Backpacking solo around the Philippines

Before I start off, let me tell you honestly a thing about my travel to the Philippines. I never had this country on my list for some unknown reason, although I knew how beautiful the country looked in the pictures that I saw. So when the travel blog exchange community announced their next conference in the Philippines, I bought the tickets right away, considering it as a perfect excuse to travel to the island nation.

And no surprises here, my backpacking in the Philippines lasting for almost a month turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences that I have had in my travels.

Manila: A potpourri of culture

My journey began in the capital city of Manila. Having grown up and lived in the towns, I’m not very fond of metro cities or the city life, and Manila was the same for the initial days to me. But some places change your perspective about them gradually. You don’t instantly fall in love with these destinations; but very subtly and slowly, you will fall for them nevertheless eventually.

Manila did the same to me. I first stayed in the hostels in Makati area close to Burgos Street, since I was looking to experience the nightlife happenings that I had heard. Manila is a mix of everything, and you initially develop the love-hate relationship with the city. The traffic and the chaos make you cringe. The colorful jeepneys and the street food capture your attention. The shopping malls and the plethora of food chain restaurants leave you surprised. The art draws you. And in the end, you’ll end up liking the capital. In fact, I ended up spending more days in Manila than I had planned!

Whether it’s the old city of Intramuros, the China town or the bustling streets of Metro Manila – the city is a melting pot.

After Manila, I had the opportunity to discover Dumaguete province with the Philippines Tourism Board. The tourism board had arranged the travel for bloggers like me to the islands of Siqujor, Apo, Sumilon and Cebu. Each one of these islands is unique and exudes their magnificence brilliantly. From spotting sea turtles to visiting the weaving centers to listening to the folk songs by the candle light dinner, it was an immersing trip that gave a glimpse of the land of islands.

Palawan and beyond

Back from the familiarization trip, I continued my backpacking further after bidding my goodbyes to my fellow travel blogger friends. Since I wanted to experience surprise and keep my options flexible, I did not planned much the trip to my next destinations. So when I realized that Palawan region had cheaper and excellent connectivity from Manila, the first and the only thing that I’d done was to book the flights.

But little did I know what was in store. Only when I landed did I realize that this is the second best island in the world according to the Conde Nast Traveler as voted by the people, for the second time. One visit to this majestic province and you would agree with the CNT immediately!

Those colors of the sea! The various shades and the different colors of the water in the beaches will remain with me for long. They are not yet touristy, they are super clean, and the number of water sports that you can try are endless – be it snorkeling, kayaking, diving, surfing or just lazing by the beach, you name it, and you can do it.

I’m not a diving person, but that didn’t stop me a bit from enjoying the mesmerizing beauty of the islands of Palawan. I started from Puerto Princesa and witnessed the giant world below the mountains along the underground river. Puerto Princesa is also the place where I got opportunities to try the local food, which was not cheap, but delicious.

I headed north, to witness the beauty of El Nido, taking the bus from Puerto Princesa. I took up the island hopping tours where I toured with some Filipinos. It was a beautiful fun-filled day with a Filipino family and two guys who were also on holidays. I was stunned to know that the people of Philippines watch Indian Bollywood movies! What amazed me, even more, was the fact that the men and the ladies of the Filipino family even remembered the dialogues of the movies.

But it seemed like my fun time in the Philippines had just begun. I’m afraid of heights, and I have been trying to move out of my comfort zone and trying things to get over this fear. One day when I was walking to my hostel in El Nido, I noticed a billboard that displayed some details about zip lining. “So here is an opportunity, “I thought. I went ahead and took up the challenge (Yes, it was a challenge to me!) in Las Cabanas.

And here is the best part. My emotions changed in an instant from fear to freedom and thrill once I set off. I was so happy and had so much fun that I did it again, which was an accomplishment to me. Flying above 50 meters, watching the islands and the turquoise beaches covering 1.5 km was a splendid experience.

Backpacking in the Mountain Province

Once I was back from soaking in the beauty of the blissful beaches, it was time for me to do some active holidaying and visiting my most favorite regions – the mountains. No, don’t get me wrong. I love the beaches a lot. But if I have to choose, then it would always be the mountains. So I was excited to breathe the mountain air when I headed to Sagada by bus from Manila. Since there are no direct buses, I had to choose between Baguio and Banaue to reach Sagada. I didn’t want to miss the amazing rice terrace fields so I headed to Banaue first. I trekked to arrive at the UNESCO heritage site – the rice fields which are more than 2,000 years old. Green was the color that ruled the panoramic view.

After spending few days enjoying the life in the small town, I headed to Sagada. Sagada had so much in store— the complete caves of Sumaguing, the hanging coffins, the Bomodok waterfalls, and the idyllic town itself, to explore and spend the time in the midst of nature. I took my time to get under the skin of Sagada. I explored the places one after the other, witnessed sunsets from the mountain tops, got to know about the traditions of the locals and spent the cold nights looking at the fantastic sky filled with stars.

Sagada and Palawan are both the perfect places for slow travel. If the beach is your first love, head to Palawan and if you prefer mountains like me, you know what to choose.

What i like the most in the Philippines

I got this question often while I was traveling in the Philippines. And I always have to think hard to answer this because there are so many things that I totally loved and had so much fun. It is a tough choice. But I feel I can boil down to these three:

People. Very few nations have a culture that focuses on a happy living. The moment I entered Manila, I got to know that the Philippines is one of them. You will always notice that a Filipino wears a big smile at any time of the day, even under the worst of the circumstances. You’ll notice that Filipinos are always ready to help travelers and be their best. The Filipinos believe in being hospitable and that reflects in their every of action towards travelers. Never did I once feel uncomfortable for traveling alone in the Philippines. I made many Filipino friends in a very short span, who spoke with warmth and of course, always flashed their big Filipino smile.

Beaches. As I have already mentioned, the beaches of the Philippines truly deserve to be among the best in the world. Their beauty is unparalleled, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even get the whole beach for yourself. How can you resist that?

Mountains. While the south is for a relaxed holiday, the north of the Philippines provided me with the kind of travel that I like a lot – slow travel in the mountains, adventure, hiking, sunsets, star gazing, local culture and heritage.

So yes, true to the tagline of the tourism board, it was more fun in the Philippines. And I can’t wait to get back!

About the writer

Reshma is a solo female traveler and a travel blogger/ writer from India. She is a backpacker who looks out for unique travel experiences by involving with the locals, getting to know the culture, and exploring offbeat destinations. She has extensively traveled solo in India and to some countries in Asia, including the Philippines. She shares her travel stories on her blog The solo Globetrotter.

You can follow her adventures at: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ thesologlobetrotter Twitter:https://twitter.com/ReshmaNarasing Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ thesologlobetrotter/ about the writer CONTINUED FROM PAGE 6

By Reshma Narasing

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