I am back in Dumaguete, arriving at 3:15pm via Philippine Airlines flight PR 293 from Manila. I have always told friends that I see Dumaguete as a smaller but better version of Phuket.
Dumaguete is an old town filled with young people. It is the home of Silliman University, one of the better universities in the country, and is is the region’s education capital. You can see the student population zooming past you in their motorbikes. Yes, Dumaguete is motorbikes country. If only I knew how to ride motorbikes myself….
I took a taxi from the airport, paying a flat rate of P150 to my hotel, La Residencia, one of three nice hotels in the prime tourist district known as the Boulevard. A hotel pick up would have cost me double but the friendly guy at the airport’s Tourism desk advised me to take a taxi instead. I actually liked the feel of La Residencia versus the antiseptic Bethel Guest House. Maybe because I know that the latter used to be a hospital.
Old-world charm at Rm 203, better than Bethel House or Honeycomb
The Boulevard defines this city. Hotels, bars and restaurants all facing the bay, with huge, centuries old acacia trees dotting the park at the edge of the water. In the afternoons, the boulevard is host to students out on a date, to families, and to visitors soaking in the feel of the city. At the far end of the boulevard is a cluster of umbrellas with tiny monobloc chairs and tables where one can sit and order from several stalls a choice of snacks. I ordered 5 pcs of squid balls, 2 baluts, and a bottle of Coke, all for P63. The friendly vendor who goes by the nickname Bata even gave me a swig of alcohol after I dirtied my hands from opening the balut. Talk about good service.
The Boulevard at Night
In the evenings, the bars and restaurants come alive. Most if not all bars have outdoor seating, providing a nice holiday feel as you down your beers. There’s Coco Amigos, Happy Fred’s, Cafe Mamia’s, and a host of other restaurants serving Mediterranean, European, and Chinese Cuisine. There’s also a Shakey’s on the boulevard where I noticed that the crowd is essentially local.
The City Center
Dumaguete is a small big city. Most brands found in Manila are present in the many department stores, although there are no huge malls. The best city hotel is the new Hotel Nicanor, with rooms starting at P799, and a suite for 4 at P2,499.
Dumaguete as Base
Dumaguete is also the gateway to Siquijor. Ferries traverse the strait at least 4x during the day. Travel to Siquijor is one hour. Or one can also go to Sumilon Island, Apo Island, or even to Bais at the southern end of Cebu. That is if you ever feel like leaving Dumaguete at all.
Most Dumaguete hotels charge 30% extra during peak travel season. I have collected room tariff being charged at the moment, which is off-peak.
La Residencia Almar. Tel (035) 432 o888, 4220889, Mobile 09228217370. Standard room P1,325, de luxe P1,455, executive de luxe P1,720, executive suite P1,985, and family room P2,250. Room rates not inclusive of breakfast. Wakagi Japanese Restaurant, Don Atilano Steakhose, and a Filipino restaurant, all at the ground floor.
Bethel House. I stayed here on a previous trip, and it is still one of the better hotels. Others even say it is the best. Also on the boulevard.
Honeycomb Tourist Inn Tel (035)2251181, 4223184. Best value hotel on the boulevard. Rooms start at P800 single, P1,000 double. Double de luxe P1,200, Family de luxe 1,500. Breakfast included. I checked a de luxe room and found it to be clean and decent.
Hotel Nicanor, San Juan Street (city center, short walk to the boulevard). Tel (032)22633304225114 Mobile 0922 8894911. Rooms start at PP799 for single occupancy. Best room is Nicanor Suite, 4pax, at P2,499. Free internet connection in room. http://www.hotelnicanor.com