Philippines Travel Diary 7/01/2019? 29/01/2019
My exploratory trip to the Philippines. A nation with more? of 7000 islands, a life would not be enough to see everything, so I started from the most? famous and tourist, hoping to return to this paradise as soon as possible.
Have I been already? in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; and the Philippines I must say that, if on the one hand they lose in culture and monuments, on the other hand they win over everything else, especially as regards the landscapes and for the conservation of the naturalistic heritage, even if, obviously, they are going towards one massive tourist development.
Visit them as soon as possible and don't worry too much about the itinerary; you will always find hidden treasures. My job ? that of a hiking guide, for which I love the outdoors and, on this trip, I tried to vary the activities, even if I still preferred the sea over hiking, unlike the other trips.
- The photos were taken with a Fujifilm xp300
7 January: Departure
After checking for a while? of time the flights, I booked, in the middle? October, an Emirates flight at 530? to Bangkok (there were other flights that cost 60/70 euros less, but with very long stopovers and not in a comfortable airport like Dubai). Leaving at 15,45 pm from Naples with the Fiumicino Express bus (20? Departing from Piazza Garibaldi), I arrived in Fiumicino at 19, having the flight departing at 20,50.
January 8: Bangkok and Manila
6 hours to arrive in Dubai and, after 1,30h of stopover, another 6 hours to Bangkok. I arrive at 18pm in Suvarnabhumi, the nearest airport. great, where will I start from? for the Philippines the next day. Overnight accommodation in the Lat Krabang area, which I recommend to anyone who finds themselves spending a night around the airport. The hotel? the Golden Suite, very comfortable and cheap, where I can refresh myself with a Thai dinner.
9 January: Direction of Cebu city
The next morning, paying 80 baht for the shuttle provided by the hotel, I arrive at the airport before 8, having the flight at 10,20. The company ? Cebu Pacific, which from Bangkok passing through Manila, will take me? pi? to the south, in the capital of the Visayas islands, Cebu city. It takes 3.30h to get to Manila, unfortunately here the 2-hour stopover will become? over 4 hours, episodes to be budgeted here in the Philippines. So I arrive in Cebu around 21 pm, to be precise in Mactan, what? an islet detached from the mainland where the center of Cebu is located. To save money on taxis, I take the bus to the bay from the airport to the south bus station, which costs 80 pesos. At the time of my arrival the Euro / Philippine Pesos exchange rate was 58.
January 10: Cebu city
The cities? in the Philippines they are not a pretty sight, especially compared to all the natural beauty that surrounds them: jumble of high rises and shopping centers, with constant traffic from 6 in the morning until 8 in the evening. Cebu for? ? a good port of arrival to be able to visit the Visayas; here I organize my bus trip for the next day: direction Moalboal, city? located southwest of Cebu city. I buy a Filipino SIM using the discounted rates for the internet. I advise you to choose a company like Globe, in order to make more refills? easily. The weather ? quite rainy this day, but I can still explore the center, if so? you want to call it, of the city. Are they already? preparations are underway for the Sinulog, a festival of religious origin to be held? from? to 10 days, so the access to the square of the Cross of Magellano? limited, and not? possible to enter with backpack or bottles. It celebrates? El Santo Nino ?, a Spanish statuette depicting the infant Jesus? standing, carried in the sixteenth century by the followers of Magellan. The Philippines had a Spanish domination, but in reality, at first, they had defeated the Spaniards of the Magellanic Expedition, thanks to the hero Lapu-Lapu, to whom? A statue was dedicated to Mactan. A country, therefore, purely Catholic, with the exception of the southern island of Mindanao and other neighboring islands; here, during my stay, there? it was an Islamic attack. Nothing to worry about tourists: just do not go to the hot areas then to Mindanao, and specifically in the Zimboaga area and the islands near Indonesia; plus, in the southern part of Palawan. All the rest ? absolutely safe, Bohol and Siquijor, as well as Siargao (where I haven't been), are very close to Mindanao, but absolutely without any safety concerns.
My accommodation in Cebu was the KC studio, a super-high-rise building with mini-apartments at 24? at night near the Mango Mall.
January 11: Moalboal
There are many ways to move around the island of Cebu and in general throughout the Philippines; to reach Moalboal I took a 9-seater van at 9.00, arriving at its destination around 12.00 paying 250 pesos. Can you? also take a simple bus for 180 pesos or a taxi, which costs around 2000. My trip with local mothers and children? it was a nice way to enter the real Philippines, away from the high rise buildings. Going south, in the direction of the city? of Carcar, is the city waning? slowly with the millions of shacks on the coast, stilts built at best near the sea or on the banks of rivers, often very unsafe: supported by slender bamboo and alternating with giant shopping centers, with a busy port.
After the city, the island begins to show its beauty starting from the south coast up to Carcar, passing through the inland hills and ending on the east coast; and finally to Moalboal, where to my great disappointment the sign at the entrance to the village? sponsored McDonald. The village of Moalboal? about 3km from the coast, but all transports pass through here for different directions. At the bus stop a? Traffic aid? he helps tourists and enforces the shift to the various sidecars, which act as taxis to the beach.
My accommodation, near Panagsama beach,? the Bamboo Hut at 11? at night, spartan but not too close to the beach, in close contact with the local population. Simon, the Australian owner of the place, immediately helps me to organize my expedition to Kawasan falls for the next day, and suggests that I go and enjoy the reef (and not the beach, as he is keen to point out). Indeed the beach? nice but not very big and, for sure, less attractive than the other beaches you will encounter. on this trip; however,? practically the entrance to a magnificent coral reef, just 3 meters and you will have the feeling of having entered a large aquarium!
On the beach there are nice restaurants and some little bars that go well with the place; Moalboal? mainly a tourist site for diving, but also a starting point for various activities? like everywhere in the Philippines: Trekking in the hills between lakes and jungle, Canyoneering at the waterfalls, Island Hopping at the Pescador island and surroundings, White beach and much more.
January 12: Bad? An (Kawasan Falls)
In the morning I wake up at 6 to wait for a person who will come to me? to take to take me to the Canyoneering centers in Badian, but at 7 is not there ?? still none. Fortunately Simon wakes up at Filipino times and immediately calls to understand. The first person was apparently untrustworthy, so he calls another one who arrives in 5 minutes. With the scooter we leave for the waterfalls and it takes about half an hour, I have with me only a compact waterproof, a jacket, waterproof pants and a spare. Weather in January in the Philippines? a little? unstable, given that it is the period of transition to the dry season, and? therefore always be prepared with waterproof clothing to avoid unwanted ailments. Although, according to the locals, this year was particularly rainy.
For the descent into the river they do not provide us with non-slip shoes that we would need but simple Decathlon sneakers with smooth soles, nothing more? wrong to walk on wet rocks; from the center you leave by motorbike and in 10min you reach the entrance of the path located more? high up in the hills. After paying 50 pesos of entrance fee (250 for the scooter and 1000 for the Canyoneering with private guide) and having listened to the recommendations of the officials, we set off on foot towards the river: immediately my guide and I detach the other two small groups of Japanese boys, early risers like us, and we meet again after an important descent to the river and to the first falls. A spectacular course with a celestine water, many magnificent ravines and the rays of the sun that cut the view behind us, I faced several jumps and dives including the two pi? 12 and 14m high. A place that I absolutely recommend as the whole area around, will be? certainly Cebu, the island that will deepen? when will I be back? in this country.
January 13: Dumaguete
In the morning I call the first sidecar that passes to reach the Moalboal stop, and then wait for a bus from the Ceres company, heading south. The traffic assistant reassures me about the direction of the bus what to do? its last stop in Bat ?, where c ?? a small port: the ticket costs 120 pesos for more? two hours of travel.
Once in Bat ?, I prefer to take a sidecar to reach Liloan, which is an even more port? to the south, with more? runs and arriving in the port of Sibulan (Negros Oriental Island), located just 4km from the center of Dumaguete; from Bat? instead you arrive at the port of Tampi where you will still be obliged to take a sidecar.
Dumaguete? already? pi? nice and livable, compared to the other two big cities? that I have seen (Manila and Cebu city) with a waterfront, widely praised by Lonely Planet. The latter has old street lamps from the early 900s, but is still ugly in the eyes of an Italian. Dumaguete? the home base for the islands of Apo and Siquijor, but has much more to offer for trekking just a short distance from the city. Will I dedicate myself? to the two islands and, in the afternoon, after a lunch on the waterfront, I book for the next day snorkeling for Apo Island (Apo means Turtle) with Harold? s, a very sponsored company that? also chain of hostels.
My accommodation? the Sam? s Bed and Breakfast, brand new structure, paid 28? per night for a family apartment; very green for Dumaguete; they were adding bamboo bungalows during my stay.
January 14: Apo Island
Appointment 8,30 at Harold? S headquarters; left the scooter (renting a 125cc costs about 250 pesos per day in the Philippines), I sign some papers and they provide me with fins, mask and life jacket; all day organized, more? the equipment cost 2000 pesos. We leave with several company buses heading south, towards the beach in Malatapay (if you want you can also organize the visit yourself by taking a scheduled boat to the nearby port). The boat ? on 20 meters with two big barbells on the sides (the classic Bangka in use throughout the Philippines); despite the rough sea, the movement was not perceived too much, I regretted it on other days of this trip. We are divided into groups of 5-8 people, both for diving and snorkeling: each has its own guide with a reference life jacket. The groups swim not too close to each other, also why? wherever you look you see all the colors and life of this marine sanctuary, already protected? since the 70s, for which a well-preserved coral reef. Even the turtles are no longer stressed. from time to these daily excursions, also why? they are never choked too much by tourists and their cameras. We enter the water four times in total; in places not too far from each other, breaking up with snacks and a copious Filipino lunch. Needless to say, making friends of all nationalities? ? very easy: a wonderful day crowned by the magical silence of returning to the beach at sunset.
In the evening, after a quick dinner downtown, I have a couple of beers at the Hayahay facing the sea, a stilt bar with live music and a lounge.
January 15: Siquijor
In the morning I go to the Oceanjet ticket office one hour before the departure of the ferry to Siquijor, which will be? at 9,30. Sam, the owner,? cos? kind to accompany me; while waiting, I enjoy for the last time the Dumaguete waterfront, with the large university building. The ferry costs 180 pesos to Siquijor and, as soon as I arrive, I rent a scooter itself inside the port, for the whole day, agreeing to be accompanied the next day to Larena, where I will leave. the ferry to Tagbilaran / Bohol: I pay all 500 pesos. Siquijor definitely deserves a longer stay. long but in a day on a scooter you can visit, for better or worse, all the most? beautiful; on a scooter the experience? exciting, allowing you to enter the island in contact with the locals among the most? kind and warm about my trip, especially the children.
After jungle, waterfalls and villages, I head to San Juan beach to wait for the sunset on Apo Island with a cold Red Horse (The national beer is the San Miguel, the Red Horse is its strong version). My accommodation? the Go Guesthouse, cost 11 ?; ? very close to the port of Siquijor, with cozy rooms and shared bathroom. Siquijor? considered the island of sorcerers and me? happened to tell Filipinos that I was going to go or that I had been there, and to be considered almost crazy. Fear ? unjustified: on this island there were traditional healers who, with a mixture of natural medicine and rites with water, healed people; nowadays it is said that there is still someone who, upon request, shows these rites to tourists.
January 16: Tagbilaran / Panglao
In the morning, as agreed, a sidecar takes me to the other port of the island, to Larena; I bought the ticket the day before (when possible, it is the best thing to do), so I pay only the baggage and the port tax (They are usually two different counters). I know two Asturian guys here, with whom I will share? several days on this trip. With Rub? Ne Diego, after about 3 hours by ferry, we arrive in Tagbilaran and after having recovered the luggage we take a sidecar. We head to Panglao where our hotels are not too far from Alona beach; I have three friends who are waiting for me and who have visited the whole island of Bohol before meeting me.
Our accommodation? on Libaong White beach: the Aramara hotel; large and comfortable rooms, a stone's throw from paradise, cost 30? per night. In the evening we eat at the Bamboo restaurant, where the Italian owner gives us various tips on Panglao that will be useful. Panglao? it was the place where we certainly ate better, thanks to the good Italian restaurants; moreover, considering the strong tourist value, at the beginning of January 2019? An airport was also inaugurated.
17 January: Panglao
With the girls we decide to enjoy a relaxing day, so I leave the Spaniards; 6 hours by scooter to go to and from the Choccolate Hills (very particular and geometric hills in the hinterland). We then set off in search of a lonely beach. Thanks to the information received the day before, we immediately hit the mark by going to San Isidro beach, finding a little paradise all to ourselves. On the way to get there, in San Isidro, c ?? a Spanish restaurant on stilts where we go for lunch: small Tapas of fish or vegetables, and many other quality things? to eat, with swings overlooking the jungle and the ocean. Returning to the hotel, we stop at the Bohol Bee farm to visit it and buy eco-friendly souvenirs: there are women who make carpets and scarves, a huge organic garden and many hives with hardworking bees. The ice cream, cosmetics and all other products almost all have organic honey, produced on this farm.
In the evening we have dinner at Luna Rossa, a purely Italian and very good restaurant, with the owners almost surprised to see other Italians in January.
January 18: Balicasag and Isla de San Francisco
In the morning I greet the girls who go to Cebu city, to take the plane to Coron the next day; cos? I reach Diego and Rub? n at Alona beach, where with the Spanish company Piratas, we will go to visit Balicasag and the Virgin Islands, at a cost of 2500 pesos per person. This time, we have a boat just for us and after 45 minutes we arrive at Balicasag, a flat island, which is not? nothing more than an accumulation of corals on an underwater volcanic chimney. Leaving the backpacks to our Filipino guides and taking the equipment, we enter another rowing boat driven by a native. We stop first to look for the turtles, but the visibility? not ? good as to Apo and here are not so? abundant; in fact, do I see the boys a bit? disappointed. When instead we pass to the sanctuary, the enthusiasm? a lot: in the jump from the coral reef towards the deep sea, you experience a unique emotion. How to stay on the edge of the world. We spend, I think, about three hours among fish and corals, until we realize that we are the only boat in the sea and that the weather is getting worse. Let's go back to Balicasag and have lunch in one of the few bars / restaurants on the island; we wait a little longer, admiring the talent of young Filipinos at basketball in the rain, and then with our guides we decide to move.
We arrive at the pi? large of the so-called Virgin Islands: the Isla de San Francisco, where we are welcomed by a statue of Padre Pio of at least 3 meters, evidently brought by Italian Catholics. On a boat, in fact, you can clearly read? Isola di San Francesco? and c ?? also a church dedicated to him, with inside a museum on the life of Padre Pio. Characteristic of the island? a half-moon tongue of sand, which we cannot fully enjoy given the weather.
Finally, we return to Alona beach and indulge in a very good craft beer (The Cebruery craft beers) at the Bamboo restaurant, and then meet more? late to go to dinner and spend a pleasant evening in one of Alona's many bars.
January 19: Mactan
In the morning, very calmly, I arrange my things and return the scooter; I greet the Spanish guys who will see you again? in El Nido, and with a motorbike / taxi I set off towards the port of Tagbilaran. How already? said, every time,? good to be more? an hour before in port, to buy the ticket and drop off the luggage. From Tagbilaran to Cebu city it takes approximately 3 hours. In the city? the celebrations for the Sinulog are very active, who will enter? in full the next day; in fact, upon arrival at the port c ?? a lot of confusion, there is a lot of traffic and therefore I opt for a motorbike to get to the island of Mactan where the airport is located. In about 40 minutes, between the alleys and the super highway that leads to one of the two connecting bridges, we arrive in Mactan.
The Norway guesthouse, my overnight accommodation, is not far from the airport and the island? completely out of the chaos of Sinulog, therefore strategic for the 10,00 am flight the following morning to Palawan. During the Sinulog do not work n? the telephone line n? internet, except for the wi-fi in hotels and some shopping centers: so what? very difficult to communicate especially with the locals.
January 20: Puerto Princesa
In the morning, from my hotel I take a sidecar to the airport for only 8 pesos (apparently a fixed rate from what the Norwegian owner of my hotel tells me); in reality? will you leave me? at about 1km why? unable to continue. From here, for 20 pesos with a motorbike taxi I arrive at Departures. Philippe Airlines at 10 to Puerto Princesa, the city? pi? important of Palawan, paid flight 40? Two months earlier. I did not take a flight directly to Coron or El Nido, like the girls, why? my goal ? visit the underground river among the 7 wonders of the natural world. The river is located in Sabang, a small village on the western side of the island and slightly further. North. Although there were tours that depart from the city? every day (apparently too stressful and rushed), I decide to sleep two nights near this attraction. Do I take a tricycle to San Jos station? of the buses, where the van for Sabang (the only one that arrives direct to the village) leaves for the price of 200 pesos and which will take little more? two hours. On the way, I understand that the Philippines has a lot to offer: even when you think you are used to beauty, Palawan comes to make you come to your senses. The van stops me just before entering the village on the coast, at my accommodation: the Bambua, cost 11? per night, immersed in the jungle and with rustic rooms equipped with fans. Sabang, despite a couple of large beach resorts, maintains its authenticity. of a Filipino village, between the immense tropical forest, the rice fields and the ocean. Certainly one of the most? wild that I have ever seen, despite the strong tourist attraction of the Underground River.
January 21: Sabang and the Underground River
In the morning, therefore at 8,30 am, I am at the entrance of the tourist office, where I find a religious ceremony, in which most of the women of the village participate; after which? I get in line to pay the entrance (150 pesos) more? the tax on the environment (80 pesos); I have the ticket number 16 and, considering that they can also reach 600 tourists a day, right? bad. Signed all the paperwork, they tell me to wait on the left side of the port for the boats that lead to the river, but I ask for a guide to cross the short stretch of jungle, between Sabang and the underground river, so they show me the kiosk on the right. At the price of 200 pesos a local guy (with flip flops) leads me on the path inside the jungle, he doesn't speak much English but? very young and? good that local people work; in general this super attraction me? seemed to be managed very well, isn't there ?? garbage and the community? ? all involved.
After crossing a first river with a raft, we take the? Jungle Trail? that does not ? very demanding if you exclude a last 10 minute ascent quite steep and the strong heat. Arrived at the entrance of the river, I leave the backpack to my guide and they make me embark with a family of Japanese. There are, up to now, 15 boats inside the river and, considering how much? wide (rooms of even more than 200m) and how much? long (4.6km walkable if you see about 2, length 24km), you can not? consider absolutely crowded. The show ? insured; what wonders the most? are the dimensions of the rock conformations, but what made this place enter the 7 wonders of the natural world? easy accessibility? and the depth ?, also why? of fantastic caves it? full the world. At the end of the tour, I go back to my guide and we leave for the same path; very close to the entrance of the river, we see a huge monitor lizard and a group of macaques.
We meet another guide with a Czech tourist, both happy to be able to talk a bit? while we walk, we make the journey together, and he convinces me to try the Zip-line, activity? that has never attracted me, not for fear but why? I've always thought it's very touristy. We then arrive on Sabang beach and turn right, towards a small hill overlooking the sea, from where we will launch. The strong emotion? much more? for the different perspective of the paradise in which I am, than for the launch itself.
Then I dedicate the rest of the day to relaxation, complete with a massage on the beach at sunset, little to say: Sabang is absolutely worth a visit.
January 22: Arrival in El Nido
In the morning I go to the beach where I will leave? the van to El Nido at 7,30, as they told me when the day before I had bought the ticket for 450 pesos. The bus actually? leave? at 8,30 why? we are waiting for other vans arriving from other nearby places; things like this can happen in the Philippines, you always take everything with a smile so your complaints will not change anything. In about four and a half hours of splendid journey, in the northern part of Palawan, I arrive at the bus station, just before the village of El Nido; I take a tricycle to the center for 30 pesos and go to my accommodation.
The day before, Booking.com had warned me that my reservation was canceled at the Marigold beachfront inn on the beach, due to a fire caused by a fish restaurant nearby: they had offered me alternatives at the same price but not too attractive. Having my friends the same problem, we decide to take a room for four people not too far from the original hotel, for the price of 1800 pesos for 3 nights. El Nido from January to May? always very crowded and it is better to book everything in advance. On the advice of the Spanish guys, we book a tour with the Kraken company at a cost of 3000 pesos; in reality, Island hopping tours are also available at 1000/1200 pesos, but we decide to focus on quality. So, we leave 4 days before 1000 pesos of deposit through their facebook page, and we pay the rest in the morning on the spot.
El Nido? a village created for tourists who want to visit the rapidly expanding Bacuit archipelago; the center ? very pretty with various interesting restaurants and bars, but on the sides of the village you can see the first super-resorts and shopping centers.
January 23: El Nido Tour A
In the morning we wake up very calmly, the Kraken company tends to leave after the other boats to enjoy the various islands and bays, alone or almost, and I must say that the strategy works, also considering that we were the only ones to enjoy the sunset on a boat. At 10,30 we are at the Kraken headquarters on the beach; in the days before c ?? was a nice wind and the sea is not? very calm. The girls took about 5 and a half from Coron with very rough sea and this, for unaccustomed people, can? be scary. In general, avoid taking the ferry if you see the sea too rough and / or overloaded with people! The waves are more? offshore, then after a difficult boarding and exceeded the first ten minutes, we arrive more? to the west, inside the Bacuit archipelago where the ocean? definitely more? calm. The two tours pi? chosen are A and C: I can highly recommend the first, but seeing the other islands from afar and relatively close, I can say that whatever you choose will be? a success. The Kraken staff? very capable and nice, even if they are underpaid for what they do; the boat ? big and safe, and handles waves well. They prepare for us an excellent and abundant Filipino lunch, as well as snacks, various juices and cocktails at sunset. Big and Secret lagoon (heavily sponsored) we can see them practically by ourselves: for the first they leave us a kayak for two, while for the second and all the other stops a mask and rock shoes are enough.
We return to Corong corong beach, since? pi? covered by the winds, at 18 pm enjoying the sunset. So we take a tricycle to return to El Nido and once there? we rent two scooters until the following evening. We have dinner at the excellent Greek restaurant on the beach and finish with a drink, in one of the many wooden bars in pi? plans that are in town.
January 24: El Nido Nacpan Beach
We choose not to face another boat tour the next day, also why? the Island Hopping have already been a little? and another one awaits me in Coron. So in the morning we wake up calmly and go with the scooters to have breakfast at the splendid The Nesting Table, perched among the trees on the beach of Corong Corong; tackle the bamboo stairs, you enter a fantastic world, among the songs of tropical birds and a splendid view of Bacuit bay.
We leave for a larger beach more? to the north, passing through the area under construction that follows the coast from El Nido, and for about 5 km the dust prevents us from enjoying the journey. El Nido? already? quite famous and Palawan? been in recent years pi? times named island pi? beautiful in the world; so,? It is normal to expect a quick transformation (for the worse) of this destination. Are large shopping malls and fast food restaurants already? opening all around El Nido, and the traffic near the center is not? particularly pleasant.
Continuing, the view definitely improves and Palawan clarifies its fame: I could have continued to go north forever, instead following the directions and with the precious help of Maps.me, we reach Nacpan beach, after a total of 22km. From the main road, turn left onto an unpaved road, until you reach a kiosk where you have to sign up but without entrance fees; from here, still continuing among holes and children, we finally arrive at the huge beach. Nacpan beach? 5km long and? entry by right among the top 10 beaches more? beautiful in the world. Do you find good accommodations on Booking, or if you are more? adventurous, you can try the fantastic Mad Monkey hostel on the beach.
In the evening we eat at Bella Vita, an excellent Italian restaurant on Corong Corong beach, where I greet both my Spanish friends and the girls, as the ferry to Coron awaits me at 6 in the morning.
January 25: Coron
I wake up at 4,30 in great silence, so as not to wake the girls; unfortunately for ferries you have to be at the port at least an hour before and that of 6 am is no exception. The journey? quiet and short, since now the sea is? very calm, in about 3 and a half hours I am in Coron city on the island of Busuanga. The city center? it does not differ much from El Nido, two / three streets parallel to the sea, full of hotels, bars, restaurants and tricycles; but the cliffs of this island and the others around are much more? low.
Tired from the early rising, and late for the departures of the various boat tours, I decide to rest a bit? to my hostel (Happy Camper Hostel, 6? per night) before having lunch. I eat at the Buzz Express and then rent a scooter to reach the beaches on the same island where I stay. I leave in the direction of the port, from where a dirt road along the coast begins: on my way to the beaches I come across a sign that says Maquinit hot springs, the detour? short and decide to go. They are natural spas immersed in the mangroves on the coast; at a cost of 120 pesos, you can? relax in a large stone hot tub that is not crowded at all with two side falls.
I got back on my motorbike and continued for another 15 minutes to reach cabo beach, a beautiful beach overlooking Coron Island with about twenty tourists and an entrance fee of 40 pesos (to be paid to local families).
In the evening I eat at the ViewDeck Grill House, with panoramic terrace and Palawan craft beers (Palaweno Brewery), and I retire early to tackle my last Island Hopping tomorrow.
January 26: Coron Tour A
In the morning at 8.00 I am ready when the van picks me up to take me to the port: this will be? my last day at sea and, not knowing any agency, I took the standard A tour, through the hostel for 900 pesos the day before. At the port there are about thirty boats, one attached to the other. After checking the various lists of names, the coordinators tell me to reach the third boat in the first row, then passing through two other boats already? full of people; I have no particular problems, but for other people less? agile? not ? the way pi? simple to start. In the price of the day not? including the rental of the mask and shoes for the rocks and possibly the canoe: I therefore pay another 250 pesos for the equipment (no canoe, it is of little use in this tour). The weather ? the best I got on this trip: very calm sea, sun and visibility? perfect. On my boat there is a very nice Filipino extended family and four French boys; after about 20 minutes, we arrive at our first destination near Kayangan lake. Many boats are moored in a colorful bay with two openings (divided by another small island), near the beach where, by means of stairs, you climb over to reach the famous lake; on the point pi? high c ?? a line of people to reach the best place to photograph the bay on the north side of the island of Coron (the classic photo you find on google and all the brochures). Kayangan lake? certainly wonderful but, diving, what you see are only rock conformations, no marine life! Moreover ? definitely the place more? crowded met on this trip. I'm afraid that the rest of the day will continue like this, in the crowd of the most? popular. Fortunately, it will come? denied.
The second place we see? perhaps one of the most? beautiful I've seen in my life: the Green Lagoon. Furthermore, we are also the only boat to visit it because, as I understand it, the other boats are all at the Twin Lagoon, which we will not see. A dream place where water? pi? green than usual, full of fantastic corners from where you would never want to leave: our staff decides to have lunch here on the boat and we couldn't be more? happy! Only when we leave the lagoon after 2 hours, two more boats arrive.
After lunch, we head for more? to the west and here, between the flat calm and the sounds of nature, before arriving at Banul beach, I find a way to take a quarter of an hour nap. In Banul the coral reef? very alive and here too we take advantage of complete solitude; after almost an hour of snorkeling, we return by boat to reach our last destination.
At Calachuchi beach (also on Coron island), we find some of the boats of the other tours. This last stop? purely relaxing on this beach with a magnificent sea and surrounded by mangroves.
We return to the port of Coron town for 5,30 and in the evening I return to the Viewdeck for a last beer with an ocean view.
January 27: Manila
My first decision was to reach the capital from Coron by boat, but then, frightened by the 14 hour journey, I took a flight with Skyjet, just before departure for 62 ?. The van booked, through the hostel to the airport, arrives at 7,30 and in about 30min we arrive at our destination. Will my 10,20 flight depart? with about 50min delay, landing in Manila, then, around 12,30. At the exit of the airport, there are two types of taxis: one at a fixed price (800pesos) and one with a meter (for 5km at the end it will pay 550 pesos).
About Manila, both before leaving and during the trip, they had all spoken very badly to me, especially because of the traffic (which at first glance doesn't seem worse than Bangkok or Rome) and cleanliness. Is the choice of my hotel based? about the proximity to the Intramuros district and the port (even if I didn't need it later), as well as the price and quality: what is it? doing I ended up in the Quiap neighborhood ?. Foreign tourists usually stay in Makati or Pasay, but, despite everything, I won't mind. my popular neighborhood, also why? I spent two days with a girl from Mindanao I met on Couchsurfing who helped me extricate myself from the confusion of the capital. Maricel (this is the girl's name) leads me to nearby Chinatown, as I wanted to do some shopping. of little gifts, and in the evening we go to the famous Rizal park. This huge urban park? an evening meeting point for many Filipinos who come here for picnics and to enjoy the fantastic colorful fountains. Maricel explains to me his admiration (and that of all Filipinos) for the figure of Rizal, who, according to him, yes? sacrificed for his people: if you read his life you will surely be impressed. Filipinos seem to have knowledge of their history and culture, but not so much of their geography, something I have found everywhere in the country; and Maricel confirms it to me when she cannot locate her house on the large relief map of the Philippines in the park.
Manila was supposed to be just a base for visiting Mount Pinatubo to the north and the volcanic lake Taal to the south, but various people had warned me that it was almost impossible to visit these places in a day; moreover, tired of the long journey, I decide to concentrate on the capital, which before the Second World War was the city? pi? beautiful of Asia.
With Maricel we take a Jeepney, that is a jeep left by the Americans during the war and modified to be used as public transport; we arrive at the small neighborhood of Intramuros, the only tiny piece of the old city. Let's start immediately to visit the great cathedral of San Augustin (admission 200 pesos), a baroque church that has resisted multiple earthquakes from the early 1600s to today (as well as the war). The church ? also to be considered as a museum of Catholicism in the Philippines, in fact I find the first statuette of the Santo Nino (that of the Sinulog), brought here by the Europeans.
We eat at Casa Manila, another historic building with a patio that reminds us more? Cuba than Asia; we continue the walk in the direction of Fort Santiago (Entry 80 pesos), near the Pasig river. Can you? just imagine how beautiful Manila could have been before 1945, when instead of the high-rises it was all in stone, as in Intramuros. At this point, I ask Maricel if c ?? a place in particular that she likes, where she may hardly manage to go; then we go by taxi to the Venice Grand Canal Mall, 14km from where we are. The place ? practically a large shopping center that represents the city? of Venice, in Las Vegas style; many small shops and restaurants, bars on the fake canal and even the inevitable gondolas that sell tours to foreigners. Wandering around the shops before dinner, I notice the Neapolitan accent of the Filipino gondoliers singing? O? Sole mio? and not ? bad! I face my last Filipino dinner in the restaurant pi? colorful and extravagant of all, where we order 4/5 classic dishes? to share? and a? latest red horse.
My return flight the next day with Emirates? at 11,30, then with Maricel at 8,30 we use Grab to get to the airport (45min, 500pesos). I leave you my last pesos to pay for another taxi, and we say goodbye.
Arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport, I wait a couple of hours for my Emirates flight to Fiumicino.