Trip to Philippines - July 2014
The travel blog from Manila, Bohol, Boracay and Cebu

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The flag of the PhilippinesRoaring 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 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
During Bambike tour of ManilaWe didn’t have any plans for the summer of 2014 so when Qatar Airways had a sale, we decided to go for tickets to the Philippines. We did look into going to the Philippines a few years back but back then we were a bit scared about reports of kidnapping and unrest in the southern regions of the Philippines. But this time we did not let that stop us – we booked tickets to Manila and through friends and acquaintances we planned a two week trip in the Philippines. We decided to visit Manila for a few days, fly to Bohol/Panglao for some land/sea activities, short stop in Cebu and end the vacation on the island of Boracay. Please get in touch on if you have any questions. All photos are taken by Nikki and Gard unless stated otherwise.

On the next pages you will find:

Note: there are two main seasons in the Philippines. The dry summer season is from December to May while the wet monsoon season is from June to November.

Planning the trip
It was not easy to decide where to go in the Philippines as there are many islands to choose from. We also had to take into account that it was the wet monsoon season and typhoon season so we decided to go to Bohol and Boracay even if people say that places like Palawan and Coron is even more stunning – but I guess we will have to save that for another trip. To make things a bit easier I got help from a travel agency in the Philippines (called Victory World Sphere Travel) to organize hotels, flights and transportation – this was a bit weird as we are used to booking a lot ourselves just by using the internet but it turned out to be very efficient.

Map of the Philippines

Map of Philippines. Map provided by

The trip begins
We ran into our friends Lani and Stig at the airport in StavangerWe started our journey from Stavanger on July 3rd 2014. For once we did not have a flight at the crack of dawn so we even had time to work out a bit in the morning before heading to the airport at about noon. We were reminded that the soccer world cup had started as the lady in front of me in security had a Brazil t-shirt on...when I looked closer she had shoes with the Brazilian flag on it and her nails was also painted in the flag colors. She was on her way to Brazil to see her team play – unfortunately they got humiliated in some of the games but that is a different story. We ran into our friends Lani and Stig at the airport and it is weird to think that it was one year ago since we went to their awesome wedding in Bali!

At the new Hamad International airport in DohaWe 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.

Note: metro Manila is not one city. It is actually sixteen cities that have grown into each other and some of the cities are City of Manila, Makati, Pasay, Quezon City and Taguig. There are about 12 million people living in metro Manila.

Hello Manila
View of metro Manila when landing It is always great to land at a new airport in a new city and a new country. We have never been to the Philippines before but we have been to many other countries in South East Asia (like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia etc. Due to this I might not describe all the things that first time visitors to this part of the world find exotic but I will try my best. We landed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport and it seemed to be a bit old school. It seems like all airports are constantly being upgraded and expanded and Ninoy Aquino airport was no exception. But passport control did not take that long and we were picked up by an acquaintance that I met on a travel forum – this was excellent as we didn’t have to deal with the taxi area outside that seemed a bit chaotic.

Note: the airport has several terminals and they don’t seem to be directly connected so you have to take a shuttle bus if you want to go from one terminal to another and it can take a bit of time due to traffic.

A jeepney in Makati in metro ManilaWe 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.

Seds Bonifacio Global City in Taguig in the PhilippinesIn 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
As mentioned already; metro Manila struggles with traffic. There are two LRT lines (light railway) and you can find information about it on this page. We did not take this as it didn’t have a line that covered the area that we stayed in. Apart from that it seems to be Jeepneys and taxis that are an option and for tourists it is more convenient with taxi. Taxi rates are very reasonable and meter starts at 40 Pesos (1 USD) and for 5 km the total price is about 100 Pesos (2,5 USD). It seems like the taxi drivers are into old school classics – each time we took a taxi there seemed to be old love songs being played on the radio.

Note: the currency in the Philippines is Peso. When we were there 100 pesos was about 2.3 USD or 1.7 €

Around historic Manila – on a bamboo bike
Bamboo bike at Bambike in ManilaWe had not made any plans for the Manila stay and that turned out to be a bit of a challenge – so much for being spontaneous. But we sent out some e-mail on the night of arrival and we organized a tour of the historic city center – the Intramuros area. We decided to go for the company called Bambike where the bikes are handmade from bamboo and they have focus on fair-trade labor and sustainability. We took a taxi from the hotel at Bonifacio Global City to Intramuros and it was a good thing that I had plotted the location in on Google Maps as the taxi driver seemed a bit uncertain where he was going. The driver wanted a fixed price of 400 pesos but we asked him to use the meter and it was less than 300 pesos (7 USD) when we got to the destination.

Selfie of Nikki and myself on the Bambike tour in ManilaWe 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. In the intramuros area in Manila during the Bambike tourMaybe 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.

Note: talking about city walls: Intramuros is latin for “within the walls” apparently.

Philippines Presidents Gallery during Bambike tourWe 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.

The Bambike team in ManilaBut 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.

Note: to give you an idea of price level: small bottle of water at 7-Eleven about 15 pesos (35 US Cent), beer at a restaurant 90 pesos (2 USD) – but in Boracay some places also had all day happy hour with beer costing 50 pesos (1 USD). Starbuck Frappuccino 180 pesos (4 USD)

Food glorious food
Tasting betute (stuffed frog) in ManilaThere are of course lots of food to be eaten in Manila and the Philippines. You can have everything from snack on the street to fine dining at fancy restaurants. I was quite happy to see that there are restaurants that actually focus on Philippine food and that makes it easier to taste the local cuisine. If you are going to try something make sure not to miss out on chicken adobo, pla pla deep fried fish, bamboo rice, lechon (which is whole pig roasted), sisig, betute (stuffed frog) and many other dishes. As Metro Manila is huge you can also find all sorts restaurants serving international cuisines as well.

Tuna with lemongrass ice cream at VASK Gallery in ManilaAs 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 ;-) Sea urchin and foie gras powder at Gallery VASKWe 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? Teamwork to complete food at Gallery VASK in ManilaOr 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.

Champagne lunch
Champagne brunch at Fairmont hotel in MakatiBut why stop the birthday celebration with one fantastic meal? We also decided to go to a champagne lunch at the Fairmont hotel in Makati. If you go to places like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok etc I can recommend doing this – some of the big hotels have some spectacular buffets and the Fairmont was no exception. It is normally something that is being offerend once per week (normally on Sunday) so be sure to check and book a table. Lechon (roasted pig) at champagne lunch in Fairmon hotel in MakatiAt Fairmont there was a free flow of Veuve Clicquot champagne and a great selection of food. The first item to greet us at the buffet in the restaurant was a whole roasted pig! (also known as lechon in the Philippines) and when we started venturing around the buffet there was a huge selection of seafood (sushi, oysters and even Norwegian salmon), Italian sausages and hams, pizzas, pasta, meats etc. But keep in mind that you also have to keep space for dessert - they had a great selection of ice cream, panna cotta, crème brulee, pastry, lemon meringue, macarons and so on.

Caught red handed at Ayala museum
Entrance to Ayala museum in ManilaAs we were in the Makati area for the champagne lunch, we decided to explore the area a bit. This is the business district in Metro Manila and it contains the large 5 star hotels, shopping malls, restaurants etc. Nikki had a short look around at the Greenbelt shopping mall while I went to Ayala museum. The museum had a special exhibition about gold objects dating back to before the Spanish arrived in the Philippines and there were some amazing pieces. Gold on display at Ayala museum in MakatiI was the only one there and I took a couple of photos of some of the more incredible objects. All of a sudden a security guard came into the room and I moved on to another room. Again I took a picture and then the security guard came into the room and asked me if I was taking photos and that it was against regulation. I guess they were tracking me with video surveillance. So I got busted and they actually asked me to delete the photos from the camera! The most interesting part of the museum is where the history of the Philippines is told in 60 dioramas from ancient times to modern day.

Note: there are security checks at many malls, hotels etc and don’t be shocked when you see a security guard with a pump action shotgun strapped over the shoulder. But the checks were superficial.

The American cemetery
Tombstones at Manila American Cemetery and MemorialThe Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is not too far from the hotel we stayed at so we just walked over one morning. The memorial is huge and we could easily see it from the plane when landing at the airport as it stands out as a green hill in the city landscape. It contains about 17.000 graves but also a memorial with names of all the people that are buried here and also large mosaic maps that shows major naval battles in the pacific during World War II. We had to register to get in but we were the only ones there apart from the many gardeners that trimmed the grass to perfection. The memorial is a peaceful oasis in a bustling area.

The drag queen at the seafood market
At Macapagal dampa in ManilaWhen we went to Seoul in Korea a couple of years back we went to the seafood market and it was great to pick seafood from the vendors and then get it prepared at a local restaurant. We went to a place called Macapagal dampa near Libertad channel but it was not like the Seoul seafood market at all. There were a few stands offering shrimp, lobsters, fish and various shell fish and it seemed like it was also possible to get it prepared at nearby restaurants. But we were basically the only ones there so we got a lot of attention due to this and the vendors were very pushy. In addition to this the seafood were barely covered in ice so we got a bit skeptical to the quality of the food. I think we got enough when we felt that we got harassed by a drag queen that was offering lobster and we grabbed a taxi to get out of there.

Jogging in Makati
In tne foot steps of Jose Rizal at Fort Santiago in ManilaWe try to do a bit of workout when we travel and one day I went for a jog in the streets of BGC and Makati area. I guess some will say it is crazy with the heat, humidity and traffic but it is also a great way to see a city. It is only about 4 km (2 ½ miles) from BGC to Makati and it was interesting to see the city by foot and not only from the inside of a taxi. It was fun to take a closer look at some of the colorful jeepneys, see the small stores selling street food and to smell the combination of food, exhaust but also the bad smell of sewage as in one area of Makati it seemed like a pipe had burst.Cathedral of Manila during Bambike tour It is also fascinating to look at the wiring for electricity in e.g. Makati. On some of the poles there are so many wires that I’m wondering if anyone has an overview of what goes where. And I guess it must also be pretty vulnerable – we saw that later on in our stay when a typhoon hit the Manila area. But when meeting people face to face I also noticed how friendly people are. People would wave at me and say hello to me as I was jogging past them. The friendliness is something that I noticed wherever I went as even staff at Starbucks would ask me where I was from and ask me what I thought about the Philippines.

If you are in for a bit of shopping there are some large shopping malls around Metro Manila. SM Mall of Asia and SM Megamall are some of the largest malls in the world and seem to contain all the regular brands that you expect to find. But Bonifacio High street right by our hotel was also a great shopping street with a mix of restaurants, malls, cinemas and shops.

Note: It is a good thing that they provide free wifi so that the guys can have something to do while the girls are shopping ;-)

Next time we'll be sure not to miss....
At the Intramuros area in Manila during the Bambike tourNikki was not feeling that great on our last day in Manila so we had to cancel our exploration of Chinatown in Manila. This is apparently the oldest Chinatown in the world and it is also a food heaven. Next time we will be sure to join the Binondo food tour offered by Old Manila Walks. We also looked into a trip to the Taal volcano but we never got around to it. I guess you can do it as a day tour from Manila is you just get up early but it might be better to travel to Tagaytay and stay over there for the trek to the volcano. There never seems to be enough time to explore a city and with a large city area like Metro Manila you need a long time to cover it all.
It would also have been good to see more of real Manila. I think we just got to see the more upmarket areas of town and it would have been interesting to see some of the other cities in Metro Manila.

Time to move on – Bohol and Panglao
Check in at Manila airport to fly with Cebu Pacific to BoholAfter a few days in Manila we were ready to move on and on July 8th we got up early in the morning and took a taxi to the airport at 6 am. There were not a lot of traffic at this time of the day and the taxi to the airport only took about 15 minutes and cost 150 pesos (3 1/2 USD). We had a Cebu Pacific Air flight to catch and they seem to operate from Terminal 3 - as you can see from the Manila Google map Terminal 3 is located closer to Taguig and Makati compared to Terminal 1. Both check in and security check went fast and soon we were able to enjoy a healthy Cinnabon roll for breakfast – hey, it is important to enjoy the vacation right?

Note: the airport provides free wifi. The best options to get around the Philippines is by using Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines

Welcome to Bohol and Tagbilaran airportThe 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.Trike in BoholBohol 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.

View to Alona beach from AmoritaAmorita 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
Touring Bohol with SpongeBobThere is no rest for the wicked as they say so we started organizing a tour of Bohol after we checked in at the hotel. First we looked at booking a tour from the hotel but we decided to also check what we could find in the area. After looking around we decided to use a place that had a huge “Tourist information” sign on the main road outside the hotel – but I don’t think it was a tourist info place but a tour operator called Valeroso Travel & Tours. But the owner Juliet and the German guy that worked there gave us a lot of info about what was included in the tour and we paid 5000 pesos (115 USD) for the tour and that included transport, guide, entrance fees lunch etc.

A tarsier in BoholWe 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. Feeding a monkey during a tour of BoholIn 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.

View to Chocolate Hills in BoholOn 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.

Nikki and Gard at Chocolate Hills in BoholOne 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.

Holding a butterfly at a butterfly park in BoholThe 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 ;-)

In flight when ziplining in BoholThere 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 Nikki ready for ziplining in Boholin 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!

Note: the zip lining cost 350 pesos per person (8 USD) and you can buy all the photos that they take and get it on a CD for 250 Pesos (6 USD).

Loboc river cruise in BoholLunch 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.

Baclayon Church in Bohol is still in ruins after the earthquake in 2013We 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. Blood compact monument in BoholThe 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
Playing basketball in sandals is not easyAs in Manila I decided to jog around in the hotel area to check it out. The area is a combination of hotels, small shops, small homes and open land. The area is not developed like you see in many of the islands in Thailand – I guess it can be compared to Krabi in Thailand when I went there the first time. When I was jogging it was again great to experience how friendly people are. Cow along the road in PanglaoKids would wave to be and say “hello, how are you?” and people were looking at me and smiling...and probably thinking “why is anyone jogging in this heat?” But I guess we were not the only ones working out in the heat – we came across some local guys playing a basketball game and it was real impressive to see how they were sweating way less than me...and even more impressive to see them play in sandals! It seems like basketball is a popular sports in the Philippines and we could see it being played on outdoor courts in several of the places we visited.

Food in the Alona beach area
Steak at Addiction in BoholThere are some restaurants to choose from in the Alona beach area. There are both places on the beach but also along the road passing by the Alona beach area. We went to Addiction Beach Lounge Bar & Tapas on the first night and it was tricky to find as it didn’t look like a typical restaurant. It turned out that it was more a dive shop turned into a kitchen at night and they only had two items on the menu: meat or fish. The food was not bad but at the time it was listed as the best restaurant in Panglao and I don’t think that is the case. The steak was 500 Pesos (12 USD) and a glass of red wine was 120 Pesos (3 USD).

At the Italian restaurant Giuseppe at Panglao in BoholAs 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 (ItalianHaving antipasti at Giuseppe in Panglao in Bohol 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 A large lamb shank at Giuseppe in BoholI 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

Chicken skewers at Tarsier Paprika in Bohol was pretty dryWe 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
On the way to go snorkling at Balicasag island outside BoholAfter the tour of the Bohol island we decided to use Valeroso Travel & Tours again and organized a day trip to Balicasag Island which is a small island close to Panglao. We were picked up on the beach right by our hotel at the crack of dawn (6 am) as we would first go to see dolphins. The boats used in the area seem to be pretty similar to each other even if they vary in size. They were all with a narrow hull and outriggers of bamboo to keep balance – apparently known as pump boats. We were the only guests that day but Juliet, the owner of Valeroso Travel & Tours came along as a guide together with two boatmen.

Note: the engines on the boats are noise – bring some ear plugs in order to avoid being tormented for hours on end.

Looking for dolphins outside BoholAs 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. Boats at Balicasag island outside Bohol in the PhilippinesWhen 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. Nikki at Balicasag island outside BoholAs 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.

During the snorkling trip outside BoholWe 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 during our snorkling trip to Balicasag island was very goodLunch 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. At Virgin Island outside BoholTo 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.

Note: the sun is strong in the Philippines – remember to bring your sun lotion and sun glasses. I always find it best to use a snorkel top to avoid getting my back fried.

In the water with whale sharks!
Taking the boat from Bohol to Oslob in Cebu to see whale sharksBefore we went to the Philippines we read about snorkeling with whale sharks in Cebu but we figured it would be too tricky to get to this place. When we went for the Bohol tour we ran into an Australian couple that has been to Oslob in Cebu to snorkel with the whale sharks and it had been a horrible trip as the boat trip had taken 4 hours each way due to the wind. But the weather cleared up when we got to Panglao so we decided to give it a try as well and one morning we were picked up at 5.30 am on the beach. Getting information on how to snorkle with whale sharks in Oslob in CebuThe boat was another pump boat similar to the one we had on the snorkeling trip but only slightly larger. We were about 10 people on board and we had booked the trip at Valeroso Travel & Tours and paid for everything in advance – once again I think the price was 5000 pesos for the both of us. The trip got off to a slow start as we had to wait for a couple of Russians at a different beach – it was an international gathering as there was a couple from the US, a couple from Denmark etc. The trip over to Oslob on Cebu took 2 ½ hours as estimated but I think it would have been good to be at this place even earlier as it was already starting to get a bit crowded.

Note: The engine on the boat is noisy – bring ear plugs. And there were not that much shade on the boat so bring sunscreen. There was not toilet on board the boat so be sure to do your business before you start the boat ride.

Whale shark area at Oslob in CebuAt 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 Looking at a whale shark that passes by in Oslob in CebuEnglish 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.

A large whale shark passing under us in Oslob in CebuWe 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. A whale shark passing under Nikki at Oslob in CebuWhale 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.

A whale shark passing by in Oslob in CebuAgain 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.

Note: San Miguel is the leading beer brand in the Philippines. Try Pale Pilsner, Super dry or Red horse.

Next stop: Cebu
Fast boat frrom Tagbilaran to CebuOn July 12th it was time for us to move on again. We had arranged for a transport to Tagbilaran at noon. When we planned the trip we noticed that if we wanted to go from Bohol to Boracay we could either fly back to Manila and then back south again to Boracay OR take the boat to Cebu and take a small plane from Cebu directly. So we decided to go for option 2 as we felt it would be a waste to fly back and forth. Take a look at the Bohol and Cebu Google map to see where these places are located in the Philippines. The port in Tagbilaran was pretty well organized. We had bought tickets in advance and we just had to check it to get seat numbers – and we actually had to pay 280 pesos extra as our suitcases were too heavy and fee to the porters. I guess we have to stop being poshpackers ;-) The boat from Tagibilaran takes 2 hours and it was not terrible exciting.

Note: you also have to pay a small ferry fee before entering the boat. It was something like 15 pesos per person. There are several operators such as Ocean Jet, Supercat etc. The ticket was about 800 pesos (18 USD) per person.

Speed sightseeting in Cebu City
As we only had one night in Cebu City we decided to do a bit of speed sightseeing. So after we checked in a Radisson Blu in Cebu City , I plotted in a few of the places to visit in Google maps (a great tool by the way). You can read my review of Radisson Blu in Cebu here and check out the Cebu Google map to see some of the places we visited during our speed sightseeing.

Entrance to Fort San Pedro in CebuWe 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!

Magellan's cross in Cebu CityWe 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.

Pimp my ride Cebu styleIt 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. Heritage of Cebu monumentIn 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
There is a lot to choose from at Larsian BBQ in CebuWe decided to move on instead as it was about dinner time. On the web I had found that Larsian bbq is a popular place for foodies and bloggers. We just walked over there from Crown Regency and it was down an alley and not very visible from the main street – I doubt that we would have found it by accident. When we walked in there were lots and lots of long tables and plastic chairs and small stores along the outer walls that provided meat and At Larsian BBQ in Cebu Cityfish on sticks. The concept was just to walk over to one of these places and point out what we wanted and then it was barbequed to perfection on the middle of the place. When we sat down we got a simple plate and a plastic glove to use for eating – simple and brilliant concept. We just had some snack here: 6 skewers of pork and chicken with puso (rice in coconut leaves). I guess I should have gone for the chicken intestines on a stick to be adventurous but I chickened out (no pun intended). The food and drinks that we had cost 160 Pesos ( 3 ½ USD).

Zebuchon has the best pig ever according to Anthony BourdainBut 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”. Tasting the famous Lechon at Zebuchon in CebuZubuchon 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 ;-)

Note: Lechon is roasted suckling pig and it is a national dish in the Philippines.

To the island paradise of Boracay
We had a small plane going to BoracayFor many, many years the island Boracay has always popped up on lists when they talk about the world’s most beautiful islands or the most spectacular beach. We decided that we had to experience this with our own eyes even if people say that it has turned into more of a party island. On July 13th we took at taxi to Mactan Cebu International airport and it took about 30 minutes. Once again we were flying Cebu Pacific but this day we had a small ATR72 turboprop airplane. The Caticlan or Godofredo P. Ramos Airport nearBoat taking us over to Boracay Boracay is small so to start with we were only allowed 15 kg of luggage and they even made us step onto the scale to weigh both the body and hand luggage. Nikki’s suitcase was about 19 kg so we did have to pay 3000 Pesos (70 USD) as an extra charge due to this so keep that in mind. The flight from Cebu to Caticlan took only about 1 hour and once again we were picked up at the airport. A small van drove us like 5 minute to the port and we had to wait a couple of minutes before the boat came to pick us up and take us the short ride over to the island of Boracay.

Note: It is best to wear a sandal and shorts – the boat that we had just parked on the beach so there is a chance you might get wet if you were regular shoes.

White beach in Boracay at high tideWhen 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.

Note: there are two airports that serve Boracay. The closest one is Caticlan which is very close but it is small so only small turboprop planes can land here. The other airport is Kalibo and it is larger and hence they fly in with regular 737s and A320s. The disadvantage is that it is some 80 minutes’ drive away from the jetty to Boracay.

Entrance to The District BoracayThe 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
Sunset at White beach in BoracayOn the first afternoon in Boracay the weather was great and the sun was setting in the ocean. There were lots and lots of people on the beach taking photos and lots of people try to sell sunset sailing trips, selfie rods (apparently the hottest item at the moment), ATV driving etc. The sky turned into a dramatic orange color as the sun set in the ocean Gard and Nikki in sunset on Boracay. Photo by Dongeun Min(just like in Scream by Edvard Munch haha) and it was fun to see clouds cast a shadow in the sky! A Korean guy came over to us and said that he had taken a photo of us walking on the beach and that it was so nice that he wanted to share it with us. So I gave him my e-mail address so that he could send it to me – isn’t it amazing to get reminded that there are so many kind people out there in the big world? The photo right above this is the photo that he took of us walking on the beach and he was right - it did turn out to be a beautiful photo.

Note: there is a no smoking policy on the beach. I was pretty surprised by this but I’m glad to see that they are taking measures to make sure that white beach stays a picture perfect beach without too much trash.

About Boracay
I love Boracay sign at D'Mall areaSo what is there to see and do on Boracay? First of all: it is a tiny island only measuring 4-5 km long and about 2 km wide (at the widest) (about 3 miles long and 1.2 mile wide). Most hotels seem to be along the west coast where white beach is located but it seems like this is changing a bit. There are some resorts on the east side as well and they were trying to sell property on the north east part of the island when we were there. You can check out this Boracay Google map to get some information about where some of the places mentioned in this trip report are located. But note that the Google map is not very good for Boracay island.

There were a lot of sail boats on White beach in BoracayThe 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 – Homeport Boracayand 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.

The lookout point at Boracay gives you view to more or less the entire island 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 –Scene from the main street at Boracay 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 – Tricycle in BoracayI 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).
We picked up a brochure from and there was a note about an introduction to Boracay. So we went to the stand in the D’Mall area and it seemed like they were surprised that anyone showed up for this. We did get a “tour” but he didn’t have that much to tell us so it was not worth the time.

Eating and drinking in Boracay
You can enjoy dinner on the beach at Aria on BoracayThere are lots of places to choose from in Boracay and here are some of the places that we checked out. Aria is an Italian style restaurant located on the beach in the D’Mall area. The menu is pretty extensive and you can have a table pretty much on the beach so the setting is beautiful. I always get a bit skeptical when the menu is this extensive as a restaurant can't makeChicken cacciatore at Aria in Boracay that much fresh every day. But the fried mozzarella sticks that I had for a starter was OK and Nikki’s pizza bread came freshly baked it seemed like. For my main dish I chose one of my favourites stew dishes: chicken cacciatore. Unfortunately this dish was not very good. The chicken was very dry and it seems like it was just added to the sauce after that was finished and the sauce did not have the good taste of tomato and red wine that I think it should have. And Nikki was not that impressed with her tagiatelle ragu either and we both found the food to be too salty. The cost for the meal was about 2650 pesos (60 USD) for the meal and a bottle of wine.

Limoni Cafe on Boracay serves lots of good dessertsIf 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.

Note: if you miss your usual coffee treat have no fear – there is actually a Starbucks at Station 2 in Boracay!

Bruschetta at Caruso in BoracayOne 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.

Note: remember to have some cash. Especially when we went out at night to have a drink the bars seemed to prefer cash at least for smaller amounts. I had to walk to find an ATM a couple of times at night as the bars would not take our credit cards.

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
Check in at Boracay airportOn Thursday July 17th it was time to start the trip back home. The weather had returned to more or less normal after typhoon Rammasun had passed the Philippines. The beach was once again white in the sun and the ocean so blue and inviting. The day before we took a walk in the gale force winds and rain and we also jumped into the ocean - the waves were pretty impressive. I’m surprised that they are able (and allowed) to build the resorts and hotels so close to the ocean – due to the typhoon there seemed to be a lot of problems with flooding in D’Mall.

Kids made pretty nice sand castles on White beach in BoracayWe 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.

Note: there is also a 200 pesos airport tax so make sure to have some cash ready after check it.

Arriving at Boracay airportThe 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
Typoon Glenda passed over Manila and cause some damageWe decided to spend the last night in Manila in order to avoid any problems with the flight back to Europe. When we got out of terminal 3 we grabbed a taxi and it cost 1400 pesos to go to Bonifacio Global City where we had booked a night at Seda hotel again (you can read a review of Seda Bonifacio hotel here). 1400 pesos is about 32 USD which is pretty outrageous keeping in mind that it cost us 150 pesos (3,5 USD) to go from the hotel to the airport. But the alternative was to line up in an endless line to wait for a public taxi or try to figure out to take a jeepney to get to the Bonifacio Global City.

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
On July 18th it was time for us to return back home. The airport departure hall was also under construction and it is not the best airport at the moment. Check in went pretty smooth but immigration took what felt like forever. I think we had to line up for 30-40 minutes and there was no aircon so it seemed like everyone was picking up a sweat in the hot and humid room. But as soon as we got through it was time for boarding. We flew with Qatar Airways to Doha at about 6.30 PM and we had a couple of hours there before flying home to Stavanger in Norway via Copenhagen.

Gard and Nikki - jump on Virgin Island outside Bohol in the PhilippinesA Philippine acquaintance of mine posted an article on Facebook called “8 reasons The Philippines is the best tropical destination no one ever talks about”. And I guess this is what we experienced when we told family and friends that we were going to the Philippines – most were just like “Why?” and “What is there to see and do there?”. It is strange to see how some countries in the region (read Thailand) has been able to steal most of the limelight when there are other countries out there that can offer similar spectacular beaches, views, hikes etc. The Philippines are trying to promote the country with the campaign "It's more fun in the Philippines" and hopefully that will make people aware of this destination.

At Puntod Island aka Virgin island outside BoholI 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.

Dramatic sunset at BoracayI 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 ;-)

Some useful tips:

  • Wondering about the weather in Philippines? Check out to get some weather stats so you know what to expect.
  • You can seek information in the forum at e.g. TripAdvisor
  • Do you wonder how far it is from one place to another in Manila? Why not use Google Earth/Google Maps to measure? I find this to be a great tool.
  • Do you need a visa? Check it out on Department of foreign affairs.
  • There were ATMs were we went but I think it you go to some of the more remote locations it is best to bring cash

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. You can get in touch with me on

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