Listen to the podcast to hear more about my experiences visiting the Philippines.
I woke up from my flight with a pounding headache. Haven’t had one of those in a while!
Not sure if it was my sleeping position on the flight, or attempting to fast. Definitely had enough water, as I was getting up to pee about every hour!
I broke my fast 12 hours into the 14 hour flight to Taipei. Too hungry and headachey to stick with not eating.
Onward to Cebu!
I exited the airport and the smell of smoke filled the air.
The air was thick and hot. It felt like I stepped into a smoke filled sauna!
Since Uber isn’t in the Philippines, and my phone was not working, I got in the first taxi presented to me.
Rookie mistake! You never go with the drivers hitting you up our front. Always try for metered taxis if no Uber or Lyft exist.
The few mile drive took over an hour to get to my hotel. The traffic just grinds, and the scenery is not the Philippines shown in the travel ads- mostly dilapidated houses and buildings, people mostly dressed in basketball jerseys, shorts and flip flops, and the ultimate smog-producing machines- the Jeepney’s – these old Jeeps turned into busses that bellow out thick clouds of exhaust.
Highlights of Cebu City- Ayala mall, nice, easy going people everywhere, being called “sir” 80 times an hour, Banana Leaf Thai, A-Space Coworking.
Ayala Mall, Cebu City
They design the ferry boats for little Filipinos. We didn’t fit in the seats and had legs crammed up against the seats in front of us the entire ride over. Nice to get out of the smog and traffic, however, and feel like breathing was easier immediately upon getting out on the sea.
Alona Beach was the destination. First night consisted of going to a BBQ restaurant and inhaling more carcinogens than one should have in a lifetime. Tried all kinds of meat, most of it tasty, but the smoke from the grill was a bit too much to handle.
Alona Beach highlights: restaurant on the east end of the beach right on the sand, Buzz Cafe with amazing ice cream, getting scooters and cruising around panglao, stopping at underground swimming cave and cliff jumping.
1 hour boat to Siquijor, the black magic island.
We were greeted with a free drink at our hostel! In typical Filipino fashion, the drink was a sweet iced tea- that tasted like pure syrup! We asked for something without sugar- and at first, they didn’t understand. Then they brought out watermelon juice, which was indeed unsweetened!
Almost everywhere we went, people spoke English. But the conversations were sometimes confusing and an answer was not reached.
For example, the scooter I rented had problems. The left brake didn’t work. It slowed me down but didn’t stop. Not safe at all! And the battery died when we were out and about. When I returned the bike, I let them know about these issues.
The woman checked the brake “Break works!” But it didn’t.
When I told her about the battery issue, she says “Did you leave the key in the ignition?”
“No I didn’t”, I said.
“Well you can’t leave the key in the ignition. Drains battery.”
“But I didn’t leave the key in. I always took the key out!” I repeated.
“Because you leave the key in the ignition, this is the problem”
Oh well. Motor biking around the island of Siquijor was extremely fun. Lots to see and do, and lots of dogs, cats, cows and goats on the roads.
Although this beach looks like paradise, not long after I snapped this photo, an angry security guard came by waving a shotgun and informed us that we were not allowed to sit on that beach. “Private beach!” Okay. The Filipino hospitality is not always there.
Philippines Pros and Cons
Some of the nicest people on the planet.
Incredibly laid back.
Warm ocean water.
Relatively cheap (not as cheap as I imagined, however).
Not many rules (the shotgun-waving security guy was a notable exception!) For example, riding the scooters- no license or really anything was required to rent them. On the roads, no one cares if you’re a speed demon or crawling along like a granny. And I only saw 1 police car in 2 days of being on the roads.
Cebu City, way too crowded and polluted
Food. Lots of sugar and bad oils used
Kind of hard to get around. It’s not easy to island hop, ferries are available, but it can take a half a day to travel. The Grab app is a way to call taxis, kind of like Uber, but not as good.
Overpriced hotels. Okay, I’m not complaining about $20-30 for getting a clean room with AC, but the difference in quality between the Philippines and say, Eastern Europe, is huge. For $30 in the Phils, you get a clean room with a bed and a tiny bathroom that has a shower with no door so you get water all over the floor no matter what, and maybe the shower works okay. In Eastern Europe, you get a nice apartment in the center of town for that in many places.
Spotty internet. In Cebu, the internet worked just fine. The internet on Bohol for us was absolutely terrible at times, other times it was mediocre. Surprisingly it was a little better on Siquijor, with the exception of the night the power went out, but that was only about an hour or so.
Spotty cell phone service. Most of the time in this country, I wasn’t able to use my phone data, even though I have an international plan. This was annoying as Google Maps is the most useful thing on the planet, but without data, it was difficult to ever know where we were going!