Friday, April 11, 2014

Where I ate in Bohol

Alona

 When we first went to Bohol, my family didn't want me to spend so much on food, that's why we went away from the beachfront restos which were generally more expenisve than those by the provincial road.
Now that I was here on my own, I still went to the road but this time, I was going to splurge a little to dine at what Lonely Planet and a local tv show declared the best restaurant in Alona Beach, Bohol: L'elephant bleu.
 I ordered the house specialty, Garlic prawns at P420 and as with all things, the experience did not live up to the hype. The prawns were fresh and cooked well but the taste was quite underwhelming.
 But I did love the creme brulee (P150) It was a bit pricey for my taste, but what the heck, it was my birthday after all!
 Meanwhile, I did pass by the crowded beach front to find a lot of restaurants offering seafood ready for grilling. They charged by the gram so the prices weren't set. But for the meat meals, I saw grilled pork belly with rice for P180, which is reasonable.

The next day I again went to the beach for breakfast. (Breakfast at Alona Tropical was priced at P250 and my officemate who ate there said it wasn't very good)
I went to Trudi's Place which has been on Alona for a long time and known for their tasty and cheap meals.
Someone made this on the sand below Trudi's

 I leafed throught their extensive menu and ordered the tocino meal for P140, which came with a slice of mango and instant coffee or Milo. It wasn't outstanding but it was quite filling. Note that water isn't always free in Alona beach so I paid P25 for a bottle of water.


 For lunch I went to Bohol Bee Farm's branch on the beach called The Buzz. They pride themselves in serving organic food grown from their own farm. The first floor serves ice cream and their bread and pastries. The second floor is where one can order meals.
I ordered the chicken tinola P260 with red rice. The meals here are definitely more expensive than usual. While I was waiting, I got a pleasant surprise! Complimentary squash bread with a sampling of their pest spread and their honey-mango spread. Whoever thought of this is a genius. While they do offer free samples at the main branch, I didn't appreciate them as much as I did here.
This made me want to buy some bread and some honey spread later.
 Then came my tinola, the most unusual tinola I have ever had. Instead of the usual chayote and ginger broth, I saw heaps of veggies in my bowl. The healthiest meal I had in Bohol! And surprisingly, it was good, too!
 This is the organic red rice that came with my order. the sweet potato on top was a nice touch.
 The Buzz is a cool place to hang out in. There's airconditoning on the first floor but none on the second floor but there's free wifi and free water. The view is great and the ambience is top-notch.
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Dumaluan

When I transferred to Dumaluan Beach the next day, I knew that there were 2 choices: Dumaluan Beach Resort 2's restaurant, and DBR Grill, which was at the nearby public beach.  I had already eaten a squash bread (P10) which I bought from The Buzz but I was still feeling a bit hungry so I strolled along the beach and found DBR Grill.
I loved the set up of the "cottages", which reminded me of the covered tables in a beach in Quezon. Plus, the view was amazing.
Since it was the off-peak season, there were hardly any people around. I ordered a mango shake for P60. I don't know what kind of milk they put in it but it was really thick and I felt full for hours.
By 7:30pm, I was still full but I was afraid DBR Grill might close shop early so I bought some grilled pork with rice for P__ It was ok, but nothing special. But the rice was really expensive for P20 a cup.

Tip: I f you walk out to the road, they say there's a carinderia that sells rice for P10.

DBR Grill also had seafood ready for grilling but they charged by the gram so the price wasn't always the same. But I heard that an 8-inch stuffed squid went for P130-P160 pesos.
The next day I had to wake up early because the included buffet breakfast at Dumaluan Beach Resort was only available from 5:30am to 9pm! Nothing fancy, there was a soup that tasted like tinola, some breaded meat, ampalaya, eggs and watermelon. I missed the Pinoy staples like tocino, longganisa and danggit. It could be ordered a la carte if you were willing to pay.
They also had free-flowing coffee and juice. Most importantly, free water.

Tip: Take advantage of the free water because they will not give away water after 9am unless you order something from the menu.

For merienda, I was back at DBR Grill where I had some good La Paz batchoy soup for P60.
Tip: If you want water, just go to the sari-sari store near DBR Grill. They sell a 2 liter bottle of great-tasting water for P40. I don't know why, but it tasted mildly sweeter than ordinary water.
Dumaluan Beach Resort 2 also offers grilled food but it's pricier. Nice presentation, though
For my last dinner in Bohol, I finally ate at the resort's restaurant. It was definitely more expensive here! A cup of rice was P40! I ordered a mango shake for P90__

I think the other items on the menu are for sharing, though.
and _Fish Ficcata_for P265.  It was ok but maybe I should have ordered something else. I was afraid to spend more because I heard on the news that there was a storm coming our way on the day of my flight back home and I wanted to have some emergency money in case my flight was cancelled.

Here's a photo of the menu

And finally, here are some of the items I bought as pasalubong. 16 packs of peanut kisses for P135, kalamay in coconut for P50, Bohol tarsier shirts for P130, a tarsier toy that you could hang on your car for P50, and a smalll jar of Bohol Bee farm honey spread for P190.

Tip: You cannot hand-carry or declare as carry-on the kalamay in coconut. Apparently, it might be used as a weapon so you have to check it in as baggage.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Alona Beach and Dumaluan Beach, Bohol

Alona Tropical's nipa hut-styled roof

I've been to Panglao's Alona Beach before and I loved how it's less crowded than Boracay, though Lonely Planet calls it a "congested strip of resorts".

The secret is to check in at the east-most resorts, away from the action, like Alona Tropical.  Rates are more expensive but there are less people and it has a very cool, laid-back, and well, "tropical" ambience. Also, the staff are very courteous and helpful.

Near the center of Alona beach, it is a little more crowded than I remember, with more resorts and more restaurants to fit  all budgets, including a smaller branch of Bohol Bee Farm's restaurant.

The beach is still beautiful and the water still crystal-clear but I did see a clump of seaweed and seagrass on the shore. There are areas where there are lots of seagrass underwater where sea urchins might be hiding so I advise you to wear aqua shoes if you want to go to the deeper waters to swim or snorkel.


alona 360 from albert on Vimeo.



alona 360 2 from albert on Vimeo.

What I did not like is that there are more boats now and some were near the shore, waiting for their clients who were going on a diving or dolphin watching trip. That made it inconvenient to swim near my resort. There were some boatmen who would offer boat trips but they weren't pesky and would stop bugging you after you said "no" once.

And though I was on my own and left my wallet and camera on the beach when I went swimming, no one touched my stuff. But I can't guarantee the same experience for everybody so please do exercise some caution.


My deluxe aircon room (P2980/night , no breakfast) was rather bare but I love the bamboo walls. Minus points for not including a toothbrush and a toothpaste in my toiletries 

Small bathroom but nice cabinet

My cottage was just a few steps from the water

Alona on a cloudy day: Nearby restaurants prepare tables by the beach to prepare for dinner

Alona Tropical lit up with capiz shell lanterns at night. No wifi in the rooms, only at the restobar and at the reception

A  resto near the center of Alona beach has fire dancers and a fire-eater to entertain guests. There is also a live band that plays music till midnight  and that's all the night life you'll find here.  


Alona on a sunny day: See how there are hardly any people on this side of the beach?


Oh, they also have a pool but people seldom use it when the sea is so inviting

Alona Tropical has a house full of antiques. Apparently, the owner collects them and displays them here.

The owner doesn't rent the house out. It's just a whole house full of antiques from all over Bohol.
I've read in other websites that there is another beach in Panglao that is more peaceful and less crowded and it's located beside the upscale Bohol Beach Club. So the next day, I checked out of Alona and rode a tricycle to Dumaluan Beach.
Dumaluan beach


I checked in at Dumaluan Beach Resort 2 and indeed, there were less people here, even though it was beside the public beach, Dumaluan Beach Resort 1. And beside that is the more exclusive Bohol Beach Club.
Facade of my room shows some signs of age.
My deluxe aircon room is bigger and cheaper than the one in Alona Tropical at P2,150/night with buffet breakfast, which is a real steal! Plus points for providing 2 toothbrushes and toothpastes. Minus points for tha absence of bottled water, which Alona Tropical gave its guests.

Also a larger bathroom with a tabo/dipper and a bidet.
The resort is not as charming as Alona Tropical. In fact, save for the facade of the cottages, it's rather ordinary-looking. Most of the resort is made of cement and painted in pale orange or green. And just like in Alona Tropical, wifi is only available at the restaurant
Captivating walkway

But then I saw the beach.
Dumaluan Beach resort 2 from the beach 


dumaluan 360 from albert on Vimeo.
The beach was cleaner and the sand even finer than in Alona. I would find out later that a group of men would come around every morning and just before sunset to rake the seaweed and leaves on the shore.
Hardworking folk tasked with cleaning up the beach. It's a long stretch of sand!

Also, Bohol's tourism officials had the clever idea of not allowing people to eat or bring food beyond a certain point of the public beach. This reduced the chances of trash accumulating on the shore.

The sea level around this area is perfect for kids. I think the water just reaches up to my waist some 5 meters from the shore. I didn't dare venture farther because I think I saw stones under the water and i wasn't wearing aqua shoes.
The  problem I had is that when the tide is low, it's really low! The water goes just above my ankles at sunset before I get to a part where there's a large rock/coral formation.
At last! I found a starfish near the shore! We found so many on Alona when we first went there.

Another thing that  works against Dumaluan is the lack of food choices. You either had to eat at the resort's rather pricey resto or rough it up at DBR Grill. (More on the restaurants on a later post)
Sunset and a dog on a deserted beach.

So in conclusion, if you want a beautiful beach with lots of restaurants to choose from, and you don't mind seeing some boats near the shore, choose Alona beach.

If you want solitude and you're ok with sitting in knee-deep water at low tide, choose Dumaluan beach.





Sunday, March 30, 2014

Back in Bohol

I arrived on a cloudy day and I have not adjusted the photos so that you can see what Bohol looks like in the off -peak season

I love Bohol and if ever there is one place in the country I'd love to go back to, it would be this province. It has the everything I want in a vacation: nice beaches, plenty of activities to do, and a vibrant culture!

That's why I was devastated when a powerful earthquake hit Bohol! While there were few deaths, some of their centuries-old churches were destroyed. It was a heart-rending sight for everyone who's been to Bohol because Boholanos  not only because they're famous tourist spots, but also because most Boholanos are devout Catholics who are very proud of their heritage.

But while the quake shook them up, the Boholanos quickly rose up to show the world they are back in business! For my birthday I went to Bohol to see how they were doing and maybe help bring the tourists back to Bohol.

And I am happy to report that it's quite safe to go to Bohol.

I went on a tour of Bohol in 2008, but I wanted to see if the sights are still ok.
Ruins of Loboc Church :(

Baclayon Church. They have gathered all the  stones and they will put it all back together again. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

While Baclayon and Loboc church are badly damaged, the government and the private sector are helping to rebuild and restore it.

I also visited some churches we didn't see before like Dauis church and Albuquerque church. It's just too bad they were closed when we got there!
Dauis Church in Panglao

Cafe Lawis in Dauis.


The terrace built around the acacia tree where one can order snacks, is said to be the brainchild of the Zobels

The ayala Foundation helped restore the Dauis convent and set up the gift shop

Hmmm...

Albuquerque Church is unique because the bell tower isn't onthe side of the chuch but right in the middle. It also has a bridge that conncects it directly to the convent.

The famed chocolate hills are still there but the cement structure of the main viewing deck is still under repair. You can still climb to the top but spot where you can see most of the hills is blocked off.

People going down as I went up the view deck

This was where we used to have our picture taken.

But there are still some spectacular views on the side of the road

The tarsiers are now in a protected sanctuary which is better than the cage where they were locked up in Loboc. They also have a tour guide who point out where the tarsiers are and guard the critters from overeager tourists who want to touch them.


And here's something else that's new: they have found the real site of the blood compact between Raja Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The traditonal site with the commemorative statues is in front of a cliff while the historical one is near an old well between 2 rivers.
The real site of the first international treaty between a Pinoy and a Spaniard.
Interesting bamboo pattern called "amakan" that my guide says can withstand gunfire? Believe it or not!



The stairs of the Loboc river port show some damage from the quake and my tour guide Rik-rik suggested I try out the Loay river cruise, instead because the food is better and there are no man-made structures along this river.
The buffet

Fried Takla or crayfish. 

Even on a cloudy day, the view is relaxing


While the food was ok, I kinda missed the singing kids on the Loboc cruise. On Loay, we instead got to see a group of Ati (indigenous people who live in the Visayas )
This was a big hit with the Koreans who seemed to like how exotic it all looked but it seemed too contrived.


We skipped some other attractions like the Hinagdanan Cave, the butterfly farm, the ship house (a house that looks like a ship) and the python zoo. I also just passed by the man-made forest.
The delicious organic products of the Bee Fram

I'm quite happy to see that the Bohol Bee Farm is now part of the itinerary offered. They still offer free samples of their products though the view deck is now restricted to guests and restaurant diners.

Things are looking up for Bohol once again. I didn't even get to try ziplining at the Danao Adventure Park, or riding an ATV at the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park...I'm just glad that Bohol keeps coming up with new reasons for me to return!


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