THE CANDY LAND OF THE PHILIPPINES
This is where I began my adventure of what I lovingly refer to as the Candy Land of the Philippines. I flew from Hong Kong to Cebu in the Southern part of the islands for around $130 USD. By the way, the local currency is pesos and the current exchange rate is around 54 pesos to the American dollar making this an extremely affordable country to visit. Stay tuned, you’ll see why as we travel around the Philippines.
I took a private transfer ferry from Cebu for a two hour voyage to Tagbiliran which cost 410 pesos. From there I made my way to Alona Hammocks Hostel on Panglao Island near Alona Beach. I paid $6.00 USD per night. A bargain? Well….as you know… I try everything at least once including sleeping at a place that is most like where and how the locals sleep. The comforts of home here often consist merely of a thin mat on bamboo flooring with nothing but a mosquito net to cover you and perhaps, if you are lucky, a fully operational thatched roof with no leaks in case it rains.
Between the cranky injuries from youthful adventures and one heck of a thunderstorm, sleep was only a vague concept. I even tried a bamboo hammock to no avail. But, for $6 USD, I can’t complain too much but thank goodness for the $9.00 USD full body massage I got before I went to “sleep” and the one after I woke up. Of course, I could have used that money to get an actual bed and left Alona Beach with a lot fewer spider bites but what’s the fun in that!
Michael from NVR Land Tours picked me up and we started our tour of Candy Land a/k/a Bohol (pronounced like Bo Hall, I learned.) First on the list are the Chocolate Hills – little hills shaped like Hershey’s Kisses. Typically, they are brown but when I was there, they were bright green, so we had mint Hershey Kisses on our trip through Candy Land.
There are upwards of 1,700 hills in this fascinating complex which are next in line to become an UNESCO World Heritage site and, boy, they should be! It is a geological anomaly like no other. The locals say they believe this phenomenon is the result of being on the Ring of Fire and due to the numerous earthquakes over thousands of years. There are other explanations out there too but in truth no one really knows the cause as it is not replicated anywhere else in the world I’m told. The legend of the province, however, is that a giant whose heart was broken by his lover, forever cried tears over his loss and those tears formed these hills. I’m lovin’ the legend, how about you?
On our trip through Candy Land to get to the Chocolate Hills, we traveled through the Man Made Forest, which is a conservation project spawned by students back in the 1960’s who planted trees that are now big and lush. These forest dwellers lean towards each other creating a canopy or gazebo effect over the road. I dreamt about this place once and have been looking for it on my journey throughout the world. Here she is in Bohol!
After the Man Made Forest, Michael took me to the Hanging Bamboo Bridges. They need the “Slippery when Wet” sign there that they have at the golf course during the Masters in Augusta. Strangely, I had a blast traversing the wet bamboo bridges knowing at any moment it could give way and at many moments I thought it actually might! The locals tell me not to worry as bamboo is stronger than steel. I politely nodded when they told me this rather than changing the game from Candy Land to Bullsh*t.
Michael also took me to the Butterfly Gardens where I learned so many interesting things about butterflies including the 21 day life span of the ones here compared to the Monarch’s life span of 9 to 11 months. I also learned about the remarkable half male half female butterfly which I nicknamed ‘Thai Lady Boy’ just for giggles. This anomaly is actually a butterfly where one half of the body has a smaller more colorful wing and is male and the other half has a much larger wing but is less colorful and, you got it, is female. It was my first time to visit a butterfly garden and learn something so I encourage you to go if you are in the area.
Our final stop in Candy Land was the Philippines Tarsier Sanctuary. It is important to distinguish this from the Tarsier Conservation Area and make your tour guide take you to the correct one. Michael with NRV Land Tours will do it right. The former one is where the tarsier resides in its natural habitat. The latter has been cited for inhumane treatment of animals and is a ‘for profit’ place which must be avoided.
The tarsier is an endangered primate species in the Philippines and it is no bigger than the size of your fist and has eyes bigger than its brain. Seeing them evoked images of baby Ewoks from Star Wars. So cute! They can only have one baby a year which, is in part, why they are endangered. What I found most interesting, however, aside from how small they are, is that they are loners kind of like me. They are always by themselves except the females for 6 months with their one baby. Tarsiers only mate once a year and the male tarsier leaves promptly. Sounds like some men I know lol.
I did all this in one lovely day and finished the evening on Alona Beach eating fresh fish from the sea. As I mentioned, I highly recommend contacting Michael at NRV Land Tours to set up your tours during your stay in Bohol. He can also help with transportation to Oslob for swimming with the whale sharks or island hopping tours as well hotel accommodations in the area and ferries from Cebu, etc. Read the next post to learn more about the whale sharks as that is an experience that pretty much left me speechless.
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