The Philippines = island paradise and perfect setting for a budget, tropical vacation! A bucket-list country of mine. With it’s friendly, smiling people, white sand beaches,7,000 islands (some uninhabited), cheap food and drink… What’s not to love about the Philippines? Here are my highlights from two magical weeks in Manila and Palawan:
1. Going to food markets and karaoke with a group of Manila locals!
The best thing about the Philippines has got to be the people. After posting that I was heading to Manila in a Facebook group I was inundated with awesome Filipinos offering to take me around and wanting to meet up with me. I was taken around to all the highlights of Manila during the day by a couple of awesome girls and then met up with a huge group that night at a local market. Here they forcibly (not really) fed me an array of weird local delicacies such as Balut (developing duck embryo), pork and chicken intestines and pork blood cubed and put on sticks. Being the open-minded person I am, I happily tried them all! Then we went to a karaoke bar and sang the entire night away. This was all on my first day.
2. Zipping around in mini spaceships – the local tuk tuk’s.
Actually, in the Philippines they’re called ‘Tricycles’ which totally makes sense! These things are so cool and vary slightly from island to island. They are all decorated brightly and some are even purposefully decorated to look like spaceships. The coolest ‘tuk tuk’s’ I’ve ever seen!
3. Exploring the Underground River near Puerto Princesa.
I love caves and all things water, and this New7Wonder of nature was both of those combined. Every single person who knew I was heading to the island of Palawan would immediately ask if I were going to the Underground River. So, this is not a landmark to miss. The underground river has beautiful, spectacular limestone karsts containing a complex, water-filled cave system. It is breathtaking and worth two-hour drive to get there. Because the National Park only allow a certain amount if visitors per day; book tours early as spots go quickly!
4. Catching the local boats between beaches and towns near San Vicente.
The easiest way to get between beaches or towns on Palawan island is by local fishermen’s boat. These cool boats look like weird spiders with their creepy outriggers to stop the boat from falling over. Floating around at sunset was always my favourite time since the cloud reflections on the water are always epic.
5. Staying on a deserted island for a night in Palawan.
We had ideas of castaway style beaches, fending for ourselves while failing at making our own fire and attempting to cook our own food. There are 7, 000 islands in the Philippines and many of them have no settlement, so we wanted to stay on one of those. Though we didn’t exactly stay on a beach where we could rough it (it had tables and chairs constructed on it) and our guide insisted on setting up our tent and cooking for us, we still had an entire beach to ourselves, huge fish for dinner, a gorgeous sunset over the water and a sweet bon fire at night to drink our local rum with. A great once-in-a-lifetime experience for a ridiculously low cost (about $30USD for everything)!
6. Trekking to a beautiful hidden waterfall in Port Barton.
This 3-hour return trek was actually quite hard in the hot summer sun. There wasn’t much shade so we were hot and sweaty by the time we got to the falls. We fell into the water, instantly cooled. This little hideaway is a perfect place to swim and escape the jellyfish that sometimes blob around in Port Barton bay.
7. Lazing around on picturesque white sand beaches in Port Barton.
Port Barton’s beach itself is OK but not as beautiful as some of the surrounding beaches. A notable beach, that is about a half an hour walk from Port Barton (or a 15 minute boat ride), is White Beach. It has sand corresponding to its name and perfect aqua water, with a jellyfish net as an added bonus. It’s worth the trek.
8. Checking out amazing lagoons and beaches during an island hop tour from El Nido.
This was our second island hop in Palawan and it blew us away! There’s a lot of variety in the different island hops you can do here and since we were a little sick of beaches, we chose the lagoon one (Tour A). Lunch was an impressive spread of pork, chicken, whole fish, prawns and mussels with salad and rice. The last lagoon (Big Lagoon) was equally as impressive with great snorkelling and kayaking. El Nido is also very popular for Zip-Lining, Zip-Lining in El Nido is certainly once way to get your adrenaline pumping.
If you have some time on your hands be sure to use some of it Island hopping at El Nido, there are some lush unspolilt spots to be found.
9. Pretending I’m on the titanic during the 8-hour ferry from El Nido to Coron.
This sounds more exciting than it really was. The 9-hour ferry is boring, not everyone can sit in the shade, and sometimes the rain comes in. But it’s a great place to get a lot of reading done and also to go to the bow of the ship and try to stay standing whilst secretly singing the theme to titanic in your head. 10. Diving and exploring deep, dark, awe-inspiring warships. Coron has some of the most famous diving in the Philippines. If you’re into diving warships then get there NOW! There are 8 wreck dives within a 2-hour boat ride from Coron Port and they are all incredible. I did two dives; one deep dive to 37 metres in warship ‘Irako’ and another to ‘ Kogyo Maru’; 35 metres deep, has tractors hanging from the sides and the bombed engine room has fun swim throughs.
The Philippines are an awesome place to travel, as you can see, there is so much to see, do and explore! Its also a kick ass place for an epic, romantic honyemoon. The Philippines is a country filled with awesome people but to enjoy it to it’s full potential, check out this Alphabet of survival for the Philippines.
Info Country: Philippines Language: Many; officially Filipino, but also Tagalog and English Currency: Philippine Peso $1 USD = ₱44.65 I was there: May 2015