For those that believe I spend my life on holiday this is of course in fact a gross exaggeration and in reality I have 1 or 2 big holidays each year with the rest being curtailed at weekend or short 1 week breaks. So…it was with this that I was about to embark on a 2 and a half week soiree to the Philippines. This was somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time – particularly due to their phenomenal diving and so off I was on Friday after work to the airport bus to whizz me to the airport and onwards for an epic 2 day journey to Panglao Island. TRAVEL TIP: Going to the airport straight from work can help save precious holidays, however, balance this with the stress of having to have everything finished on time and inevitable work life pressures. By the time I got to the airport and checked my luggage I headed straight to the bar to ease those stresses and finally get myself into holiday mode.
After a few glasses of Bessarat I was feeling more human and the relative joy of the one hour flight to London Heathrow sped by just allowing my brain to re-charge and switch off. It was a quick hour and 30 minute turnaround before I was off again to Singapore. The flight was with BA and was generally pretty uneventful – as is often the case with BA. They are solidly good. Never spectacular like you might get with a Qatar or Emirates but nowhere near as terrible as the US atrocities of United or American. I enjoyed some gin with my chicken curry before getting a solid 9 hours of sleep. I also managed to fit in watching Personal Shopper (very strange) and Sing (delightful). It was a super quick 13 hours before we arrived into Singapore. I had a 12 hour overnight layover before my next flight and so cleared immigration and got my bag before checking in after a quick terminal change and dropping my bag again.
Changi airport is one of the best in the world to have a long layover and I wanted to get through immigration into transit to enjoy the best of it again. Hotels in Singapore are pricey and you waste time heading into the city so staying put is a nice cheap alternative. I had a wander round Terminal 2 where they have sunflower gardens, a cinema, and lots of lovely sitting areas. I was feeling peckish and so headed to the phenomenal traditional Singaporean food court. They have all the classics but I was craving a Nasi Lemak. This is a coconut rice dish served with meat or fish – I had fried chicken, beef rending curry and a veggie pattie. It always comes with peanuts (which I removed) and a fried egg as well as some very tasty sweet tamarind spicy sauce. It was absolutely delicious and a welcome change to plane food. My mango smoothie was a bit disappointing. I still had some time to kill and so headed to the entertainment area and slouched out watching MTV for a bit. I was hoping to stay in the transit hotel but had been told it was full so decided to check if I had any other options. Turns out I did – the Ambassador Hotel has a transit hotel as well as a transit lounge with sleep pods. For £40 you can have a little sleeping pod with bed, shower access and food and drink. The shower was bliss after those hours of travelling and I settled into my pod with some complimentary drinks to while away my remaining hours.
I had set my alarm for 4.30a.m but my stomach woke me much earlier. I tossed and turned and gave in at 4 to my hunger pangs. I freshened up before heading back to the food court for breakfast. You do have access to complimentary food with lounge access but the quality is highly questionable and given the cheap food court prices for me it was a no-brainer. I opted for the pork and century egg congee with roast pork bao buns. It was absolutely delicious. I lucked out for my final flight to Cebu by getting a whole 3 aisle row of seats to myself and so slept for the 3 and a half hours. Thankfully the Philippines greeted me with sunshine and blue skies despite the projected weather forecast of lightning storms. I had a few hours to wait on Carolyn and so picked a seat and listened to some podcasts.
As soon as she arrived we were ready to go but everything here works on Filipino time and the driver took an hour to arrive (even though scheduled pick-up was 12). We sorted out currency and had a catch up before jumping in the car to the ferry. Due to the late arrival it was a bit of a hairy drive and a rush to get all of the right tickets meaning we didn’t have time to check our luggage. The friendly staff just stuck Business Class stickers on and carried them to our seats which was lovely of them. It was an hour and a half from Cebu port to Tagbilaran. We were seated in the fancy seats shut off from everyone and with movies and a/c which seemed like a bit of an unnecessary luxury but you have to take these things when they arise. It was smooth sailing at the Tagbilaran port where Ignacio was waiting to transport us to Amorita Resort – our home for the next 3 nights.
The resort was absolutely stunning. Perched at the end of Alona Beach it is near enough to be convenient but far enough away to withhold some exclusivity. It has 2 infinity pools and a variety of restaurants and gardens with watersports facilities. We were absolutely starving and so headed straight to Saffron restaurant for a delicious Saffron iced tea (tea, lemon, lychee and sugar) with a White Marlin fish dish served with a salad and anchovie mayonnaise and a gorgeous chicken dish which is considered a local specialty served with garlic rice. The food was absolutely delicious and the views out to the ocean over the pools were stunning. Such a fantastic first meal. We checked in to our spacious room before heading along the beach to Sierra Madre Divers to meet our instructor. Unfortunately timings had taken longer than we expected and he had left for the day as a rather rude staff member informed us. She made no offer to help us and instead said just come back tomorrow at 8am. This was a bit annoying as we had rushed down as fast as we could so instead we headed along the beach for a beautiful sunset stroll. The bright red sunset definitely made up for the rude behaviour and we headed back to our ice cool room to relax and get an early night ready to dive the next day. Bliss.