It’s now been more than 6 months since I arrived in the Philippines. It’s not an especially significant amount of time, but the time I have spent here has been very significant for me. So far this year I’ve been especially focused on my work as a digital marketer, which can be rather stressful at times (I had a 60 hour week last month), and I’ve had to manage a large number of requests/deadlines since mid-January. With that in mind, my weekends have been more routine and relaxing, compared to the weekly all-night partying that I indulged in last year. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed the occasional bottle of Tanduay or Red Horse, but my drinking has been much more occasional now. Due to this increased amount of stress at work, I decided to get some fresh air to clear my head, and the air in Cebu City isn’t particularly ‘fresh’ (quite the opposite actually), so I ventured further afield to Davao city on Mindanao Island.
My journey to Davao was unpleasant. I had decided to go ‘on a whim’, and so all the flights at conveniant hours had gone, which left me with a flight to catch at 6:50 a.m. This would have been fine, if not for my attendance of a stag do in Cebu the night before.
I didn’t stay out especially late – I think I was home by 1130 p.m, but I was obliged to have several shots and a few beers, and was not in a good physical state as a result. I set my alarm for 4am, which thankfully woke me up, but I felt like I hadn’t even slept and was still tipsy from the previous night; packing became something of a challenge. Thankfully I managed to shove some things in a bag and got a taxi to the airport, which didn’t take long as the roads were empty. To my surprise the airport was packed even at 5am, as was my flight, but this was my first internal flight (when I went to Bohol I took a boat), so perhaps the airport is always busy.
The flight took 45 minutes, and I got a taxi to my hotel at around 8am where I slept for a few hours, before meeting a friend I have there who was happy to show me around for the weekend. The hotel itself was fine – just comfortable and quiet, and my room was a decent size so I was pleased with my choice. I met my friend at midday, and I decided I wanted to check out the exotic animals that Davao had to offer, at the Crocodile Park.
The park itself was quite small, and I was expecting the crocodiles to be much larger and scarier, not to mention that I couldn’t get that close to them (I was hoping for an element of danger to it). I did get my fill of danger though, when I decided to hold a python for the purposes of a photo. It didn’t quite go to plan though because unlike my last close encounter with a snake, this one was very much awake and kept turning it’s head around to face (and probably bite) me. Thankfully there was a handler close by who kept turning it’s head to face forward, but this snake seemed to have it in for me and kept trying to move towards me from my hands, which made me feel really uneasy and nervous. Anyway I was massivley relieved when the handler took it off me. Since my trip I have somehow lost the photo itself, so my ‘near-death’ experience was all for nothing! Below is a photo from the park of the same snake with someone who looks much more comfortable with it than I was.
In the same complex they also had a number of other brightly coloured & exotic animals whose names I can’t remember/pronouce:
They also had a butterfly sanctuary next to the park, as well as a traditional Philippine village:
Later that day I went to a rooftop restaurant called Jack’s Ridge. On the way there I had a very real ‘I’m in the middle of nowhere’ moment, as the taxi driver seemed to take an endless route of unfriendly backstreets to get there; the food and the view made up for it though. Generally I’m not a huge fan of most filipino dishes – it’s typically just a lot of rice with a fried, salted, pork-based type of meat (and no vegetables). However the seafood is something that is almost always impeccable here, particularly tuna, kinilaw, shrimp etc. and I really enjoyed the seafood served at that place.
After dinner we headed to a carnival back in central Davao. The carnival itself was quite standard, but my presence there seemed to really shock a lot of people. What I began to realise is that in Davao there are pretty much no white people whatsoever (even fewer than there are in Cebu), in fact I think the whole weekend I only saw a handful. One young girl nearly fell over backwards and hid behind her mum! I really was getting a lot of attention which made me feel quite uncomfortable at times (there were literally dozens of people staring at me), so I didn’t stay that long but while I was there I did go on a couple of rides and play a few games:
After the carnival I went back to my hotel and slept – I wasn’t really there to party and the clubs/bars didn’t look that great from the outside either. I was up relatively early the next day because I wanted to check out Samal Island – a nearby island that was supposedly very scenic and undeveloped, which turned out to be the case.
I spent most of the time riding around on the back of my friend’s motorbike (which got a bit uncomfortable after a while), and the island was so beautiful that every single corner we turned produced a sight that was easily worthy of appearing on a postcard. We stopped off at a few locations, and a particular highlight was the Hagimit Falls - a set of small waterfalls and pools with impeccably bright blue water.
After I dried off, we did some more exploring by motorbike, until we found somewhere which had one of the most amazing views I have ever seen. We were quite high up and through a clearing in the trees, we could see a small island just off the coast, otherwise known as Malipano Island.
What I particularly liked about what I saw was the amazing colour of the water surrounding the island, and the corner of white beach on the right hand side – I’d definitely like to go back there and visit the actual island itself sometime.
After some more exploring we hang out at a nearby beach resort – What’s interesting about the beaches here is that you can’t just ‘go’ to the beach – every stretch of beach I saw is owned by someone and has been turned into a resort with a restaurant/bar etc., so you have to pay (a very small amount) just to actually get to the beach itself. We were there for a few hours but it started to rain so I decided it was time to head back.
Later that evening we went to a really good Thai restaraunt nearby, before heading downtown to try something Davao is famous for – Durian fruit. Durian is actually quite controversial (for a fruit) because it has an incredibly pungeant smell, and is in fact banned from many hotels as a result. It’s hard to describe the smell, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s unpleasant but it is quite overpowering. This is also mirrored by the actual taste – the texture is soft, somewhere between a banana and a pineapple in it’s firmness, and the taste is quite bittersweet and rich, verging on sour. It’s nice but probably not something you would want to eat too much of, or have on a daily basis.
That concluded my weekend away, and the next morning I flew back to Cebu. I think there was perhaps more that I could have seen and done in Davao city, but I’d had a good break anyway, and I can always go back there quite easily. I’m not sure yet where ‘Island Adventures part iii’ will take place, but undoubtedly I’ve got a lot of exploring to do while I’m here and hope to see as much of this country as I can – feel free to leave some recommendations of places for me to visit in the comments section.