Destination 2 – BOHOL – small drops of Chocolate Hills, a huge python, Loboc river and adorable tarsiers – one of the world’s smallest primates. There is much more to see on the Philippines’ 10th largest island but this is what we could squeeze in on a one day stay.
Cebu -> Tagbilaran -> Loboc -> Carmen
So guess it is now time to leave the little island of Malapascua behind and head a bit south to the land of wonders – Bohol. To get here we travelled from Malapascua to Maya to Cebu the same way we came and took what was originally supposed to be a short detour to SM City Mall to recharge. Shy to confess it stretched a bit longer So with a small delay we taxied to the Cebu Pier to catch a fast ferry (Oceanjet, EUR 9) for a 1,5 hour journey to Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol. While on board we enjoyed an interesting presentation of a very ordinary movie. It was in Chinese, and whoever made the subtitles sure did a huge job. At least a good laugh is guaranteed
We arrived in Tagbilaran at around 9pm and naturally there were no more buses to take us to the middle of the island to watch the sunrise over the Chocolate Hills. We had only one day on the island and were not about to abolish our sunrise plan. From Tagbilaran to Carmen where the hills start is about 60 km so walking was no option. When there is no bus there is always a taxi, but knowing that they are your last resort taxi drivers have a strange tendency to bump up the prices. Well they didn’t get to drive us (bye-bye easy money) as we got a very VIP ride to our destination. On the boat we met with a Philippine couple and the husband turned out to be the Vice Mayor of Alburquerque (later to become Mayor of the same small city on Bohol). In Tagbilaran the Vice Mayor’s family was already lined up by the arrival terminal waiting to greet the happy parents and drive them home. After some introductions we were very kindly offered a lift to the Chocolate Hills in a VIP van. It was an offer we couldn’t and would by no means refuse! So on we went for an hour of sightseeing ride. And to clear any doubts here is the proof 😉
The family was so friendly and welcoming that they even stopped and pointed to all the major sights on our way, including a very cutie creature, that resides proudly near Alburquerque in Salibay family’s garden and is 7 metres long and 300 kg heavy. Any idea what that can be? If the answer is yes and you are weak-hearted skip the picture below. If you have no clue and are curious then look below and admire
Sorry for the lack of more revealing shots, the charming creature was already asleep and very immovable when we dared to disturb him in the late evening hours.
An hour of fun ride brought us to the Chocolate Hills Complex, a beautiful hotel built on top of a chocolate hill (got a room for around EUR 20). At around 10 pm the hotel was very quiet and unpopulated. You could even think we were the only guests of the day. Cool! After a vain attempt to find some dinner in the just-for-us unlocked restaurant all we managed to get was juicy mangos, bananas and peañato – a sugar-coated peanut cake. Yummy dinner! So full and glad to finally reach our special place we started the countdown for the sunrise. In the hotel grounds there is a staircase leading to the observation deck from where you can enjoy the wonder of nature. That is where we headed in the absolute dark at 4:30 am for the promised sunrise. A little spooky but well worth it. After an hour of wait the dawn finally broke at 5:30 am (I have no idea what time zone the hotel management was on when they told us the sunrise will be at 4:30 am) and with the first rays of the sun a mysterious sight unveiled for us. Imagine hundreds of hills emerging with the sun and spreading in front you in all their glory. It was a truly magical experience despite the slightly cloudy sky…
(Photos © Andreas Eriksen)
They are 1.776 hills on average between 30 and 50m high scattered around a 50 square km area that bear striking resemblance to my favourite truffles. Why Chocolate Hills? Simply because the hills are covered in grass that turns brown in the dry season.
Chocolate Hills Legends
As with anything mysterious and beautiful, there are always legends told around it. The Chocolate Hills are no exception. One such legend glorifies a fight between two giants who were engaged in a stone throwing fight, the stones being the hills.
For a more scientific explanation refer to the info plaque at the viewing deck, where it is stated that “the unique land form known as the Chocolate Hills of Bohol was formed ages ago by the uplift of coral deposits and the action of rain water and erosion”.
It was close to 7 am when we finally descended to walk back to the hotel and there was already some activity going on. Lonely tourists were showing up to enjoy the sight only a little later to be followed by a group of buses and hundreds of visitors. Back in our room we drew the curtains away to discover that we have an awesome view to our very own chocolate hill!
After a delicious breakfast that looked like this…
… we rented a motorbike to take us around the hills. There will be a group of them waiting by the entrance to the hotel (EUR 7). It was an exciting ride, a bit scary for me, being my first ever ride I was in a constant fear of falling off and was repeating “Slow please” every single minute, although I don’t think the poor guy could go any slower We drove around in the forests and fields and even got to hike one of the Chocolate Hills – that was totally cool!
Later those same motorbikes gave our heavy bags a lift down to the bus stop. Good idea as the hotel is atop the hill and is about 1 km away from the main highway where the bus stops.
So much for the wonder hills and an exciting morning. We had to rush to our next adventures. An advanced bus ride to Barrio Cancatac, near Corella town brought us to a small zoo run by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to pay a visit this time to a very tiny yet adorable creature. Meet the tarsier – an endangered primate and a nocturnal hunter. Make sure to inform the bus driver that you are headed to see the tarsiers, as the place is not easy to find.
It is really tiny, can fit in your hand and looks so vulnerable and sweet. When around them you shouldn’t make noise or especially use your flash when doing photos. But come and tell that to insensitive visitors.
By the tarsier place for EUR 8 hire an outrigger for a cool Loboc river cruise to a small waterfall, where you can also enjoy a quick splash. Of course we couldn’t pass on such an opportunity If you are not up to swimming you can enjoy a lunch at one of the floating restaurants.
Chocolate Hills – check
Tarsier – check
Loboc River Cruise – check
Time to brace ourselves for an exciting jeepney ride (for full description of this latest cry in the auto industry check my Philippines post) to Tagbilaran where we had to catch an Oceanjet back to Cebu. This time there were no funny subtitles, it was a bigger ferry and they were showing Troy. Ahh on a sidenote make sure you strongly insist on taking your luggage with you, otherwise they will put it in a common room and you never know in what condition or if you will get it back.
When you arrive at the ferry terminal and it is evening taxis will be like predators. Avoid them, don’t stop, don’t look confused, just walk quickly a few hundred metres until you come away from their convergence area and can breath again. Now you can flag down a metered taxi. We had to stay overnight in crazy Cebu to catch a flight to our next destination early in the morning. We chose a budget hotel called Pacific Tourist Inn and omg it was NASTY and very expensive for such an awful hotel. We dined at Sinugba Bay restaurant on top of Holiday Plaza Hotel (F Ramos Street) with an amazing view over the Cebu City and so wished we had chosen that hotel. For a special offer of EUR 30 you would be very nicely accommodated in a much nicer district of Cebu. On a brighter side at least the nasty experience is now remembered with fun In the restaurant there was also a well-into-his-middle-ages American dining with two Filipinas, his very young wife-to-be and her friend. A common sight in the Philippines.
Very early in the morning we ran away from the awful Inn and on the way to the airport stopped by the City Hall to check out the Magellan’s Cross, marking the beginning of Christianity in the Philippines. The original cross is believed to be inside the present cross.
Bye-bye amazing Bohol. We are off to Palawan – a paradise on earth!