On my recent visit to Bohol in the Philippines, the Chocolate Hills in Carmen were high on both my friend and I’s lists. No, I didn’t want to go because I have a sweet tooth! The Chocolate Hills actually do not produce any chocolate despite their name. This grassy series of hills get their name because during dry season (February-March) they turn from green to a roasted brown. The reason for the formation of these hills hasn’t really been confirmed. A theory is that they formed overtime due to rainwater, erosion and an uplift of coral deposits. The local story is that they were formed from the tears of a heartbroken giant. The mystery of how and why they were formed is what makes them so intriguing.
We arrived back in Loboc via bus from the Tarsier Sanctuary and were on the hunt for the bus to take us to Carmen. Locals always seemed eager to tell you where you need to go or be in the Philippines. So we waited on the side of the road as instructed by a traffic controller, and sure enough, a yellow bus headed to Carmen appeared. This bus was packed! We hopped on and found a spot standing in the very narrow aisle holding on for dear life as the driver drove incredibly fast up a winding road. I wondered how my weak little arms would last for almost an hour long ride like this. Thankfully, a lady was getting off and the women beside her patted her hand on the empty seat as if to say “sit with me”. I took a seat and enjoyed the fresh air coming through the window.
After about an hour, the driver abruptly stopped and we headed off the bus paying our 40 pesos each. The access road led us to the ticket booth where we paid 50 pesos each to enter and started to walk to the viewpoint. “Warning: Abrupt Climb Ahead” a sign read, making me wonder if we should’ve taken one of the locals up on their offers for a motorbike ride to the top. However, their “abrupt climb” was just a windy hill and before we knew it we were at the entrance to the viewpoint. We handed our ticket to the ticket man and started our ascend up a few dozen steep stairs to the lookout. I have realized after traveling to Asia three times that anything that is worth seeing is up many stairs to get there.
When we got to the top, our hearts sank. Carmen, the area the hills are in, had just experienced a rainfall and the aftermath was a low hanging fog that was directly over the Chocolate Hills (see photograph above). The disappointment of feeling like we just traveled so far to get here, to see nothing was hanging like a black cloud over my head. I was even thinking that I would include this in a post of the most disappointing things I’ve seen on my travels, like a sunrise that was too foggy over the Ganges in India and the tourist trap sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I snapped some pictures anyway in hopes that I could somehow work some Photoshop magic when I got home.
As I stood there, staring at fog, I wondered how long we should wait to see if it would clear off. Was that just wishful thinking? Sure enough, about 10-15 minutes passed and Mother Nature must’ve owed us some sort of favour. The fog burned off and uncovered the majestic Chocolate Hills!
After admiring the view, we headed back down the stairs and stopped in their little restaurant to grab some ube flavoured ice cream. Ube is essentially purple yam and used in many different things in the Philippines. It was pretty pricey (50 pesos – the same price as the entrance fee to the hills) but given that it was in the middle of a major tourist spot, that’s not that surprising.
Back down the hill we went, past some souvenir shops selling the usual crappy magnets and key chains, and back to our bus stop (aka the side of the road). Thankfully the bus was quick to get there, and less busy so we actually got seats for the hour long ride. The bus dropped us right in front of the Nut Huts access road where we were staying so the bus ride cost us slightly less then the way there – 30 pesos. In total, the whole excursion cost me 170 pesos which is the equivalent to $3.50 USD.
I’m so happy that we got to experience the Chocolate Hills and Mother Nature worked in our favour. This was on my must-do list while visiting the Philippines and who knows if I would’ve had the chance to see it again in my lifetime.
Thanks nature for saving the day 🙂