Backpacking Southeast Asia 2012: Destination no. 9 – Bohol, Philippines

We’ve finally arrived to the last stop of our 23 days of backpacking adventure around Southeast Asia, the great island of Bohol in the Philippines. Before I proceed in sharing you our itinerary in Bohol, let me recap first all the places we have visited and the first thing that comes to mind when I think of them:

Destination no.1 (Sept. 2-5): Siem Reap, Cambodia. Majestic ruins of Ankor Wat.
Destination no.2 (Sept. 5-7): Kanchanaburi, Thailand. World War II history come to life.
Destination no.3 (Sept. 7-9,11-12): Bangkok, Thailand. A fusion of city and culture.
Destination no.4 (Sept. 10): Ayutthaya, Thailand. The ancient Thailand, preserved.
Destination no.5 (Sept. 13-15): Langkawi, Malaysia. Pristine white sand beaches.
Destination no.6 (Sept. 15-18): Penang, Malaysia. The melting pot of east and west.
Destination no.7 (Sept. 18-19): Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Stunning Petronas Towers.
Destination no.8 (Sept. 19-21): Singapore, Singapore. The difference of a first world.
Destination no.9 (Sept. 22-24): Bohol, Philippines. Beauty of nature at its finest.

Among all 7,700+ islands of the Philippines, Bohol is one of the most noted for because of its beaches and its famous Chocolate Hills. So for Bohol stay, our main goal was to see both, and they did not disappoint!

Coming from Singapore, we took a 9:00 PM flight via AirPhil Express that arrives in Manila around 12 midnight and took a Cebu Pacific flight from Manila that leaves around 10:00 AM and arrives in Bohol around 11:30 AM. Yes, we did spent some time in the airport.

Tip no.1, currency in the Philippines is Philippine Peso (PHP). Money changing establishments have better rates compared to the banks and airport facility so you can opt to just exchange a few at the airport. Also, ATMs in the Philippines charge 200 PHP on withdrawals using foreign bank accounts. But if you have and ATM account with Citibank, there are few Citibank branches in Manila where you can withdraw for free and at a better rate.

Tip no.2, when you arrive in Bohol, there will be a lot of touts that will offer you a ride to your hotel. You must know how to negotiate or you’ll be ripped off. A decent amount for the transfer if your hotel is around Panglao Island is around 300 PHP, if the tout is offering 500 PHP up, that’s already too much (unless your groups of 5 and up). Also, check-out if your hotel has a transfer service, their rates might be cheaper as well.

Our Itinerary:

We stayed at Panglao Regents Park in Panglao Island which is just a few minutes walk to Alona Beach. It was around lunch time when we got there, so as soon as we checked-in we freshen-up and headed to the beach for some meal by the shore, under coconut trees. After we had our fill, we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling along the shores and enjoying the sun.

Alona Beach
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Tip no.3, there are a lot of touts around the beach are that offers massages, island hopping trip packages, and day tour around Bohol packages. For massages, around 300 PHP should be reasonable enough and you can give 20-50 PHP for tip if you liked the service. For island hopping trip packages, around 3,500 should be reasonable enough for groups of 6 and you can give 100 PHP or so to each boat crew for tip. And for the Bohol day tour package, around 2,000 PHP for groups of 4 should be reasonable enough and you treat the car driver for lunch as a tip.

The next day we did the Bohol day tour packages. There are a lot of places to visit but we skipped some and just chose the following: Tarsier Sanctuary, Chocolate Hills, Loboc River Cruise, and Dumaluan Beach.

Tarsier Sanctuary
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It was raining when we were at the Tarsier Sanctuary, so the little tarsiers were in hiding and we weren’t able to go near them as much as we were allowed, good thing our cameras has a decent zoom capability and were still able to get some good shots of them.

Chocolate Hills
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The Chocolate Hills were awesome, and these photos don’t do justice! I can’t believe I waited 27 years before seeing this wonderful site when it’s located in my own country and just around 1.5 hours of plane ride away.

Loboc River Cruise
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You’ll need to pay extra 500 PHP for this. It’s a tour around Loboc River for about an hour, where you dine on board and watch cultural dances prepared by locals. The view along the river is breathtaking and the whole experience is worth the 500 PHP extra that you’ll have to pay.

Dumaluan Beach
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For our last stop we chose Dumaluan Beach, it wasn’t among the choices but our car driver granted our request maybe because we skipped the other places to visit in the itinerary. Personally, I liked Dumaluan Beach compared to Alona Beach. It looks more pristine and the sands were whiter and finer. We spent a few hours here before we headed back to the hotel.

What a way to cap our 23-day adventure around Southeast Asia! I can’t say that we did save the best for last as that might sound like a biased opinion and it’s not entirely true since all of the places that we visited are awesome in their own way. Nonetheless, Bohol is a place that makes me proud to be from the Philippines!

The next day we took our flight back to Manila which left Bohol around 10:00 AM and arrived at Manila around 11:30 AM. Before going back home, from the airport we went straight to our friend’s place in Silang, Cavite and stayed with her for 3 days to witness how God has been using her as a missionary to minister to the street kids there. If you count that, it’s actually 26 days of backpacking adventure! I hope you had fun journeying with us and somehow learn a thing or two based on our experiences. See you on my next adventure!

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