We had a nice meal at our friends, Catherine and LiZhen this evening. Their daughter, AiRan really hit it off with JD and they played together for hours (and she donated a boxful of toys to him too). JD also loved their piano. He sang the song he imagined he was playing and, whilst the notes weren't right, the timing was and he was in his own musical world!
With the May Day weekend holiday upon us, Jiajia and I left for a few days in TengChong yesterday, a town near the border with Myanmar (Burma). It's an 11-hour journey there by bus, though we broke up the trip with a night in BaoShan on the way.
TengChong is famous for its volcanoes, its picturesque "old town" and as the site of one of the bloodiest WWII battles between the Chinese and the Japanese. It has a lovely set of five ornate gates [see top photo] in the town centre, each in a different style. And there are still many traditional old buildings in the town - though some of which are on their last legs [see photo above].
Our friends CAL (Catherine, husband Liu Zhen, daughter Ai Ran) arrive by car tomorrow. We last spent time with them in the Philippines. Ava used the free afternoon to shop, including this hand-made bamboo farmer's hat. As we walked down the street with our hats on, one passing Chinese man mumbled, "These crazy foreigners have no idea!" to which Jiajia replied, in the local dialect, "Careful who you call a foreigner" at which the man went bright red and scuttled off!
Still awfully stiff from sunburn and with nose-bleeds (Ava) and ringing eardrums (me) from the scuba diving yesterday, we decided to take it a little easier today and visited Cebu's very own "Crocolandia".
This place apparently started as a sanctuary for abused crocs, then added some snakes, an iguana, a few parrots and... well, before they knew it they became a small zoo with a very odd selection of animals. We seemed to be the only visitors there and it made for a pleasant hour's wander.
Snorkelling is great fun, but scuba diving is something else. You're not just looking down on the fish, you are moving amongst them or looking up at them. It's also more intense (you only have about 30 minutes of air) and more dangerous (you need a guide and you can't simply stand up if any equipment malfunctions!). It was actually 15 years ago here in Cebu that I qualified as an "Advanced Open Water Diver", so it was nice to return and dive here again.
Ava had only done one shallow dive in China before, but after a quick briefing, she bravely sank down 15m (50ft) with me and our two dive guides. We saw lots of sealife - starfish, seahorses, puffer fish, clown fish, parrot fish, green beltfish, lionfish and a majestic shoal of metre-long silver dolphin-fish swimming slowly in circles above us. We'd both like to do more diving in future holidays.
A mixed day today. Jiajia and I enjoyed another day of hopping between islands and snorkelling - if you hold a little bread under the water all manner of fish swim up quite boldly to have a bite to eat. One large fish took this too literally however, and bit the end of my finger. Blood everywhere!
However, on our return to the hotel, Jiajia and I realised we had been under the strong sun a little bit too long. We both had bad sunburn and struggled to walk to our favourite restaurant! But worse was to come. No sooner had we tucked into a fried vegetable dish than we both started to feel very dizzy. I nearly passed out and Ava said the room felt like it was spinning. After five minutes we recovered enough to leave and stagger back to our hotel room. We were told later that the local dish contains a bean which, if not cooked properly, can be quite toxic. Hmmm...!
An early start today for a 6.00am pick-up to Bohol Island. What we weren't told is that, at that time in the morning, the tide is out and we had to wade through deep mud to get to our boat! The boat trip took 2½ hours and we were met by a mini-bus to take us to the main sights of Bohol. Tarsiers [photo left] are the smallest primate in the world and indigenous to Bohol. I could easily hold 2-3 in one hand. Nocturnal creatures by habit, we were lucky enough to see a few with their big eyes wide open. Very cute.
The other famous sight on Bohol Island is the "Chocolate Hills" [photo below] - over 1000 strange bumps stretching as far the eye can see. The odd name comes from the fact that they turn chocolate brown in the dry season.
Jiajia and I are sharing our holiday trip with "CAL" a Kunming family we know well [above]. "Catherine" speaks very good English and gave a speech at our Chinese wedding. Her husband, Liu Zhen, is a kindly man with more English than he lets on. This is his first visit to another country. And their daughter, Ai Ran, is full of fun. It's her first new country too. We spent today island-hopping together, which involves skimming between small islands on a hired outrigger boat and snorkelling whenever we see some fish or coral in the clear seas below. Great fun.
Our hotel is located on a small island called "Lapu-Lapu" (a double anagram of someone's name!) which is a part of the Cebu island group. We took a trip around the mainland today to see the sights. Cebu's 300-year old San Pedro Fort housed a bizarre collection of "baby Jesus" statues, including this one of him balancing on a rock, grabbing a plane (which seems like the ending to the "King Kong" movie to me). We drove on to the huge 16th century Santa Nino Church, busy with worshippers despite today being a Wednesday.
We ended the trip up at the top of a mountain viewpoint. We could feel the temperature drop as we were driven up to the peak. And from the top we could just about make out our hotel in the far distance.
After a first night in a grotty hotel near the airport, we moved on today to our main hotel, which is lovely. The view from the rooftop swimming pool is amazing [see photo]. There isn't much of a beach, but it does have access to a flotilla of small boats which we intend to use during our week here for some island-hopping, snorkelling and scuba diving.
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