After spending most of our time in the Philippines by the beach, we were itching to see a bit more of the country. And so we arrived in Bohol, our last stop, with a plan to hire motorbikes and explore the island.
We stayed on Panglao Island close to Alona Beach (the main tourist hub), and I'm not exaggerating when I say that it was the worst – think towel-to-towel sunburned tourists and cheesy music blaring. But Bohol has so much more to offer than this crowded beach, and we loved the rest of the island.
The countryside in Bohol is stunning, lush rice paddies, palm trees everywhere and cute villages with colourful buildings. The nicest scenery was in the middle of the island, so hiring a motorbike or car is the best way to explore. Things get a little bumpy when you take the smaller side roads, but the main ones are in good condition (just take a mask, the roads are pretty dusty).
There are beautiful churches all over the Philippines, a legacy left by the Spanish colonists in the 16th to 19th centuries. The majority of Filipinos are Catholic (about 80%), and there are a lot of churches; driving around Bohol we couldn't help but notice them everywhere. Some were badly damaged by the 2013 earthquake, but many more are still open and they're a central part of Filipino life.
The chocolate hills are a must in Bohol. We didn't see them at their peak (the grass turns brown during the dry season in March to June and so they look more 'chocolatey'), but they're still impressive and the surrounding countryside is beautiful.
It's basically impossible to spot the Philippine Tarsier in the wild, so if you want to see one you have to go to a sanctuary. After paying the 50 pesos entrance fee, a guide will take you to find them. Because the tarsiers are so tiny (the size of a fist!) and they move around at night, each morning the guides head out into the sanctuary to find them, which can sometimes take hours. They're beyond adorable, and also super sensitive little creatures, if they're unhappy with their surroundings or get stressed they commit suicide by holding their breath.
Loboc is a nice riverside town that we passed through on the way to see the tarsiers. It's also a good base for tours or evening cruises along the river, but these sounded a little cheesy so we skipped them. The river itself is beautiful though and we could have happily stayed in Loboc for longer.
Where to eat
- Bohol Bee Farm: this place is massive, a farm, a shop, a guesthouse and a huge restaurant that overlooks the sea. The focus is on healthy, organic food with lots of nice little touches. Oh and make sure you get the homemade ice cream, it's delicious.
- Villa Formosa: my favourite restaurant in Bohol, we ate here an embarrassing number of times during our week on the island. Authentic Italian food, a friendly owner who let us use the villa's pool and a cute dog; this is where we wished we were staying.
- Tarsier Paprika: a variety of great European dishes in a modern restaurant, with a shop and bakery attached.
- Village Pizza: ok this may not be the authentic Italian pizza they serve up at Villa Formosa, but it is made in a wood fire oven and this cute place is in a great spot for people-watching.
And that's it on the Philippines, next up ... JAPAN!