PHILIPPINES AGAIN?That’s always been a loud question, I hear from my friends, when I tell them about my upcoming Philippines trip. Jas why don’t you go to some other country?You have been to Philippines before!
So I write this post for you..Yes for you my friends, and to the people, who haven’t heard about Philippines or who keep their options limited to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.
I am no expert, but here’s a list of few things and places that will make any traveler fall in love with this beautiful country.
1:-beaches (enough said)
Hands down! Philippines have the most breath-taking beaches in whole Asia. The country consists of 7000+ islands divided into three major groups: – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. If you are one of those travellers who are looking for a secluded beach, with barely anyone around, well, sweat not!! Philippines have enough beaches to meet the needs of every kind of beach lover around the globe.This tropical island has been rated among the best in the word by websites like www.travelandleisure.com, lonely planet, National geographic and many others.
2:- El nido , Palawan
Speaking of beaches, I have to talk about Palawan: the best in the business.
Palawan was my first stop, when I visited Philippines, and by far the best. If you are looking for paradise, then this is it! The town of el-nido is tucked approximately 250 km northeast of Puerto Princesa (Palawan capital), and boasts a series of picturesque islands and islets. All you need to do is hire a boat from el nido town and go hopping around!! If you are looking for clubs and night life, then this might not be the place for you. Uninterrupted power supply and decent internet is more of a luxury than a necessity. But that’s the upside of it! An untouched beauty!!
How to reach
Thereare enough flights from Manila and Cebu to PuertoPrincesa Airport. You can take a mini cab ride from P.P. airport to Elnido (takes around 5-6 hours). A faster way to reach Elnido is to take a 50 seat chartered plane from manila (by Island Trans voyager Inc.), that lands 4 km away from Elnido town (definitely not the cheapest way to go there )
North of Cebu is gifted with small islands composed of jaw dropping white sand beaches. One of them is Bantayan Island. It’s a small isolated island with few resorts located near the main port. Unfortunately, a month after my visit in 2013 November, this serene island was lashed by Yolanda typhoon. I have been constantly following updates and it’s good to know that tourism is back in town. Beautiful sunsets, cheerful local people,and natural beauty best describesBantayan. Easiest way to go around the island is to hire a habal – habal as Cebuano’s calls it for motorcycle (Php300-Php 500/day).Take a ride, stop at local eateries, try local dishes,sea foods and hospitality!!
How to reach
From Cebu City, you need to catch a Ceres Liner Bus at Cebu North Terminal to Hagnaya Port. The journey takes approx. 4 hours for Php200 air-conditioned bus. At the port, take a ferry boat for Santa Fe (the port of Bantayan) which takes up to 90 minutes to reach. There is no easy way, but stepping your feet on this beautiful island makes the long ride all worth it!
Ride Options from North Terminal to Hagnaya Port
- Taxi Cab around Php2000 for one way
- If you travel with groups, you can rent a V-hire (a mini bus) prior to your trip from travel agencies or Van Rentals in the city that will cost you around Php2000-3000 peso.
- For Ferry boat schedules, check this link: http://bantayan.gov.ph/tourism/transport-schedule
4:- Chocolate hills and tarsiers, Bohol
Enough with thebeach stuff? Want something else? In comes Bohol!! Bohol definitely needs to be on your list of top five provinces, which you are going to visit in the Philippines.It does not only provides awesome beaches and beach activity at Panglao island, but also is a home to one of the cutest members of tarsiidae family (Think of a super cute monkey which is a size of your palm, and you have a tarsier). The near endangered species are mainly found at official tarsier sanctuary in Bohol. If the adorable tarsiers don’t leave you mesmerized then the sublime chocolate hills will!! The chocolate hills are geological formation with nearly 1100 hills. They are covered in grass, that turns brown during the dry season (that’s why the name). Add a beautiful jungle interior, rice plantation, remote towns, cool weather and pristine beaches and you got a winner!
How to reach
From Manila, you can take a flight to Tagbilaran City, PAL, Cebu pacific and Air asia have regular flights on this route. From Cebu, one can take a fast ferry to Tagbilaran port from pier one, Cebu city. Ocean jet is one of the companies serving on this route. It costs around 800 to 1000 peso for one side ride. Unlike other islands,Bohol is quite huge is size. I would suggest anyone to keep aside at least a weeks’ time to move around. Panglao Island would be a good place to stay, with ample choices from luxury to budget hotels. A trip to chocolate hills or a tarsier sanctuary will take approx. 2-3 hours and 75 km from panglao beach (a rented motorcycle always comes in handy).
Untouched to the bones!! That’s how I like to describe it.
Camotes is a conglomerate of 4 islands namely Poro, Pacjian, Ponson and Tulang. The Philippines tourism ministry has named it “the lost horizon in the south” because of its immaculate beauty. The island is absolutely unspoiled by any tourism related infrastructure, other than one or two resorts to serve the local tourist industry. Unlike famous tourist spots, there are no water sports here, no late night shacks, no sign boards (ask locals to guide you the way and they will do it with a smile, almost every time!!). This is the kind of place that gives you an opportunity to actually enjoy an unfiltered Philippines. The island is not only home to excellent beaches but also to enigmatic caves with stalagmites and stalactites that overshadowpool of natural spring, a perfect place to relax(talk about being exotic!!).
How to reach
Take a bus from Cebu north terminal to Danao via ceresliner. The buses are generally non aircon. FromDanao, hop on to a ferry to Poro port ( 2 hours ride) . An early booking is a good idea since the town has limited stay options.
Filipinos are one of the most warm-hearted and hospitable people in the world .Walking down the street, asking a stranger for directions or purchasing things at a local shop, there always a great smile to greet you. Major part of the population speaks fluent English, thus making it easier to travel alone. And yes!! They are big fan of basketball!! .No matter which secluded island of Philippines you go to, there’s always a basketball court.
Jeepney – A combination of graffiti, vibrant colors and World War 2 jeeps. It’s the ride and pride of Philippines transportation. When American troops started leaving Philippines after World War 2, surplus jeeps were sold to Philippines. They were later ripped and modified to be used in public transport. Every Jeepney is impressively painted and given a name. The interiors are mostly pimped up (it is believed that better the paint job is more business that Jeepney receives, so the owners take it pretty seriously )
There is an Irish proverb that says “Laughter is brightest, where food is best “. Probably that describes the jolly nature of Filipinos!!. I have had privilege to try quite a number of delicacies during my visit, but there are few which I would surely recommend to my fellow travelers.
Adobo:-A very famous, and considered unofficially the national dish of Philippines, Adobo have numerous variants of recipe from different regions in the country but it is commonly composed of meat (chicken, beef, or pork) marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic and served with rice.
Bicol Express:-It is a stew made up of long chilies, coconut milk and cube cut pork as the main ingredients and named after the train that travels between Manila and Bicol region. The dish packs enough spice to send you for water faster than Express train
Bulalo:-It is a light colored soup made out of beef shanks and bone marrow with vegetables and sweet corn. Southern Luzon, specifically Batangas and Tagaytay are recommended destinations to try out the best bulalo in the country.
Danggit:-Cebu is known for its “dang-git”. It is a salted sun dried rabbitfish usually served with egg and rice for breakfast. It becomes crispy when fried and best dipped with vinegar.
Larsian BBQ Fuente:-This is Cebu’s Barbecue Heaven. Once you are inside, you will see that this is no fancy dining place BUT WAIT! This is one of the notable spots of the Queen City of the South. Be prepared to choke yourself with numerous choices of Barbequed pork, chicken and sea food served with “puso” or the “hanging rice” eaten with bare hands. Guess what?? Some of the stalls offer free Kimchi or free hot soup to make your dining experience an unforgettable one, so choose wisely!
This is highly recommended if you are staying downtown or visiting Cebu City!
Balut (Definitely not for the weak heart!!) :-The perfect example for the phrase “Looks Can Be Deceiving”, sold as a common food in the streets of the Philippines- Balut is a developing duck embryo that is boiled and eaten out of the shell. Most of the Filipinos eat Balut with spicy vinegar and salt-and sometimes with beer too! So if you feeling adventurous then this is for you!!
More to go…
Though I have mentioned few of my favorite places, thereare a whole lot of destinations,yet to be explored!! Unique Batanes (definitely on top of my list), white beaches of Boracay, Banaue rice terrace, Mayon volcano, spectacular island of Malapascua,Siquijor and the list goes on. If you have not been to this mesmerizing archipelago yet, now is the time to pack your bags and head for a memorable experience!!As for me..PHILIPPINES AGAIN?? .. Absolutely YES!!