Tag: backpacker

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

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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

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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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Taal Volcano – An Easy Day Trip From Manila

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The Taal Volcano is the smallest volcano in the Philippines and is actually a volcano within a volcano (sounds a little Inception-esque). It’s easily accessible from Manila, but we decided to stay in Tagaytay.

Getting to the Taal Volcano

Staying in Tagaytay made it easy to get to the Taal Volcano. We could see the Taal Volcano from the hostel we stayed in. We got a trike downhill to the edge of Taal Lake and got a boat over to the volcano. We were offered the chance to go up the volcano on horseback but declined because the horses didn’t look like they were in the best condition. We were also offered a guide but refused because the volcano is only 311m high. How hard could it be?!

The Ascent

The ascent to the crater lake was not difficult and took around 40 minutes at a leisurely pace. We set off around 2pm so the sun was blazing. Add that to the fact we were walking on an active volcano and I was probably 50% sweat by the time I reached the top.

 

Taal Volcano crater lake

Me at the crater lake

Once at the top, the crater lake looked amazing. Definitely worth the sweaty, dusty 40 minute walk to the top. On the way down we stopped for a coconut water/beer. This was probably around halfway down and the views of the lake from this point were fantastic.

How much did I pay? 

  • 200PHP – Return bus trip Manila -Tagaytay
  •  100PHP – Return trip on a tricycle from Tagaytay to Taal Lake
  • 500PHP – Return boat ride to Taal Volcano
  • 100PHP – Tourist fee on the island

I was in a group of 4 so the tricycle & boat prices are what we paid individually.

All in all, visiting the Taal Volcano is a great way to experience the countryside of the Philippines without straying too far from Manila.

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Bohol – What To Expect From A Full Day Tour

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When I decided to go to Bohol, the main attractions for me were the famous Chocolate Hills and the chance to see the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier. We decided to stay on Panglao Island so we could be close to the beach, which can easily be accessed from Bohol. Fortunately, there were plenty of tour operators on Panglao Island who provided day trips to see the tarsiers and Chocolate Hills in Bohol. When booking to go to the Chocolate Hills, the tour also includes a number of other stops.

What did I see on a full day tour in Bohol?

The first stop of the day was the Blood Compact statue marking the friendship treaty between the Philippines and Spain, which was signed in the 1500’s. There were a lot of tourists surrounding it and queuing to take a picture with it. We were there for around 5 minutes, enough time to take a picture and read about the significance of the statue.

Spain/Philippines Friendship Treaty

Blood Compact Monument in Bohol

The next stop was to Baclayon church, which, as can be seen in the photo below, is currently undergoing restoration after damage from an earthquake. This is the second oldest stone church in the Philippines, according to our guide. Inside the church, the altar is intact and is beautifully decorated. There’s also a museum for tourists to visit. 

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Baclayon Church, Bohol

Up next was the Tarsier Sanctuary where we were able to see the world’s smallest primate. There was a trail for visitors to follow and staff pointed out where tarsiers were sleeping. There were signs everywhere in the entrance asking guests to be silent and not to use flash photography, as tarsiers do not like bright lights or loud noises. We were able to see 3 tarsiers and only one of them was awake, although, from the look on his face, he was pretty annoyed at being woken up. I was surprised at how small they actually were, they could probably fit in my hand! In the reception area of the sanctuary, there was loads of information about these endangered animals which I found very interesting.

Grumpy looking tarsier at the Tarsier Sanctuary in Bohol


For lunch, we went on a river cruise on the Loboc River. This involved getting on a floating restaurant and slowly going up the river. Lunch was a buffet and had a large selection of foods. There was a singer and band on the boat for entertainment throughout the cruise and we stopped at one point to watch some local children perform a song and dance routine. 

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The Loboc River, Bohol

After lunch, we headed straight for the Chocolate Hills. In February, the hills are green so they don’t look particularly chocolatey. To get to the main viewing platform. we had to climb roughly 200 steps. From there, we had a 360 view of the Chocolate Hills. Even without their famous brown colour, they looked remarkable because of their unusual shape. 

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Chocolate Hills, Bohol

After the Chocolate Hills, we stopped at a butterfly garden. There weren’t many butterflies, but the ones we saw flying around were very beautiful. There was a section with caterpillars and cocoons too.

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Butterfly Garden, Bohol

The final stop in Bohol was the hanging bridge. This is actually 2 bridges. They are made of bamboo and are simply hanging over the river, as their name would suggest. They swing around a lot and I kept getting my flip flops caught in between the bamboo but they were great fun to cross.

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The Hanging Bridge, Bohol

The final stop of the day was to a python sanctuary in Panglao Island. There were a few other animals there but the main attractions were the huge snakes. The one in the photo below was slithering around on a table.

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Snake at the python sanctuary, Panglao Island

How much did everything cost?

There were 4 of us so between us we hired a car for the day which cost 450PHP each. The driver collected us from our accommodation at 9am and we were back before 5pm.

The Blood Compact monument and the Baclayon Church were completely free, however, there was the option of paying 50PHP to go into the church museum.

Entrance to the Tarsier Sanctuary was 60PHP and the Loboc river cruise with lunch was 450PHP.

There’s a 50PHP fee to pay to go to the top of the Chocolate Hills and it cost 20PHP to cross the hanging bridge.

The butterfly garden cost 45PHP whilst entrance to the python sanctuary only cost 30PHP.

In total, the full day tour cost me 1105PHP for all attractions and for lunch.

It’s definitely possible to do this tour cheaper. It costs 350PHP to do the tour with a larger group on a bus but we decided against this as we all agreed that tours are much easier with a smaller group. For an extra 100PHP we all felt it was worth hiring the car for the day.

There’s also the possibility of hiring a motorbike for the day and driving yourself around Bohol.

All in all, the full day tour in Bohol was very enjoyable and I would honestly recommend it to anyone going to the Philippines.

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February Monthly Recap – What I’ve been up to in the Philippines

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It’s been just over a month since I packed my bags and left the UK for some sun & adventure in the Philippines. So what have I been up to for the past month?

A Brief Overview of the Past Month

On the 5th February, I arrived in Manila and met my friend Vicki. We spent a couple of days in Manila, had our first Jolibee’s and went to the Mall of Asia.

Two days later, we hopped on a night bus to Banaue, where we visited the Batad Rice Terraces. I’ve written a more detailed post on that which can be seen here.

Batad Rice Terraces

Batad Rice Terraces, Philippines

Then it was back to Manila for a flying visit to meet Lara who would be joining us as we travelled the Philippines. That same day, we hopped on a bus and a boat to Puerto Galera, Mindoro where we had a couple of days of relaxing beach time, watched a drag show and visited a waterfall.

Next up in Mindoro was Sablayan, where we spent Valentine’s Day on an overnight tour to Apo Reef.

After this, we spent 4 nights in Boracay where we relaxed and drank a cocktail or 3.

On the 19th, we headed for the island of Negros. The first stop was Bacolod which had a lot of cool street art and some Ruins to visit. The second stop was Zambonguita, near Dumaguete, where we stayed in a beautiful resort called White Chocolate Hills. We also visited a turtle sanctuary on Apo Island.

The next island we visited was Bohol, where we stayed on Panglao Island. The boat ride there was awful because the sea was so choppy. We saw tarsiers and the famous Chocolate Hills during a full day tou

Then it was onto Cebu where we visited the Cebu Taoist Temple and had our first experience of Filipino karaoke.

Today I flew from Leyte where we visited Ormac and Tacloban, which was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan/Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Here’s a rough version of the route on Google Maps:

 

What are my plans for March?

So today I arrived in Manila, where we got a bus to Tagaytay to see the Philippines’ smallest volcano. The plan is to travel around Luzon until the 21st March then to fly to Palawan for 8 days of island hopping, beaches, snorkelling and birthday celebrations. On the 30th March I’ll be flying to Borneo.

Some last thoughts…

I intend to write in more detail about some of the places I’ve been to in the past month. Unfortunately, most of the places I’ve visited haven’t had great WiFi, which isn’t ideal for keeping a blog up to date.

If you want to keep up to date, I regularly post updates on Instagram (@alexexplores) and Twitter (@alexexplorestw).

Thanks for reading!

Alex

 

 

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