Bohol is connected to Panglao by a bridge so I needed a lift over. This part of my trip did not go well.
The only issue with visiting The Philippines is that whilst it feels quite safe, as a tourist you might as well be a walking wallet. A minority of locals take great pleasure in trying to con you or fleece you. It’s a lucrative business and tired travellers are easy prey.
I was collected from Mithi Resort and Spa by their free transfer van. I had pre-booked a connecting taxi from the port of Tagbilaran, over on Bohol, once we got there. You do this on social media, it’s cheaper as you can haggle and ask a few companies to get the best price.
When we got to the port, none of the taxis were marked. I asked the van man to tell me where the Valleroso and Ralle taxi was (a reputable taxi company based on Panglao). He started having a chat with a driver that I presumed was from that company and told me that this was my guy.
As soon as I got in the taxi and he showed me a price list and tried to charge me three times what I had already agreed. We had arranged a price in advance I told him, you’re not from Valleroso and Ralle are you?
But I was tired and it was so hot, I couldn’t be bothered to look for the driver I’d booked. He should’ve been standing there waiting.
So I took a chance.
The man was in his thirties with a greasy face and a leering grin. He started flirting with me and seemed to enjoy it, despite my obvious discomfort.
Come swimming with me, he said. I’ll have to wear just my boxers but I can show you all the best coral. And after I can give you a massage.
But it’ll be fun! Come on. It’s ok, it’s ok, don’t worry!
He kept saying that but it didn’t help.
After what seemed like forever, we were finally at my waterfront hotel, two hours later.
I wait for you and we go swimming yes?
Maybe, I said, I’ll think about it.
I was hot and tired. It would be so nice to go for a swim. But was it safe? Probably not. As much as I wanted to see the coral, I wasn’t an idiot.
The hotel staff scrunched their nose up at this rogue and did not seem impressed. Another sign.
I came out again. Sorry I’m not interested I said. He deserved stronger words than that. He then aggressively demanded twice the price I had agreed with Valleroso and Ralle and I reluctantly parted with more cash.
I was distressed and went back to my room fuming. Anything could have happened. I had been so stupid, I had to be careful, I had to remember that as a lone female I was an attractive target. Too attractive clearly. I wondered whether he had tried that before.
At least the hotel, Dive Star, was nice. It was right next to the sea and you could hear it singing you to sleep at night. In the evening you could see all the traditional fishing boats motoring by, a pleasant hum.
I had arrived just in time for the sunset through the palm trees. I sat on a bamboo chair on the balcony and drank iced water. It was perfect.
The room was made in the local style with bamboo and rattan. There was even a small lizard scurrying about, but he kept out of the way. He’d left me a poo present on the bed. Charming.
The next day, I wondered whether I could trust the local tour guides.
I would go with the hotel’s list. Hopefully they would be reliable.
A tall, smiling local turned up and said he would take me wherever I wanted to go. I said I would trust his suggestions.
He was friendly and good company and we eventually started to have a good chat. I told him my taxi experience and he frowned and said there were not many people like that on the island but it did happen around the port of Tagbilaran because it was a hub for tourists.
He reassured me that I could trust him and anyway, he was happily married with a wife and two year old son. His second marriage he laughed, the first one didn’t work out.
I breathed a sigh of relief. His name was Peter and he was new to the business, having spent several years shipping scrap metal around the world. He was gregarious and lively, chatting to everyone we met and making them as happy as he was.
We were going to have fun!