It’s been about 8 months now since my 100 days of Asia, and 2 months since my last blogpost so I thought I’d better fill you in as to what’s happened since, and my future plans.
So here’s the story continued…
I returned back home to England on June 8th 2016. I was around £3000-£4000 poorer, with no job but I had put a little money aside for this eventuality. My family welcomed me back and to be honest it seemed like nothing really changed.
Soon enough, after about 2 months I’d found myself 2 job offers in similar work to what I was doing before.
And I accepted one of them that offered me a higher salary and some really crazy perks. The office I work in has hover boards, free massages, a lovely workplace cafe (sometimes with live singers), free beer on Friday etc
But despite all this, something just didn’t feel right. Let me explain.
I always knew it would be hard to return to a normal job after travelling. It was actually one of my fears before I embarked on my trip in Asia, that feeling that everything would seem boring in comparison and you’d always yearn for more.
Most people call this feeling ‘the travel bug’ or some people describe it as having ‘itchy feet’.
Still, I took the job in good faith and thought I’d use my holiday time in order to take trips and visit places. I thought I’d take a two week trip to the Philippines around October/November 2016 and that would satisfy me.
But as I finished my training and started to work long hour weeks, I wondered why I was choosing this path when what I really wanted was some way to mix a dream of travel with a cold hard reality of the need to generate an income.
You see, here is the problem with backpacking the way I did it.
It relies on you saving a lot of money, quitting your job, spending it all having an amazing time and then coming back home completely broke back at square one.
The ‘dream’ part is clearly the travel and the ‘reality’ part is realising you’re spending all your money and ending up broke by the end of it.
I wondered why I was choosing this path when what I really wanted was some way to mix a dream of travel with a cold hard reality of the need to generate an income.
So rather than taking a trip somewhere and coming back with no money again, i’ve spent the last 6 months or so trying to save as much money as I could, ready for phase 2 of my plans.
For if I am about to do something slightly crazy, I figure I need the money to finance it initially…
With this in mind, i’ve been working 55+hour weeks, keeping my head down and not really socialising. I’ve kept my outgoings low and my wages high in order to build a small pot of savings.
And here’s the plan…
I have one more week of working in the UK.
On Monday 6th March, i’ll be taking a flight back to the Philippines where I have an Airbnb rented for about a month in Manila, after that we’ll see.
I want to put all my energy into trying to startup an online business whilst living in the Philippines (and some energy into a bit of Phillipines travel 😛)
I know there’s a great community of entrepreneurs in Asia, plentiful co-working spaces and inspiration to create something that is mine.
And that’s the short version of it really.
My eyes are wide open
I recognise just how crazy this may seem in itself. Quitting my job again to live on saved money in the belief I can have my Steve Jobs moment might sound kind of cool but I’m also a pragmatic person.
I rate my chances of ‘success’ at around 10%
In other words, I assess this as having a 90% chance of failure. …And when I say ‘failure‘ I mean not being able to establish an ongoing income from an online business enough to sustain myself before having to return to England for lack of funds.
But I will still take this risk.
Without sounding too cliche, I’d much rather regret something I dared to do, than never to have tried to do it at all.
If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, by now you’ll probably realise how much I utterly love the Philippines. To put El Nido in comparison to all the other great places I managed to see, I think this was the best place I went to in the Philippines.
El Nido was the moment for me where I just realised how much I’d actually grown to love one country.
The story continues…
So I think it was meant to take us about 6 hours to get from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, which is right at the top tip of Palawan island. Our driver had other ideas, and managed to halve the time.
I left the hostel with my new German friend, Max, that i’d met in Puerto Princesa and we soon arrived in El Nido in the afternoon in the midst of heavy rain. We went to a small café where we had a sandwich each, before the power went and we ended up staying there rather longer than intended to see out the storm.
The thing we soon learned about El Nido is that power cuts are regular, and internet is very hard to come by. I actually didn’t mind this at all, it was kind of refreshing.
Maybe the best evening of my entire 100 day trip?
There were plenty of times during my trip that I had great nights out, having beer with new-found friends. But my first evening in El Nido for some reason is the most memorable. I didn’t take pictures at the time because I just wanted to enjoy the moment but let me explain.
I think what added to the emotion was that I’d started to become acutely aware that my 100 day trip was fast coming to an end, and no matter how much I didn’t want to, my mind started turning to the fact I was coming home to the UK very soon.
Me and Max wanted to find somewhere to chill and have a few beers that evening so we walked along the beachfront and found a small bar with a few plastic tables and chairs outside. It was called CocoBar and it served lovely cold Red Horse beers. We started having a few drinks in the early evening and eventually it got a little darker.
And then a live Filipino band started playing. And Filipino’s are amazing at singing!
The bar started to fill up with more people who could hear their singing, a lot of local Filipinos came along, as well as some foreign tourists to sit down and hear them sing some classic English tunes. Oasis…Guns n Roses…Bon Jovi.
By magic, I found Rizza, the Filipina girl I’d met in Puerto Princesa and we got talking again.
It was starting to get very dark outside, and then it began to rain again so everyone crammed inside the small indoors section of the bar where the Filipino band were playing. People started dancing, more beers were drunk and everyone just seemed so happy in that one moment.
And then to make the atmosphere even better…
We suddenly had everyone crammed inside the small bar drinking, whilst it was dark and raining outside. The band were singing ‘don’t look back in anger’ by Oasis and everyone was joining in, dancing and talking to each other.
I can’t fully describe why. Maybe it was because it was my first night in El Nido. Maybe it was because I knew this was my last stop in the Philippines and my trip was ending soon. Maybe it was just because the atmosphere on the night was incredible. Maybe it was the people. For some reason though, this evening sticks out to me as possibly my best of my travels.
Finding a place to stay…
When I left Puerto Princesa for El Nido, i’d already booked my first night in a homestay as I knew we’d arrive about 4pm. I didn’t quite realise at the time that my new-found German friend Max hadn’t booked anywhere so we shared the room and the double bed for the first night. Lovely.
After our fun evening of beers, we managed to awake an hour after we were meant to check-out which left us in the awkward position of needing to find a place to stay.
So, backpacks in hand, we walked around El Nido with one challenge…
Where was the cheapest place we could find to stay in El Nido?
And I’m pleased to be able to give you an answer to this question!!
So, i’m not sure quite why we endured this but anyway, walking through El Nido, right in the centre is a small ‘hostel’. This is what we got for 200PHP (~£3), which was the cheapest place we could find in the whole of El Nido…for good reason haha!
Notable features of the hostel included:
Ladyboys in the other beds that kept arguing to each other – seemingly about drugs
Lockers that didn’t really work. If you look carefully at the second picture, you’ll see one of the locker doors propped up off its hinge.
Thin beds with electric wires coming out
A notable moment where Max said ‘where’s the sink?‘ and I found it had come off the wall and was just on the floor
Shower didn’t work, (but the bucket made for a good water cooler for our bottle of Tanduay)
So whilst it was a super amazing hostel, we decided the next day to again find somewhere else.
We walked around El Nido and this time looked for a private room. We were quoted some quite high prices, until we found a lovely place along the beach front with stunning views.
We were offered a family room with 2 double beds for 1800PHP/night right on the beach.
So I started haggling away with the woman in charge, using a combination of charm, smiles and upfront cash. I even slipped in a joke about Jesus being born in a barn in an effort to reduce the price. In return she reduced the price to 1400PHP/night which was far less than we were quoted elsewhere.
So what did we do?
The boat tours of El Nido are probably amongst the most popular things to do, and I do regret that we only did Tour A. Apparently A and C are the most popular, and their are huts selling the tours all around El Nido. Most quote a price of 1200 pesos, but without even trying to haggle we were offered Tour A for 800 pesos which is a fantastic deal.
Tour A included:
7 Commando Beach, Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon and Simizu Island.
They even allowed us kayaks to go around in the lagoons, and free cooked lunch so it was an absolute bargain for a day out.
It was a lovely hot day when we did the tour:
Some random El Nido highlights include:
Checking each day if the one cash machine in the whole of El Nido had any cash in it as the delivery of money came only once a week.
Getting bitten (nibbled) by a stray dog along the El Nido beach GRRRR
Seeing a foreigner randomly driving and toppling a trike – still have no idea what that was all about.
Going to a café purely for wifi, only to find out that the café didn’t have wifi. Then having walked in, ordering some soup only to see the chef heating it in only an apron.
Cushion fighting in our room
I’d made it this far on my Asian trip and unbelievably hadn’t done any Karaoke. Well this had to change!
Me and Max randomly found ourselves passing a mysterious door in a dark alley and decided to see where it went. Turned out that it took us to a Karaoke bar! We sat down on a table with some Filipinos that worked in the tourism and put in our requests!
Luckily we’d had a fair amount of beer because the Filipino’s were amazing singers so otherwise i’d have been embarassed. At one stage I actually tried to sing a song in tagalog by basically reading how it would sound in English, I can only assume how weird it must have sounded to native Tagalog speakers! Max, who is German, decided to try ‘My Way – Frank Sinatra’ whereas I tried ‘Save Tonight – Eagle Eyed Cherry’.
Safe to say I won’t be embedding videos of either of these renditions.
The Filipina’s on the table wanted to head to get some more drinks so we ended up at Pukka Bar which was a reggae style club.
Interestingly, foreigners and Filipina’s could enter for free, but any local guys and ladyboys had to pay an entry fee. It was a little hardcore really for my more relaxed El Nido experience but we danced around a bit, had a few drinks and it was a good evening.
My goodbye to El Nido, and the Philippines…for now
I want to do a more detailed blog post about my thoughts on the Philippines another time.
But for now i’ll say this.
When I started my 100 days of travels, I didn’t have a plan of what would happen, where I would go, who I would meet or what I would see.
However I did know that I really wanted to go to the Philippines.
So when I left El Nido in the evening to go back to Puerto Princesa where the next day I would fly out of the Philippines, there was only one thing on my mind.
To me it just felt like…
And I can’t describe my feelings any better than that.
I’d seen quite a few places in a month in the Philippines, but there were so many more I wanted to go to.
So to me I know this isn’t the end – more than that, this is just the beginning for me and the Philippines.
After my little mini holiday in Boracay, it was time to get to the island of Palawan – first stop Puerto Princesa!!
So my travel story continues…
I’d been told by so many people i’d met along the way that Palawan was the place to be in the Philippines. I managed to find natural beauty and island hopping, mixed with power-cuts, rain storms and stray dogs.
My first task was to get myself to anywhere in Palawan from Boracay, which is actually trickier than it should be.
Okay so here was my plan…
So you’d have thought that there would be a direct flight from Caticlan or Kalibo (the airports near Boracay), to somewhere on Palawan.
Well apparently not..
Therefore I had to do the following;
Get up at about 4am-5am 😦 😦 and get a boat over to the mainland (the red line on the map)
2. Take a minivan for about 6 hours with ZERO leg-room to the city of Iloilo (the blue line on the map). Eat some local food in a mall. Take a taxi to Iloilo Airport (pronounced ill-oh-ill-oh – Great name for a city 😛 )
3. Take a flight from Iloilo to Puerto Princesa!(The pink line on the map). When I arrived, I quickly learned that if you walk outside the airport for a trike, the price is about half. So I got a trike for about 60 pesos to my hostel.
So if you’re staying in Puerto Princesa, you should definately go to Sheebang Hostel. The staff are great, there are loads of other travellers, a 24/7 bar and table tennis. Seriously it’s awesome.
So I checked in, put my stuff down, and headed straight to the bar of course…
Anyway I sat myself down at a bar stool and started chatting to a Filipina that was on holiday from Manila. She was heading to Port Barton the next day, and then on to El Nido where she’d meet up with some of her family.
It must have been 6pm when we started chatting and she’d said she wasn’t drinking…
Well it turns out with a few flutters of my eyelids, I got her to have one cocktail, and then another, and then well some more. (Yeah i’m such an evil foreigner 😀 )
And in the process I got to learn some of my first tagalog words haha
Now all I had to do was say…
And the awesome dude behind the bar would take note of when I wanted more Red Horse beer!
And of course, when everyone was drinking, a ‘cheeers’
Anyway, basically because this girl normally works during the night she wasn’t tired at all which was great. I must have got through a crate of Red Horse, aswell as some random drinks like Baileys, Tanduay, shots, who knows!
I’d booked myself on a Honda Bay island hopping tour the next day to pick me up around 8am from the hostel reception so I set my alarm for 7am…
Well it got to about 4am and we were still at the bar together chatting away.
Eventually, after 10 hours of random bar chat, we went to bed together in the dorm. At which point I very much regretted the whole island hopping tour because by the time i’d started to sleep, my alarm tried to wake me up at 7am. When I say tried, well I was so drunk that despite the phone being on me, the Filipina now next to me had to get me to wake up – sorry dorm-mates!!
To my surprise, I did manage to get up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and get whisked away in a minivan for the island hopping around Honda Bay, albeit somewhat hungover. Turns out I was the only one from my hostel doing it today, so I was joined by a bunch of Filipinas who were all friends and family on holiday together.
Unfortunately and slightly surprisingly I have no pics from the day trip. There are probably about 5000 of them in existence somewhere as the Filipinas were stopping every 2 minutes to get a picture of us all, but seeing as I didn’t take any of their contact details and I left my phone at the hostel, I didn’t get any to keep.
I also didn’t bring any money with me which meant when we stopped at a dive shop on the way, I went without any foot gear or snorkels, so whilst swimming I was treading water to avoid coral and sharp rocks.
Eventually after 3 islands of tanning burning myself, I got back to the hostel and started drinking again and playing table tennis. I made friends with a girl from South Africa and we had a few drinks whilst playing the ping pong.
In fact the next day, I just lazed around the hostel in preparation of going to El Nido
I got up late from another evening of drinking Red Horse, wandered around Puerto Princessa, and then played some people at table tennis.
In the evening, I made friends with a German guy called Max. He’d been travelling now for about 2 years and was also going to head to El Nido, so we talked about random heavy topics like the classic England v Germany rivalry, world wars and the Philippines so far.
We ended up drinking until around 2am and the next day we were going north to El Nido together.
Boracay was basically my holiday, within a holiday. A chance to take just over a week to chill out on the beach, read a book, and start to think about something that I didn’t want to… that the end of my hundred days of South East Asia was getting nearer…
But first, I had to actually get to the island of Boracay. So naturally I took my millionth flight of the trip. There are two main airports people fly to in order to get there; Kalibo and Caticlan. If you fly to Kalibo then you have to get a minivan for about 2 hours to the port, and so the flights are cheaper. But I flew to Caticlan because i’m lazy, here’s my journey…
Firstly I flew on Cebu Pacific from Cebu to Caticlan. There are two reasons that Cebu Pacific are just about one of the most awesome short-haul airlines i’ve flown on…
Cebu Pacific always gave me free exit row seats? I never paid for them or pre-selected any seats but this was very welcome given that most Filipino’s are a lot shorter than me.Maybe they took pity on me.
An inflight quiz!!! About half way through the flight, one of the cabin crew went on the tanoy and announced they would ask 3 questions, and the first person to raise their hand and answer correctly would win a prize. How cool is that? Unfortunately I didn’t win – though I did know the answers!! (okay, okay I was too much of a chicken to actually play along haha)
Once at Caticlan Airport, I had to pay a few pesos to get a trike to the port, and then get a boat over to the island…
And then once I arrived at the island, I took another trike to where I was staying. For just 550PHP a night (only ~£9 which is very cheap on Boracay!!), I had myself a private room at a place called Trafalgar Cottages which was a 2 min walk from the beach front.
So here’s basically what I did just about every day on a budget in Boracay:
Wake up errwhenever I wanted to. Generally quite early though because I had breakfast nearly every day at The Sunny Side Cafe . IF YOU GO TO BORACAY, YOU MUST HAVE BREAKFAST HERE… THE PEOPLE ARE LOVELY, THE FOOD PORTIONS ARE HUGE, AND IT WAS ONLY TWO MINS AWAY FROM WHERE I STAYED.
Look for a sunlounger to relax on. This basically involved me bribing a member of staff at a different hotel to use one of their sunloungers. I saw people on the internet saying to buy a drink and you could use one for free but I never saw that so I just gave a few pesos to a guard and suddenly I was a ‘valued guest’ haha
Take a swim in the sea, grab some lunch at a beachside restaurant, have a drink at a bar, read a book, walk along the beach ❤
Take a shower around 5pm then walk along the beach, watching the sunset, get some food from a restaurant and enjoy live music, fire shows and some drinks
So here’s some of my pictures of my time on Boracay…
Okay… confession time… one of the main reasons I came to the Philippines was for the Filipinas to relax on some nice beaches. Yes, call me lazy but hey, 70 days of travel actually was quite tiring! Therefore I decided against spending much time in Cebu and decided to head on over to Bohol.
I ended up finding the best beach in the whole of the Philippines. I promise… *
*in the month I spent in the Philippines at least 🙂
So I headed out early to the ferry terminal, and after paying all kinds of weird fees just for walking through the terminal, boarded and enjoyed the ride for about 2 hours.
The entertainment provided was a kung fu film that came on after the obligatory prayer on the big screen. The only other thing to do once I sat down was to wonder if I should be checking the woman opposite for a pulse who was either dead or doing a good impression of a dead person.
Okay so the green on the map shows my route…kind of. The ferry took me from Cebu to Tagbillaran though obviously the ferry didn’t go overland like in my map 😀 .
Most people go to Bohol and visit the Tarsier Monkey’s or Chocolate Hills. And well, yeah..err..I didn’t do that. I guess that’s for when I return?
Instead I got a trike to take me to my hostel on Panglao island which was only about 30 mins drive from the ferry port.
I stayed at a hostel called Bohol Coco Farm which is, as the name suggests, a farm. It’s all natural and eco-friendly with wood being used to make just about everything
It probably gave the nicest free breakfast from any hostel i’ve been to, with lots of vegetables fresh from the farm served up.
On to the important subject of beaches…
This is ‘White Beach’ – a 5-10 min walk from my hostel.
This beach had virtually no-one, apart from a few locals, smooth sand and clear waters. Paradise.
Everything was great about White Beach, apart from one rock that I walked into and broke my middle toe on – ouch. It took about 3 weeks before the pain went away from it.
The thing with Panglao Island is, most people go to ‘Alona Beach’ which I genuinely don’t understand why if you are looking for a beach.
I took a trike for about 60 pesos (after much haggling) to Alona Beach to see what the fuss was about and spent some of the evening there. It was much more touristy, had some not so great restaurants and so I took a few evening pics on my phone and had a beachside massage.
But honestly, go to White Beach if you want the true shipwrecked feeling. I spent a whole day there alone just relaxing in the water and on the beach and barely saw anyone else.
Whilst i’m doing my ‘best of…’ Philippines edition, here is the best beer in the Philippines…
And after 2 and a half days of Panglao Island, I got a trike back to Tagbilaran, caught a ferry and walked in slight pain due to my now broken toe to a small Cebu hotel. After convincing the armed guard that I was in fact a guest and not a British crusader, I got to my room and slept, ready for my flight to Boracay the next day.
Goodbye Vietnam, Hello Philippines! or should I say Mabuhay Ang Pilipinas!
As my first days in the Philippines were somewhat of a disaster, I’ve decided to take the novel approach in this post of putting a red number next to each thing that didn’t quite go right. You’ll see..
Waking up around 6am, I landed at Manila airport. I had booked a flight straight on from Manila to Cebu, however this wasn’t scheduled for another 9 hours at 3pm (1).
Unfortunately I booked my flight Hanoi-> Manila, about a month before I decided to go straight on to Cebu so I got a lovely wait at Manila Airport.
Okay, it was anything but lovely. The Philippines are beautiful but the terminal for domestic departures in Manila is awful (2). It is 3 bad food sellers, in a small square room with metal chairs, and everyone crammed in.
I take responsibility for 9 hours of the wait, but then to add to it, my flight was delayed from 3pm departure to about 6pm, GRRR!! (3)This meant a 12 hour wait from my last flight.
Anyway, enough about airports because I finally boarded the flight and arrived in Cebu!!
And after a short-(ish) taxi drive where I had to direct the driver that got lost using Google Maps (4), I arrived at the hostel.
So I checked into the hostel, and the ladyboys on reception (that I didn’t actually realise were ladyboys at the time) started immediately offering me a ‘massage’ and all kinds of unmentionable things. Creepy.(5)
I checked in and got to my bed, completely exhausted by doing nothing in the airport all day. And then 20 minutes later after putting my bag down, an American came up to me and told me I was in his bed? (6)I did actually wonder why there was a bottle in there but the ladyboy had specifically said that was my bed.
So to play peacemaker, I moved to a different bed. That’s what a great guy I am haha. And in light of that, I decided to try a local beer…
It turned out that whilst I was in a party hostel, these were THE ONLY 2 DAYS where it was against the law to buy alcohol in the Philippines!! (7,8,9, I love beer so this counts as 3 disasters!) I was in Cebu during the election period where they don’t allow you to, so without any local beer, I got a takeaway McDonalds (classy) and headed to bed.
THE NEXT DAY…
So i’d only allowed myself 1 full day in Cebu as I wanted to prioritise other places in the Philippines given that I only had about a month. I didn’t go to Kawasan Falls(10) but instead headed to the Plaza Independencia and Fort San Pedro to learn a little Filipino history.
I attempted to get a jeepney from the hostel into the city. I use the word attempted because I just casually gripped onto it when it stopped, and then the locals realised and told me I couldn’t use it today because it was election day (11). So instead I had quite a hot walk.
To get to Fort San Pedro, you have to walk through the gardens of the Plaza Independencia. It used to be the provincial capital and now hosts quite a few momunments and statues.
And so having walked through the gardens, I went to Fort San Pedro. At reception, I paid my P30 admission and the guy said that they were offering free guided tours – would I want one? Well yes, as someone that knew nothing about Filipino history this seemed like quite a good idea.
So without further ado, a lovely Filipina similar to my age stopped playing Piano Tiles (Piano Tiles – of all the games she could choose!) on her phone behind the desk and accompanied me on a tour!
She was soon walking around with me, telling me how she was a tourism student in Cebu, hence why they were doing free tours. She didn’t come from Cebu so it was harder for her to understand the local Cebuano.
She was fun but clearly very knowledgable and was soon giving me a quiz about Filipino history around the time they were ruled by the Spanish.
We looked around some of the exhibits and she asked why I wasn’t taking any pictures? So I messed around with her and told her I was actually a vampire so had experienced this history first hand. Due to her not believing me about this, I relented and took some pictures…
After our extended tour of Fort San Pedro, it seemed she actually wanted to learn more about my vampirism(spoiler: I’m not actually a vampire, it was just an evil ruse). When I said I was going to go get a bottle of water from a seller at the gates, she joined me and then we sat outside at the Plaza Independencia on a bench and talked…for hours.
Whilst chatting about our lives, lots of beggars would come up to us probably seeing that i’m clearly foreign. I feel a little guilty here because I didn’t actually give any money to any of the beggars when even the Filipina did and I’m quite a wealthy guy.(12) One of the beggars just stood by us whilst we chatted and started singing a Justin Bieber song at us until she gave him 10 pesos. I guess my normal approach would be to offer food rather than money but there wasn’t anywhere near selling food and there were lots of different beggars in the Plaza.
Would you have given money?
And then it hit closing hours for Fort San Pedro and I bid goodbye to the Filipina. I was only in Cebu for that day but in hindsight, I maybe should have got her number (13). She was really lovely to talk to and I could have kept in contact.
Alas, I didn’t so I went back to the hostel, hung out for the evening and planned my trip the next day to Bohol…