Month: March 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

Five Places I Loved In The Philippines

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After two months travelling around the Philippines, I thought I’d list my top 5 destinations:

1. Batad Rice Terraces

batad rice terraces philippines

The Batad Rice Terraces

It’s difficult to show how stunning the Batad Rice Terraces are on pictures alone. They are incredible. Built over 2000 years ago by the Ifugao people, it’s easy to see why they’re a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fact that Batad can only be accessed on foot makes viewing more worthwhile. Read more about getting there here.

2. Apo Island

turtle apo island philippines

There are too many turtles to count near Apo Island

Apo Island itself isn’t much to shout about but its surrounding reef is amazing. Boasting over 400 different types of coral and teeming with marine life, this is paradise for snorkellers and divers alike. Oh, did I mention there’s a turtle sanctuary?

3. Sagada

rice terraces sagada philippines

Views of the rice terraces near Sagada

Sagada is a beautiful village surrounded by mountains, caves and hiking trails. It also has an impressive number of restaurants with a large variety of foods. Sagada is very popular with Filipinos living in Manila, who drive there at weekends to enjoy some of the fresh mountain air. Read more about Sagada here.

4. Bohol

chocolate hills bohol philippines

Chocolate Hills, Bohol

Bohol is an island close to Cebu and is home to the Philippines famous chocolate hills. Bohol is also home to the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier, which can be seen in a sanctuary. Bohol is a popular stop for tourists and backpackers. Read more about it here.

5. El Nido

el nido palawan philippines

El Nido, Palawan

El Nido is situated at the northern tip of Palawan. There are numerous islands to explore along with many gorgeous beaches. The water is incredibly clear which makes it perfect for diving.

Do you agree with this list? Got anything to add? Feel free to comment below!

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Sagada – Caves, Food and Fresh Air

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Sagada is one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines. I really loved it because it’s temperatures are cooler than the rest of the Philippines, making it the perfect temperature for a Brit like me.

Sagada is a village in the Mountain Province, north of Manila. It’s surrounded by mountains and caves, making it perfect for tourists looking for outdoor activities.

Activities in Sagada

When arriving in Sagada, all tourists must register and pay 35PHP at the tourism office. They’ll give you a receipt and a list of all the tours on offer, with prices. You need to hire a guide if you want to do any activities or walks.

I did the caving short course, which was 500PHP. This tour takes place in Sumaguing Cave and takes between an hour to an hour and a half. The walk to the cave takes just under an hour and there’s an option to get a shuttle for 300PHP. There’s really no need to get a shuttle because the walk to the cave isn’t difficult.

On the way to Sumaguing Cave, I saw hanging coffins and rice terraces. I also stopped by the entrance to Lumaging Cave where there are stacks of coffins.

 

Hanging Coffins Sagada

Hanging Coffins in Sagada

Sumaguing Cave has three stages. The first bit is the ‘slippy bit’. The type of rock combined with bat guano makes for a slippery walk into the cave.

The second stage is the rock formations. There’s loads of different rock formations and the guide told me the names of them. The most famous is the Kings Curtains. A bit of imagination was needed when my guide was showing me the rocks.

The third stage involves going through some water up to your chest. I ended up falling into a deep pool so got completely drenched. This bit was optional for those who don’t want to get wet. When I left the cave I was completely soaked and a few worried people asked whether they would get soaked.

Food in Sagada

I found Sagada to have some of the best food in the Philippines. Every restaurant I ate in had great food.

My favourite place was Gaia which is a vegan restaurant at the bottom of Sagada with amazing views of the rice terraces.

 

Rice Terraces Gaia Sagada

View from Gaia Cafe, Sagada

 

Other restaurants I visited include, Kimchi, Yoghurt House, Sagada Brew, Masferre and Bana’s Cafe. All restaurants had great menus.

Getting to Sagada

I was in Subic Bay before going to Sagada, so for me the best option was to get a bus to Baguio then another bus from Baguio to Sagada. I stayed a night in Baguio because of the bus times.

Returning from Sagada was much easier because there’s a direct Coda Lines bus from Sagada to Manila. The bus leaves Sagada at 3pm daily and goes via Banaue, arriving in Manila around 2am. I was lucky enough to have 2 seats to myself plus Coda Lines provide passengers with blankets. A one way ticket costs 720PHP.

Any questions? Anything to add? Let me know your thoughts…

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Cebu – Karaoke Nights And Gang Fights

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Cebu City isn’t too bad. It’s smaller than Manila so it’s easier to navigate and the air doesn’t feel so polluted. We stayed in Cebu Tropical Hostel which had a lot of backpackers staying there so it was a great place to meet people.

Cebu Tropical Hostel

Social area at Cebu Tropical Hostel

On our first day, we visited the Cebu Taoist Temple, which had great views of the city of Cebu. The temple itself was peaceful and beautiful.

Cebu Taoist Temple

Cebu Taoist Temple

On our last night we met a couple of Brits in the hostel and decided to try a few bars on Mango Avenue. The 5 of us crammed into a taxi and 5 minutes later, we arrived at Mango Avenue.

At first glance, it didn’t seem very busy. The busiest looking place was an Irish bar which had a singer performing. We headed in and luckily beers weren’t too expensive if you bought them in rounds of 8. Towards the end of their set, the singers let a couple of the people from our group sing with them and we all had a dance. We stayed in this bar until the singer finished.

By this point, we were all a little tipsy but it was only 1am and no one was ready to go home. Karaoke was suggested so we wandered around looking for a karaoke bar. We found one in what seemed to be the ground floor of a multi-storey car park. It was called’Lyrics’ and it was the sort of karaoke bar where you hire a booth for an hour and sing amongst friends. I can’t remember the exact cost but it definitely wasn’t too pricey. After an hour of singing Beyonce, TLC and 90’s classics our time was up. We headed outside with our cocktails in some attempt to finish them.

 

This is where the gang fight begins. As we were trying to finish our drinks, loads of men started fighting in front of the bar. Like, about 50. We stood up to watch but a bartender told us to sit down. I asked the bartender if this was normal and she casually replied, “Yeah, it happens often”. We waited for the fighters to clear then hopped in a taxi and headed back to the hostel.

Cebu is a good place for a night out. The karaoke was very entertaining and it’s easy to see why Filipinos love it so much. The gang fight was more unusual than actually frightening because everyone seemed to appear out of nowhere and they disappeared just as quickly.

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Puerto Galera – Beaches, Waterfalls & Drag Shows

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Puerto Galera was my first opportunity to visit a Filipino beach. We’d decided to stay on White Beach simply for its beautiful white sand. We stayed at Summer Connection for two nights, which is at the far end of the beach. White Beach isn’t particularly long so it was very easy to go to restaurants and bars at night.

On the first day, we relaxed on the beach. There were a few people trying to sell things to us, such as massages, earrings, bracelets, shrooms(!) but no one was particularly pushy.

We headed to the restaurant next to our accommodation for dinner. Whilst there, a Filipino man, who we think worked at the restaurant, started playing some songs for us on his guitar. One of his songs was about a guy named Billy who he’d had a great night with but the following day Billy completely ignored him. We walked further down the beach and saw that there was entertainment in a few bars. We got an early night because we’d spent the night before on the night bus from Banaue.

 

Talipanan Falls

Talipanan Falls

 

On the second day, we went to Talipanan Beach, which is much quieter than White Beach. We also went on a walk to see Talipanan Falls. We took a Mangyan guide which cost us 300PHP. On the way back from the falls, the guide took us to see a Mangyan village school. The teachers and the pupils were lovely.
In the evening, we went to a bar in the middle of White Beach (I honestly can’t remember the name) as we’d seen some performers there the previous night. There was a drag performance, some young guys doing a dance routine to Beyonce and some fire performers. All in all, it was a lot of fun. The entertainment was totally free (although you’re expected to tip the performers) and it was the busiest bar on White Beach.

How to get to Puerto Galera

From Manila, it’s simply a case of getting a bus to Batangas, then getting a ferry over to Puerto Galera. Buses to Batangas can be found at the Cubao bus terminal. We got a package deal from a hotel which included the bus and ferry. It cost 800PHP which is pretty expensive for such a short journey.

 

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Mt Pinatubo

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I had to get up at 4am to hike to the top of Mt Pinatubo. 4am. A time normally reserved for waking up for early flights or returning from a night out. The reason for this is that Mt Pinatubo is kind of difficult to get to on public transport, even from nearby cities. This involved:

  • A tricycle from the hostel in Angeles to the Dau bus terminal
  • A bus to Capas
  • A tricycle from Capas to the tourism office for Mt Pinatubo
  • A 4×4 from the tourism office to the bottom of the hiking path
Mt Pinatubo

Interesting rock formations on the way to the start of the hiking trail

By the time we started walking it was after 7am. Fortunately, the walk wasn’t particularly challenging. There were a few river crossings and the path was uneven with rocks, stones and boulders. I managed not to fall or step in the river despite being one of the clumsiest people ever to live.

Mt Pinatubo Crater Lake

Mt Pinatubo Crater Lake

We made it to the crater lake at 9am. We’d seen reviews on TripAdvisor from people saying they’d eaten their lunch at the crater lake. Either they set off much later than us, are very slow walkers, or they eat lunch at a weird time. Anyway… the crater lake was nice. Unfortunately, no swimming is allowed in the crater lake but it still looked amazing.

I wore trainers to hike in which were more than adequate for this trail. As I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t particularly demanding. We saw a few people wearing dust masks but I honestly don’t think they’re required because it wasn’t too dusty. I also took water, some snacks to eat at the crater lake and of course, my camera.

This hike was great and I was surprised at how easy it was. Definitely worth seeing if you’re in the area. Although, if you’ve only got chance/time to see one volcano from Manila, I would say that the Taal Volcano is much easier and cheaper to access.

It’s possible to take a day trip to Mt Pinatubo from Manila, more details can be found here..

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