" Do yourself a favor, get off the tourist path and explore a little. It can be very rewarding. "
Bob is a 30-year traveler that has been to over 30 countries. Follow his travels at his blog The Traveling Fool.
Any taxi driver in town can take you there but don’t make the same mistake I made by telling the driver to leave. It is much better to pay a few pesos and have the driver wait otherwise you might be in for a walk to the subdivision entrance trying to flag down a taxi when it comes time to leave.
The Temple was built by the Chinese community in Cebu and offers quite a view of the city once you get there. On Wednesdays and Saturdays Taoist devotees climb the 81 steps to the temple to light joss sticks and have their fortune read by the monks. The 81 steps represent the chapters of the Taoist teachings.
Part of the entrance resembles the Great Wall of China and the Temple includes the chapel, a small souvenir shop, library and wishing wells. The various levels of the Temple offer great views of the city and bay.
There are several Taoist Temples in the Philippines but few that allow visitors.
I have been to the Philippines several times and each time I enjoy it more than the last. This last trip I went to Bohol, specifically, Panglao Island. I spent a great time on the beach where every morning I woke up and had a 20 meter walk to the surf. There is nothing like taking a dip in cool water first thing in the morning.
If you have never spent time in the Philippines you have to go. There are so many islands and things to see. The people are great, the food is good, with the exception of Balut, and the scenery is fabulous.
Every time I go I try to see someplace new and with so many islands it will be a lot time before I run out of new things to see.
Bohol has a lot to offer. There are endangered species such as the Philippine Tarsier, a little primate that has a tendency to commit suicide when it gets stressed, The Chocolate Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dolphin watching, scuba and snorkeling, zip lining and adventure trekking and the Bohol Bee Farm an organic farm, hotel and restaurant.
Asia and the Pacific islands have some great beaches and islands and the Philippines are no different. Spend a week or more and you will be like me and fall in love with this place. Accommodations are plentiful. Everything from backpacker digs to upscale resorts can be found on White Beach, Alona Beach and the other popular beaches.
HOW TO GET THERE
For now you have to take a quick 1 hour flight from Manila to Tagbilaran City on the main island of Bohol and 30 minutes by car to Panglao Island. They have already broke ground for a new airport on Panglao Island that I was told will be in operation in 2014.
THINGS TO SEE
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
The Bohol Bee Farm
The Coconut Farm Restaurant
Raja Sikatuna National Park
Extreme Adventure Tour
Numerous Water Falls, Old Churches, Watch Towers, White sand beaches and more.
Spend the day and rent a boat to go scuba diving, rent a motor bike and cruise around the Island or just lay out on the beach. But you need to go.
When I decided to take a road trip to Lake Ohrid Macedonia I checked online to see what the hotel prices were. The last few years I have tried to stay away from hotels, preferring instead to rent a condo or apartment. I find it not only less expensive but in a lot of cases you get added benefits that you wouldn’t at a hotel. After all I spend most of the day away from the room and no need in wasting a bunch of money on something I am not going to be using much. I have never been a Hostel kind of guy. I snore enough I don’t want to listen to someone else doing it. And I don’t particularly like sleeping in a dorm setting.
After a little research I found Antonio Guest House consisting of 6 rooms for rent and the price was great. For 15 Euros I had my own room at a place that had great reviews from multiple online sites. I booked through the internet and got my confirmation and was ready to go.
Upon arriving in Ohrid I found the place with no trouble. I am not sure what I expected but the place is basically a house. The door was locked so I rang the doorbell and Stojna, the lady of the house answered the door, pointed her finger at me and said “Robert”? I answered yes and she waved her hand and said “Come”. Entering the house she pointed to my shoes and then pointed to a shoe rack. I took my shoes off and closed the door and she started pointing at the door, then a button that unlocks the door. Then she waved her hand again and said “Come”. She took me upstairs and opened one of the rooms with a skeleton key, she pointed to the two single beds and then opened a window that looked out over the garden and said “smoke”. Then she waved her hand again and said, yep you guessed it, “Come”. She pointed at the common use bathroom and then we went downstairs where she took the other key on the ring and showed me that it unlocked the front door from outside and then waved her hand and again said “Come”. Now by this time I was starting to like Stojna, something about her said we were going to get along okay.
We went into the kitchen downstairs and sitting at a table was her husband Trajce who seemed to be waiting for the door to open and next to him was a well used notebook. Trajce tells me he speaks a little English. His son Antonio, who speaks good English, is currently giving a tour of the city to some Japanese tourists.
Stojna looks at me and asks, “drink?” To which her husband asks if I want brandy, juice, coffee or water. Trying to be polite and not go for liquor just yet I said water is fine. At this Stojna points and says, “Brandy”. She quickly produces a clear glass pint bottle with no label and clear liquid. Now having had more than one drink out of a no label liquor bottle I knew what was about to happen. She proceeds to pour me two ounces and then gives her husband about a teaspoon full in his glass. He smiles and says to me, “It is good brandy almost like schnapps, drink.” Drinking about half the glass and feeling molten lava run down my throat, with just a hint of fruity flavor, he smiles again and says “good, finish.” Always being one to please I drink the rest of the liquid fire and before I can put the shot glass down Stojna pours me another two ounces.
Trajce asks how many nights am I staying, after answering 3 he says “Good” and pulls out a sheet of paper with a map of the city. The map has all the famous tourist sites listed and he starts by showing me where we are. Then he tells me we are 700 meters from the old town and shows me the route I need to take. He circles several churches and tells me why they are famous drawing a route along the old town and back to the guest house. He then says “You take this tour, it will take you 3 to 4 hours”. He then tells me we are 15 Km from the town of Struga. He circles the bus stop where I need to be and turns the paper over which has all the bus times to various locations. He tells me Struga will cost me 40 Denar or about .80 USD. He then tells me we are 30 Km from St Naum Monastery and it will cost me 120 Denar or about 2.50 USD. He then circles a couple of banks and money exchange places along with a few restaurants. After this he asks for my passport and opens his notebook and dutifully writes down my name and passport info, then begins looking through the passport. He points and shows his wife my Cambodia Visa and tells me his son was recently in Cambodia and then he points to my shot glass and tells me to drink. I am really starting to like these folks. After downing the last of the brandy his wife comes at me with the bottle and now it’s my turn to wave my hand and tell her no thanks I have had enough.
The next day after a couple of British backpackers leave Trajce moves me into their room, which is a little larger and has a balcony. The rooms have free wi-fi, television a small table and a couple of chairs. Outside the room there is a refrigerator a couple of electric burners with a few pots along with silver ware, glasses, instant coffee and tea bags.
I spend the next couple of days getting up early and seeing the sights of the Old Town and having a few beers in the evening.
The last day I go downstairs in the morning and tell Trajce I will be checking out. I have someone coming to pick me up in the early afternoon so I ask if I can I keep my pack downstairs while I walk around town a bit. Trajce puts my bag in the corner and Stojna appears asking if I want coffee or tea? Having just had a couple of cups of coffee upstairs I tell her no thanks I am going to walk around a bit. Stojna doesn’t really seem to like that answer, points outside to the garden and tells me “Sit”. Trajce and I sit down and start to chat when Stojna comes up from nowhere and pours me a double shot of morning Brandy along with a slice of her home made walnut cake drenched in Brandy. So here we are at 7 am chatting and drinking Brandy. That’s when Trajce tells me he made the Brandy from the grapes growing in the garden. He also tells me he has 80 liters of the fire water and sometimes sells it to guests at a whopping price of 5 Euros per liter. Now for my American buddies that is roughly $6.20 a Quart for some high quality Moon Shine.
After a few drinks I leave and walk around town for the last time picking up a few things to take with me. Returning to the Guest House I still have about an hour or so before my ride shows up. I tell Trajce I will just sit in the garden and wait. Trajce sits down with me and we begin chatting about his life, he used to work at the train station and also at a travel agency, and Stojna worked in a garment factory. Now they run the Guest House while their son Antonio promotes the Guest House and works as a tour guide in town. At this point Stojna pulls out a bottle of wine pours me a big juice glass full and gives Trajce a little. Trajce asks me how the wine is and I respond pretty good. He smiles and says "I made that too I have a lot." Well of course you do ya little moonshiner. So for the next hour we chat and drink wine until my ride arrives and just like family they walk me to the car wave goodbye and tell me to be careful on the road.
Now you tell me of a hotel where you can have that kind of experience.
For those that have read this blog before you know that I am a big proponent of getting off the tourist path and doing some exploring wherever you happen to be. That happened recently while in Manila where I noticed a very large compound surrounded by a 8 foot tall solid metal fence painted bright green. The buildings inside where very ornate around the rooftops and appeared to be some type of Chinese Temple.
Never one to be to shy I knocked on the small gate and a gentleman working inside answered. I asked if this was a temple of some kind and he stated it was a Taoist Temple. Then I brazenly asked if I could come in and look around. He stepped outside onto the street and looked around and asked where I was from. After I told him he smiled and waved at me to hurry inside.
He seemed kind of nervous and I asked if he was sure I could come inside and look around. He stated I could look but to not take any pictures inside the main temple. The outside prayer areas were okay though.
I was inside the compound about 6 or 7 minutes when a vehicle pulled up to the compound and honked its horn to be let in. The vehicle pulled in and the driver looked at me, smiled and went to the parking area but that's when the worker got really nervous and said I should leave. I gathered it was one of the head guys and although he smiled wasn't too pleased the worker had allowed me in.
While I was there the worker and I took turns asking questions, me about the temple and he about where I was from and about me. It was interesting, beautiful and really cool.
That is why I love exploring places on my own. You never know what you might happen upon or who you might meet.
The last few days I have been staying at Badladz Adventure Resort and Badladz Beach Resort in Puerto Galera, Philippines. Owners Sean and Mylene Cooney have put together two great locations for travelers to Puerto Galera that cater to both the diving crowd and those that just want to get away and relax.
Puerto Galera Resorts normally cater to the diving crowd with most facilities in Sabang but Badladz has made it easy for you to step off the ferry at Muelle Pier in Puerto Galera turn left and walk 50 meters to their Adventure Resort which offers PADI certification, fun dives, open water dives and more. Puerto Galera has long been known as one of the finest diving spots anywhere and Badladz Adventure Resort is known as one of the best places for divers to go.
After a day exploring underwater caves and wrecks you can relax at the Restaurant and Bar for a nice cold beer. The Restaurant offers great Mexican food along with traditional Filipino dishes, Sandwiches, Burgers and Breakfast. The Combination Mexican Plate is really good I can attest to that. Badladz Adventure Resort offers 13 rooms from single to double occupancy and has a great view of Puerto Galera Bay. The rooms offer comfortable and affordable accommodations and the staff is attentive to guests needs.
After spending 2 days at Badladz Adventure Resort I moved over to the Beach resort. Recently finished in December 2011, the Beach resort is tucked away on a semi private beach a short drive from the Adventure Resort and has 9 rooms. Badladz Beach Resort is still expanding and construction is underway for some larger double rooms since more and more people are finding their way here and enjoying the hospitality.
If you are looking to get away from the crowds and tourist attractions this is the place to go. The Beach resort offers the same menu at their Restaurant along with the same friendly and attentive staff. Here you can dine at the restaurant and look out onto Varadero Bay, relax in the beach chairs under the coconut trees or have a BBQ. When you are ready, head out onto the beach and have a swim in the bay. When I went the water was clean, cool and the waves were just right so as not to get a face full of salt water.
Whether you stay at the Beach Resort or the Adventure Resort there is a Van that will provide transportation between the two and also Sabang and White Beach along with other various attractions such as the waterfalls.
After checking in and dropping off my bags I went down for a cold beer and was greeted by name and since that time the experience at both the Adventure Resort and the Beach Resort have been fantastic with the owners and staff making sure all the guests were attended to and satisfied.
Regardless of your thoughts on the TSA, they are here to stay. So we have to deal with long check in lines, bags being scanned and searched and ever changing rules on what you can and cannot take on board flights. There are some things you want to make sure to include for your carry on bag in case things go wrong or so you can have them when needed.
1. Any electronics you don't want to wind up missing or stolen. Thieves still target checked in bags so put cameras, laptops and cell phones in your carry on.
2. Take your medications in your carry on. I am not talking about aspirin or other over the counter drugs but any prescription medication. You don't want to arrive at your destination to find out your luggage is lost and your stuck trying to find a way to get your meds. As a side note be careful with medications, some countries look at certain medications differently so make sure your name is on the bottle. You don't want to be sitting in an interrogation room trying to explain to some customs official why you are smuggling unmarked medicine into the country.
3. Take a small battery operated flashlight. They cost a few dollars at any mega retailer and don't take up any room. Trying to rummage through your stuff late at night in a new place can be a pain, especially if you stay in Hostels or you are just trying to find something in the dark.
4. Pack a change of clothes. This could be a t-shirt, extra shorts or whatever. If you have ever traveled and had lost luggage you know what I mean. A change of clothes in your carry on can be a life saver. At least you won't have to wear the same clothes for 3 days while your luggage catches up to you.
5. Things that should be common sense, but if your like me you always forget one of them. Or instead of your carry on you bury it in your checked bags. Passport for International travel, extra passport photos for getting visas and extensions, Drivers License for extra ID, ATM cards and copies of itineraries and flight confirmations. I usually go to my local bank and get $100 changed into the destination currency before I leave so I can have a little spending money when I get there for taxis, buses or whatever. And my pet peeve, bring a damn pen. Every international flight I am on no one has a pen and you know you are going to have to fill out immigration and custom forms.
I had to renew my Passport recently and I started thinking about all the countries I have visited over the years. I realized I had been to quite a lot of places and started feeling very worldly, a seasoned traveler, yes a man of the world. But then I did a little checking and found out I am but a mere speck on the backside of some of the most traveled people in the world.
flickr // Kate B Dixon
There are several travel clubs that track peoples globetrotting but the most revered, yes I am bowing down as I write this, is the Most Traveled Peoples Club. According to their website they have 10,511 active members, of which 248 are under the age of 20 and 65 are over the age of 79. The club was started in 2005 as a community for extreme travelers and the club has since voted on and designated 872 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups and major states and provinces. They even have a theme song which is fittingly "I've Been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash.
The Founder of this club is rightfully so, the most traveled member of the group. Charles Veley, an American, is a recruiter for a software company. He has visited 822 of the recognized destinations and is one of only 90 members to have visited over 400 countries putting him in the clubs Hall of Fame. I felt better when I saw that 1285 of the members were in the Couch Potato classification meaning they have traveled to anywhere from 1 to 24 countries. I have that beat so in the words of Carl Spackler, Bill Murray's character in the movie Caddy Shack, "I've got that going for me."
So if you have the travel bug in you then get after it and get your name in the Hall of Fame and maybe be the "Most Traveled Person in the World.