Hand and MaryAnn reporting, expatinthephilippines.com

Hans and MaryAnn reporting

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OK, so we visited the Philippines for the umpteenth time last year (Oct.25 to Nov.25 2010). Several reasons other than holidaying this time, although we didn’t forget that aspect.

After a couple of days acclimatizing in Manila, staying in our favorite hotel the Bayview on Roxas Blvd. and some initial shopping in Makati we flew to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental.

B.t.w.: I booked our flights directly with Cathay and Philippine Airlines via the internet, but had our hotel and pick-up / drop-off arranged by Asia Travel (via internet on asiatravel) as we have used them before on several occasions to great satisfaction.

We went to Dumaguete for two reasons:

  1. to see whether it would suit our needs for retiring there in a year or two, and
  2. because it’s only a hop and a skip from Siquijor Island where we intended to spend some time lazing on the beach.

We stayed at the Nicanor hotel in Dumaguete which we found via the website dumagueteinfo. Nice hotel conveniently located just outside the centre of town and within walking distance of the waterfront, Rizal Boulevard. There are a number of pleasant watering holes (Bogart’s) and eateries (Casablanca) on the waterfront so no difficulty to have one’s thirst quenched or hunger taken care of. Obviously there are more establishments than the ones above, but these were the ones we frequented and liked.

We toured around the city (bell tower and central plaza) en visited the “old” supermarket / department store in town (Lee’s Super Plaza) and the brand spanking new shopping mall Robinson has just completed near the bus station on the outskirts of town. If you’re hooked on Old Amsterdam cheese for your sandwiches, don’t worry: you can get that at Robinsons!

Apart from the straightforward sightseeing we also visited some property for rent to find out what you would get for about 400 Euro / month. We had some idea by looking at the website of islandsproperties while still at home, but got a much better idea after looking at some 4 different properties at various location in town and the surrounding area while chauffeured around by the rep of island properties. Great service!

MaryAnn disappeared a few days visiting her family north of Bacolod (a full day’s trip to get there and another day to get back, so no worries about relatives appearing on our doorstep unannounced once we move to Dumaguete), while I strolled around, enjoyed the scenery and chatted with a number of the expats already living in the area (Germans, Austrians, Americans, Australians, etc).

Once MaryAnn had returned we made our preparations to get across the water to Siquijor for our “real” vacation. A fast ferry (only 45 minutes) from Dumaguete pier to Siquijor pier where our transportation was waiting (most of the resorts will provide transportation as long as you let them know in advance when you’re arriving) for the trip to our first resort, Coco Beach . Be aware that you are cut off from civilization on Siquijor: there is virtually no mobile phone reception (apart from a small area near the reception of the resort or in the small towns dotted around the island), no TV in the room, and no newspaper on your doormat in the mornings. However, the lack of all that is easily compensated by the magnificent ocean, the swimming pools, the environment you’re in and the lovely staff that will do anything to make you feel at home.

I’m always amazed how quickly staff members remember your name and will address you by your name when you sit down for a drink, a snack, breakfast, lunch or dinner, and we most certainly were not the only visitors there! After 5 days of sheer luxury we packed our bags to move to the second resort we had selected on another side of the island: Lazi Beach Club , named after the town in the vicinity, Lazi. We were picked up by staff of Lazi Beach Club (as if we had just arrived by ferry) and after a ride of about 45 minutes arrived at our second destination. A lot smaller than the first resort, and this time we actually were the only guests! This meant that all attention of the available staff was focused on us two and if you don’t know what it means to have a private butler that comes around in the evening to get your order for your breakfast in the morning (at what time, sir, Ma’m, and do you want to eat in the restaurant of in your cottage?), this is the way to find out. The beach / access to the water are still somewhat of a work in progress, as is the resort itself. It has a small restaurant which also serves as the bar, but in the very near future (work started right after we left) there will be a swimming pool with a proper bar available and the number of accommodations will be increased. However, the intimacy and pleasant surroundings of the resort coupled with the loving care of the staff more than made up for the lack of certain luxuries and conveniences.

Obviously we also toured the island (the main road runs along the waterfront and stretches for some 70 km all around!) and visited some of the tourist spots the island has: the old church and convent, the waterfalls (Cambugahay Falls) and various others which can also be found on the Siquijor website. Make sure you are in reasonable condition when you visit these falls: getting there (going down) is doable, but to get back up these many, many uneven steps is quite a challenge, specifically in the hot and humid environment of the spot. One other tip: always bring water shoes when visiting these resorts: the sand is hot and there are pieces of basalt and coral under water that can damage your feet and ruin your vacation real quick. Last tip: when you visit Siquijor, bring sufficient CASH! There are no ATM’s (at least not recognizing foreign cards or credit cards) and paying with a credit card is not an option in the majority of the establishments on the island. There is only one location in Siquijor town where you can change Euro’s (and dollars) to Pesos, but that’s where it ends.

After our 5 days at Lazi we were driven back to the pier and got our ferry back to Dumaguete. From the pier in Duma to the airport is only 15 minutes by motorcycle (with sidecar and luggage rack to hold our suitcase), and after another hour in the sky we returned to Manila for transportation to the Bayview hotel. We like that hotel because there is a Barrio Fiesta restaurant on one side of the block (my wife loves their Kare-kare, but I don’t), while on the other side you’ll find the Swagman hotel (Aussie place) where they serve a nice, cold San Miguel (which I love, but my wife doesn’t). As it was getting close to the end of the year, the Christmas lightings had been put up and we visited Makati once more, just to see the lights during nighttime. Mesmerizing to say the least!
Well, that’s our most recent vacation in a nutshell. Questions / remarks? Don’t hesitate to post them.

MaryAnn & Hans

See the pictures here:

Hans and MaryAnn, 1st

Interested to read about their final move to the Philippines? Check “we made it”

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