Every time I see a list of the top five beaches in the world, the Philippines always makes the list. The top two island beach destinations they usually feature in the Philippines are Palawan and Boracay. For our honeymoon, my wife and I took off to Manila and then Boracay for breathtaking scenery, warm weather, and one of the most inexpensive trips we have ever taken.
Let me start by mentioning that my wife is half Filipino (they call her “halo halo” for “mix mix”). She has family in Manila, so the first leg of our trip started in Manila. Her cousin’s fiancée, Fe, picked us up from the airport and took us to Z Hostel, which is located in Makati, Manila. My wife had never stayed in a hostel, but I had stayed in dozens and dozens of them. I told her that I’ve seen couples get their own room at some really nice hostels and that it’s great because they’re usually located next to all the main sites—but without the high prices. My wife agreed and booked a room at a brand new hostel located in Makati.
The pictures looked nice, everything was new, and they had a quaint social area located on the roof. We grabbed our bags, said bye to Fe, and then headed inside. After checking in, we soon discovered that the elevator was “under improvements” and was the smallest elevator (outside of a dumbwaiter) that I had ever seen. So I hiked our luggage up six of the seven floors of stairs to our room.
The room was nice, but we were exhausted with jet lag and decided to turn it in for the night. Just as I was starting to doze off, I heard and felt techno music. I thought to myself, “its probably just some douche driving by,” but the music didn’t seem to fade. Then I heard what sounded like a herd of buffalo, coming up the stairs. It was a bunch of people heading to the roof. What was advertised as “a quaint social area” turned out to be a full-blown discotheque located right above our room. And to make things worse, the elevator was not working, so we had foot traffic walking by and hanging out next to our room all night.
The next morning, we were meeting with a friend of mine, Zhara, who lives in the Philippines. She had come down from Cebu City and said she had a friend who lived near our hostel. When she said near, I didn’t expect 15 feet from the hostel doorstep. We meet her friends and then headed out to walk around Manila. Zhara took us to some authentic Filipino restaurants and ordered for us. I don’t know what I ate, but the whole meal was delicious.
It sure was nice having a local with us to make sure we didn’t get charged Cano (Americano) prices. After a day of wandering about, we decided to have some drinks and check out the nightclub located above our room at the hostel. We had a good time that night and drank enough to sleep well. We would need it because the next day we were flying off to Boracay.
We said our goodbyes to Zhara and her friends in the morning and caught a flight from Manila to the very Northwest part of Panay Island Caticlan Airport. This was more convenient than the other option of flying into the Kalibo Airport and taking a bus to Caticlan where the ferries are. We caught the ferry over to the island of Boracay. The ferries drop off at the Station 1 port, and then you hire a motorbike taxi to take you to one of the four stations located along the west part of the island.
It’s important to know which station your hotel is located near. After got off the ferry, we hired a taxi to take us to our hotel called, The Spider House. The Spider House is a world-famous bamboo tree house built on the side of a cliff and leads down to the water. Just to get to the entrance you have to walk across a beach and through a manmade cave that leads up to the front desk. The Spider House is really cool because all the rooms are stacked so that every room has a gorgeous view.
There is no air conditioning because there is no need for it with the trade winds, and all the beds have mosquito nets even though insects were a problem. The rooms are completely open air, so don’t be freaked out if the occasional cat comes running through. They’re part of the Hotel Rodent Police provided by the hotel.
Once we were checked in and settled, we walked along the beach to find a SCUBA charter. All along the way, I was overwhelmed by how crystal clear the water was and how it complemented the palm tree–lined, white sandy beach. As we walked down to Station 2 (the busiest station), we came across a beautiful grotto of the Virgin Mary.
It’s also called Willy’s Rock because it’s located right outside the Willy’s Beach Club Hotel. We took some pictures and discovered a SCUBA shop. The following day, we provided our SCUBA cards, paid the fees, and then headed out on our own private two-tank dive for only $30 each! Did I mention things in the Philippines are cheap?
After an afternoon of diving, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up. Apparently the Spider House is so popular that a lot of tourists come to the downstairs restaurant just to see the sunset and cliff dive.
Once we were done changing, we headed to a restaurant that my wife visited last time she was in Boracay called, The Hobbit House. The whole restaurant is run and operated vertically challenged (little) people. This place is outstanding, all the employees are super nice, and they embrace the theme of the restaurant. The walls are covered in huge tapestries depicting hobbit scenes from The Lord of the Rings. The glasses are full sized, but the bar is tiny, so it looks disproportioned and very funny. This place was great, and I insisted on going there at least once a day each day for the remainder of our stay in Boracay. We could never have one of these back in the states because someone would complain that these people are being exploited, but in reality the staff loved it. It gave them a portal to be themselves and have a field of work designed around little people.
The next day, we woke up, had breakfast at our hotel, and then headed down the beach for a massage. We came across a private, open-air cabana with two tables and two ladies that only charged us $10 each for an hour-long, full-body massage right on the water. My wife got the young masseuse, and I took the older lady. Let me tell ya fellas, when I was single I wanted the young masseuse, but now that I’m married and wiser, the ancient lady masseuse is definitely the better option. This lady had lumberjack hands and knew every nook and cranny to get because she had been doing this for like, a thousand years. Needless to say, we had morning and afternoon massages every day we were there.
Once we finished with our morning massages, we headed to Ariel’s hotel to book our ticket to go to Ariel’s Point. Ariel’s Point located on an island located just offshore of Boracay. You pay a flat fee of $30, and all your food and drinks are included as you cliff jump, kayak, and snorkel all day. On the boat ride out, I had a beer but didn’t want to have too many because the highest jumping point was 15 meters, and I didn’t want to land sideways on the water. As soon as the boat docked, I made a beeline straight for the high jump so I could knock it out and go back to eating and drinking. Needless to say, I stuck the landing and proceeded to have a great time. While waiting in line for a drink, a guy told me he overheard me tell someone on the boat that I was in the U.S. Navy. He said he retired from the U.S. Navy, so as a good sailor I offered to grab him a drink (even thought they were already included). He said, “No, let me grab you a drink.” I asked him what his name was and he said “It’s Ariel, and I own this place.” I said, “Bullshit!” He told me to watch as he clapped his hands and a bartender came running over. He then invited me and my wife to eat and drink with him as well as his friend who was an ex-general in the Filipino Army. It was an interesting lunch to say the least. After we ate, my wife and I decided to finish our trip to Ariel’s point by kayaking through caves and around the island.
On the way back, we met a Korean couple who were also on their honeymoon. They seemed very nice, so naturally we invited them to dinner at the Hobbit House. The next day. we met them at Puka Shell Beach located at the northernmost part of the island. Every single inch of the island is beautiful, but this is where the film crews set up to film the “Top Beaches” segments. We relaxed and had lunch with our friends and then decided to go back to our hotel to cliff dive at sunset.
The next day, we caught a small plane back to Manila for our last days. We went back to Z Hostel for one night and visited my wife’s family in San Juan, Rizal.
After spending some time with the family, Fe took us to Green Hills. Green Hills is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
It is an inside mall that is three stories high and is the size of a huge city block. Inside, you will absolute fashion bliss! They have every single replica made on the face of the earth. The vendors are jam-packed next to each other and only separated by hanging sheets.
Every direction I looked was just an endless sea of Lacoste shirts, Patek Philippe watches, Christian Louboutin pumps, and every other high-end fashion name under the sun. But, the prices are ridiculously cheap if you can negotiate. I picked out a new wardrobe for cheap, and we still think we could have gotten some things cheaper if the white guy (me) wasn’t around. We shopped nonstop for six hours, and only saw half of the first floor. When visiting Manila, if there is nothing else you see, you have to see Green Hills.
Eventually we had to stop shopping because we were exceeding the limits of the two suitcases we brought and the one we bought at Green Hills. We headed off to have our final dinner with Fe and right after dinner she surprised us with balut. OK, if you don’t know what balut is, try to stay with me. A balut is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell.
It is considered a delicacy in the Philippines, and all my Asian in-laws doubted if I would eat it. I have eaten some pretty disturbing stuff all around the world, but balut had me a little hesitant. You start off by cracking the top part of the shell and drinking the fluids out. Then, you peel back the shell to expose the baby chicken or baby duck—feathers, beak, and all. You then proceed to bite directly into the baby’s head and then work your way down. I thought is was going to be as bad as the way it was described to me and I described to you, but it wasn’t bad. If I was offered it right now, I’d probably eat it. The next day we caught our flight to China and said goodbye to the Philippines.
In closing, the Philippines is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The people are welcoming, the beaches inspire postcards, and the price for things in the Philippines couldn’t be better. Until next my next visit…paalam!