Philippines, February 2018

I spent three weeks in The Philipines stopping in 6 different spots with a focus on the South Islands. We flew between each island and used minivans to get from airports to towns. Within the towns, we rented scooters or paid for Tuk Tuks.

Itinerary

26 Jan – Manila

27-31 Jan – Borocay

1-4 Feb – Moalboal

5-6 Feb – Cebu

7 Feb – Puerto Princessa

8-20 Feb – El Nido

Observations

  • Women’s Work – Similar to Vietnam, we saw women in Philipines doing all sorts of work that you might not expect in the UK such as labouring, bricklaying, etc.
  • Late Flights – The internal flights in Philipines give departure times, but never follow them. Every one departed late. It’s normal there.
  • Sex Tourism – I’d been told that sex tourism in the Philipines was rife, but I was surprised by just how obvious it was. We frequently saw older white western men with young Philipino women. On at least two occasions I had somewhat uncomfortable conversations with men who were boasting about their paid-for female friends.

Recommendations

  • Manila
    • Hostel: Z Hostel is great and has a cool rooftop bar.
  • Borocay
    • Mad Monkey is a great hostel here. The rooms are great and the vibe is really cool for young people. The bar is typically a popular place for pre-drinks. Food is also good.
    • Nightlife: Exit Bar was really cool and played good music (but got very, very hot). Epic Club seemed to be the place that everyone went to if you wanted a late night (although the music was not so good).
  • Moalboal¬†
    • Whale Sharks: If you want to swim with the whale sharks its a two-hour drive and tours leave early in the morning. It’s well worth doing though for a very rare experience. The safety talk warns that no one should go within 4 meters of the animals but often they will come right up to you and it’s an exhilarating experience. Very busy with tourists, but once you’re in the water you forget about everyone else.
    • Sardines: People often swim with the sardines, but I found this to be a less exciting experience. Can be missed if you’re in a rush, but it doesn’t take very long. For best time, go on a super clear and sunny day so you can see through the water easier.
    • Restaurants: The French Coffee Shop was excellent for breakfast, lunch, and dessert (although service was slow at times). The Pleasure Principle was good for dinner.
    • Hostels: Hostels in this area were generally a bit more rough and ready so if you’re precious about where you stay, it’s worth booking early to get one of the nicer ones.
  • El Nido
    • This was my favourite place in the Philipines. It is less touristy than Borocay but still touristy enough to have nice bars, restaurants and nightlife. The surrounding beaches and islands are great and overall the vibe is fantastic.
    • Beaches: Las Cabanas is the most popular beach. It is closest to El Nido town and the most touristy. Nacpan Beach is the nicer, more quiet beach, but takes about 35 mins to get there by scooter (the last two mins of which is quite an awkward ride). Mad Monkey hostel is right on the beach and does good food with nice seats and sofas to chill on. Duli Beach is slightly further than Nacpan (40 mins) and I’d only recommend it if you’re wanting to surf. The waves can be rough and the ride there is pretty awkward, with a huge sand hill which causes people to come off their bike occasionally.
    • Sunset Bar: Republica Sunset is the go-to sunset bar after a trip to Las Cabanas. Good music.
    • Nightlife: The two main venues are SAVA and Pukka. Pukka tends to be the more messy night whilst SAVA is a bit more classy. Both are good fun though and very close to each other so you can bounce between the two. Rooftop Bar is a hippie bar that is a nice place for chilled drinks.
    • Restaurants: Altrove is a good Italian restaurant and pizzeria. Mezzanine was another good Italian/European (more expensive). Happiness Express was a good falafel restaurant that had a nice vibe in the evening.
    • Hostel: If you want to be away from the town, Mad Monkey is an excellent hostel right on Nacpan beach (but it pretty much excludes you from the nightlife in town due to distance).

Takeaway

The Philipines was perhaps my favourite country of the trip. It has a wonderful balance of beautiful scenery, islands and beaches whilst being just touristy enough to have good restaurants, bars, and nightlife.

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