Our time in Panglao was spent exploring that tiny island and venturing up to the bigger island of Bohol which is over a bridge about 7 miles from where we were staying.
Road Trip with a Local Food Pit Stop
My friend and co-worker Farrah, who is from Bohol, has a lot of connections around Panglao and Bohol. In fact – one of her friends, named Renee, owns a hostel on Alona Beach in Panglao that often do excursions to the big island. Farrah very generously invited us to join in with the hostel group to go explore some waterfalls.
We arrived at the hostel and immediately recognized a guy named David (who also goes by Lewis) that we partied with the night before. The backpacker world is funny like that. After laughing over some pictures that we’d realized we had in our phones of all us – we piled into the van. We had no idea what kind of road trip we had signed up for – we were told it was only about 25km or so and maybe an hour away, tops. Yeah – that wasn’t the case.
After driving for about an hour and 15 minutes – the van stopped and Renee told us it was best that we all get some food because there wasn’t any available from here on out. We had taken a pit stop at a local food stall. All 10 or so of us had no idea what was being served out of these unlabeled pots but thankfully – Farrah and Renee were there to help explain.
There were some standard dishes – like plain rice, pork chop and pork with vegetables. But then some not-so-normal dishes – well…according to Western standards anyway – which included pig’s blood stew (known as dinuguan) and chopped pig’s face (known as sisig.) Farrah swore that both were delicious so I gave the dinuguan a go. She was actually right! It was pretty damn tasty. It didn’t have that super metallic taste that normally comes with liver or blood dishes – it was quite pleasant. I wish I took a picture but we were in a bit of a rush – here’s a stock photo for reference:
We re-boarded the van with full bellies and a sense of pride for challenging our taste buds and off we went. About another 30-40 minutes later (totaling 2 hours now) we arrived at our first waterfall.
Waterfalls and Swimming Holes
After driving through a fairly rural area with a shitty road we arrived at a trailhead. Now it was time to walk 2km to Pahangog Falls. These falls apparently are not on any tourist maps and only locals go here. We were so excited – and were not disappointed in any way.
The hike to the falls was challenging but absolutely beautiful. So lush. So green. And views of rice paddy terraces along the way. Just incredible.
After nearly falling on our asses a few times because we were hiking in flip flops – we turned a corner and had our breath taken away. We had arrived at Pahangog. Holy. Shit. It was gorgeous! There were about 6 or so locals and 2 other random tourists there but other than that? Just our group! I’m sure they were wondering where the hell all these white people just came from but – whaddyagonnado?
We swam, we jumped off the cliffs and rocks and we stood under the powerful flow of water coming from the hills above. It felt like I was in a movie. Looking around while in the middle of the swimming hole – we were in total awe. The amount of these “full of gratitude” moments we have just makes our hearts burst.
We all swam around for about an hour or so – watching the local kids dive from the rocks. All of us tried not to kill ourselves on the slippery clay ground near the water then finally made our way back to the van. By the way – the hike back was ridiculously hard. Between the steep grade and the fact that we all had wet feet in flip flops it’s a miracle we all made it back in one piece.
Next stop? Dam-agan Falls. This next set of falls wasn’t too far from the first but it was through local roads that would be extremely difficult to navigate if you weren’t with a local. The van parked and we all hopped out once again to embark on a shorter (maybe .75km) hike. And just like before – BLOWN. AWAY.
Dam-agan Falls was empty. Completely empty except for us! This would just be absolutely unheard of back home. This set of falls was smaller than the last but but the swimming hole was deeper, it had a rope swing and best of all? A freakin’ bamboo raft for people to use to cruise out into the middle! You just rope it back up when you’re done using it. Sad to say – I feel like in the States – something like this would have been destroyed or vandalized within weeks or months.
About another hour and some rope swings later – we were all pretty wiped out and decided to leave. What we thought would be just a 3 to 4 hour outing turned out to be about 7 hours but completely and utterly worth it. We felt so so lucky to experience such immaculate and unpolluted beauty of these falls. Such an amazing day.
Scooter Ride through Inland Bohol
One of the absolute “must-sees” on Bohol island are the Chocolate Hills. If you’re not familiar with the name – I’m sure you’re familiar with the pictures. They’re quite the famous, beautiful and odd geographical spectacle. More on these hills below – but first? We had to get there.
Kile and I were traveling on scooter – just your typical Vespa type tiny scooter – far from a motorcycle. So even just 20 miles seems like forever on one of these dinky things. But we were about to take on an almost 100 mile round trip to visit this famous landmark. I don’t think our asses were quite ready for it – but we hopped on and scooted away anyway!
Following almost the exact same path we took to the waterfalls – we hung a left for the highway to a city called Carmen. Immediately after leaving the main highway it becomes quiet, gorgeous farmland that runs along the Loboc River. From there it turns back into jungle and then all of the sudden? Mahogany trees! What the hell?
There’s a man made forest that stretches about 2km (1.25 miles) that feels almost eerie. The densely packed trees stretch up to the sky and form a tunnel all around you – the temperature drops quite drastically. It was absolutely stunning. Being on a scooter while driving through something like this makes the long ride completely worth it. You can see and smell everything – taking it all in.
A few minutes after re-entering the typical jungle topography we reached the Tarsier Conservation Area! I had personally never heard of tarsiers before arriving on Bohol but they are worth knowing about.
The tarsier is Bohol’s official mascot. They’re a tiny little primate, about the size of my hand, that looks a bit like an alien. In the cutest way. They’re super small with giant eyes and long fingers. They have extremely sensitive auditory abilities and another strange thing? They can become suicidal if stressed out.
Apparently, only in captivity – due to the camera flashes, loud noises and being kept awake during the day (they’re nocturnal) – they can become suicidal and hit their own heads against objects. How sad is that?! It felt a bit awful going into the conservation area knowing this but they were supposedly reputable conservationists.
Unfortunately, we witnessed some horrible behavior by tourists and the conservation area. The tiny adorable tarsiers were super cute to see in person – there’s signs everywhere saying “no flash photography” and “be quiet” – but of course, there’s assholes everywhere. We saw people yelling at the shy tarsiers saying “open your eyes! look at my camera!” And there was a crazy loud chainsaw going off just behind the conservation area! Ugh. It was disgusting. We were in and out within 10 minutes. Glad we saw the tarsiers in person but we were thoroughly disappointed in the humans.
The Chocolate Hills
We hopped back on the scooter and continued on to the Chocolate Hills. As you start approaching the area you can start seeing the strange mound formations begin to appear. They look like little islands but only…appearing up and out of a field. Then you finally reach the viewing point.
Climbing a steep set of stairs to get to the top of one of the hills – you can look out and see the 20 square miles of rolling beautiful terrain. There’s apparently about 1,776 of these limestone mounds. Incredible to see in person! They’re just so odd and unique – literally coming up out of nowhere!
With our hearts full and our bums totally sore from the 48 mile ride – it was time to turn around and do the same 48 in reverse. Only now – as you can maybe tell from the pictures – it was raining.
Turns out rain really hurts when you’re on a scooter. Luckily – there’s a bunch of local convenience stores that you can stop at, have a beer under some cover and wait for the rain to pass (which never lasts long.) Which is exactly what we did.
Karaoke and Duck Embryo
Our last jaunt up to Bohol was with Farrah once again. We met her and her friend Ludwig for a night of karaoke, balut (duck embryo) and donuts. Odd combination on paper but completely perfect in real life.
We sang our hearts out in our own private karaoke room then took to the streets to try the infamous balut. Farrah assured me that, this too, was delicious. I trusted her. She also said that it was important to have a “younger” embryo – around 17 days. Anything older than that would result in feathers, hard bones and even a beak in your mouth. Of course I went for the youngest possible.
Turns out? It just tasted like a chicken-y egg – if that makes any sense. You crack open the boiled egg with the duck embryo inside, pour a little vinegar and a pinch of salt inside, suck out the juices – then you’re good to go! Kile and I both shockingly enjoyed it. In fact – before ever going on this trip I said I would NEVER try balut. But turns out? Don’t ever say never. You could be missing out on something awesome.
I said it in all my previous Philippines posts and I’ll say it again – this country was incredible. So friendly, so fun and so beautiful. It will stay with us forever and we met some new lifelong friends that we hope to see again in the future.
THANK YOU PHILIPPINES!