the people make the place

I like to think that this blog over the years has given off mainly positive, if sometimes slightly sarcastic, vibes. I haven’t gone out of my way to portray a vibe or a tone, though the one principle I do stick to is to make it as honest as I can. If something is great, then I’ll say so. Likewise if something is crap, disappointing or overrated, I’ll not be shy in telling a few home truths.

So the first part of this entry is for all those people that read this and enjoy hearing that travel isn’t as glamorous as I sometimes (often?) portray –

– Our hotel, the small nine bedroomed Cliffside Resort, kindly ‘upgraded’ us to a gem of a room that had a building site located a matter of feet away from our bed. Work, involving hammers, cement mixers and shouting tradesman started at 7am.

– The free automatic scooter on offer from Cliffside turned out to be a full driver license required manual geared racing motorbike. After all the resort was three kilometres away from civilisation, down the worst potholed, non tarmacked, loose stoned, dirt track of all time. A bike was a necessity. The need for a license a first in Asia.

– No internet for large periods of time. No big deal. No electricity for larger periods of time. Pretty big deal. No water for even larger periods of time. Very big deal. I got the shits meaning we couldn’t really leave the resort, no doubt due to the terrible sanitation caused through the resort because of this.

– The female staff seemed uninterested in anything other than flirting with the single French bloke that hung round the bar. Once they’d taken your order (after lingering over you whilst you decided, too much hassle to go away and come back, you know) they completely forgot about you. So that meant taking the dirty plates up to the staff yourself to avoid being eaten alive by the various flies / ants that littered the half a dozen tables. Oh, and want a second beverage to cool off from the lack of water / electricity powered fans ? You’ll have to go up yourself and interrupt the poor buggers from charging their mobile phones / hiding in the kitchen / watching the basketball on TV / trying to gobble off the French bloke.

We had arrived on such a high after a brilliant ferry crossing from Cebu. Our friendly tricycle driver located the resort straight away, this despite the rocky side road mentioned above. The resort was signposted every once in a while with great humour. One read ‘Paradise in 800m’ another said, ‘300m to go, we can here you already’ a third joked, ‘Almost there, we hope you are enjoying the road!’ before the last one commented, ‘Only 100m, your welcome drink awaits!’

I turned to Naomi and said ‘This place could be wicked, it should have some top staff!’

I had high hopes for Cliffside before reading this style of humour and was loving the place even more when I was handed a my welcome drink as promised as our bags were whisked off to the ‘upgraded’ room. With no warnings of potential issues with water, electricity (other than the broken air-con – overrated anyway just give me a fan) we sat down for a well earned sunset San Miguel, after our eight hour door-door journey from Moalboal over on Cebu.

The views were magnificent. As the name of the hotel suggested we were high up on a Cliffside overlooked the sea. The swimming pool, swim up bar and all, was perfect.

We were soon joined by the enigmatic leaseholder of the place, a typical sociable, confident, Australian chap called ‘Dutchy’ and were made to feel welcome by all. We discussed the recent earthquake that killed over 200 people on Bohol island, as well as the typhoon that whizzed through the island less than a fortnight previous. ‘The thatched roofs of the rooms were so close to being ripped off in the winds’, Dutchy told us….We’d also noticed a number of huge, loose white rocks down in the sea, just three feet to our left and down from the table we were chatting at. Dutchy laughed nervously, ‘Those were attached to the cliff when the quake struck, the restaurant and pool were a matter of feet from joining those rocks!’

Dutchy then said his goodbyes as me and Naomi discussed whether we should move table or not! The night was ended on a further high as we enjoyed a late night dip in the pool.

Even the noise of the generator outside the ‘upgraded’ room didn’t stop me from having a decent kip. What did wake us was the unmistakable noise of hammers, drills and cement mixers at some ungodly hour right beside the wall our bed was against. Still never mind, nothing a quick shower won’t fix. No water. I rushed outside to find out what was happening. All the staff, so attentive the previous night when Dutchy and the hotel day-to-day manager were around suddenly lost the ability to talk any English as I asked what was going on and whether there was complimentary bottled water due to the issues. Still never mind, nothing a quick motorbike ride to get some water won’t fix.

‘No motorbike, Sir, you need full license.’ That’s a first in Asia….

I asked again about the need for bottled water, again no reply. My patience was running thin. If you can understand and project the need for a full driving license, then what is so hard about understanding the need for water, arm actions portraying drinking and all?

About to strut off to find a scooter and some non rip-off water, I was stopped by the day-to-day manger (amiable enough but hardly ever around) He shouted in a panic that, ‘Water would be back on soon!’ When I asked when he looked blank. I asked about complimentary water again….you guessed it – blank looks. I nearly lost the plot, but convinced him to follow me to our building site of a room and he agreed to move us down to a quieter room. Thank god for that.

After getting that sorted I walked the few kilometres to nearby Alona beach and sorted a automatic scooter out for £5 a day. When I arrived back at the resort the electricity was off as well as the water. We opted to eat out, getting back on the scooter to Alona. The service was just as bad here. No water no electricity, just blank looks and crap, ‘I can’t be arsed’ service.

The pattern over the next three days continued. The service got worse, the power and water situation became even less stable. We became grumpier as I got the shits and Naomi partly broke her near £1,000 camera when we tried escaping on a scooter trip around Panglao and we got caught in a even bigger rainstorm than the one on Cebu.

I know what you are thinking. Poor service can happen anywhere in the world. But what disappointed me most about this lack of interest is it is so soon after the earthquake and typhoon hit. Surely this is the time to offer exceptional service? Now more than ever this is the time to communicate clearly any issues with basic amenities at the moment at check-in. An email assured me everything was ‘fine’ at the resort. A welcome drink with the leaseholder backed up that everything was running with no issues. Clearly this wasn’t going to be the case.

Take the hotel in Boracay. We arrived under the impression there would be zero power on the island and that our showers would actually be baths in the deep blue sea. Food would be restricted to fruit, bread and rice cooked on gas. Meat would be fish caught fresh that afternoon. When we arrived we were surprised to find generators working, producing electricity between set hours in the day and clear messages through the hotel telling us the set hours power would be off.

Our room in Moalboal at the Asian Belgian was rustic at best. It was hot and sticky, slightly run-down and the stained bed sheets were the kind you’d expect in a £4 a night hostel in Indonesia or India. None of this mattered though thanks to the warm, kind service offered by Monique and Roland that made our stay so welcoming.

There was none of that service on Panglao. Just regular, unscheduled blackouts for sometimes hours on end with no communication, candles or interest from the lazy staff. But perhaps what was most worrying was the lack of backup plan to provide hand gel in the absence of water. Even more worrying was it was often me, or one of the other guests having to point out to the staff that again the water supply had ceased. No wonder I got the shits, I cannot believe the chef or the staff were washing their hands with regularity – especially as they were often unaware of a water-outage. A few groups of people seemed to check out from Cliffside, including several Korean families that only lasted one night.

But just as disappointing was the last night when we came to settle up. For the first time in three days the miserable French loving female from behind reception welcomed us with a great big, false, ‘Evening Sir, Eveing Ma’am!’ as we walked to take photos of the sunset. She even offered us drinks (quite ironic given we’d often sat for hours on end and non been offered a drink for days, let alone been greeted so ‘warmly’) Strangely enough Dutchy was stood nearby for the first time in days…..

All the staff were busy working, all looking attentively for any basic requests such as ‘Can I have a drink / order some food / have the bill’. We’d seen none of this for days. As we settled up I was surrounded by as many as five staff, all having a cheeky look at how much cash I had in my wallet. Yet when Dutchy headed minutes later, moments before I was going to give him some feedback? You guessed it….back to basketball on TV, mobile phones and daydreams about the French bloke.

We didn’t get out to see the Chocolate Hills or the Tarsiers (little critters, housed only on Bohol) partly because of my dodgy belly and partly because of the inclement rainfall that kicked in most afternoons. After Naomi’s camera all but broke on the one main scooter ride on our penultimate day, we lost the ‘love’ for exploring this particular part of the world – not helped by the issues outlined above at both Cliffside and Alona Beach.

Luckily we had a nice final night in Manila to finish our Filipino adventure. Now you’ve heard of Ali V Frazier…..







1 Response to “the people make the place”

  1. November 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Quite an adventure! Well done on sticking with it and making it a memorable time for you both x x

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