The Philippines – “Asia’s Best Kept Secret”

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For anyone that has been backpacking in Asia and realised that the South East has become overwhelmingly swarmed by tourists, fear not.  I’m going to let you into Asia’s best kept secret. Imagine a paradise of white sand beaches, clear blue oceans, scorching temperatures, complete with coconut in hand – this was my time in the Philippines. When I touched down in the Philippines every tourist board read proudly “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” – Oh how right they were.

The Philippines, perhaps little known about other than it being an ex-Spanish colony. A country full of densely populated cities, or perhaps more gravely known for its current war on drugs. However, all negative press on Philippines should be disregarded, as I’ve never been in the presence of a more welcoming nation in my travels. Perhaps this is because the rarity of tourists and the mutual respect tourists and locals have for each other that other countries lack.

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

With more than 7,000 islands –  it is a tropical paradise.  From the most touristy Boracay, to the more obscure treasures for tourists, such as the islands of Starfish Island and Panglao Island. The Philippines is the perfect place to island hop. Get lost in crystal blue waters and white sand beaches, it’s not difficult to find isolated and treasured beaches.

If you’re staying by the coast, it is easy and cheap to rent a boat, they usually include options to swim, snorkel and dive!

Must see Islands

  • Boracay – the most popular destination for tourists, located in the Western Visayas region.
  • Palawan region including El Nido, Starfish Island and Coron Island off the capital Manila.
  • Tropical Bohol Island, White Sand Small and secluded beach of Panglao, Densely populated Mactan and surrounding smaller islands can be found just off the second largest city Cebu.

Exceptional Beauty

Beyond beaches, the country offers active Volcanoes, Underground Rivers, Rice Fields, Waterfalls and famous, geographically formed “Chocolate Hills”.

Must see Nature

  • Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
  • Iwahig River and watch some fireflies by nightfall
  • The Banaue Rice Fields
  • The Active Volcano of Mount Pinatubo
  • The famous “Chocolate Hills” in Bohol
  • The waterfalls that will leave you wonderstruck, Pagsanjan Falls and Kawasan Falls

 

Credit: Flickr

Culture Like No Other

Due to Spanish rule for over 300 years, the Philippines has a very distinctive culture that is unlike anywhere else in Asia.  The country remains overwhelming Catholic. Beyond religion, Latin vibes and colonial architecture inhabit the country.  However, in the years following an independent Philippines, they have created their own identity, that is welcoming, warm and so deliriously positive that it is infectious.

Adrenaline Junkie

The country isn’t just for beach bums or nature lovers – the country has a love of providing tourists with a zipline in any occasion. But if you are feeling more fearless, why not try bungee jumping, deep sea diving, or swimming with sharks. Or if you just love an adventure without too much of a thrill, the country provides, kayaking to kiteboarding, surfing and diving, mountain climbing to rock climbing.

Key recommendations:

Rent a scooter – Islands are compact and unpopulated and roads are clear enough for even the most unsteady drivers to rent a scooter and enjoy riding about

Rent a boat – take a tour, or something more casual and find islands off islands, if you’re lucky enough you’ll find yourself on an empty island, with nothing but clear sand, sea and a cheap bar –  you won’t want to leave

Visit a cathedral – If you are planning to visit multiple Asian countries, then you will get used to being mesmerised by temples, which makes it special to visit such a contrasting religious building in Asia

Go on a Jeepeny – The Philippines’ answer to a bus – with their eye catching graphic designs, and for a next to nothing direct journey, jump on and off a jeepney – trust me you don’t want to miss this one

Wake up for a sunrise – you won’t be able to miss the eye-catching sunsets, so make sure you wake up early enough to see an even more spectacular array of colours in the morning

Go snorkelling – Most incredible opportunity to swim in the bluest of seas and witness the array of colours and species of fish

Allow yourself to get confused by the currency but don’t worry, not even maths will make you understand how everything is just so damn cheap

To sum up – Regardless if you are a beach babe or a rural adventurer – the Philippines offers it all. If you want to visit somewhere truly beautiful and infectiously happy on a budget, without the mills of tourists, The Philippines is the country for you.

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