Ive been fortunate enough to have dived in some amazing places around the world, the Phillipines is challenging for the top spot, currently held by Komodo National Park in Indonesia. During our time in the Philipines we’ve been unlucky with the weather and storms and typhoons in the area made the visibility less than ideal on a few dives. However with that being said the diversity in underwater life and the vibrancy of the coral have made it one of my all time favourite places to dive. Thresher sharks, Ghost Pipe fish, Cuttlefish, Nudibranch, the list goes on and on. On top of the quality of diving goes the cost, if you shop around and get a discount for multiple dives, a dive with gear can be found from 20 USD.
Generally speaking, Filipinos are some of the most genuine and kind people I’ve met whilst travelling. A smile and laughter always come quickly when chatting with locals and they don’t take themselves too seriously. Spending almost two months in the Philippines enabled us to slow down and get to know some locals, to ask questions about their country and look at their life views. It’s one thing to go and see all the sights but if you don’t get to know the people do you really know a country?
Whether it’s the calm beaches of Siquijor or the hustle and bustle of Boracay, the Philippines has its fair share of amazing beaches. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate walking across the sand and sunning myself before splashing around in the surf. In some of the more developed tourist areas you’re going to be amongst a lot of other beach goers (for good reasons) but by getting off the beaten track you may just find the beach all to yourself. White sand, turquoise waters and 27 degree celsius water, a beach lovers dream.
The Phillipines is pretty damn cheap. A San Miguel Pilsen (the most commonly found beer of the Phillipines) can set you back as little as 50 Peso’s or about one US dollar. A four hour ride on an air conditioned coach with a designated seat costs 200php/4USD. Food and accommodation is where you can really save money. If you stay at a nice modern resort you’ll pay at least 2000 pesos a night, but basic (somewhat outdated) rooms with a fan can be found for 700-1000. The same for food, the swankier western style restaurants will be 250-450 for an entree but the small local joints food is between 150 and 300. The point being that there is something to suit all budgets and if you’re travelling on a budget then the Phillipines is pretty affordable.
The Water Falls
As well as beaches, the Phillipines has amazing water falls that are waiting to be explored. We visited a few different water falls around the country and we also went canyoneering at Kawasan Falls. If you’re feeling adventurous and are ready to jump 30 feet into beautiful blue water then head to Kawasan Falls. Whilst visiting the cool little village of Moaboal we booked a tour and a thirty minute drive saw us at the falls. I won’t give you too many details and spoil it, but suffice to say it’s super fun and you’ll be pushing your comfort limits. There seems to be waterfalls spread all over the country and it makes a great afternoon splashing around and taking photos with friends.
Of all the great things about the Phillipines, food is not one. Sure if you search it out you can find some good food such as Lechon or Adobo. But generally speaking the food is not the best.
Thailand has it’s flavoursome, spicy food. Vietnam has its Banh Mi and Papaya Salads. Phillipines has Kinilaw. Think of Ceviche and now add coconut milk, coconut vinegar and ginger to the equation. Spicy, sour, creamy, coconuty fish and seafood mixed with red onion and Thai Chiles. Yumtastic. Here’s a great recipe for you to try at home, Awesome Kinilaw Recipe
This point can not be overlooked and it’s one I value highly. Over the years I’ve struggled with “risk” and “perceived risk” when travelling abroad to so called “dangerous” countries. With time and some mental training I’ve gotten a lot better but it’s still down inside of me. Being somewhere like the Phillipines takes some weight of my shoulders and lets me relax into my surroundings. No one hassles you on the street unless they’re offering you a massage, motorbike or maybe Viagra. In one neighbourhood in Manila and others in the provinces there is a lot of prostitution but it can easily be avoided by staying out of the girly bars and politely saying no when offered some company. Ive never felt threatened by theft or by pickpockets.
The Phillipines has so many places to visit you could spend months travelling and still not see it all. The country is made up of well over 7000 islands, 2000 of which are inhabited. For us and the way we like to travel there have been several spots we could spend multiple weeks on, Siquijor, Manila, Malapascua and maybe Boracay. In the Phillipines you can dive, enjoy the beaches, go hiking, practice martial arts, surf, party, take a mermaid course, shop, explore waterfalls or just chill in a hammock with a good book. With so much to offer the traveller its hard not to fall in love with the country.
The Comfort for a backpacker
The Phillipines is an easy place to travel. Once you’ve got used to throwing your toilet paper in the trash can instead of the toilet bowl then you’re pretty much all good. You may have to ask the same question a few times to get a straight answer and the wifi sucks but most things run pretty smoothly and everything is relatively stress free. I’ve been to countries that are tough to travel in such as Cuba and Taiwan. In Cuba we found ourselves frustrated with the two currency system and travelling on the tourist bus only to arrive to hordes of pushy people trying to get us to stay in their homes. Taiwan was weird, wacky and difficult to travel because very few people spoke English. In the Phillipines there are none of those issues.
And yes there’s Starbucks and other “proper” coffee shops in most of the major towns and cities.
The lack of a language barrier
This one really ties into a lot of the other points I’ve already mentioned. It’s easy to say “I don’t want to speak English, I want to learn the local language and immerse myself in the culture.” This is a super valid point and I encourage people to do just that but in reality its not that easy or practical if you travel all over the world. Being able to communicate effectively means you can make friends easier, you’re less likely to get ripped off and you can take away a lot of the frustrations of travel that come with not speaking the language. I’ve yet to meet a Filipino that doesn’t speak some English and most speak fluently.
So if those reasons don’t get you motivated to go and travel in the Phillipines then I don’t know what will. We love it and we will be back.
Thanks for stopping by,