|There's no place to island hop like the Philippines|
Negros is just one of many islands in the Philippines where I wish I had more time to spend. But with a strict time budget and the after-shakes that continued a long way around I decided to head towards north, but not without experiencing Dumaguete, Sipalay and Sugar Beach first (and the MassKara festival in Bacolod, but that comes later).
Dumaguete is one of the most laid-back cities I've ventured to. It's mostly a student city, and the student influence definitely sets the friendly and modern feel. It has cool cafes and bars, nice open green garden areas and plenty of shopping malls despite the relatively small size. It's cheap to get around and people are much like most of the Philippines, friendly and honest.
I stayed in Harold's place, a big hostel with a rooftop restaurant that displays a magnificent view over the whole city and misty mountains in the background. Diving is incredible in the Philippines and most of the people I met at Harold's had signed up for diving trips at Apo Island via the diving shop just next door. Now there's something to consider!
|Sipalay beach at sunset|
Sipalay and Sugar Beach
I randomly read about the city of Sipalay and Sugar Beach in the bible(Lonely Planet, if you missed that reference). The bible brags about how amazing Sugar Beach is, so I decided to take the incredible coast journey, five hours by bus. It really is a brilliant way to travel as you get to see fishing villages and sleepy small coastal towns on the way, needless to say the gorgeous blue ocean. Sipalay itself can barely be called a city. The city center is surprisingly small, and the beach is just 100 meters away from where the bus drops. At this time I was traveling with a woman from Manila. It was a relief to have someone with me who could speak Tagalog. Even though Filipinos learn English in school and it is an official language, many people I met, don't speak English often, and from time to time communication isn't great.
|Where's the sugar?!|
We had booked beds in "Driftwood Village"on Sugar Beach, described in the bible as a delicious white sand beach. In truth the sand is dark brown. When we were there a typhoon had hit recently and the beach was covered in a thick layer of driftwood of all sizes. The Swiss owner was drunk the whole time we were there. When his super sweet Filipina wife was working her ass off trying to clear the beach of driftwood and cleaning the "village", he was drinking with his buddies.
Even though the service from the Filipina girls was fantastic and the huts were really nice, everything costs at "Driftwood Village". Even a bookswap or refilling a bottle of water is overpriced. They also offer a boat service from the beach in Sipalay to Sugar Beach for 300 pesos one way. If you're by yourself it's better to pay about 100 for a tricycle to the river and then 20 for a small boat that takes you across to Sugar Beach.
Mostly because of the dark brown beach and muddy water, Sugar Beach was disappointing. If you're looking for a really quiet place though, it's a good place to go. But I would choose another one of the three resorts in the area. The Swiss guy got out of his hiding place once, to organise a boat trip in the area. Or actually I think we kind of crashed a Filipino family's snorkling excursion as we stopped mid-water and let them sprawl around for a bit. (Now that's the stuff comedy is made from..! )That trip took us to where the picture of the tiny little island with the tiny little house is from! After paying a surprisingly large bill at Sugar Beach, we were off to Bacolod, the "City of smiles".
Up next: the MassKara festival!