I will be spending 3-4 months in the Philippines, and a bit of East Asia next year (around Feb/08). I hope to use Philippines as a base camp for travels to other countries (thailand, indonesia, also considering hong kong, japan, korea) mainly because I have a relatives there.
this is the tentative itinerary:
3 weeks in Manila/Quezon City - I hope to visit the cordillera mountainsm(somewhere within the three weeks)
1 - 2 weeks in Palawan
1 - 2 weeks in Boracay
1 - 2 weeks in Cebu
---- I may extend my stay to more than 1 month in 1 of these locations to take my open water scuba certification
This leaves me anywhere for 1 to 2 months to visit other areas of southeast asia.
A few questions while I'm in the middle of planning this trip.
1) Which location is the best to take my open water certification (since I will be there for an extended time, I would like the area to have a bit of everything nature, culture, nightlife). Does anyone know how much it would cost (roughly $300 US I hear?).
2) Is there an all asia pass for any local asian airline carriers (Cathay Pacific has 21 day all asia pass, but it doesn't seem worth it) that would allow me to visit other cities in the Philippines and other cities in Asia? What about an all Philippines pass where I can go to any city within the country?
3) Lonely planet states that there is a cargo ferry (though the schedule is sporadic) from Puerto Princessa to Sabah (Malaysia). Has anyone ever used this ferry? Would you recommend it? I was thinking of going through Malaysia and Singapore before hitting Thailand.
4) Is 1 week enough for both Palawan or Boracay? (I do love sitting around the beach).
5) Is there any bicycle store that sells Merc folding bikes (they are Chinese made copies of British Bromptons) in the Philippines? Does anyone know of a big bicycle store in Manila or Quezon City? (yes I know this is a long shot question)
6) How bicycle friendly is Boracay, Cebu and Palawan?
7) I'm looking for travel companions, so if anyone is in the area at the same time, drop me a line, maybe we can coordinate. Age or sex does not matter, but no poo-attitudes please.
Any information, recommendations you can give me will be greatly appreciated.
1) There are many good spots. Puerto Galera/White Beach in Mindoro is nice.
2) I don't think so...
3)I know of one from Zamboanga/Mindanao to Sabah. This is a regular passenger ferry. For sure there are some others from Puerto Princesa. Watch out as this trip is considered as one of the most dangerous in the Philippines because you have to pass some of the Sulu islands! 3 years ago I didn't dare to make this trip because locals said it was not secure.
4)Palawan is great, 2 weeks should be your minimum. Boracay in my opinion is spoiled hence 1 week was more than enough for me.
6)Palawan is not good for bicycles, Cebu and Boracay are perfect.
7) When you arrive in Manila head for the Pension Natividad in Malate/Ermitas. YOu probably will meet some nice, younger people and some peace corps members.
Spend more time on Cebu's offshore islands like Malapascua and Bantayan.
Lonely planet is a very bad guidebook for the Philippines. You can trust me on that. I've been travelling in the Philippines for a long time. Buy yourself the Philippines travel guide by Jens Peters:
Don't take the last customer review into consideration since it clearly must be a fake. The Jens Peters guide contains at least 2 times more information than the Lonely Planet. It really is kind of a bible for travellers in the Philippines. Jens Peters spent more than 10 years travelling in the Philippines and visited them more than 60 times in the last 25 years.
thanks a lot Kafri, I'll make sure to get a copy...
Hello. I have some advice, though they may come in a disorganized form (sorry, can't think straight lately)
No Asia pass...oh and if you're taking planes here, as much as possible don't take Asian Spirit, there is a joke running around locals here that when you go onboard an Asian Spirit plane you go onboard as an asian and once you get out, you'll just be a spirit. something like that.
Since you did ask about bikes, there are some mountainbiking trails in the Cordilleras...and I agree to what kafri said. You can rent motorcycles in Palawan and Boracay though. I'm not so sure about the folding bikes either, I'll try to look in some shops for you.
And if you're going to be in Manila, be in Makati as it would be more tourist friendly...though I have to warn you, DO NOT put anything valuable in the front pocket of your backpack, as I've caught people and their hands inside my backpack a twice now. And I don't even frequent Manila!
If you're adventurous, minimum jeepney fare starts from 7.00Php.
When taking a taxi, don't just jump in one, make sure the driver is going to run the meter as other taxi drivers will just give you a price much higher than what it actually is. AVIS taxis charge all too much (I've haven't seen one run a meter), so I think it's best to avoid these kind, unless the driver suddenly gets a conscience and decided to comply with the law...
For the diving bit, are you just going to get the open water certification?
If I remember correctly Palawan has the cheapest rates...(about $290 US)
Palawan doesn't have much of nightlife. But the beaches here are superb...the diving too (lots of ship wrecks). FOr diving check out Tubbataha Reef, you will not be disappointed! Beaches have white sand, beautiful clear water. Plus there's lots of exploring that you can do, and I do mean lots and lots, swimming is very good. And not to mention lots of good-looking people as well. And the tour guide will be proud to say that it has the lowest crime rate in the country (I'll add because there might just be more trees here than people :P) This is place is my favorite of all the islands of the Philippines. So I'd recommend you stay longer here. And as I've stated before, if I had the means I'd pack up and live here. hehe.
Cebu has an okay nightlife. Cebu is also known to produce lots of great looking women (mainly because the rate of Filipinas marrying foreigners is greater here...:P). The beaches in my opinion, bleh but once you get to the water, the fish population is great. Plus there is a fish sanctuary where the boatmen can take you to but you have to pay a fee to get in (about a dollar US, no biggie) and you get to feed the fishies, if that is your kind of thing. The markets here are great for buying and trying out dried fish.
Bohol has better-looking beaches and great diving sites. The beaches here are wonderful! It's like you own the island (we stayed in Bohol Beach Club) and it has a looong stretch of white sand. For nightlife you have to be in the other resort Alona Kew. And if you stay in Bohol Beach you'll get a free glass bottom boat ride. Swimming I didn't enjoy it much because the water would be up to your knees, and then you try to walk farther to get some depth and then wham! you fall off a sort of "cliff" and you're in deep water. A friend of mine said diving here is great, but not as great as Palawan.
In Boracay, all I can say is that it has the finest, whitest sand I've ever seen (on the parts that don't have establishments anyway). You'll love to walk barefoot here as the sand feels much like powder. Nightlife is great here! Lots of people during weekends. I have to advise you to go to the other side of the island though so you can enjoy the beach better. And haven't tried diving here, friends haven't either. (Most of my friends tend to uhh, forget the diving part because this is where they drink and be merry...hehe)
Beer in the Philippines is cheap...drink away!