First, I wrote the long story version. But if that’s not your style, scroll down past it for itinerary, pictures and prices.
This hotel was not bad, but it was not my favorite. Mostly, we just did not get along in the mornings. My second morning there I had to wake up early to check out and meet my driver. I’ve never been to a hotel that didn’t have 24 hour reception so I just assumed my 5 a.m. check out wouldn’t be a problem. I was definitely wrong. I walked up to the office and guess what? The lights were off and the door was locked. I was in a rush and didn’t want to make my driver wait or wonder where I was. So…I obnoxiously kept knocking on the door thinking maybe at least one staff member or the owner or somebody stayed at the hotel overnight. And, I continuously kept calling the office. I didn’t want to be rude, but I was frustrated and needed to leave. It had not been posted on the door or anywhere I had seen that there were set office hours. I thought that information should clearly be shared with all guests.
After about ten minutes or so, a man walked up asking me if I needed help with something. It looked like he had walked over from another nearby area so even though I wasn’t 100 percent sure that he was an employee at the hotel he seemed sincere and I really had to leave. So he kindly took down my room information, I gave him my key, and I was off. It was not the most relaxing way to start my morning.
I rushed over to meet my driver who had fallen asleep at a table in front of a convenience store. At least I knew he hadn’t been worried about the fact that I was a couple minutes late. I awkwardly woke him up, and we were off.
I was a bit nervous when I first got on the motorbike and let him know that I might have to hold on to his waist occasionally since there was really nowhere else for me to grab if I freaked out. I have been on motorbikes before, and I always feel a little nervous for some reason. I’ve only ever been a passenger, but I actually think I would feel much more secure if I could be the driver. Luckily, I ended up not being nervous at all. It was a very relaxing and peaceful ride.
One thing I really enjoyed about this trip was getting to meet and talk to some different people. Usually, there is a language barrier when I travel. But this time, I was able to communicate with other tourists as well as Filipino people very easily.
My driver, Bong, was very friendly and talkative. He told me about himself and his family. He is actually a cook, but there are a total of nine people in his household and he is the only financial support. So, now he offers his driving services during his free time to help supplement his income.
We also talked about the relationship between China and the Philippines. He told me there were both positive and negative aspects to it. But, I did notice the negative feelings came out a little bit faster. He wasn’t bitter or ranting, he just made a point that there was more competition for Filipino businesses and services because of the growing number of Chinese businesses in the Philippines. But, he also said a positive is that the Chinese businesses could provide jobs and opportunities. Ultimately, it seems dependent on personal situations. For some it could be beneficial, and for others it could be destructive. Oh, and of course, there is a dispute over some territory in the South China Sea. I’m not trying to turn this blog political. I just wanted to share my conversations with a native Filipino person, but at this point it basically seems like China has territory disputes with all nearby countries. China VS ______. Who does it belong to?
Bong also talked about the earthquake that happened in Bohol and Cebu in 2013. It caused a lot of destruction and was the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines in over 20 years. It killed over 200 people and damaged roads, homes, bridges, businesses and historical monuments. I mentioned it in my previous post since I visited two historical churches in the area that are still undergoing reconstruction. It was sad looking at my pictures and comparing them to old pictures before the earthquake seeing all the damage that had been done. And, this was just a small representation of the damage. But, the city is a lively one with so many great and friendly people. They have been and continue to rebuild and reconstruct. It is definitely worth a visit and hopefully tourism helps boost their economy.
Once I arrived at Chocolate Hills, I climbed a lot of stairs to get to the viewing spot. I was sweaty and breathing embarrassingly loud. As I was checking out the view and taking lots of pictures (though my pictures don’t show off the hills very well), I chatted with a couple from Germany who told me they were exploring the Philippines for a month. They were so friendly, and it was nice talking with them. After living in foreign countries the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize that I actually (surprisingly) miss small talk with strangers. And, they had managed to accomplish what I didn’t. They actually made it to Chocolate Hills in time for sunrise. I got there more at the end of sunrise, but the views were still really pretty.
Oh, be warned, you may be attacked by lots of bugs. (Maybe it was because of the time of day.) I don’t think they actually bit me, but they were annoyingly flying around and landing on me making me feel itchy. Luckily this wasn’t during the whole visit and was only at the end. But, it definitely made me ready to head back down and be on my way. So, that’s just what I did.
Bong took me to Tubigon Port. Well, we figured out that you have to buy tickets before you get to the port. There was an area outside as you are coming upon the entrance to the port (to the left) where you can buy tickets. It’s an alleyway with ticket booths to the left and other vendors to the right. All the ticket sellers started calling out prices to me when I arrived. I feel like the area wasn’t super obvious, but if you ask your driver or a local they should be able to direct you to the right place. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Almost everyone I interacted with was very friendly.
You also have to pay an entrance fee if your driver brings you up to the port. (I think you can just walk through for free.) But, he wanted to make sure I got to the right spot and had everything under control. So, I just went ahead and paid for the small entry fee since he was trying to be so helpful. Then, I thanked Bong, and we parted ways. I really enjoyed my drive with him and I wish I had more to tip him. (I was running low on money at this point though. I had to start being more conservative.) Though, this will let me point out that it is nice to tip if you make a trip to the Philippines. The recommendation I found is that you should tip somewhere between 20 to 50 pesos to your driver or waiter. At some restaurants, they add the tip to your bill so don’t pay it twice unless you really just want to.
When you arrive, you also have to pay a passenger terminal fee. There was an employee standing outside who asked for the money and went and got the ticket for me. I felt a little awkward about how he handled it because I felt like he just wanted to take my money without clarifying what it was for. I was hesitant, but it was such a small amount so I gave in. Luckily, a second later he brought me back the receipt and walked into the building with me. He also asked about how much I paid for my ride here which I thought was none of his business, but oh well. He was the only person that I felt uncomfortable around during my whole trip. Everyone else was so kind.
I had to wait about an hour before it was time for my ferry to leave. The trip took over an hour and thirty minutes I believe. I got a seat below deck which was unfortunate because I would have preferred to experience the views and fresh air. If I had known, I would’ve requested a seat on deck. Plus, it was so cold below deck! You might want to bring a light sweater or jacket.
Once I arrived to Cebu, I found a jeepney going towards Colon Street which is a popular shopping street nearby many of the historical monuments. I looked for the street name on the jeepneys and then just asked to double check it was the right direction. I don’t think the driver spoke much English, but a man waiting near a parked jeepney helped me and let the guy know where I was going. The driver was kind enough to specifically point out my stop since I didn’t really know what to look for. As long as it is on the basic route, it seems possible to just let the driver know where you want to stop. You don’t always have to wait for a designated spot.
After that, I walked around exploring the various historical/tourist spots, got super hot and sweaty and then walked to my hotel and checked in. I stayed at Pillows Hotel and my gosh, they were so friendly and helpful. This hotel had wonderful customer service, their prices are affordable and the rooms were well maintained so I would definitely recommend it.
I showered, relaxed for a short time and then headed back out for a late lunch. I ate at Zubuchon, and the food was super delicious. It had lots of great reviews, and I can definitely see why. The pork was cooked really well, and the biko was a wonderful dessert. In general, I just feel like the Philippines knows how to do dessert right. The rest of my day after that wasn’t too exciting. I explored some more, chilled at my hotel and went back out for dinner to eat some more lechon at House of Lechon. My dinner was nowhere near as delicious as my lunch and the service wasn’t very good. So, though it also had good reviews, I wouldn’t suggest it or go back myself. The atmosphere and design of the restaurant were nice though.
And, that was basically it for the night. It was a fun last full day in the Philippines. I am glad I got to experience two different areas, but now having been to both would personally choose the more relaxed Bohol with it’s pretty beaches and lovely landscapes.
Unfortunately, I did realize on the way back the next day that I had food poisoning and spent the next four days with it. I’m still not sure what I ate that caused it since I didn’t eat anything suspicious or questionable. Punishment for escaping the cold weather and enjoying hot, sunny weather? Maybe. But, oh well! Sh*t happens.
Day 3: Bohol to Cebu
5:15 A.M: Started on my way to Chocolate Hills
My driver charged me 1000 pesos ($21) for this trip. And, we drove through Bilar Man-Made Forest
Alona Beach > Chocolate Hills > Tubigon Port
Views from the Road
6:50 A.M.: Arrived at Chocolate Hills
The entrance fee cost 50 pesos ($1.05). *Though, I had read online that they changed it to 100 pesos ($2.10). I don’t know why they charged me the original price, but be prepared for either.
During the wet season, they are more jokingly known as the Mint Chocolate Hills.
8:30 A.M Arrived at Tubigon Port
My Sea Jet Ferry ticket cost 170 pesos ($3.56). *You must buy a ticket before entering the port (offices to the left). It can be tricky to find so ask for help.
There is a temporary vehicle pass fee of 12 pesos ($0.25) if your driver takes you to the port building.
You have to pay a passenger terminal fee which costs 10 pesos ($0.21).
11:30 P.M. Arrived in Cebu & Explore
*So many sights in Cebu are so close together and only about a 5 to 10 minute walk so it is easy to get them on foot. Plus, it’s free to walk.
- Colon Street- To get from the port to Colon street I used a jeepney. It cost 8 pesos ($0.17). They are everywhere so you can just look for one with the name of your destination or an area close to your destination, and hop on.
- Magellan’s Cross- Free
- Fort San Pedro- 30 pesos ($0.63)
- Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral- Free
2:00 P.M. Checked in at Pillows Hotel
3:00 P.M. Late Lunch at Zubuchon
Both the meal and dessert were super delicious! Go there!
4:00 P.M. Explored Cebu & Relaxed
8:30 P.M. Dinner at House of Lechon
Next Day 3:00 A.M. Head back to China