Firstly, there are over a thousand things you could do in the Philippines, and more reasons to visit than just 10, but I hope this leaves you feeling inspired and as I say “knowing there is more to life than the 9-5, bump and grind”!
So let me start by informing you of some facts about The Philippines
- The Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands (I know, madness)
- It is the world’s largest exporter of coconuts and tropical fruits (you know those coconut waters I had were fresh AF)!
- With a population of more than 100 million people, it is the 12th most populated country in the world.
- It is the second largest archipelago (an extensive group of islands) in the world.
- Jellyfish Lake in the Philippines contains more than 13 million jellyfish (so it’s probably advisable to not go for a dip).
- Out of the eight known species of giant clams in the world, seven are found in the Philippines (cool right)!
- Last one… The Philippines is considered the text capital of the world, every day 35 million Filipinos send about 450 million SMS messages (wowza)
The Philippines is just an insanely wonderful part of this world that we are blessed with and I am beyond pleased I have experienced it. Anyway, let’s go a little deeper now with my top 10…
I have travelled quite a lot to be honest, but no one beats the people in the Philippines, they are just simply amazing. Every time I thought people couldn’t get any friendlier they would exceed my expectations. I was invited to dinner with an incredible Filipino guy; where I met his local friends, their restaurant and experienced the beautiful souls they all seem to have. From the places I stayed, to the way I travelled and places I visited, everyone was the same, so welcoming, so accommodating, it was truly a breath of fresh air. Humans can be nice people!
You won’t have a problem here if you only speak English, majority of Filipinos can speak English. Of course, they have their own Filipino language, and even the different tribes speak another mixed language. But on the whole you’ll get by just fine.
An obvious one I guess, but the weather is just glorious, blue skies that meet the aqua seas, surrounded by coconut and palm trees. The weather is at it’s best from November to April, but even their bad days are still hotter than our Summer’s in London. When it rains, it is still warm, it’s basically paradise.
Diving / Snorkelling
Having a diving license means I am always hungry to get under the sea and explore. If you have tried diving before you will know exactly what I mean when I say it is like being transported to another world when you’re under the water. It is like nothing I can describe, you must see it to believe it (and I promise it really is not scary). One of the most popular activities in the country is swimming with Whale Sharks (sadly it wasn’t the season for it when I went) so it remains on my bucket list. The Philippines has over 2,500 different species of fish, and is rich in underwater activity, The Philippines is listed as one of the best countries for scuba diving in the entire world. Of course, you can snorkel and bob along on the surface at these places too, which is also a very magical experience and a MUST do! From the giant whale shark to the world’s smallest fish (Pandaca pygmea), everything you can dream of is united in the beautiful islands of The Philippines.
The Paradise Beaches and Islands
If you are into white sandy beaches and turquoise crystal-clear waters, you’re heading to the right country! It’s not hard to find your dream beach or a pristine island over there that’s for sure, The Philippines islands and beaches are… Heaven. Paradise. Amazing. Magnificent… No kidding. They’re bloody fantastic, like something from a post card! The beach of all beaches is probably White Beach in Boracay, I stayed here (not literally camped out on the beach FYI, although you probably could have) for about 4 days of my trip, and honestly, the white sand and sparkling turquoise ocean goes out for miles! Down on the island of Palawan you will find El Nido, with limestone cliffs that rise from the sea coming up in all shapes and sizes to create the utmost picturesque lagoons and coves to swim in (and take pictures of course). A few hours south in Puerto Princesa you will find the Subterranean River surrounded by more limestone and one of the biggest underground river tours I have ever seen, which is also listed as one of 7 Natural Wonders of the World (it was breath-taking).
Food Or Coconut Water Or Alcohol
Sometimes I can be a bit of fussy eater, I am funny about how things are cooked (mainly hygiene levels) so I was literally gobsmacked when I was told what their aphrodisiac dish was, it’s called balut, which is a boiled fertilized duck egg with a half-formed chick inside (I mean, just don’t, I definitely didn’t eat this). Other unique dishes include camaro, which are fried crickets (these were just like crispy burnt bits of toast). But on the whole there are a lot of interesting mixes of very good value European, Asian and American dishes. (I am not a fish eater BUT…) fresh fish served here was out of this world, I probably won’t ever eat any fish in the UK again because this tasted so divine! Coconuts (obviously) having fresh coconut water every day was a true luxury. There is something for everyone. We actually went to a fantastic restaurant called Artisans (right near Puerto Prinecsa city), with a local guy we met, and some fellow travellers from London, the restaurant was owned and run by a Scottish man, who turned out to be hilarious and an exceptional story teller and chef! But one thing that still stands out for me was the deep fried bananas from the local road side shack shops, which were delicious! You can eat locally for around £5 per person! The alcohol on the islands is also dirt cheap too party people!
Max Palawan Tour
This was SO much fun! The Max Palawan Tour was a definite highlight of my trip for a few reasons, the tour is on ATVs (quad bikes)! The tour owner was one of the loveliest guys to meet (he also had an awesome camera… Instagram worthy shots is immediately what I thought). The half day tour was planned to perfection especially for us, which I was so grateful for. The tour takes you through a 300 hectare mango plantation, through winding dirt tracks (I screamed at the mud a few times and the tour boys I was following kept laughing at how girly I was being), to some peaks above the plantation to give you a view for miles across Palawan, standing at the top of a mountain and overlooking the vast landscape and not seeing anyone for miles was just mind blowing. The experience was fun, exhilarating and just straight up awesome. Up, down, over and round the tracks of luscious greenery and mud (by this point I gave up worrying), we reached a fresh water lake and waterfall and a man made hut for us to eat at, it was pure bliss. One of the boys had been studying his culinary skills at a local college and cooked for all guests that go on the tour, he barbecued freshly court fish, with rice and a salad, to be eaten on banana leaves with our hands. I must admit I sort of freaked out here because I wasn’t able to sanitise my hands before then eating with them, and there were flies everywhere, but I took a deep breath, got stuck in and was overwhelmed with how rich in falvours everything tasted! To follow I stripped off into my bikini, jumped straight into the river and taught myself how to weight board. The water was incredible! And weight boarding was not too hard you know. If you go to The Philippines this is an absolute must do, to be at one with your surroundings, talk and get to know local people who work here, and taste the food cooked in front of you, was just an all around memorable experience! Being out in the plantation surrounded by nature, flora and fauna and just taking a moment to really soak it all up and re-connect with the world felt simply marvellous.
Fact: Mangoes in The Philippines are said to be the best in the world. They’re such a big thing that it is illegal to take mangoes from one state to another to avoid cross-pollination.
I stayed in this super chilled beach front resort in Puerto Princesa called Blue Palawan, with my own beach hut a stones through from dreamy hammocks overlooking the sea, close by is a pool and also the bar. We met some travellers who literally just start in one place and plan as they go, which in The Philippines is totally do-able. You can go on booking.com and sky scanner so easily and just make your way as and when you feel like it or once you’ve been inspired by fellow travellers or even Lonely Planet! Because the country is still not very well connected, the distances to cover are huge and most places are still very remote but you have the option of busses and flights in and out of other islands, you just need to account for the day of travelling (in and out of airports etc, I found I flew back into Manila (the capital) each time). Boracay seemed to be a bit more equipped and had speedboats to jump on and take you to your destination, maybe because this is a hot tourist spot for night life and island partying! The most popular way to travel around the areas you will be staying is my motorised tricycle, which come in all different colours and lights, they usually pick you up with their children on also, it was a tad unsteady which made me nervous, but still a really cool experience and meeting locals and their families was so important to my trip. It cost about £2 to go 30 minutes down the road, it was so cheap (as was everything to be honest). Then there are the jeepneys which are basically versions of public buses which have also been individually decorated with crazy colours and slogans. They get incredibly crowded to the point when you’ll see people riding on the roof! Imagine if we did that here in London?!
Somewhere I didn’t manage to get to but will be going back to visit was Waterfall Restaurant, the name says it all, it is literally a restaurant inside a waterfall and has a barefoot policy, serving locally sourced food!
Banaue Rice Terraces
It’s been said that the Banaue Rice Terraces are considered the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and it is easy to see why when you begin to look at their pure magnificence. They are 2,000 years old and were carved into the mountains of Lfugao. These terraces are still used to this day by the locals, who plant their vegetables and rice there, as they are naturally irrigated by the surrounding rainforests. (If this isn’t nature working at its finest I don’t know what is). It will take you about 2 hours or more to reach here from Manila but it will be totally worth every second.
You might never want to leave this place, I know I certainly didn’t. I always say I would never go back to the same place twice, because the world holds so much to see, but honestly, I am sure I will be going back to The Philippines, it just has loads more beautiful sights I am desperate to explore and broaden my horizons from.
If you are thinking of travelling to The Philippines, do take care, I have highlighted the best parts of my trip but there are some dangerous spots that wouldn’t be safe for a young person travelling alone. Be sure to check out where you’re going ahead of time, and do not trust people lurking at airports saying “I can take you there, no problem”, because it will be a problem… I had a couple scary situations that made me realise why as a traveller you need be extremely vigilant and aware of who and what is going on around you.
Anyway, I’m off to book my next trip now…