Tagbilaran, a small town on the island of Bohol, which is part of a conglomerate of islands called the Visayas. (Basically, as a mini lesson in geography, the Philippines is split into 3 main groups of islands: Luzon in the north, with Manila as main city, Visayas in the middle, with Cebu as main city, and Mindanao in the south.) From Tagbilaran we took a cab to the small island of Panglao, which is connected to Bohol by two bridges. Since we didn't make any reservations before arriving here, it took us a while to find a place that had affordable rooms, but we managed to score a bungalow for 800 Pesos per night. That's a little less than $20, so around $10/night for each of us. Not bad, given how expensive all the other resorts were. On top of that we got 20% off, because I took a diving class.
the only place we can be ballers is Bali.
Panglao today is a popular diving destination, mainly as starting point for other small islands surrounded by coral reefs. An interesting history lesson, via Wikipedia: "In 1803, Spanish explorers came to the shores of Panglao in search of fresh water. At the time a couple of natives on the seashore were making fishing devices called "panggaw". One of the Spaniards asked what the name of the island was. The natives, who thought the visitors were asking what they were making, then replied "panggaw". Hence, from that term, was derived the name Panglao."
This was our humble bungalow at Bohol Divers Club, where we lodged for a whole week. The price of a room with AC was double that of a room with fan, so we opted for the fan. We were barely in the room, literally from the moment we went to sleep to the moment we woke up. Who needs a nice hotel room, when you have a gorgeous beach a few meters away?
Louie, our boat driver for the dolphin watching and snorkeling trip. We made friends, so the next day he took us out on his boat again. Out at sea, he turned off the boat engine and we chilled for a while, watching the sunset. As we were quietly enjoying the sunset, we saw a giant fin cruise the water right next to our boat. Then I saw the white dots on the back of the huge whale shark, sliding underneath our boat. My heart skipped a beat. Louie quickly took off his clothes, grabbed a mask and dove to swim with the whale shark.
Anne holding a sea urchin. The coconut guy was selling it and I didn't even ask for the price. Apparently, its roe sells for as much as $450/kg in Japan.
The next day we rented motorbikes and went on a long ride to Bohol to see the Chocolate Mountains and the tarsiers. Jake, whom we met at the dive shop came with us. Originally from Korea, he'd been living on the island for a month and knew his way around. He guided us and it was great to have someone with us who was familiar with the roads.
The end destination of our ride was to see the Chocolate Hills. As soon as we got there it started pouring. After one hour of heavy rain, it cleared up, but you couldn't see very well because of the rising mist.
On the way to Chocolate Hills.
Jake looks good on the broom. He must have watched a lot of Harry Potter.
A talented local kid was making a different sand sculpture every day. At night, tourists would give him tips for his work. He was also a talented dancer. Anne and I spent a lot of time talking to him. He was smart, talented and kind. We gave him a generous tip and we hope he'll find a good way in life. He deserves the best. I heart him.
The other half of the twin-duo. We first "met" while riding our motorbikes back to the resort. Someone on a fast bike kept blasting past us, then we'd pass him, only for him to pass us again a minute later. Later on the beach it turned out that the maniacal rider was no other than this guy.
Panglao is a diver's paradise. I am feeling a little hooked now.
Bohol Divers Club. Between me and Anne is Vince, my dive instructor. He's truly a great guy, an amazing teacher and a good boss for this team. The guys seem to like him a lot. Without getting too sappy at the end, I'll just say that I'll really miss them and this place.