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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bohol-Panglao: Who is Alona?

Day 3: Manila - Bohol

We were in Tagbilaran in no time. It already looked great from the air, a lot of green, water, and mountainous landscape. The airport is pleasantly small compared to the chaotic Manila. After getting our luggage, we just got out and immediately got a shuttle van that drove us for about 20 minutes directly to Alona Beach in Panglao Island. We paid 600 pesos for this bit of comfort and were brought straight to our hotel, the Flower Garden Resort.

This was our favourite place during our internet research of places to stay in Panglao, at least in this price category. As walk-in guests, we were lucky enough to have an apartment with our own kitchen, refrigerator, a ceiling fan and a functioning new digital air-conditioning unit. It was indeed searing hot in the island, and my body was in trouble acclimatising to the 30-40°C tropical climate. I have to tell you that I haven't been back in the country for 9 years, so that explains it I hope. There was a swimming pool in the garden which is 1.6 m at its deepest. We're allowed to use it 24 hours as long as we don't make noise at late hours. That was perfect since I've always needed to cool myself off.

We didn't book the flower garden beforehand because they needed some deposit and we didn't want to do it. It was good since our itinerary was messed up due to the typhoon in Legazpi City (Albay). There was already a reservation for the last good room at the gardens, but they also didn't pay a deposit fee and did not confirm their reservation, so we got the room. An alternative was a smaller room at the main house. During the lean season, I guess you don't really need a reservation in Panglao. There are some excellent hotels next to where we stayed in the same price category like the Regents Park Resort or the very artsy ChArts Resort. It is really worth it to check out TripAdvisor for what other guests say.
Alona Beach is a well-known stretch of white sand beach in Panglao Island, where most of the tourists come. It was named after the Filipina actress, Alona Alegre who was the first to wear a swimsuit at this beach! 

Manila-Bohol: Fly On Which Wing?

Day 3: Manila - Bohol

We left our hotel in Manila early enough, and as luck has me, I forgot my tripod in the van. I've already bought a local SIM card for my cell phone, so I was able to call at the hotel and advised them to keep it until I can fetch it when I am back in Manila. (fetching it was another story, I forgot it completely).

So upon checking-in, the attendant at the counter had my hand luggage weighed, and it was 2 kilos excess than their allowable "hand luggage" weight, whereas, my main luggage (the one I have to check in) is at least 5 kilos less. We were 2 persons travelling, and it actually should have not mattered at all since our luggage together is way not overweight. I guess the joke must be on me that day really. I put out my "camera" and shirts which I carried separately. That solved "their" problem. Jeez!

Passing through the departure gates is similar to maximum security prison. Good thing that I could still keep my pants and shirt on.

Due to the severe weather brought by tropical monsoon and typhoon, our flight to Tagbilaran was delayed. After more than an hour, we were able to take off without a problem. The Cebu Pacific plane made us a little worried before the trip. It turned out that these aircraft (also Phil Air Express) are good as far as one can see. It serves its purpose, and it's also probably the cheaper if not the most affordable, safest and quickest way to travel from point A to B in the country. The flight from Manila to Tagbilaran cost about 20 € (ca. 1200 pesos) per person.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Manila: At The Gardens

Day 2: Manila

view from our suite
From the domestic airport, we took a taxi to our hotel, the Orchid Garden Suites. The registered cab cost 530 Pesos. Orchid Gardens Suites sounds really fancy. It is quite good, and for 68 € per night for the executive suite, it is reasonably priced. The room is spacious, and the dining area and receiving area were a plus. It must have been the most expensive place in our entire trip. Manila has many excellent hotels and budget hotels too. An excellent travel guide like "the Lonely Planet" or Jens Peter's publications (for the German travellers) will prove to be of great aid.

My travel companion, who is his first time travelling to the Philippines, needed his security blanket. Just like many of the people that I've met in Europe who have never been out of their yards, they have only heard and read about how Manila can be a dangerous place. It was a great comfort to him that I'm there.

The taxi ride through the city already showed the signs of poverty, even though we haven't been through the slum areas. Outside our hotel are people who primarily live on the streets. That is a sad truth. The first significant impression that Manila left on us was of smog, chaos, a wild commotion on the road of jeepneys and people who walk by, all while trying to get past the traffic jams are honking at each other. I grew up in the province where life is slow and easy. Even though I've been to the capital a lot of times, I'm already bothered when I stay there for a long time. I was just not used to it.

The hotel is really classy and has a beautiful lobby. The reception staffs were not overly friendly but very professional. With a crappy little elevator, we went up to the seventh floor or something, where we got an executive suite. Everything was great, clean, with a large living room and kitchenette as well. Unfortunately the flush in the toilet is weak and needed a few tries. Also, a small downside was that although there was a TV, it has a crappy reception.

There was a reasonably shallow swimming pool at the orchid garden which was no use for us since it was raining and we were both tired.
pancit and rice go together

I went to meet a dentist friend to have my teeth fixed in Ortigas Center, which is way too far from Malate area and ended being in the most extended traffic jam ever. I went out at daylight and got back at the hotel at 1:00 a.m.

There was an excellent breakfast buffet in the morning, probably the best in our "hotel-breakfast" in our entire trip. Our coffee cups were immediately refilled. There were delicious bread, rolls and desserts as well as fantastic Filipino dishes. There are the Filipino newspapers which fortunately for my companion, were written in English.
We paid our bill then immediately shuttled by the hotel's van (the shuttle service was paid extra) to the domestic airport. With some delay for our flight, we finally left Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol.

The Heat Is On In Manila

view of Manila from the plane
Day 2: Manila

Finally arriving in Manila at 9:00 a.m., I could already feel the heat even inside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. People were waiting impatiently in the queue at the customs. Nothing to declare so we could quickly get off. As a foreigner, one is allowed to stay in the country for 21 days without a visa. As a balikbayan, I'm allowed to stay up to one year.

We were just happy to get our luggage and get out. The first thing we did was to change our euros at the counters just inside the airport. We have to pass through many people haggling us with their taxis and hotels. My travel companion needs a break so bad since he couldn't smoke in all of the 15 hours since we checked-in in Berlin.

smooth operation at the counters, 
First, we wanted to take a taxi to the domestic airport. It looks near on the map but doesn't let it fool you. It took us around 20 minutes from NAIA to Terminal 3 (for domestic flights). Just outside the airport are the "registered" taxis that will charge you "ca. 600 pesos" to take you from NAIA to the domestic airport (Terminal 3). But just about 5 meters further right is the airport shuttle stop that will take you directly to domestic terminals. The drivers still expect some monetary tips though. It all worked just fine.

We decided to immediately go to the domestic airport and change our flight schedule. The domestic terminal is relatively new and par to the standard of the international airports. It is clean, well-maintained and air-conditioned. Outside must have been around 30°C and it is a relief for us. Immediately upon entering the premises, our pieces of luggage were scanned and checked.

terminal 3 (domestic airport)
We are supposed to fly to Legazpi City the next day but due to the typhoon "Juaning" followed by "Kabayan" that devastated the province we didn't risk it to be stranded in such a mess. So we thought it better to reroute it and fly directly to Tagbilaran City, the capital of Bohol Province.  We had to stand at a very long queue at the check-in counter, and when it was our turn after waiting for like an hour, we were told to go to the office just on the side of the building.

News reports said that many towns were flooded and roads are not passable. August-October and even November are the typhoon season in the country, and the north and eastern parts were mostly affected.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 1: Berlin-Amsterdam-Manila

It has been raining for days, and it was pouring when we left our apartment in Berlin to go to TXL (Berlin-Tegel) airport to catch our flight to Amsterdam. We were practically drenched when we got to the airport. The good thing is that we already checked-in online the previous night, so it saved us a lot of trouble standing in the long queue. We dropped our bags off, and we still had enough time for a cup of coffee.

Our flight to Amsterdam was uneventful, just a minor turbulence but not enough for me to pray for dear life. It took us forever to reach the other side of Schipol airport to catch our connecting flight. Tegel airport is easy to navigate compared to Schipol. You won't get lost. Our 55 minutes to change planes was not enough. There's already a lot of my landsman at the gate ready to board our flight to Manila. Suddenly, I feel transported to the homeland where most passengers speak the language that I know since birth.

Twelve hours is like a torture since I felt the major discomfort flying with a sick stomach and sitting just in the middle of two people. If I had been flying alone, I would have opted to sit on the aisle-seat, then I won't be bothering my seatmate.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Homeward Bound

Well almost, just fixing my hand luggage. It's been a long while since I've been last in my home country so I'm ultra excited to go to places this time and just with family.

I'll be travelling to Legaspi City in Albay, Bicol to see the Mt. Mayon but unfortunately, the typhoon "Juaning" just devastated the region and left thousands of people homeless and over 35 dead (and probably more). So I'm not sure if I and my companion will still push through with the plans.

Then next station would be Cebu, Bohol (to see the "Chocolate Hills") and of course the beaches of these places. Then we will fly to Puerto Princesa City in Palawan and then up north to Coron. I would have to send off my companion back to Manila then to Berlin after his three weeks, but I will be going back to Palawan to spend time with family and friends and do some more travelling.

But of course I will be taking lots, and lots of photographs so watch out when I come back coz y'all be flooded with all those impressions of the beautiful places. Mabuhay!

More photos will be posted in my DA gallery!

Anybody who wants to hook up?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Free Hugs, Anyone?

It's cold in Berlin, the sun refused to come out today. It's gonna be like this before I leave.

All My Bags Are Packed

well, almost...

Now I have some time to sort out my travel list. The preparation has started a bit late but travel schedule has been laid out already, flights (int'l., and some domestic) are already booked and paid, got the necessary vaccines and travel/health insurance.

Planning a trip takes a bit of energy but necessary to get an overview of what's coming and what one wanted to do. It provides the smooth sailing of things!