Autumn Greetings from Frederiksberg Have

While I prefer to look at the autumn rain safely tucked in the house with a warm tea in my hand, I love the amazing palette of colours that adorns the nature in this season. Last week after learning how to describe my morning in Danish, I finished up at school, packed the camera and pedalled to Frederiksberg Have – a more than 300-year old beautiful park in Copenhagen, well actually Frederiksberg as they prefer to consider themselves a separate city (subtle ego… uhm?). In this municipality all the houses must have a view to a tree, and it requires a special permission to cut down trees older than 25 years. This is green-loving Denmark!

If you choose to enter the Garden through the main entrance located at the intersection of Pile Alle and Frederiksberg Alle you will get a royal welcome. No, there won’t be a red carpet and horse carriages waiting to escort you, but there will be the imposing statue of Frederik VI curiously eyeing the visitors of the magical garden and his royal summer residence. The lack of red carpet is paid off by the beautiful scenery that awaits you inside. Winding pathways, numerous canals with their graceful (sometimes aggressive) feathered inhabitants, a royal palace and much more. One step in and the feeling of romance and quiet will be your escorts for the visit…

If you are lucky you might also be greeted by the cute inhabitants of the neighbouring Zoo – the curious elephants, who will gaze at you with even bigger wondering eyes than yours. The newly built Elephant House, designed by Norman Foster, shares a fence with the Garden and offers you a free peek into the world of the grey and humble giants.

After walking for 2 hours and admiring the mesmerizing colours of autumn I very accidentally came across a weird looking tree. First reaction: a Chinese style wish tree. Dismissed. Closer look: a PACIFIER TREE or as the Danes call it a SUTTETRÆ. There is a tradition in Denmark that calls for the existence of such trees. Toddlers who have grown out of their pacifiers, come with their parents to this venue, and proudly tie their pacifiers to the tree as a gift to the pacifier fairy. First achievement!?! You betcha! I wish the world had more cute traditions like these.

(Photos © Ani Movsisyan)

Enjoy the tour and see you around :)

Frederiksberg Slot

Welcome to the Frederiksberg Palace. Sitting proudly on a promontory, Valby Bakke hill, it overlooks beautiful Mermaid City. Built in 1700, it was King Frederik IV’s wish to keep a close eye on Copenhagen’s ramparts and the Swedish coastline. It was not an odd wish, nor was it a mere precaution, considering the “friendly” relations between the two neighbours. Today however the view is clustered with architectural gems of the stylish Scandinavian capital and the slot is wide open for interested visitors. Entrance is by guided tours, which are conducted every last Saturday of the month, except July and December, at 11:00 and 13:00. The ticket costs 50 DKK (8 EUR). I have not had a chance to indulge into the palace life yet, but that will follow for sure. I just found out that there is a secret passageway (part of the tour), which leads down to… underground tunnel… spy meet up… overtaking Sweden… nah that would be too advanced. It leads down merely to a marble bathtub, where Queen Caroline Mathilde was supposedly meeting up with her lover Count Struensee (he was the royal physician of King Christian VII). What a charming venue for royal intrigues!

In the summer you can enjoy picnicking right in front of the royal house. Fancy huh :)

On a lonely swim along the canal...

Tired of walking along the beautiful pathways of the garden? Treat yourself to a little Venice on the zigzagging canals. Here is some info for canal tours:

Tour Operator: Svendsens Bådfart
Open: May to September
Monday-Friday 10:00 – 17:00
Saturday-Sunday 12:00 – 18:00
Price: 30 DKK for adults, 15 for kids
Location: Canal in front of the slot
Call: +45 38 11 44 32 for more info

Winter is slowly taking charge

The Beauty of Motion

Chinese Folly

Bohol – the Chocolate Island

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.

A small sketch of what awaits you further on in this coast

Cebu -> Tagbilaran -> Loboc -> Carmen


View Larger Map

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 :)

Look forward to 1,5 hours of hilarious subtitles

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 ;)

Our VIP ride on Bohol

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 :)

Little python had a cute name too – Prony, in the honour of his captor

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)

The Chocolate Hills or as I dubbed them the Truffle Drops :)

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.

We waited so long, now it’s time to have some fun :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Three Sisters

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.

Isn’t it adorable :) Totally!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

See see I can almost touch it…

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.

The heavy rain made it feel like we were in a jungle, but the waterfall jump and shower was fun :)

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.

Bus rides are exciting! You get to enjoy fun sights on the way.

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.

Magellan’s Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bye-bye amazing Bohol. We are off to Palawan – a paradise on earth!

Malapascua – the Bounty Island

Destination 1 – MALAPASCUA – white sand beach, crystal clear water, diving and snorkelling paradise, yummy food and complete relaxation – if you are in for all of these then head there before it gets too popular and overcrowded.

Manila -> Cebu -> Maya -> Malapascua (you will spend pretty much the entire day in the air, on the road, and in a boat)

This tiny island (2,5 km long and a km wide) was our first pin on the Philippine map. How did we choose this place? Well, good question. There is a very famous and extremely touristy island, called Boracay, which has a white sand beach. And that’s what we wanted – white beach – but with no Boracay crowds. After some research I found this tiny island, which turned out to be a paradise for diving and snorkelling, none of which I did certainly because of my lack of swimming skills, but that’s a completely other topic and besides we are working on that ;) So the blindingly white sand beach or bounty beach as they call it was one of the reasons. The other decider was more romantic. Malapascua sounded very cute. It actually means “bad Christmas” in Cebuano as according to the local legend the Spanish conquerors first landed on the island on a stormy Christmas day.

To get there we flew from Manila to Cebu, took a taxi to Northern Bus Terminal, which is located near the SM City Mall, a huge mall, offering many of the western brands combined with cheap local prices. Note: There are no ATMs on Malapascua so remember to take out cash at the mall, alternatively the second-last bus stop before Maya also has an ATM. From here we changed to yet another form of transportation – a Ceres Liner bus heading for Maya the northernmost point of the Cebu island. The journey took 4 hours and was quite memorable – besides the nice landscape you had the occasional pleasure of hosting very friendly chickens and other creatures. Another thing we learned quickly was the custom of stopping the bus. In Armenia we are used to small indulgences like a stop button in the end or front of the bus, which mostly doesn’t work, so you have to test your vocals and let the driver know that he has got to let you out at the next stop. In Berlin or in Denmark this small indulgence is taken to a degree of utmost luxury – in all the buses you have stop buttons by all the seats, which do work, so you can refrain from socializing and comfortably let yourself out. In the Philippine buses you quickly forget about buttons and concentrate on metal objects, especially a ring (if you are married that will come very handy). People use their rings to knock very loudly on anything metal in the bus and announce that they would like to make an exit. Creativity has no boundaries across the globe…

So off the bus and on you jump aboard a small boat, operated by Malapascua locals, taking you to the bounty island. The journey took less than 30 minutes, but the negotiation process of getting the last boat to take its course took more than that. Being the last one the owners were very tough of course, but our haggling skills have largely improved in China and besides nothing could beat the stubbornness of two Dutch divers who were refusing to pay just 2 EUR more for the journey (usual fare is 1-3 EUR). Nevertheless a mutual price was set finally, considering that the alternative would be to spend a night in Maya. One thing you should know is that even if the boat is calculated for 6 passengers, there will be at least 4 other island locals waiting quietly to make the journey with you, paid by your overcharged fare of course.

After an entire day in the air, on the road and on the water by the dusk the Robinsons finally discovered the shore. And our real adventures began right there. We were naive enough not to book a hotel in advance as the island has more than 30 resorts of varying levels of luxury. So burdened with our luggage we walked back and forth the southern shore looking for a hotel. Alas, the tiny island was completely overbooked. Were it not for one kind villager helping us with the search, we would probably end up sleeping under the starlit sky. The hard search paid off – we found a wonderful room overlooking the water at Slams Garden Resort for PHP 1500. It was for one night only, so next morning we found another more modest accommodation for the rest of our stay (Borggren Resort, bamboo bungalows for PHP 1000).

Despite the overbooked hotels, the island was not crowded at all, probably all the visitors were out diving. Taking care of our hunger was much easier. Almost always we went to this famous diner,  Ging Ging’s Eatery, which served absolutely delicious and amazingly cheap Filipino and some Western food. For breakfast go for mango pancakes, for lunch some sandwich combo, and for dinner try the chicken adobo! Of course don’t forget the calamansi juice and San Miguel beer.

If you are into diving and snorkelling many resorts and locals offer tours. We went with our local friend on a snorkelling tour and drive around the island, including a trip to a lighthouse in the north, a coral reef and an old shipwreck. Of course you can walk around the island, then you will come across many villages and secluded bays. For a complete relaxation we couldn’t forgo a Thai massage for less than 5 EUR.

After 2 full days on the paradise island we had to move on to our next adventures which would take us to Bohol and the Chocolate Hills. But more about this later. Now enjoy the scenery :)

(Photos © Andreas Eriksen)

Malapascua sketched from great memories. 1: Borggren Resort. 2: Ging Ging's Eatery. 3: Slams Garden Resort

Approaching the beautiful island of Malapascua


Our local restaurant for all occasions

A big fish :)

Drying fish

A birthday roast for the village

A boat for fishing, diving and touring the island

Funny locals performing a dance

Sunsets were really amazing in the Philippines