Published: Catalogue Winter 2016-2017
Asia is not the same everywhere… If you have travelled to Thailand for the seventh time, you know all its secrets and wonders. Just like seven years ago, there still is the same stall with counterfeits at the night market, the same outfits and rules in the night clubs. Well, the only difference is that girls who come to these clubs are much younger. In order to experience something completely different I decided to visit another Asian country – the Philippines. It consists of over 7 thousand islands, whereas about one thousand is inhabited, so everybody can find their own place there.
Someone who has visited Thailand, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, or Vietnam and is travelling to the Philippines thinking that it is the same everywhere, will be astonished. The Philippines is the only catholic country in Asia and, next surprise, the third English-speaking country in the world in terms of population. There are no communication problems even in the most remote from the capital places, what cannot be said about other Asian countries. All mentioned by me countries for sure have something in common – I am the tallest person everywhere I go 🙂
I started my journey across the Philippines in Manila, the country’s capital. Flights with Emirates from Poland to Manila, with a change in Dubai, take about 18 hours and the prices start with 3 thousand zlotys in economy class.
The first encounter with Manila can overwhelm. Crowds of people, abundance of colours and sounds, total chaos, dirt, slums, odour, shopping centres one next to another, business-like Makati, poor and dangerous Quiapo. You start wondering if it is Manila for sure, once called the ‘Pearl of the Orient’. But this is the case with the Philippines – nothing is as it seems at first glance.
During World War II the capital of the Philippines, similarly to Warsaw, was almost completely razed to the ground and many famous sights were destroyed. Today’s Manila is all about churches, gardens, modern business centres and the remains of defensive walls. Moving around the capital is very bothersome due to heavy traffic and traffic jams. Sightseeing should be spread out over time because getting to one place from another takes a lot of time. Manila is home to one of the biggest slums in the world and I decided to visit this place. My guide was a local so my trip was very interesting and perfectly safe. Dirty children running unattended along a filthy narrow street, litter, dogs and cats, rats, clothes hanging in dusty windows, tiny stalls with sweets, lollipops and crisps. I realized that even in such place people can be cheerful. Now I know why the Philippians are one of the happiest people in the world.
My journeys can not lack night life. I was pretty shocked when I discovered that most of the beautiful girls in night clubs and bars are in fact male. Clubs, discos, pubs, restaurants – everybody finds there something what they fancy. The Philippians are cheerful and full of life, no matter how thick their wallets are. Their national sport is… karaoke. Literally, everywhere you go there is a karaoke set and everyone sings. They are very talented and listening to them is pure pleasure. During a night journey I got to know that Soup No. 5 made from bull’s testes is a real delicacy and an aphrodisiac at the same time. Travelling broadens horizons.
For someone, who comes to the Philippines for the first time, the next must-see highlight is Bohol Island. People say that Bohol is Philippines in a nutshell. You can find anything here: culture, history, beautiful beaches, amazing underwater wildlife, little islets, wild animals, tiny rice terraces, dance, hospitality, typical Filipino dishes. Chocolate Hills are a famous tourist attraction. Included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, without a doubt they belong to the most characteristic and unique landscapes on Earth, nowhere else one can see anything similar. There are plenty of fascinating legends and inspiring stories connected with their formation. More than 1700 cone-shaped mounds are covered in grass that turns brown during the dry season, hence the name.
Bohol is known for its floating restaurants on the Loboc River. They are boats remade into restaurants and filled with romantic tables and local music. Decorated in Filipino style, their look beats everything. You set off on an amazing cruise to the middle of the jungle, where women with tiny guitars and dynamic bamboo dancing shows await you. Everything happens in the scenery where the famous movie titled ‘Apocalypse Now’ was filmed.
After a 2-hour cruise by ferry from Bohol we are on Cebu Island with the oldest city on the Philippines called in the same way. The island did not delight me and I wonder why Emirates have created a direct link recently. Cebu is a paradise for divers and it is known for a factory producing guitars recognized world-wide. All music stars own hand-made instruments manufactured here. The best hotel on the island is Shangri La’s Mactan Resort & Spa. It has a small beach and is not particularly interesting. Cebu lacks luxury hotels.
Boracay, on the other hand, is the foyer to luxury. This small island with beautiful beaches, which lead in all rankings, is 7 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide. It has excellent touristic infrastructure and fantastic conditions to sunbathe, swim, dive, snorkel, windsurf and take up other water sports. The best hotel on Boracay is Shangri La’s Boracay Resort & Spa. It is spread over a big area with beautiful gardens and a private white-sand beach. It offers many possible options of accommodation from standard rooms to private villas at the top of the hill with outstanding sea views. The island is full of hustle and bustle and there are a lot of tourists all year round. This is why Shangri La’s is the only place far from this vibrant atmosphere where you can rest on a private beach and then have some fun in the evening.
On my way to paradise… When we imagine paradise, we all have different ideas of such place. For me the paradise was found in Amanpulo resort belonging to AMAN – one of the most luxurious chains in the hotel industry. It is situated in the north part of Palawan province on a private island called Pamalican.
The flight by a private light aircraft, belonging to the hotel, from Manila to the resort takes one hour. There are 40 villas with up to 4 bedrooms available for the guests. It is an exclusive place, one of its kind, for people who appreciate privacy and luxurious leisure. It is here where the most famous stars relaxed including Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, Bill Gates, Tom Cruise, Beyonce and Robert De Niro.
Amanpulo is a private enclave with top-class services. Each guest has a personal butler and all the meals including breakfast are a la carte. The stay can be varied by taking up water sports or enjoying different attractions spread on the island. The walk around Pamalican took me a little more than an hour and the only company I had were little crabs running over sand resembling flour.
Amanpulo Resort was the icing on the cake of my journey to this remote and very interesting country. The citizens of the Philippines captivated me with their hospitality and spontaneity. I hope I will visit them once again. However, if it never happens, at least I will do my best to showcase the beauty of this tropical paradise to people who travel with Luxury Travel.
Andrzej Tkaczow, Luxury Travel