Saturday, 2 May 2009
Bohol: Panglao Island
After the pretty average diving I'd done on Malapascua, I'd heard things were a little clearer on Bohol, a neighbouring island a few hours from Cebu City. Most of the gang were leaving that day, and a Danish lad and his English girlfriend were heading to Panglao, southeast of Bohol. Rik and Naomi were also diving, so the three of us headed across on the banca. Incidentally, there was no silly bartering for the return journey...we simply bought a ticket. Seems the scamming is strictly one-directional. Anyhow, we were soon on the bus heading for Cebu City, and enjoying the countryside I'd not seen on the outward journey.
We stocked up with sunscreen and mosquito repellent at a mall. They're usually top of my shopping list here...the sun is merciless, the insects more so. KFC sucked us in, too; I'd been warned of potential Western Junk Food Cravings when in Asia. A quick taxi ride to the harbour saw us on the next available ferry, which left in 20 minutes. So far, each ride had come in quick succession, which doesn't happen in Asia very often.
Disembarking at Tagbilaran, Bohol's largest port town, we were greeted by the usual swarm of tricycle drivers. And the usual spiel about how public transport had stopped for the evening. Seemed a bit early, so we called the bluff of one of the guys and asked him to take us to the jeepney station. Turns out he wasn't lying, so we asked for a price to take us to Panglao. It was 17km, and we paid around a quid each. I actually felt guilty and gave him a little more.
Walking down to the beach, the sight that greeted my eyes didn't encourage a long stay here. Lots of middle-aged couples sat in fancy beachside restaurants eating lobster while a trio of musicians wandered amongst them, a tinkling dirge assailing the night air. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of Dive Cocks here, too. These are divers who sit around all evening with their shirts off (regardless of physique), wearing only the biggest wrist-mounted computers they could find/ afford and a pair of shorts. Look at us, we're divers, we are. I think the surf community have a similar division amongst their ranks, too: those who do it, and those who want people to know they do it.
As it was late, by the time we'd found a couple of rooms, most restaurants were closing by 10pm. We found a busy one run by a German, and asked if he was still doing food. He replied No, then thought about it and said "Actually, I am the chef...I can do you some pasta?" and headed for the kitchen.
"Hang on" I said "what are you putting in it?"
He was halfway through the kitchen door and shouted back "Vegetables and meat"
"Whoa...what kind of meat, and how much will it be?" I'm not accustomed to eating random food and then asking what it costs afterwards.
"Whatever we have left. And is 350 pesos OK?"
Five quid for a bowl of pasta?
"Not really, mate...thanks anyway"
Needless to say, the diving was pretty expensive too. After spending 100-odd quid on Malapascua, I wasn't too keen to shell out again for average diving. Especially when you had no choice of dive site, you went where they decided to take you in the morning. So, along with Rik and Naomi, I decided to head to the place that had been No 1 on my list since I planned to travel the Philippines: Palawan.