huts adjacent to the River Loboc (see video here) before travelling by bus to the more remote East of the island at Anda. Anda is a coastal village with nothing much there, apart from a square surrounded by a few ramshackle shops and eating places. It was a quiet place at the end of the island perfecting for taking it easy for a few days.
In Anda we stayed at a great resort called East Coast White sands. The hotel had a private beach and two lovely swimming pools. For parts of our stay we were the only guests, which was good apart from the night when I woke up and could hear someone moving around outside our apartment at 4am. I knew all the staff had gone home and I was already concerned that we had been left without security in an eerie location. I also knew there was a shanty like town just over the wall outside our apartment. The folk that lived in the ramshackle wooden huts seemed ‘rum fuelled’ friendly as we walked past during the day but at 4am as I gripped the bed sheets by my chin, I was sure that someone had scaled the wall to rob the perceived wealthy westerners that were alone in that remote location at the otherside of the wall.
I woke Tracy and when we did have the courage to venture outside clutching an empty cola bottle (the only weapon available) we found nothing more than a clutch of cats on the roof. We decided to catch our breath and ventured across through the dark to the decking at the back of the swimming pool. The grounds were deathly quiet but our way was dimly lit by low level path lights. As we reached the decking which in the daylight, looks out across the sea below, we suddenly heard the motor of a boat strike up beneath us. It was too dark to see but the boat pulled away with some urgency, revving off into the night. By now we were petrified. I had heard someone stalking our apartment, we were the only guests, all the staff had gone home and now it was confirmed we weren’t the only people awake in the vicinity. It seemed certain that as we had come out of apartment, our assailants had run down the cliff side and into their boat before storming away.
East Coast White Sands at Anda, Bohol.
We retreated back to the apartment and stayed awake until sunrise. The first of the hotel staff arrived shortly after the sun had risen and I reported the incident without delay. With some ambivalence, the staff found the issue funny and explained that the motor boat was more likely to be an illegal fisherman that had seen us appear on the decking high above. Apparently, the fisherman get in trouble for fishing in those parts and we were likely to have been mistaken for a state official. The staff at the hotel were great, on a Sunday they took us for a walk into the local hill villages, we stopped at some of the settlements to gather food to cook in the evening and we pulled coconuts from trees to drink on the way back down the track to the hotel. On the way back down, we encountered a small snake and I was suprised at how alarmed the staff looked as they all hastily moved away from it.
After the island of Bohol we travelled on to Dumagette, a student city on the island of Negros and then we took another boat back to the island of Cebu where we took part in a traditional easter march where statues of religious figures were paraded through the streets by candle light. We visited Oslob to swim with the whale sharks, a fascinating experience if slightly touristy. We then moved on up the coast by terror bus, to Alcoy where we stayed a few nights at a complex that had a nice pool with views across the sea below.
On the second day I had a wander into the local village, leaving Tracy by the pool. I found the local cockpit where a cock fight was in full swing. Curiously, I decided to try and gain an entry, I thought I’d be rebuked on the basis of my western face but I was surprised. There is nothing underground about cock fighting in the Philippines, I was welcomed with open arms, the doorman even asked me if I would like him to place a bet for me. I politely declined and went it to witness a hundred or so Philippino faces sat in a small, roofed, bamboo amphitheatre of terraced seating. I shuffled in uneasily on the bottom row and saw the first pair of cocks introduced to each other before their owners took a few paces back and then released them for the fight. The cocks stalk each other nervously but when they do come to contact the contest is over quickly. After the first fight I’d seen enough, the noise from the baying crowd added to the unpleasant spectacle. I retreated back to the hotel thanking the doorman for his hospitality. A cultural experience indeed. It was common as we travelled through the Philippines to see people on mopeds clutching either live chickens (possibly on their way to slaughter) or dead chickens (on their way to the cooking pot).
It was then time to take the death bus back to Cebu city. Without any exaggeration we traveled on more than one bus where grow adults were in tears and sometimes vomiting because of the hideously crazy style of the bus drivers. I don’t know if the drivers are on commission to get to the destination three hours earlier than scheduled but they each do their very best to achieve that target. Screaming round those coastal roads was a very frightening experience indeed.
We dwelled in Cebu City for a few days before our flight to Hong Kong. I took part in a half marathon which was another great experience and we spent some time in the shopping mall which was a bit of a central hub of the community. It was then time to move on to our final destination, Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific.