The island of Bohol in the Philippines may seem like the last place to find a replica of a Heidelberg brauhaus - much less a resort that looks to Germany and Rome for its style and service - but that's what you'll find in Baclayon town nonetheless.
The Peacock Garden is a 40-room boutique resort on a hilltop overlooking the Bohol Sea. The resort's appointments are miles beyond Bohol Island's usual accommodations in quality: the ultra-comfy king-size beds, Old World décor, and rich European menu see to that.
The resort's distance from Panglao's beaches (Alona Beach among them) is a definite downside, though.
But let's say relative remoteness from the rest of Bohol isn't a dealbreaker: what can you expect from a few nights' stay at the Peacock Garden Hotel?
Peacock Garden Resort Grounds
The Peacock Garden management offers a complimentary ride from the airport to their grounds. This is a necessity, not a perk, as the property is out of the way in most respects.
After a ten-minute drive down the main southern coast highway, the van turns onto a one-lane feeder road that climbs up a hill, then enters a gate into the ten-hectare, walled-off estate surrounding the Peacock Garden building complex.
The Peacock Garden's main building houses the front desk, Old Heidelberg restaurant, and several suites on the upper floors. After check-in at the receiving area, guests exit through the seaward-facing glass doors and walk onto paths leading to the two separate room complexes, two-storey structures facing out to the sea.
At the very end of the complex stands the Fontana Aurelia Spa building.
The main building sets the tone for the rest of the complex: distinctly Old-World in feel, the décor seems inspired particularly by the lore of Germany's traditional student corporations. The interiors are festooned with memorabilia from Studentenverbindung through the years - banners, swords, even framed postcards featuring students disfigured by academic fencing (Wikipedia)!
The buildings face the sea view: between the buildings and the cliff that slopes out to the sea, visitors will find a roofed events space, and beyond that a large infinity-edge pool and whirlpool.
The Romanesque grounds add a sense of hedonism that feels only slightly misplaced in Bohol: faux classical statuary flank the pool and the spa building, while the building's colonnaded exteriors look as if they were borrowed wholesale from some 19th-century villa in the Mediterranean.
Peacock Garden Accommodations
Your guide stayed at a deluxe sea view room on the ground floor. These rooms look out to the lawn facing the sea: a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door emerges onto a small verandah with a table and two chairs. The interior retains touches of the Old World, with finishes of warm textiles and dark lacquered.
Despite the room's compact 270 sq. ft. area, the interiors did not feel cramped at all. The view from the sliding door did wonders in this department, as did the lofty ceiling. The room came with a phone, a 40-inch LCD television (with cable access) and a DVD player; WiFi was also accessible from within, though the weak signal was little help. The bathroom en suite was finished in marble, and came with complimentary L'Occitane bath accessories.
The king-sized beds were comfy and high; housekeeping left a treat of "peanut kisses" (a local delicacy) on the bed nightly in lieu of mints. The first-class bedding made sleep in the rooms a pleasure, helped along by the hard-working air conditioning.
Staying at the ground level in a sea view room meant your guide had direct access to the swimming pool: we could simply exit out to the verandah and walk a few yards down the path to the pool, a sizeable reservoir with an infinity-edge facing the sea. Drinks may also be ordered from poolside; many guests take advantage to sip a cooling juice while relaxing on one of the lounge chairs facing the pool. Drinks are not permitted in the whirlpool, though. Pity.
Old Heidelberg Restaurant, Spa & Other Facilities
Guests are provided a complimentary breakfast at the Old Heidelberg Restaurant in the main building; apart from a considerable buffet spread of breads, cereals, fruit, and differently-flavored yogurt, a choice of Continental and traditional Filipino breakfast sets are also presented to guests before they eat.
For most guests, meals at Old Heidelberg are the only option, as there are no other outside restaurants within easy reach. This is not exactly a bad thing, as the German-cuisine options provided in the a la carte menu are quite good on their own. Your guide loved the house Vienna Schnitzel, a thin, deep-fried veal cutlet served with a side of French fries. But if you're scrimping, tough luck; the in-house meals can be somewhat pricey, costing about $10-$15 per meal.
The resort's other amenities include:
Fontana Aurelia Spa. Named for a spa hotel in Wiesbaden, the resort's spa offers a wide range of treatments: spa facials, body treatments, and masks. The Spa Suite offers a unique whirlpool with views of the sea.
The Wine Cellar. The wide-ranging wine selection at the Peacock Garden's cozy in-house bar happens to be one of the best in Bohol.
Hemingway Cigar Lounge. Some of the rarest cigars in this part of the world can be found right here at the resort's in-house cigar lounge; pair your stogie with a snifter of one of the lounge's wines or brandies.
A Jump-Off Point for the Rest of Bohol
For Peacock Garden guests, isolation is only optional: the resort provides a tour service that takes staying guests to their choice of Bohol sights.
Your guide and his spouse chose to spend our second day in the Peacock Garden indulging in the "Bohol Countryside" tour: a comprehensive six-hour jaunt exploring Bohol's most fascinating sites. (Some of which are featured in this list of Seven Things to Do in Bohol, Philippines.) The tour driver was a garrulous chap who knew most of the ins and outs of each site we visited.
The tour left Peacock Garden at 9am sharp, and proceeded to a tarsier sanctuary; a butterfly farm; the Bilar Man-made Mahogany Forest planted by boy scouts about 50 years ago; the Clarin Ancestral House (a run-down old house formerly lived in by Bohol's first senator); the Baclayon Church; the Blood Compact Memorial (whose view is currently being mangled by a hotel being built alongside it).
Lunch and a slow float down the Loboc River served as the tour's noontime break. The trip concluded with a visit to Aproniana Gift Shop, the tourist trap du jour for Bohol travelers looking for a take-home memento.
Peacock Garden at a Glance
Location: Upper Laya, Baclayon, Bohol. Location of Peacock Garden (Google Maps). 15 minutes' drive from Tagbilaran Airport; free transfers provided to guests.
Rooms: 40 rooms and suites within three two-storey buildings; broadband Internet available in all rooms.
Amenities: Infinity-edge pool with whirlpool; Fontana Aurelia spa; Old Heidelberg restaurant; cigar lounge, bar, and events space for outdoor events like weddings. Tours can be arranged to Bohol's main tourist destinations, or shuttle to Alona Beach in Panglao.
Contact Details: Phone +63 38 539 9231; website thepeacockgarden.com; email email@example.com.