Well I’ve just returned home from one of the happiest, silliest, most exhausting trips of my life, and I’m feeling a bit delirious and very lucky to have had the chance to visit such a spectacular part of the world with one of my best pals. I’ve not travelled with a backpack since I did a 5 week inter-railing trip around Eastern Europe when I was 21 and it’s definitely a challenging way to exist; I don’t think I felt properly clean for the whole 17 days, but we met such good people and saw less touristy places, all on a bit of a shoestring.
We managed to fit in four different islands when we were there. I met Lucy in Manila (she’d already been travelling for a couple of months) and we flew straight to Puerto Princessa on Palawan Island and got a dodgy and terrifying minibus up to Port Barton, with some very loud Italians and no air con! I absolutely loved Port Barton and despite arriving in the middle of a typhoon, felt immediately relaxed and happy in the dusty, rickety streets. We had pretty bad weather for the few days we were here and so spent lots of time people watching from various coffee shops whilst it absolutely hammered it down and going for blustery beach walks when the rain let up. We were staying in a 20-bed mixed dorm in a party hostel (didn’t realise it was a party hostel when I booked it) and so our nighttimes were full of the gentle, constant thud of house music and drunk people falling out of their top bunks 😬. There was also a relentless, unidentified smell of petrol that we never got to the bottom of.
From here we travelled up to El Nido which was even more rickety and dusty and chaotic. It was sort of how I’d imagine a non-magical Diagon Alley to be like. We did a beautiful boat trip here, visiting lagoons and beaches and hidden coves and ate the best coconut ice cream in the world! There are so many stray dogs in the Philippines. Mostly they didn’t seem too thin or frightened, but I still find it so upsetting to see animals without homes. I had about six occasions when I seriously considered how I might get a dog (or 13) back to England, but I don’t think my cats would approve.
We took a ferry to Coron next. The sea was so wavey, people were throwing up left right and centre 🤢 Our hostel was like a little Greek gem on top of a hill and we caught a sensational sunset! More boat-tripping, pizza-eating and and even an early morning hike up a medium-sized hill at sunrise happened here before we flew across to Cebu, and ferried over to Bohol where we were stopping over for a night and happily, our hostel had resident kittens. We went in search of dinner and where we’d been told was a food market, there was instead a lantern-lit park full of amazing nativity-themed floats. The Filos LOVE Christmas. They were so intricate and beautiful, but not dinner, and so we went to bed hangry.
Siquijor was our final island stop and it was my favourite place of all. Our hostel was called Lazy Lizard and we stayed in a little tree house in a forest surrounded by chickens, dogs, baby crocodile-sized lizards, cows and alllll the creepy crawlies. The first day we just walked everywhere, but it was clear that the best way to explore was by moped… Lucy doesn’t have a license and so that just left me… 9.5 times out of 10, in a line up of two people, I would not be the allotted moped driver. Rightly so, as it turned out that I did end up crashing it and got a substantially grazed left side, but it was loads of fun up until then, and we saw some beautiful water falls and natural springs and a 700 year old magical tree. At the Springs, a local man found a huge Bayaw Bayaw spider in a tree and assured me she wasn’t poisonous so for the first time in my life, I let a spider walk through my hands and up my arms like a hamster. It was awesome!
Our last night we got tattoos from some locals we’d met to commemorate the trip and had dinner with a 7-piece band serenading us with reggae music. Filipinos are some of the happiest, warmest people I’ve met and they are constantly singing, literally everyone sings, all the time! They’re also tiny 😀 It was such a bloody brilliant holiday, full of hilarious and tragic moments that I’ll never forget.
I’ll upload my travel sketchbook in a separate blog post as this one is getting a little lengthy 😬