Updated February 11, 2019
It is not surprising that in recent years this is the destination on fashion in Southeast Asia; the strange thing is that it is not since long ago. In 2008 in Tokyo I met the first backpacker who told me he was going to the Philippines “to relax”; I was not knowing what to say, at that time I had been to all continents (yes, even Antarctica) but still had no idea about the Philippines. In Southeast Asia I had been in Malaysia and Singapore, and had firm plans about going to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam but, the Philippines? If I had not met any backpacker who had gone, and I had not come across pictures on the internet, it probably would not be that good… So I have to admit I am one of many who discovered Palawan in 2013 thanks to being considered the best island in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine. That same year, Lonely Planet includes it in its top 10 regions to visit. I did have heard of the controversial victory of Puerto Princesa Underground River as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2011, and I started thinking “I’m going to read about this country, or not, maybe I’ll just go.”
- The undisputed star: Palawan:
- The spectacular Andaman coast in Thailand and famous Halong Bay in Vietnam are very much like it; in fact, their geological origin is the same, and different from the rest of the Philippines. I say they are like it, because in my opinion Palawan is better. Both Coron and El Nido are incomparably beautiful. It is brutal, and incomprehensible that it has not been disclosed before.
- But beware that there are also extensive white sand beaches better than many in the Caribbean.
- In addition, some of the best diving spots in the world are here: reefs with greater wildlife variety than the Great Barrier Reef and, where else can you find dozens of World War II wrecks?
- And what about the famous underground river? Actually, much better than I expected.
- The rest:
- Swimming with whale sharks: in Bohol and Donsol.
- Some of the best rice terraces in the world: Banaue.
- The rarest and symmetrical hills you may ever see: Chocolate Hills, also in Bohol.
- Jungle: the farther south, the more jungle.
- The undisputed star: Palawan:
- Cities: this is where the average goes down…
- Manila. You can not avoid going, as your flight will arrive and leave from there, but at least try to leave as soon as possible. If you’re Asian, you will find very interesting to visit Catholic ruins in Asia. But if you’re not, to see ruins (because that’s basically what they are, ruins) of houses, forts and Spanish churches, very poorly maintained by the way, better go to Spain. Manila is an overpopulated city Southeast style; on the same street, if you look to the right you’ll think you’re in Singapore, and if you look to the left you’ll believe to be in Nepal.
- Other cities, at least they are not so loud and chaotic as Manila, still there’s no much beauty, or rather nothing.
- And how is the food? I prefer padthai, but it’s not bad. I do not like that when you order meat you’ll never know what part of the animal it’s going to be, but it also happens with the Madrid stew…
- Organization: This is where definitely The Philippines fail. Travelling in The Philippines on your own is not for beginners:
- It is RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE.
- PROFESSIONALISM IS LAMENTABLE.
- As there are many islands, much time is wasted in moving from one to another.
- And the weather, even in the dry season, can be very rebellious.
In short, the beauty of the Philippines is extraordinary, I think the best in Southeast Asia and certainly one of the best in the world, but you’ll have to choose: you can come and pay more, waste much time and twicht your nerves because of the unprofessionalism in here, or can make it a bit easier and go to places that are on the second place, which is no small feat.