I have not posted one of these JBRs that are all the rage on some other TA fora so please bear with me.
On a Monday evening my friend and I departed Manila's Pier 4 (although it had been advertised as Pier 15) on travel.2go.com.ph/Schedules/schedules.asp ferry St Leo The Great, formerly SuperFerry 21.
I had been unable to print my eticket so I had to wait for 20 minutes while the male staff member called the passenger service line. Eventually I collected the eticket; sinc eport and other taxes are included, I proceeded to the wharf and then climbed on the transfer bus which took us a short distance to MV St Leo the Great.
Boarding would be very difficult for the disabled, as it is achieved by one of two parallel ramps that are at what appears to be about a 67 degree angle: very steep. The steel stairs had grabrails. A porter had taken our luggage: we later paid him P50.
The suite to which we were alloted was one of about seven spread over two levels. We had a 'captain's eye view' of the sea from the suite, which had been recentely refurbished in dry dock and had two comfortable single beds, a bedside table, lamps stupidly positioned where one could bump one's head along with two rather garish yellowy lounge chairs and a small table. There was also individually controlled aircon while the bathroom's shower was also fully tiled and worked acceptably.
The ferry departed 12 seconds early and was soon 'steaming' in Manila Bay with many of the 1147 passengers (onloy 140 of whom would leave us in Iloilo, the first port of call, as the vast majority were headed for Bacolod.
At 1830 hours our complimentary meal (chicken and chopsuey vegetables) was served in the nicely furnished Horizon Cafe. While we were eating, a massive line of 2go passengers formed in a hallway with the 2go staff handing out those passengers' included meal.
In the mid afternoon next day we arrived at Iloilo more than two hours late. many containers were unloaded or loaded by forklift. This too more than the alloted time but once having 'set sail', we made up some across the Guimaras strait, arriving at 1935 hours.
Once in Bacolod, we gave our bags to a porter while we were hanging around the mini-restaurants. However, the porter did not emerge for another 25 minutes. We then quickly hired a taxi for a high P250 and arrived at Westpwn Hotel, Mandalagan, a fast developing area of restaurants: I have reviewed this hotel on TA:
After a quick trip to the 50 metre away SM City Bacolod with its twin pedestrian bridges linking the north and south wings, we slept.
Next morning we consumed our pre-bought yoghurt and then got a metered taxi to South Bus Terminal from where we selected our bus, which would take five hours to get to Sipalay.
The Ceres buses to Sipalay operate on a half hourly schedule which is most convenient. The fare to Sipalay was a very reasonable P183 each way, with the price, day and date hole punched by the bus conductor who seem to stand all day. Inspectors often board and scrutinise
We waited all of two minutes before the bus departed - we had seats, thankfully - and we were soon motoring alongside typical rural Negros Occidental scenery: sugarcane dominates but bananas, the occasional mango plantation and a few vegetables were also in evidence.
The sunny weather in Bacolod turned temporarily sour so when we alighted from the Montilla bus stop, it had been raining for a while. An efficient, perhaps 'vulture like' tricycle driver immediately approached us as the bus conductor retrieved our luggage from the back - it had had water dripping on it).
The trike driver charged :P100. Having gone two thirds of the distance, a wooden planked bridge with many incomplete planks means no private cars can venture across. At the end of the tricycle ride, we placed our luggage in a small bangka (boat) and experienced three young boys (pone of whom volunteered that he was 11 years old) punt us across the river. The fare was P5 each but we gave more.
In rain, we then walked along Sugar Beach, a lovely wide expanse of golden sand. Sulu Sunset Beach Resort was a five hundred metre plus walk to, but once inside its grounds with the dining area and individual cottages one soon forgot any difficulties in reaching it:
Sugar Beach's sand is fine to walk on. The view from Sugar Rocks clifftop bar is also great.
The day after checking in we enjoyed a five day bangka hired trip with the usual two boatmen. The cost was P1100 if arranged through Yogi at Sulu Sunset: P300 for the first hour; P200 for each remaining hour.
Our boat visited the stunningly beautiful Campomanes Bay with its curved white sand beach and about four resorts catering mainly to divers. We had lunch at Nataasan Resort: lovely chicken in a bucket. This was after attempting some snorkelling in the Bay. There was plenty of coral but not many fish.
I then enjoyed a pizza for dinner from Sulu Sunset Resort while the next day was occupied with an early morning walk though the village behind the resorts and a climb up a hill (which owner Yogi of Sulu Sunset said meant that I took a wrong turn) to find two sheltered coves with coral.
A couple of days later, we checjked out, teaming up briefly with a Scottish but now Australian man and his friend, motoring up the river to the gent's rent a car.
He kindly dropped us off at a bus stop two kilometres on the Baciolod side of Silay City. At 1005, the 1000 Sipalay - Bacolod bus promptly appeared: we secured our seats and later while at Kabanakan City's bus terminal, we purchased lunch and patronised the pay toilets (the latter being P3 each, change being doled out by a middle aged lady.
The bus trip has some hilly seaside running in the first couple of hours. The bus stopped at many places but maintained its staffs' attention to detail as the bus eventually arrived Bacolod at 1457, three minutes early.
On the Friday afternoon, Bacolod's Check Inn only had P1200 business deluxe rooms so we paid P1500 instead for accommodation at sister hotel to the other Westown, Westown Hotel in San Juan (this can be called 'Centro' or downtown:
There was plenty of time to shop at nearby SM City Bacolod.
On the Saturday, a very kind friend picked us up; we visited Bacolod's Cathedral, the Pro-Cathedral of Silay City along with great Hofilena Heritage House and Balay Negrense.
It was then time for our PR (PAL) flight back to Manila.
Negros Occidental's white sand beaches make a visit south on the road to Sipalay worthwhile. The relative lack of traffic (although Bacolod can be very busy) is another bonus.
In time, I may post some photos while some of my TA reviews have yet to appear but should soon do so.Edited: 11:00 pm, March 16, 2013