Thursday, January 9, 2014

Philippines Vacation: Day One

Sunset at Dumaluan Beach

For the New Year's break, we had a week. Last year we had gone to see family in the United States, but this year we wanted to explore more of Asia. We had heard great things about the Philippines, so we decided to go there. The planning for this trip was pretty easy. After we had our flights in order, I researched a few places to stay and booked those. You don't even need to get a visa beforehand if you are American. Super easy.

We settled on going to Panglao, an island south of Bohol.
The Flight
The day before we left, I realized I had somehow lost my Alien Resident Card. I figured that was not too important if I had other forms of identification. I was incorrect. At the airport, they said I could not check in without the ARC. Luckily, the immigration office inside the terminal offered a temporary letter that could work in the place of the ARC. It took about two minutes to get and cost me about $1.

Late Saturday night, our Cebu Pacific Air flight left Incheon. The plane was pretty cramped, which is a drag, but not the end of the world. However, it was very late when we left and they never turned to lights off for us to sleep. That made no sense to me. Why would anyone want to stay awake until we landed at 2 in the morning? On top of that, everything cost money, including water. I have never seen an airline that charges for water on an international flight.

Getting off the plane, the difference in temperature was striking. It was about 40 degrees warmer! We had seen the weather reports for the week calling for rain every day, but it was only sprinkling as we walked towards the Cebu-Mactan Airport building from the tarmac. Once inside, we waited in line to get our visas, a process that took each person a minute or two. Following that, we walked outside to see a man who would take us to our hotel for the night.

Kind of cool paint on the walls at the Island Stay Hotel
Staying at Island Stay Hotel
Unfortunately, due to a mix up between the man who met us and the driver of the shuttle van, we ended up waiting for a long time for the van to find us. Neither of them had cell phones with any "load," which I am guessing means service. It wasn't that big of a deal though because, even though it was fast approaching 3 in the morning, we were just happy to be safe.

The Islands Stay Hotel was close to the airport, was a pretty good size and very colorful. The beds were comfortable enough for a decent night's sleep. The wifi was very weak. But, as I would learn for the rest of the week, that is basically standard for the entire country. Also, the shower had a ton of mold on the ceiling. It was a really inexpensive place that we only booked for resting before moving to Panglao in the morning.

Don't Get Ripped Off...
Before leaving for the ferry to Bohol, Jackie asked what it cost to go there. The person at the front desk said it would be about 150 pesos at the most. A sign said to make sure the taxi had its meter on. Armed with that knowledge, a worker at the hotel hailed us a cab and we shuffled in. A minute into the ride, we both noticed that the meter was not on. I had assumed that the taxi that we were put in would be okay. It wasn't.

Jackie began making a big deal about it not being on thankfully. It got really uncomfortable. He claimed it would be 400 pesos. I was getting angry. It was also kind of scary. We had never been here and did not know if we should get out or if anything would happen to us if we wanted to. He claimed the meter was broken and the receipt machine was broken.

By the time we got to the pier, I was already pissed off that this was my first real experience in the country. +Jackie asked him why, if his meter was broken, did he have a big sticker in his window that claimed his meter was government inspected and certified. He finally relented, sighed, and said, "Just give me 200." Lesson learned. I really despise when people try to rip me off. I hate thinking that people I meet are my enemy, but this was where my mind was now.

The Cebu Ferry
People waiting for their boats at the Cebu Ferry.

At the terminal, we were told that the ferry was canceled and the next one was in the evening. They never said there was anyone else we could go with, but we walked around, asked multiple people while getting different answers nearly every time about the schedule, and found another place with a ferry at 11:30 a.m. The whole thing was very unorganized.

We had to walk for a long time to get to the correct dock, but ten minutes into the walk, a shuttle bus picked us up. Nobody mentioned there was a free shuttle. It was getting pretty frustrating.

We bought the tickets quickly and went inside. You can only check in and get your seat assignments 30 minutes before a flight, so we had a couple of hours to wait. We went to the upper floor to sit on the couches and drink coffee. Unfortunately, they did not have free wifi either. You have to pay to use it even if you bought something.

Finally, our time came. I checked us in and we waited for the ferry to arrive. We chose open air seating despite the chance of rain because it was cheaper. Luckily, the seats actually have a hard covering and when it rains, the pull a tarp down so you don't get very wet. The ride, though cramped with small seats and no leg room, took about two hours.

Once in Bohol, we walked past the extremely aggressive taxis waiting for customers and chose a tricycle motorbike. It was raining, but the cart was covered. We only got slightly wet. The bags were not covered, so they got really wet. Luckily, our bags were all pretty water resistant and nothing was messed up.

Panglao Island and Dumaluan Beach
Two people swimming in the sea.
We arrived at the Bohol Coco Farm on Panglao Island and settled in. It is a rustic, cute place. I will describe it more in the next post. Later, we walked down to Dumaluan Beach and wandered around. The sunset was beautiful. Many relatively modest resorts lined the beach. People played in the water and boats sat out on the water. Eventually, we decided to have a few beers at Dumaluan Beach Resort. Later, we had dinner and desert as well.

As the night came to a close, we walked back in the dark, only stopping to gaze at the stars.

[Read about the next day HERE. I almost died! But, on the positive side, I got to see fireworks on the beach for New Year's Eve and a bunch of other really cool stuff.]
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