Islands of the Philippines (Part 2)

(December 2015)

After 3 days on Siquijor, we were ready for a change of scenery and Bohol was certainly that. A much larger and more populated island, Bohol felt more like returning to a city after sleepy Siquijor. But we were soon whisked off to a quiet village where we were greeted by the locals with delicious organic food, dance performances from the girls and plenty of games to keep us entertained well into the evening. We were all exhausted after a long day of travelling but the warm welcome was enough to keep the smile on our faces well into the evening.

By the time we rested our heads on the hard wooden beds, it didn’t matter how uncomfortable they were, we were very soon in the land of slumber.

The next day we woke early to meet for breakfast and headed onto the minibus for a trip to the rainforest where we met these cute little fellas…

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Next on the itinerary was the ‘chocolate hills’ (by looks only, no chocolate to try – sadly) where the highlight and possibly one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done, was the bicycle zip wire.

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It’s pretty hard to enjoy the scenery when you’re trying to get your head around just how the bicycles possibly manage to stay on that long thin wire. “Put your hands up for a picture Lauren”, “No frickin’ way!” ha ha.

Post near-death experience, we headed back to the village hungry and tired to be greeted by yet another delicious dinner, after which we headed back into the bus to be taken to the bank side where we paired up for a kayak down the river in the dark. Apart from being one of the most relaxing experiences ever, the kayak trip was made even more magical by the fact that we spotted fireflies in the trees along the river side. Coupled with the sound of locusts, one of the most blissful sounds in the world, I could have easily spent the rest of the evening gliding down the water in our little boat.

But it was Christmas eve and relaxation wasn’t on the menu, well not for the full evening at least. We headed back to the village where the festivities were already in full swing. One thing is for sure, the Filipinos sure know how to party!

We joined in the games and danced until our feet ached and then when I was feeling that it was certainly time for bed, a huge bonfire was lit and we sat toasting marshmallows for as long as we could stand the heat. I went to bed with a smile on my face that evening but the happiness was bittersweet, all that time spent with the local children was making me miss my family even more, especially my gorgeous little niece and nephew.

Christmas Day

The next day, full from our breakfast feast, we waved goodbye to our adopted families of the past two days and journeyed on to Panglao where our Gdadventures tour guide Olive had already arranged our excursion for the day, a private sail boat over to Balicasag island. With all of us in the festive spirit, it seemed the most natural thing on earth to crack open the beers at 9am and toast to the wonderful day ahead. We snorkelled, ate fresh fish on the beach, then gently glided back to dry land where we changed into our finest outfits for dinner by the sea (or in it, as the tide was very quickly creeping up on our beachside table).

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Boracay

After our day on Panglao, it was straight back to Manila for the end of our tour where we waved goodbye once more as each of us carried on to our next destination. Another tour for Rach, home to Melbourne for Mike and the start of an Australian adventure for Sarah. Jas had few more days in Manila and me, I was off to Boracay to partayyy!!!

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After a busy 8 days hopping onto buses, planes, bicycles and tricycles, I was looking forward to a slower pace. Waking up whenever I felt like it, leisurely breakfasts on the hostel roof and getting to know other travellers in the MNL Boracay hostel where I was staying. On my first morning, I met the lovely Tania, a pretty Australian girl who was clearly the socialite of the hostel, and wasted no time inviting me out that evening. I was glad of the friendly welcome and was looking forward to letting my hair down but sadly after a wander to the beach, I didn’t bump into Tania for another day or two.

Luckily I met Angelika in the meantime, a chatty German girl who I instantly bonded with over our love of sushi and so, as travellers do, we spent the remainder of the day together and soon had plans for dinner and cocktails that evening. The one thing I always worry about when I travel alone is ‘Will I meet anyone‘, you’d think by now I would know that of course I always do, but the worry is there all the same and is perhaps the push to face a fear that we all sometimes need.

That day on the beach, Angelika was feeling a little worse for wear so whilst she rested in the shade, I decided to check out the stand up paddle boards, something I’d been wanting to try for a long time. After an initial wobble and gripping my toes so hard that they cramped, it turned out I was a natural.

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I could have stayed out there for hours, but after a while it became less fun without company and so I joined Angelika back on the sunbeds where we bartered with the salesmen on the beach, scoring our own private sail boat for 2500 pesos (roughly 30 quid) for the next day.

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The day after our sail boat tour, Angelika departed for Vietnam. Thankfully Tania had appeared again in the hostel along with a new English guy, Tom. The three of us hit it off immediately and so with a new friendship group I headed to the beach once more, this time for cocktails at 10am followed by some more paddle boarding. We made more friends that afternoon, and soon there was a gang of us drinking and chatting on the roof before heading to the beach front to dance until the small hours.

Sadly that was my last evening in Boracay but despite the hangover, I still wanted to make the most of my last day, heading to the Monkey Bar (famed for its views where we’d watched the sun go down the night before) with Tom, and another group of English girls I’d also been chatting to in the hostel. We swam, ate seafood and it was with great sadness that I jumped in a tricyle to head back to the hostel to pack my bags for the flight back to Manila and, eventually home.

Although I was sad to leave, the trip had done me the world of good. I was determined to start the year with a fresh and positive attitude; enjoy my time in London (for however long that may be) and forget about the handsome Joe who clearly couldn’t care less about me. In the back of my mind, there’s still that urge to travel and be by the beach, but whether that continues to be satisfied by short trips or becomes a long-term thing will remain to be seen. Perhaps there’s a reason I’ve taken to learning Spanish again though…

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