Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Bohol Paradise Express

Posted by Monica Johansen on July 5, 2009

Wow! What a weekend! 😀

Early Saturday morning I jumped on a flight from Manila to Tagbilaran, which is the main city of Bohol Island, south in the Philippines. I had booked a room for one night at Bohol Tropics Resort, which was located relatively close to the airport and the city. There are a lot of fantastic resorts on the island, but since I didn’t plan to spend the weekend on the beach I wanted to stay closer to spots I was interested in, such as the Tarsier Visitor Center.

Me with a tarsier

Me with a tarsier

When I arrived in Tagbilaran a hotel van picked me up and drove me to the resort. Unfortunately, my room was not ready that early in the morning, so I organized a tour guide for the day to get out and about as quickly as possible. My driver was a quiet Philippine man who didn’t speak very much English. I tried to start a conversation a few times, but due to the language barriers I gave up after a while. So the company wasn’t extraordinary, but he made up for it on the driving. He drove like he had stolen the car, but I have become so used to reckless driving in this region that it didn’t bother me at all. Besides, people here seem to be good at staying out of trouble, and I have noticed that the both the kids and the animals jump out of the road the second they hear a car horn.

We started the trip at my main destination, the Tarsier Visitor Center. The Philippine tarsier is one of the smallest primates in the world and one of the cutest animals on the planet. The animal is nocturnal and it has huge eyes that enable it to hunt for insects at night. When I arrived at the sanctuary there were not many other people there yet, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to hold one of them in my hands. They are so tiny that they fit in the palm of my hand, and their little hands have long fingers with a tight grip. I have always wanted to hold one every since I saw a picture of a tarsier many years ago, and hence, it was a very happy moment.

River cruise

River cruise

After seeing the tarsiers we stopped by a river, and the driver asked me if I wanted to take a short river cruise. That sounded like a great idea, so I bought a ticket and jumped one of the large river boats. It turned out to be a nice little cruise with nice food and entertainment. Luckily they served vegetarian options and the two guys who played guitar and sang for us were in fact surprisingly good. I also loved seeing the jungle from the river, because it looks so dense, wild and untouched.

The next destination was the famous Chocolate Hills, which is located approximately in the middle of Bohol. The Chocolate Hills is a rolling terrain of cone-shaped or dome-shaped hills that are made of grass-covered limestone. The grass turns brown during the dry season, and this is the reason for the unusual name. One of the hills is made into a lookout where you can get a good view of this rather bizarre landscape, and to get to the top you have to climb up the 214 steps leading to the observation or view deck. While I was up on the lookout it started to rain heavily, and I run down the steps and jumped back into the car to escape the water. Tropical rain can take you by surprise, and sometimes it rains so much that you think there will be no tomorrow. But then it suddenly stops again as quickly as it started, and often it is very local. As we drove on the road back towards Tagbilaran we entered an area where the ground was dry and there were no rainfall. But after a few kilometers it started raining again, and we could see the wall of water coming towards us. It was quite amazing, and I have never seen anything like it before.

Baclayon Church

Baclayon Church

The more cultural experience that day was the visit to the Baclayon Catholic Church, or The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, which is considered to be one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. The current building was completed in 1727 and the church obtained a large bell in 1835. I had a look inside, and the sight was quite impressive. It is rather dark inside, but light is coming from the many windows, and the colored window glass makes the light almost magical. In addition, the altar carvings are lit up from the background, and I wonder if this is an intended measure to draw the attention towards the altar and the priest. At least it had that effect on me.

At the end of the tour the driver dropped me off at the hotel, and I could finally check in to my poolside room. I was really hungry after a long day, and I decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant overlooking the sea. Since I am used to the rather small Chinese portions I ordered a couple of dishes to get both vegetables and some seafood. However, it turned out that the portions were huge, so I quickly realized that I had ordered too much food. But the food tasted so good that I just couldn’t stop eating and I ended up being completely stuffed. Damn those excellent Philippine chefs and their amazing food!

On Sunday I had a 2 pm flight back to Manila, so I could only do a half day tour, and I organized with the driver that he should drop me off at the airport after the trip ended. First we went to a snake farm with a 7 meter long female python, and apparently the snake would eat a 60 kg pig once a month. Although I realized that the snake could easily have me for dinner I couldn’t let the opportunity slip, so I asked the keepers if I could touch it. According to the keepers the snake was very calm, and they let me into the cage, and I got a photo of me petting the huge animal. I have always found snakes very fascinating, and although I have held snakes before this was the first time I was so close to one of that size. Very cool! 🙂

Banca at the beach

Banca at the beach

Since the weather was very good I also decided to have a look at some of the beautiful beaches in Bohol, and we drove across the bridge to Panglao Island where most of the beach clubs and diving resorts are located. I had a look at a few beaches and amongst them the Bohol Beach Club which is a popular tourist destination. You actually have to pay an entrance fee to visit the club, but I spoke to the guards who were watching the beach walk, and they told me that I could come in for free if I didn’t go inside the club house. I had no intention of mingling with the rich tourists, so I just went for a walk along the beach and took some photos. Although the beach was clean and beautiful I must admit that I actually preferred the beach where the locals went. Bohol Beach Club was a bit boring, but the beaches where the locals went were full of life, with kids playing and families having a BBQ.

Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end sooner or later, so at 2 pm I was sitting on the plane back to Manila. Now I am back in my hotel and tomorrow is a new working day. I so wish every day could be an adventurous holiday.

By the way, you can see some more photos here


2 Responses to “Bohol Paradise Express”

  1. Heidi said

    Greate photos, as usual! I really like following your trips in a part of the world I still have not seen. But not for long I hope. Next year I, most likely, will attend the World Expo in Shangai. I really hope it does not collide with the WKF Convention in Quebec.

    • Monica Johansen said

      Thanks Heidi. I am very lucky to have a job where I get to travel and see the world. 🙂

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