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With the four of us
Bangkok (Thailand) to Tacloban (Philippines), July 2012

July 2012 was an exciting time for us. We travelled already in 2010 with four Dutch teenagers for 5 weeks through China, and now we had the opportunity again. Two teenagers (17 and 18 years old) asked us if they could join us for a period of 6 weeks on a backpacking holiday in Southeast Asia. Our answer was ‘yes’ because we had a great experience back in 2010. For this trip we chose for the Philippines as destination. The main reason for this choice is the fact that the Philippines is a great destination to travel to. On the other hand we had to take the weather into account. July and August is the rainy season in many countries in this part of Asia, which makes travelling less comfortable and enjoyable. But the eastern part of the Philippines is relatively dry during these months of the year. So, the choice was easily made.

We asked the boys, Robin and Jorn, to fly to Bangkok in Thailand. The Philippines was our main destination, but we thought that it would be nice to have some days in Bangkok too. Bangkok is a great destination to experience for a couple of days. The city has beautiful temples, old markets, luxurious shopping malls, an exciting China Town and a jaw dropping nightlife. It was also a great place for the boys to get used to the new environment (see also our article about Bangkok). On July 8th we took the flight to Manila, the capital city of the Philippines.

Raining cats and dogs at arrival in Cagayan de Oro

The contrast between Bangkok and Manila is huge. Bangkok is modern and fancy while Manila is bleak and grey. Poverty is visible everywhere, but it is still a great place to start your journey in the Philippines (see also our article about Manila). But the Philippines has something that makes the country a pleasure to visit: a very friendly and hospitable population. Filipinos and Filipinas are world class and if there would be a world champion of friendly and hospitable people, these people would be the world champions! We spent some days in Manila to stroll around and to visit the main tourist sights. From Manila it was a one and a half hours flight to Cagayan de Oro on the southern Filipino island of Mindanao. This is the place from which we travelled in five weeks slowly back northwards to Manila. The flight was ok for the main part, but because of heavy rains and strong downwards winds in Cagayan de Oro, we had to make a restart, our first one ever. But after circling around for around 30 minutes the pilots of Cebu Pacific Airlines decided that it was safe again for another try; this time a successful one.

After spending the night in Cagayan de Oro we took the bus to the small harbour of Balingoan from where we took a local ferry to the island of Camiguin. This volcanic island is one of the most enjoyable destinations in the southern part of the Philippines. The island is small and quiet enough to explore on a rented motorcycle. There are small villages, beautiful bays, mystic volcanoes, white beaches and several springs and waterfalls to explore. And again, the population is friendly and hospitable. Mass tourism didn’t spoil the island yet (see also our article about Camiguin). After our visit to Camiguin we took the ferry back to Mindanao (Balingoan) from where we took the bus to Surigao. The city is nothing special, but it is the starting point for a trip to Siargao Island, one of the main surf destinations in Asia. And because of the fact that our travel companions are crazy about surfing, it wasn’t difficult for us the make the decision to go to ‘Cloud 9’, the main surf break on Siargao Island. And also for us this was a great destination, because it gave us the opportunity to experience the surf culture for a couple of days (see also our article about the surf culture at Cloud 9).

Waiting for the jeepney to Padre Burgos to leave
After our visit to Siargao Island, we went back to Surigao Town to take the public ferry to Leyte, one of the big islands of the Philippines. The ferry took only one and a half hours, but this was for some Filipinos long enough to get sea sick. July and August are also the months in where the typhoon season starts, which can make the seas wild. We thought the crossing was still comfortable, but many local people on board were happy to see the shore again. From the small village called San Ricardo on Leyte we took a bus to Sogod, where we changed to a jeepney heading for Padre Burgos. Padre Burgos is famous among divers, but the bay on which Padre Burgos is located, has also a lot to offer to snorkelers. We snorkelled for three days and we saw pilot whales, many colourful fish, and a beautiful sea turtle.

The student town called Ormoc was our next destination on our way to Manila. Ormoc is a typical Filipino town where you can easily spend several days to explore the town. We especially enjoyed the market area of Ormoc where all kinds of exotic parts of animals are displayed to attract potential customers. Intestines, pigs’ heads and penises of bulls are sold as local delicacies while the market is for us a perfect place to decide to become a vegetarian. Also the smell is difficult to persist, but after a couple of minutes it becomes acceptable. Ormoc is also the place with the best small cocktail bar in the Philippines. The bar with the name “Bebidas Coffee-Cocktail Bar” serves great 1-litre cocktail pitchers with exotic names like Sex on the Beach, Mud Slide and Inferno (how this last cocktail is made can be seen here). This bar is also the place where Jorn showed us how to drink a cocktail through the nose.

Our last destination on the Island of Leyte was the town of Tacloban. We had some bad weather in this town, so we decided to have a rest day before visiting the Sohoton National Park. This park is officially located on the island of Samar, but it is most easily visited from Tacloban on Leyte. The Sohoton National Park is mainly known for it caves, but also the one and a half hours boat ride to and from the park is beautiful. The ride gives you the opportunity to see how people live on the shores of the river. Waving children and smiling women who are washing the clothes in the river are a bonus on this great daytrip.

The public ferry from Balingoan to Camiguin
An old truck on Siargao Island
A big kiss for the cocktails of Bebidas in Ormoc
Local boys along the river on our way to Sohoton NP on Samar
The caves of Sohoton NP
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