It's more fun in the Philippines
So I had visited Thailand previously which was a great trip seeing the islands, going to a full moon party, and learning a bit more about South East Asian culture.
The next year I was heading back to Bangkok for a work conference. Because of this I thought that while I enjoyed Thailand, I would be able to take advantage of my two weeks spare annual leave, and take the trip to The Philippines.
An old housemate had moved over to Manila and had spoken about the beauty of some of the islands he'd visited. I decided to do a little more research, and thought....why not!
So my return 4 day work trip turned into a 19 day return flight, with a holiday thrown in.
First up El Nido
El Nido is often called a little corner of paradise. It's a tiny little place up in the corner of the Island of Palawan. I flew in from Manila straight from Bangkok, then onto Palawan. Getting around the Philippines Islands isn't easy, but it's worth the extra mess about.
So as I jumped off the plane into a tiny little airport. It was time for the 6 hour drive to El Nido. This is pretty crammed into a van. So if you are more into the luxury lifestyle I'd recommend flying into El Nido itself. The flights are less frequent and more expensive, but you may find them worth it.
The drive though let me meet some pretty cool people, and we stopped off for lunch in a little cafe on the road. The food is simple, and often cold, but the view was pretty gorgeous. After jumping back in the van and grabbing some sleep, we'd arrived in El Nido. And it was time to grab myself a motorbike to rent and go out to explore a little...and eat some better food. And where better to eat than a view like this!!
The place is small, and the bars are centred around the beach. There's a super cool reggae bar balled Pukka Bar. There's a band on often singing Bob Marley songs. Beers are super cheap too....it's basically free to drink :) You don't have to worry much about finding where to go. Most places are within 500 metres.
Be careful though with the little trike taxis, not because I had a bad experience with the driver, they're a friendly as most here. It was more the gap in the seat straight to the road, that my phone found itself down.
So if you don't want to have poor quality grainy photos like I now have of my trip, try not putting your phone in your back pocket.
This place really is off the beaten track. The hotels I stayed in were 4 star, but were pretty basic. They set you back around $100 a night, but the $10 hostel in El Nido I stopped in for a night was actually as clean and nice with a better location. There's a great one called Spin you should check out. If travelling alone if can help too with starting your night abd meeting people. If you're going for a more honeymoon feel though....El Nido resorts are out of this world on private Islands!
Time for the Boat trips....A,B,C,D
So there's four main trips in Palawan. I decided to go for A. I can't vouch for the others...but A was incredible.
The day trip takes you out in to the blue waters. You head to Lagoons where you can kayak in crystal waters, and see the beautiful landscape. The boat staff looking after you all day like most people in the Philippines, were amazingly welcoming. You can grab a beer, before jumping off to snorkel and see the great reefs around the beaches.
Then we headed to 7 Commando Beach. Where locals will be there selling freshly cut coconuts, in golden sands and on a beautiful beach. Now if you don't like the carton coconut water, like me, still don't be put off. This stuff tastes super fresh, and sorts a hangover right out.
I enjoyed the rest of the boat ride, and then headed back to the hotel for a chill out before heading back to the bars.
El Nido is such a tucked away place, don't expect a good internet connection here. in fact some times of the day don't expect electricity. There's daily power cuts. I think though it adds to the charm. With some more beach explorations, simple food and miles travelled on the bike, my time in El Nido was done. A truly incredible place I will hope to return to.
One night in Manila!
On the way back through to Boracay my next destination, I missed a connection. For me though it just meant I could spend a night with my old mate Reece.
We headed to the business district where it actually had quite a cosmopolitan feel....compared to the rest of the city that is. Drinks are still cheap, and he treated me to a local delicacy....chicken feet. Which actually taste better than they sound!
Manila city centre is known as a dangerous city after hours, so after getting lost at 2am in the pouring rain I thought my holiday may take a turn for the worst but my luck was restored flagging a cab down. That probably goes against all guidance on safe travelling in the city....but it worked for me.
Poverty and crime is high in Manila, and to be honest I think that there's not much in terms of keeping you here. In a country over so many islands and so much to see, I'd use this place just as a flyover.
So they say it's more fun in the Philippines, and while El Nido is one for beauty...Boracay is known to add a little more speed, music and adrenaline intermixed with it's beauty.
I stopped on White Beach at Boracay Beach Club, that i can't recommend enough. The staff were super friendly, the location was incredible, and there was a bar (across from the hotel) on the beach. A dangerous place to have a tab open....if beers weren't under $1 each. The food was actually pretty nice here too!
From the beach club, I was able to book a day at Ariels Point. Here you are able to snorkel, enjoy attempting to not fall off while looking cool paddle boarding in the sea, and also a big draw of the trip.....cliff jumping.
Jumps go from a couple of metres, up to the 15 metre 'top jump'. It's a pretty cool thing to tick off.
Back at the hotel after an amazing day I enjoyed finding out about the nightlife! This place is a lot livelier than El Nido, and it was a great night out! For the rest of the three days i enjoyed paddleboarding more, drinking plenty of Red horse, and playing a fair bit of frisbie and volleyball with the locals and other people on trips. I even played a little bit of local pool, which is played with disks on a homemade table rather than with balls.
The Philippines really was incredible, and with so much more to do such as kitesurfing, mountain climbing, underground rivers and more. It really is more fun in the Philippines. It's somewhere I hope to visit again, and would recommend to anyone....as long as you aren't too fussy with food or the undeveloped world!