After spending a week in Bohol I figured it was about time I actually pay a visit to the attraction(s) that the island has to offer. To be fair I was waiting for the third volunteer, Caroline, to arrive at Seaside so that we could split the cost of transportation. Bruce mentioned that he would arrange for us to visit the Chocolate Hills and Tarsiers and it'd be "cheaper than any way you would do it from town" so I figured I'd leave it up to him to arrange. Thursday May Joy explained the plan to us, she had arranged a day tour which consisted of 8 different stops but came with a price tag of 1500 pesos, we all agreed, thanks but no thanks. Our next attempt was to ask if we could just use the Seaside van but that was still going to run us 3000 pesos, looks like we were on our own. Thankfully we had discovered that the night guard from Seaside, Jerocisimo's hometown is Carmen which just so happens to be where the Chocolate Hills are located, looks like we were up for an adventure.
The next morning we planned to me Jero and Luigi outside Seaside at 8am, Oliver was knocking on our door early but the other two seemed to be missing. We went looking for them and discovered Jero was still eating while Luigi was "taking a bath". We weren't even sure if he could join us as he usually supposed to be working the day shift at the bar, but we had our hopes set high and faith in Madam Gemma being kind. Luck was on our side because Luigi was granted the day off, given he switch and work the night shift instead. Initially Luigi didn't even want to come with us because he said he didn't have money for it, but knowing the bus fares would be minimal I told him not to worry about it. I was even happier that he was able to join when I found out he had never actually been to the Chocolate Hills himself, looks like we were all playing tourist for the day. Finally we were on our way, waiting for a Jeepney to scoop us up from the side of the road at 9am. Of course there were stares from the other passengers as three white people climbed aboard but the ride turned out to be an enjoyable, albeit crowded one. After about 20 minutes we reached Loay where we'd change to a bus that would take us the rest of the way.
The Chocolate Hills are actually located just before Carmen but the buses stop wherever you ask them to so we were dropped right at the entrance. Of course, there's a myriad of souvenir shops, tricycle and motorbike drivers where the bus drops you off but we were able to surpass them. It's about a 1km (uphill) walk to the entrance where you must purchase the tickets you bought below (50php per person) before you climb the 217 steps to the top. Upon visiting, everyone asks "So why are they called the 'Chocolate Hills'" to which there is an array of answers. The most common (and logical) is that the hills look like mounds of chocolate during the dry season, but one of the best stories I've heard has to do with a giant marrying a Filipino and the hills being his poop.
We spent a few minutes taking pictures and enjoying the view before heading back to the entrance as there's not really much else to do there. The hills were a beautiful sight and I'm happy I went, but would have been bitter had I spent the 1500 on the tour (not worth that much). We decided that on our way back we would make a stop in Loboc to see the infamous Tarsiers. Talk about disappointment, the entrance fee for the park was 60 pesos which caused us to hesitate but ultimately we decided to check it out (I guess you only get so many chances to see the smallest primate in the world). I don't regret paying to get in but I was also not impressed with what I saw. There were paths built throughout the forest marking where you could and couldn't walk, along with workers instructing you on where to go and pointing out the Tarsiers (only the last bit was slightly helpful). Walking through the park took us all of 10 minutes, including the obnoxious souvenir shop, before we were back at the entrance deciding where to go next, the obvious choice being food.
We were about to attempt walking to the Loboc market but after 5 minutes were told that it was still another 10km away, obviously we opted for the bus. Since we'd have to get off and transfer in Loay anyway we decided to stay on the bus until there and find lunch at that market. This was easily the craziest bus ride of the day, already fully packed when we got on and people just kept getting sandwiched in, there's no such thing as a full bus in the Philippines.
Lunch was simple but delicious, various dishes served from a market restaurant, piles of rice and a cold coke. After we started walking home but quickly stopped before too long to take a seat at "Bread Houz" where I was tempted by the various options. I decided to try the (mystery thing who's name I forgot), a mix of all the leftover bread from the previous day. This is a great idea and turns out tastes delicious, and comes out in a bright red color.
Although the day started with a big question mark (how were we getting there, who was coming and would it be fun?) it turned out to be one of my favorite days in the Philippines thus far. The company was definitely the contributing factor to my enjoyment, both of the boys are so easy going and fun to be around, genuinely happy people, but that kind of seems to be a theme here in the Philippines. I appreciate the boys joining us for the day, even if the attractions themselves weren't the most amazing thing in the world I did enjoy the day. I only have a few days left at Seaside (stupid pre-booked flights) I plan to take advantage of this new friendship and spend as much time with the boys as possible. I suppose that won't be too hard considering we live, work and eat together.
Over 7,500 islands of pure bliss. I've been twice, both times arriving with a "what am I doing here" hesitation, but weeks later resisting my departure. Forget about being on time, or eating lots of vegetables, but welcome beautiful sunsets, gorgeous beaches, and welcoming, friendly locals.