The Philippines really blew my mind. In the middle and west parts I have seen the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen and in the north I visited the hill areas with ancient rice fields higher and steeper than I had imagined.
It took me some time to find a moment to start writing the blogs. I’ll divide it up in two parts, the one with company and the one without.
The reason I was visiting the Philippines was the day 24-02-2017. This day my best friend and her now husband would say their I do’s at their beach wedding on the White Beach in Boracay. Before this I hadn’t really considered going to the Philippines but I’m really happy I got to go for this special occasion. The Philippines has a lot to offer and I have only been able to see three destinations.
I was also looking forward to this part of the trip for the company. Traveling alone has been great for good reasons, I only get to deal with my opinion, I can decide my own pace, full and active days, you meet much more people, flexibility, etc. But it can also be lonely and the next 10 days would be full on socializing with my friends, who I have known for years. Always someone around you, no forced conversations about who you are and where you are traveling, just catching up and making new memories.
It took me 14 hours to get form HCMC to Boracay with two flights, some waiting time in between, one crazy taxi ride, a ferry and a tricycle. And then after settling in W-hostel I met Jaytu, Tommy and some other family members for a cocktail on the beach. Crazy moment realizing you’re just sitting there with people you know and talking Dutch non-stop. I think I got used to it in the next 5 minutes but it happened again and again when the other guests arrive over the next few days.
On my first day in Boracay it was raining in the morning, but the afternoon was sunny enough to get a sunburn. We went to Ilig Iligan beach. It is a nicely quiet beach where we enjoyed some fresh coconuts and there was a lot of catching up to do. In the evening we went to the pre-wedding party. Almost all the guests had arrived and it was the perfect setting to have a little party. The theme was carnival and that led to two polonaises (both included Filipinos from the party next to ours, they were also filming the whole thing with amazement. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was up on YouTube somewhere). We had good food, good drinks (a few too many maybe) and a lot of fun.
That night at some point I heard a loud bang and Erik was lying on the floor. He said he was alright and went to the bathroom. It wasn’t until the morning that I realized he actually fell from the upper bed which was really high and onto the concrete floor. We had such a laugh about it and it still cracks me up now. He only had little bruising, could have been much worse off.
The next day we went to Puka beach to chill until the rain came in the afternoon. There had been a lot of rain actually which no one expected. So everyone had their fingers crossed for tomorrow.
Then the big day came, it was dry and there were some clouds but it looked good! All the ladies went to Jaytu her suite for hair and makeup and I had a true model experience when two people where styling me at once. The wedding was on the beach and the setup was amazing. A beautiful ceremony where there was no dry eye amongst the guests, a beautiful bride and groom, a romantic dinner setting, a sandcastle, live music, fire dancers, an opening dance..everything to make the perfect wedding. It was extra special for me as I was one of the two legal witnesses to sign the marriage license. I don’t have many pictures of the day as there was a photographers team present. But just to get an impression of the dinner setting see below.
The day after the wedding was very relaxed, it would be the last day with the entire group together (Gudo and Colette parting ways). We spend some time swimming in the pool at the resort where the wedding was held the night before. The sunset from this side of the island is very beautiful so we stayed to see it before walking back to our part of the island.
The next day seven of us travelled to Palawan. Palawan has been named earth’s most beautiful island. So when you already go the Philippines, it is a must visit. The island is not that far from Boracay if there would have been a direct flight, but there wasn’t. All in all it takes up the entire day to get there. First a van to the ferry, then the ferry, then the ride to the airport, the first flight, waiting time and the second flight. After some 12 hours of traveling we reached Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
Puerto Princesa is in the middle of this thin and long shaped island. El Nido, where the magic happens, is in the north end. This journey is another 6 hours by van (you can go straight there from Manila as well if you have enough money for the ticket). I was able to combine this trip with a visit to the underground river. Supposedly one of the new world wonders. It was a day for patience because there was a lot of waiting. But in that time I was able to do a cool zip line along the coast. The river tour itself takes you and 9 others in a small boat, peddled by hand, 2 km into the mountain where you can witness the spectacle of the stalactites and stalagmites around you. The water in the beginning is light blue and there are some really nice shapes, open areas and thousands of bats. After this I still had to travel five hours to El Nido, with a much to crowded van. I did meet some fun people and could check in to the best hostel I’ve stayed in during my travels so far: Spin designer hostel (recommended!!).
The next four days were 100% beaches, island hopping, coconuts, white sand between the toes, waves, beautiful sunsets and relaxing. The group here was nine people (Chloë, Justin, Erik, Jeroen, Angelica, Remi, Jaytu & Tommy one day later and myself). We first went with a couple of scooters to Nacpan beach. A long stretched beach with very high waves (so high it became uncomfortable when you got caught by one). And Twin beach for the sunset.
The next day we explored Las Cabañas beach. Then we did a tour day with our own private boat. This was the best day. We saw a combination of the available tours A and C, a total of 8 highlights. Secrets lagoons, hidden beaches, snorkeling and the best lunch I’ve had in the Philippines prepared right there on the boat. The beauty of the locations we visit is intense, I dare to stay that these escapes will be super crowded in 5-10 years. But luckily for us we are there now. The weather is great and let the pictures do the talking.
The last day on El Nido we rented kayaks to cross over to another island where we could find some almost private beaches. Again the sand is white, the water is light blue. We didn’t really prepare any lunch so we asked a local guide to get some coconuts fresh from the tree above us, drinking it without a straw. This day had these moments where you have to pinch and check if you are not dreaming. Only thing was not eating anything other than some chips but having to workout in the kayak in the burning sun to get back to the shore was heavy. I wanted to have one last dinner with my friends before saying goodbye but everything went downhill from here. Within a couple of hours I was having a fever and stomach problems. And that’s kind of where this part of the trip ends :).
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time, keep nothing but memories.