I can’t really remember one single reason why I decided to go to the Philippines. I was going to meet a friend and I have never been there before so I booked the cheap flight going there. I guess all the positive reasons led to this decision. I have known Filipinos as very happy and friendly people. This is also the main reason why I felt very safe wherever I’ve been. Of course, I did not go to regions that are “labeled” as dangerous for tourists. I also tried to avoid to stay in Manila, as much as possible.
It depends on where you are, it might not be easy to find a decent food. If you are in a fish restaurant you are lucky, if you like to eat fish. I especially like the steamed fish with lemongrass or ginger.
Another seafood dish can also be good. However, you have to consider well which restaurant to choose. By the way, you can buy some fish at the market and bring it to a restaurant or grill place. They will prepare it for you; you just have to pay them a service fee. Other BBQ places are very good and not too expensive as well. You can choose whatever you want and they will prepare it for you. I like how they cook the chicken. This is how a Filipino breakfast looks like.
Yes, compared to Thailand which was my previous country I’ve been on my trip, food is also expensive while booze is really cheap. 😀
After I flew into Manila I directly went to Bohol. I had fun diving wherever there are interesting dive sites. I really enjoyed Bohol (Balicasag).
The visibility was amazing and the corals are beautiful. You can find many turtles and jackfish swimming at around 30m depth in big tornadoes in a school of fish. If you have the license a good price for two fun dives is 2000 pesos, the average price would be 2500 pesos everything above is a rip-off. I stayed in Panglao for few days and took a break from traveling for Christmas and New Year. The island has a few sightseeing places for tourists to see. People want to go see the chocolate hills and the small unique monkeys. When I went there I had a flat tire and I wasted my time so I could not see the Monkeys. Instead, I witnessed an amazing sunset.
During my trip to Palawan, I visited Puerto Princesa, El Nido, Coron and Port Barton. Palawan is very popular so there are many tourists and it’s also more expensive than other parts of the Philippines. I flew to Puerto Princesa and stayed at the “Shebang Hostel”. It’s a bit outside the center but they have a very nice common area where you can easily meet other travelers. Their staffs also join us to chat or party with us at night. Because of this, you can share a tricycle or other tour so it’s not expensive at all. They also have a really good kitchen at the hostel. Shebang is a very good choice to stay. I skipped the underground river which is the most popular attraction around Puerto Princesa. A friend told me that it’s not worth it. Anyway, I do not really enjoy touristic trips that much. I decided to chill out at the hostel and work on my blog instead.
I also went to the dentist there. It’s actually worth it to do that once in awhile when traveling. Dentists are completely overpaid in western countries. I saved a whole lot of money to have a check-up abroad. My bill was around 16$ US including some medicine against my sore gums which brought me there. You can’t even take a seat at the dentist in Switzerland for that money :-). And no, the equipment was not old or outdated (they even have a small camera that he showed me on a monitor what tooth he was talking about) and as far as I can judge the guy knew his businesses very well and spoke perfect English. I know this because everything he told me is the same things that my dentist at home said about my teeth and he even suggested the same treatment for my wisdom teeth which I never want to remove but actually should. So, in my opinion, you have the same quality for the low price. That’s why people! Don’t waste your money on an expensive dentist, invest your money on traveling instead. Connect your treatment with a nice stay at the beach somewhere in Asia, some diving or a cultural trip. The chances are high that you still will save money, make new friends, gain amazing experiences (and catch a tropical illness which you can cure later on at home 😉
When everything is well with my teeth I continued traveling to El Nido. The town is sweet. Although there are many tourists, there are many local people and businesses too.
I particularly like Filipino restos which serve western and other Asian foods. They are cheaper than the touristy restaurants but they cook fresh food too. Again seafood is the best.
What I usually dislike from Filipino restaurants is that they often sell things that are already cooked and lied around for hours before being served but not in all places in El Nido. You can still have decent and fresh Filipino food.
The best thing to do in El Nido is island hopping. It is indeed beautiful and they serve nice BBQ on board.
In my experience, the peak season just started and in some islands, there were so many tourist boats that we could not even stop. I suggest that if you plan to do that, go during offseason. It might rain sometimes but if you have enough time you can go on sunny days and you will have more fun to discover the region. If you face the question what tour you should go for between tour A or C offseason. During high season probably a more exotic one could be nice. There are other tours available than A to D. Be curious and ask the locals. As I said Filipinos are very nice and helpful people.
Diving is around 1000 pesos more expensive than in Bohol. The visibility was not good. You can also see in many places how destroyed the reefs are. Some people told me that they used to fish with dynamite. I still saw some nice sea life like a cuttlefish. A local dive master told me that the visibility is actually better offseason. This is another reason why you should go during offseason to El Nido.
There are some nice beaches around. I like “Coron Coron” which is only 5 minutes away by motorbike from town. There are also some nice bars and restaurants. Sometimes there are even parties at night. It is a great place during sunset too.
A bit further away (1-hour by bike) you can find Nacpan beach. It is very beautiful and kind of untouched yet. There is only a small (but good!) restaurant Filipino style and a few places with bungalows to rent. The beach itself is huge.
You will have enough space for whatever you want to do there. In my case, I learned how to drive a motorbike on the sand. You will not make many friends but you can have a great time.
I took a boat to Coron. It takes 8 hours so make sure you have sea sickness pills if you have a problem with that because this is a simple Filipino boat, not a big ferry or speedboat. The journey to the paradise is beautiful. Coron town is more local style than El Nido. Tourists only come here for wreck diving. They also offer Island hopping and snorkeling but I didn’t do that. Instead, I went for a ride around the island.
This is my first real and genuine wreck diving. I have been at the artificial wreck in Koh Tao where I learned diving but a real wreck with story behind is something completely different. In Koh Tao for sure, they want to sell the wreck specialty course so we did not penetrate the wreck on the normal advanced course. Nobody cares about that in Coron. They just care about your buoyancy. First, they take you to a small and shallow wreck to see how your buoyancy is and how you behave inside a wreck. After that, if everything is good you go to a wreck in deeper depth. Especially the Japanese wreck Olympia Maru was a great dive. The visibility was bad and it was dark some passages are narrow that I had to squeeze myself through it. Really creepy just the way wreck diving should be. On top, I had a great dive master who knew a lot about the wreck and could show where all details like a toilet or whatever used to be. Due to a good briefing before the dive, we also knew what to look for when we dive down there.
We could even find stuck air in a place in the wreck. We sure not took off the regulator as carbon dioxide has reached a toxic level in the bubble. I can only recommend Filipino dive schools. They are cheaper than European owned places and the dive master usually dives for a long time there. So they know everything very well and as their English is often better than the some Europeans or Chinese it is definitely a good choice. By the way, make sure you book directly at a school and not in an agency. It’s cheaper. If you don’t trust them for some reason ask for their license as a divemaster or instructor. They told me that there are people who bring tourist out there without a proper license which is definitely dangerous. Also, check your gear yourself for your own safety.
Actually, they now started to fly to Cebu from El Nido and also you can fly out of Coron. I didn’t know about the flight from El Nido and I already booked a flight out of Puerto Princessa so I had to go back. On the way, I went to Port Barton. A really quiet place but still you can find everything you need. You can see some decent restaurant, local people, a dive shop, and a bar to hang out. By walking along the beach I bought some crabs from a local family. Thanks to the chef for preparing the meal!
As nice as it sounds the truth is a bit different. When crabs are on hibernation they are easy to catch in the mud if you know where. But they don’t have a lot of meat inside. As they keep their normal shells you don’t see that but once you open you will not have that much to eat. So make sure before you eat crab that it is a crab season. Which means they are not in hibernation so they are active and full of meat. You can also eat some good prawns or whatever. In my case, it was not yet the crab season but I was lucky to have two crabs or I would have gone hungry.
Unluckily I could not go diving in Port Barton because I stayed only two days and the only real dive shop was fully booked. Make sure you have a reservation or stay a bit longer so you will not encounter the same problem. Actually, I’ve heard that the dive at Port Barton should be better than El Nido but so far I can’t tell you from first hand. As always it’s nice to have a good reason to come back somewhere.