Its more fun in the Philippines
by Thomas Buechler - 6 years ago
What make the Philippines unique as a destination, is the perfect combination of probably the most friendly people in the world, and the fact that it's always so much fun here.Even the country's tourism director has now realized it, and adopted the slogan for a world wide promotion campaign: Its more fun in the Philippines!.I stayed at Alona beach, Panglao, Bohol where the beach became a bit commercialized in the past few years,but it is still a diver's Eldorado .There are great dive sites nearby like Cabilao, Pamilacan and Balicasag islands, an impressive marine sanctuary where I spotted a white tip shark, turtles and so many corals.There is even accommodation on Balicasag island for budget travelers and divers. A nice day trip excursion from Alona beach are the rather weird geological formation of the so-called "Chocolate Hills" that turn brown during the dry season. Not far from here, I paid my respect to the smallest monkey in the world, called Tarsier.It can fit in the palm of your hand and rotate its head almost 360 degrees!Another gem of a relaxed beach and snorkeling\diving paradise is the miniscule Apo island in southern Negros.It has some fantastic smaller beaches and awesome rock formations. Apo island is the breeding place of more than 500 species of fishes and has lots of soft and hard corals as well.It's a protected marine sanctuary.In case more comfort is needed, there are luxury resorts like Pura Vida on the mainland, just south of Dumaguete.Swiss dive guru and entrepreneur Chris Heim knows the world of diving in the Visayas probably like nobody else, he has been in that business for almost a quarter of a century!He know manages the Pura Vida resort.The most scenic continuation from Duamguete must be the bus ride on the yellow Ceres liners past small fishing communities on the very southern tip of Negros.After Bayawan (where there is a change of bus) I crossed an invisible language border.From Cebuano speaking Negros Oriental to Ilongo speaking Negros Occidental.You will probably not even notice it.The Philippines has 165 spoken dialects in total.My next stop was hidden Sipalay, for many years one of my favourite stopovers in the archipelago.The bus ride has taken 5 long hours and I finally found some rest in one of Yogi's cozy hammocks at Sulu Sunset Resort.Yogi is originally from Germany and has put up some native bungalows here right on the beach.Terrific sunsets are included in the price!The beach is of volcanic origin, more of brown than white sugar, but the atmosphere here is relaxed and unparalleled .Back to Nature!Offshore is a sunken ships in shallow waters which makes a great snorkeling opportunity.When the night comes, with stars on the sky and Yogi's charming waitresses serving delicious Wiener Schnitzel and ice cold San Miguel beer, I wished I would have booked here for much longer.Yes, true, its more fun in the Philippines!My last stop this time was the famous beach destination of Boracay.From Sipalay it could be done in a day trip overland, but its a good idea to have a stopover in Iloilo and visit there the baroque Miagao church of 1787 which was declared a Unesco world heritage site in 1993.The church was constructed with a combination of limestone and yellow eggs to hold them.The people of Iloilo were forced to contribute limestone, corals and eggs as a kind of tax to the church.When I am in Iloilo, I usually stay at the Bavaria Hostel and Restaurant in Jaro district.It has all under one roof for a brief overnight stay.From Iloilo to Caticlan port (the port to take a pumpboat to Boracay) there are now many direct buses, stopping just briefly in Kalibo.Boracay is the main tourist destination of the Philippines and as such can get very crowded.I suggest to come here during off season, good months are after the school holidays end of May and June, or October, November, in fact up to shortly before Christmas, the island has much less tourists.Where to stay is the next question.Its all a budget story.The more money you can spend, the closer you get to the long white beach.Basically the whole length of the beach is now commercially exploited.The most quiet stretch is at the very end of the beach, after Boracays first beach resort, the famous Fridays.Even if you dont stay here, I can recommend the Happy Happy hours, the Go Coconut cocktail, served in a real big coconut is a must!After Friday's there are 3 beach houses for rent, the Mayumi being the newest addition; it comes with private beach, luxury rooms and maid service.Good also for honeymooners!For budget travelers there are now some opportunities on the next beach, just a 5 minute walk from the Mayumi, across the rocks, to a bay called Diniwid.Try out the very special Spider House or Wahine restaurant/bar right in the middle of Diniwid beach and with a great menue to choose from.There is even a dorm style backpackers place now on this beach, quiet and far away from the fire dance and karaoke bars!