1st day in Philippines
We arrived to Cebu Mactan airport around 5 in the morning. As the hotel check in time was from 2 pm, we decided to take a little nap on the benches in front of the airport. Well, that’s a backpacker´s style 😀
Afterwards, we took a bus to Cebu City, which was supposed to take us to a big shopping mall – SM Mall. From this mall it would’ve been only 3 km to walk. Unfortunately, out of two possible scenarios – either to reach our destination or get lost – we took the wrong bus 😀 Thus, it took us to a different mall named Park Mall. The price for the ride was 25 pesos/person. From there we enjoyed our first ride with the little local buses called Jeepney.
A Jeepney is a very funny vehicle: The front looks a bit like a jeep and then it continues into very tiny truck with narrow space for two benches facing each other. We got in with our two huge backpacks and immediately were the main attraction for all other passengers. We banged our heads every time the Jeepney went thru some holes or bumps which happened to be simply everywhere 😀 Now we know we are just too tall for the local transportation. But after all, we paid just 11 pesos/person.
Before we arrived to our accommodation, we had experienced a little bit of a cultural shock while passing slum areas, seeing a waste absolutely everywhere – streets, water, as well as a huge poverty all over the route.
Still, we arrived to our Hotel de Mercedes too early, which is located in the downtown area and it´s guarded 24/7 by at least 3 people. Later we found out that every store, a bank or a hotel in this city district has their own guards with guns. We immediately felt very safe 😀 Still the hotel was just 9 euros per night with a big room and our own bathroom so there were no regrets. We had to look really exhausted since they gave us the room at 10 am instead of 2 pm, which is the usual check in time. Afterwards, there was just nothing, then falling into a deep black hole while laying our heads on pillows.
When we finally woke up, we were hungry as never, so we left in order to explore the streets. Eventually, we ended up in Jollibees, which is a Filipino style fast food restaurant and the offer is mostly made up from their most favourite food: fried chicken with rice. On the way back we bought some avocado, bananas and pastry in the little food stands by the road for our breakfast.
Today was the day for picking up our scooter. Again, we had no other choice but to take the Jeepney. We first thought they drive without any plan thru the city, but we discovered very fast they follow a specific route and even have numbers. Therefore, local people exactly know which number to take in order to get to their desired destination. Also google maps is very helpful here since it tells you which number to take and from where.
After we got our scooter, we made our first little trip to Buhisan Watershed Forest Reserve. We immediately experienced beautiful nature and amazing views.
Then we made our way thru the city, first time facing Cebu’s notorious traffic. For us it felt like a big adventure itself, since back home I never drove a scooter and Sven just occasionally. Still if you look at this crazy city traffic with so many people honking all time, trying to overtake you and Jeepneys stopping everywhere they want, I´m really proud of us that we made it safe and sound.
I was afraid to leave the scooter parked somewhere on the street but when we asked in the hotel where we can park it, it was just in front of the hotel where our guard was looking after it all day and night. For the dinner Sven decided to take something at the street foods which were all around. I still somehow didn’t feel safe to eat there so I was fine just buying fruits. Then it was again all about beds. The jet leg was still rather harsh on us.
The following day we decided to explore the Lapu Lapu island. It is connected with Cebu island via bridges and it’s also the place where you find the airport and numerous Beach resorts. The traffic was crazy, and it took us nearly 2 hours to get to this island. We were mainly looking for a resort where we can chill, have some drink and get into the water. It was much harder than we expected.
We first tried some fancy ones which asked for lot of money in order to get in since we were not their hotel guests. After another 1-2 hours we found one which is called Costabella. It looked really nice, has a pool, their own way to the sea and some bar. Cool enough but since everything took us that long it was already sunset. So, we just hopped on our scooter and went to SM mall which is a really huge shopping centre and the one we were supposed to get to on our way from the airport. Our first priority was to get the hunger away and then get some groceries. The days went very fast, since we woke up around lunch time and went to sleep really early.
To prolong our days, we used an alarm clock and woke up at 9. Already looking forward to laying on a beach and get some relaxation. Unfortunately for us, there was an ‘Iron man’ marathon going on from the city thru the bridge to Lapu lapu. We got stuck in a horrible traffic jam for 3 hours, since just one bridge was open. After finally getting over the bridge we went for a resort named J-park which includes huge water and we already couldn’t wait to get there. After finding out that the entrance is 4000 pesos/person we just went to the resort from yesterday – Costabella.
This time the guy at the gate was asking 400 pesos/person to get in. I was already feeling sick to pay for a beach which should be for everybody. We told him that we are going for drinks and food, so we are not paying any entrance fee and I guess I had to look exhausted and angry since he just said okay and let us in. We really had a nice time there; drinks and food are of course overpriced but after all that’s the point of a resort. We of course used the pool and the beach where they had a little inflatable island, so we got some fun as well. Back at our hotel we discovered horrible looking sunburns all over our legs and arms from the 3-hour ride to Lapu lapu.
Since my flu from all the AC got even worse and the sunburns hurt even more, that morning we decided just to stay in the hotel and get healthy. Later that day I discovered my mac book wasn’t reacting to anything anymore, so Sven tried to save it with making backups, updates and setting it back into factory settings. Despite all his effort nothing worked. Looks like I am without a computer for now.
Next morning; Still not used to an alarm clock. After breakfast we set off to the mountains behind the Cebu city. At first, we went all the way to visit the Adventure café and Zipline which was around 28 km from our hotel. The road we took was very beautiful while leading thru a lot of mountains and the views we had all the time were priceless. The costs for the zipline are 205 pesos/person. It was my first time ziplining ever and I screamed and had a lot of fun. By the way I´m crazy scared of heights so the experience was even stronger 😀
Next stop was the Temple Liah which was on the way back from the Adventure Café – around 22 km. Of course, another entrance fee of 150 pesos/person. It was beautiful building constructed just few years ago in 2012 by a man to honour his wife. Sadly, the temple wasn’t finished yet, so all the rooms containing interior and travel souvenirs of the wife were not accessible. Therefor we only could visit the open spaces, which are still beautiful, but it would be much cooler seeing all the travel souvenirs. All in all, it took around 10 min with the view above Cebu city. It will definitely be gorgeous place once it’s finished. So sad they are asking for that much money and we couldn’t even enjoy the full space. We hope they use our entrance fee to keep on building, so we can enjoy the full experience next time.
When we planned our trip, we figured that the Busay Falls should be around 2 km down the road. We really wanted to get some refreshment after all that heat of the nature and its surroundings. We followed the map but eventually had to ask local people around. Before we could react, we ended up with a personal guide who showed us a place where we could park the scooter.
He took us through a narrow path and the whole jungle, at least I felt like that. No touristic signs, no real track. Sometimes it was really hard to get thru some holes or jump over them as well as using the very narrow `path´ to continue forward. He tried to speak with us and tell us a lot of things about the place and where we should go for other water falls but I highly doubt he was speaking English.
After around 15 min of crawling we finally got to the waterfalls. But to our surprise there was no water at all. Just dry rocks on which we could walk on. Honestly, I think he had to know about the no water state of the place but still wanted to earn some money. We came back to our scooter, gave the guy 50 pesos as a thank you for his effort with which he was obviously not happy. As we felt that was not our problem, since we’ve been told several times that the Fillipino average income is 300 pesos/day. Thus, we moved further. Finally, completely drained from energy and totally sweaty we needed some water to jump into. Mountain View Nature Park was our solution.
In order to get there, we needed to go almost back to Temple Liah. Just one corner sooner was our redemption. The entrance was 150 pesos/person. 3 swimming pools with a clear blue water and a view as you would have all Cebu city on your palm. Also, besides 5 Filipino guys hanging there, it was empty. What can I say? At that time, it felt like paradise. Later on, we noticed lot of insects and the water seemed not to be cleaned for a long long time since it wasn’t that transparent like it should be; the water pumps usually filtering the water weren’t working. Just a ton of chlorine added which was nicely smelling everywhere 😀 but anyway it did its purpose for us as we’ve been in urgent need.
Our last day in Cebu city started with organising and repacking the backpacks. Later on, we went to an area which is called IT park where you can basically find huge corporate buildings and the people working there. We could feel it on the price of the food we got there, we were in the better area of Cebu city. Everything was triple the price which we could get in the downtown area.
Since we still haven’t really made any walk around the area of our hotel, we went for a walk to Pier I. It was just around 20 min to go there. On our way we discovered Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, which was open for public, so we took the time to look inside. Later on, we also found the first souvenir shop, so I immediately went to buy some magnets. Also, in the area of the basilica a lot of kids were asking for money or food. The situation with a little girl showing her big puppy eyes, pulling my arm and asking for money, left me with extremely powerful feelings.
As we were closer to the Pier, a beautiful park was in our way. Full of artists making different performances just for themselves. One group of around 30 people was dancing, another smaller one full of youngsters was performing a little play while listening Freddie Marcury´s Bohemian Rhapsody from a big speaker. And a lot of others doing some dancing, singing, playing guitars and so on. It was very lovely to see people gathered just to have fun together and filling up their free time while doing something meaningful to them. We also visited a fortress which is right in front of the park. The entrance was 30 pesos per person. We have been really lucky, as there was a wedding taking place in the main area of the fortress so while exploring the fortress, we also enjoyed the music and games played by the guests.
At the Pier we checked the ferry company which we will use on our way to Bohol island later on that month.