Monday, December 28, 2009

Siguijor Christmas

We've been on the move, but did want to share our enjoyment of the Christmas party we had at La Casa de la Playa. One of the owners is German and the clientele are also German in the majority, so the Christmas celebration was on Christmas Eve.

We had been staying at La Casa in the Casa Bouganvilleia which is in the garden of the resort. There are some lovely cabins down on the beach level but our place was up 50 steps from the beach and nearer the restaurant. The place wasn't air-conditioned which was one of the reasons we hastened our departure. We had a standup fan and Geordie and I tended to bicker about its positioning - which is quite usual for us. We managed.

Here are a couple of photos of the cottage. We sat on the deck quite often and read our books. The bathroom was miniscule -I bumped my head on the wall on the first day getting up from the toilet (maybe too much information, but I'm sure it gives you the image strongly).

The Christmas Eve buffet was fun. The piece de resistance was the whole pig roasted in the fire pit somewhere on the grounds for about 9 hours if we understood the explanation correctly. It was burnished gold and splendid on its special table, designed to look like a pig too. Then there were lots of different dishes from the menu - potato vegetable souffle, pork ribs, noodle dishes and on and on. Dessert was a coconut gelatine and watermelon. Not a thing on the groaning board was familiar to our Christmas traditions but we got lots to eat.

The party after was really a celebration for the staff. There was a local band with a blind singer/guitarist named the "Stevie Wonder of Siquijor",

and a banjo player, a huge bass guitar and other guitars. The music was a mix of Christmas songs, bluesy songs by the blind singer, and local songs in Cebuano. Emily, who is the Filipina owner of the resort was in full majesty, directing the evening. gathering all the staff to sing the Casa song and leading them in the synchronized dance. Then there were singers who carolled us with local Christmas songs as well. They were in fine voice and we enjoyed it all.

After the singing entertainment the staff and the guests got to do a little dancing - including Geordie and I who were hauled up by Linda, one of the management staff. The group danced late - we went to our cottage at 11:30 pm but the staff danced until 1:30 and only stopped because the band went home!

On Christmas Day we finally got into the sea. We discovered that the resort had some sea booties to rent so we found two pair that sort of fit and went down to the beach. We had to wade out a long way before we were able to swim. As usual I counted steps - it took over 230 strides through the water before we were at waist depth. From then we could at least float and swim. We are obviously out of shape - in the evening my legs were quite tired and I realized it was from the wading.

We left La Casa on the 27th. We moved back to Coral Cay because we missed the opportunity to enjoy both the pool and the air-con. For our first three nights we have been in the newest cottage which is a palace compared to the cottage at La Casa. It's huge. As a matter of fact the whole cottage at La Casa could fit in our bathroom - which even has a section exposed to the outside with plants and sand.

We will be at Coral Cay until January 3 when we will travel back to Dumaguete and then on the 4th we will continue on to Cebu. Then on the 5th we are flying from Cebu back to Boracay. I've decided that Boracay is like Puerto Vallarta - a home base for us as PV serves when we are in Mexico. We enjoyed the location and the beach where we can actually swim from shore rather than wading out for 230 steps, and we can enjoy the good food at the restaurants there.

Some of you may remember our original plan was to go to Palawan. That plan didn't work out when we discovered that we should have made reservations to fly there some time ago. The cheap seats are all sold out and the cost to fly there was more than we wanted to pay. The flight to Boracay was good, as were flights to Manila. So our plan now is to spend 10 more days in Boracay, then fly to Manila and from there head out to Tagaytay which is in the highlands and then finish up in Mindoro, an island not too far from Manila with some good beaches out of a town called Puerto Galera.

Not to worry, we'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Is Coming

We are still in Siquijor although we have moved resorts. Our present location is Casa de La Playa which is about 35 km north from our last place. Our room is on the cliff top - in a garden. We have a distant view of the ocean and can walk down 50 steps to the beach for a little sunning. The gardens are pleasant - with orchids in one area, and other flowering plants we don't even know the names of in other areas.

This resort is cheaper than the last place, but it means we don't have air-conditioning or a beach location. You gets what you pays for! We were scheduled to spend about 9 days here, but we are going to move back to Coral Cay on December 27th. After one day here we realized that we would miss our beach view and our air-con, but we had already paid a deposit for three nights. We decided that it would be odd to move on Christmas Day, so gave ourselves two more nights - of course vacancies at the Coral Cay were also not available without our moving cottages three times if we came back early so we just compromised.

The resort here is not as efficient as it might be. So far at almost every meal there has been some error in the order. A case in point - this morning both Geordie and I chose French Toast with Syrup because we thought that would be easy and safe. Margin for error tiny. So - we heard the kitchen beating eggs then after 10 minutes, the young waitress arrived with one plate of French Toast - no syrup in evidence, but G thought it must have been on the toast.

After five minutes of him eating, we heard the sound of eggs being beaten again - then 10 mintues later, the watress arrived with my meal which was oddly covered in some kind of dark syrup - I thought molasses, but asked anyway. The answer? It's syrup. What kind of syrup? Chocolate! (That wasn't mentioned on the menu.) The litany of errors continues - we have to order our dinners in the early afternoon since food is frozen and needs to be defrosted. I ordered A fried chicken breast last night for dinner - it arrived as a n overcooked chicken leg! Garnish? some cucumber. That's it, folks. I had ordered french fries too - but they took another five mintues to arrive.

And we ordered a bottle of wine last night. First the waitress told us it wasn't cold so did we want ice. We decided on an ice bucket. Five minutes later the owner came out and told us the wine wasn't cold and did we want ice or to have it put in the fridge? I voted for the fridge for 10 minutes. Two minutes later the food arrived. We ate it. Then we asked for the wine - 15 minutes later. It was delivered, without a corkscrew. We asked for one and waited. 10 minutes went by. I got up and asked for the corkscrew directly. The waitress brought it and asked if she or I would open it. I decided that I might be the better choice.

So she went off and I used the corkscrew, inserting it into the cork and attempting to pull it out. The plastic legs(?) of the winged corkscrew bent dangerously but didn't pull the cork at all. So we had to ask for another corkscrew and this time were given an all metal winged one which miraculously pulled the cork. So a half hour or more after eating, we finally drank the bottle of wine.

Tonight the resort is celebrating Christmas - with a buffet dinner. We are guessing that at least that means they can't screw up an order. The main piece de resistance will be Lechon, a large pig roasted on a spit or in a very large oven we are guessing. There is also music - featuing Siquijor's version of Stevie Wonder apparently. Most of the guests are German so I'm expecting wonderful renditions of Stille Nacht (Silent Night) and O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree).

I will not go on - it seems uncharitable at Christmas - and we are staying on for three more nights - I guess we are masochists. We are on the island until January 3 after which we are planning to head for Palawan, the spur of islands which head left from the main islands pointing to Borneo. We have not found great sounding accomodationt there that we can afford so we have a Plan B in place - we have emailed Marzon Resort in Boracay, and if things don't work out, we will head there for the last week or so of our trip to enjoy the beach - hey, maybe I'll do that open water dive course.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year
From the Philippines Sandman

And Nigel and Geordie too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Coral Cay

As Geordie said on a recent email we arrived at Coral Cay Resort on Siquijor two nights ago and are now enjoying our little house on the beach.

It really is a lovely hut. Here's my only whine of the day though - the beach is so so shallow that when the tide goes out it's about 100 yards to the water. And out there the water goes out for yards and yards more, not even up to our knees. Of course the pool was supposed to be our saving but as some of you know, it's under repair. The good news? Word is that they are going to start filling it today! Yay. We will be at Coral Cay for a week and on December 22 move to another resort called Casa de la Playa. That's where we will celebrate Christmas and New Years.

As you can imagine there isn't a lot to do. The island of Siquijor is it's own province in the Philippines, but the coastal road around the island is only 72 km long! Not so big. There are caves inland and this is also an island of magicians. In fact some people in the Philippines refuse to come here for that reason. We have not seen any sign of magic but we may take a tour of the island soon and see what we can find.
Yesterday we walked to the little town 2 km from our resort to check things out. It has a public market down by the beach where people are selling fish and vegetables. On the road we also found a little park which has a natural spring that the townspeople have turned into a swimming hole. The water spills out into a stream which meanders to the beach. Along the stream we found women washing their clothes and children enjoying the cool water. But no - no pictures.

What we are planning to do other than walk is read a lot. Here is a look at some of our reading material and Geordie ensconced in his seat of splendour under the ceiling fan in our living room.
Yesterday while we were at JJ's Resort nearby I found an illegal copy of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol in perfect condition on their bookshelf. I know it's illegal because it's a photocopy. We saw many of these photocopied books while we were in Viet Nam where it seems everyone sells them willy-nilly. Not one to pass up an opportunity I asked if I could have the book and the staff said yes. So I took it back to the resort, finished the last 200 pages of Pillars of the Earth then stayed up till midnight to finish Dan's book, another 500 pages. Gee, I do hope our 25 books are enough to keep us going. (No matter, our own resort has a very large collection of paperbacks to pick from too.)

Back to Dan Brown. I am at least impressed that in his latest book he compresses time even more than in his earlier books. In those the time frame of the book is about 24 hours which is pretty impressive when you realize how far the hero and his lovely helpmate have to travel during that time. But in this book he manages to compress the action into 10 hours - and still manages to get in lots of action. At least he divides the action among several of the characters so that things are happening simultaneously. I wonder if he'll get it down to five hours in the next one. And before you know it he'll be writing "One Minute Mysteries".I think I'll post a few more pictures and let pictures speak louder than words for you. Click on the pictures to see them bigger.

1.Oceanjet ferry to Dumaguete 2. Christmas Decorations 3. Orchids of Siquijor

1. Dancing and Ukelele 2. Nigel and Proney 3. Bablayon Church interior

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Lost Horizons

I am melting. It is so humid - I have to run to my air-con room to cool off. The humidty must be 99.99 %. I'm expecting more rain this afternoon - like our 2 hour shower yesterday. The barber last night kept having to wipe my brow with his toilet paper - not the best absorbent! He certainly didnt have to spray my hair so he could cut it more easily.

I think this afternoon we will dip into the cool water of the pool here. We were going to yesterday but then the rain got in the way.

Just so you can check it out, our hotel is Lost Horizons in Alona Beach (check their website with the link.) One little problem - I have awakened with itchy legs both mornings we've been here. Maybe there are bed bugs. Geordie doesn't have the same problem. But it's only a few! The time Geordie slept with them in Mexico he had hundreds of bites, so I'm fine in comparison - and I have Calamine lotion for the itches. (I know - we could move couldn't we?)

Alona Beach is unfortunately not any Boracay. The beach certainly has white sand but the water is not as swimmable because of the weeds near shore, and the shallow depth. I guess we should take up the offer of all the guys on the beach suggesting we go "island hopping". We are doing our best to avoid the sunglass sellers since we both wear prescription glasses, but they are also all vendors of the ubiquitous Viagra - who needs a pharmacy or a doctor's prescription around here?

We are heading off on Saturday back to Tagbilaran for one night since we have a reservation for the 8 am ferry to Dumaguete for Sunday morning. We'll stay two night there and then we are off to Siquijor for our Christmas and New Years locations. We are certainly hoping the beaches are more swimmable, but since we are going to be on the island for three weeks in all, I guess we had better spend some time island hopping to help pass the time other than by reading all our books. I just finished the 1000 page World without End by Ken Follett and after Geordie finishes his "Pillars of the Earth" by Follett I'll read that. (I know, I'm reading them backwards. No matter.)

Off to a little air conditioning.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Bohol Tour

(Note:click on red high-lighted text to see a link, (often from Wikipedia).

Yesterday we took a ferry from Cebu City to Bohol Island and the capital city of Tagbilaran. We had met a young man called Yam at Malapascua who was also heading to Bohol, so we agreed that we would do a tour of the island with him. So this morning we walked to his hotel and met him and our driver for our tour.

It was a great day. We drove off in a well-air-conditioned van and stopped first at the site of the Blood Compact, a rather macabre treaty but it worked for Spain and the Philippines at that time. Then it was off to see the Chocolate Hills where we got to climb one of the more than 1200 mounds in the area and get lots of photos. The hills weren't chocolate coloured since it wasn't the right season for that, but seeing them covered in green vegetation was actually quite beautiful.

On the way down from the hills we asked the driver to stop if he saw a water buffalo plowing the land, and he found one lickety-split. We got lots of picture of the muddy creature with its muddy master plowing the rich fields to plant the next rice crop. Bohol gets three rice crops a year from its fields and grows enough for export. Not bad for a small island.

From there we went to a really cool butterfly farm where I got to hold moth caterpillars in my hands - yeah, I know it sounds wrong, but the butterfly caterpillars are more likely to cause skin irritation so the moths had to stand in. We did see butterfly caterpillars too, and lots of butterflies flittering about. (No moths though - it was too early in the day, I guess.)

And then on to see the tarsiers
. These are wonderful animals - tiny simians, the smallest in the world and normally nocturnal, but they seem to have roused a few from their beds so we could have a look. They are delightful with their huges eyes, soft brown fur and elongated toes.

From the tarsier cages (yes they were caged but they were walk-in cages), we got to have an hour-long tour on the river while eating a buffet lunch. The river is the Loboc and is very green (the water I mean), the landscape alongside is hills covered in a wide array of vegetation - including lots of palm trees of course. While we dined we stopped at a riverside wharf where we were entertained by a village group playing Ukeleles and singing songs of their culture. There was dancing too, including a rice dance with woven baskets and rice pounding women.

And then it was on to see the python - the largest and longest in captivity as the sign says. Its name was Proney and we were told about its history by a very flamboyant lady-boy who sat in his/her bright red dress with very red lipstick and told us how they python was captured when it was only 5 kilos. It is now 8 meters long and eats a pig or goat a month - whole! Of course! I got to go inside its cage and pet it while getting my picture taken. Geordie stayed outside for some reason.The lady-boy also showed us a python skin bikini but said it would be itchy to wear, but if anyone wanted one they did mail-order

Finally we went to see one of the oldest churches on the island, Baclayon - a church made of coral stone. The most unusual thing I saw there? A statue of St. Lazarus. He was wrapped from head to toe in white bandages except for his face, and there was a gold halo sticking up from the top of his wrapped head. I have never seen a statue of Lazarus before so this was certainly unique.

It was a great day - we finished relatively early and got to go back to our hotel to relax. We are at the Bohol Tropics Resort and considering how much I'm perspiring right now, Tropics is the word. Tomorrow we are off to Alona Beach. We got a reservation finally, at a higher rate than we'd like but it's an expensive beach and an expensive season. We have only one week before we head off to spend our three weeks on Siquijor Island. We'll be making the journey by ferry from here.

Until later.