I wasn’t a Bohol first-timer when I flew over a few weeks ago, so I was really OK with just a relaxing trip with no real agenda.
There are two kinds of vacations. The first has a chockful of activity, in which one gets to experience every delicacy of the region and see every single tourist attraction. In the second kind, one moves about in a leisurely pace, not worrying about what to see next or rushing off to follow an itinerary.
The second option was more up my alley for this particular trip. The Peacock Garden, a luxury boutique hotel and spa located in Baclayon, a mere 20 minutes from the airport, was the perfect backdrop for a snail’s pace holiday.
One may argue that it is not a beach-front resort, but this family-run hotel has a lot going for it. First, it’s very private. Set atop a hill, it has a magnificent view of the water and is far away from tourist-heavy Panglao. Incidentally, Panglao is only 30 minutes away, so day trips to Alona Beach are possible through the resort’s private shuttle.
Second, staying at The Peacock Garden feels like you’re vacationing in an extension of someone’s very nice home, because owners Hans and Lani Schoof were very hands-on and fixed the whole place themselves.
All over the hotel, you will see pieces from their private collection, and as they are very big on history and on José Rizal, you will be able to appreciate the pieces they have accumulated through the years.
The hotel’s name itself was chosen to impart its East-meets-West theme, seen in the very Filipino hospitality mixed with its distinctly European interiors. The peacock has long been a symbol of beauty, wealth and elegance, and all of these are seen throughout the property.
For gym rats, don’t expect much of the small fitness center, but if you really need to get some cardio in, you will definitely love the semi-Olympic-size infinity pool that graces the garden. The property is also quite big, so you can go for a quick jog within the resort’s gates.
There are two things that really stand out in this hotel. The first is the food. Usually, I expect decent food when visiting an upscale hotel, but The Peacock Garden’s Old Heidelberg restaurant exceeded all my expectations of a hotel dining hall. Its German executive chef whips up authentic German meals that are full of flavor and are definitely filling. I recommend that you share a dish with someone if you don’t have a big appetite.
Expect sausages with potatoes and sauerkraut, veal cheeks, beef stroganoff and daily specials concocted with whatever ingredients are available that day. Meals are all utterly delicious, and very reasonably priced. A cheese platter good for 6-8 people will only set you back about P800, and most mains are priced at around P600.
They also have their own wine cellar and, with no exaggeration whatsoever, I would say this is possibly one of the best places to wine and dine when in Bohol.
The other thing that stands out is Fontana Aurelia Spa. The name means “golden fountain,” and its German translation is goldenner brunnen, which was the name of a spa opened by Schoof’s grandfather in Germany in the early 1900s. It uses all-natural products by luxury brand Pevonia Botanica and is no less than a Conde Nast-recommended spa!
It was raining for most of my stay in Bohol, so I took it as the perfect opportunity to spend hours in the lovely spa being pampered. When I went for my day of relaxation, my treatments started with the Silky Skin body scrub. Unlike other scrubs I have tried in the past, this one did not aggravate my skin. It was gentle and not abrasive at all.
Next came the Red Wine Soak, which was a surprise to me as I had never tried a treatment like this before. The therapist poured an entire bottle of red wine into a tub of warm water and I was asked to step in and soak in it for about 30 minutes. It is said to act as an antioxidant and the addition of essential oils soothes and decongests skin.
The Flora Body Wrap which followed was a delightful mix of moisturizing creams and oils that felt warm upon application and ended with me being wrapped in a cozy cocoon, which made me fall asleep. The three-hour spa session ended with a Balancing Massage, a mix of reflexology and deep-tissue techniques that melted my cares away.
I spent the rest of my time buying a few requisite pasalubong from the go-to souvenir shop, and chasing dolphins at the crack of dawn. I did a quick detour to Pamilacan Island, which is about an hour by boat from Baclayon, just to relax and get some beach time. An afternoon was spent at Alona Beach and that concluded my short but very sweet holiday.
Bohol is one of those places that’s developed enough to have all the comforts one needs, such as nice resorts and good restaurants, but is still relatively quiet compared to its other beach holiday counterparts. I will definitely be back for another slice of the laid-back life, and, of course, a bite of the delicious German food at The Peacock Garden.
For reservations at The Peacock Garden, visit www.the
peacockgarden.com; e-mail relax
@thepeacockgarden.com; tel. +63 38 5399231.