• Anna

Philippines, Leyte & Samar Islands

Currently we are sitting put in Banaue beside one of the biggest rice terraces of the world. The tropical storm Nalgae or locally known as Paeng has caught up to us and we are staying at a lovely family owned hotel and wait out the storm. Now we got time to write about the islands of Leyte and Samar.


Prologue


14th of September 2022, we just came back from Manila. We traveled 3 weeks together with our friends from Switzerland, Luca and Nicole. We had a beautiful vacation together and it motivated us even more to explore the Philippines.


We had to do some last preparations. I got a new suspension from YSS in the back, that would replace the springy original ones to help with the bumpy ride. We both also got extra front lights because it get's dark already at 6pm. Our standard lights from the motorcycle are a joke in the dark. We already know a place in Bacolod that has almost everything for motorcycles, NADS Project Racing. We also needed a check-up and oil change on the Honda XRM, and right where we live we have a good motorcycle mechanic. We told him it’s now time for our big trip, so he made sure our motorcycles are in perfect condition and he installed our lights.




We packed our things. Because of our first trip through Negros we already knew what we needed, and what we didn't. On our first trip we definitely brought too much.


On our first day we drove to San Carlos. We started riding around lunch time, and there were already some dark clouds ahead. We thought we could escape the rain, but we were in the middle of it. We had to change quickly into our rain gear. The route is actually a nice scenic mountain ride, but within seconds the road changed into a river. We stopped by the next restaurant and waited out the rain. We ate something and within an hour we hit the road again.


First day on the road and greeted with rain


We spent the night in San Carlos, the hotel is right next to the port. We got up early to catch the ferry to Cebu. The port is not very big, but we advise you to get there 2 hours before the ferry leaves. First we had to go to the coast guard for the exit clearance, then got the ferry ticket itself, after that we paid the environmental fee and as the final step, we paid the vehicle tax. These are 4 different buildings by the port, so you have to drive back and forth to get all the papers done. The security guard at the entrance to the port was very helpful and told us step for step where to go.

Finally, we were on the ferry. It takes 1 hour to go to Cebu.


On the ferry to Cebu


At 10 AM we arrived in Cebu and we made our way to Danao. We didn’t want to drive via Cebu City, so we chose another route. It’s not the main road, so I was worried a little bit. In Negros as soon as you leave the main road, you will drive off-road. But because it’s Cebu, I still had hope for a paved road. At the beginning we climbed a very steep mountain. Now it was time for my first gear to shine. Slowly we climb the mountain. There was almost no other traffic. Just some other motorcyclist that went full speed over the mountain. As soon as we reached the top, we were rewarded with a beautiful view. Slowly we were going down now through small towns. I’m surprised everything is paved. At some parts they were still working on the road. That meant we had a few 100 meters of unpaved road, but nothing as bad as we experienced in Negros.




The next day we took a ferry again, this time to Isabel, Leyte. Our hotel was near the port of Danao but as we found out later, our ferry to Leyte wasn't leaving from there! The friendly security guard told us just to follow the main road a few kilometers up north and look out for the sign of Aznar Shipping Corp. There is the other port where the RoRo ferry's were leaving for Leyte. The sign was huge, we couldn't miss it and went straight to the counter.


Now we could do all the paperwork at this counter by the entrance of the port. We got there early, so we got ourselves some breakfast and some lunch for on the ferry, this time it took 4 hours to get to the other side. On the boat we had a steel bench to sit on, not very comfortable. But there was a little kiosk where you could get cup noodle's and some snacks.




LEYTE


After 4 long hours we arrived in Isabel, Leyte. We immediately searched for a place to stay. The boat ride made us very tired, now we just wanted to relax for the rest of the day.

Now we slowly had enough of ferry's. We could finally drive our motorcycles and start making some kilometers. The owner from the hotel checked out our website and gave us some tips about the routes in the area. Because of him we didn’t drive on the main road, but took a side road instead. It was beautiful and we were again the only one's on the road. But it was just a short detour. Usually it’s nice to drive on the main road, because it’s always nicely paved. But here there were a lot of trucks you had to overtake and really a lot of dogs on the road. We couldn't really enjoy the scenery, because we had to focus on the road all the time.




We spent the night in Baybay City and had the worst night so far. Something was dripping on our roof and it was soo loud and inconsistent, we almost went crazy! Not even earplugs helped because the room was so quiet you could still hear the damn drops... after not much sleep we continued to Padre Burgos. Here we stayed the weekend. The resort was slightly above our budget with 1800 peso a night. But they have a house reef where you can snorkel, so that made up for it. Kim was fighting an infection on his finger with an ingrowth nail. It was really painful. But he still went snorkeling.


While snorkeling we saw a lot of different fish, a barracuda and sea turtles. After snorkeling I had a sunburn on my legs, even though I used a lot of sunblock! Never underestimate the sun here in the tropics! The town was small and empty. Every restaurant or bar on Google Maps didn't exist anymore. We noticed a lot of destruction all around. Later the owner of our resort told us the last Typhoon destroyed everything. The resort we're staying at the moment just had walls left, everything else was gone with with storm. That's why the town was still recovering from this event.




After the nice weekend Kim's finger almost fully recovered and we drove along the coast to Liloan. Actually they have nice beaches here too and you could go out snorkeling, but we had really bad weather with strong winds. So we decided to head up north to Tacloban, which is around 185 km along the east coast. Usually we do around 100 km a day, so we had a long day ahead of us. After 75 km we stopped to have lunch and found out we forgot our local phone in the last hotel (used for Hotspot since we both don't have dual SIM). Kim placed it behind the curtains by the window last night, because there was the only place we could get a connection.


Kim suggested I should drive further to Tacloban, to the hotel, it should be no problem to go without navigation. It was all straight and signs should appear when I get closer to Tacloban. Kim raced all the way back to get the phone. So the next 100 km I was driving alone. I’m happy that this happened now, and not on our last trip before. Now I know that the Filipinos are always very helpful and friendly. So if I get lost, I can always ask for help. I make one stop at 7-eleven and after 2 hours I arrive in Tacloban. This city is bigger than I expected, and I only know the name of the hotel and that it’s close to the Robinsons Mall. I had really no idea where to go. After driving around for a bit, I see a RedDoorz sign. This is a hotel chain you have in every city, and they always advertise that they have free Wi-Fi. I asked there for the Wi-Fi password, and checked on Google Maps where I am. The hotel was just 5 minutes away from here, so I wasn’t too far off.


I checked in the hotel, took a shower and half an hour later Kim arrives already, with the phone! Before we ate dinner at Robinsons Mall we visited the General MacArthur Landing Memorial, this is where General MacArthur landed on his return to the Philippines during World War 2 to help liberate the Philippines from the Japanese. After dinner we went straight to bed. This was a long day. Especially for Kim, who was 5 hours on the saddle.




SAMAR


The next day we left Leyte and entered Samar Island. These two islands are connected by a super modern bridge. In Samar we left the main road and headed east along the coastline, where we experienced the worst roads yet, we are constantly dodging potholes. Here the roads had absolutely zero maintenance.


Even though the roads were bad, we had nice views


We were trying to get some lunch, but there was absolutely nothing. Normally you find nice good eatery's also known as Turo Turo's (Translated: Point Point) with pre cooked local menu's which you can "point" on to have with rice. But here they only had very few food stalls with some pre cooked food but nowhere to sit, people just buy their food here to take home.


There are some big expensive resorts along the road and in one of those we ate our most expensive Silog (Silog is short for "sinangag at itlog", garlic fried rice and egg, typical Filipino breakfast). 170 peso, normally this costs around 70/80 peso.


Hotsilog (Silog with Hotdog)


On Google Maps we saw a cheap homestay, in the reviews it says someone paid 400 peso for one night. We checked the room, it was a bit smelly. The bathroom had no sink and the toilet was very basic (just the bowl with no seat and a bucket to flush) and the shower had no water pressure (no water coming out in the morning). It wasn't the worst room we ever stayed at but the owner charged us 1200 peso for this. We knew this was a rip-off, but it was either this, or sleep at the expensive resort for 2500p.

The owner allowed us to park our bikes inside the gates considering the limited space, which was very nice and gave us some restaurant tips from the little town. He was very friendly and we had a nice chit chat for a bit.




We were going to Guiuan, and wanted to stay there for 3 nights. 5 minutes before we arrived it started pouring rain. In Guiuan we asked three different hotels for their rates and the last one, was also the cheapest. For 900 peso a night we got 2 beds (one double and one single), a nice bathroom, a TV and good Wi-Fi! Now we really felt ripped off last night. The next day we wanted to explore a cave. But the rocks were very sharp and it looked kind a sketchy, so we turned around and just explored the area a bit. There was a cute beach where many people go to surf. We watched them surf for a bit and went back when the clouds started darkening again. It was raining everyday now, so we were happy that we booked for three days.




We drove up to Borangan to stay one night there. We booked ahead via Booking.com by a RedDoorz but the company has already left 2 years ago, and took everything with them. The resort still exists, but its super run down. This is already the second time that the property does not work with RedDoorz anymore. We even already paid via Booking.com and you can also still book this on the RedDoorz website! After messaging Booking.com and with some emailing back and forth, it looked like we’re not gonna get our money back, since RedDoorz already confirmed our booking. BIG SCAM. When we got back from dinner we were even locked out of our own room. The lock was so rusty, the key didn’t even get in. Kim got out WD40 from my motorbike, but even that didn’t help. After trying for a long time, Kim decided to try the old credit card trick, and that worked. It was so easy to get in like that, that scared us a bit. (We tried it on many doors since then and all of them opened with ease...)


We drove across Samar island to Catbaloganand and then to Calbayong. We drove every day in the rain. This island was getting a bit boring and with the bad weather we didn't feel like doing or seeing anything. Now we just wanted to go to Luzon as fast as possible. The next few days looked a bit the same. We drove 100 km, searched for a hotel to stay, chilled the afternoon and waited for rain to stop, quickly headed out for dinner and then went to bed. I was hoping to ride in the sun again soon.


All around Leyte & Samar they have very interesting "Tricycles". They look like big Tuk-tuks, but have a whole motorcycle inside of it. Also the seating in the back is like inside a Jeepney. We really like this design and think it's very beneficial and more comfortable than the classic side car Tricycle.



The drive to Allen was in the rain in again. Allen is the port where the RoRo ferry leaves to Luzon. We wanted to stay the night here and go the next morning on the ferry. We went to every hotel in the city, but every hotel was asking 1200p minimum for a really dirty, stinky, small room. We almost couldn’t believe it! Every town had a reasonable room for a decent price so far, we never experienced something like that before. Even the rip-off homestay we had, was a better deal than those rooms there!


We really didn’t want to stay in a room like this and pay so much, so we headed to the port to asked what time the next ferry goes. It was around 1 PM and between 2 and 3 PM the ferry should depart. Perfect! We got some lunch at the port and waited. And we waited, and waited, and waited... It was a very hot afternoon. We were still soaked from the rain, and now we’re soaked again from our own sweat. I had to use the bathroom, but it was so disgusting that I decided to hold it until we are on the ferry. We waited until 5 PM, then we could finally go to the dock. But there we had to wait another hour in front of the ferry until 6! At least we had some entertainment from the kids diving off the boat.




The sun was setting and it already got dark. Luckily the ferry was big with a little bar with food and it had super clean toilets. When we got on, there was also one other guy on a motorcycle a nice Kawasaki Ninja 250. He comes over to us. He also rides the same route as us and even is from Bacolod too! When he told us he is half Dutch, we couldn’t believe it, what a coincidence. We shared our stories, and it was very nice to talk with someone who experienced the same things as us. He also gave us tips from other motorcycle tours he already did in the Philippines. We talked for 2 hours straight and arrived in Luzon. Our new friend Brian was on a tight schedule, since he had to go back to Australia for work. And hit the road again after the ferry arrived. We were tired from waiting and avoid driving in the dark and searched for a hotel in Matnog. We got a nice big and clean room right at the port and figured it was worth the long wait for the ferry.




Here our route, 15 days and roughly round 1300km.



Stay tuned for our Luzon adventure!



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