A month in the Philippines – Part 1 – Tagbilaran and Siquijor

After a 12-hour journey from Hanoi to Cebu, a night in a less than savoury part of Cebu followed by a 2-hour ferry ride we arrived in Tagbilaran, Bohol. We were a little perplexed when we were told by the taxi drivers that they only do fixed price to our hotel and don’t use the meter – I assume that this was purely for the purposes of getting us to pay an exorbitant price but fortunately we are wise to these tricks and got a trike (the local mode of transport if the motor tricycle) for a reasonable fee.

We opted to stay on the mainland and not the smaller, more popular, island of Panglao as it was just a short stay. We spent a day relaxing and a day exploring Panglao Island (although leaving the beauty of our hotel with its 2 infinity pools overlooking the ocean was tough).

We hired a scooter and drove around Panglao and were astounded at the number of Catholic Churches – we were fully aware of the prevalence of Catholicism but the fact that there were small churches everywhere was amazing. We battled to find a beach to sit and relax on, so our journey around the island wasn’t a very long one. We have learnt that the Bohol airport has moved to the island and is awaiting its international status and as a result there is an incredible amount of development happening and unfortunately, as in a few places we have visited, this is taking the beach away from the public as these developments effectively “cut off” access.

We caught the ferry to Siquijor – there is an airport on Siquijor, but the 2-hour ferry ride was really pleasant and highly recommended. Of course, at the ferry port, there is the usual jockeying for business by the local trike drivers, but we had already established via our host what the rate should be so didn’t get caught with an inflated price. Our trike driver was very resourceful and obviously had a contact in the bike hire business and even though we told him that we were only getting a bike the next day he took us via the hire shop and got us a “deal” with the first day free so we only paid from the next day and we took the bike straight away.

Siquijor is a relatively new tourism destination, it probably only really gained popularity (thanks to viral videos) about 3 years ago. Fortunately, this hasn’t led to wholesale development. There is only one large hotel and a couple of smaller ones – besides that, the accommodation is all simple lodgings. And long may it last as this is a stunning destination.

On arrival at our accommodation in San Juan, we were blown away at the room we had – the picture on the internet was an old one and fortunately the premises far exceeded our expectations and our room was on the ground floor leading straight onto the beach – we were able to walk out of our room across 10m of beach sand and into the water – we had to walk out about 200m to snorkel but this meant that at high tide we had a giant ”swimming pool”  to sit in! We had our own beach lounge complete with hammock! We were also very well situated with a shop across the road selling all essentials, a restobar 20m along the beach serving fantastic local dishes and barbeque, and a great pub 900m the other way up the beach.

We soon established a pattern for our 10 days in Siquijor– early morning coffee on our patch of beach, followed by a 2 hour snorkel (most days just Ivan) and after brunch a leisurely ride exploring the local attractions which generally ended with us getting some fried chicken from the many street carts and a couple of cookies from a local bakery and eating these on the side of the road, before heading back for a siesta before the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen!

Our host told us about a secret beach – and it truly was well hidden with the road way proving to be an obstacle course – but it was well worth the drive and subsequent treacherous climb down a cliff to get to this secluded beach. The beach is made of broken coral so not terribly comfortable and the sea was a little rough, but Ivan still went snorkelling in this hidden paradise. We also visited the Paliton Marine Sanctuary which is a great spot for swimming and snorkelling – although encountering a large sea snake 2 minutes into the dive almost made me walk on water back to shore.

We didn’t actually visit the main tourist attractions – I suppose we never tend to do this on our travels and unfortunately the less popular waterfalls that we did try and visit were closed due to lack of water – just our luck.

Siquijor was amazing and we will definitely be putting this on our list of places to return to – here’s hoping that developers do not get as excited about it as we did.

Please visit our Youtube channel – The View from our Seat to see a few clips of our travels


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