[Pictures] [Travelogue] [Useful bits] [Conclusions]

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On the streets of Cebu. This is the second city in the Philippines, and supposedly the hub for travels in the central part of the archipelago. I got stuck there for three days before finding a means to get away to where I wanted, and I did not enjoy much of it.
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Alona beach on Bohol island turned out to be a disappointment. The beach is very long, but overcrowded with "resorts" which serve basically as a base for zillions of tourists with a diving monomania, mostly from central and northern Europe. If you want to spend all your time with german and swedish buddies, drinking beer and eating wurst while you check out each other's latest dive computer, that's the place for you. But be ready to pay for it. The beach itself sucks, but in fact some of the diving spots that they take you to are excellent.
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The Chocolate Hills in the central part of Bohol are well worthy the couple of hours drive from Tagbilaran, with some interesting stops along the way. The hills, formerly coral formations on the bottom of the ocean, make for an impressive view, expecially if one considers that they cover an area much larger than the eye can see. If they were in the USA, they would be a serious competitor to the Grand Canyon in the book of superlatives.
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Crossing a bridge makes a nice photo shot for the grandchildren.
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Washing time. Life in the inner parts of Bohol, away from the major tourist flow, is a far cry away from the Alona Beach style.
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The intrepid tourists are about to brave the river.
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Not many people live along this river in the interior of Bohol, and a boat with 6 western tourists is a sight to see.
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The lifestyle is not exactly the same as in Manila. Yet, wherever you go, you'll always find a basketball court, the biggest craze of young Filipinos.
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Schools are closed in May, but these kids sure do not regret it. They are practicising the stunts for the next Tarzan movie.
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About to cross over to Cabilao. From there, it's a short motorcycle hop to the northern side, where the best beaches are.
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Fishing in Cabilao.
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A view from the old lighthouse at the northern side of Cabilao.
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The beaches are nice, and not many tourists. In fact, in the beginning of June, I was the only one at the place where I stayed...
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... and made friends quickly.
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The big ferry (oh well) to Cebu island leaves twice a week directly from Cabilao. Some passengers are a bit reluctant to board and it takes some art to convince them. Later during the crossing, the cow, the goat and the pig engaged in a scatological competition, a real festival of colors and smells.
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On Palawan, the penitentiary is not far from Puerto Princesa, but can be reached only if you hire a trycicle. This is a peculiar prison, with no walls and fences. Inmates here work the fields for their own food, and make handicraft. Families can visit and it looks more like a workers village, until you start asking people why they are there: my guide was serving 16 years for drugs, and he wasn't very happy that his term was almost over. Many of them have no better place to go.
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On another location on the prison ground, I was introduced to two odd friends.
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The baby monkey had lost its mother, and was being raised by the puppy's mother. Naturally, the baby monkey felt that was her brother and wouldn't let go of him for a second. The puppy however did not seem so enthusiastic about it.
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Another short trycicle ride from Puerto Princesa, is Honda Bay with tens of islands, most of them deserted. If you hire a banca (a small fishing boat), you can go and visit all that you like...
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... and have a chance to see where they shot Bay Watch.
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Snake island in Honda Bay.
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OK so I wanted a postcard picture.
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Just pick your island.
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The only island in Honda Bay which actually has some facilities.
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The infamous jeepney, during a stop on the 8 hours trip from Puerto Princesa to Port Barton. No trip in the Philippines could be complete, without some hours on one of these creations of local inventive. Bring a towel for the dust and sweat, and pray that they don't haul fish and live pigs on the roof on the day you are travelling.
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Port Barton at last. The beach is a nice sight during the day...
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... and even a better one at sunset.
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I decided to splurge and stayed in this nice bungalow by the beach in Port Barton. Which was a major tactical mistake, since Port Barton is a fishermen village, and sure enough every morning before sunrise the beach turned into a carneval of screams, calls, diesel engines and barking dogs.
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While the beach in Port Barton is nice and excellent for swimming, when it comes to diving it sucks. However, you can hire a banca and pick your own private island in the bay.
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It's called the Thousand Island bay with good reason, and essentially all of them are desert...
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... except for the occasional ubiquitous tourist.
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Another unforgettable trip by jeepney, and I land in Roxas, on the opposite coast of Palawan across from Port Barton. The street life may be interesting, but the main reason to go there is to cross over to...
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Coco Loco island, which is a tourist trap where it is unusually delightful to be trapped. At least in June, there are almost no tourists. One reason could be the food: you have no choice but to eat at the resort's restaurant, and they seem to know that.
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The island is a few hundred meters across, with white beaches...
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... and surrounded for the most part by a coral reef within easy swimming distance. The reef is interesting, although it does not hold the comparison to other places in Palawan or Bohol.
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The nice thing is that even at the beginning of the wet season, the thunderstorms stay on Palawan at the horizon, and don't spoil the scene on Coco Loco.
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If you want to leave Palawan (or shall we say if you really have to), chances are you'll have to go through Manila. If you decide to take the ship, you'll be in one of these. It's nice inside...
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... but maybe you are not allowed to take your favorite pet with you.
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Another hop by bus, ship and jeepney, and I'm in Puerto Galera in northern Mindoro. A bit of disappointment, because the place turned out to be a major tourist destination and decidedly overcrowded. But with a short tricycle ride...
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... you can get away from it all. Just nearby there are some wonderful beaches.
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Which made it all worthy.
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Just choose your own.


[Pictures] [Travelogue] [Useful bits] [Conclusions]

I visited for almost 4 weeks during May/June 1998. First problem: if you arrive in the Philippines without a visa, you get a tourist stamp on the spot but for 21 days only. Though I pleaded for just 4 days more, the officer was deaf. You can get extensions locally (I got mine in Cebu), but it's really some hassle so make sure that you do it for a good reason. Second problem, travelling from island to island can be quite a headache: ships that sail only once a week (it just went yesterday is the typical answer), planes that are full weeks in advance, schedules which are unreliable for both. In spite of all this, it's a great place to go: just try to avoid Manila and the usual spots recommended in all the tourist guides, where the locals see you as a big bag of money on two legs. The rest of the Philippines is pleasant, fun, and interesting. If you are a sea enthusiast, the Philippines have some of the best in the world.

Useful Bits

[Pictures] [Travelogue] [Useful bits] [Conclusions]

Here is a site where you can find an updated table of currency conversions. Here is a few maps. Don't forget to visit the excellent PCL map collection:
Here are some useful links (some are slow!):

Concluding bla-bla

[Pictures] [Travelogue] [Useful bits] [Conclusions]

This page was created using a photo camera, a scanner, some freeware, and lots of patience. Click here for a list of details and acknowledgments.

Created by A. Richichi, last modified: 07/07/99. Here is my homepage. If you want to know more details (such as places to stay, to eat, to avoid, and other travel tips) send me an e-mail, but first make sure to remove nospam_ from the address. If you liked this page, wouldn't you send me a postcard from the place where you live? Thanks!

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