Monthly Archives: March 2009

Zentraveler on Negros Island, Philippines!

As there are only 7107 Islands in the Philippines Zentraveler will have to take it up a notch if he is to visit every island. The wonderful thing about living in the Philippines is travel is very inexpensive… especially if you have the time.

My intention was to travel from Bantayan town by ferry to Cadiz and then bus to Bacolod City and then back to Dumaguete … and maybe even add Bohol. As weather can always be a factor, after three false starts when the ferries weren’t running, I finally took a ferry to Cebu City where I flew to Bacolod for about $28.00 US

I stayed at the 11th street Pension House for 250 pesos, which is five dollars us. It had a nice courtyard and a restuarant and was just a few pesos by jeepney fron the center of town. After cruising around the town square In Bacolod City (known as the city of smiles) I photographed an ancient church…the twin towered San Sebastian Cathederal and then headed to the waters edge by tricycle to a wonderful seafood reataurant named BayBay!

You could see your seafood in live aquariums and have them grill it fresh for your lunch. The item that is a bit different is the live eels swimming around just waiting to get on the menu! The vista was quite stunning as you watched the local fishing pump-boats weave back and forth between their fishnets taking in the daily harvest.

I had the grilled fish filet with vegetable rice and a cold San Miguel Pilsen beer and took the opportunity to take many photos… as I had to remind myself I was in Asia and could hardly believe my eyes.

Walking back I discovered their city’s neo-classical Provincial Capitol which I was told was mirrowed on our own Whitehouse in the US.
The rather large park directly in front of the Capitol has a small lake full of colorful tialapa fish. The kids and families were enjoying the park as they ate, ran, and screamed at some of the animal characters on the lakeside. It’s sometimes these simple street scenes that keep us traveling and yearning for more.

The following morning I headed toward Dumaguete by bus and was told it was about a seven hour destination. We traveled through miles and miles of sugarcane fields, past some rather large fish farms, and then headed through the mountains, which were covered with coconut palms.

As this is the rainy season, the rains started to pour in buckets and I even wondered how the bus driver could see well enough to drive. Then I started to see some animals crossing the road and wondered if we were in some kind of a sunami and maybe I better get ready to run myself. After looking at the side streets with more than three feet of water running, and the rain and wind getting worse, I was beginning to look for my options.

At that point the bus came to a halt and the engine actually stalled. Then we got a report that a small house washed onto the main road and we had to wait until it was cleared.

At the eleventh hour on the bus and driving through a complete brownout with only tiny little candles shinning through the jungle houses, we arrived in Dumaguete, where the streets were running wild with water and no hotels available.

Then as if a miracle I got a wonderful room (the last in Dumaguete I was told) at the Coco Grande Hotel complete with hot shower, marble bathroom, and luxurious bedroom. I then went down to the piano bar and into the restaurant where I ate fresh grilled fish dinner with garlic potatoes. As Buddah would tell you there is always a silver lining if you look hard enough!

The following morning I took a ferry to the Island of Siguijor, where I stayed at the Swiss Stars lodge, which was very nice and had it’s own restaurant. From there I took a small van and arrived at San Juan where they have several excellent beach resorts. As the rain was still following me and I was rain-restrained… I took a photo of the local church and the ferry landing and headed back to Dumaguete by jet-boat ferry.

After checking into the Bethel Hotel on the far side of the promenade (can’t miss it… it is the tallest building along the waterfront), I was able to visit several good restaurants and also treat myself to the best massages in the world. I signed up for one hour for 200 pessos about 4 dollars us… and they asked me if I wanted the combination Swedish-Chinese massage and of course I said yes.

After working me over-nonstop for fifty minutes the female massuese grabbed my legs and twisted them into my body like a pretzel and then rocked me back and forth and ended up walking on my back with her bare feet.

After that I took my camera and photographed the town square set admidst several old churches and then headed down the promenade to finish the evening’s photo sights.

Dumaguete is famous for it’s several universities including: Silliman University, founded in 1901 by Protestant missionaires and features American-era architecture and many colleges. Dumaguete is regarded as one of the best places for an x-pat to retire since the city has everything you need, is relatively safe and inexpensive, and has good medical service… including a modern hospital.

I had dinner at the Italiana Restaurant, which serves excellent authentic Italian food with homemade Spinach Lasanga. The following day I discovered Coco Amigos where many x-pats hang-out and enjoyed their oven fresh baked nachos. One x-pat from England, who has a motorscotter rental service, told me he lives in a two bedroom townhouse for 7000 pesos per month— which is roughly $150.00 US.

That night I boarded the night ferry, which had it’s own sleeper accomodations, and took exactly eight hours to reach Cebu City… at a cost of 240 pesos, which is about three dollars us. I Knew it wasn’t the Queen Elizabeth, but where else in the world can you take an oceanliner cruise for three dollars. As I walked off the gangplank I somehow felt like royalty and am anxious to return to Negros Island for more adventure and travel..

So there you have it for a whirlwind quick trip I enjoyed visiting Negros Island and plan to return to take in some of the other man-made and natural attractions.

QUOTE: “This is my child, this is my wealth”: such thoughts are the preoccupations of fools. If we are unable to own even ourselves, why make such claims?” —–Buddha

THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: The fur of the Binturong, also known as the “Asian Bear Cat,” smells like popcorn. The scent is believed to come from a gland located near the tail.

THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Seacology preserves coral reefs by entering into “win-win” agreements with island villagers, providing them with something tangible they request in exchange for establishing a coral reef reserve. Seacology is devoting the following project to the readers of 50 Simple Things®. For a total of just US$33,000, 50 Simple Things® readers can save a coral reef and the dugongs and turtles that live there while improving the quality of life of the local villagers. Seacology Island Projects seacology.org

ZENTRAVELER SAYS: Lay out a monthly budget in order to keep your finances simple and so you don’t get into the overspend mode. Save a little save a lot!

From here to Infinity is a relatively short ride! The next leg takes eons and eons as you fly through the Barycentric Dynamical Time Zone! …and on and on and on.

Follow the Zentraveler Blog often for Travel, Health and Zen-like stories and such. Where else can you get a three in one blog for the price of free?

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