Sunday, January 19, 2014

Philippines Vacation: Day Three

Sunrise at Alona Beach
It would be our last day at the Bohol Coco Farm, but we had booked an early morning tour to go dolphin watching and see some islands. Early in the morning, we met the group, Jackie, myself, two girls, the nice man who booked it for us, and his daughter, and piled into the van. The tour took off from Alona Beach.


The sun just started coming up when we got to the boats. Each one is rather small, but they have these wing-like contraptions that seem to keep them stable on the water. The two crew members helped us onto the boat and began to take off. It was slow at first until we got out into the deeper water. Pretty and peaceful.

Leaving on a calm morning
For some time it seemed like there were not too many people out on the water, but we began to see more and more. And that is when the fun really started. Dolphins began to jump from all over the place. All the boats would chase them and they seemed to enjoy the attention. A whole family of dolphins swam alongside us for a bit. I even saw one jump out and twirl in the air! It was incredible. Four years ago, I would have never believed that I would be in this place seeing these things.

A dolphin coming to say hi

Still checking us out.

A whole family of dolphins!
I felt something special at that moment. I really can't explain it. Peaceful? I didn't want to be angry or sad or depressed or stuck within myself. The water went on and on to the horizon. And I knew I could go anywhere or be anywhere if I want. It's difficult to not feel like walls are all over the place, at least it has been for me. Walls of expectation, of debt, of mores, of responsibilities, of guilt, of fear, all of those things that prevent one from being happy and living. It all lifted from my mind for a brief period. And I loved it.

Heading to Balicasag Island

Napping at Balicasag Island
Once the dolphins swam away, we turned our boat towards an Balicasag Island. One of the other guests wanted to go snorkeling and see turtles (or see sea turtles, ha ha ha, HOMOPHONES!). We pulled up to the island and docked. Unfortunately, we learned that it would cost money to go to the snorkeling place. Then, we would have to buy special shoes and the gear as well. All of us thought that these things were included in the price. It was a bit annoying, but our guide, the man from the Coco Farm who booked the tour for us, spent a long time talking to people to figure out why there was now the price. Apparently, the government created the fee in order to protect that part of the island. It is, as they described it, basically a nature preserve that you can visit.

Docked at Balicasag Island
That was only a slight set back. The other two girls wanted to go there, but +Jackie and I headed out the other way in search of an unused portion of beach to relax at.

Eventually, we found a largely silent portion of beach. While there were buildings next to the sand, nobody seemed to be in them at the time. Only a few dogs walked around. We set up the towel and took a nap right there for about 30 minutes. Then we took a dip in the ocean. It was a little cold, but not too bad. I had never been in water where you could see your feet as you walked out into the water. It was beautiful.

This would be a great place to nap.

Modeling on the beach
After walking for a little while longer, we decided to head back to the boat. We still had another place to go after this! As we walked back, a woman came out offering to sell us earrings, necklaces, and other little things. We weren't in the market for any of those, so she yelled at us, "Come and sit inside! We have beer!"

I looked at my watch. It read 8:40 a.m.

We declined the offer.

Relaxing at the Virgin Island
Soon we were on our way to another island, a virgin island called Pungtud Island. We pulled up to a sandbar and docked there. To get to the proper island, we had to walk on the sandbar which served as a kind of bridge. All along the sandbar, vendors attempted to sell us trinkets and juices.

The virgin island

Sandbar and a vendor
A small couple of buildings sat on the highest part of the tiny island. A statue of someone I believe is Saint Pio of Pietrelcina greeted us to the island. We walked down the beach that was full of sharp shells and rocks. None of us wore shoes, so it was a bit painful. However, once we got into the shallow water, it stopped hurting.

Saint Pio of Pietreclcina on the virgin island called Pungtud Island
The water was the most beautiful I have ever been in, even better than earlier. It was crystal clear. We walked way out because the water was so shallow. A tree stood like an oasis in the middle of nowhere right in the water. Starfish and shells surrounded us. We even saw one starfish who was growing an arm back! I picked up a shell later, but a crab popped out. I left him to his home. We spent a good long time out in that water. It only went up to our ankles and there was nothing really to do, but it was relaxing.

Grow that arm, Mister Starfish!

So clear...

Those clouds are gigantic. Luckily, it didn't rain.

And the sky goes on and on, making me feel small.

I think this might be the best picture I've ever taken.
It was about time to leave, so we started to walk back. Honestly, I would not have minded staying in that water for much longer. Nevertheless, we walked back to the sandbar and met the rest of the group. We stood by one of the vendors, a nice man who was not particularly aggressive in his selling. I was thirsty, as were a few other people, so we asked to have some coconut juice. He cut up a couple coconuts and gave us some straws. Jackie and I had done this in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on the street and it cost us nearly $7. Here, it was about $1.

After we drank it, he made a couple more chops from his machete on the coconut and created a spoon to eat out the meat. It was really good! But it was now time to go. We walked along the sandbar back to the boat and left for Panglao.
Tasty, tasty coconut!
When we got back, Jackie and I packed up and checked out. We had a reservation for another place that night. I would have liked to stay at the Bohol Coco Farm for longer, but I was eager to enjoy a nicer bathroom and shower.

New Year's Eve Fun!
Soon, we were off for the Isola Beach Resort. Once we got there, we checked in, unloaded our stuff, took some showers, and ordered food. I got some fish that looked unappealing, but tasted nice. We watched horrible MTV music videos while we ate. It was funny.

Later, we got a ride on one of the tricycles and rode to Alona Beach to celebrate New Year's Eve. After walking down the beach at the areas we knew, we decided on a whim to walk even further down. The Alona Tropical Beach Resort had a fancy buffet set up and they accepted credit cards. That was good enough. We paid and got a seat.

Dancing ladies
We were afforded access to the buffet, the entertainment for the night, a bottle of rum, and a liter of Coca-Cola. The buffet was decent, I filled up on cheese (oh, how I miss cheese...), and fruit. However, the really cool thing was the entertainment. They had a troupe of dancers dance, telling some kind of dramatic story, and people who twirled fire as well.

At one point, there was a dance contest where anyone could join in. It went on for about half an hour. Each person was allowed to learn how to do the native dance. The MC claimed there would be a winner later. He happened to really like a cute blonde girl who danced for a long time. Later, he saw a child doing the dance and said, "And a great job from the Chinese boy! Oh... You're Korean? Okay!" It was awkward to say the least.

The fireworks at the Alona Tropical Beach Resort for New Year's

The fireworks at the Alona Tropical Beach Resort for New Year's

Boom!

Fireworks reflecting off the water
Jackie and I hung out there watching the show for some time, then moved to the beach. We could still see the show, but it was also more quiet. To our right, another resort began shooting off fireworks. As midnight sneaked up on us, all of the resorts began painting the night sky with vibrant explosions of light. The booming sound of the fireworks surrounded us. People counted down the time to the new year. A group of guys streaked. A dance party started at the Alona Tropical (songs from "Gangnam Style" to "The Fox" played).

But we had been up since way before sunrise. We watched the new year come in together and it was time to head to our home for the night. Another 365 days down.

A funny thing happened when we got back. The complex where we stayed had a gate surrounding it and an armed security guard. He greeted us at the door with his uniform shirt unbuttoned and with a beer in his hand. Swaggering towards us, he asked how it was at the beach. He was in a really, really good mood and obviously drunk. Yay for safety!

[On our second day in the Philippines, we rode around Panglao for nearly the entire day. We saw caves and beaches, ate pizza and enjoyed the sun. We also booked an island tour for the next day.]
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