" 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.
The Taoist Temple in Cebu is one of the many sights available to visitors in this vibrant city.
The Temple was built in 1972 and is open to the public unlike other Taoist Temples in the area. Located in the Beverly Hills sub division at an elevation of about 300 meters above sea level it is easily accessible.
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.
If you have the opportunity to visit the Taoist Temple in Cebu then take it. The architecture is beautiful the place is serene and the views are great.
After years of travel I have observed several things that just make no sense to me. I want answers!Why are the seats at the departure gates larger and more comfortable than the ones on the plane? I think this is classic bait and switch. I Want Answers! Why is it when I am 2 minutes late for the plane the doors are closed I am told I will have to pay to rebook another flight? When the plane is late in departing by 2 hours I am told to have a seat and be patient. Speaking of departure gate areas, why are there 15 gates but the restroom is at the end of the terminal? Not only that when you get to the men’s room there are only 2 urinals and 2 toilets with 700 people needing to use them. The airport gift shop always has little samples in trays where the food and candy aisles are. Then why do I get dirty looks from the staff when I sample? Look it doesn’t matter if I eat them all or 1000 people eat one. They are going to be gone anyway. Why is my 2 ounce bottle of contact lens solution considered a security risk by TSA, but put it in a plastic bag and it is all of a sudden safe? Why is my tweezers are considered taboo as a take on item but the lady sitting next to me had knitting needles on the plane? This actually happened, friggin knitting needles! Why does my need to pee correspond to the exact time the flight attendant has the aisle blocked with the food cart? Why do they have bars at airports and then get mad when I try and get on the plane drunk? If the air on the plane is so clean then why is my skin all greasy when I get off?
I don’t think I am being unreasonable. I just need answers!
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 Westerners traveling to the Philippines for the first time, one of the things you become immediately aware of is the fact that there are Security Guards everywhere. When I say everywhere I mean it. I don’t think I have ever been anyplace that has so many damn Security Guards. But are they really keeping you safe?
There are guards at gas stations, clothing stores, parking lots, hotels, office buildings and even McDonald's. At first your mind starts racing and wondering what the hell is so bad here that I need to be guarded when I go to the grocery store? After a while you begin to realize that these are no ordinary security guards.
On 21 Dec 2012 the world will come to an end. That is if you believe the Mayan Calendar theory. So before the world comes crashing down, here are 5 things you definitely should check out. Why 5 and not 10? Well 10 is a lot and after all you do have other things to do and as of this writing you only have 9 months left. So let’s get started.
1. Visit a Museum. I know, you haven’t been in a museum since that 5th grade school trip but the world is ending, so see the masterpieces. Pick a great museum such as The Louvre in Paris and see The Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Or go to Amsterdam and check out the Dutch Masters. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art or The Vatican Museums would also be great choices. While you’re not at the Museum check out what else these great cities have to offer.
2. Visit the Critters. Go somewhere that you can get up close and personal with the wildlife. A few good choices are Galapagos Islands for all their wildlife, Komodo Island Indonesia to see the world’s biggest freaking lizard, The Great Barrier Reef and all of its wonders or my favorite, monkeys. To see monkeys in the wild head to Gibraltar, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka or Indonesia. I think besides dogs, all guys like monkeys. Don’t ask me why, it’s a guy thing.
3. Party your butt off. Since the world is ending might as well have at least one good party before you go. Since we are only looking at the next few months, you still have a few chances left to live it up. Some places to get your party on are Songkran Water Festival held in April in Thailand, just walk outside and you will get soaked but you can also water down everyone else. Glastonbury Music Festival, England, the world’s largest open air Music festival held the last weekend in June or Oktoberfest in Munich Germany held in late September to the first weekend in October are also great destinations.
4. Take a road trip. A trip along the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy is probably one of the best in Europe. Travel the Patagonia Highway in Chile and Argentina. If you have a month to spare head to Australia, get a 4 wheel drive and travel the 3500 kilometers from Cairns in Queensland to Broome in Western Australia. You could always set out to drive the famed Route 66 in the USA. Road trips are a great way to see the country close up, meet new people and discover some great out of the way places.
5. See awe inspiring mother earth. Visit The Grand Canyon in the USA, Victoria Falls in Africa, Antarctica, the Swiss Alps, the Amazon rain forest, Milford Sound in New Zealand or one of the world’s fabulous beaches.
All of these places have one thing in common. They are all great locations for travel and there are a lot of things to see and do at each one of them. So if the Mayans are right and the world is going to end then get off your butt and pick some of these to do. Personally I don’t believe the world is going to end but on Dec 21st 2012 I plan on being on a beach with a bucket of ice cold beer. I might as well be in a nice place when… you know, the Christmas holidays and all. At any rate I am not telling you which beach because I have one picked out that’s pristine and not crowded.
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.
Next time your traveling do yourself a favor, get off the tourist path and explore a little. It can be very rewarding.
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. I originally contacted John McIntyre, Marketing Director for both resorts and he was kind enough to offer a portion of my stay on the house so I could visit and tell everyone what a great place this is. Having never been to Puerto Galera John assured me I would have a good time and he was right.
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.
If you have done much traveling you have undoubtedly come upon touts. You know those guys that hit you up every time you go to any tourist attraction. They want to sell you cheap souvenirs or that amazing antique that has a made in China sticker on the bottom of it. The Philippines is no different except the touts are hanging around anywhere that westerners stay or travel to. I see the same guys every day selling the same things and every day I say no. These guys approach one, two or four at a time. You can see them coming at you, dodging taxi’s racing to get to you. Even when you wave them away or say no when they approach they still give their pitch. Say no to the pitch and you get one more pitch. Who trained these guys, Zig Zigler?
Like I said, I see the same ones every day. They try to sell me leather belts, tennis shoes, sun glasses, stun guns, laser pointers, bamboo whistles and even guitars. Of course there is the Viagra/Cialis guy. Not that I would ever, ahem, you know have a need for such a product. But if I did I wouldn’t buy it from some guy standing in the street next to a dry cleaners. For all I know it is horse tranquilizer from China.
I try to be nice, I really do. No thanks, sorry no, not today. I have no need. But after walking a block and getting hit up 8 times I just want to tell the Viagra guy to take it himself so he can go and, well let’s say make his own happy ending to himself.
If you stay here long enough it goes from being comical to annoying to irritating to a point where you make it a game with what comebacks you can return to the various sales pitches.
Leather belt Sir? No thanks I like my pants dropping down my ass. Guitar? Nope, got any pianos? Watch sir? I have Rolex. Nah looking for a pocket watch, go find me one and come back. Then out of the corner of my eye I see him coming, dodging traffic as he crosses the street, arm extended, yep the Viagra guy. Unlucky number 8, get ready to get blasted buddy.