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Curious what backpackers do on the Philippines? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • We just arrived in the Philippines after two flights from Phuket earlier this morning. We had a layover in Singapore, which felt more like a lay-run as we literally had to run from one plane to the next. Obviously our bags did not run 😜 so they did not make the connection.

    The flight was delayed due to very bad weather coming in for the landing. It was probably the scariest landing I have ever experienced. We we're bobbling up and down as the ground came closer and bounced on the wet runway a couple of times before the plane was firmly running on the runway. It felt like the pilots did not hit breaks as hard as usual due to the slippery runway, I kept thinking we are going to run out of runway soon.

    Luckily the plane stopped before the runway ended. We were in the last row of seats and we knew if we were polite and just waited our turn to get off we will miss our next flight. In true Asia style we jumped up as soon as the plane stopped and rushed forward bypassing at least 15 rows of people.

    As soon as we stepped into the airport there was ground officials directing us and others to connecting flights. I thought to myself wow this is good service by Singapore airlines.

    We started walking/running in the direction of gate E5 and all the signs indicated that it was about 19 minute walk from where we started. We only had 15 minutes before our boarding gate closed, obviously I am thinking as we run if this gate is 19 minute walk its about a km, surely an airport this size must have an air train or some quicker way to get there. Isabel on the other hand just wanted to put head down and run.

    Long story short we arrived at the gate seconds before the gate closed, a bit frustrated with each other.

    As we settle in the plane for our next flight we did not even give our luggage a second thought as the put stickers on the bags "Hot bags" which means it has a tight connection to ensure they make the connection.

    Just before takeoff one of the air hostesses came to us and asked if we would like to move to a different row where it will be only the two of us and way more comfortable, this was great, no other airline has ever done that, we always have to ask first. Then came the complementary food and drinks, it felt like business class, we got menus and it had good Australian Shiraz on the menu, so we both chose red wine. Isabel even asked if she can taste the white first and they gave her a taste. The food was amazing it almost felt like a restaurant and then the desert arrived, my favorite magnum ice cream. After they cleared our food trays I tried my luck to ask for more ice cream and wine and I couldn't believe my luck when they said yes sure and gave us each one more ice cream and another glass of wine.

    After passport control in Manila as we went down the escalator to the baggage collection hall, there was someone at the bottom of the escalator with Isabel's name on a little clip board. All the way down we contemplate what this could be as we didn't order a taxi or anything.

    It was in the airline to let us know our bags did not make the connection. Normally airlines just let you wait till all the bags are gone and then you have to go ask them to trace you bags. Singapore airlines are so proactive, they let us fill in a few forms with address they can bring the bags to, hand us each an overnight toiletry bag and 4,400 pesos to buy ourselves some clean clothes and off we went. We were done before most people even had they bags.

    Despite the great service, I was extremely irritated as I know we will get clothes for Isabel no problem, but I think I will have to buy two shirts and stitch them together to make them fit me in this country where they love basketball but the average player is less than 6 feet tall. Naturally Isabel did not share my frustration as she couldn't wait to go shopping for new clothes.

    Anyway luckily our bags arrived at 1am the next morning, not ideal to be woken up in the middle of the night but good to know I will have something to wear the next day.

    I would fly with Singapore Airlines in a heartbeat, best airline experience I have ever had.

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  • We arrived in Puerto Princesa and headed to the first travel agent called De Loro travels & tours.

    Waiting for us there the most interesting character called Mr. Tuts with his cowboy hat (apparently his marketing strategy). He sat us down and took us through all the options for transfers to and from our hotels and tours to the underground river (one of the new 7 wonders of the world) and tours at El Nido.

    We ended up purchasing all our tours for the next week from him and then they took us to their restaurant for lunch before our shuttle left for the 2 hour journey to our hotel. I must say I appreciate someone who really know how to sell his products and this guy is a master at that.

    O and my personal favorite is when everything Isabel wants on the menu is out of stock. As it is she is very fineky over what she eats and drinks in Asia and countless times she had to settle for something she doesn't want. Today she ordered diet coke and fried calamari and they did not have both so she had a beer with me and tried the stuffed squid I ordered. She took one bite and passed it on to me. She then ordered a beef burger and surprise surprise it was out of stock, then she ordered a BLT sandwich and yes you guessed it out of stock too, so she had to settle for french fries. In her words "F$@ eks nou so afgepiss!" My irritation is that the restaurant like some many other establishments don't have the right change, today I dug my heals in and I said I am paying less if they can't give me the right change.

    What baffles me most about these tours and others we have taken in Asia is that they basically give you a hand written invoice with a serial number and off you go. Somehow in the background this gets communicated to the tour operators and guides and we get picked up and dropped off at the right place. Very old school but it still seem to work. In this day and age of the internet it goes to show the old fashion way still works.

    Looking forward to our 3 tours over the next few days. Our time on this trip is running out and we have to savour each moment. Its hard to even wrap our heads around all our cool experiences so far and I think we will look back on this trip with very fond memories for years to come.

    We are so thankful for everything we have seen and learned over the last 5 months.

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  • Bernie picked us up from the airport and we got our first taste of Manila traffic on the way to the Buffet 101 restaurant at Manila bay.

    We ended up driving around for about 30 minutes to get a parking space, passing by at least 10 parking garages because Bernie didn't fancy to wait in a queue. I totally get the frustration of waiting in a queue but sometimes its just quicker to be patient and get into the queue than drive around for hours looking for a parking space.

    The restaurant offers 101 different dishes, I must say it quite intimidating walking around the buffet as there is just so many choices.

    Bernie and Mellany have 3 beautiful daughters, a one month old baby (Marian Bella), 10 year old (Shania Marie) and 15 year old (Riane). Shania Marie is clearly to wise for her size (in afrikaans we will call her "'n snip"), she does not stop talking for a second, while we enjoyed her she is clearly the bane of poor Riane's existence when she bulbs out things like, "she has a boyfriend and my dad don't like that." Riane is clearly at that age where she has a lot going on outside her family and that her dad who moved back home after 10 years away, actually cramps her style. I can't help think how hard it must be to be a dad of a teenage daughter.

    It was wonderful to experience their family dynamics and to spend time with the Miller's.

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  • The ferry ride (what they refer to) to the underwater river was a journey itself, a little bit like a rollercoaster and definitely not for the faint at heart. A ferry has many shapes and forms and never assume its what "your picture" is like. They don't really market or sell the boat journey at all, which I think entertain with beautiful mountain and coastal views of Palawan. Another heartwarming experience where I am thankful for travel insurance and the waterproof bag that Js & Henli gave us.

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  • After an hour and a half drive from Puerto Princesa we were welcomed with shell necklaces, coconut cocktails and were shown around our awesome suite.

    Bernie Miller was nice enough to arrange a 3 day stay for us here using his timeshare points. Its a nice place to relax and do an excursion to the famous underground river of Palawan.

    Thankful for this amazing gift.


  • Absolutely breathtaking! The Puerto Princesa Subterranean river is nature showing off at its best, the water at the entrance of the cave is pristine and there is no trash or traces of man. They do a magnificent job to keep the area protected, this unesco world heritage site was only opened in 1999. Today it is the one of the new natural wonders of the world, the stalagmites and stalactites are millions of years old creating very unique statues that actually don't require any imagination to recognize. The audio guide was brilliant making sure its a tranquil experience, you can only hear the water dripping from the ceiling and the sound of the oar. A spiritual presence overwhelmed me, the magnitude of God's creation is truly glorious. Happy we get to experience this.

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  • After a sleep in, we hit the streets for a morning run. As soon as we get outside we are spoiled with unique Manila sights, it's not the most pleasant smells that greet us along Bayside, but its between a treadmill run or the odor of urine. When we got to Rizal park I did a few laps and Dolf played guard. A rather unique park, not exactly Central park, but it was great people watching and we got a feel for the local Sunday activities. Once again we are entertained by the children, they will come up to you and touch you like you are from gold, initially it was kind off creepy but we got more relaxed about it. Another thing that totally baffles me is the amount of dogs in all third world countries that wonder about, some you can connect with a nearby family but the others are just dwelling about (it irritates the living smoke out of me). A fun morning appreciating Manilla vibes.

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  • A retail therapy and movie day. We headed there for lunch, we picked a wonderful small Italian place with fresh homemade ravioli. After lunch I send Roedolf to the IMAX and I browsed the shops. It was fabulous to shop on my own without any time constraints, the first time in a very long time. I didn't really look for anything particular I enjoyed the unknown brands, Philippines shops and the old faithful chains like Zara, Nike and Mango that you get across the globe. There is loads of beautiful lace dresses and tops etc, I walked away with a beautiful black lace cami. I met Roedolf for a 7pm movie date, we watched Hidden figures.


    After my IMAX movie I walked around for about an hour before I found a barber to get a haircut. Its unbelievable how many people are in this mall, it almost looks like a bunch of ants 🐜 crawling through this mall. I get why they built an even bigger mall than this one, there are just so many people in Manila that justifies plenty of shopping.

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  • Our run turned into a fun sightseeing excursion. The tour operators persistence initially drove us nuts but eventually we gave in to an Intramuros tour. We literally squeezed into one of these Manila style bike tuk tuk taxi things. The poor guy in his thermal skin was having a tough time cycling in the heat with the Dolf and I, and giving us a tour of the walled city. It was fun to hop on and off to see the sights and hear the history.

    Intramuros is the oldest district and historic core of Manila. The resemblance of the Spanish Colonial Period from 1521 to 1898 is visible in the beautiful architecture in the walled city of Manila. There are several universities here. The Americans (surprise surprise) took control after 300 years of Spanish rule to end the Spanish American war. This old part of the city was damaged during the battle to recapture the city from the Japanese Army during the Second World War. This little town feels like a snapshot of Cuba with its European flair.

    All the different influences is visible in the food and culture of the Philippines.

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  • America runs on Dunkin Donuts, Asia runs on 7 eleven. Everywhere we have been in Asia there is a 7 eleven across the street or just around the corner. Clearly locals don't frequently do major grocery shops as they live of street food and 7 eleven - you can basically get everything here. Its extremely convenient for water. When we are in an airbnb our standard purchase is a 6liter water, eggs and bread, because it tastes like home as we prepare it.

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You might also know this place by the following names:

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