Philippines: Asia with a different flavour
By Emma Lovell
An exotic getaway in Asia to experience a different culture, food and night-life scene is high on many people’s radar. But it seems to be the same few destinations that get the majority of the tourists. The island haven of the Philippines is everything you love about Asia, but with its own unique and fascinating flavour. I want to share with you just some of the highlights of this paradise and why you should be adding it to the top of your travel list.
Manila is the capital of the Philippines and a great start for your cultural introduction to this interesting country. Manila is both modern and vibrant with great food and entertainment, while also being respectful and proud of its cultural history and origins. A highlight of Manila is the people. They will charm you with their friendly and welcoming demeanor, making any sightseeing experience easy and pleasant.
To get an insight into the past, take the walking tour of the historic walled old city, Intramuros, within the city of Manila itself. It dates back to the 16thcentury and is the site of the original colonial Spanish Citadel. You can enjoy your time there with donkey cart tours, walks through beautifully manicured gardens and richly historic buildings. There are several museums for those who want to know more, or you can simply enjoy taking in the sights.
For some truly delicious and unique flavours, make sure to try a few Filipino food favourites. Try the sweet and tangy marinated and grilled pork barbecue skewers, you’ll find them being cooked to tender perfection on many street corners. You also must try PFC, Philippines Fried Chicken — this stuff gives the Colonel a run for his money. Offering flavours such as garlic soy, hot chilli and original, the crispy batter and tender chicken combo will have you calling for seconds. As with many Asian cultures, nothing goes to waste and that’s how the dish ‘Sisig’ came to be. Made from off cuts of pork, it has a crunchy and chewy texture which may not be for everyone, but partnered with an ice cold beer, you’ll be experiencing life like a local.
Something Manila is quietly famous for is its exceptional singers and their almost perfect covers of popular artists and bands. You’ll just love singing along.Whether it’s a spot of karaoke, picking up some CD’s to take home or just enjoying the show, you’ll love the music scene in Manila.
The perfect day trip from Manila has to be to the ‘double volcano’ area. Sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire,the Taal Lake hosts two volcanoes in one. The outer, or larger volcano, is a huge lake and the smaller volcano sits in the lake like an island. There are a number of ways to enjoy this incredible wonder of nature including hiking, horse riding and boating. You can also indulge in a tasty meal here from one of the many food vendors on the island. Tour companies are running regular day trips to this popular attraction.
The Philippines is not just an island, it’s a country made up of 7,461 islands. So of course, your trip to this beautiful destination is not complete without an island getaway. With far too many to choose from, I’ve narrowed it down to Boracay and El Nido.
Boracay is blessed with beautiful beaches. In fact, it was named the World’s Best Island in 2016. If you’re up for a party, this is the place for you! There is incredible night-life on offer and a lively party scene. Restaurants line the beach, music pumps from the bars and fire shows will thrill and delight you. For a unique experience, stay out of town as it’s easy to walk in and you might experience some unexpected views you just can’t get in the centre.
For a more tranquil and relaxing break, El Nido is perfect. Its charm is in the quaint little streets with few restaurants and shops. However, to discover the treasures of this island take a boat tour. Travel to a variety of movie-like paradise locations which are almost too beautiful to be real. Local tour companies will drop you off to these natural gems to enjoy and explore. Swim, walk and take small boat rides to unseen hidden beaches, lagoons and more in this tropical oasis. Note that the travel time to El Nido (a flight from Palawan and a 6-hour bus or van ride) can be long, but the scenery and glimpse into village life along the way is well worth it.
Whether you love the vibe of the islands or the sights and sounds of city life, you’ll be mesmerised by the diversity of the Philippines!