Day 3 of Philippines 10 Days Tour was dedicated to Bohol Island – the place to be to view the spectacular Chocolate Hills, cute gremlin-like Tarsier and to cruise the Loboc River among many other attractions.
This also happened to be a day we got screwed up so badly and ended up paying the most for the least. So please take this post as a guide on what to avoid when visiting Bohol on free and easy. =)
Getting to Bohol from Cebu
To get to Bohol from Cebu would take a ferry departing from one of the five piers in Cebu, reaching either Tubigon or Tagbilaran ports in Bohol.
Why I’d said one of the piers instead of being specific is because different ferry companies depart from different piers. And we have to buy tickets at the right pier. Tough life, huh?
We’d relied heavily on website information to figure out which pier to be at, the ferry to take and departing schedules of each ferry. Alas, we learnt on hindsight that those information can’t be relied upon.
Arriving at Pier 1, Cebu
We arrived at Pier 1 via cab (php 70) at 8am, looking to catch Starcraft ferry that was scheduled to depart at 8.30am for Tubigon Port in Bohol. The cruise would take just one hour.
For some reason, the ticket counter told us there was no 8.30am departure. The next one would be at 9.45am.
- TIPS: Don’t rely on website for ferry logistics information between Cebu and Bohol, not even those that appear proper or official.
While we were figuring out what to do, a dubious-looking guy walked to us and told us to follow him. We snubbed him the first time, but decided to listen to what he had to say when he came back again. He offered tickets via Supercat Ferry, that would depart at 8.45am. Good timing. However, that would bring us to Tagbilaran, a port in the south-western part of Bohol. Cruise duration would take twice as long – two hours.
Although Tagbilaran is further away from Cebu, it was the port most tourists would arrived at and hence, more tourist facilities, so to speak. We decided to give it a go as we didn’t have much choice anyway. The return ferry fee was at php 700/pax, and their last available return ferry from Bohol was at 5.25pm.
Additional terminal fee of Php 25/pax was payable at the ferry terminal.
Late Ferry Departure
I have been given friendly warning by my Filipino friend in Singapore who told me that timing in Philippines is not to be taken seriously. Late departure is a common affair. After visiting Philippines, I have to tell you to heed her advice. She wasn’t joking.
The ferry that was supposed to depart at 8.45am departed at 9.15am. The ferry that was supposed to take 2 hours took almost 3 hours to reach Bohol. My little diary note said: “Hope we have enough time to tour Bohol.”
Arriving at Tagbilaran Port, Bohol
The terminal was super crowded. Once we stepped out, many drivers and travel sales agents started approaching us to sell their 1-day tour package. As usual, we proudly walked away as we had plans for a free and easy trip, all by ourselves.
That was a mistake right from the start!
Renting a Bike in Bohol
Unlike developed tourist places such as Taiwan, the number of motorbike shops was just a handful – like three? We walked under the hot biting sun to three pre-identified motorbike shops. We wondered why, but all said their bikes were fully rented out. From what I could see from the small outlets or huts, they probably only had one or two motorbikes to begin with.
After an hour’s search, approaching random shops with motorbikes on their frontage, we were disappointed to learn that those were pure repair shops. No rental services!
A tricycle who spotted us when we were at one of the bike shops tailed us like we were some kind of delicious honey. As we were in a helpless mode, we took his tricycle and asked him to send us to another part of town which might have bikes to rent. He quoted us an inflated rate. After climbing onto the carriage, he said that inflated rate was on per pax basis. I wasn’t too pleased by then.
- TIPS: Clarify if the quoted tricycle rate is per pax or per trip before boarding.
Just a minute after boarding his tricycle, he showed us a laminated sheet with pictures of Bohol’s attractions and said, “Why not I bring you to these places?” Can’t remember his initial quote (think php 1800), but we bargained that down to php 1000.
And we happily begun our little adventure in Bohol.
Touring Bohol by Tricycle was a Joke
We were dripping perspiration once we stepped in. And it didn’t matter how cramped it was, with my sweaty thighs rubbing against my travelling companion’s. The jerky and bouncy rides was also a small matter compared to what was in store for us next.
The driver made several stops. One stop to buy lunch. Another stop to pump oil. And a third stop to get what appeared like roaming SIM card? Apparently, he wasn’t prepared for this 1-day tour he was peddling to us.
He then made two more trips to two different motorbike repair shops where we had to alight for him to make some “slight enhancement” to his tricycle. Was that why his tricycle was moving at turtle speed and making so much noise?
Soon it became clear. For we were asked to alight again because he needed to replace some engine parts. It was already close to 3pm by then and we had not reached a single destination. Our return and paid ferry would depart at 5.25pm and we needed to check in by 4.55pm. Feel our stress already?
While waiting for the repair job to be done, we crossed a little rural road to get some local breads and drinks. We’d earlier skipped lunch hoping to cover as many places illustrated on the driver’s laminated sheet as possible.
Can’t believe how cheap the local food were – just Php 40 for two. But the bread was quite bland. Still, it was one of the most memorable
stressful meals we’ve had in Philippines. One of a kind, you know? Doubt any tourist will get similar pathetic experience as us. LOL.
When the driver was done with his third repair job, he called us back and we continued the journey passing through Mahogany Forest which offered us a reprieve to the hot weather. It was very cooling driving through that forest – almost felt like someone just turned on the air-condition.
The driver offered to make a stop for us to alight and take some selfies. But knowing how little time we had left, we asked him to continue driving thinking that we should cover the most important attraction, i.e. Chocolate Hills before making time for the rest of the attractions in the return trip.
In any case, I’m not sure why this man-made “forest” qualifies as an attraction to begin with.
The Tricycle Driver Bit Off More than He could Chew
About 2km before Chocolate Hills, we felt a little wobbly in our carriage. Once we stood out, one of the wheels rolled off the tricycle, causing the carriage to topple to the right. The screw that was putting everything together was long gone. Imagine this, we had been travelling on a loose wheel for probably a few kilometers.
That was the first time we saw the driver swearing and looking angry. Well, he wasn’t the only one who was stressed and pissed off. We were praying that we could do just one out of five or six attractions in Bohol, and the hope seemed to be diminishing with time. The blessing in disguise was that we could have gotten injured if we’d alighted a few minutes later. If the wheel had rolled off while the bike was still travelling, we could have been flung out of the carriage and onto the road. So, despite being very stressed, we were thankful.
The driver told us to take a public bus as he could not bring us any further or bring us back to the port. We offered to pay him Php 500 even though he brought us to nowhere, and he had the cheek to ask for Php 600. Of course, we refused.
We boarded a public bus (Php 8/pax) and alighted shortly after at the main road. Guess what? Since we were no longer on private transport, we had to walk up a very steep and curvy road for 10 minutes (brisk-walking pace) to reach Chocolate Hills entrance. And mind you, the narrow 2-way road had no pedestrian walkway. It was really meant for vehicles and was a dangerous walk. :( So many tourist buses zoomed passed us.
Chocolate Hills Finally!
I literally ran up the 200-step staircase to get to the view deck. My partner didn’t join me and just stayed at the admission area (Php 35/pax). He told me to be quick as we might not get back in time to Tagbilaran port .
The place was crowded with tourists. And running up such crowded steps was tough. “Sorry”, “Excuse Me” every few steps was the only way to squeeze through these people, and I’d even tripped twice and broke my toe nails. But still, I did it in record time, drenched with perspiration by the time I reached the top.
When I was up there, the view was average at best. The photos from the internet was kind of misleading. Either that, or I was just too stressed to enjoy the view. I snapped a few quick photos, took some selfies and left after 3 minutes. All that for travelling 3 hours to view the hills!?!?!
The vantage point was not high enough. And I was probably there in the wrong season or wrong timing. Nope. No brown chocolates.
Real and raw photos differ a lot from those taken by professionals who probably shot it at the perfect timing (month, day, hour) and enhance the photos with photoshop.
I was contemplating enhancing the photos by giving it a bit more contrast and hue. But decided to show you the truth.
The truth hurts.
Chocolate Hills to Tagbilaran Port
By the time I descended the 200 steps, my partner had inquired from counter staff who told him V-hire (public van) was not operating. The only way to get to Tagbilaran Port was to hire a motorbike off the main road. Public buses was an impossible option because it would take 2.5 hours.
- TIPS: I only realized on hindsight how huge Bohol Island was. It’s about 7 times the size of Singapore.
We ran as fast as we could to the foot of the hill via the same dangerous road. There was a tiny outlet with a few motorbikes there. They could send us back via motorbike for Php 700. This was the rate after negotiation. FYI, renting a motorbike the whole day would cost only Php 500. So we know we were ripped.
We stood at the side, pretending to ponder over their offer. The truth was – we had no other choices as there were no other bike shops in sight.
Torturous Journey back to Tagbilaran Port
Some motorbikes in Philippines were altered to carry 3 persons. The one we hired wasn’t. I was sitting at the back behind the driver and my companion. Half of my butt was not on the seat – yeah…just floating in mid-air. And I couldn’t move or adjust because well, it was cramped right? Worse of all, there was only enough space for half of my foot to rest on – I was sharing with my travel companion on one pair of foot-rest.
The one-hour arduous journey was painful because my backside was aching and my feet went numb. “It was torturous!”, as written in my diary. The rider traveled at high speed and we were without helmets. Very dangerous, if you’d asked me.
One consolation – we arrived back in Tagbilaran port by 5pm, just in time for our scheduled departure.
- TIPS: Don’t ever take Tricycle in Bohol unless you have a few days to spend there. It just doesn’t have the power and speed to move through the big, hilly island. Motorbike took 1 hour. Tricycle took 3 hours and didn’t reach destination.
Tagbilaran to Cebu
Terminal fee payable at Tagbilaran Terminal was at Php 20 each. And the cruise took 2.5 hours, instead of the 2 hours advertised by Supercat. We reached Cebu at 8pm.
So this 12 hours trip to Bohol that cost us a few thousand pesos without lunch or dinner rewarded us with a hasty and stressful trip to just one attraction – Chocolate Hills. Worth it?
Well, at least it was super “memorable” right?
And moral of the story? No DIY in Bohol, please unless you are staying more than a day. Pay a driver, and sit in the lovely and air-conditioned sedan. Don’t ever believe a tricycle driver if he tells you he can bring you around Bohol in one day – he’s lying through his teeth.
- Bohol is a large island. Do consider departing very early (take the first ferry) if you only have one day to spare.
- If you want free and easy travel, pre-book a motorbike before the trip because motorbike rental facilities was pathetic in Bohol.
- Booking a driver in a comfortable car or taking up Supercat’s tour package (inclusive of ferry tickets) may prove to be more viable options.
What have I missed in Bohol?
Plenty. Most tourists cover destinations as follows:
- Tarsier Santuary
- Loboc Adventure Park
- Loboc Buffet Lunch River Cruise
- Bamboo Hanging Bridge
- Chocolate Hills Complex
- Mahogany Forest
- Baclayon Church
- Blood Compact Monument
I’d been greedy and marked down additional places that I would like to visit, such as Sagbayan Peak, Danao Adventure Park and Mag-Aso Waterfall.
Was I disappointed? You bet. But we took it in our stride and tried to make the best out of the situation. Like how? Like thinking how fortunate we were to experience something so unique no tourists would ever get to “enjoy”. LOL.
Cebu Colon Street
We had a quick and unimpressive dinner at Jolibee and shopped at a wholesale grocery store along Colon street. When we were having our second-round dinner at McDonald, a bare-footed kid who appeared disheveled and homeless knocked on the glass window and pointed to our box of McNuggets. We went out to give him our McNuggets and he ran away happily. We have to be thankful for the great living conditions we have. Not everyone gets to enjoy that.
While munching our McDonald’s meal, I observed a street stall just outside selling what appeared to be basket of eggs. One by one, locals would come and sit down on the limited stools. They artistically peeled the eggs slowly after each bite and sprinkled condiments (salt and a bottle of chilli, garlic and vinegar mixture) onto the egg before every bite.
It was clear that they were enjoying every mouthful of the eggs. I saw a guy ate one egg after another and wondered when he would stop.
After staring at the stall for a while through the glass window, it became clear the locals were not just eating eggs. They were eating Balut, which is a developing bird embryo boiled and eaten from the shell.
Ah…..should be delicious. But I didn’t like the look and thought of it. So I gave it a miss and refocus on my McDonald’s burger. . =P
That’s all for the Day 3 which was a memorable flop. See you in Boracay in my next post! Stay tuned!
(Travelled in Feb 2016)
- Day 1: Cebu City Tour
- Day 2 (pt 1): Oslob Whale Sharks and Tumalog Falls
- Day 2 (pt 2): Aguinid Falls and Colon Street
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