Posts Tagged ‘Visayas’

We left the moody clouds of Sipalay gladly behind and rocked on down the coast to Dauin on Monday 9th. At some random village a ladyboy and her gay boyfriend hopped on. She-he decided to make a beeline for me and proceeded to share her-his life story for the next 20mins, much to the amusement of Muneeza and the other passengers. To be fair, she-he was friendly and quite entertaining but I still find it disconcerting to be looking at a person with stubble, man hands and lady bumps. Especially when she-he also has the lower body of a young girl. I’ve got no rub with people having the freedom to embrace their own unique sexuality; I just find the elaborate effeminism of ladyboys slightly odd. Oh well, good luck to her-he and the upcoming move to Bangkok to join the other ladyboys.

We arrived in Dauin early afternoon, hot and sweaty. I had a minor panic on arrival at Mike’s Beach Resort because my main bag was missing from the tricycle. Luckily we traced the route back and found it lying in the middle of the road. People were walking past, looking at it quizzically. I love the honesty here that ensures your possessions are relatively safe from plunder.

Having spent 3 days in a damp beach cabin, our clothes and bags were a bit funky. We were delighted to discover that the resort is new and the rooms all finished to a high quality with proper walls, tiled floors and fresh water shower. It meant we could get clean again. Well it meant I could do the cleaning while Muneeza embraced tropical diving.

Let the diving begin

Muneeza spent Monday afternoon going through the schedule for her PADI Open Water course whilst I lazed around by the pool. Her instructor, Hilary, turned out to be a really cool, easy going Irish lady who has been living here for 4 months with her husband and very cute 3 year old son Thomas. She immediately put Muni at ease and proved to be an excellent and patient teacher. We also loved her Irish humour, which mainly involved ripping it out of me and telling jokes about English oppression.

We got up early Wednesday morning for Muni’s first dive down at the Sanctuary at the far end of Dauin beach. The Sanctuary is a protected area of reef marked by a series of white buoys roped together. I was allowed to tag along and snorkel. The reef was sweet, with lots of bright colours and a good variety of fish. The water was warm and visibility excellent. Muni emerged about 45mins later having successfully descended to 7m sans problem. She took to the diving like a fish to water.

Big fish in the water, Dauin

I passed the time keeping myself entertained with a stick and some sand…..

Natural sand formation, Dauin

I became the admin king for the next 2 days, doing the washing, sorting accommodation out etc as my jani concentrated on her PADI and getting her head round the coursework. Yep, I am dull.

The highlight of the 4 days was a trip out to Apo Island about 1hr south of the mainland. Apo is tiny with only 1,000 inhabitants and no fresh water supply. It’s a diving Mecca with coral fringed coastline and turtle mating beaches drawing the tourist dollar.

Muneeza explored the depths to complete her 3rd and 4th dives, descending to 15m and 18m. I went off with a cool American lady called Connie, whose husband was diving, to do some snorkeling. The first spot was renowned for its Clown Fish City. We searched in vain and whilst we found a place where there were about 20 of these fish close together, we couldn’t find the mother load. We moved on to a second spot before lunch and after about 5mins of swimming around, I saw a large shadow in the distance. I assumed it was a large fish and set off to explore. As I got closer I saw the unmistakable silhouette of a turtle. As the sun emerged from a cloud, the turtle was illuminated in front of me. I followed close behind and it linked up with 2 other turtles. I spent the next 10mins following them, enraptured. It really was a stunning sight. Turtles are beautiful creatures and really elegant in the way they glide up and down in the water.

Turtle power, Apo Island

I waited on the boat to escape the sun and my jani emerged with a big grin on her face having successfully completed her PADI Open Water. I am really proud of her because she isn’t the most confident person in water but put her underneath with an oxygen tank and she’s as calm as you get. Hilary called her a natural, fair praise from an experienced dive master. Or maybe she says that to everyone to give encouragement. Muni loved the 4 days, even though she found the studying hard work at first. There was a genuine sense of camaraderie between the divers and I can see why people get hooked.

Later that evening, whilst my jani lost herself in email world, I got stuck into a heated debate with two American chaps, Mark and Kevin, staying at the resort, essentially a discussion about whether or not the world would be a better place without arms (as in weapons, not your body part). Unsurprisingly GI Joe was pro-gun and I was anti-gun. It was one of those conversations that can only happen when fuelled on booze. One of the guys retired to bed and left me and Mark to carry on until the early hours, arguments augmented by a continuous supply of beer. We never reached an agreement but I enjoyed the mental jostle.

Saturday was lazy day. Unsurprisingly I awoke with a thumping head. Muneeza proceeded to run through what I had said and done when I got back to the room. To some people I am entertaining; luckily Muni is one of those peeps. We spent our last day in Dauin lying in bed watching shit films, ignoring the beautiful sunshine in favour of the darkness. Sometimes you have to do nothing.

Love jamer & muneeza x

Our first night on Negros in the Visayas was rather forgettable. Although 11th Street B&B in Bacolod was nice and friendly, the 24hr security detail insisted on playing music all night. Our room was above the reception area, so sleep was hard to come by. We had to get up early again to make the 8am bus from Bacolod to Sipalay, our first beach destination on our island trip.

The bus journey was not the greatest. The people were friendly as always but the bus itself was uncomfortable. Narrow seats, little legroom and basting heat that left us a little jaded. When we stepped off at Sipalay we were relieved. Our instructions from Peter, the owner of Driftwood Village where we had booked a cabin for 3 nights, were to head to the beach and find Driftwood Restaurant. From there everything would become clear. And so we did. We found Dexy, the eldest of 5 sisters working for Driftwood, who bade us wait while they fetched the boat from the creek. We were intrigued. 15mins later, we were asked to board the boat. The small wooden boat chugged merrily along the stunning coastline for about 20mins. In the distance we saw an inviting secluded beach, enclosed at both ends by rocky outcrops above dark caves. We hoped that Driftwood would be somewhere near. Inside I leapt with joy when the boat pulled up in the middle of that beach and the sign for Driftwood Village soothed weary eyes.

Sugar Beach, Sipalay

Driftwood is run by Peter, an affable Swiss-German chap, and Daisy, his beautiful Filipino wife. Helping them are Daisy’s 4 sisters, whose names all begin with the letter ‘D’ as well; Dexy, Dina, Divine and Dorothy. They also have 5 brothers; guess what letter their names begin with. Yep. In Daisy’s words, “crazy parents”. The village is paradise. I’m not using those words in vain either. Set back about 20 yards from the beach, the entire village is made from local wood. The accommodation comprises bamboo and thatched wooden huts on stilts with private bathrooms. Whilst rustic they have ample room (2 double beds with squito nets) and an outdoor porch area with tables, chairs and the requisite hammock to seal the relaxation list.

Near the beach is the reception, bar and restaurant. The restaurant is on two levels with an upper suspended balcony area offering nice views of the shoreline. Perfect for sunsets. The bar is set-up for fun with a pool table and table football. Well-tended gardens surround the buildings. We’re also miles from any town or road so the noise level is minimal.

To the caves

On our first afternoon, we hit the beach and I took a swim down to the caves at the far end whilst my jani walked along the sand snapping merrily away with her SLR. I had a brief look inside the big cave we had seen from the boat and discovered a mini beach inside with lots of rock shelves covered in crabs. Absolutely stunning. As Muni didn’t have her swimmies on, we agreed to come back the next day and enjoy the view together.

We headed back to our shack for a siesta. We got up with no idea what time it was and decided to eat. As soon as I opened the door, I shouted at Muni to get a move on. I could see the sunset in the distance and it looked incredible. We hit the beach and sat on a large piece of driftwood. We sat in silence as we absorbed the bright colours of an incredible sunset; orange, red, pink and yellow colliding to create an intoxicating skyline.

Sunset on Sugar Beach, Sipalay

We sat with Leah, a chatty Swiss girl, for dinner, hatched a plan to snorkel in the morning and retired early to catch up on sleep. After days of city din, the silence was deafening.

Beaten by the weather

Despite promising ourselves a fat lie-in, we got up at 07.30 to meet Leah for breakfast having agreed to go snorkeling together. Peter advised us that the mornings are better here as in the pm the water can get choppy and cut visibility. Local knowledge can be a good thing.

Alas we awoke to pouring rain. It was like opening the curtains on a grey winter’s day in London and shrinking back under the covers hoping it will pass. After breakfast we sat with the sisters for a chat, pondering the value of postponing the snorkel trip. With the clouds persistent we decided to wait and instead go for a wander down to the cave I had explored yesterday.

Muneeza and Leah set off by foot and I opted to swim, trying to inject some healthy living. We all swam out to the cave and discovered it was high tide, so the big beach I had seen before was now just a small smattering of sand. Nonetheless it was a cool place to explore and the view back out to sea was nice.

The hidden cave, Sipalay

We walked back to Driftwood along the sand and headed back to the cabin for some chill time. Our hopes that the clouds would lift were in vain as the rain returned and fell heavier. Snorkelling was off the cards but relaxing was back on. It’s a hard life.

We hit the hay hopeful of clear skies on Sunday so we could go kayaking along the coast. Alas we awoke to the tempest. Dark grey skies abounded and the rain was torrential. We sat down with the 5 D’s and found out more about their family. You couldn’t meet a lovelier family – all the girls are fun, friendly and caring and very pretty [note to Muneeza’s female friends – the princess herself pointed out to me how beautiful the girls were, so you’re not allowed to get all defensive on me!]. If you were a single male traveler, this place would be appealing.

Instead of a day exploring the area, we sat with the others beneath the large thatched open-air restaurant and idly passed time. It was a rather muted affair though the conversation was interesting thanks to a widely travelled Swiss chap whose knowledge of global politics got my attention. There was no let up in the weather in the afternoon, so we sat indoors and read. There’s not much you can do on a beach during a storm.

Despite the poor weather, we loved Driftwood. For me it’s the perfect place to come and escape life and it may well be my favourite place on this trip, which given the fun we’ve had is a big compliment. The exit reminded me of the simple joys of travelling. We walked along a deserted beach in the early morning haze, waves lapping on the shore. After passing through a tiny village a boatman paddled us across the narrow inlet and river. On the sliver of mainland, Sunny, our tricycle driver, was waiting and whisked us to the bus stop on the main road. We had just missed the bus, so he accelerated and headed to Sipalay town to get ahead of it so we didn’t have to wait another 45mins for the next one. We got on the bus and 5mins later it stopped abruptly. Sunny had driven after the bus to hand us a bag that I had left in his tricycle. That is genuine kindness and wonderful customer service.

Love jamer & muneeza x