Trip to Philippines -
Roaring jeepneys in the streets of metro Manila, food like chicken adobo and balut, active volcanos with major eruptions, snorkeling with whale sharks in Cebu, powdery sand at White beach in Boracay, 7107 islands in the sun, the big eyed tarsier, traffic jams and bad roads, San Miguel beer, people speaking Tagalog, a nation exposed to typhoons and earthquakes...so is it really more fun in the Philippines? This is a trip report from the Philippines in July 2014 and during this stay we visited Metro Manila, the islands of Bohol, Panglao and Boracay and we also had a short stop in Cebu to snorkel with whale sharks and to do some speed sightseeing in Cebu City.
A short summary
On the next pages you will find:
Planning the trip
The trip begins
We flew from Stavanger to Stockholm in Sweden with SAS and from there we switched to Qatar Airways to Doha. Note that Qatar Airways are using Dreamliners (Boeing 787) when flying to Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm. The flight to Doha was about 5-6 hours and we got to look around a bit at the new Hamad international airport . There is no doubt that the new airport is a lot better than the old one but there are still some issues at the new one. From Doha we had an 8 hour flight to Manila. We landed in the afternoon and we got a view of the vast metro Manila area including the American cemetery that is located in Taguig.
We had been warned that traffic in Manila can be pretty bad but it was not as bad as expected – but it did take us about 1 hour from the airport (Terminal 1) to Bonifacio Global City (or Fort Bonifacio) – in the morning without traffic it only took 15 minutes to Terminal 3. It was fascinating to look out the window on all the jeepneys, car and motorcycles that surrounded us. The jeepneys are the most popular mass transportation in the Philippines and it is basically a mix between a jeep and bus. It seems like the destination is written on the side of the jeepneys and it looks like you just use the back entrance to get on and off. A lot of them are named and are extremely colorful and creatively decorated. We did not get to take a jeepney this time – it seems to be quite easy to get a taxi and the taxi fare by meter is very reasonable. We were also fascinated by the neighborhoods we drove through – there were army, navy and airforce bases left, right and center. It looks like they are trying to turn some of these bases into land for development now.
In Manila we stayed at a hotel called Seda Bonifacio Global City in the city of Taguig. You can read my review of the Seda Bonifacio hotel on this page – the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) area seems to be a newly developed area so if you are looking for the more “authentic” Manila this is not the place to stay. But we found it quite convenient to stay in this area. If you walk over to the Bonifacio High street (located next door to the hotel) you will find restaurants, shopping, cinemas, shopping malls etc. It is also easy to get a taxi at the hotel and it is quite easy to get to the rest of the city - well, you will run into traffic jams eventually of course ;-)
Get around the city
Around historic Manila – on a bamboo bike
We found the Bambike office and when walking into the shop we were sure that we had found it as there were a lot of Bamboo bikes lined up. It turned out that we were the only guests this day (I guess some had cancelled as the weather forecast showed rain) and we picked the bikes that we wanted and got to take it for a spin in the courtyard before hitting the streets. I went down memory lane by picking one bike that resembled the most popular bike when I was a kid in Norway. Maybe some of you think that it is crazy to combine biking with a city known for its horrible traffic – but it turned out that traffic was not that bad in this part of the town. Our guide Christine had to step in as a substitute for the regular guide as he had run into some problems that morning. It turned out that it was the first time she did the tour but I think she did a great job – especially when she told us that she had only learned how to bike recently. We biked a bit and stopped at various locations such as San Augustin Church – a church that originally dates back to Spanish colonial times and it dates back to 1586. But we also stopped at The Philippines Presidents’ Gallery and biked along the old city walls.
We biked along the old customs house, inside the old storage house, past the cathedral of Manila and Plaza Roma. We also made a long stop at Fort Santiago as this is an important historic site. It was built as a fort by the Spanish but it is also the site where the Philippine national hero José Rizal was kept before he was executed. In addition to this it was also used as a prison by the Japanese during World War 2 and I went into one of the cells (or maybe it is best to call it a dungeon) and it was dark and wet. There is also a small memorial as more than 600 Filipinos died in a dungenon when they were imprisoned by the Japanese during World War 2.
But the best part of the tour was talking to our guide Christine and to be able to hear her tell about the history and to be able to ask questions as we went along. The tour lasted for about 3 hours and I was soaking wet after the tour – not because it was a strenuous bike ride but because it is hot and humid. So remember to bring a long a small backpack with water and sunscreen. If you are new to Manila and the Philippines I can recommend this tour – it was easy and fun. And we also seem to draw some attention when we were biking around on our bamboo bikes. Read more about Bambike on their homepage.
Food glorious food
As it was my birthday when we were there, Nikki booked a table at the fine dining restaurant called VASK Modern Tapas & Gastronomic Cuisine located in Taguig as a surprise for me. And what an experience that was! When we first got there we were only presented two menus: one with lots of courses and one with even more ;-) We decided to go all in and took the largest menu with wine pairing. All the tables had a view of the kitchen and it was fascinating to see the chefs doing their team work to finish some of the masterpieces. We have had some incredible fine dining experiences in the past but Gallery VASK was able to serve some combinations that I have never had before. How about tuna with a lemongrass ice cream? It was served with dry ice for visual effects. Or sea urchin with foie gras powder? Or Iberian pork with oysters? Or coconut sorbet where we got invited to see the chef prepare it by freezing it in liquid nitrogen? Or warm chocolate balls with ginger ice cream? We actually had to ask the chefs how it was even possible to make this dish :-) As you can understand this was an adventure of a meal. I was not crazy about some of the combinations but I guess that is mainly because I’m not a huge fan of e.g. oysters. But this was a memorable meal indeed and it is recommended if you want to celebrate a special occasion. The 13 course meal was 4900 pesos (110 USD) per person excluding drinks.
Caught red handed
at Ayala museum
The American cemetery
The drag queen at the seafood market
Jogging in Makati
Next time we'll be sure not to miss....
Time to move on – Bohol and Panglao
The flight to Tagbilaran airport on the island of Bohol was only about 1 hour and the airport in the “City of friendship” is tiny. The Airbus A319 that has brought us there was the only plane in front of the terminal. Needless to say baggage came pretty fast and on the way out we found a driver that had a sign with our names on it. Please check the Bohol and Cebu Google map to see where Bohol is located, the location of our hotel etc.Bohol is not a large island (slightly larger than Oahu in Hawaii) and the neighboring island Panglao where we had decided to stay, is small. It is only like 13 km long and 4 km wide. It did take us about 40 minutes to get to the Alona beach area where we checked in at Amorita resort. Driving across Panglao it was clear to see that we had come to a more rural area. The road conditions were OK but we would pass goats and cows that were tied up in the backyards, people being transported on trikes (a motorcycle with a sidecar that can fit a couple of passengers) and simple homes.
Amorita resort is a beach resort and there is a lovely view of Alona beach from the pool deck. Check out my review of Amorita resort this page. Alona beach was maybe not as picturesque as we hoped it would be when we arrived but that was due to the weather. As it was monsoon season it was quite windy and the result was quite a lot of seaweed on the beach. But even if it was monsoon season, the following days were actually quite decent and that allowed us to go snorkeling on nearby islands and it also allowed us to go on a trip to Cebu to see whale sharks!
Touring Bohol with SpongeBob
We were picked up at the hotel in regular car at 8 am and started the driving towards out first stop – the tarsier conservation area. As it was about 1 hour to drive there we did have a chance to get some information from our driver and guide. The tarsier is one of the smallest primates in the world and they are some funny looking creatures – rumor has it that Steven Spielberg used a tarsier as inspiration when making ET. In short they are tiny, have huge eyes and long limbs. We got to the tarsier conservation area in Loboc and followed the entrance signs and were met by big posters with information and signs with “Silent please”. The tarsier is nocturnal creature and a loner apperently – so one by one could be found in trees and they all looked pretty sleepy. We tried to follow the rules by keeping quiet but some of the staff had brought their kids along and they were screaming and yelling so I guess the tarsiers here must be getting used to some noise. Here is a short video of a tarsier that I posted on YouTube.
On the way to our next stop we bought some bananas in a grocery store and we drove on a narrow road over fields and then into a forest – into Rajah Sikatuna National Park. We finally reached an opening in the forest and the guide talked to the locals there and they started calling monkeys and it didn’t take long before we heard movement in the branches and the monkey appeared. I’m not for this kind of tourism as I think it is best to leave wild animals alone – but at the same time it is fun to come this close to monkeys. The monkeys looked skeptical and kept a distance to us but they did come over to take a banana that I was holding in my hand.
One of the most popular attractions in Bohol is the Chocolate Hills. We stopped at a place outside Carmen and we walked the steps up to the top to enjoy the view. The Chocolate hills are grass covered limestone cone and dome shaped hills and in the dry season the grass dries up and turns brownish and hence the name. There are about 1200 of these peaks and you get a view of some of them from the lookout point. As we were there in the wet monsoon season they did not appear like Hershey chocolate kisses but like light green domes in the landscape. Throughout the day we could see evidence that the Philippines is a country exposed to the forces of nature. In 2013 the Bohol area was hit partially by a super typhoon but also a major earthquake.
The next stop was at a butterfly park. Butterfly parks are normally not that exciting but in this one we got a guide and he took us around and gave us more information about butterflies and moths and also took pictures of us using our camera. We got to see the butterfly is various stages from larva to pupa and as a freshly hatched adult. There was a small gift shop on the way out and it was possible to buy ice cream. One of the flavors being offered was durian and we managed to convince some of the other tourists to try out this ice cream as we think it is….eh…pretty special haha. If you don’t know what durian is you should also try it if you visit south east Asia. It is known as the King of fruits, it has a pretty strong odour and is an acquired taste ;-)
There was a lot to see and do on this trip so we got back in the car with the driver (and SpongeBob in the rear window). We made short stop at a place where we could cross the Loboc river on traditional bamboo bridges and we also got to see the buko king peal the outer layer of a coconut with his teeth in less than a minute. I can't imagine what that does to your teeth if you have to do it over and over again all day. After this we took a short drive to the Loboc Eco Adventure park and we decided to try out the zip lining across the Loboc river. We got strapped into a sort of harness in seconds and were sent across the river and we got a great view and it was much higher up than I thought it would be. They took photos of us in "flight" and it seems like Nikki and I was a bit too busy taking photos and documenting this instead of living in the now and enjoying the view ;-) It is hard work when you have to document everything in order to make a good trip report!
Lunch was included and it was on a small boat (or small barge) on the Loboc river. The food was OK with rice, crabs, whole steamed fish, chicken etc. We were basically done eating before all the people had gotten onboard and before we started sailing up the river. The short trip up the river was OK but the mariachi that was playing the guitar played from start to the very end and it made it a bit tricky to talk to people. He basically pulled out all the golden oldies from bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival. The river cruise goes all the way up the river to the zipline area that we had just visited and I think the cruise lasted for about 1 hour. It is possible to buy soft drinks and beer on the small boat.
We finished of our tour by stopping by Baclayon Church and blood compact monument. The Baclayon church is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines and dates back to 1596! But the forces of nature has no respect for history and when the earthquake struck Bohol in October 2013 the façade and bell tower collapsed and it is still in ruins. The road has been moved a bit away from the church in order to avoid falling debris I presume. The blood compact monument is near the church and it shows a ritual called Sandugo being performed between the Spanish explorers and the chief of the tribe in Bohol when Spanish ships came there in 1565. A few years before the explorer Ferdinand Magellan came to the Philippines and he landed in Cebu and try to take it by force and that didn’t end well. The second time around the Spanish tried a different method and they went into this treaty of friendship with the people already living on Bohol.
All in all I would say that a tour like this is good if you don’t have that much time in the area and you want to see the highlights in one day. We had quite a lot of stops and most of them were fun but we were not too crazy about the river cruise. Another alternative is to rent a motorcycle and tour the island on your own.
Exploring the Alona beach area on foot
Food in the Alona beach area
As I like my Italian food we did end up going to Giuseppe Pizzeria and Sicilian Roast a couple of times. This is more a proper restaurant and they have a pretty big menu and a decent selection of wine as well. We chose to go all in with a mixed ham and cheese platter as antipasti which was not bad...but when you have been to Italy a few times and had the real deal you get spoiled I guess. As main dish I chose the Osso bucco (Italian style veal shanks) – when it was served I almost had a heart attack as it was such an enormous portion. It turned out that there was quite a lot of bone so the huge portion was not a problem. The risotto served on the side was a bit on the dry side and I would have enjoyed it to be plain risotto alla Milanese (saffron risotto) instead of a mushroom risotto. But all in all it was a very good meal and I even managed to top it up with some tiramisu after the main dish. The osso bucco was about 600 pesos (14 USD) and a bottle of good wine was 750 pesos (17 USD). The only problem that we experienced was a couple of cats that were very up close and personal as we were enjoying the food; and even worse: they had run out of limoncello! ;-) When we paid the bill Nikki noticed something on one of the pillars in the restaurant and it turned out to be one of the largest spiders that we have seen! Maybe that is why the cats were sticking around us during the meal! Total bill was 3200 pesos (70 USD) for the two of us including 10% service charge. Read more about Giuseppe on their homepage.
We also had a meal at Tarsier Paprika Restaurant one night and we got a free shuttle bus to the restaurant from the Tarsier shop located at Alona beach. The restaurant only had few guest and as we came there after sunset we did not see much of the view. We ate at the restaurant's outside terrace and I bet the view of the ocean at day time is great. All we could see was reflection of the moon in the ocean and the light from torches as there were some divers doing a night dive. I had bell pepper soup to start with which was OK but my chicken skewer main dish was quite boring and dry. The starters were about 200-300 pesos and the main dishes that we had cost 400-500 pesos per person.
Time to jump in – snorkeling at Balicasag Island
As the boat was not very fast it took us about 40 minutes to get out to the small Balicasag Island – it is only about 500 meter in diameter (about 1600 ft). We did not get to see any dolphins on the way unfortunately but that is the name of the game when you are looking for wild animals. But at least we got to experience a nice sunrise on the way to the island. When we got to the island we got a cup of coffee before we got ready to snorkel. We had brought our own equipment but this would have been provided if we didn’t have it – we normally like to bring our own equipment as it can be tricky to find a mask that fits your face and that can ruin a bit of the experience. We got a guide in a small boat and he rowed about a 100 meter away from the beach and we jumped in. As this is the monsoon season the current was quite strong so we just floated along the beach but we did spot several sea turtles. Getting back in the boat proved to be not that easy – Nikki and I are not that heavy but it was very tricky to get into the boat as there were no ladder or rope to step on or hold on to. I ended up with some nice bruises on the back of my knees when making an attempt on my own. The guide did help of course but I wonder how he handles people that are even bigger and with no muscles.
We paddled along to the north east end of the island and we jumped in again. The water was clear and there were lots of fish and live corals. It was also fascinating to see a cliff underneath the water – it just went from a shallow coral reef to the darkness of the deep. The conditions were good to start with but when we got closer to the middle of the island there were more people snorkeling and more boats and of course the conditions were not that good. I think they have to do a better job of protecting the reef if they want to keep it alive in the coming years.
Lunch was also included in the trip and it was not bad at all considering that the facilities on the island is limited. We got grilled barracuda, rice, chicken legs, shrimp and salad. We also got some time to relax on the beach afterwards and time to walk along the beach as well. It is a coral beach so it is best to have some sandals if you want to walk around the island. To round of the trip we took a 30 minute boat ride towards Panglao again and stopped at Puntod Island - also known as Virgin island. This is just a tiny island with a few trees and a long sand bank and we just goofed around there for a while taking some jump photos and looking at star fish. We have snorkeled at some great places (Perhentian in Malaysia, Maldives etc.) so we have already been to some amazing places and hence we are hard to impress. The snorkeling at Balicasag Island was not bad at all especially in the outskirts of the main area.
In the water with whale sharks!
At Oslob we got a short introduction to how to behave around the whale sharks and then people had to pay an 1000 pesos ( 23 USD) entrance fee for the snorkeling. We had pre-paid everything at Valeroso Travel & Tours and hence the boatmen were supposed to take care of this but they refused and told us that they didn’t know about this. So Nikki and I got into a long argument with them and as we got more and more frustrated it seemed like their English was getting worse. They claimed that they had no money to pay this fee and we had not brought much cash either. In the end I had to call Juliet at Valeroso Travel & Tours and even after this they kept on arguing about this. Nikki asked around to see if there was a ATM nearby but we were told that it was 2 hour drive as the one nearby was offline. But as a miracle the boatmen found money and their English all of a sudden improved dramatically and the issue was resolved. Maybe they were just trying to con us to make some more money but it was frustrating.
We finally got the entrance fee paid and we jumped in a small boat and a guy rowed us about 50 meters out from the beach and told us that we could jump into the water. I carefully submerged myself in the water and I almost freaked out when I saw that I was surrounded by three giant whale sharks in the clear water. Whale sharks are the biggest fish species in the world and can get up to 12 meters (about 40 feet) – I don’t think the ones that we saw were that long but they were huge. There were people in small boats feeding the whale sharks and that is why they got so close to us. Actually they got so close that we had to grab on to the boat to avoid their fins when they were gliding by. It was incredibly fascinating to be so close to these huge gentle giants. Note that you are not to touch the whale sharks and keep your distance. Avoid having sun screen on before going into the water.
Again I have to say I question the sustainability of the setup. The whale sharks normally migrate but as they are fed they keep on coming back to the same location in Oslob. According to some articles they have started to show changes in behavior already due to this. I hope that they make sure to protect the whale sharks so that future generation can also enjoy the sight of these majestic creatures. See more info on Oslob Whale sharks homepage. We stayed in the water for about 30 minutes before we went back to shore, had some lunch and started the trip back to Panglao. Luckily the weather was great so we had a pretty smooth boat trip back and we arrived back at about 3 PM. The photos shared in this section was taken by a French couple that we shared the small boat with. He was kind enough to send me these photos when they got back home. We should of course had a GoPro camera for this and we did try to rent one but we didn't have enough cash :-(
We decided to have a sunset drink at Amorita resort as this had a great spot for watching the beach and sunset – we decided to go for the mojito and that was quite an experience. The mojito didn’t have any mint or lime from what I could taste...and no rum either. So this was absolutely the worst mojito that I have ever had and we had quite a lot of laughs about it.
Next stop: Cebu
Speed sightseeting in Cebu City
We started by taking a taxi over to Fort San Pedro (which was located right next to where we came in with the boat from Tagbilaran) and Cebu City is a busy port. There were containers along the docks and a combination of industrial buildings and homes along the route. It was sad to see that there were people sleeping on the streets – even right outside the majors office where they had posted slogans like “Together we make things happen”. Fort San Pedro is an old Spanish fortification which dates back to 1565 – I’m not sure how much of the old structure is left but it seems like there is 14 cannons that are original!
We walked over to Magellan’s Cross which is said to have been used in the first mass in the Philippines in 1521. Today it is kept in a small chapel and according to the sign the original cross is inside the wooden cross. We also stopped by Basilica del Santo Niño next door and there was a mass in the pilgrimage center in front of the church – it seems like this open air square can accommodate quite a lot of worshippers. The basilica gave us another reminder that the area was hit by and earthquake in October 2013. The façade and the belfry were destroyed and it is still under reconstruction.
It seems like karaoke is popular in Cebu – as we were walking along the streets we could hear the music from many karaoke bars and voices that would probably not make it all the way to the top in Philippines Idol ;-) We also made a brief stop at the Heritage of Cebu monument which is a giant monument showing the history of the city. Pretty impressive actually but it still feels a bit wrong to have a large monument like this when people are living in the streets. In a distance we could see a skyscraper that was lit up in various neon colors and we figured it was the Crown Regency Hotel & Towers which contains an entertainment center. We took a taxi there and took the lift up to the 19th floor and here you can find miniature golf, 6D cinema, sky walk etc. We tried out the cinema and that was not that amazing and when we tried to get into play some miniature golf we had to wait for a while as the clerk was missing. When she did come back she said that we had to wait as she couldn’t find more golf balls. I was surprised to see that even if the building looked pretty modern and fancy on the outside the interior and equipment was quite faded.
In the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain
But we were also another mission – to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show “Parts Unknown”. When he went to the Philippines he came to Cebu to find the best lechon and he ate at Zubuchon and proclaimed “Best pig…ever”. Zubuchon is using this in their marketing of course and they now have several outlets. We went to the small restaurant at One Mango Mall and we had the lechon (of course) and a noodle salad. I was not that impressed by the roasted pig – it is hard to keep the skin crispy and one of the guys working there said that the pigs were roasted in a different location and it was best to come to the place in the afternoon to get it as fresh as possible. But maybe I’m hard to impress as in Norway we do have a tradition for pork belly around Christmas time and this is normally served fresh with crispy skin ;-)
To the island paradise of Boracay
When we got to Boracay we got to a pretty busy port area where tourists were arriving or leaving Boracay. We had to wait for a few minutes but soon enough we got picked up by “The District Hotel” van – the drive to D’Mall area took about 10 minutes and we basically just stopped on the road. The road is quite narrow and there was a pretty bustling traffic of cars, trikes and people. We followed the guy that loaded our suitcases in a trolley and we took a narrow alley leading towards the beach. The walk was only about 300-400 meters but when we got to the beach we were blown away by the view – we went from the narrow alley to looking at the amazing and beautiful white beach on Boracay.
The District hotel has a prime location on Boracay – it is right on the beach in Station 2 area and you can read my opinion about the hotel in this review. As we were there during the monsoon season a "wall" had been constructed in front of some of the resorts on the beach. This transparent wall gave some shelter but I’m sure the beach view is even more beautiful in the dry season when this temporary wall is removed. But the wall was constructed in a clever way as they had doors that could be opened and closed depending on the wind and time of day.
Sunset on white beach
The main activities on the island seems to be helmet diving, cliff jumping (actually not on Boracay but on the neighboring island Panay), sunset sailing, island hopping, lazing on the beach, mermaid school (I'm not joking!) and party of course. You don’t have to look very far for any of these activities as there are lots of people try to sell this on the beach. Unfortunately we didn’t get to do that much on the island as on the first day we decided to just relax on the beach in the great weather – and on the next day the typhoon Glenda (or Rammasun – why can’t they agree on just having one name?) struck the Philippines and that influenced the weather in Boracay even if the eye of the storm was about 300 km away. So we actually didn’t get to do that much on the island apart from relaxing a bit on the beach, getting a massage etc. which was fine as we had had a pretty packed itinerary until that point. You can get a message right on the beach but I went for a two hour massage at Palassa Spa instead. There were some confusion as the information on the website was not identical to what was on their spa menu but I did get a good treatment in the end.
Once again I went running to get some exercise – the island is not that
big so it only took me a few minutes to run across the island to Bulabog
beach and from here I ran up the hill towards Mount Luho – this is a
lookout point where you can pretty much see the entire island! When I
came there I just ran up the stairs but a guy called me and said that I
had to pay an entrance fee. As I was jogging I didn’t bring any money so
I asked some Chinese tourist if I could borrow 20 pesos for the entrance
fee and they gave me money – there are so many kind people out there.
The Google map of the island is not really good so not all roads are
marked on the map and you can’t really trust the placement of
restaurants and hotels on the map. It turned out that you can continue
on the road after the lookout point (even if this is not on Google maps)
and this takes you to where they have an ATV circuit, a golf course, a
zorb ball hill etc. I also came across this very dodgy looking fair
where they seem to have some rides –
I didn’t see any advertisement for
this in any brochures and I guess I can understand why. It did not look
safe to ride some of the attractions and it was located across the
street from a dump that smelled pretty bad. Anyway, the road continues
until you get back to Boracay Highway Central (the main road that goes
along Station 1, 2 and 3).
Eating and drinking in Boracay
If you like your sweet stuff be sure to stop by Lemoni Café – they have a very good selection of various dessert such as lemon meringue, tiramisu, carrot cake, cheese cake etc. and they are all served in small portion cakes. We stopped by there a couple of times and I was quite happy with the lemon meringue. If you want to make your snack a bit healthier you should stop by Jonah’s fruit shake and snack bar – this place focus on fruit shakes and I went for the banana and chocolate which was very good but then again I love banana and chocolate ;-) My first choice would have been a strawberry shake but strawberries were not in season.
One night the weather turned so bad that we actually could not leave the hotel so we were forced to eat at The District hotel. The hotel restaurant is called Caruso and serves Italian style food. I guess it tries to be a bit more upmarket so the prices are higher (especially for the wine) but I was not very impressed with the bruschetta but the lasagna was pretty good even if it was a pretty small portion. The total bill for the two of us was 5500 pesos (125 USD). But Caruso did have a good offer on beer during the day – 39 Pesos (90 US cents) is not bad for a bottle of ice cold beer that you can enjoy on the beach.
If you are up for a big burger go to Big Bite in D’Mall. They had some enormous burgers including one that is 1 pound – I guess it should be filling enough for most people.
Back to Manila – back to reality
We returned to the airport pretty much the same way as we got there – we had a shuttle from The District back to the jetty and a boat took us over to the island of Panay and we drove a couple of minutes to get to the airport. Check in at Caticlan airport with Cebu Pacific was a bit chaotic – but we managed to check in and this time we had to pay 3200 pesos (73 USD) due to luggage overweight. Out of this airport it seems like you can only have 10 kg each and we had 36 kg combined. Again each of the passengers had to step onto the scale to measure the weight of both passenger and hand luggage.
The seats in the departure hall were not very comfortable and we had a 1 hour delay as the airplane was late coming in from Manila – again it was due to the typhoon that had just swept across the Philippines. And when we did get onboard the plane we had to wait another 30 minutes as the rain was so heavy that they could not take off. In addition to that the plane was like a sauna as the air con was not operational when we were on the ground. But soon we were cleared for takeoff and once in the air we got a decent view of Boracay and the white beach.
Back in Manila – signs of typhoon Glenda
On the way into the hotel we saw lots of debris from the typhoon that had swept right over Manila and trees had been pulled up with their roots and had crashed down on power lines. So it was not a surprise to hear that large portions of Metro Manila had been without electricity but what was even worse was that quite a lot of homes were destroyed in the typhoon. We spent the last day with a bit of shopping, tasting some more local food and packing up. Thank you Gladys for taking us out and introducing us to Philippine food and for helping us organize the trip.
Time to head home
I was positively surprised by the Philippines. We had been warned that the transportation would be a hassle, that the food would not be very good, that pollution would be bad etc. Yes, I guess the traffic in Metro Manila was bad but that is not what I will remember when I think back on the trip. I will remember the open and friendly people that we ran into along the way. I will remember snorkeling with the huge whale sharks (thanks Nikki for dragging me along) and I will remember walking down that alley on Boracay and all of a sudden seeing the long and beautiful White beach appear in front of us.
I hope that more tourists will find their way to the Philippines and I hope that the people of the Philippines will take the responsibility to make sure that the attractions are not destroyed and exploited (like the whale shark experience). The next time we go I guess we have to make sure to go there during the summer season so that we can enjoy some of the other beautiful beaches that the Philippines can offer. And hopefully next time we will avoid being hit by a typhoon. Next time I will also try to not chicken out when it comes to tasting Balut ;-)
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