Service with a Smile, or Not
Trip Start Nov 12, 2011
47Trip End Aug 18, 2012
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Where I stayed
Dive & Trek
Anilao is a small dive resort town located about 3 hours South of Manila. It is very popular with the office crowd in Manila and is very busy on the weekends, but the whole area empties out during the week. As such, we decided to take a nice little dive trip down to this small town during the middle of the week.
After some research on the internet and a quick consultation with the Lonely Planet we decided on Dive & Trek. The day before we were set to leave, I called Dive & Trek and asked about pricing and whether they could accommodate us. I also asked about paying by credit card. In most of Asia, businesses will charge an extra fee on top for the use of credit card, usually around 2-3%. Dive & Trek quoted a 6% surcharge, I said that was the highest I had ever heard of and that we would pay by cash instead on arrival. I then said that we planned to arrive the following afternoon.
The following day, Sukhia and I prepared to head from Manila to Anilao via cab, bus, jeepney, then tricycle. We looked into taking a car directly from Manila to the resort and were quoted prices from $150-200. Thus, it was going to be a big day. Upon climbing into our cab, we told our driver that we needed to go to the bus station to begin our journey south. Our cabbie was very friendly and began chitchatting with us. He then asked if we were willing to pay $75 for a ride the whole way. Remembering every previous occasion that I insisted we travel on the cheap and the lovely reactions I received from my adoring wife, 'we' agreed to splurge.
As we neared the dock where Dive & Trek was set to pick us up and ferry us to the resort I telephoned the manager who I had spoken with the day before. He immediately said, "Sir, you did not confirm your booking". I said that I had spoken to him yesterday and told him that we were coming this afternoon, he kept repeating, “You did not confirm. You complained about the credit card surcharge and did not confirm”. I told him, that yes, the credit card surcharge was high but that I had agreed to pay cash. The manager then said, “You Americans are all alike”. “I’m not an American.” “Whatever, you Europeans and Americans are all alike”. “I’m not European.” “Westerners are all the same, you always complain about everything. You make bookings and then never show up.” Awesome…
At this point, we are about 15 minutes from the dock and have driven all the way from Manila in a taxicab. It was a close call, but I decided that I did not want to turn around and head back to Manila. I asked if the resort could accommodate us or not and if he could give us directions to the dock (the cabbie had never been to Anilao before). He asked to speak to our driver and I could hear him yelling at our cabbie at full volume. Our cabbie eventually hung up and said that he knew where the dock was, but that the manager was very upset with us because we did not confirm our booking. I still have no idea what confirming one’s booking is after you speak with them twice on the telephone and tell them you will arrive at their resort tomorrow.
The boat picked us up from the dock shortly after our arrival and we were ushered to the beautiful resort. The resort can accommodate over 100 guests, but it turned out that we were the only guests staying there on this night. At first, I thought maybe the manager was upset because he had to staff the place just for us. However, after speaking to some of the staff, we learned that they stayed on at the restaurant whether there were guests or not because every weekend was packed and they always had day visitors during the week.
The following day, the manager arrived at the resort from Manila. He apologized for his behaviour and thanked me for my “good manners on the phone”. I still do not understand what the deal with the manager was.
Anyway, the resort was lovely and we had the place to ourselves to start. A father and teenage son from Texas, who were wonderful to chat with and get to know, then joined us at the resort. We did around 10 dives in Anilao and were not super impressed. We did find a blue ring octopus which was on our bucket list of things to see (it is a highly poisonous octopus that has a blue ring that glows when it is angry – that’s right you have to poke at it to see the blue ring).
So, beautiful setting, great food, company, and lots of diving. All of it, unfortunately, was a bit tainted by the first impression we had of being yelled at for trying to show up for our ‘unconfirmed’ booking.
Next stop – Manila
Our visit to Dive & Trek was a little tainted by this first unpleasant phone conversation but the food was very good, we had our first encounter with a blue-ringed octopus and when we were joined by Mark and Jacob from Texas, it made for some good chats and adventures. Sacha and I enjoyed witnessing this duo’s first breaths underwater, although they were swarmed by reef fish, who are obviously accustomed to being feed by divers and snorkelers, they looked like they had a great time. Sacha and I both commented on how well these two Texans did even as they were hungrily attacked by damsel and parrot fish.
The diving was very cold, I am use to 30 Celsius water but when the temperature dips to 26 Celsius it is a shock to the system and I was quick to pull on a hood. There was shore diving in front of the resort and we took advantage of exploring the underwater basilica and giant clams found in the house reef. One day of diving was spent on a bangka, these outrigger boats are very different from other boats in Asia, see attached photo. I find these bangkas to be very uncomfortable and poor dive boats but not having a lot of boat design skills I can’t say exactly why. It seems like the bangka has a shallow haul and that the outriggers or planks on each side running parallel give it stability but to me it just bounces around that much more and the planks are a hazard when getting in and out after a dive. But they look pretty!
Our favorite dive spot in Anilao was Secret Bay, we had our blue-ring octopus encounter here but another cool feature of this site is the underwater heat vents. You can spot these vents by the discoloration in the sand and tiny bubble slowly streaming up. But another good way of discovering the hotspots is to put your hand on the sand, with the 26 Celsius water I was quickly cuddling up to these vents. Apparently you can bring down an egg and place it on one of the hotspot and by the end of the dive you will have a hardboiled egg, just in time for lunch.