Just got back last night from 4 peaceful days in Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines. Now I should clarify, we weren’t actually in the city, we stayed on Mactan Island, which is connected to the city via a bridge. The trip got off to a bit of a rough start unfortunately. We checked into our original hotel to find that they were throwing a party for 500 people that night (mind you, this is a 16 room hotel not a mega-hotel complex). We were very disenchanted by the chaos, especially since we weren’t given a head’s up. That, in combination with a few other factors that we were less than happy about, resulted in me negotiating to be let out of our 3 night reservation the following morning. They were not pleased, but hey – neither were we!
And so we were off to the Hilton, where we knew exactly what we were getting (usually I try to avoid big US-based chains, as I think they lack local charm, but we were needing something familiar by this point). Thankfully, the Big Pink Palace did not disappoint. We let them know our sob story and were happily rewarded with an upgrade to an ocean view deluxe room. YAY! Things were looking up…
We spent the next few days primarily at the hotel rotating between sleeping, eating and tanning (or shall we say, burning). It was delightful not having any pre-set plans, as it allowed us to settle into a deeper state of relaxation than we’d normally have. That being said, I didn’t feel like we got the same cultural experience that I’ve gotten in my other Philippines destinations. It just felt more touristy and there was far more scamming than I usually find. In fact, by the last day it was making me quite crabby. I swear, I should have just worn a sign that said, “Take advantage of me.” Grrr… thankfully I’ve had some practice with scammers. I could tell Jenna was impressed when I fiercely defended our right to pay a normal price.
Highlights of the trip included a cultural show where we got to go up on stage and dance the Tinikling, a traditional Filipino dance where you jump between bamboo sticks.
We also had a marvelous final day aboard our own private banca for a snorkeling trip! It was more expensive than I’ve paid in the past, but I just chalked it up to the fact that we were in a bigger tourist destination. Little did I know that for my $100, I had just rented a 30-person boat with 5 crew members for the next 5 hours. Oh goodness, how excessive! Seriously, it was quite comical to have such a big boat for just the two of us… such a classic Philippines experience.
We loved every minute of it though. The fish and coral were plentiful and it was easily the clearest water I’ve ever snorkeled in. We were in a protected Marine Sanctuary, so it was all beautifully taken care of. Our snorkeling guide (yes, he was included in the price too) had brought a basket of bread for us to feed the fish. I had never used bread before but was delighted to see how many fish would swarm around you when you started putting it in the water. It was the coolest thing to be so up-close-and-personal with varieties of fish that I’d never seen in my life. Definitely a worthwhile experience!
Now we’re back at home and easing back into city life with a little pearl shopping today. More posts coming soon! And you know the drill, if you want to see more pics, head on over to SMUGMUG.