Saturday, December 20, 2014

Behold Bohol: My Thoughts & Thank Yous

A week since my last update? Indeed, I haven't been touching the laptop when I am home but I assure everyone that I will try my best in keeping up to everything now that I have a full time job all over again. But that really is a story for another day. Just as we approach the end to my Philippines adventures, perhaps I should list out some things that you should look out for while you're in the country.

1. They are extremely clean.

Let us play spot the garbage on the streets. Or the lack thereof.

It is worth nothing that while many people would think that Manila and Bohol is set in Philippines, thus being fairly run down and quite dirty but it's exactly the opposite. In fact, the toilets in the Philippines would put the public toilets in Malaysia to shame! They're not only spotless and dry, one of the public toilets we visited at Loboc before we got on the river cruise lunch was also air-conditioned. There was no stench whatsoever and they even had air fresheners spritz out fresh scents, bearing in mind it's just a toilet. So yes, hygiene seems to be numero uno in the Philippines!

2. It is quite safe in Manila.

Plain clothes policemen and watchdogs at every nook and cranny.

This applies to Manila as we we were never left alone in Bohol but having heard so many horror stories on being extra careful in Manila with thugs and snatch thieves, I felt no danger whatsoever. They had metal detectors and staffs checking through your bags when you enter several buildings but really it's all in the name of safety. In fact, it (again) puts the streets of Malaysia to shame as every street was well lit and there were people having their night exercises and spending quality time with friends at family at times like 9 PM, closing to 10 PM. What's up with you now, Malaysia?

3. There are taxes when you exit the airports.

And it doesn't matter how many luggage bags you have, just pay.
Disclaimer: These weren't really all mine! Just the black one on my right.

I initially had no idea about this but watching Ashman pay for our airport taxes made me realize that there actually is such a thing. I am not too sure about the amount but I am estimating a PHP 50 when you exit the Tagbilaran airport to return to Manila and a PHP 550 when you exit the Manila airport. This of course is just an estimate but I do advise on keeping some pesos in hand when you want to leave.

4. People in the Philippines are very cheerful.

Playing under a tap of running water? Boy, this is all the fun we need!

If there was anything that had caught my eye, it was that everyone in the Philippines is a cheerful person. They're always in smiles, always happy and constantly just in high spirits. In the words of Jacky, they are poor but they aren't broke and they are happy that way. It almost makes you rethink the decisions you make in life as a city person as we are constantly chasing after something big and never stopping to smell the roses. Perhaps it's time to step back to re-evaluate things now.

Now that I've wrapped up on most of everything there is about Bohol, I just thought of giving my thank yous away, because we all need to be grateful for all that we receive, right?

AIRASIA ZEST

I took this, I just didn't get around to watermarking it. Too busy lately, I'm sorry.

Big thanks to Ashman from AirAsia who liaised with me from the beginning to the end soonest as Tania got the word out to him that I would be going on her behalf. Truth be told, I was half expecting a scary looking man who would bark at us through every stop but meeting him at the airport was such a pleasant experience. Bigger thank yous are extended to AirAsia for making this trip come to live what with the arrangement with people over in the Philippines, making it a memorable end to my seemingly dark 2014.

For information on how you could jet off to Manila and then to Tagbilaran, check out my wrap on the AirAsia flights I had in November over here.

BOHOL TOURISM OFFICE

A picture with Gov. Edgar Chatto.

What is shame?

It is with great pride for me to say that I once shook hands with the mayor of Bohol, Gov. Edgar Chatto and also took a picture with him alongside the press release of which he signed for me. Their arrangements over every matter while we were in Bohol is much appreciated and I couldn't have imagined better hospitality than the one we were offered. It actually made me feel like a VIP, something that I wouldn't be in another 20 or 30 years unless I marry a dignitary of some sort but really, thank you.

ANGELS' WINGS TOURS & TRAVEL

With Eric of Angels' Wings Tours & Travel

I usually don't quite like travel agencies because they seem to take you on for a ride with sky high prices then dump you around and rush you through everything as though they were herding cows. And those cows would be us. I don't like being a cow. With Angels' Wings however, it was different because they had assigned one of the friendliest, most energetic and extremely helpful tour guide to us - an extremely knowledgeable man named Erico Joseph (Of who we called Eric all along the way).

They had also covered most of our expenses throughout, what with the experience at the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park and tarsier watching at the Tarsier Conservation Loboc. Everyone seemed to be friends with Eric and it was made so much more pleasant knowing that we were in safe hands. They are contactable via e-mail at boholangelswings@yahoo.com so if you're looking for tour guides in Bohol, I do highly recommend them.

THE FOLKS OF THE TRIP

Thank you all for everything.

From meeting at KLIA2 to jetting off and being on adventures together, thank you to each and every blogger and media people who were there for this trip. I've always been made to believe that a trip will only be enjoyable when you have the right sort of company and I am really glad this group of company has become such easy travelers. From the left to the right, bar the ladies in traditional clothes and the one holding the sign: Ashman, Jerome, yours truly, Kittie, Syahir, Ah Bok, Jacky, Illa and Tatie.

Last but not least... TANIA WEE

That's us in the middle, I don't have a picture of just the two of us.

This is the ultimatum in cheesiness between us but if Tania hadn't thought of me when she first found out she couldn't make it to the trip, I would never have gotten the opportunity to visit Manila (Albeit just for a night) and Bohol over the span of being close to a week. In fact, Philippines has never been a country on my list of to-go places so if it weren't for her contact, I would have never been there in the first place.
Accounts of my experiences are also available on her blog at Sugoidays right here. Do visit, I made her header! Tania writes about her personal travel experiences with places such as Bangkok, Japan and Australia all covered. She also does food and beauty reviews so it's a spot you should look out for with these information when you need them.

So that wraps my tag on Behold Philippines. I know it's been a lot to read about but Philippines has truly been an eye opener for a city girl like me, enough to fill me in on an entire year of adventures. It took me off a lot of things that had happened especially in the 3rd quarter of the year and it completed my year wonderfully. 

Goodbyes aren't forever, it's just another way of saying, "I will see you soon".

I guess it's the silver lining I have always been looking for! Stoked to see if I would be traveling more but until then, I'll just continue stalking airline sites for cheap tickets.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Behold Bohol: La Manok to Anda

I had initially planned for this to be written together with my previous talk of the Abatan River cruise but having to cover 2 villages and the cruise all at once had made the post seem extra long, thus an extra piece was born! If you've read the previous post, what followed the cruise was a visit to an island called La Manok Island before we were to rest over the white sandy beach of Anda; both of which I will speak of today.

The Past

Placed away from beach at Anda, La Manok Island is also known as The Witch's Island over the kind of history it holds. It took us a great half hour to arrive by a boat and it took almost an hour before we left the shores because the waves were too great to begin with. The sea at Anda Beach was definitely not quite a child's play as it did get fairly rough at a point but it was otherwise a great ride anyway.

Riding the waves...or so I thought.

Hello, La Manok!

The one tip you would absolutely need is that you should never leave the hotel without sunglasses if you're headed out to ANYWHERE in the Philippines. Trust me, your sunglasses are God sent regardless where you visit.

Being brought in by hand as we arrive. They literally pulled the boat in.

We did however notice that there were a number of damaged corals at the bottom of our boat and there was the unmistakable sound of scrapes over the corals courtesy of our boat as well. I do hope they will find a better way in bringing in guests to La Manok Island as opposed to hurting the corals that are already difficult to find as is.

Can someone tell me what this creepy crawly is?

Bone fragments from the boat burial area.

Our tour guide giving us a good run down of what we were looking at.

Touring this island brought us to a different end of Bohol, a sense of unmistakable eeriness crawling through. While it is supposed to be somewhere rich in history and a sense of nature's everything, I didn't quite enjoy myself as I thought I would. It also did not help that I was wearing slippers that were made specifically for the beach and not these hard stone walks but I find it impossible for you to wear sneakers either because they could get wet over the walk from the boat to the island. My tip is to wear comfortably thick-soled slippers.

Their resting hut.

Writing from thousands of years back.

Alongside red hematite painting.

If you are indeed a history buff, La Manok Island is one tour you should take on but if you're like myself and not too big on it, it could get pretty boring. That said, it does flourish you with just enough enjoyment to go with it but nothing particularly stands out as history unless you are indeed into such wonders of nature. I did find them interesting at first but tuned out later on.

Happily headed to the graveyard.

Picture under the red hematite paintings, excuse my face.

Alongside the friendliest tour guide ever from Angels' Wings. His name is Eric.

The girls of the trip. We missed out on Kittie who was in the toilet.

We took a different route to return to Anda Beach and it was good to know there was indeed a different way. It did however include a good dose of walking but in order to save the corals, hike we shall!

Sharing a kayak with Ashman who took this shot for me.

Walking through a bamboo bridge. It was extremely shaky and very scary.

If you notice, Ashman helped take my green towel as I balanced my way out.

It was however, undeniably pretty for photos. Syahir's in the background so say hello!

A van had waited for us at the end of this seemingly endless bridge and we were ferried right back to the Anda Beach where we anticipated for a sunset...that we unfortunately couldn't catch as much as we wanted to.

The Beach

Alas, we have arrived to my favourite part of the entire tour. Welcome to Anda Beach, everyone.

This isn't off Google, I swear.

Basking within the white sands and the clear blue skies alongside that beautifully clean sea is this island that just stands as is. And I was absolutely amazed.

The sand was soft and really clean, I can't even tell you how much I loved it.

But I can share with you how clear the waters are.

And you can also spot starfishes in the sea. This was taken from above the waters so it should really tell you how clear the sea was.

You could hardly spot rubbish on the beach as you would back at home *coughs* and the waves were funny enough, not as strong as we had expected it to be. So what could you do besides put yourselves in the mood for pictures in this amazing land? Warning: Everything below is pretty much me, me and more of me with the people from the trip.

Where there is a beach, there is me in this pose.

And just as the moon came up, I got this too!

Meet Jacky, my roommate for 2 nights.

Meet Illa, the one who jumps real high.

Meet Taufulou: Ah Bok.

Meet me. Duh.

Meet us and our jump shots!

Yes, I have gotten so horribly fat that you can see it in all its glory in my pictures but that's fine. I'll work something out. The beach was indeed the highlight of the entire trip but having to drive 2 hours from Panglao Island to Anda Beach does feel a little far fetched. However if you happen to be staying around the area of Bacong Sitio Dagahoy Anda, then you just cannot miss this beach. It's by far the prettiest one I've seen in my entire life.

Disclaimer: This has been a trip graciously sponsored by AirAsia and the supporting parties on hotels, tour services and visitation fees in the Philippines. Much thanks shall be given to AirAsia MY and AirAsia PH as well as the F1 Hotel Manila, South Palms Resort Panglao, Angels' Wings Tours and Tourism Bohol for the gracious 4 days 3 night AirAsia Media Familiarization Trip. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Behold Bohol: Of Villages and Life

I usually don't quite like it when I am nearing the end of my holiday posts but what has to close just has to be, right? So let's get talking about my 3rd day in the Philippines. The itinerary seemed simple enough - we were just off to a river life tour before being guided to an island called La Manok only to end the day at the Anda White Beach. But let me tell you that it isn't all that simple!

The Life

There has always been a saying that when you know a place, that's when you fall in love with it and Abatan River in Cortes, Bohol isn't anywhere different from that. The Abatan River flows over 13.5km and the word "Abat" is taken over the context of "converge" where fresh water meets sea water at the Abatan River.

Heading for the cruise.

Open for boarding.

Shaky as the boat may look, it is in fact powered by motor and everyone on board are required to wear life vests for safety. That said, I am really intrigued by how much safety means to the people in the Philippines because they remind you each and every time we get off and board again to put on our life vests.

And they worry for you when you sit on the deck to take pictures.

Even when it's just like this. Meet Ashman from AirAsia.

Along the river cruise, you will stop by several villages and be greeted with numerous sights that you hardly ever see in town. In fact it actually looks as though the Abatan River is their only way of getting away from home, though I have no idea if that's true. Scroll through my pictures, it's the first time ever that I'm not leaving captions through them.





Pretty quaint, no? Truth be told, I was really sleepy when we first arrived the beginning of our tour but heading on to sights like these made me wake up to take it all in. To call it an eye-opener wouldn't just be a pun anymore.

The fallen bridge: A remnant of the earthquake.

I hope you see the boys above the temporary bridge throwing flowers down!

Watching as petals fall.

Literally watching.

 And admiring as it does.

Our first stop was a village called Maribojoc (Pronounced Ma-Ri-Bo-Hoc if I'm not mistaken) and we were greeted with so much enthusiasm and smiles, it was difficult not to smile right back through our sleepy faces.

Welcome to Maribojoc, they said.

Prior to arrival: The greet.

Being helped off the boat. I must say it's quite a feat with the rocky boat and unbalanced platform.

We were told then that the villagers would usually be told when people are visiting through the art of knocking, something we witnessed as our boat was blessed with flower petals by the boys of the Maribojoc village. What would truly happen is that they would have the boys knock as though it were their secret signal and the villagers would be at their best to welcome us, a true feeling of being VIPs.

They had prepared us a show. This boy was a crab and the happiest one I have ever seen.

Several other tricks and jumps.

 Having our shot taken with everyone from the village.

And watching as they make their roofs from what they call the "nipah" leaves.

Our tour set us off a little while after we watched as the villagers made their roofs from "nipah" leaves and were guided to a village called Antequera, a place so vastly wide in greens that it's impossible to NOT feel at peace when you're there.

With happy greets and cheery smiles.

 Watching the roofs of the Antequera village.

And me getting all...posey.

Did we nail the Bollywood thing right? 

But the greens weren't the only things at sight in Antequera because we got to see them do up on little things that were traditionally what they do all day, everyday while we were there with no special treatments. In fact I actually thought this was nicer as it felt more like having us watch what their everyday life could be rather than to work out something huge just for us.

Meeting an extremely shy little boy. 

Watching as a creation takes place. It took us forever to know what was coming up.

And then they showed us: It was a chair that you could put down and bring up for comforts.

Being in Antequera made me feel thankful over all that we had because the villagers didn't seem like they had a lot but their life looked happier than we could ever be. The fact that they didn't have air-conditioning or big computers with music blaring brought me back to be one with nature and just chill out like we all should.

Pounding grains of rice.

Results of the pounding.

Just as the chair was made, this lady sat by them lifting her pound and went ahead to stomp on the piece of what appeared to be a tough wood and I was at awe. "What could she possibly have been doing?" I asked. It turned out that this was how they got the rice inside of the shell: By pounding on them endlessly. The result is indeed grains of rice but in tinier pieces compared to what we usually have in Malaysia. Forgive the city girl, I have never quite seen the shelling of rice grains this way.

Ready, steady, jump!

The nicest thing about Antequera is the fact that their children have an ultimate loving to nature. As we were leaving the village, we watched as two boys swam in the river over to the slanting coconuts trees before climbing high enough for a cannonball jump into the water again. It was almost like this was their entire playground and nobody would say otherwise. Me? I can hardly climb the stairs without heaving in breaths now.

Fooling around with "nipah" leaves on our way back.

Our guide teaching us how to make the leaves into a ball; a staple entertainment for children in the villages all around.

Trying it out for myself.

For a great taste of local life, the Abatan River Cruise is something that I think you absolutely cannot miss. I had so much enjoyment over the 2 hour cruise that was complete with wonderfully cooling winds, I just wish we continued onto look at the other villages that were available. One thing for sure however, the villagers were all living together really harmoniously and were happy to do so.

For clothes, for bikes and for people: A place where water is free for all.

Disclaimer: This has been a trip graciously sponsored by AirAsia and the supporting parties on hotels, tour services and visitation fees in the Philippines. Much thanks shall be given to AirAsia MY and AirAsia PH as well as the F1 Hotel Manila, South Palms Resort Panglao, Angels' Wings Tours and Tourism Bohol for the gracious 4 days 3 night AirAsia Media Familiarization Trip.