The Philippines – Angels without Wings and Finding Bliss in Palawan

Quiet isolated beaches, clear waters, good swimming and rain-forest landscape is what I sought in the The Philippines and I found it. It is a very beautiful country outside of the filthy cities. Although a depressingly poor country; the people are kind, open and full of life. The actual people of the Philippines are its greatest strength: Resilient, kind, steadfast. The Philippines is a place where it can be everything you want it to be if you accept the fact that you are experiencing everything under a very thick glass ceiling. Limiting factors of travel experience are determined by your chosen locale and venue. Choose wisely. Quality and cleanliness lack in the Philippines. What does permeate in this island nation is a wild-west mentality that anything is for sale. That being said, prices are very cheap for Western and other developed Asian countries. Even with the movement of your peso in your wallet to the hand of the other, you have to accept the fact that nothing is really on your terms and the glass ceiling cannot be broken here. There is only so much quality that money can buy in the Philippines (Hotel Pan Pacific and a handful of 10%er type places arguable contradiction). They just do not have the level of service or quality infrastructure as is San Francisco or Shanghai. One thought on money and service:  In my travels around the globe, here in the Philippines, I found the idea of tipping quite annoying or frustrating to figure out. Did I leave enough or too much?   Should have I even have left one? I didn’t like the service but I feel like I am supposed to leave a tip? I like it in China, Europe and most other developed Western Countries (USA aside): you just don’t tip. The service is part of the price. Clear, cut and dry. Back to the core of the trip…

Arriving in Manila was actually much easier than I thought.   Customs wasn’t that thorough to Aimee nor I and we kind of breezed right on through (even with one passport holder from China). Waited for like maybe two people. I’m in. The airport arrival hall was not as chaotic as I had been told it should be.

After meeting my brother, we headed north to Angeles City where his girlfriend and ten thousand cousins live.  Traffic in Manila is bad.  Even at 8am on Saturday.    Traffic is chaotic like in any Asian country where they make seven lanes out of three and motorbikes buzz every which way.  One thing you notice as opposed to other Asian countries is that they all where helmets here.   This must be an American influenced thing.  Apparently you get a hefty ticket if you aren’t wearing one.

Angeles City – Where to begin?

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Meeting my brother was EPIC.  I hadn’t hung out with him in about 20 months since raging at the tables in Las Vegas in the wee hours of the morning during the 2013>2014 New Years Eve.  Great to see him and meet his girlfriend, Ryza.

I’m a foodie and I seek out fine culinary experiences around the world.   Travelers be warned:  The Philippines is NOT the place to discover good food.  I knew this going in,  I proved it while I was there, and I still accept this truth.  Yes, there are fine restaurants out there in Manila and other places, but generally speaking, you just aren’t going to find high standards of food and exquisite cuisine.  Just accept it.  I tried to buck this thought a few times during our travels but it only led to disappointment.   These aren’t tacos.   This is some cardboard shell filled with microwaved processed meat and”cheese”.  I won’t get started on the salsa.  Tacos filled and ready to party in Angeles City.    DSC03017DSC03023

Angeles City is fun.  It really is a blast.  But I’ve got to say, despite all the hype, I saw very few women I would put at a level of “hot”.  Perhaps my opinion is quite skewed by living in Shanghai and every corner you turn there are beautiful women in heels proudly taking care of their hair, bodies, white skin and dress.  Perhaps it is a matter of taste.  I just didn’t see anything attractive about the women of Angeles City (except that one in the yellow crop the last club I went to our night there).  The pestering by women an other passer-byes really gets to you.  It is most certainly worse here than in Thailand.  People are very desperate for money or a “golden ticket” out.

DSC03043Our lovely Devara Hotel.

The people we met in Angeles City (outside of the strip) were incredibly kind and like family.   They hosted a party at my brother’s girlfriend’s family compound and made some amazing homemade food.   Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  Such kind people.   We had a blast. The lumpia was to die for.

DSC03031 DSC03035Even tried balut.  I’m not a fan, but I gave a shot.  Tastes like an egg (obviously) but a little bit thicker. I don’t think Aimee liked it either.  DSC03041DSC03042

Getting around on motorbike is the way to go. Evan and Aimee:

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After a night in Angeles City, we headed back south to Manila and stayed at the Pan Pacific.  It is a swank place with exceptional service.  Hotel rooms were fine, nothing special, but with all amenities.  Nice beds and showers.  I recommend this place for a comfortable stay in Manila.  I’m a little bit more adventurous in my travels so I normally would seek out something a bit more local or rustic, but this was fine for one night.

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Manila has a vibrant nightlife.  It’s not Kho-San Road crazy in Bangkok, but it is close.   Our group had a nice dinner at Casa Armas, a tapas meets Filipino-influenced Spanish kind of fusion.   I recommend the tapas here.  Very yummy.  The main courses are nothing to write home about.

Eventually we make our way to the Cowboy Club (or called something like that).  It’s a fun joint and the Filipino-famous Mocha Girls are performing tonight.   It was a blast.  I even made my way to the stage for some grinding on a chair competition.  Total raging good times.

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Off to Palawan.  This is the crown jewel of the Philippines for the island experience. It is the most sparsely populated region, with jungles, endless kilometers of unspoiled coastline, good reefs and clear waters.   My kind of place.

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The welcoming bus and committee was pretty cool.   Very local.  Basically, the airline we flew on is the only terminal here.

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We were also greeted by this lovely creature.

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Look!  It is Ryza picking berries!

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Palawan is very beautiful but it is also very poor.  Lots of little shanty towns and people just surviving day to day.  Regardless, the friendliness vibes just radiate huge in comparison with Manila.  No one begs.  People are well raised and they respect you.

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We stayed at the Treetops Bed and Breakfast outside of town.  I am so happy I found this place.   The location is just perfect and the owners are accommodating to the nth degree.  Fabulous stay.  You can read about my stay here at TripAdvisor.

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It is beautiful here but people struggle:

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Jeepnys and trikes are the main mode of transportation here.   Here is a full one!

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The town of El Nido is the epicenter of the area.  A lot of people stay in town and this is where all your tourist shops, bars, travel agencies, grocery stories and everything you need is.  It has a cozy little bay but I wouldn’t swim in.  We’ll save that for the real islands.

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I made another attempt to give good food in the Philippines a try, but I mostly was met with failure.  We tried this French restaurant which was okay; but damn, they just can’t get it down.  Uhggg.

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Exploring the area…..

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Every morning our fabulous host Grace would make us breakfast before we set out on our adventures….  She would also help Aimee take care of me when I was sick.   More of that in Part 2 when we get out to the islands….

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Hug fest 2015!!!!!!!!

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Stay tuned for the second half of our adventures in the Palawan.

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