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On the way with Edwin’s parents
Manila (Philippines) to Hong Kong (China), Apr-10-10 / May-10-10

The 10th of April was the day that the parents of Edwin arrived on the international airport of Manila. They decided to join us for the second time since the start of our journey in 2007. The first time they came was in 2008 to Malaysia, and this time they decided to come to the Philippines, and a week to Hong Kong. It was in one word: terrific!

We decided to rent a car for the period of their stay in the Philippines, because it made us much more flexible. Besides that, it makes travelling much more efficient which means that you can see a lot more in three weeks. We limited our travels in these three weeks to the island of Luzon. Luzon is big enough and has a lot to offer. After we picked up Edwin’s parents from the airport, we immediately drove southwards to escape this hot and bustling city. Our first destination was Lake Taal, a couple of hours driving south of Manila. Lake Taal is a lake in a crater which was formed thousands of years ago after a huge eruption. Since then, new volcanoes are formed in this lake, of which the active Taal Volcano is the most famous one. We spend one morning climbing the volcano to take a look in its crater. For those who are not eager to do the climb on foot, there are many horses available for an additional fee.

Children playing in a river on Carmoan Peninsular
After our visit to the Taal Volcano we drove in a long day further southwards to the southern part of Luzon. We had three destinations in mind. The first was the Carmoan Peninsular. This peninsular is way of the beaten track and for this fact alone, worth a visit. We had the idea to visit the most eastern part of the peninsular, but the road was too bad for our conventional car. If you decide to come here by car, please bring a 4WD. When the road became too bad, we decided to turn around to prevent damaging the car. But even though we didn’t visit the eastern part, the trip was very worthwhile. We passed several small fishing villages where time seems to have stood still already for decades. The thatched roofs are replaces by metal ones and some fishermen earned enough to buy a motorcycle, but that’s all that seems to have changed. Most villages are still located along the river, because the water of the river is essential for them. Children are helping their families with washing the cloths in the river, while the mothers are cleaning the younger children on the watersides. Other children are enjoying the water while tens of metres away, water buffaloes are using the water to cool themselves. The water is also important to serve as drinking water and for irrigation of the farming land. Our visit to the Carmoan Peninsular was an eye-opener; it is amazing to see that some people in the Philippines still live a life like this.

Our second destination in southern Luzon was the Mayon Volcano. The volcano has a perfect conical form and is for this reason seen as one of the most beautiful volcanoes on earth. However, the Mayon Volcano is also one of the most deadly volcanoes on our planet. It has erupted forty-nine times since 1616 and the most recent eruption was in 2008. The deadliest eruption happened in 1814, when approximately 2200 people died. Our last travel destination in southern Luzon, but definitely not the least one, was the small fishing village of Donsol. This is one of the best places in the world to snorkel with whale sharks. If you come to this place between February and May, you have almost a 100% chance of seeing the gentle giants in their natural habitat. In this time of year there is a lot of plankton in the water, making it a favourite hangout for these huge animals. Time Magazine once wrote that snorkelling with the whale sharks in Donsol is the best wild animal encounter you can have in Asia. If that is true or not is something everybody has to decide for themselves, but our encounter with the whale sharks was a once in a lifetime experience. We were lucky enough to be in Donsol also a couple of weeks earlier, but also this second encounter together with the parents of Edwin, was amazing.

A beautiful view on the rice terraces of Hapao

After we visited the beautiful southern part of Luzon, we drove northwards again. We passed Manila and went all the way to the town of Baguio where we entered the mountainous area of Luzon. The main reasons to go to this mountainous heart of Luzon, also called the Cordillera, are the famous rice terraces of Banaue. These rice terraces, often thousands of years old, are made by the ancestors of the mountain tribes people, a world-class engineering achievement. The Unesco recognised the uniqueness of the terraces and put them on the world heritage list, to protect them also for future generations. These terrific rice terraces, carved from the rocks, are often seen as the 8th world wonder. We spend several days in the area and have admired the beauty of the area with open mouth. But, you have to be in the area in the right time of the year, because only in the period just before the harvest, the rice fields are brightly green, which gives them the astonishing beauty.

After our visit to the Cordillera we travelled to Luzon’s north coast where we spent some time on the beautiful beaches of Pagudpud. It isn’t as famous yet as for example Borocay, but it is as least as beautiful. Afterwards we travelled southwards again along the west coast and made a stop-over in the colonial town of Vigan. Vigan is probably the most beautiful city of the country, because it wasn’t bombed during the Second World War, which means that some of the colonial building are still there. Of course, it is a touristy city, even with horse pulled carriages, but the town is still worth a visit. It is also one of the few towns in the country where they have outdoor seating terraces in the evening. Subsequently we drove further south and finished our visit to the Philippines in Manila. We experienced our trip to the Philippines as very special and are very thankful to the Filipino’s and Filipina’s who make this trip so great. All the people we met where without exception warm, friendly and hospitable. Sometimes we say to each other: “if there is one country in the world where we have to live outside our home country, it will probably be the Philippines”.

We spent the last days of the holiday of Edwin’s parents in Hong Kong. It is a nice city, but not really Asian anymore. But despite that, it was a great place for us to settle the experiences in the Philippines, to visit some beautiful sites in the city and to do some shopping. Not for us of course, because our backpacks are already stuffed till the last square inch. Hong Kong was unfortunately also the place where we had to say goodbye to the parents of Edwin. They are back in Europe again, and our backpacks are packed for the next destination in our journey. Tomorrow we will cross the border to the Chinese mainland again. It will be the second time and this time we are going to visit the provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan and Qinghai.

Click here for the photo impression of Luzon


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