1 Week Exploring Philippines

Jan 12th, 2009, 09:02 AM
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Posts: 166
1 Week Exploring Philippines

My boyfriend and I (mid-20s) are in the beginning stages of planning a 1 month adventure in August for our first trip to Asia to celebrate his graduation from law school. We plan to spend 7-8 days in the Philippines (as of our current plan, we will be arriving from either Seoul or Tokyo and departing for probably either Malaysia or Bali). We are considering doing/seeing the following things:

-general sites of Manila
-Lake Taal and/or Pagsanjan Falls (day or half-day trip from Manila?)
-Banaue Rice Terraces
-Chocolate Hills

What sort of itinerary do people suggest? Can we get a private driver to take us to Banaue? If so, does it make sense to stop at Lake Taal on the way? (no idea where they are with respect to each other and Manila.) How much does a private driver cost? And how long does it take to drive to Banaue? Is seeing the Chocolate Hills worth it? I originally was looking at going to Mactan Island for the beach part, and going to Bohol from there, but additional research seems to show that Boracay is much better.

Day 1 - arrive in Manila
Day 2 - day/half day trip to Lake Taal. Sightseeing in Manila
Day 3 - Sightseeing in Manila
Day 4 - Drive to Banaue. Overnight in Banaue
Day 5 - Banaue. Drive back to Manila.
Day 6 - Fly Manila-Boracay in AM
Day 7 - Boracay
Day 8 - Boracay and fly in PM to ---

I know this itinerary is packing in a lot, but we do want to see as much as we can, and we figure that Boracay will be relaxing. Is this too much time in Manila? Also, if we do this itinerary, is it possible to fly from Boracay to Bali or Singapore or Kuala Lumpur?

[Hotel and other recommendations greatly welcomed!!!! as for price - not super budget but not super expensive either]

lmschmale is offline  
Jan 12th, 2009, 10:49 AM
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I just spent a week in the Philippines (I posted photos), and I think your trip is too ambitious. Based on my admittedly very limited trip to the Philippines, I would advise:

1) Spend as little time as possible in Manila, one of Asia's ugliest and least appealing capitals (maybe just the day you land -- I recommend Malate Pensionne, a very comfortable pension, around US$30 per night, in Malate, which is more interesting than the glitzy Makati)

2) From what I was told, its between 5 and 8 hours to Banaue (depending on who I asked), so it seems very rushed to visit for one night

3) I thought Bohol was interesting, and you can fly to Tagbilaran from Manila (so no need to connect to the ferry in Cebu). The Chocolate Hills are OK, and Panglao Island (right off Bohol) has a nice beach, maybe not as nice as Boracay.

4) I don't think you can fly from Boracay to any international airport, but you can fly to some of those airports from Cebu, and all of them from Manila.

5) Don't get roped into flying Air Asia, the discount carrier to Malaysia -- they fly from Clark Airport, which is two hours from Manila -- I made that mistake when I flew to Kota Kinabalu

thit_cho is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 02:44 PM
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Banaue and Taal are in opposite directions, so no, it is not possible to stop there on your way to Banaue.

Banaue is pretty cool but it is at least 8 hours away from Manila even in a car with a private driver. If you go, you have to at least spend a whole day to explore, so really you have to spend 2 nights over there.

Boracay would be my choice for the beach.

I agree that Manila should just be your point of entry and exit, although you may find it interesting since we all have different tastes and interests.

My take is, you have to choose either Banaue or Boracay and then work your itinerary from there. Fitting in the two will just be really exhausting and you spend more time in transit rather than sight see or relax.

camias is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 03:26 PM
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Do a search on this forum for my trip reports to Manila- that will give you some ideas. If you must choose do the Pagsanjan Falls this was really fun for us- note that they will take you into and under he falls so you will get wet! If you bring an umbrella that can protect you. If you like I can put you in touch with our cousin who is a travel agent with American Express in Manila. She may be able to assist you with some of your logistics. You might also want to do Villa Escadero- its described in my trip reports.
BillT is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 06:34 PM
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I also think your schedule is too packed for a week. Also, August is a prime typhoon (i.e. hurricane) month and it is also the rainy season in the Philippines, see weatherbase.com and other weather sites. Going to a beach location in August is probably not a great idea, although the interiors get rain as well. If you can move your trip to another season, that may be better. I do think the Philippines are beautiful, but I live in Hong Kong which also a quite similar weather pattern, and has summer typhoons, and really you donít want to spend all that money to sit in the rain. There are many other parts of SE Asia which are dry in August (like east coast Malaysia and Bali), but if you want to go to the Philippines, IMO you should pick another time. (The winter months are dry and a good time to go.)
Cicerone is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 07:39 PM
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Bill I would like your cousin's contact info. I did contact Rajah Tours about a possible itinerary, but am worried because of the slow response.
Femi is offline  
Jan 13th, 2009, 07:43 PM
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PS I'm interested in knowing if she can make all the arrangements for a tour of the island (transportation, guides, etc). Thanks.
Femi is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 03:58 AM
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Here is her contact info - email her and tell her Uncle Bill from Houston referred you.
Myrna Casas
American Express - Adventure International Tours, Inc.

G/F Eurovilla 1, 142 Legaspi St. corner V.A. Rufino St.,

Legaspi Village, Makati City 1229 Philippines

Telephone: +632.8674743 or +632.8130414 Facsimile: +632.840.4322

Mobile: +639175310121

Email: [email protected] www.travelnow.ph

BillT is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 04:04 AM
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I sent an email to Myrna as well alerting her.

I agree the Philippines is beautiful but I am perplexed that so many of the "regulars" on this board go to all ends of the earth (for example Borneo) but exclude the Philippines altogether?
BillT is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 04:34 AM
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BillT, there doesn't seem to be too much info or interest on this board about the Philippines. I visited over Christmas and posted photos and some notes in this forum, as I have done for all my recent trips, and unlike those posts, the Philippines pictures (at least so far) have attracted very few comments or visitors.

Aside from Manila, I would rank the Philippines very high as a travel destination -- lots of interesting sites, dirt cheap, cheap internal airfares and ferries, great diving and beaches, etc.

thit_cho is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 08:16 AM
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I've always had the Philippines in mind because I love SouthEast Asia, but it is rather difficult to arrange a trip there, especially in the manner in which I prefer to travel. I like structure, and all arrangements set before I leave, rather than making plans after arrival. Many tour companies that specialize in Asia do not do business in the Philippines. Also I have found the vast majority of people who visit do so because of family ties.

Thanks for the info Bill.
Femi is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 09:32 AM
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Femi, I made all my arrangements (air on Cebu Pacific and hotel by Inernet) prior to departure. It was very easy to do and I learned a lot about the country through my research. I have been to most of the Southeast Asian countries, and travel within the Philippines was no more difficult than in other countries.

To me, the Philippines glaring and obvious weakness is its disappointing capital, which is not nearly as interesting as Bankgok, Singapore, KL, Phnom Penh, to name a few Southeast Asian capitals that I enjoyed.

thit_cho is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 09:39 AM
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Yes the tourism infrastructure in Manila is not good compared with many international capitals. However there are many day trips worth taking using Manila as a base. The country itself has many nice beaches and other sites. We are going back to Manila in March.
BillT is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 02:38 PM
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Michael I haven't found any way to book the trips I want on the internet, such as visiting indigenous people like the Batak and Negritos.

I usually avoid booking a bunch of different day trips with different companies. I'm looking for a more seamless package. I feel a little more secure traveling as a single female having one company responsible for all arrangements, i.e. they know who I'm with and if I don't show up at a designated spot will make some effort to find me, if you know what I mean.

I'm sure the tourist infrastructure in the Philippines will continue to improve, I may just have to wait a while before my needs can be met.
Femi is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 09:34 AM
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Thanks to everyone for your help and suggestions so far.

We're locked into going in August right now - it's the only chunk of time my boyfriend has off in the forseeable future, and he is very eager to visit because his grandfather imigrated from the Philippines in the 1930s. So do you all really suggest we wait and go another time during the winter? Will the rain be very bad (in Manila, the north, Boracay) in August? I read somewhere that someone visited the rice terraces during the try season and they were brown and dry, not lush and green like the pictures you typically see.

Also, for those who've visited, if you had to choose between seeing either the Chocolate Hills or the Banaue rice terraces, which would you choose? We're looking at going to Bali on this trip, too - how do the rice terraces in Ubud compare to those at Banaue? Would you suggest one over the other? Considering our limited time (and for variety in our itinerary), would you suggest going to the Chocolate Hill in Manila (instead of the rice terraces) and then the rice terraces in Bali?
lmschmale is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 05:17 PM
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Well, if your boyfriend has Filipino grandparents, I would say that certainly would be a big focus and influence for making the trip. Your boyfriend may even still have family there, and perhaps you should try to visit his home village. I think that would be a great experience.

I donít say donít go in August, but you might want to re-think beaches. I would agree that the rice terraces would be green and lush at that time. But roads could be muddy and that may slow you down; things like flights can get delayed as well. You just have to be prepared for it. If you had thought of diving or snorkeling the wind, rain or overcast skies can really be disappointing to that idea. But if you think it is lovely and romantic to listen to the rain on a tin roof (and of course it can be esp. with the right person) then that would work. And if you are visiting family, that of course can make a huge difference. IMO it is all about expectations. I just want you to have the right ones. I think people come to SE Asia with the idea that it is all sun all the time, and that is not the case. For example, it is 55 F today in Hong Kong (yes, we have a winter) and we are all in winter coats and wool sweaters, and there are tourists out there in shivering in shortsÖ.they did not have the correct expectations.

Yes, August can see some heavy rain days in the Philippines. See weatherbase.com and other websites for rain stats. Manila gets an average of 14 inches that month, Without knowing where you are from, it is hard too say how that compares to what you are used to, but ďrainyĒ London gets 29 inches of rain a year. Rainy Seattle gets about the same. It would not be unusual, in my experience in Hong Kong, for most of that rain to fall in a period of 2 or 3 days; or for it to fall over 30 days in the form of completely overcast skies and drizzle for a month. Also note that August is typhoon season, so look for info on that. I have to say that generally September seems to be the most typhoon-prone month, so you may be in luck there.

I have to say that IMO the rice terraces in Banaue are larger more extensive, go up further in height, and are much impressive than those of Bali. Bali is about culture (art, music dance) and the magic of the island, and while they have some very pretty and quite picturesque terraces, IMO canít really compare. I have only been to Banaue once many years ago, but that was my impression as between the two (I have been to Bali numerous times).

Can I also just mention that Java has some wonderful rice terrace areas as well, and you can hop over there from Bali. Go to Borbadour and the city of Yogyajarkata and then get up into the mountain areas. Vietnam has some great rice terrace areas too (Sapa), although there are some rain issues in arts of Vietnam in August too.

Itís a big world with lots of beauty, the problem is making the choices.

Cicerone is offline  
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