Bantayan was described to us in Guide books, reviews and word of mouth to be a “paradise island”. And apart from a pretty scary typhoon during the evening of Christmas Day and throughout Boxing Day where had no power or water pressure it has pretty much been a great place for some heavenly relaxation.
We stayed for 9 nights on Bantayan. Thankfully we came on the last ferry on the 23rd December after arriving on the port just in time on a hair raising jam packed bus along Cebu’s coast. Due to the weather there were no ferries on Christmas Eve, Day or Boxing day.
Once on dry land a tricycle pedalled us around a few hotels before we found a room in the rain at Nordic’s Inn. A Norwegian guy and his Filipino family run the place. The rooms are 800 peso’s a night, around 13 quid. They’re incredibly basic for the price! Nordic’s was full over Christmas so on Christmas Eve we spent another day in the rain wandering about looking for a new room. We settled for the last room that Sea View Aparthotel had available, a nicer, cleaner hotel room with a hotel and… Sea view This room was a blessing during the Christmas blackout, we flung open the balcony doors and let the wind cool us down whilst most people sweltered in the humidity – what a blessing!
There were 5 restaurants on the island, all within 5 minutes walking distance, all owned by ex-pats and all selling pretty much the same food. But the food was good. Seafood and meat is the cheapest here that I’ve ever seen it at a high restaurant standard. Sizzling platters of squid, stuffed with all sorts of peppers and herbs for under 3 pounds, big plates of chicken were available and they did some tasty things with fish. The accommodation is pricier for a lower standard, but the food’s cheaper for a higher standard. So it all balances out…
After the bad weather leading up to the typhoon and the typhoon its self we had 4-5 full days of glorious sunshine. We did some lazing on the beach, walked somebody’s chiwawa and did some snorkeling (Taz forced me…). We saw some great sunsets. The post typhoon sky was beautiful 🙂
The day before new years eve we had a few beers with Scott, who we met on the Island, Scott has a bar in Cebu City after retiring from the US Marine’s a few years ago. A few beers turns into all sorts of concoctions and before you know it, it’s 4am again and you’re steaming. Oops. Scott has a Philippina wife but insists he’s not the typical stereotype! He met his wife while they were both working in another country and she had a better paid job than him, and still does!
Our body clocks are pretty messed up – rarely did we go to bed before 2-3am and rarely did we get up until after 12, for a whole 10 days! Good times. But BAD for rock climbing progress 😉 We met some interesting people though. As well as Scott we met a bunch of Swedes on holiday (with Philippina wives) and a group of German men (with Philippina wives). A bit of a theme here… These are all rowdy bar friendships but they provided lots of entertainment. We also met Torr from Norway, who’s a seaman that sails between Aberdeen and oil riggs and visits his (Philippina) wife 5 or 6 times a year. Torr has been on a tour group through North Korea…! He has some cool stories and wears socks pulled up, whatever the weather… We’ve met so many nice men that choose wives from these poor countries that I’m really trying not to judge anymore! But it’s hard sometimes!!
Thinking back, Bantayan was hard work for begging too, like Cebu City, but the highlight of the trip for me was Christmas Eve. The streets were rammed with locals and holiday makers having a ball. We bought the cookie shop out of cookies and handed them out to the kids here that night. Then sat and watched a parade in trees lit up by Christmas lights and listened to fireworks going off all around the island (dynamite?!). Then they all filled the churches and we filled the bars. It was definitely the big celebration, New Year they don’t really make a big deal out of.
On New Years day, after a relatively timid New Years eve we got the 11.30am ferry back to Cebu Island and opted for a 1500 peso taxi back to Cebu city. The bus was indeed much cheaper at about 140 pesos per person, but takes about 4-5 hours and smells horrendous as kids throw up everywhere on the winding roads. We we back in Cebu City in just over 2 hours. We check back into the Valley Front hotel.
The morning after we left in a taxi to the CityLink terminal where we got crammed in a minibus to Canatabaco for the rock climbing, an hour away from Cebu City. We find out after an hour that we’re on the wrong minibus, get in another, have a couple of rows with drivers and arrive at a hotel some 3.5 hours after leaving Cebu. Tired and irritated we check into the grossest hotel known to man, also known as the Spring Mountain Resort. Resort my ass. I’d heard the climbing is in an isolated area so there’s no options here but to use this hotel. The pictures say it all, so I’ll say no more!!
We went up to the see the climbing so we were sorted for the following day. Basically you belay on what is now a 45 degree slope of mud, rocks and plants surrounded by thousands of mosquito’s. That night there was also a storm, so not only were we kept awake most of the night we were also thinking, there’s no way we can climb tomorrow, everything was soaked.
We stayed 1 night. Scott who coincidentally left Bantayan that morning, dropped us an email to say he was passing and would pick us up if we wanted! Scott drove us back to Cebu City where we all got a few beers and then we had an early night in a room that doesn’t smell like toilet! This morning I discover around 40 mosquito bites on the back of my thighs and all down the front of my right shin. I don’t know how this has happened because we slept under a mozzie net while in Canatabaco and was always plastered in repellent because the place was riddled with them. I was pretty much surrounded by plooms of smoke too because we burned loads of mosquito coils. I should have just worn my long trousers, but I didn’t think they stood a chance with all the precautions I’d taken to not let them bloody near me. Maybe we’d have stayed longer if we’d had a nice room to sit in and wait for good weather, but when your pillow smells like mushrooms it’s time to shimmy on outta there.
Anyway, chow for now 🙂
Ps – Have a safe flight Sarah and Laura, coming over to Thailand. We’ll see you there in a weeks time for some cocktails and some (more) sunshine!!! I can’t wait!xxxx