Chocolate hills, tiny tarsiers and karaoke in Bohol, Philippines

Chocolate hills, tiny tarsiers and karaoke in Bohol, Philippines

My last weekend in Asia came and went, spent in the Philippines, the 9th country I visited this summer.  Alissa had heard amazing things about the country, especially the chocolate hills and the 5-6″ tall big-eyed monkeys called tarsiers so it was off to Bohol we went. Dawn, Alissa and I and a tiny tarsier! We flew into Cebu then took a ferry almost immediately to Bohol, excited about relaxing at our beachfront resort.  When we landed at the ferry terminal, we figured we should take advantage of arriving in the largest city on the island to do some exploring and grab a much overdue lunch.  Honestly, we were quite shocked- poverty isn’t a foreign concept after spending a summer in Southeast Asia but it hit us in the face here.  Immediately after leaving the boat, we were surrounded by a swarm of dirty, young kids looking for money, food, water or even empty water bottles. I had gotten a restaurant suggestion from the official tourism board and it turned out to be a dingy seaside shack with food sitting out on the table in assorted Tupperware containers.  No thanks!  And we weren’t going to try the street food, where a woman was fanning flies of sticks of meat.  Dodging drivers who wanted us to enlist their ricks has services, we finally arrived at what we thought was a semi-acceptable place.  We enjoyed our meal but Dawn got food poisoning from her pork and rice.  After eating, we were all ready to get out of there and we hired a driver henry to take us to our hotel and he became our driver for the weekend since he was so adorable and eager to please.  It was a pretty drive through tidal beaches, fishing villages and lush rain forests.  When we arrived at our resort, we were “lei-Ed” with shell necklaces and a warm welcome by the American owner, John (after our experience in the city, this was a relief!).  Then we enjoyed a leisurely evening of a delicious dinner, swinging in the hammocks on the beach to the sound of the ocean, swimming in the pool then a feisty game of spades where the blondes (Alissa and I) decidedly dominated the brunettes (Ken and Dawn).  We went to bed relatively early to prepare for an early saturday morning start. On Saturday, our driver picked us up nice and early to beat the crowds at the chocolate hills.  Legend has it that these 1200 hills were created by giants in a mud fight.  Now people know the hills are made of coral and the chocolate hills turn green in the rainy season (which is when we visited), but they were still pretty cute.  Originally, we hoped we could hike the hills but it turns out that visitors can only visit several outlooks because an abundance of snakes and pythons in the area.  We decided to do an atv tour to get a little closer which was a good choice.  We drove through the heart of a small village, where we passed families of four on mopeds, smiling children sandwiched between their poncho-wearing children.  Dawn was going to skip the tour since she didn’t feel week, but the guide invited her on the back of his motorcycle and both of them were grinning the whole way. Tree pose in front of a tree and a chocolate hill (not so chocolate during the rainy season) ATV/dune buggy team! The next major stop was the tarsier conservation center.  Alissa loves monkeys- she’s the one who wanted to do orangutans in Kuching, let a monkey climb her on the monkey forest in Bali so this was on her bucket list, because tarsiers can only be found on this island.  The monkeys are nocturnal (but several woke up to peer at us through their big round eyes) and teensy tiny.  They hung out throughout the center, curled up on tree branches underneath palm tree umbrellas and they were pretty adorable. Alissa and I being tarsiers at the Tarsier conservation center With the morning rain, we decided to skip the river cruise, hanging bridge and butterfly garden and head back to our resort.  After lunch, it cleared up enough for Alissa and I to o snorkeling off the hotel beach.  The boat man hooked us up with snorkels and flippers and even paddled us out to the conservation sanctuary that was supposed to be the best spot.  Unfortunately, with all the rain, the water wasn’t clear and couldn’t see much even though we knew we were above extensive reef.  However the water was lovely, we had a good swim and most importantly,...