Philippines – Cebu and Bohol – 21st Nov ~ 27th Nov 2014

I have missed my chance to go to Malapascua this year. I would really like to see how the post-Yolanda Malapascua looks like.

So I decide to bring my family to Bohol to see what the status of some of the attractions is after the earthquake in 2013.

21st Nov 2014

Our flight to Manila though leaves the gate on time but we are being delayed at the runway.

We reach Manila 30 minutes late but still have enough time to retrieve our luggage and check-in for our Cebu bound flight. We even have time for a short Jollibee meal.

I also confirm that foreigners no longer need to fill up the Custom form but the Custom will issue you a reminder of what you need to do if you bring excessive money into the Philippines.

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By the time we reach Cebu, it is already 1800hrs and queue for the white taxi is very long at the departure level. The airport authorities have further moved the taxi stand further away from the airport. Though the white taxis are not authorized by the airport authorities, there are still security staffs there manning the taxi booth and issue a white slip listing the taxi license plate.

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After queuing up for about 30 mins, we finally board the taxi. Upon hearing our destination in Cebu City, the taxi driver ask for a flat rate of P500 as he need to drive the empty taxi back to Mactan.

After a long flight, I am really agitated by his demand. I told the taxi driver that I have never encountered such extra fees during my several visits and if he is unhappy, he can drive us back to the airport. By now the traffic jam out of Mactan Island is really bad. We are stuck in the junction for 20 mins without moving an inch. My wife is really worried that the taxi driver will really turn back but I took the gamble.

However I want to reiterate that when the driver made this request, his tone is very friendly and I am actually the one snapping at him.

After an hour plus of travelling, we finally reach our hotel; Quest Hotel. I gave the taxi driver about P150 tip as I can see his effort trying to get to the hotel as fast as he could by using the small roads to avoid the jam. I know because I have turn on my GPS to monitor the route he took. Therefore the total taxi fare is about P450.

The check-in is fast at the hotel. I was requested to put a P4000 for incidental charges for 2 nights.

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I ask is there any connecting rooms in the hotel and to my surprise, the staff said they do and they really took the effort to find one for me.

The room is clean and acceptable in size. There is a safe for your valuables and the bed is comfortable. It has a good selection of cable TV channels. The location is about 7mins walk to Ayala Terrace which I find it acceptable.

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We quickly settled down and walk to Ayala Terrace for dinner. We went back to the Habour City for some food. Compared to our previous visit, the food quality has drop.

We just quickly have our dinner and go back to the hotel. At the meantime, I contacted Danny for tomorrow’s trip.

During the initial correspondence, Danny agreed to be our driver but at the eleventh hour, he said he will send his partner Neil instead. I really wanted Danny to drive us to see his service standard is it really up to what other users have said.

Anyway, I accepted his offer and he assured us that we will be in good hands.

22nd Nov 2014

Our agreed time to meet with Neil is 0400hrs.

We woke up at 0300hrs, wash up and have a simple breakfast based on what we have brought with us.

Neil is late by 7 mins which is not a big deal. We set off at 0420hrs and traffic is a breeze.

Soon we are out of the city and we reach Oslob at around 0700hrs.

I was surprised that there are already visitors at the Whale Shark centre.

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We register ourselves with the first station and then proceed to listen to the short briefing given by the centre staff.

We then go to the 3rd station to pay for the event. It cost us P3000 in total. There is only me who is going to snorkel and the rest of my family just sit on the boat to view the whale shark.

The centre has changes their process. Instead of the small boats parking haphazardly in the waters, now they park along a line. They hook the boat to the next boat beside them to form a straight line. There will be boatmen feeding the whale shark and the whale shark will just come towards them.

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I felt that it is more organise now compared to my previous visit.

This is my second visit actually and I am still thrilled by it. Sometimes the Whale Sharks can get really close to you and you will need to just swim away.

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Though the ethical value is still to be debated but this is the best you can get to get close to the whale shark without needing to go to the big ocean.

After that we go back to shore. Just as I wanted to have a shower, the staff told me that there is no water supply. The water pipe has broken and they are still fixing it. So you are left with a sticky body with sea water but there is nothing you can do.

I just use mineral water to wipe myself clean and off we go to the next station. We left the centre by 0800hrs.

The next stop is the Tumalog Falls.

Neil advised us to take the habal-habal up to the falls as it will be pretty tough for the kids. I was pretty sceptical at first but I agree to it.

At the entrance of the falls, we were charge for P30 one way. So two way will be P60 and children ride for free. I got a feeling that we are being overcharged.

The ride up the entrance of the falls is really steep. If you have kids or have weak legs, you had better ride a bike up.

It was at this time my wife legs got burn by the exhaust of the bike. Remember to always alight from the left side of the motorcycle!

At the entrance of the falls, a P20 entrance fee is needed. There is another entrepreneur idea is that you can ride another habal-habal trip down to the falls.

We chose to walk down and the slope is also very steep. I really can’t imagine climbing back up.

We can hear the sound of the falls when walking down the slope.

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The walk will take about 15 mins and the view is stunning. The whole place is very misty and the waterfalls is just like a curtain.

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It is better for you to bring a waterproof camera or use something to cover your precious camera. We just stayed there for 10 mins and left.

On the way back to the entrance, we decide to engage the service of the habal-habal for a rate of P20 each.

At the entrance, we transfer to another habal-habal back to the main road.

It is a waterfall definitely worth visiting!

On the way back to Cebu City, we request Neil to bring us to Carcar town to buy some Lechon.

Cebu is well known for its Lechon and some of the best Lechon is actually from Carcar town.

Neil drove to the public market and there is an entrance fee of P20! Gosh! Even the market has an entrance fee for cars.

We saw a particular stall with many customers; Mercy Roel. So our guess they must have the best Lechon in the market.

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We enquired how much is the Lechon and the staff quoted us P280 per kg. Before the staff can finish her sentence, the boss stopped her and said P300 per kg. This is what I called skin tax. Neil told us it should be around P250.

I am not going to bargain about P20 when we are rushing for time. The boss let us sample the skin of the Lechon and we decide to buy 1 kg from her.

After our purchase, Neil brought us to a restaurant to have our Lechon. We ordered some food like chopsuoy, fried rice and fried chicken.

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The food is actually average but the environment is good. It is clean and cooling and away from the pollution of the main road.

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After the meal, we walk to the nearby shoe expo sale. It is actually just a row of shops selling shoes.

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We did not buy anything and we make our final push back to the city.

We request Neil to drop by Pier 1 to buy our next day ferry tickets to Bohol. We intend to take the 0600hrs ferry. From my experienced, the 0600hrs easily get sold out so it is better to purchase early.

Supercat has also moved their operations to Pier 1. This is good news so that passengers need not run between terminals in the event they wanted or missed the ferry from another operator. Now there are 3 ferry companies operating in Pier 1.

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After that Neil brought us back to the hotel.

When I want to make the payment to Neil, there is a miscommunication between Danny and me.

Between Danny and my correspondence, Danny mentioned that he will charge me P3000 for the trip. When I made a point that I have 5 passengers, he told me that he will send a 7 seats car without mentioning about any additional charge.

Neil told me that it should be P4000 instead. I disagree with him and Neil contacted Danny. I show Neil the correspondence between Danny and me to prove that the price is P3000 and not P4000.

I guess Danny realised his mistake but I offer to top up P500 to make a compromise. Danny accept it without any argument and we solve this issue amicably.

After some rest in the hotel, we decide to go to SM Hypermart. We are thinking that since Cebu is a first class city in Philippines, we expect the Hypermart standard to be the same as Manila.

We wanted to take a taxi to the Hypermart but many taxi drivers refused to bring us as it is against the law. So the hotel staff have a hard time getting one for us. Finally one taxi is willing to bring all of us.

The ride took about 15 mins and the taxi driver missed the entrance. We stop by the roadside and walk our way in.

The building of the Hypermart is really huge but we are not allowed to take any pictures including the exterior or the building.

The Hypermart is actually quite disappointing. Despite the size of the building, the store looks empty. It is really a far cry from Manila Hypermart.

At the store, I contacted my friend in Cebu as a courtesy call.

After some discussion, it happen that my kids want to go to SM Mall where my friend is and we decide to have a short meet up.

To my horror, my kids wanted to eat Jollibee again! So we decide to meet in Jollibee.

The taxi ride from the SM Hypermart to SM Mall is like 5 mins only.

While I was queuing for my food, my friend came along and we have a short chat. How time flies that the last time we meet up is one year ago!

My friend bought some Silvanas for me to try. I have eaten that in Dumaguete and it is delicious. I do not know that it is available outside Dumaguete.

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Many find Silvanas hard and tough to eat. My friend in Dumaguete taught me her preferred way to eat it. It is just to let the Silvana to be in room temperature for a few minutes and then you sink your teeth into it. The taste is very good and I still find the original butter is still the best.

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After some shopping in SM Mall, we make our way back to the hotel and prepare ourselves for tomorrow.

By the way, by now we have finished one box of Silvanas.

23rd Nov 2014

Woke up at 0400hrs and leave the hotel by 0500hrs when the second box of Silvanas is in our stomach. The ride to the pier is about 10 mins with good traffic of course.

We stop the taxi outside the gate because you have to pay money to get into the Passenger terminal. I am really start to get sick of all these entrance fees where they shouldn’t be collecting. I am alright with attractions entrance fees but entering a Passenger terminal?

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You will have to check-in with your ferry tickets and your seats will be assigned to you. For Supercat, they let you choose the seat before entering the gate but I wonder does this still holds.

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The ferry leaves right on the dot and I have informed the agent that I am on my way.

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The ferry reach Tagbilaran in 1hr 45 mins. I noticed that the ferry terminal is no longer there. Instead a makeshift terminal and ticketing has been erected.

While walking out of the terminal, I trip and fell over a missing tile on the floor. It is so embarrassing.

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I engaged Bohol Travel Buddy for the third time for a tour in Bohol.

Jun is our assigned driver and the owner Miss Lilette came to greet me as she is curious about me. I felt a little honoured. During the tour, Jun told me that immediately after the earthquake in 2013, there is almost no booking for the whole of the following month. Life is tough then.

We left the pier shortly and I was told the ferry Passenger terminal is damage during the 2013 earthquake. They are building a new terminal and hope to be completed by next year.

The driver suggest to go to the Tarsier Sanctuary first which I am sceptical because I remembered the Corella Tarsier Sanctuary do not open till 0900hrs.

Anyway we found out that it does open at 0900hrs so I told Jun to go to the Chocolate Hills at Carmen instead.

There is an entrance fee collected at the foot of the hills. At the ticket office, there will be vendors trying to sell you ATV rides. I declined them and we make our way up.

The base of the hills doesn’t look much different before the earthquake. We slowly make our way up the viewing deck and was pretty shock by the sight of it.

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The viewing deck is damaged and part of it is off limits. They so called make shift viewing deck is actually what is remaining of the deck.

Philippines - Cebu and Bohol - 2014 0232I was quite furious when I saw this.

After years of collecting entrance fees from tourist, you mean to tell me there is no money to fix the viewing deck one year after the earthquake?

Where have all the money gone to? I did not even see the slightest in-progress work being done there.

The viewing deck now is half the size of what is in the past.

We stayed there for 10 mins and left.

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Our next stop is the Mahogany forest. It is actually a man-made forest with Mahogany trees planted along a 2km stretch of road. Once you enter the forest, the temperature will tends to be cooler and it is a nice place to stay for a while.

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There will be vendors selling souvenirs and they will tell you it is more expensive if you buy outside. Do not listen to them. The price is the same even if you go to other tourist spots but it is good to buy some from them to help in their livelihood.

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We did buy some souvenirs from them though bargaining does not work very well here.

Our next stop is the hanging bridge. This bridge is named one of the most spectacular foot bridges in CNN.

Entrance fee is P20 per person.

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At the end of the bridge, it is just some souvenirs shop which has been moved from a plot of land opposite. I guess it must have been damaged by the earthquake.

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We again bought some souvenirs and we left after 20 mins. My kids actually find some entertainment by playing with the cats there.

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On the way to the Tarsier Sanctuary, we passed by Loboc and Jun showed me a damaged church. The church is commonly known as Loboc church.

The damage is pretty extensive and again I see no work being done to restore it. The lack of money is the main reason I was told. I bet if they release all the pork barrel scam funds, they can very well restore most of the damaged churches in Bohol!

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The Tarsier Sanctuary is the next stop. The Sanctuary is not damage by the earthquake and everything looks intact.

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The staff spotted 3 Tarsiers but they were too high up and their bodies are covered by leaves and branches. This made taking a picture of them difficult.

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Next stop will be lunch. The driver recommend Gerry’s Grill at BQ Mall. I am alright with it and the ride is about 20 mins.

However we decide to walk along the mall and find other things to eat. They finally settled down for Wok Express because my kids saw Satay in the menu.

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We ordered our usual fare and the difference about this shop is that it comes in small portions. The price of the food is about P35 onwards.

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Though not up to our Chinese food standard but it is definitely better than the Habour City Restaurant in Ayala Terrace.

After lunch, we make our way to Panglao Island. It was now then I know that there are actually two bridges connecting Bohol and Panglao.

The first stop is Bohol Bee Farm. We are still contemplating whether should we come to this place and we are glad we came.

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The farm compromises several sections. They have an organic farm, a restaurant by the sea, arts and crafts, ice cream and souvenir shop.

We captivated me is the restaurant. It is located by the sea and imagine having a meal while looking out at the calm sea.

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Another thing what we like is the ice cream. It is the best ice cream we have eaten. The ice cream is so creamy and delicious and we ordered another round.

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There are also many flavours to choose form.

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The farm is a very nice place to walk around. The handicraft section is also interesting. You can see the workers making the handicraft first hand.

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In the souvenir shop, you can find all kinds of food sold and the main ingredient is honey.

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While we are browsing the shops, the kids are having their fun.

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We stayed there almost an hour to my surprise.

We then move on to Damaluan beach. In my opinion, Damaluan beach is nice than Alona beach but when I reach there, there are so many beach hut on the beach. It makes it look very unattractive and I still have to pay P20 for it. I thought it is a public beach? Doesn’t public means free to use by the public?

I decide to turn back and head to the hotel.

The ride to the hotel is about 10 mins.

The hotel that we chose is Flower Garden. It is own by a Swiss (German area) and it has about three 2 storey houses and 4 smaller one storey house.

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We are assigned to House II. The house is clean and well kept. It has 3 rooms where 2 of them are air conditioned. There is a balcony which overlook the foot path.

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The kitchen is well stock with cooking utensils. The fridge has a few bottles of drinks and they even provide laundry service.

The drinks sold by the hotel is reasonably priced. The 6 litre water cost us P80 in Tagbilaran but P70 in the hotel. The coke is the same price as what you get near Paragayo resort near to Alona beach.

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Flower Garden has planted a lot of plants and trees in the premises. It gives you a feeling of in a garden. I do appreciate such effort. It sure beats staying in a pure concrete environment.

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The location of the hotel is not that ideal. It is about 12 mins walk to the beach however the hotel owner has strike a deal with Alona Tropical Resort that allow us to use the foot path to Alona beach. This will reduce the time to 3 mins. The only think we need to do is to keep it discreet and keep our volume down.

It is dinner time so we march our way down to Alona.

Alona (not the beach) did change a little. There are new restaurants in the area and new shops.

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We chose to dine in Alona Hidden Dream. My family just ordered some food to fill their stomach and I ordered pizza from T2 restaurant to bring back to the hotel.

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After dinner, the kids just rest in the hotel and I make my way down to the beach.

Alona beach has changed a lot. There are many new restaurants and the whole place look cluttered. In short, it has degraded. It looks more like a market now.

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The beach front along Alona Tropical is nicer. There are no restaurant there and the beach is wide. Though there are some vendors trying to sell tours to you but they are not persistent. A polite “no” will stop them.

Along the beach, I met a vendor called Lisa. I wanted to enquire about island hopping trip tomorrow to Pamalican Island, Virgin Island and dolphin watching. I was quoted P2500 for the whole trip with a private boat which I find it reasonable. I spoke to other vendor and some even quoted me P3000+.

I am not saying that what Lisa quoted is the cheapest but it is more down to earth. You can contact Lisa at 09102590398. Remember you still need to bargain with her.

I ask my family about the island hopping trip tomorrow and all of them say they are too tired to do any trips. They would rather relax by the pool and stay in the hotel.

Well, there goes my island hopping trip. I was really hoping to go to Pamalican Island but now it is gone now.

By then everybody’s tired and we all turn in.

24th Nov 2014

Next morning, we use the longer path to walk to the beach to have a look. Now we have a clearer picture of our surroundings.

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Now there are even Jet Ski and banana boat available for tourist. The beach is very quiet in the morning and last night. I was told the Chinese Government ban on travel to the Philippines do affect the business here.

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As mentioned, the stretch along Alona Tropical Resort looks nicer. The narrow stretch of the beach just look bad. If you want to choose touristy beach destination, you had better go with Boracay but Alona is more laid back. If you are a diver, Alona beach has many dive shops and there are also many dive sites.

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We reach the stretch of beach in front of Alona Tropical Resort. The beach here really looks more appealing. It is not cluttered and wide.

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We again return to our hotel cutting through Alona Tropical Resort. We have a better view now since it is daylight.

The exterior of the resort looks pretty nice. The place is well kept and staff is friendly. The premises is decorated with lush greenery.

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One weird thing though. There is no signboard at the entrance of the hotel. You just have to ask around.

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For the rest of the day, we just laze around the house and the kids enjoy their time at the pool.

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Time pass very fast even if you have nothing to do or when you are enjoying “nothing to do.” I guess I learn this “bad habit” from my friend in Dumaguete.

Soon it is dinner time and this time we decide to dine in T2 restaurant.

We decide to go by the beach so we cut through Alona Tropical Resort again.

The sunset along Alona beach is pretty nice. Though I wouldn’t say that it is as nice as Boracay’s sunset but hey, who is there to complain when you have the beach, sand and the sun.

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The beach is very quiet which is to my liking.

At the restaurant, we ordered pancakes, chicken, sizzling squid among other things.

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My son saw the chicken on the skewers and he told me it really look delicious. However when the chicken is presented to us on the plate, it was badly chop and the presentation is lousy.

I think the staff really need to learn some presentation skills from the Chinese.

Food is pretty nice but the price is pretty high. Well, it is ok to splurge once in a while.

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We took a slow walk back through Alona beach again.

By the way, if you are interested in whale shark watching in Oslob, Sun divers do organise trips to it but I guess there must be a minimum number of passengers. Sun divers is not located on the beach but near to Paragayo Resort which in in-land.

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25th Nov 2014

I booked a dolphin sighting trip with Lisa. She quoted me P1200 but I bargain down to P1000 but I do not know is it a good deal.

We set off from the beach at 0515hrs. It is still dark but I can see the dawn is breaking.

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Since it is early, we are the only boat that leave the beach.

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The weather is good and the sea is calm.

It is great to have the only boat sailing in the early morning. The ride to the dolphin sanctuary took about 20mins.

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We spotted the first dolphins within 5 mins and soon more appeared. We became ecstatic and keep yelling where the dolphins are.

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The feeling will be different there are many boats around but we are the only boat there. We have the dolphins all to ourselves!

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Soon the dolphin start playing with us and they start flipping.

Some even swim at the bow of the boat.

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After some crazy 25 mins, we decide to turn back.

While we are on the way back, the boats from other groups start their journey to the dolphin sanctuary. I see at least 15 boats and I bet their experience will not be as good as us.

By the time we reach Alona beach, it is 0700hrs. We have one hour to prepare before the transport pick us up to the airport.

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We took one last look at Alona beach and head back to the hotel for some final packing.

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The transport came early at 0800hrs. We book the transfer from Bohol Travel Buddy for P600 for a van. The rate seems to be standard. If you book through Flower Garden, it is the same rate. For a sedan car, it will cost you P400.

The owner Sigi came to see us off.

Flower Garden is a nice place to stay. The owner is nice and try to accommodate us. In our last night, the toilet is choke and we try to clear it ourselves but couldn’t. Sigi came personally to try to clear the choke and he did it.

I would not hesitate to recommend this resort to other travellers.

The ride to the airport took about 40 mins.

Tagbilaran airport is very small but still it has two storeys. The check-in counter is just beside the security clearance so the place is a little cramp.

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Terminal fee is P100 and the place is comfortable enough.

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The flight took more than an hour due to airport congestion. Well, nothing unusual about this. When an airport has only one runway and serving hundreds of flights a day, this is expected.

When we are at NAIA airport, the queue for the yellow airport taxi is very long. There must be more than 50 person in the queue and very few airport taxi. So we decide to use the coupon taxi instead. It cost us P330 to Makati.

While waiting, we saw a tourist looking lost so we help her out by getting a taxi for her. We asked her where she is from and she answered China. I then tease her “You still dare to come to Philippines?” She just smiled and put her finger on her lips. We just laughed.

The ride from the airport to BSA Tower took about 30 mins using the Skyway. The traffic in Manila is really in a mess and I do not see it becoming better.

We stayed in Alcoves again and now they have 9 properties under their belt. It is really astonishing growth where they start with 4 properties and now 9 properties within 12 months. I asked the owner did he win any P100 million lottery.

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The room is a little tired but functional. It is just opposite Greenbelt 5 so the location is perfect for us.

25th Nov – 27th Nov 2014

So for the next 3 days, we did all the mundane things in Manila.

  • We had meals in Hap Chan 2 times.
  • With kids around, it is always Jollibee, McDonalds and KFC.
  • Time zone Arcade is just like a daily walk in the park for the kids.
  • Mall of Asia is the default place to go for us. Chef Tony, SM Hypermart and Hap Chan are there. We can’t ask for more.
  • We did not visit Divisoria and Greenhills because Landmark in Makati is enough to break my bank.
  • A taxi driver tried to scam us P50 by saying MMDA required it because we have 5 passengers in the taxi. I still gave it to him but not before I scolded him before I hand him the money.

We also bought Silvanas!!!

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When we went to NAIA for our flight back, we noticed that the T3 has changed a lot. New area has been built up to accommodate the foreign airlines.

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There are more food and shop options in it. However they could do better to communicate to the passengers about the on-going renovation work.

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For example, there are no toilets at the end of the terminal as the only toilet there is under renovation. The nearest toilet is 2 gates away. They could have put a sign at the last working toilet to remind passengers that there is no more toilet beyond that point.

It seems like typhoon loves me. On our last day in Manila, Typhoon Quinee passed by Visayas and brought rain in Luzon. Thankfully it is a Signal 1 typhoon and hopefully it doesn’t cause much damage to the people of Philippines.

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We enjoyed our trip. The dolphin sighting is a blast. Tumalog Falls is mesmerizing. The Whale Shark interaction gives my family a close look at them.

Also Bohol is open for business. There are some people still wondering is Bohol still recovering from the earthquake. Bohol is still indeed recovering from the earthquake but all the tourist sites are business as usual. Therefore please support their livelihood by visiting them.

I would also like to emphasis that despite my little disappointment with Alona beach, I felt that it is still a place that is worth a visit. You will just need to set your expectation right that’s all.

Philippines really rocks!

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