The second part of my solo travel brought me to the amazing Negros Oriental Island. As early as now, let me tell you: this post is a long read, as there are a lot to share and I really stayed here for couple of days to feel the local vibe and see what this laidback and heartwarming place has to offer. It was a smart move, and I never regret the decision as I was able to relax and enjoyed the experience, not feeling rushed jumping from one itinerary to another. I have searched and read couple of travel blogs and was able to narrow down several top destinations that you might be interested in exploring. Again, this is not a detailed travel guide but I hope you’ll pick up some insights if you’re planning to visit Negros Oriental.
Twin Lakes (Lake Balinsasayaw and Danao)
Coming from Cebu, I boarded a ferry and arrived at Dumaguete after 30 minutes. It was already dark when I reached the city so I decided to rest early for a full-packed itinerary the following day.
First on my list is Twin Lakes. This popular tourist spot is situated in the City of Sibulan, couple of kilometers away from Dumaguete. The commute involves riding a motorcycle ride atop the mountain and a hike through dense forest. The place is so quiet that the only sound you will hear are the chirping of the birds. I immediately felt peace. Even during the hike, I was calm and never felt tired. The atmosphere is so relaxing and it was somehow chilly because of the trees surrounding the place. The view of the lake is so breathtaking and prepare to feel its tranquility. If you want to start your day right and imbibe serenity, I suggest do the tour in the morning. It would also give you the chance to meditate and enjoy the silence of the place.
I rented a boat to reach the view deck which separates the lake. This will give you a better look of the Lake Danao which is relatively smaller than Balinsasayao. The boatman will also be the tour guide and will give you facts about the place and details of the vast species in the area. The cost of the boat is Php 150 (if I remember it correctly), good for an hour ride and stay at the deck.
Another area you could explore if you are up for a swim is the Olayan Falls. It is a three tiered small falls which you could dip and cliff jump. It was offered to me but I intentionally didn’t go as there are other spots on my list and getting wet is not part of my plan.
Casaroro Falls, Pulang Bato Falls, Red Rock Hot spring
Next stop is visiting the famous Casaroro Falls. I rode a jeep and alighted to Valencia public market where I was greeted by a number of pedicab drivers offering a tour. There is an option for a habal-habal ride, but I opted for a pedicab ride since the sun light is at it’s peak and I want to be comfortable as there are couple of destinations ahead.
Remember on the first part of this post that I did a research for this trip? Well, let’s say that it wasn’t thorough enough as I wasn’t aware what is waiting for me just to see this majestic falls.
You know how it’s in life that, good things come to those who really work hard for it? It also applies in trekking to Casaroro Falls. This beauty is not easy to reach. First, you have to take 357 steps down, do the Math of doing it back and forth. Because I was so clueless with a pinch of stupidity, I have to do it twice. The reason why will not be shared on this post because it’s too embarrassing. 😀 All I can say is, it was worth my two days work out with the amount of sweat I produced.
Second, you have to endure 20-30 minutes of trek through a muddy and rugged terrain scattered with boulders of every shape and size all the way to the falls. This time, I really don’t have a choice but to get wet as I need to cross water and embody Lara Croft in climbing and crossing the boulders. So, if you are planning to see Casaroro Falls, wear proper footwear to avoid slipping or falling on your back. I was wearing a running shoes and actually tried to cross on foot. Not it only slowed me down but also is quite unsafe. You will also have to think how to safely cross the boulders and strategically map your way to the falls. Most importantly, be mentally and physically prepared as your lungs will scream and your legs will hurt.
But, at the end of it all awaits the stunning and heart-stopping falls. I felt instantly relieved and accomplished seeing the view and I was really glad that I didn’t backed out. There is a different kind of self-fulfillment and an overwhelming feeling of liberty this experience has given me. It was a pat on the back experience, a concrete proof that I can do something alone and that I can over come a challenge. It was a good feeling that will always stay with me.
On to the next destination: Pulang Bato Falls. Getting to this second falls is fairly easy compared to Casaroro and will only require you few steps to see the red-orange rock formation surrounding the falls. Its beauty is priceless and is equally stunning. The gushing and clear water is so inviting that you will think of ending your tour with a dip on it. There is also another falls alongside but without the reddish rock formation. The water here is also fresh and they had built a pool for tourists wanting to swim.
The last destination for the day is the Red Rock hot spring. It’s only a few minutes from Pulangbato falls so it wasn’t a long wait to finally dip in this therapeutic spring. It’s almost sunset when I reached the place and it was full of both local and tourists. The pool is surrounded by small cottages where you can rent and put your belongings.
I stayed on the spring until early evening and was so happy I did since stars are visible in the sky. I was so tired and didn’t bother taking photos of the place. The hot water relaxed my whole body including my heart. I was so contented and realized how amazing the day went.
One word stood out when I was trying to describe my experience on this trip – EXHILARATING. Snorkeling and chasing sea turtles are definitely for the books.
I paid a visit to Harold’s Mansion hotel which is a popular choice for budget traveler as they offer affordable dorm-style accommodations and booked my Apo Island Tour. I was so excited and I tried to contain my emotions and get ready for the tour. The call time was early as the island is located at the southern part of Negros. There was a 45 minute drive until we reach Dauin. The moment I saw the shore, the excitement started to build up again.
Harrold’s had put us in a big boat as we are joining scuba divers and other tourists. They provided breakfast and lunch during the trip, as well as snorkeling gears. I was impressed how organized the trip was from start to the end and worth mentioning how accommodating the staffs are in making sure that we have a pleasant tour.
On this tour, I’ve met fun people who made this trip more amazing. Sheila is working on the same company I was before I moved to Dubai, so we instantly made a connection and became the snorkeling buddy. I was able to be the fifth wheel (not complaining because I never felt out of place, anyway) to two couples – Minio and Me-Ann and Gani and Billy. These two couples adopted me and allowed me to join them on their next destination. How cool is that, right?
There are three stations where you can snorkel and a designated guide will lead you to where the sea turtles are. I was so impressed with our tour guide as he’s so funny and good at taking photos and videos. Mostly the photos below are his shots.
The tour lasted from more than half of the day including the travel time. Overall, it was an awesome experience which I highly recommend. There is a surreal feeling of being underwater and swim with the turtles; see beautiful patchwork of corals brimming with charming sea creatures that makes you feel calm and exhilarated at the same time. You will feel amazed knowing that nature had provided us so much and deep appreciation should be given. It was another tick off the bucket list moment for me.
Manjuyod Sandbar (Man-hu-yod)
Popularly dubbed as “Maldives of the Philippines” definitely lived up to its name. The unspoiled white sand bar stretching to 7km offers solace and undoubtedly beautiful oceanic view. There are native wooden houses built on stilts – and which, during high tide, appears to be floating on the water. These cottages could be rented for overnight stays and can be booked at the Bais City Tourism Office.
It was a bummer for our group (as I fondly called Manjuyod Crew) since it was raining hard before we even left Bais but still decided to continue with our journey. Our boatman made sure that it’s safe to navigate the strong waves and heavy rain. Definitely not our day, but we are still glad we made it to the sand bar when it’s still low tide. We actually tried looking for dolphins as this came with the package we paid for but unfortunately and obviously due to bad weather, we didn’t find any.
We stayed on the sand bar for couple of hours and decided to explore the long stretch of sand instead. We also got to buy fresh coconut and sea urchins through locals selling it on the area and indulged on the sumptuous lunch prepared by our boatman (we went to the public market before leaving Bais to buy our lunch).
Though we can’t really control the nature, it’s still best to enjoy what the moment has to offer. We didn’t let a bad situation hinder us from enjoying the trip and I didn’t want it any other way. I was so stoked to have shared these moments to the Manjuyod crew.
Side Trips and Food
As I have explored Dumaguete by foot on couple of hours wandering, I’ve came across some hot spots you may want to include in your itinerary:
Rizal Boulevard – It’s a long stretch of waterfront which can be very busy at night. Food stalls, restaurants, night clubs, hotels and cheap accommodation are amongst the establishment on this area. It is a popular hang out to everyone which is very inviting even for solo traveler like myself.
Silliman University – I was able to see this highly regarded University on two occasions: one fine evening as I was looking for a place to eat and second before I leave Dumaguete. Unfortunately on both, I wasn’t able to explore what’s inside. I’ve read that it houses an anthropology museum. With minimum fee, tourists can see remnants of ancient Filipino culture. The University exudes elegance and beauty even at night.
Dumaguete Public Market – I enjoyed strolling here as I felt being a local just for a brief period of time. I saw how diligent people tried to make a living and the wide array of merchandise they offer. I also love the Painitan section where I bought the budbud with sikwate that Lola served in one of my morning walk here.
Florentina Homes (The Oasis) – Okay, so this is not a tourist spot but a luxurious hotel in Dumaguete. But I’ll include this here because I was able to book a session for an hour of Prana Vashya yoga with teacher Rica. So if you are planning to try out a different kind of yoga, this is worth a try. You can visit their FB page here https://www.facebook.com/SamaSamaYoga/
Now let’s talk about FOOD!
FoodNet – This place is the bomb! It offers affordable and delicious meals and mostly because they sell Lechon. I was really famished after my Casaroro Trip so finding this place was a eureka moment for me.
Chibog – You can have a taste of what local inasal tastes like here. I was on my way out of Dumaguete in Hubbard street when I saw this cheap eatery. You will not regret dining here as the food is great with a nice interior.
Sansrival Bistro – The trip to Dumaguete will not be complete if you will not drop by here. Local and tourists flock here to dine, day in and day out. I was able to taste and bring home the famous sans rival and have the opportunity to eat a healthy sandwhich here. But unfortunately, I wasn’ t able to take a photo, next time maybe.
Chantilly Cake House – If you are looking for a dainty and very instagrammable place to chill out, this one fits it all. I had their special halo-halo one night on my way to Gabby’s.
Where I stayed
I chose to stay at Gabby’s Bed and Breakfast since I like how artsy and relaxing the place is. And it really disappoint. The whole area was so cozy and perfect place to chill after your long day of being out. I would like to commend also the staff for being accommodating and kind. It is located inside a subdivision and I was able to squeeze in running in the morning Dumaguete is truly the City of Gentle people.
So there you have it, my super long narrative of Negos Oriental trip. If you are looking for a relaxed city with very kind people, will offer you different kinds of activities suit for everyone, and is very affordable, this is the place to be.