Bohol Escapades 2013 part 2: On the way to Panglao

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Happy Miras-Franca tour!
I stayed in Bohol for four days and three nights. We stayed in Dao Diamond Hotel, which was just one of the highlights of our vacation. Right after we checked in, we had breakfast and immediately booked a tour with our hotel. Why with our hotel? My mother does not like to book tours in advance for local trips because something might happen, and the deposit will be lost. Anyway, the tour cost us P4,000. I loved the tour guide, he was very nice and he knew a lot of tidbits about Bohol, but the price was very expensive. (Note: All photos unedited. I suck at photo editing.)

Our first tour was the 'Panglao tour' but we had several stops along the way. First up was the Hinagdanan Cave, which is an underground cave with a small lake. It will be better to have a guide with you because he knows where you should step to be safe. Our guide was Gibby, and if he's around the area on the day of your tour, I highly recommend him. He takes fantastic pictures! Your guide's fee depends on what you feel like paying, but there is a very minimal entrance fee as well.

Inside Hinagdanan Cave
I hope you wear sturdy slippers during your tour so you won't slip. Sadly, my Sandugo sandals did not have a great grip on the surface, and I had to be very careful where I trod. (It was sorely beaten by my Havaianas mud experience where I trekked through wet mud up a mountain and my slippers didn't even break, and I didn't slide.) My mother, who was wearing Havaianas, had better grip on the slightly wet and uneven terrain inside the cave.

It was not very dark underground, and there was sufficient light to go around. My grandmother initially balked at entering because she doesn't like caves, but we managed to persuade her, and she even enjoyed herself. The cave doesn't have that musky smell either. The lake reminded me of the lake in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince where (spoiler) Harry and Dumbledore had to cross a lake filled with inferi. I wondered several times if a hand would suddenly shoot up and grip my ankles. No, that did not happen.

Afterwards, we went to the Bohol Bee Farm for lunch. I'm not sure if you can check-in there, but they have a pool (open from 8am to 11pm, with a depth of three feet to seven feet). No one was swimming, however, while we were there. The server kept telling us that the food was good for one person only. That was so not true. Each plate we ordered was fit for two people, or three if you don't eat much. However, the food was very delicious so we didn't feel like complaining about it. We just took the remainder of the food with us back to Dao and ate it for dinner.

View from the beach of Panglao
After our very hearty lunch and shopping from Bohol Bee Farm's native and honey produce store, we went to Panglao at 3pm (our tour started at 11am). If you want to spend more time in there than in the countryside, and you want to visit more over several days, I suggest you book a room around Panglao. We found out to our dismay that a van will cost P500 from our hotel to Panglao for one way. And another P500 to get back. Yes, we could commute but since we were with several senior citizens, my mom wanted the ride to be comfortable.

Afternoon delight
Also, this is so you can take a shower after bathing. We managed to get cleaned up by ordering drinks from one of the beach-side hotels, but we weren't able to take a shower since we just used their comfort room to change clothes. I managed to persuade them to lend me a little tub to wash off the sand, though. It was, needless to say, a bit of an uncomfortable ride back to Dao Diamond.

I know Panglao is very popular and quite picturesque, but I did not enjoy swimming there as I thought I would. There were too many sea urchins! I just stayed close to the shore, but even that was uncomfortable because I kept scraping my knees on the sand, shells, and broken corals. My dad, the enviable human fish, of course swam quite far away, and had fun feeding the sea urchins to a live starfish he found. Fast fact: Sea urchins are starfish food! The random things I learn from my dad.

My sister and I are fans of henna tattoos, so when a tattoo artist approached us by the beach, we agreed to do it. It was pricey at P200, but he was the lone artist we saw in the area so we reluctantly agreed. He said the henna will wear off after one to two weeks, and I was actually disappointed because I wanted mine to last for far longer, but still we gave the go ahead. Oh my god, so disappointing! It was one of the not-so-good henna experiences I've ever had. First of all, I pointed to a beautiful tiger tattoo, but the end product looked like a cross between a tiger and a monster. Second, the tattoo almost completely washed off after ONE wash. One. Ugh. What a waste of P200. It's a blessing we were in a hurry because I wanted to get another one on my other leg. Sigh. Lesson learned in trusting henna tattoo artists.

On our way back to Dao Diamond, we passed by the Dauis Church. In case you didn't know, Bohol was hit by a terrible earthquake in 2013 which devastated a lot of the beautiful old churches.

One of the churches ravaged by the earthquake in 2013.
The sort of 'miracle' here is that the Mama Mary, which was right behind the Church, was completely unharmed. I was not surprised anymore; I've heard of a lot of stories where religious statues have been unharmed by natural disasters, but it still warmed my heart. Seeing this church, though, broke my heart. It was a historic treasure, and it was gone just like that. Sigh. I hope it can be restored to its former glory, although maybe more earthquake-proof.

All in all, it was a good first day for us. If you want to tour Panglao, I suggest getting a van for hire if you don't want to commute, or stay in an inn or hotel in Panglao for your stay. We opted to hire a different guide/driver on our second day for our countryside tour, which only cost us P1500 (not counting entrance fees and lunch), and he also regaled us with information about Bohol. However, his van was stinky and smelled strongly of urine, which gave me a headache all day (and I suspect it did not help matters with my sister's chronic migraine).

Okay, before I end here, here's the tidbit I learned from our driver the first day. Do you remember your Philippine history taught during our elementary years? So the guide said Francisco Dagohoy was actually named Francisco Sandejas. 'Dagohoy' was from the term 'dagon sa huyohoy'. Francisco Dagohoy was thought by the Spaniards to have some sort of anting-anting (amulet) because he was able to travel quickly from one spot to another and he eluded their capture for a long time. No, he didn't have magic; he simply had memorized the 1400 underground caves of Bohol and used them to travel from one spot to another.

Now that's something you don't learn from the classroom.


Bohol Escapade 2013 Part 1 - Dao Diamond Hotel

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Entrance to Dao Diamond
I'm back! I was delayed in writing this post because, well, life got in the way. First, Happy New Year! I hope you had a scrumptious New Year feast. May 2014 be an even better for us all :)

Last December, I went to Bohol for four days and three nights. This was my second time to visit the place; the first time was in college, when I was chosen to be part of a conference that took place in Bohol. This time, I went with my family and every day was a new adventure for me, especially since the earthquake has ravaged much of the beautiful structures I saw during my first visit. Note: All photos are non-edited, and are taken using my phone S3's camera.

The living room, and behind that is Chico Cafe.
There were six of us in the group, with three adults and three senior citizens (my dad, and my grandparents). While we were on a budget, comfort was still paramount for our trip. After months of searching, my sister and I, who paid for all our accommodations, finally settled on Dao Diamond Hotel. Dao Diamond is a very charming, quaint, and comfortable hotel near the airport that was just bang for the buck. If I will visit the countryside of Bohol again, I will definitely stay there.

Dao Diamond was very affordable, about P1650 per two adults in their standard room. They also offer a twenty percent discount for senior citizens in the room. They have various room sizes on offer, so you can stay in one room if you're a family or a group friends. We opted to stay in separate rooms because it was cheaper when we computed it, compared to their family room. Take note: A non-refundable deposit is required to confirm your reservation, but the deposit will be part of your total room rate already.

Another sala set right inside the entrance.
Dao Diamond has its very own Chico Cafe restaurant, which was very handy because the hotel is situated a bit far from the town proper; it's near by car, but not on foot. Thankfully, the food was very affordable. We gained so much weight in Bohol because the food was so cheap, we thought the dishes were good for one person only, but they are actually good for two to three persons. Chico Cafe's food was very tasty; they tasted like home-cooked meals. The whole hotel definitely felt like your home away from home, from the friendly staff to the very comfortable sofas. I actually spent a couple of hours one night curled up in one as I checked my emails...using their unlimited free WiFi! They have a lot of routers all over the place, but the signal is not very strong when inside our room. The strongest connection I had was while I was in the living room in the lobby. Even in Chico Cafe, I only had one to two bars, but it was enough anyway to surf and update my Instagram, lol.

Towels, shampoo, and soap are provided.
Another thing that sets Dao Diamond apart is that they have a lot of deaf employees. If you know how to use sign language, good for you! But for us, we had to communicate by pen and paper. If we had a request that we really had to communicate by voice, we just talked to the front desk, and they are the ones who communicated with the deaf employee. While some may complain that it's 'hard', it wasn't, actually as they understood us most of the time. We just put our hands together as if in prayer and bowed our head to say thank you. It wasn't the right sign, as I later learned, but they are so used to us non-sign language practitioners that they already understood it. And they are so good at anticipating our needs! As soon as you sit down, they'll bring you the menu. After you order, they'll already provide you with water. Sometimes the utensils were provided, sometimes we just got them from the utensils tray at the front of the cafe. I'm not sure if they were mute as well since they didn't speak verbally, but the quiet service was to my liking! Don't you just hate it when you're trying to relax and the servers themselves are so unprofessionally noisy? Since part of my goal was to relax, I definitely achieved that during my stay.

Dresser with glasses.
We were all given rooms on the first floor, as per my sister's request to the staff, so that our grandparents won't have a hard time going to their room. Our rooms were all beside each other. The only downside is that the walls are a little thin. For loud televisions, it wasn't a problem; but for hell-raising cries of a child, it is definitely a detriment. One night, a child was crying in the stairs in the middle of the night, and a lot of people in the first floor woke up and complained. Also, if there are noisy people in the corridor, you will definitely hear it, but since almost all the guests were out and about in Bohol, and we were hardly in the room, we didn't mind it at all. There are no sound buzzers in the room, only light buzzers that will go on and off, signalling there's someone at the door, which is great for minimizing the sound, but bad if you're not facing the door, and based on my experience, if the person inside is asleep. However, they do have extra keys to let you inside your room if you're locked out.

For a standard room, it was very spacious. And despite the affordable price of the rooms, unlike other cheap hotels, the beds were very comfortable. We all had a good night's sleep, refreshed for the next day during our vacation. However, they only provide one pillow for the bed, so if you're the type who sleeps hugging a pillow, you have to bring a substitute plushy since I'm not sure if they provide pillows upon request.

TV with small cabinet
Our room also had a veranda, but we didn't use it. We also didn't use the air con in the room overnight! It was really cold in Bohol last December, so we turned the air con off when we slept, with only the electric fan turned on.

I think the TV has cable, but since my sister and I didn't even watch, I can't be sure. There were several hangers provided. I didn't like that the cabinet was open for everyone to see inside, but I didn't lose anything during my stay. There's also a safety deposit box, which we also didn't use because it was too small for our tablets.

The rooms are CLEAN. And I mean clean. There's a pull-out bed under my sister's bed, and even that was clean. The bathroom was also clean, even the walls are scrubbed. I know how this is a pet peeve for some people (i.e. Faye, who brings her cleaning tools when she goes to a hostel or something), and my sister is one of them, so having a clean bathroom was also on top of our list of requirements. You know how some cheap hotels makes you feel like you have to wear slippers all the time, even in the bathroom? I think it was one of the few times I didn't mind bathing bare-footed. There was also tissue provided, but no toothbrush or toothpaste. They provided shampoo and conditioner, but we didn't use them; I brought my own, packed in 100ml containers, of course.

The shower has a hot water dial as needed, so we were able to take warm baths even at night. It was just another one of those things I appreciated in Dao Diamond.

Dao Diamond also offers free shuttle transfers to and from the airport. If there are other guests who will arrive or leave the same time as you do, then you will all ride in one shuttle. The hotel also has a P15/ride shuttle service to the town proper. There are three scheduled transfers you can choose from, and you will just text the hotel or the driver himself if you want to be picked up. You will pay the P15 fee at the hotel counter for this ride. We used the service on our third night since my sister and I wanted to ride this non-mechanical bull at Dao Diamond's sister restaurant in the town proper, named Garden Cafe. Like Dao Diamond, Garden Cafe is very quaint. It seems to be popular since the place was packed when we went there for lunch and dinner.

Dao Diamond also has a free swimming pool, but there are no lifeguards. There are two pools; one for adults and one for kids. There is a shower in the pool area, but it can only fit one per person. You have to wear swimming attire. I brought the towel they provided to the pool area since there are no towels in the pool area. You can also eat around the pool area, as there are tables and chairs provided. There is always staff there anyway, and you just ask for the menu and order from them. If you're a guest in the hotel, you can just charge the food to your room. They also have a fish spa for P50 only, but my mom said she got itchy afterwards although the spa felt wonderful to her tired feet.

Tips for travelers:
  1. For travelers to Bohol who don't speak Bisaya, don't fret. They speak English well, and are conversant in Filipino too. 
  2. Their tricycle ride only costs P8, although a special trip can cost up to P30, or P10 per person. We paid all our rides P10/person, and the drivers were very grateful. It was just another P2 anyway. The tryk drivers are well aware of Dao Diamond, too.
  3. There might be an R signal atop your signal in your phone if you're a Sun Cellular. Don't fret; that just means that your mobile is hitching on the Smart network available.
  4. If you're going to get a henna tattoo, make sure it's dry before you go to bed. If you stain the sheets, it will cost you.

Dao Diamond was a very good choice for us. Almost all the staff were very friendly (there was one front desk personnel who wasn't as friendly as the others) and they were polite. The front desk is not open 24/7, but there was a man who stays in the lobby overnight, I think, maybe for emergencies. I know this by experience because I went to the front desk at around 2 in the morning to request for water, and he was the one who got me water from the pantry. The hotel is family-friendly, and they make it easy for handicapped guests. The only downside was that we were far from Panglao, so we only went there once. From our hotel to Panglao, if you don't have a car/friend, and you will have to hire a shuttle, the cost is P500 per one way trip (or take a jeepney ride if you're not in a hurry). But for countryside tours, or just touring around town, Dao Diamond was just perfect.

Full Disclosure: We paid for our meals. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions here are my own based on my experiences during our stay there.

Dao Diamond Hotel
Km. 3, Dao District,
Tagbilaran City, Bohol
Landline: +6338 4115568 | +6338 5108251 | +6338 5018890 | +6338 4115568
Fax: +6338 4115568
Mobile: +63917 3062946 (Globe)
Dao Diamond Hotel website
Dao Diamond Hotel Facebook page
Dao Diamond Hotel Twitter account