Published: August 14th 2006August 14th 2006
We arrived in Manila on the 13th July in the evening and checked into a hotel near the centre. It was really humid after Australia and just walking around was enough to break into a sweat. It was exciting to be in Asia again, with all the hustle and bustle of the city and the typical madly decorated rickshaws and ‘jeepneys’, and people shouting and living on the streets. Everyone was really friendly as we walked around, lots of them smiling and saying hello to us. We spent 4 days in Manila, looking at some of the malls and street scenes and trying to sort out a Japan Rail Pass which had to be bought before reaching the country, and is meant to be relatively good value. We found a nice restaurant as well near the hotel which we returned to quite often, and the friendly waiter there helped us with a few words of Tagalog, the most common local dialect and official language of the Philippines. Fortunately for us most people spoke English due to the occupancy of the islands by the U.S.A in the recent past so it wasn’t really necessary, but as usual even the odd word like
thank-you was appreciated.
We had been thinking about travelling around the Philippines quite a bit, going to at least a few islands, but as it was Typhoon season, with frequent storms and rain making travel often more difficult, or even impossible, we decided in the end just to head to one of the easiest most popular beach destinations from Manila, the island of Boracay. It was a shame in a way because reading about some of the other islands they seem really amazing with lots of opportunity for diving and exploring. Still, there are obviously positive aspects to staying in one place, like the fact you can be completely lazy for over a week, just reading, swimming, drinking, and eating etc.
We had an enjoyable and varied journey to Boracay, as we had to get a plane, then a van for an hour, and then make a short ten minute journey by boat, a motorised canoe with a couple of bamboo stabilisers on each side. As it was dark by the time we arrived we couldn’t really check the beach out till the next day but the hotel we had booked seemed really nice and the owners very
friendly, and apparently we got a ‘very good price’, it being the low season. There were still quite a few tourists around though, most of them from South Korea as this has become a very popular destination for them (which has also apparently resulted in an increase in the price of everything). We were told though that at the height of the busy season this place is mobbed.
Our first day was really sunny and with the water being a lot warmer than in Australia it was great to be swimming in the sea again. It certainly was a lovely location with a beautiful beach, and nice restaurants, bars and touristy shops strung along the bay.
We stayed in Boracay until the 30th July, hanging out with a local guy Eddy, who though Phillipino also has a Canadian passport and managed a bar on the beach. The family of our hotel and that of the restaurant next door were also really friendly, and twice during our stay we were invited to have birthday meals with them and their friends, once for a two year old daughter of the hotel owners, and once for the man who owns the
restaurant. A part from that we just took it easy, reading and relaxing. The weather was never quite as good as it was on the first day again, and we had a couple of storms come in with a downpour of rain and quite rough seas, but usually it was overcast with quite strong winds, which were nice as they kept you cool.
When we left Boracay on the 30th we got a motorcycle rickshaw to the harbour, the price we paid on the way, with a local from the hotel who came to meet us, was 20 pesos, with just us the price requested was 75 pesos. Although under a pound its almost a 400% increase, which is the way you have to think about it when travelling long term as it all adds up. There is also the fact that paying too much as a tourist you cause inflation for the locals, so that they can no longer afford a rickshaw themselves. In the end we gave him 30 pesos, which we thought pretty fair.
Getting back to Manila we returned to the same hotel, Bianca Gardens, which was really nice and on a great street
with lots of life on it, especially children who seemed to be running around and playing at all times of day and night. Once I got accosted by a group of them all laughing and clinging on to me, which though quite funny and friendly feels a bit weird, being treated as if your famous just by being a westerner. We ended up making friends with a couple of the cycle rickshaw drivers who hung around outside the hotel as well, going on an hour tour with one of them just around the streets so we could take some photos.
Fortunately on the 1st August the weather was fine, and we got our flight as planned to Tokyo via Hong Kong.
There are more photos below