The Philippines… just the mention of this mystical country gets my panties in a twist! This is a country which has captured my imagination for the last few months. It has consumed me. Like an addict, all I dream about is soft sandy beaches, freshly grilled fish, colourful buses, whirling parties and friendly smiles. I have read everything I can get my hands on, made friends with a beautiful Filipina blogger (The Little Brown Monkey) and plotted out my planned route on Google Maps again and again. I’m ready, the Philippines is calling, and I am determined to visit!
Why the Philippines I hear you ask? I’ve traveled the world for years, doing whatever I want, wherever I want, so what is it about this collection of islands which gets me so excited? It’s impossible for me to give you just one answer, so, how about seven!
1. Sea food was so fresh it may just bite me back!
As some of you guys may know, I love local food. For me, there’s nothing quite like rocking up to a new country and ordering some of the weird and wonderful local delicacies on offer! Some of my favorite food in the world is seafood and, from what I can gather, the Philippines is one of the best places in the world to try super-fresh seafood. If I get the chance, I would love to make friends with a local fisherman and head out for a day on the seas to try my hand at catching dinner the local way! Something I have wanted to do for years, but haven’t yet had a chance to familiar, is big game fishing – I would love the opportunity to fish for tuna or marlin, and I’m hoping that in the Philippines I will finally get to give this a go!
2. Boracay Island!
For a long time now, I’ve heard tales of the perfect beaches and lush jungles of this seemingly magical place. My friends have told me that this is the place to go for jungle hikes, perfect surf (I’ve always wanted to pretend to be a surfer) and kick ass watersports. The beach huts here look amazing; the perfect place to chill after a hard day of diving. Did I mention Boracay is the world famous for diving? Did I mention I have never dived? Well, I haven’t, I am probably the only full-time backpacker in the world who has never had a go at diving, but I have decided Boracay is the place where I want to learn. I’ve seen pictures of the stunning underwater world and all of the magical creatures that live there. I have even heard that it is possible to scuba dive into a cave filled with colorful lobsters and thousands of bats. Who knows, if I get good at scuba diving I may even have the chance to explore a sunken plane and a nearby wreck! As somebody who has never actually had the opportunity to get beneath the waves, this sounds too good to be true! I imagine an Avatar-esque world of strange creatures, colorful reef and fantastical rock formations! In the evenings, Boracay is supposedly one of the best places in the Philippines to head out for a party. I envision flaming poi artists, cheap beers and friendly Filipinos to make friends with!
3. Adventure activities in Sagada!
I’m an adrenaline junkie. It’s a fact. I’m currently sitting in a cozy little hostel in Nicaragua, beer in hand, after a crazy day of volcano boarding. For those of you who don’t know, this involves hiking to the top of a volcano, savoring some excellent views and then taking your board, placing it at the head of the jet black slopes and hurtling down the side of the volcano at 40, 50 or even 60 miles an hour. I was super proud to be the fastest boarder of the day! Anyway, I digress, my research online has all pointed towards one magical sounding Northern part of the country, Sagada! This is really high up on my list of places to go in the Philippines as I would love to finally conquer my fear of heights by signing up with one of the rock-climbing schools. I’m a big fan of white water rafting, but I haven’t had the chance to catch some decent rapids for over a year now. In Sagada, I hope to rectify this finally and hit the Chico River to soak in some excellent views of the lush jungle and steep canyons while honing my technical rafting skills (which are currently pretty poor!).
4. Pretending to be Robinson Crusoe!
I have a confession to make. I am just a little bit obsessed with the idea of ‘surviving’ on an island by myself for a few days. I have a fantastic tent, a special knife which has yet to get its first fish and a real thirst for adventure! Sure, I’ve sweated in jungles, trekked through deserts and conquered snow-capped peaks, but one thing I have never done is spend a couple of nights on a deserted island. The Philippines seems like the perfect place to live out this fantasy, surviving off just coconut water (which istravelersmy . I drink in the world anyway) and fresh fish. I’ve been told that if I make friends with a local fisherman (and let’s be honest, I’m a pretty friendly guy), then I may be able to convince them to drop me off on my very own island for a couple of days. Having the chance to paddle in the surf, watch the sunset from the beach and explore the unknown, ALL BY MYSELF, would be a dream come true.
5. Getting back into Couchsurfing!
I was one of the first people to sign up to Couchsurfing, I even have a special badge to prove it. I’ve surfed over a hundred times and hosted more than forty travellers (often at my parent’s house at the very last minute, my folks are very understanding!) from all over the world. To me, Couchsurfing is a highly important part of traveling. It gives me the opportunity to meet people I would never otherwise encounter, to plunge headfirst into the local culture, abandon the backpacker trail and experience the real vibe of a place. Couchsurfing in the Philippines is getting more and more popular with hundreds of Filipinos signing up every week, when I first heard about this I was instantly excited. I’ve had a couple of bad experiences with Couchsurfing recently (it can happen to even the most experienced of us!) but with the Philippines I feel that the people are trustworthy enough to give it another whirl and get involved again with a community which means a huge amount to me. Filipino couch-surfers, watch out – I’ll be coming soon to a town near you!
6. Delving into the past…
Yep, it’s true. I’m a history nerd. When it comes to military history, I am just a little bit obsessed, and the Philippines offers a truly fascinating insight into a part of World War II which, to be honest, I don’t know enough about! I would love to find out more about the Filipino resistance groups who continued to fight the Japanese invaders right up until the Japanese were pushed out. The tenacity and sheer bravery of the Filipinos during this dark time in history has long impressed me. I’ve researched the topic a bit (having read both ‘The Rescue’ by Steven Smith and ‘Code Name: High Pockets’ by Edna Binkowski) and the huge risks that the Filipinos took to protect American soldiers and evade the Japanese has long impressed me. Besides the WWII history, I would also love the chance to explore some of the stunning colonial buildings in Manila. If anybody fancies guiding me around all day pointing out cool new local sites and perhaps visiting the odd museum, the beers are on me!
I like buses. I like jeeps. It’s only reasonable to assume that I am going to fall in love with Jeepneys! When it comes to getting around, I love to travel like a local and I have to admit that sitting atop a Jeepney, lounging on my pack and soaking in the views, seems like an even better way to travel than in Business Class on a place (which, to be fair, I have never experienced!). Seriously though, the psychedelic pictures I have seen of these colourful vehicles have really gotten me excited, I like taking photos and although the Philippines has thousands of unique and beautiful sites, one of the pictures I want to take the most is from the top of a Jeepney on my way to the perfect beach with some brand new Filipino friends…
About the Writer
Will Hatton is a British Writer and photographer. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of icy peaks, survivor of deadly motorbike crashes and crusader for cheap escapades. Avid hitch-hiker. Not above borrowing bread. Has an extensive vocabulary but mostly uses ‘dude’ and ‘awesome’ to convey all emotions. Inventor of the man-hug. Has been described as an incorrigible cad. In constant need of a haircut. Currently on a six month trip around South America. Smells of old leather.
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