After Bohol our next stop was gonna be Siquijor Island, southeast of Cebu. Since the direct ferry from Bohol to Siquijor was pretty expensive, we decided on a much cheaper, but also less comfortable transport option. We took a ferry to Argao on Cebu and a bus to Dumaguete, where we spent one night in a very lovely hostel with a rooftop restaurant/bar. The bus ride to Dumaguete was horrible, though. The coach was packed and we had to stand in the aisle for 4 long hours. But I guess that’s what you have to do if you want to save money on transport. 🙂
Maaaan, what a crazy week on Siquijor filled with experiences that will definitely stay with us for a while both as highlights and lowlights! It had certainly been one of those weeks when both awesome and awful come together. Just to give you a rough idea of the week:
We had lovely weather, pretty great snorkeling opportunities, we met incredibly friendly people (shoutout to Michi and Tatjana – you guys were truly special for both of us!) from all over the world, we stayed in a nice accommodation literally on one of the most beautiful white sandy beaches of the island, we explored the whole island by motorbike and met a bunch of lovely locals. Furthermore, we swam in tropical jungle-like waterfalls with the bluest water I’ve ever seen (especially Lugnason Falls), visited a 400-year-old balete tree, squeezed in a tricycle with six people, danced the night away at a beach party in a dive club next to the hostel including live band and live percussion with fire show on the beach. And on top of that, I got a very promising job offer. It all sounds like paradise, doesn’t it?
The downside, however, Isy was sick for two days with a pretty bad cold, we had a row with the operational manager at the hostel (maybe I was just super sensitive or maybe it’s because I studied tourism management and his way of treating staff and guests is just completely incomprehensible to me, but everyone I met agreed that he was a jerk) and to make matters worse, we had a motorbike accident on our last day while exploring the island together with another friend we’d met on Malapascua Island a few weeks back. Even though it is very common amongst tourists in Southeast Asia to have at least one accident while travelling, it is always different the moment it affects yourself. All three of us were extremely lucky, though! I mean it, we must have had a bunch of guardian angels around us. We got out of the accident with just a few scrapes, not very deep wounds and a bruised knee. We were checked out at hospital and were prescribed some meds. It could have been much worse! However, we (and especially our friend) had to pay quite a lot for minor damages on the bike and worst of all my SLR camera was hit when we fell.
After Siquijor we spent a couple of days in Dumaguete having my camera fixed and taking care of the scrapes and bruises. We started another attempt to go to Leyte the following week, but again, the ferry schedule upset our plans. Very spontaneously we took a bus to Sipalay in hope to be able to spend a few nights at Sugar Beach. We ended up staying there for over a week. It was finally one of those paradise places we’d always wanted to find in the Philippines.
Sugar Beach, Negros
I’d say Sugar Beach is one of the best kept secrets in the Philippines. The sand is white during the hot season and black during the colder months giving it the name “sugar” beach. On top of that it’s still pretty undeveloped and consequently only few tourists find their way there. There are only a handful of resorts and two dive centers.
General activities include swimming, strolling along the beach, relaxing in hammocks, diving, snorkeling, eating, reading, travel blogging, sleeping and of course watching the sunset every night. I’ve seen many sunsets around the world and I have to admit that the sunsets at Sugar Beach were among the best I’ve seen, mostly because of the intensity of colors and the combination of sun light, clouds and reflections in the water.
Moreover, while we were staying at the resort, there were four very cute puppies that were in desperate need of some TLC. So as you can see, we had tons of things to keep busy with… 🙂
I think what I liked most about Sugar Beach is the fact that we could stay in one place for a while without having to pack and unpack our luggage over again and again. Without planning where to sleep next. Without having to deal with the Filipino every day efficiency (or rather non-existing efficiency). Now and then it’s just really nice to just sit back, relax and enjoy what’s around you. And although you might be thinking that in places like Sugar Beach, there’s nothing around you, you’re wrong. There’s the hostel staff, locals who have been living in the area for all their lives, people with a story to tell – a story completely different to your own story. There are other guests, regulars who come to this particular part of the world every year for a few weeks to be alone and to be able to unwind, people that may share their thoughts with you, people that might even inspire you in some way. There’s nature around you: mountains to climb, a sea to swim, a beach to walk. Oh – and of course, there are puppies. I think sometimes it’s wise to just enjoy what’s there instead of constantly chasing new, thrilling adventures, especially when you travel for so long and you keep experiencing so many things at such a fast pace. Sometimes you just need to take it slow and process the thrilling adventures you’ve already experienced. For me Sugar Beach was exactly the place to do so.
If you happen to be one of the few people to make it to Sugar Beach and you’re looking for a more budget food option now and then (generally Sugar Beach is very expensive in terms of food), check out the Swiss bakery at Green Garden Lodge next to Driftwood Village. They serve great Filipino food as well as some European specialities for good prices. Especially their rye bread and banana mango cake is worth checking out.
Speaking of food, I’d like to give you an idea of what we’ve been eating for the past two months and show you a few typical Filipino dishes. After having stayed in the country for quite some time, I’d say we have tried out the majority of Filipino classics. In order to save money we generally eat a lot of street food. That’s mostly bbqs where you choose the meat (I adore pork sticks) or fish, afterwards it’s grilled and then served with rice and soya sauce with calamansi (that’s a local lemon) and chili. For about 2€ you can eat approx. 500g of meat including the rice. Other budget friendly street food options are the so-called “eateries”, which almost look like a canteen. There’s lots of meat, seafood and vegetable dishes, like curry, tinola or adobo, in containers at the counter. You choose the dish and portion, pay at the counter and afterwards enjoy a tasty meal (including rice of course) for about 1,40€.
You may have noticed, there’s a lot of rice involved. Rice is basic food, cheap, rich in carbohydrates and often eaten three times a day by locals. We prefer to stick to American or Continental breakfast in the morning, though. But we also had rice with egg and a hotdog a couple of times while staying in Palawan.
Moreover, Filipinos love garlic – garlic rice, garlic pasta, garlic stir fry vegetables. And even though it doesn’t say garlic in the menu, trust me, there’s garlic in the dish. So if you don’t like garlic, you should consider not travelling the Philippines. Just kidding. Go for the meat! 🙂
A vital thing that is extremely rare in the Philippines is good coffee. You can buy coffee almost everywhere, but you mostly get 3in1 packs, which for coffee lovers like myself always seems like a bad joke.
In my next update, read about our two-week trip to multicultural Malaysia before we’re heading back to the Philippines, where I’m gonna be starting my first job – yaay! Stay tuned!