Category Archives: Vacation
My stomach was very queasy today which made lunch a struggle, plus my sinuses were blocked so I felt sluggish all day.
We visited the Bacolod Football Stadium and the Talisay Ruins in the morning. Negros has a higher concentration of football players than other islands due to the Spanish settlers. The Ruins are the remains of a large mansion. The marketing slogan “The Taj Mahal of the Philippines” shows a profound ignorance of the scale and purpose of the Taj Mahal and a capacity for hyperbole that beats everything I have seen in this telenovela of a country.
After lunch we went back to Silay to visit the Banay Negrense, the third of the old houses open to the public. It is slightly different from the others and was built by Yves Gaston, the Frenchman who founded the sugar industry on which Negros’ wealth was built.
Then to the airport and an uneventful, but delayed, flight back to Manila.
We went to Silay to see the old houses built by the sugar barons. I love these old houses because they were designed for the local weather conditions, with large spaces underneath, triple window covers, high ceilings, internal ventilation openings, sliding panels under the windows to provide further ventilation. The windows have wooden louvres, Capriz shell and wire gauze covers. The wooden louvres allow air but little light, the Capiz shell shutters allow light but no air and the wire gauze allows both. At the top of the internal walls are openings for cross ventilation. Modern architects should take note if they want to design more energy efficient homes! Linds knows that I have always wanted to live in one of these types of houses.
In the second house that we visited I suddenly felt very nauseous and had to go outside. Drinking a small bottle of water and sitting in the breeze helped.
In the evening we went to Mely’s Garden for dinner and Calea for dessert. You can’t come to Bacolod without putting on weight!
In the morning Sam, Francesca and I had been to see the Provincial Capitol Building, then had lunch at Bacolod Chicken House. No visit to Bacolod is complete until you have eaten there. To hell with the expense, we ate in the air conditioned room and paid the 10% surcharge.
After the frenetic time in Dumaguete and the long drive yesterday, we decided to have a lazy day today and get pampered in the hotel salon and spa.
The WiFi in the hotel is poorly implemented. At least it’s free, but then it should be for all the crap you have to endure to use it. You need to get a username and password from the front desk, no problem you would think, if the front desk staff have time to answer the phone and give them to you! Then you discover that only 1 person can use it at one time AND you have to enter it every time you go to use your iPad AND it expires at noon every day so you have to get another one. Stupid beyond belief. Add to that the up and down nature of the service and user friendly it isn’t! It’s a hotel, if the WiFi is free then dispense with the stupid usernames and passwords and having to login every time you flip open your iPad.
At lunch time i was not feeling too good so the family went out for Chicken Inasal without me. The Itraconazole still makes me queasy for a time after I take it. When my stomach felt better I went up to the coffee shop and had a Beef burger and fresh Green Mango Juice. As it turns out, the family didn’t want to eat much so they just had gelato!
In the afternoon Linds and Francesca went to the spa and I went to the salon for my foot spa, manicure and pedicure.
In the evening we went to dinner with our close friend, Arlene, whose secretary made all the bookings for us and who has lent us a car and driver while we are in Bacolod.
In which we journey from Dumaguete to Bacolod by Toyota Hiace charabanc. Overriding impressions of Dumaguete; schools, schoolchildren, motorised tricycles, Ceres Liner busses, lots of foreigners, nice people, great service. We will come back. The Hotel Nicanor where we stayed is only 2 star but the room that we had was spacious and clean and the staff were always very friendly and helpful.
So much for the 9am start that we had planned for this long trip, we eventually set out at about 10:30am. We had a hearty breakfast in Chico’s and I ordered a Tuna sandwich to go as we weren’t sure about any restaurants along the way. We had a different, more comfortable, van for this trip. The route was up the east coast of Negros to San Carlos where we would stop for lunch before crossing the mountains to Bacolod.
Along the way there was 1 village where several houses had been badly damaged in a recent earthquake. It was strange to see a wrecked building surrounded by others which were unscathed. In San Carlos we stopped at a restaurant called Mom’s Small hotel and restaurant. No one else was hungry so we just ordered drinks and I ate my Tuna sandwich. Going across the mountains we had spectacular scenery all the way, there were even some formations reminiscent of the chocolate hills in Bohol. We stopped at a couple of lookout points. The first had a view over the valley to a beautiful waterfall which looked to be at least 100m tall. It was so quiet we could hear the sound of the water hitting the pool at its base. When we stopped the place was deserted, within 30 seconds 2 young girls appeared selling home made banana chips and vegetable kropek. We bought some for the ride and they were delicious. The second stop had a view of a wild river curving around a small village with some terraced rice paddies. We saw young children walking home from school on steep mountain roads. Judging by where we could see houses it looked like some of them had 2km or more walks to get to and from school.
We detoured to the Mambukal Hot Springs resort, a local government run resort in the foothills of a volcano about 45 minutes from Bacolod. It was very well maintained and there were lots of cabins where you could stay for the day or overnight. Unfortunately the weather was bad with low clouds, rain and an angry looking sky, but it didn’t stop Linds and Francesca from going for a dip in a hot pool. Sam and I went bat spotting and general sight seeing. There were a lot of swallows getting ready to nest under a bridge as dusk was approaching and close to the river the smell of sulphur was quite strong. The bats were stirring and opening their wings, getting ready to fly, but we didn’t see any on the wing.
We stayed at Mambukal for about an hour then set off on the final leg of the journey to our hotel in Bacolod. The L’Fisher hotel is very nice even if the name is an affront to good grammar. You learn to live with these things in Asia. We are staying in the Chalet annex behind the original hotel; inappropriately named as it is a 4 storey building! The rooftop has a coffee shop, swimming pool, gym, salon and spa. It is very pleasant to sit up there in the breeze.
For dinner we went to Trattoria Uma which was a bit disappointing. The soups were excellent but the squid in the Fritto Misto was so tough that it was indelible and the pasta was too salty. We got a free panacotta dessert when we pointed this out, and when the moist chocolate cake we had ordered arrived we forgave them. It wasn’t so much moist as liquid and was so delicious.
Today we went to Balinsasayao Twin Lakes. It’s not far, except when the driver heads in the opposite direction! The first we knew something was wrong was when we were turning in to the Apo Island departure point. Linds ripped him a new one and we headed back and through Dumaguete to the turn off for the lakes.
It’s another road which isn’t for the faint of heart. The road is very narrow, some of it is unpaved, there is always a sheer drop on one side and sometimes both with no safety rails. But when you get there it is well worth it. The view of the lakes and the surrounding forest, and the peace and quiet, were great. The family went swimming in the lake and climbed the waterfall, I very wisely stayed at the lookout point because the path to the lakes turned out to be very slippery. On the way back down we stopped several times to take pictures of the wonderful scenery.
The nausea and Upper GI GvHD have been playing up. The van we have hired is not really suitable for rough roads so I get bounced around a lot
A day at Apo Island, the family went snorkelling with the Turtles and counted 11. I caught up with my blogging.
On the way there we stopped at Atlantis Resort which is quite high end compared to where we are staying. There appeared to be only 2 or 3 guests and no activity in the Dive shop. We asked about rates and were quoted standard prices, no attempt at offering us a discount to make us spend our final 2 nights in Dumaguete there. It is something that I have noticed before with “quality” resorts, even in the low season they won’t offer discounts to attract visitors, unlike hotels and resorts in Europe which always run special deals to try to keep occupancy high. For the right price they could have filled another 2 rooms and got some restaurant and dive shop revenue as well.
We went to Casablanca for dinner and Sans Rival for dessert. I had liver dumpling soup, which I don’t think I have had since I was 15 and an exchange student in Vienna for a month.
I really overdid it yesterday. While it was great fun I was dog tired by the time we got back to the hotel and could barely keep my eyes open during dinner. I was in bed by 8pm and slept so soundly even the family jumping up and down while watching Federer beat Djocovich did not disturb me. Linds woke me at 9:35pm so that i could take the last of my medications for the day but I was back asleep within 5 minutes.
So what did we do? I hear you ask. Well, dear reader, the day started with a 4:50am alarm and proceeded at a frenetic pace.
We had booked a van for 6am to take us to Bais City to go Dolphin watching. By the time we had picked up our breakfasts and sandwich lunches from Chico’s and got everything from the hotel it was 6:38am when we finally set off. It took about an hour to get to the boat departure point in Bais, and we headed out on a banca called Dolly. The crew were cooking rice on a home made Hibachi stove at the stern. They stopped at a large fishing banca and picked up some small fish for their lunch. We then headed across towards Cebu with 2 crew on the wheelhouse roof scanning for Dolphins.
There was another large boat in the distance and we headed towards it, sure enough it was full of Dolphin watchers and was following a pod. We soon had up to 10 small Dolphins playing around the bow of our banca with Sam, Linds and Cesca all taking photos. Some of the dolphins had distinct traits; one would bring most of his body out of the water and then slam it down onto the water, another would do a more traditional surface, but then flick his tail in the air and hit the water with it as he dove; still another would surface, twist onto her back and flick her tail rapidly to speed along. We saw several jump completely out of the water, but none of the ones that we were close to would oblige us with that trick. In total I estimate that there between 30 and 50 Dolphins but it is impossible to count them! In all we followed them for 30 minutes.
After the Dolphins we headed to the White Sands Bar, a shallow shoal in the middle of the sea where we anchored and had lunch. Francesca and Sam went swimming, but the current was quite strong so they didn’t stay in for very long. There are 4 huts on stilts on the sand bar which are available for rent. They aren’t that big but that didn’t stop a party of over 20 Koreans squeezing into one. We headed off to the Mangrove Swamp walk.
A long jetty sticks out from the Mangroves and the boat tied up to it. You walk into the swamp on this to view it. It was pleasing to see it was in good condition with lots of new shoots coming up. There was even a nursery there where they were growing small shoots in pots under the water to plant them elsewhere to strengthen the ecosystem.
From there we headed back to the departure point, very happy with day so far. We got back in the van and decided to head up to Mabinay to see the caves there. A good and bad decision as it turned out. The bad part was the ride there from Bais, in several places the road is in very poor condition and the van didn’t have the shock absorbers to cope with it properly. By the time that we got to Mabinay I was dreading the journey back!
The cave is reached by a badly eroded path which is slippery when wet, as we set out it started to rain so I put my diving boots on. Luckily the steps down to the cave are in very good condition. Inside there is no lighting so we had to use head lamps. There are spectacular stalagmites and stalactites, plus enormous cave spiders, tailless scorpions and nesting swallows. I did spot some spot lights and queried why it wasn’t working. “Oh, the wiring shorts out due to all the rain” was the explanation. The wire and steel walkway is also in need of repair in parts. Like so much in the Philippines there is no concept of preventive, proactive, maintenance, so sites like the caves which could attract more visitors decay. What happens to the cave entry fee? Why isn’t it used to maintain the infrastructure? There aren’t even toilets on the site. Having said that, the guides were incredibly helpful and eager to impart information about the caves.
The journey home wasn’t as bad as I feared, even though we crosses the mountains in a fierce rainstorm.