Beaching in the Philippines

Philippines_El_Nido_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5969El Nido lies by the beach, just five hours north by van from Puerto Princesa, and it’s known as the starting point for exploring the beautiful Bacuit archipelago. The archipelago is composed of limestone islands that offer countless beaches, each of them perfect for a postcard. With very high expectations and a little bit lesser moral due to the rain, we decided to book a boat tour to see some of these islands. Picture this, it’s 8 in the morning and you are having breakfast before your trip starts while the never rain continues to pour—that was our morning. Bravely, we marched to the harbor and got on the boat, rain jackets at the ready, to find that the rain had stopped and that a shy sun was peaking through the clouds. Could it be true?Philippines_El_Nido_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5808

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We sailed off and after merely 35 minutes, we were enjoying one of the most beautiful oceans I’ve seen. The water, illuminated by the now powerful sun, was turquoise and light blue and it contrasted with the black rock of the islands and the native trees that covered them. We visited the big and small lagoons of Maniloc Island, both on the boat and snorkeling when the boat could not go in any further. The coral and the life around it were beautiful and the warm waters of the South China Sea were inviting. After a few hours of snorkeling and sun, an onboard grilled lunch of fish, shrimp, chicken, mussels, and fruit was much appreciated. We ate on the beach under a big tree and life could not have been more perfect.

Philippines_El_Nido_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5869Big lagoon

Philippines_El_Nido_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5863Chefs de cuisine

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Philippines_Sabang_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_P1110566  See you in Vietnam!

We spent the rest of our time in El Nido relaxing on the beach and indulging with seafood dishes and the ever-present San Miguel beer. But the weather changed again and it brought the rain once more, and it was time to return to Manila to pick up our passports and Vietnamese visas. We made the decision of leaving the Philippines two weeks earlier due to the poor weather, and move on to the hopefully drier Vietnam. Philippines, however, didn’t seem to want us to leave and we had a few bumps on the way, but we’ll leave those for later…

Philippines_El_Nido_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5937Perfect ending to a perfect day

 

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Off to Palawan Island

Philippines_Puerto_Princesa_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5520People say that if you can only visit one place in the Philippines it should be Palawan, as it offers a little bit of everything there is to see in the country. We arrived in Puerto Princesa (the capital of the island) after a short flight from Manila and, although the rain continued to join us, our moods lightened. The city itself has a more relaxed atmosphere and the billion motorized tricycles make it easier to move around. Philippines_Puerto_Princesa_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5577 In Puerto, as the locals referred to the city, we enjoyed the best and most authentic Filipino food. We feasted on Crispy Pata (roasted pork leg), Kare-Kare (oxtail in peanut sauce), Sisig (pork bits in a creamy sauce), sweet and sour Lapu-Lapu (grouper), and even tried Tamilok or ‘Mangrove Worms’—a mollusk that is eaten raw with lemon and chili peppers, looks like worms, and tastes like squid…

Phillipines_Puerto_Princesa_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_2014-09-03_20.52.17Tamilok, one of the weirdest things we’ve tried

Philippines_Puerto_Princesa_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_2014-09-04_21.15.00Crispy pata, it doesn’t look that good in the photo but it was AMAZING!

Puerto is also a good place to visit the Underground River, according to some, the longest underground river in the world and one of the new natural wonders of the world! We booked a tour but due to the inclement weather it got canceled. Annoyed by this, we decided to leave the next day and to visit Sabang, an even smaller town two hours by van and the actual location of the underground river.Philippines_Puerto_Princesa_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5559Sabang is a chill little town without electricity by the beach that offers nothing more than pure relaxation. We organized a trip to the Underground River and it was amazing. The river is 8.2 km long, although you are only allowed to visit 1.5 km. You embark in a small wooden canoe and submerge yourself in complete darkness into the mountain. The only light provided is by a flashlight connected to a car battery, which Tracy maneuvered masterfully. Within the cave there are countless of stalactites and stalagmites, which the guide points at while yelling their name and shape: the dinosaur head, the inverted garlic, the Virgin Mary! There are also some impressive domes, some reaching over 60 meters high! The cave also houses more than 400,000 bats and birds, which you can see and hear through the whole trip. The river was amazing and made our rainy visit to the beach way more enjoyable.Philippines_Sabang_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5601

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Philippines_Sabang_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5670Thousands of bats perched on the rock

Philippines_Sabang_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5627The dinosaur head!

Philippines_Sabang_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5733Not letting ourselves be defeated by the overcast sky and the rain, we headed over to El Nido, a place where the Philippines was finally able to shine.

Philippines_Sabang_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5782Great weather for the last few hours in Sabang, could this be a good omen?

Running on Filipino Time

Philippines_Manila_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5986We arrived in the Philippines with dreams of lazy days, white beaches, and sun, lots of sun. Unfortunately, we did not realize that we were arriving in a country with more than 7000 islands in the middle of the monsoon season. Resigned with the rainy weather, we prepare ourselves to face the 12 million people city that is Manila.Philippines_Manila_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5365

Philippines_Manila_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5374Sunset over Malate, Manila

Rumors are true; the Filipino capital is one of those places that, as a backpacker, you want to leave pretty quickly. The streets are dirty and smelly, traffic is crazy and the pollution emitted by the hundred of jeepneys (Filipino local buses) is hard to cope with. Nevertheless, the old walled zone of the city, Intramuros, offers a glance to colonial times when Spaniards ruled.

Philippines_Manila_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5487Intramuros, the Spanish capital within the Philippines

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Philippines_Manila_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5378San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the country

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Philippines_Manila_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_IMG_5429 One of the main reasons for us to spend time here was to get our visas at the Vietnamese embassy. HUGE mistake. First of all, you can get the visa online. Second, and this is just what happens when you backpack, we got to the embassy and it was closed because it was Vietnam’s Independence Day, Arrgggh! We finally turned in our passports the next day and, since we had to wait for five days for our visas to be ready, we headed to Palawan island with renewed dreams of white beaches, diving, and the tropical experience…Philippines_Manila_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_2014-09-02_15.02.36

Halo-Halo, the layered dessert consisting of jello, ice cream, beans, and condensed milk

Philippines_Manila_Viaje_Asia_2014-2015_2014-09-03_11.22.40 Local transportation