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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 directly 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 acclimatizing 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 good hotels next to where we stayed at 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 seperately. That solved "their" problem. jeezzzz!

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 bad 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 problem. The Cebu Pacific plane made us a little worried before the trip. It turned out that these planes (also Phil Air Express) are good as far as one can see. It serves its purpose and it's also probably the cheaper, (perhaps not the cheapest) 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 taxi 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 good hotels and budget hotels too. A good 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 though a great comfort for 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 basically live on the streets. That is a sad truth. The first major impression that Manila left on us was of smog, chaos, a wild commotion on the street 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 little crappy elevator, we went up to the seventh floor or something, where we got a huge 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 flaw was that although there was a TV, it only flimmered.

There was a fairly 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 friend in Ortigas Center, which is way too far from Malate area and ended being in a longest traffic jam ever. I went out at daylight and got back at the hotel at 1:00 a.m.

There was a great 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 breads, 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.