After weeks of striking gold in terms of travel destinations in the Philippines, I knew that at some point, there would be a letdown. Sure enough, that was what happened to me in Alona beach. After Apo island I headed to Alona beach in Bohol. Bastian and I were still traveling together, so we took a boat back to the apocalyptic town of Malatapay and then hopped on a jeepney to Dumaguete. In Dumaguete it started to pour down rain, so we, and all of our possessions were thoroughly soaked. From Dumaguete, we took the speed ferry to Tagbilaran, Bohol and hopped in a cab to Alona beach (travel in the Philippines always involves a lot of steps).
Alona beach would have probably been a fantastic place if it 1) hadn't been packed with middle-aged German package tourists and 2) the sun had come out for at least 5 minutes at some point during my visit. Alas, neither was to happen, and it was a fairly dreary place.
The diving was ok, but was negatively impacted by bad weather and crowded dive sites. I had a run-in with a somewhat militaristic German divemaster who told Bastian and me hat he confused us with the Korean dive school student during the dive (a passive and culturally insensitive commentary about out buoyancy control abilities). Not the best way to earn my respect, but I don't think that 's what this guy was going for. On the plus side, I did see some cool underwater creatures, including the ugly-but-cute frogfish.
I ran into Isabelle and Eric, the Canadian couple from Apo island, and it was great to see them again. Good company and a few decent dives were Alona Beach's saving grace.
Alona beach was my last stop in the Philippines. The Philippines has a reputation as a dangerous place, but the Filipino people seem to take it all in stride and with a smile. I never felt unsafe in the Philippines, but did have two experiences of this life on the edge mentality during my last day before returning to Bangkok.
As I boarded the plane to return to Manila from Bohol, the captain announced over the loudspeaker that our flight would depart 30 minutes late because the Philippine domestic radar system had suffered a power outage, and the entire radar network was down. In the US, the captain would probably not have shared this information with the passengers, as such an announcement would have catalyzed a total frenzy, but the Filipino passengers seems totally unfazed by this.
The second event occurred while I was in a taxi on my way to dinner in Manila. Traffic was at a complete standstill, so I asked the driver what was going on, the conversation transpired as follows:
Me: What's going on with the traffic?
Driver: Oh, there's a hold up in front of us.
Me: Yeah, I know there is a hold up in traffic, but what's causing the slowdown?
Driver: (making gun sign with hand): There was an armored vehicle hold up.
Me: Holy crap, where?
Driver: About half a block up the road.
Me: Holy crap.
Driver: Just lock your door, put your purse by your feet and it will be ok.
That's me, livin' life on the edge. From this day forward, you can call me Julia "danger" Martin (just kidding).
Arriving in Tagbilaran
A grey and rainy Alona beach
View from the dive boat
More Alona beach
Reuniting with Eric and Isabelle
Bastian displays his excitement about Alona beach
Parting image of Manila