Gappers listen up…forget Bali, leave Thailand well alone and if you are lurking in Borneo or Cambodia look east. The Philippines is where it’s at. It's an extraordinary mix of South America and Asia all wrapped up into one happy bundle, just primed and ready to be explored.
Claud has just returned and apart from celebrating the cheapest beer in the world (at 30p a pint), this is what she wants to share with you:
The kindest people
"Honestly – they were so kind and genuine it took me by surprise – I was ready to be ripped off, scammed and hassled on the beach – but not a jot. All they want to do is practice their English and drag you to a karaoke sing-a-long. Karaoke being their national sport, together with bingo…why? No idea.
Culture - not what you expect
Whether this was due to my lack of pre-arrival research but I was kind of expecting Buddhist temples, tuk tuks and sizzling street markets – you know, the typical Asian buzz – but what I got was something completely different – I got South America in Asia...Christian churches made of coral, Spanish colonial architecture and jeepneys everywhere. FYI Jeepneys are the coolest 'bus come taxi', as you can see from my picture. It was just not what I had imagined.
Having seen many a nice beach in my life I have become quite blasé and cynical when friends talk about amazing beaches – but let me tell you these beaches are the real deal – the ones you see in magazines. The sand actually squeaks as you walk, or run as it’s so hot. As there are over 7000 islands to choose from – you are spoilt for choice – but if you want my advice head to Malapascua Island which has awesome people, beaches and diving.
Seeing the whale sharks was amazing and swimming with giant turtles. They were real bucket list moments. While you're on Malapascua Island – promise to head out to sea with a scuba tank on your back or a snorkel – both work well and the clear sea is teeming all things exotic.
Weird and wonderful landscapes
Starting with the volcanoes and yes, the perfectly formed Mayon Volcano is still puffing but it has to be seen as it is utterly perfect in formation. The other really amazing place was the Chocolate Hills – as you can see from the photo, they are funny little green hillocks strewn across the landscape. Legend has it they were created by arguing giants who threw rocks at each other (boys will be boys), clearly, they didn't pick their mess up and voila! The Chocolate Hills were created.
Oh yes, another amazing spectacle was the paddy fields of Banaue, in the Cordillera Central mountains of North Luzon – so tidy and so beautiful, at nearly 3000m. They are sculpted from mud walls made more than 2,000 years ago – well worth the journey.
The cutest animal…
Seeing is believing – the little tarsier, think large tennis ball but with a rotating head and bulbous eyes! Best place to see them is in Bohol at the conservation centre. They are nocturnal, shy and endangered, so be patient on a night safari.
What else can I say?
I promise you will not be disappointed.These islands are streets ahead of the Asian tourist board and the Gapper just needs to have confidence to step out the well-trodden route.
With cheap beer and very cheap internal air travel what’s not to like?
Promise me you'll include the Philippines on your gap year in Asia.
Please give me a shout if I can help you get there.
on 19 / 10 / 2018