Vail Valley traveler: Ferries, MacArthur and a tiny hotel room
Vail, CO Colorado
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of travel stories from Eagle County resident Luc Pols who is traveling for two months through the Philippines.
By Luc Pols
Even though my ferry is delayed by two hours and therefore doesn’t get me to my fifth island Bohol until one in the morning, it is a surprisingly good ride because I am treated to a magnificent light(ning) show for virtually the whole trip. It lights up the sky left, right and center, and it is spectacular.
Since there were no mishaps with my motorbike rental on Siquijor, I decide to be brave once more and rent one here in Tagbilaran. It turns out to be the worst one I have ever rented and when I point this out upon returning it a day and a half early, it almost turns into a nasty and violent confrontation … restraint … his or mine?
Did manage to make it to the Chocolate Hills, so named because the somewhat intriguing collection of over one thousand virtually identical low hills are supposed to be brown. It is reverse repeat, however, from when I visited the Green Canyon on Java, which was brown ” these hills have had an injection of green. These mountains are one of the main reasons to visit Bohol, besides diving of course, and at least in my opinion not really worth the effort. What is interesting on the other hand is my subsequent visit to the Tarsier Nature Preserve where I observe these small creatures, the smallest primates in the world, in their natural habitat. Very fascinating. They are not monkeys, but have the ability to jump 15 feet from tree to tree, while at he same time fitting in your hand. This species is native to just a couple of islands around here, and if you ever visit Bohol, put them on your list.
The next day, I spend at Aloona Beach, quite beautiful with reputedly great diving, and I once again observe a phenomenon typical of Asia. When people, men and women go swimming in the ocean or even the pool, they put clothes on, as opposed to what we do in the West. As a matter of fact, it is about as common to see a Philippina in a bikini as it is to see a catholic nun water skiing! Modesty, I guess?
Spend the afternoon mapping out my remaining time here (I know, a schedule?!?) since the “travel agents” are uniformly unhelpful. Whether by choice or out of ignorance, I can’t really tell, but it is frustrating. More about that in the last article.
Time to move on and I cross the whole of Bohol to catch the two-hour ferry ride to Leyte. This turns out to be quite pleasant on an outrigger boat. Arrive at Hilongos, a horse and a half town, and have to resort to a two and a half hour taxi ride ($30) to Tagloban. There isn’t a lot to see here except maybe for the Santa Nino Shrine, built by Imelda Marcos (she must have sold some shoes for that!) and the main reason I stop here, the General MacArthur Memorial. When he and his troops were kicked out of the Philippines by the Japanese in 1942 at Corregidor, he vowed, “I will return,” and that he did. In 1944, he landed here in Palo, five clicks from Tagloban, and began the liberation. It is a very impressive monument, but like all here not very well maintained, and gives the impression of him walking out of the water, as he did.
Today over the beautiful 2-kilometer San Juanico Bridge, which links the islands of Leyte and Samar and all the way through the latter and I stop in Sorsogon, Luzon. Interesting fact. At the ferry harbor in Maasin, kids swim in the harbor in between the ferry boats before departure (these are big ferries, each holding 10 to 14 buses!) and try to entice passengers to throw coins in the water for which they then dive. Innovative way to make money. The hotel in Sorsogon,the Fernando’s, presents itself as one of the top 100 resorts in the country, is a sad excuse, except for the coffee shop/garden. My room barely, and I mean barely, lets me open up my suitcase, and the hot water is nonexistent … and they advertise spacious luxurious rooms!
Since there are no motorbikes to rent here, I opt for the even more dangerous alternative, the Jeepney, to venture to the Bulusan volcano and lake. Better not describe the rides here and the lake is … well, a lake. Decide to leave a day early for Donsol to try my luck at seeing the famous Butanding, the whale sharks. Stay in a way overpriced “resort,” but I do see some of these magnificent largest sea creatures besides whales in the world. Phenomenal with only one downside. I compete with 80 other snorkelers for a view of these animals. No comparison to when I swam with the enormous sea turtle alone for about five minutes! In any case, I experienced it.
On to Legaspi, where I am going to attend a Rotary meeting tonight, but when I arrive, it is canceled. See you next week!
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