Is it possible to find quiet in the Philippines?

This past weekend Simon and I ventured back to Puerto Galera on Mindoro, an island to the south of Luzon (the island Manila is on).  We first visited Puerto Galera in our second month here – at the start of February 2013.  Whilst there we’d taken a walk up behind Sabang town and had ended up in the Coco Beach resort. It was a bewitching place – huts made out of bamboo and reeds scattered up the coconut-tree laden hillside, with a tremendous bit of beach and sea out to the front of it.  The friends we were with at the time had previously stayed at Coco Beach and had nothing bad to say about the place.

Photo of bamboo hut at Coco Beach resort
View of another room, from the balcony of our room

Photo of beach off Coco Beach resort
View of the beach from our room

We wanted to try to make the most of ‘summer’ (March – May) here in the Philippines, so we decided to give Coco Beach a try.  As well as looking like a lovely place to stay, they also provide a transfer from Manila to the resort via a minibus and boat which makes it an attractive option – no need to figure out the public transport system (even though we had done it before).

A slight downside was that we needed to be at The Diamond Hotel in Malate (about 15 minutes to the North West of where we live) for 6:35am.  This meant leaving at 6am to make sure we made it in time (allowing for finding a taxi and any traffic).  That meant a 5:30am start.  A 5:30am start on a weekend isn’t good for anyone, but it really isn’t good for Mr H.  He is grumpy personified when he has to get up so early.  But, the transfer left on time and there was space enough in the minibus to catch up on some sleep.

By 10:15am we had arrived at the resort and were sipping on a glass of freshly extracted buko (young coconut) juice, staring out over the crystal clear, blue waters of the sea in front of the resort.  Another big plus was that our room was ready for us so we could check straight in.

There is limited electricity (there were numerous power cuts during the evening we were there), no hot water, no phones in the room and a string on the balcony that you pull for room service.  This string is connected to a bell on a nearby house where your ‘service family’ lives.  Your service family looks after your room (does the laundry, cleaning, gardening etc.), and they look after you during your stay.  Anything you need, you just pull the string and they’ll be there shortly to help.  It’s a wonderful, efficient system which provides lodging and an income to local families.  And on top of that our family was so lovely and friendly (not that we needed them very much – we only called on them once to hang our hammock on our balcony for us).

After an early lunch (Eliza’s surprise salad & coconut chicken) we hired a boat to take us to Long Beach (500 pesos for a return trip) and then another one to take us to 2 snorkelling sites – one near some mangroves and another with some giant clam shells (300 pesos per person for this boat).  I have never seen so many fish in my life.  The boatmen throw bread into the water and hundreds of fish appear to eat the bread.  I don’t know whether this is a good idea or not, but it does mean you get to see a lot of fish!  We didn’t quite manage to see the clam shells – I think they are easier to spot if you scuba dive.  At that point we both started getting a bit itchy so got out of the water and back onto the boat.  The sun had gone away at this point, so the water wasn’t the brilliant-swimming-pool-blue that it had been, but it’s still such a treat to be able to enjoy these experiences so easily from Manila.

Photo of the blue sea off Mindoro
Swimming-pool blue water

We made it back to Coco Beach in time for Happy Hour (4-5pm).  We headed up to the ‘Silent Pool’ where they had a bar and promptly ordered a cocktail each.  The barman didn’t hold back on the alcohol so it seemed like a good idea to get another one.  Lying by the pool, drinking cocktails as the sun goes down… what a life.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the title of this post.

Oh yes, dinner.  We opted to join the ‘Clambake’ party on the beach.  Tables set out on the beach, with the waves gently lapping onto the sand.  Except you couldn’t really enjoy that because they had a live band over dinner.  And not just a live band, but an extremely loud live band.  Doing lousy covers.  And then there was the ‘entertainment’.  The Coco Kids and Coco mamas.  There were about 5 dance performances from these groups.  And then the limbo with a twist – as you limbo under the bamboo you have to try and catch a shot of tequila in your mouth.  Not very glamorous.

But what really got to me was the fact that the music carried on… and on… you could hear it from our room until after midnight.  It wasn’t really what I was expecting when I arrived at this beautiful resort.  I would much rather have listened to the sea and to the sounds of the forest rather than some sub-standard cover band.

Photo of a Coco Beach deluxe room balcony
View out to the balcony, with the hammock

Would I go back to Coco Beach or recommend it to my friends?  I probably would, but probably not on a Saturday night (party night).  I’d also say that you should be prepared for a hot night’s sleep – there are fans in the room, but if you use your mosquito net, the fan doesn’t really reach you.  The cold shower wasn’t really a problem at all – in fact the water was never really cold.  The breakfast buffet has a great choice, but the omelettes that the resort raves about are pretty average, and very greasy.  The bread is good though, as is the fruit.

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