Editors letter - Escape to Cebu/Moalboal Beach Resort
We’ve all heard of the transparent waters, never-ending blue skies, white sandy beaches and scorching temperatures that give the Southeast Asian islands their famous reputation. The Philippines was our choice of destination, but more specifically, a part of the Philippines that was relatively untouched by the swarms of annual tourists – Cebu. If you plan your trip well ahead in advance, flights direct from Shanghai to Cebu city would cost you about ¥1600 return, even less if you keep up to date with Cebu pacific airlines homepage, where they frequently offer really affordable promo deals. Of course, we did not plan in advance.
A month beforehand we booked flights from Chinese airliner China Southern, which enabled us to fly from Shanghai-Guangzhou-Manila for €270. Then we separately booked an AirAsia Zest flight for €37 from Manila to Cebu return. The journey and airports themselves were not much trouble at all, but a word of warning: If you decide to book connecting flights which are not part of the ORIGINAL airfare, you need to know the airport that you are arriving into like the back of your hand i.e. how long from the gate to baggage reclaim; do you need to transfer terminals and how long will this take; is there appropriate transport to get you from a to b. What we would recommend is to make sure you are fully checked-in before all flights so that way the airlines at least know that you plan to be on the plane and worst case scenario you arrive 15-20 minutes before your flight, you will still be able to board because the carrier have you submitted in their flight log already, which is what the 45 minutes pre-departure rig-a-ma-role is all about.
The end of our daylong travel was nearly completed as we arrived into Cebu’s Mactan airport. After collecting our bags we approached the local tourist stand, as it looked like all the laowai were doing, and proceeded to ask questions about our resort. Now we had a fair idea about how to get there and how long it would take, but hey, a local’s opinion never hurt. So you can imagine, upon hearing that our resort apparently did not exist and that we had been scammed, that we were quite upset considering we thought the final journey was upon us. This is where we learned the first of two very important lessons when travelling to the Philippines: Just because a local tells you something is the way it is does not necessarily mean that they are right and you are not. After a very upsetting few hours on the suburbs of the airport, our resort manager and owner finally got in contact with us, the man who would shape the rest of the trip - Nick! A quick phone call to Jackie Chan, our taxi driver from the airport who suspiciously offered to drive us to Moalboal (our resort 2 hours south of Cebu city) for a very reasonable fee, a very delicious double cheeseburger from the golden arches and we were on our way. It was half way through the journey that the second lesson really kicked in.
Philippine people are literally the nicest people on the planet, and all they want to do is actually help you.
The road to our resort must have been a dirt-bike riders dream, with look-a-like jumps and half-pipes frequented along the way. However, a phrase I love to use absolutely applies in this scenario: all good things come to those who wait. It was nightfall when we arrived, but even then we could tell that the resort was a little special. The moon and stars were out, something our China residing readers might not be accustomed to, and they glistened beautifully across the most amazing lake, which, was our view from our suite every morning (Tip: We went early February, sunrise is about 5:30 – get up for it, trust me, it will be one of those rare things you remember forever!)
The resort is called Moalboal Beach Resort and the manager is called Nick. He has a beautiful little girl who is full of energy and great fun, a set of staff who would give the Ritz Carlton in New York a run for their money, and owner of a beautiful resort where privacy is the underlying feature. We had breakfast at the resort everyday and it was absolutely delicious. They have an American, Intercontinental, and a Filipino styled breakfast. We tried all but absolutely loved the American. For travellers who have some flexibility in their budget, we would recommend a breakfast, it’s a great start to the day.
As all guys know, the downside of travelling with a girl to amazing destinations is the inevitable visits to beaches where the day will be well spent, according to them. So it was in line with this that we sought out one of the most stunning beaches in the area that we were staying. As if Nick’s resort couldn’t get better, he also offers discounted scooters for travellers to commute easily around the area, which believe me, really made all the difference to our holiday.
The white sandy beach, being the original name, is simply a 10-minute bike ride from the resort and when we went it was virtually empty. We had the guts of a 4km beach all to ourselves – blue sky, crystal clear water, 37 degrees celcius and what must be the Philippines version of Hoegaarden’s Grand Cru beer, Red Horse. Clocking in at 7.9% alcohol, €1 for a liter of this beer is an amazing deal – the challenge is to stay sober for the day!
At the beginning, we usually ate lunch at a nice resort beside the beach, as it was very convenient. The resort is called Club Serena and we found staff were very helpful and friendly. However, we found that prices were increased from what we seen at Nick’s and other resorts, so beware.
Most of our days were spent lazing about beaches or scooting around on our little Ferrari, but at nighttime, we often trekked into a nearby town called Panagsama. Here you can find a string of bars and restaurants which gives a vague Tenerife or Malaga feel about it, but was never too crowded when we were there. We tried a lot of the restaurants in the town, however, our favorite was undoubtedly a place called The Chili Bar. Here you could get an amazingly tasting Margherita pizza for €3.80 along with all your standard drinks and the South Asian themed buckets (Tip: Avoid the cocktails here, we spent a small fortune just attempting to find a decently made one, not possible). Good vibe in the bar, especially around the weekend. Great place for everyone, couples, friends and we even seen the local foreigners just chilling there everyday.
There were a few days where the clouds were out in their numbers, forcing us to avoid the beach. On the flipside, Nick’s resort is by the far the best office to have in the world. We had wireless 4G, coffees within 5 minutes, and a beautiful hut for two ideally placed on the edge of the resort, which overlooked the whole lake. Who needs a city office when your office view gives you sunrises, sunsets and a horizon as far as the eye can see. Now, by the same token, don’t be expecting to upload huge documents or HD photos to a website. The Internet is of course restrictive. The same goes for anyone wanting to stream anything. Our argument is, in a place as beautiful as Moalboal, the Internet should be the last priority on your mind.
Toward the end of the trip we stumbled upon a 5-star diving resort called Dolphin Resort. A beautiful oasis-like pool and lounge area situated in the center of the resort, the Dolphin Resort is located in the same vicinity as the rest of the resorts in Moalboal, however, the Dolphin Resort really shows its elite factor via the long-winding road that takes you from the main road into the cavern of their resort. It offers all the amenities that you can imagine a 5-star resort would – relaxing spas, a Dolphin-owned diving center, fully catered restaurant, unlimited amount of fresh towels by the pool, and a raised cliff which partners up with the restaurant to offer tables that overlook the sun setting over an adjacent Negros island. The resort manager, a very friendly woman, was kind enough to let us spend our days lazing around by the pool where we ate lunch and devoured their amazing fruit smoothies. All this being said, the Dolphin Resort does come with a hefty price tag. At a basic rate of 5,200PHP (€110) a night for two, this resort is not for the budget travellers among us. As well as this, there was a family atmosphere that surrounded the resort. This was not the case at Nick’s Moalboal Beach Resort, actually quite the opposite. One night we came home from dinner at Panagsama to find some Korean friends that we had made earlier that day were well on their way to a fun filled night in the restaurant. Armed with numerous bottles of Soju (a bottle of a very tasting Korean liqueur) and a bottle of Tequila from yours truly, lead to a very very enjoyable adventure.
Nick’s place is absolutely ideal for those who want an out of the way private resort, seeking peace and serenity by day and open to a few drinks at night. Nick himself said he often promotes the resort as a destination for young travellers and after spending 10 days with him, I could not agree more. German born, Nick now resides in Moalboal, Philippines, where he runs his Moalboal Beach Resort among other things. Nick knows the ins and the outs of mostly everything and is always nearby to assist with a troubling matter. To be honest, being someone who has travelled all over the world from a young age, I have very rarely come across a host like Nick who was so warming in all capacities.
In the Moalboal town itself, services and amenities are quite limited. What comes to mind immediately is the Internationl ATM machine. Basically, there is one ATM that foreigners and Filipinos use to withdraw money, located at the local pharmacy. The ATM is restocked everyday at about 4PM so the queues from 4pm after are insane. I didn’t have my phone with me on this specific day, but the queue must have been at least 350metres long. It is a little amusing to see everyone rush in to the town around 4pm. I remember the first day we noticed all the foreigners from the resort mass exiting on tricycle tuk-tuks. When I arrived into town later and seen all of them, I remember smiling wryly. You can pick up loaded SIM cards in the town also. We didn’t need any minutes or texts and just opted for a data package for emails and social apps etc. For a week of unlimited 3G data it cost us 300PHP (€6.3), which did the job for us. Signal is sporadic over the island but there is nothing you can do about that, just be aware. A 7/11 is also located in the town, which is great for international items like drinks and food. Slightly more pricier than Filipino counterparts, but a cooled bottle of water from 7/11 will always trump over a cheaper luke warm bottle of the same water from a Filipino store. Along the Saveedra (the road to our resort) and Panagsama roads, small stores are located in the form of small wooden sheds. These are worth their weight in gold, especially when you are not prepared to travel all the way into the town, which can be a solid 25 minute bike ride, for some basic materials or a nice cold beer.
Overall, our Filipino experience was an amazing one. We travelled to Cebu specifically with the concept of peace, quiet and a break from the busy life that Shanghai holds for it’s residents. Cebu did not disappoint. With it’s amazing beaches, very inexpensive bottles of beer, extremely friendly resort managers, and the occasional drunken night in Panagsama. We were a couple going to Cebu and it was ideally suited for us, however, I see absolutely no reason at all why a group of young 20’s can’t blow off some steam by partying it up in Moalboal for 10 days. As for resorts, well for us, its Nick’s or nothing.
- King bed @ Moalboal Beach Resort = €58 per night (Depends on AirBnB prices)
- 100cc scooter from Nick’s resort = 300PHP/day
- 1L of Gasoline = 45-60PHP
- Bottle of Coke = 10PHP
- 1L Red Horse = 70-80PHP
- 1 week unlimited data SIM card = 300PHP
- Fruit smoothies = 120PHP
- Taxi from CEBU-Moalboal = from 2000PHP
- Breakfast at Moalboal Beach resort = 120PHP
- Grilled sandwich @ Club Serena = 80PHP
- Average meal (1person) @ Panagsama = 300PHP
- Discover Scuba Diving (most basic dive) @ Panagsama = 3000PHP
- ATM Max withdrawal at Moalboal = 10,000PHP per transaction
- Tuk-tuk taxis = 150PHP if ordered through resort; 250+PHP if ordered on your own
Contact Nick at Airbnb here