Have you ever reached that point where you really need a holiday? Not just that ‘itchy feet desperate to explore’ point, but that point where you’re completely exhausted. That point where you spend almost all your waking hours in the office, your flatmates have forgotten what you look like, and you fear your eyesight fading away with every extra minute you stare at your screen. That’s when you know you really need that holiday. We have.
The plan was to go somewhere hot, affordable, and preferably with a beach; our top choices were fairly easy, somewhere in Thailand or Indonesia. However, in typical last minute fashion, it was nearing the end of November, we were planning to go at the end of December, and as it happens, a lot of other overworked New Zealanders also plan to go somewhere hot, affordable and beachy over their Christmas holidays. Plan A was either all booked out or criminally expensive so we went to Plan B – google something else.
Google gave us the ‘Best beaches in Asia’ within minutes, we settled on visiting the beautiful white sands of Boracay Island within hours, then a couple of weeks later we had flights and accommodation booked for the Philippines! Barely a few weeks after that, we were off… With very little research up our sleeves, the whole trip was quite the memorable experience…
In Manila we were introduced to the many contrasts of the country. One moment we could be relaxing by the rooftop pool of our luxurious hotel or wandering through the air-conditioned supermalls with Manila’s wealthiest, and the next we could step into the street and find ourselves in the middle of a family’s makeshift home. I will never forget the sight of this little boy getting ready for bed outside the local 7Eleven with a sheet of cardboard and his jandal as a pillow, or on a happily note, the slightly treacherous, rickity horse and cart ride through the manic city!
In Cebu we got lost on the way to Magellan’s Cross, resulting in us weaving through busy market streets and skimming the outskirts of a shanty town before asking an armed bank guard for directions… All the while completely soaked through with sweat from the heat! We decided to take the easy way home – via a taxi, and it all seemed so straight forward.
Next we spent a few days on the beautiful little island of Panglao to catch up on that relaxation this trip was all about. We still laugh about getting seriously sunburnt on our first cloudy afternoon there, the hilariously loud and rambunctious German chef we nicknamed Wolfgang, and of course the day trip to the neighbouring Bohol Island. Here we were serenaded by our guide, got up close and personal with the cute (or creepy) little tarsiers, and took in the spectacular view of the Chocolate Hills.
Then finally, the last leg of our trip was spent on Boracay Island, where the ‘getting there’ would be considered memorable in itself. It started with a taxi across to the other side of Panglao Island, then a ferry ride back to Cebu, then a flight to the closest airport to Boracay, then a tuktuk to the jetty, then a boat ride to the island, then another tuktuk ride to the beach… all with a bit of a dodgy tummy. But we made it there in one piece, then spent the next five days sunbathing, strolling, sunset-catching and even enjoying a parade for the Ati-atihan Festival in honour of Santo Nino!
With both the chaos of the cities and the breeziness of the beaches, we loved our visit to the Philippines and would be more than happy to return but there’s another reason it will always be a memorable for me… it was the first proper trip a certain someone and I took together!
Only a few months into our relationship, it could have been a risky move but I figured, if we could stand each other for three weeks on end, I’d be onto a good thing and here we are, three years later with numerous more trips across eighteen different countries under our belts! And we’re still no better with the planning…