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I had seen what I wanted to see and learnt what I wanted to learn: Coron Town is not a GRANDPAcking Retirement location but GRANDPAckers can come here for a holiday and have lots of fun doing Coron on a GRANDPAcking Budget.
It was time to move on to my next destination: Tablas Island.
To get to Tablas, I needed to catch a ferry from Coron to Mindoro Island, cross Mindoro by bus and, then, catch another ferry to Tablas Island.
THE FERRY FROM CORON TOWN TO SAN JOSE, MINDORO:
There are several ferries that do this route; the price is PHP1000 one way.
Ferries leave on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. They normally leave from the main harbour (5kms out from town centre) at 8:00am – so you have to be there before 7:30am for embarkation.
I learnt the ‘hard way’ getting from El Nido to Coron, so the day before my departure, I went to my Coron ticketing agent and confirmed that the ferry was leaving the next morning. It was.
Unless you are staying at the main Ferry Terminal itself (but, why would you?), you will need to catch a Tribike from your hotel to the Terminal. The cost should be PHP10 per person plus PHP10 per suitcase or large backpack. It is only a 5-10 minute ride.
You wait in the Passenger Terminal for your departure to be called; you need to pay your Port Tax of PHP20 each before you embark; there is a kiosk where you make this payment. If you forget, don’t worry, you can sometimes pay at the gate as you go to your ferry.
We started boarding just before 8:00am and finally departed at 8:30am. It was exactly the same ferry that I caught from El Nido to Coron.
The seas were a bit ‘choppy’ until 11:00am with the odd 1 metre high wave.
Lessons Learnt: Always take your own snacks on these trips just in case you get hungry.
Otherwise, the trip was uneventful and we landed in San Jose, Mindoro at 1:45pm. They quote the trip as 8 hours… we made it in just over 5.
BUS FROM SAN JOSE TO ROXAS:
There is nothing endearing about San Jose, Mindoro Island.
I was not expecting to get to San Jose until 4-5pm. So, I was expecting to have to stay overnight. I had checked online for accommodation options but there were only 3 properties listed the cheapest was PHP750 / night for a ‘very small’ single room, the next was PHP1200 for something only slightly better – there was one more but it was out of GRANDPAcking price range. The first two had poor reviews.
I found another place searching online: the Jazmine Royale. Lonely Planet gives it good reviews and it was PHP750 / night for a ‘single’. I found their website and made an online booking for 2 nights – but I never got a reply.
Arriving at 1:45pm gave me a new option: go straight to Roxas.
I caught a Tribike to the Bus Terminal for PHP20. I was there by 2:10pm. there was a Minibus going to Roxas at 2:30. They leave hourly from 12:30pm to 5:30pm. The price was PHP250. Seat 3 (the best seat) was already occupied, so I grabbed seat 4.
The journey took 2.5 hours. The Minivan driver was kind enough to drop me off at the Ferry Terminal. I was there by 5:00pm.
OVERNIGHT IN ROXAS:
There are about 10 accommodation options at the Roxas Ferry Terminal.
All of the good ones were already full – not a surprise at 5:00pm. Most people catching a next-morning ferry had already gotten there by that time.
I found one OK looking place about 30 metres on the main road from the Terminal entrance. They wanted PHP1300 / night. A rip-off. I declined.
I just wanted a clean bed for the night. A local pointed at a Filipino Lodge (Lousette’s Lodge) across the road. I went there. It was PHP350 / night for a Fan Room with a Double bed and ensuite. The toilet was a ‘bucket flush’ but I don’t mind that. I took it.
Lessons Learnt: Always thoroughly check out a room before you agree to take it. No matter how tired you are after a long day travelling. Don’t stay at Lousette’s Lodge.
I unpacked my bags and went for a shower. There was no water.
It was now that I noticed that the sink had a tap but no other plumbing. I went to the owner and asked for water.
She mucked about a bit trying to get it going whilst I tested the water in my room.
Between the two of us we managed to get it going.
The problem was that their water cylinder had a bad leak… whilst I had my shower, it sprayed water down the staircase.
There was a Karaoke Bar across the road. I like my Karaoke. In the 15 months of travelling in South East Asia I had not done any Karaoke. In S.E.Asia they tend to have their Karaoke in ‘sleezy’ bars where you get your own private room. Many double up as brothels. I don’t like that. I like an open bar like we have in the west. This was the first open bar that I had found… I decided that it was Karaoke night!
I had a couple of beers and sang a few songs. You pay PHP5 for each song. I headed back to bed at 10:00pm.
My ‘hotel’ was only 20 metres from the Karaoke Bar. That may have been Ok if it wasn’t for the Pool Bar 10 metres away from my ‘hotel’ trying to play its music louder than the Karaoke Bar! This competition continued until midnight – when these 2 bars closed down.
Alas, about 20 metres in the other direction is another music bar. They played music until 3am. Needless to say I got very little sleep. I was up at 6am.
Lessons Learnt: I found out the next morning that this happens every night! I suggest that you either (1) find accommodation in Roxas Town and catch a Tribike to the Ferry Terminal in the morning or (2) pay a bit extra for one of the Ferry Terminal Hotels that are up the main road further away from the bars.
FERRY FROM ROXAS TO TABLAS ISLAND:
I had 2 Fried Eggs with Rice and a Black Coffee for breakfast in a local cafe (PHP55) and waited for the ticket office to open.
I paid my PHP15 Port Tax and we started embarking at 9:55am. By 10:15am we were underway.
They do not provide lunch on board – so bring your own water and snacks.
One of the boat boys had killed a wild boar near San Jose. The boat’s cook was cooking up the head for the crew’s lunch.
BUS TO ALCANTARA / MOTO TO AGLICAY RESORT:
Back in Roxas, and again on the boat, I asked a couple of locals where the best place to stay was on Tablas Island. They both said Alcantara. So, that was where I was going.
We landed at the Odiongan Ferry Terminal. There were Tribikes waiting. They wanted PHP50 to take me to the Bus Terminal. I played the game and said that this was too much (as a guideline, you can go 2km for PHP10 plus PHP10 for your suitcase or backpack).
Finally, a man agreed a price of PHP30 (which was about right). As we left the ferry Terminal, he had to pay PHP15 to the ‘Port Security Guard’; I felt a bit guilty (I did not know about this cost), so when I disembarked at the Bus Terminal, I gave him PHP40.
Lessons Learnt: Walk out of the ferry terminal gates to get a better price Tribike.
I was at the Bus Terminal by 3:15pm. The Jeepney to Alcantara left at 3:45pm. I didn’t know the price but I jumped on. In The Philippinnes, a Jeepney is the cheapest way to travel.
It took just over 1 hour to get to Alcantara Town. The ride was ‘bumpy’ and some parts of the road were in terrible condition. I arrived at 4:45pm.
I used my cellphone GPS to track where I was and got off in the middle of town where Google Maps showed a beach. The Jeepney charged PHP50.
I had no idea where I was going once I got there. But, I was there.
I walked 50 metres down to the waterfront. Oops. It was a bay but there was nowhere to stay. I kindly policeman stopped on his motorbike and asked if he could help. I said that I was looking for somewhere to stay on the beach. He advised me to go to ‘Aglicay’ and that I would need to catch a Tribike to get there.
I walked back to the main road to look for a Tribike. A Moto driver said that he would take me; he said that it was about 2kms. I jumped on the back holding my suitcase between he and I and off we went.
About 5kms and 15 minutes later driving down country lanes, we arrived at the AGLICAY BEACH RESORT. He ‘stung’ me PHP100 and I went to reception to find a room.
A single occupancy Moutainview room costs PHP800 / night (PHP1000 for 2 people); but all of the Mountainview rooms were full.
A single occupancy Beachfront room costs PHP1200 / night (PHP1400 for 2 people).
Again, I played the game… and told them that PHP1200 / night was too much for me and that I had come hoping to get a Mountainview room at PHP800… ‘How do I get back to Alcantara Town?’, I asked.
I looked ponderous and asked if I could see their PHP1200 / night room.
I asked if they could give me a discount if I booked 4 nights. She talked to her manager…
Yes, they could discount to PHP1000 but without aircon – they would put a fan in my room. Perfect! I prefer a fan anyway. Besides, on the Beachfront you just open your windows (they have mozzie screens on them) and get the sea breeze through your room – that’s much nicer than aircon!
It is a long trip – but, it looks like it is going to be worth it.
The long boat rides (like from Coron to San Jose) can be a bit of an ‘endurance test’ if you don’t approach them in the right way. You just need to relax. On these long boat trips, many people just lie down and sleep most of the way – there is usually plenty of space for everyone to do so.
You may spend more time sight-seeing in Mindoro Island but, if you go straight to Tablas Island, you will have to stay 1 night in Roxas.
Having said that, you can catch a night ferry / bus combo from Roxas to Iloilo City (south Panay) that leaves at 10:00pm (I am not sure which days of the week it goes).
It is immediately obvious that Tablas Island is where the Filipinos go for a holiday. I was the only foreigner on the boat to Odiongan. I saw one other foreigner as I made my way from the ferry terminal to Alcantara. At Aglicay, there was one other foreign couple and I; the rest were all Filipinos.
Meanwhile, I plan to enjoy Aglicay for a few days. Tomorrow I plan to go Around The Island By Scooter.
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