Where do I begin about our recent trip to the Philippines? We certainly had an action-packed adventure, but it wasn’t all a sunny beach, as the forecast may have predicted.
First I should say that when I first started thinking about moving to Korea, my mind was full of exotic travels and crazy adventures, but the Philippines didn’t once pop up in my visions of jungles, sarongs, beaches, chopsticks and urban cityscapes. In fact, it wasn’t until we arrived in Ulsan and heard rave after rave of Cebu and it’s enchanting waters that we began to turn our minds south to this 7,000+ island nation.
Even up until the point that our wheels touched down in Cebu, I really had no idea what to expect from this fascinating country. What I did find out over the course of our long weekend were some common themes:
1. The Philippines is a lot like Central America – maybe it was the jungle or the Spanish language influence (the Philippines were colonized by the Spanish for over 300 years) but I just couldn’t stop thinking “are we in Costa Rica?”.
2. There are animals literally at every turn, particularly dogs. Both heart-warming and heart-wrenching doggies were absolutely everywhere – constantly wandering into the road, sometimes approaching to beg for food, and from time to time even missing a limb, but always cute and friendly.
It made me terribly miss the two of these guys, who had a blast at Shindogs Kennel while we were away.
3. The Philippines is vastly underrated as an Asian travel destination. No, it isn’t as glamorous as Tokyo or as modern as Korea (in fact there is a lot to be said about the poor living conditions in the Philippines), but it is a place chock-full of opportunities for adventure. From climbing waterfalls to amazing snorkeling, there really isn’t a water sport you can’t do. And if you’re into scuba, this is a place you have to check out.
Speaking of the unexpected, I was not myself and made a big, big travel mistake and didn’t check all of our reservations in the week before we departed. It should have been a red flag that I never got a confirmation email from our first hotel, but we were literally about to board our flight when we called to request a car transfer from the airport, when we realized I had mis-booked the dates! I had apparently tried to reserve the hotel for January 6, the day that I made the booking, not March 21, the day I wanted the booking.
To add insult to injury, we had nowhere to go for the evening because the place was completely sold out! Luckily, we were on board with a couple of friends from Ulsan who were staying overnight at an airport hotel, and they graciously let us crash in their room. On a positive note, we saved a ton of money on the room!
The next morning, we awoke to a buffet breakfast and headed to our originally planned hotel for some spa services that I had booked. Another hint – if you want cheap spa services, you can’t beat Cebu! It cost right around $60 for a 90 minute massage, and $18 for a mani-pedi combo! We had an amazing time at the Bluewater Maribago spa, a birthday treat for my friend and guest Sara.
Next up: we learned what “freediving” means. Where were those oxygen tanks we were expecting? Oh right, the unexpected returns.