We’re now on Siquijor island, in a place called Lorena, and our original plan was to stay on the island for up to a month.  But as we’re quickly learning, around here, even loosely made plans can be difficult to stick to.  And this glitch has come in the form of another bank issue.

We arrived yesterday.  We took a small craft from Dumaguete city, where we’d spent two nights after making the five hour bus journey from Sipalay.  Leaving Sipalay, we braced ourselves for the journey, because our previous bus experience had been less than desirable, and it had only involved one bus.  This trip took a total of three buses, but to our delight, went much smoother.  The trip itself was just as bumpy, but the buses weren’t nearly as crowded, and the fare collectors on all three were friendly, helpful, and gave immediate change (we’ve stopped handing over big bills).  Transferring was very easy, and we found ourselves in Dumaguete by about 3pm.

Despite all of the awesome wildlife, warm water, and some new friends, our stay on Sugar Beach was not all we were hoping for.  We spent a total of five nights there, in an overpriced place called Driftwood Village.  Driftwood Village has a lot of potential, and is itself, quite beautiful.  But in a place where there is virtually nothing to do except sun bathe, we started to get a bit bored.  The resort didn’t provide us with much entertainment, and what they did offer, cost extra pesos.  Seeing as we were on a bit of a budget due to previous issues at the bank, we had to be very careful so we didn’t face an un-payable bill at the end of our stay.

We had a lot of fun spending time with new friends Marco, from Germany, and Michelle, from Denmark.  They’d met up a few days earlier and had decided to make the trek to Sugar beach together before going separate ways upon departure.  They agreed that life at Driftwood Village was starting to get boring, but we had a blast wandering into the nearby village looking for sweets, and going for dinner.

Our room was 400 pesos a night, and not much larger than the queen-sized bed that was in it.  We shared a bathroom with other guests. Food ran us about 190 pesos and up per meal, and we couldn’t even drink coffee or water for free.  Absolutely nothing was included in the price of our room, and it got to the point where we didn’t even want to ask for new towels or bedding because we thought they might charge us for it.  One morning, Tyson ordered a breakfast that included toast, and when he asked for jam, was told it would cost more.  Even a game of pool wasn’t free.

Michelle left two days earlier than us, and they calculated her bill completely wrong.  After I heard this, we started a spreadsheet to track everything they were adding to our tab.

Despite all of this, I do speak very highly of the staff.  The owner’s wife and her sisters keep the place running, and are some of the friendliest Filipinos we’ve met so far.  We had a wonderful time playing late-night card games and foosball with the girls.  They really made an otherwise mediocre stay, memorable.  One evening, just after we’d ordered our dinner, a windstorm swept in and blew out the power. There were no generators.  This didn’t slow the making of our food down at all.  The girls sang merrily in the kitchen while they cooked on propane heaters by the light of their cell phones.

As we departed, Tyson and I both agreed that Sugar Beach is not worth the five hour trek from either North or South.  We don’t recommend it to anyone.  Our hope had been to find beaches like the ones in Boracay, but we didn’t, and it made us understand why Boracay is as touristy as it is.  With Boracay on one end of the spectrum, and Sugar beach on the other, we’re looking for something kind of in between, and we certainly don’t want to feel imprisoned by a resort.

When we got to Dumaguete, we checked into a highly recommended hostel, called Harold’s Mansion.  The place was bright, clean and the staff friendly, including Harold himself.  Even better, the food was good and much cheaper than we’d experienced in Sipalay.  And with unlimited free coffee in the shop, and wifi in our room, we were able to catch up on emails, banking and blogging.

We arrived in Siquijor town yesterday afternoon, and found a place to stay.  Originally our plan was to trek to a nearby town called Lorena, but we were tired, it was raining, and we were being hounded by cab drivers to the point where we wanted nothing to do with anyone.  We decided to find a place to put our bags down and regroup before traveling any further.

Das Traum Guest House came recommended by our Lonely Planet guide, and at 250 pesos a night, is dirt cheap.  But you really do get what you pay for, because the place is a dump.  The huge, airy house, an old Spanish-style colonial, had probably been extremely beautiful at one point in time, but it is not being well-maintained.  The place looked to be run by an elderly lady who did not leave her couch once, during our stay.

Our room had dirty wallpaper that was peeling, and we found wads of gum left behind by previous guests, and overlooked by cleaning staff.  We had to share the single towel, which had a hole in it, and the bed sheet belonged to a twin bed, not the double we were in.  Cold showers are the norm around here, so that didn’t surprise us, but the house’s single toilet didn’t work, and there was no toilet paper in sight.

And to make the whole situation even creepier, we were probably the only guests.  We experienced a thunderstorm and some of the heaviest rain we’ve seen so far.  I kept thinking a horror movie was about to unfold with us the main characters.  Turns out we slept really well, and for the first time since we’ve been in the Philippines, we didn’t wake up to the sound of roosters.

Today we got up, brushed our teeth and packed our stuff.  We made the 9 km trek to Lorena by pedi-cab, but the driver wasn’t really that stoked to take us.  He’d been lounging around with his pedi-cab friends when we approached him.  I’m assuming they probably make more money on short trips, since he needed the help of his buddies to settle a price with us, and grumbled about it.

At this point we were running on very little cash, but Lorena has the island’s only ATM, and that’s where we were headed.  Our plan was to withdraw enough money to keep us comfortable for awhile, and then head to another part of the island, renowned for its beaches and backpacking community.

We got dropped off in front of the ATM, but there was a bit of a lineup.  The couple ahead of us were French, and they couldn’t withdraw any cash.  After a few futile attempts, they moved aside to see if we could withdraw.  Nothing.  Today is a national holiday here, so the bank was closed.  We have just enough money to park ourselves in a little hotel for the night, one block from the bank.

Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have better luck, otherwise we’re going back to Dumaguete!

 Sipalay, Philippines Photos