day one hundred and twenty-two: january 29, 2016: intramuros
Originally we had wanted to do this bike tour at the beginning of our trip, but since we arrived during the holiday between Christmas and New Years BamBike was justifiably closed. Thankfully, we had a free day at the tail end of our time in the Philippines so we called up the cousins and had them skip work to come join us.
day one hundred and twenty: january 27, 2016: vigan
The Spanish influenced city of Vigan is one of the New 7 Wonders Cities, voted in by people around the world. One main street, Calle Crisologo, is the center of this old city beginning at a large square headed north. Old cobble stones make a narrow road not open to motorized vehicles, only calesas or horse drawn carriages in Filipino. The street is lined by old buildings with European architecture. Lucky for us, my dad's friend was from Vigan. She showed us around and even gave us a tour of her cousin's home, which was on this main street. The layout inside was very open with high ceilings and windows and balconies overlooking the street - you can only imagine what it was like to live here many years ago.
day one hundred and eighteen: january 25, 2016: sagada
With only one day planned in Sagada, we decided to try to really pack it all in. We had read about the sunrise at Kiltepan Peak overlooking the rice terraces below and decided to wake up before dawn to check it out. About 50-60 other people also had the same idea. Lucky for us, there's a road that goes all the way to the peak and we were able to take the van, instead of hiking in the dark and cold! We arrived about 30 minutes before first light, which is about an hour before sunrise. We were definitely in a cloud. You couldn't see a thing thru the thick mist. Due to our first flight from Manila to Coron having 10 kg checked baggage limits, we had left all our cold weather gear in Manila thinking we were spending most of our time on the islands and beaches. Instead, we armed ourselves with the blankets from the hotel and drank hot chocolate from one of the vendors at the peak.
day one hundred and sixteen: january 24, 2016: cebu > manila > banaue
Surprise, surprise...another long travel day.
After a casual breakfast, we headed to the airport to catch a flight to Manila then jump in a car to head north to Baguio. Sadly, our flight was delayed a little over an hour. Typical to many SE Asia countries, no announcements were given letting us know what was going on with our flight. Once we arrived, our drivers were ready and waiting for us. Lucky for us, we had a group of five, which warranted paying a driver with a private van to drive us to Banaue, Batad, Sagada and Vigan. The typical route is to take an overnight bus from Manila to Bagiuo and then an early morning jeepney to Banaue, which is quite a long trek, sometimes spanning close to 14 hours. Since we had our own drivers we were able to get there in about 9 hours including stopping for dinner and gas.
day one hundred and eight: january 15, 2016: lake mainit and mabua pebble beach
Surigao City is not the most interesting city by far. As we approached our arrival in Surigao City, we began to do some research on what there was to see there. To our disappointment, everything interesting to see was on another island at least a several hour boat ride away, making it a little bit difficult to visit in one day. Since we didn't have enough days to stay the night on one of those islands, we had to explore by car within driving distance of the city. Thankfully, we had a private driver, Noel, who graciously took us around the area to explore.
day one hundred and six: january 13, 2016: davao to surigao
Based on my dad's friend's recommendation, we headed to our next stop: The Britannia Islands. It was about a 6-7 hour drive from Davao but we got to enjoy passing through little towns, palm tree forests, and the countryside. After sitting in the car for 6 hours, we were all excited to have finally reached our destination....but our original accommodations didn't live up to the photos that were online. We drove down a little more to another "resort" to check it out. As soon as we stepped out of the car, Jamie and I knew this was going to be another "no".
day one hundred and three: january 10, 2016: puerto princesa to davao/samal island
We said goodbye to Erwin in Manila and made our way south to Davao. We didn't know what to expect but were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at a private resort on Samal Island, called Samal Shores, owned by my dad's friend. To make things even better, we were the only guests for the next three days...AMAZING! Samal Island is just a short 3 minute boat ride from Davao but still a nice getaway from the mini bustling city.
day one hundred: january 7, 2016: puerto princessa
After Underground River, we hopped back in the van and headed to Puerto Princesa, another multi-hour drive. After we checked in, we headed to the baywalk area for some BBQ. We were not disappointed.
day one hundred: january 7, 2016: underground river and puerto princessa
If you can't tell already, we love big travel days... This morning we had an 3am pick up to make our way back to Puerto Princessa via the Underground River. We were told to get to there early because it gets super busy and people have been known to wait for up to 2 hours to get on a boat. We were lucky and had to wait less than 30 minutes for a boat from the wharf then another 10 minutes to jump on a smaller boat to enter the cave. The Underground River is the world's largest navigable river within a cave, 42 km long. Tourists are limited to a tour of the only the first 2km of the cave complex in an effort to preserve the cave and its ecosystem. The Underground River was actually voted as one of the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World. I must say, we were pretty impressed at how the government is actually trying to preserve this natural wonder. It wasn't just a gimmick to increase tourism in the area.
day ninety-eight: january 5, 2016
Today we traveled from Coron to El Nido. We caught a flight from Coron to Manila (1 hour), Manila to Puerto Princessa (1.5 hours), then hopped in a van to El Nido (7 hours). Needless to say, today was a big travel day. We arrived El Nido late in the evening so we went straight to bed to get ready for a big day of island hopping ahead of us.
day ninety-six: january 3, 2016
As part of our second day of island hopping, we snorkeled at two wrecks then spent the rest our time on Pass Island.
There are eleven WWII wrecks dating back to September 1944 when American bombers attacked a Japanese convoy anchored in Coron Bay. Many of the wrecks are shallow enough to snorkel, but also make for great wreck diving and snorkeling.
day ninety-four: january 1, 2016: coron
Today, we left Manila and made our way to our first stop of our Philippines tour, Coron. We are staying in Coron Town, the jumping off point to all the other islands. If you're planning to come here at some point, know that Coron Town is super simple and underdeveloped.
days eighty-eight to ninety-three: december 26 - december 31, 2016: manila and taal lake
Christmas Day was spent on planes and in airports as we traveled from Sorong to Manila, arriving at 2am on the 26th. After taking what seemed like forever to get thru customs and immigration and collecting our bags we were greeted by a familiar face, my dad and my two cousins, Karen and Kristel. What's the first thing you do after arriving in the Philippines, eat of course! As we left the airport, we appeared to be lost. My dad asked Kristel if she was lost and she said, "Yes, but we'll be ok, we have gas, we have money and we're still in the Philippines!". First stop, Aristocrat for some late night food.