Our first two weeks in the Philippines.
Today marks the halfway point of our time in the Philippines and I am already depressed at the thought of leaving this incredible country. The Philippines has something special about it. It’s a contender for the most beautiful country I’ve ever been to and has already stolen the crown for the best beach we have ever visited. This overview of the last two weeks in the Philippines will give you a taste of what we have been up. These adventures have made these hectic two weeks fly by in a whirlwind of excellent activities.
Destination One: Manila.
Our experience of Manila can be epitomised by our journey from the airport to our guesthouse. The 10 kilometer took two and a half hours by taxi! This wasn’t even two and a half hours by public transport! Manila is overpopulated by both cars and people. There are hastily constructed, ramshackle houses as far as the eye can see in Manila. This chaos was what formed our main opinion of Manila. It is big, smelly and crowded.
However, after that entire spiel about its ugliness, I really didn’t hate Manila. I found it to have so much character and life. We met two homeless boys who were stealing mangoes at Fort Santiago. They had constructed a home-made raft to paddle across the river to get their dinner. These boys had the biggest grins on their faces, as though, this exercise was all a fun game rather than a fight for survival. Meeting them had a profound effect on me and opened my eyes to the struggles so many people face.
Unfortunately for James, the day we spent in Manila was his birthday. There was no opportunity to celebrate as the only nightlife to be found around our guesthouse were some super seedy Filipino strip clubs.
The Ferry to Coron.
Our next adventure was the overnight ferry to Coron. I’m calling this an adventure because it was a one of a kind experience! Nevertheless, the fifteen hour ferry was nowhere near as traumatic as we were expecting. Despite being in a room containing 300 bunkbeds and a cage with a dog in, I slept like a dream until we arrived in Coron, at 3 A.M.! Bear in mind check in at our hostel wasn’t until 2 P.M.! As I fell asleep on a bench in the lobby of the guesthouse, I realised I was a true backpacker now. I can sleep anywhere. Boats, benches, the floor, it doesn’t faze me (much!).
The reason we went to Coron was for wreck diving in the World War Two ships off the coast. This activity did not disappoint. Swimming through the Olympia Maru was one of the most incredible experience of our entire trip. We also dove in Barracuda Lake, which contrary to its name, has no barracudas in. However, it’s a geothermal lake, so the deeper you dive the hotter it gets. At 20 meters the water is 38 degrees Celsius.
We also rented motorbikes and went out to explore Busuanga, the rural part of Coron. Motorbiking through the Filipino countryside is one of the charms of the country. Well paved roads, little traffic and stunning scenery makes this a perfect day out. Two minutes outside town and incredible vistas appear before your eyes. Simply driving around was an amazing day.
Next stop: El Nido.
Our love for El Nido can be explained by one fact. We booked three nights here. We ended up staying six. El Nido is quite simply out of this world. It’s unsurprising it is so wildly popular.
We spent two days on tours, completing both tour A and tour C. This allowed us to explore the islands, snorkel in some pristine coral and kayak through the lagoons. However, the beauty of El Nido lies in simply being at sea. While on your bangka your eyes will constantly flick between one stunning island and another. The landscape here could be the set for Pirates of the Caribbean.
We also visited two beaches while in El Nido. First off, we spent the day at Las Cabanas beach. While Las Cabanas is not the most amazing beach it was still very nice. The day spent swimming and sun bathing was a perfect way to relax after hectic days on tours. However, the second beach we visited stole the crown for the best beach we have ever been to.
Nampac beach is trip advisors number one beach in the entire Philippines. So, I assumed it would be nice, but crowded. However, what found a 2 km stretch of beach that had been dropped from heaven. Maybe a hundred other people occupied the entire length of the beach. The water was crystal clear and gently lapped at the sand. There was no litter, no rocks to stab your toes on, no dead coral to avoid. There was not one thing wrong with this beach. It was simply perfect.
That’s four of our five days in El Nido accounted for, but what happened to the fifth? Unfortunately, El Nido has a reputation for something over than its beauty: its ability to make even those with the sturdiest stomachs sick. James and I both managed to get ill while in El Nido. We do not know what caused it: polluted sea water, bad food or tap water. But we ended up spending an entire day in bed! Not ideal, but that’s how traveling works sometimes.
From El Nido we took a bus to Puerto Princesa to catch a flight to Cebu. We will spend the next two weeks exploring the central Visyas. Hopefully, our final two weeks in the Philippines will be as good, or even better, than the two I have just outlined. Tune in to “Fabulous Philippines: Part Two” to find out what we get up to next.
Want to read about our first impressions of the Philippines?