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Visiting Philippines
Old 01-17-2016, 05:43 PM   #1
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Visiting Philippines

It looks like we are going to the Philippines for spring break at the end of March/beginning of April. We're planning on eight nights flying in and out of Manila. I was also looking at Cebu City, but the plane tickets cost more and the flights aren't as good (long layovers, bad departure/arrival times), which is why we're choosing Manila. This isn't set in stone yet, so if anybody has an opinion regarding the two locations, I'm all ears.

We're a family of four with two teenagers, 16 and 15. We don't like resorts/all-inclusive type places, but we do appreciate nice accommodations in centrally located areas. We like a mixture of beach time with some sightseeing, especially local cultural activities. But basically, we just want to hang out for a week, enjoy the warm weather, local food, etc.

I'm looking for any advice on where to go, what to see, and so on. We've never been to the Philippines, so any advice is appreciated.

Thanks!
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Old 01-17-2016, 08:47 PM   #2
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Only a few hours and it looks like our plans have changed. I was looking around Manila and any good beach destination looks to be at least 3 hours away, if not longer. I then figured out that EVA air is starting flights to Cebu city a few days after we're leaving. So now we're thinking of staying in Taipei for a few days and then spending five days in and around Cebu. Looking at the beach locations, all of them are closer to the airport, which makes it a lot more convenient for us, especially since we're short on time.

So if anyone has any recommendations for the Cebu area, then please let me know. The same goes for Taipei. I was in Taipei once before many years ago, so I have some ideas where I could take the family, but recommendations are always appreciated.
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Old 01-18-2016, 01:01 AM   #3
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Well I was going to suggest visiting Lake Taal on the way from Manila down to the beach area at Batangas. But now that you are going to Cebu, I'm afraid I don't know the area.

Another alternative in the region would be Manado (Bunaken Island) in North Sulawesi. Fantastic beaches and diving there! And beautiful jungle - filled, cool volcanic highlands only an hour drive away.

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Old 01-18-2016, 08:53 AM   #4
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Boracay off of the island Panay!


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Old 01-18-2016, 12:32 PM   #5
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I was looking into taking a Philippines trip a bit over a year ago and decided Cebu was the right destination for me, combination of cost and convenience; unfortunately, life intervened and I was unable to make the trip. (I was also looking to spend significant time at a beach location.)

I am definitely looking forward to hearing about your actual experiences in the area.
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Old 01-18-2016, 05:24 PM   #6
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Cebu if you want to show your teenagers how good they have it,
Puerto Princesa would be my choice for a week of chilling out.

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Old 01-18-2016, 11:05 PM   #7
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It's going to be getting hot while you are there. April and May are the hottest months of the year and April is the driest month.

A fantastic day trip is Kawasan Falls. Just google it. I had just a great time there. And go on a weekday, not a weekend. We went during the week and there were very few people there. I did a lot of swimming and we ordered lunch right next to the falls.

I did the bus there from southern Cebu City terminal and it was about 3 hours each way, if I recall. If you go by taxi it is probably just two hours door to door. Then have the taxi guy wait for you and take you back. Work out a price ahead of time.

It is also a chance to get out and see the island. You go through Moalboal on the way. So you could probably add another activity on the way back.

The best beaches might be on Bantayan Island, but that is more than a day trip although you can reach it in a few hours.

NOTE: Easter is March 27. That is the biggest holiday of the year, and the whole country is moving, especially in the week prior to Easter. Not really a good time to visit the Philippines. Ouch. Also, it is a tradition to go to Bantayan Island for Easter so you can forget even trying that.
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Old 01-19-2016, 06:50 AM   #8
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If you were to take them the Boracay, you MUST take teenagers to Ariel's Point. Mine still talk about that one.
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Old 01-19-2016, 07:56 AM   #9
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Cebu is the best place to be if you are short on time and want to be in white sand beaches. Cebu has great food and restaurants and the resorts in the Mactan island are great, like Shangrila and Plantation Bay (Shangrila is more expensive like $200-$250/per night). If you stay in the Ayala Center area in Cebu, there are great hotels there that will save you money ($60 - $80 per night), and not as expensive as the oceanfront hotels in the Mactan island near the airport. Or you can stay a few nights in Cebu City, and a few nights in Mactan to experience the oceanfront resorts. Manila is crowded and has a lot of traffic - if you want to experience Manila, stay in the Fort Bonifacio city or Makati. Fort Bonifacio is the newest business district with plush shopping centers and tall skyscrapers. You need to go to Batangas to get to the beach. If in Manila, you can also drive to Taal volcano (the smallest volcano in the world) and it has a beautiful lake and also a casino. In Cebu City, you can stay in downtown Cebu, and the Mactan island beaches are about 30 minutes away (with the traffic). If you stay in Mactan island oceanfront beach resorts, then the beaches are just there. Even if you stay in Mactan, it would be great to drive to the city of Cebu and visit Ayala Center (the business district) or see some historic sites like the Magellan's cross (where Portuguese explorer Magellan landed in Cebu in 1521).

Quote:
Originally Posted by kiki View Post
Only a few hours and it looks like our plans have changed. I was looking around Manila and any good beach destination looks to be at least 3 hours away, if not longer. I then figured out that EVA air is starting flights to Cebu city a few days after we're leaving. So now we're thinking of staying in Taipei for a few days and then spending five days in and around Cebu. Looking at the beach locations, all of them are closer to the airport, which makes it a lot more convenient for us, especially since we're short on time.

So if anyone has any recommendations for the Cebu area, then please let me know. The same goes for Taipei. I was in Taipei once before many years ago, so I have some ideas where I could take the family, but recommendations are always appreciated.
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Old 01-19-2016, 11:09 AM   #10
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If you were to take them the Boracay, you MUST take teenagers to Ariel's Point. Mine still talk about that one.
I did this trip three years ago. I agree with other poster on Boracay Beach. One small drawback on Boracay is it's touristy. Folks fly there from S. Korea for the weekend (no kidding). It's a must if you have teenagers since some of the other cities are not super kid friendly. It's by far the whitest sand I've ever seen (but I live in Seattle WA).

Manila is "just another big city" IMHO. I spent the most time in Cebu. Nice inexpensive trip once you get there. Expect to get "hustled" but I just got used to saying "no thank you".
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Old 01-19-2016, 11:40 PM   #11
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Thanks to everyone for the responses. Boracay would be great, but it's out of the way. We only have 5 nights in the Philippines, which limits on how far we are willing to travel away from the Cebu area. I'm happy we decided to bail on Manila and go to Cebu instead. Plus we get to spend a few days in Taipei, which should be fun.

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It's going to be getting hot while you are there. April and May are the hottest months of the year and April is the driest month.

A fantastic day trip is Kawasan Falls. Just google it. I had just a great time there. And go on a weekday, not a weekend. We went during the week and there were very few people there. I did a lot of swimming and we ordered lunch right next to the falls.

I did the bus there from southern Cebu City terminal and it was about 3 hours each way, if I recall. If you go by taxi it is probably just two hours door to door. Then have the taxi guy wait for you and take you back. Work out a price ahead of time.

It is also a chance to get out and see the island. You go through Moalboal on the way. So you could probably add another activity on the way back.

The best beaches might be on Bantayan Island, but that is more than a day trip although you can reach it in a few hours.

NOTE: Easter is March 27. That is the biggest holiday of the year, and the whole country is moving, especially in the week prior to Easter. Not really a good time to visit the Philippines. Ouch. Also, it is a tradition to go to Bantayan Island for Easter so you can forget even trying that.
We like the heat. I've been wanting to go to the Philippines for awhile, but won't go during the summer because of the weather. Unfortunately with kids in school we're limited on when we can travel. We went to Thailand a few years ago during the summer and the weather was good, but could have been better. I only wish we had more time.

I looked up Kawasan Falls and it looks great. I'll keep it in mind while we're there. I was thinking about the Easter holidays, but I figured we might be ok since we are coming a few days after Easter on March 29th. Is it still busy the week after Easter?

Bantayan Island looks spectacular. I might see if we can squeeze in a trip there, but I might be pushing it.

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Originally Posted by cyber888 View Post
Cebu is the best place to be if you are short on time and want to be in white sand beaches. Cebu has great food and restaurants and the resorts in the Mactan island are great, like Shangrila and Plantation Bay (Shangrila is more expensive like $200-$250/per night). If you stay in the Ayala Center area in Cebu, there are great hotels there that will save you money ($60 - $80 per night), and not as expensive as the oceanfront hotels in the Mactan island near the airport. Or you can stay a few nights in Cebu City, and a few nights in Mactan to experience the oceanfront resorts. Manila is crowded and has a lot of traffic - if you want to experience Manila, stay in the Fort Bonifacio city or Makati. Fort Bonifacio is the newest business district with plush shopping centers and tall skyscrapers. You need to go to Batangas to get to the beach. If in Manila, you can also drive to Taal volcano (the smallest volcano in the world) and it has a beautiful lake and also a casino. In Cebu City, you can stay in downtown Cebu, and the Mactan island beaches are about 30 minutes away (with the traffic). If you stay in Mactan island oceanfront beach resorts, then the beaches are just there. Even if you stay in Mactan, it would be great to drive to the city of Cebu and visit Ayala Center (the business district) or see some historic sites like the Magellan's cross (where Portuguese explorer Magellan landed in Cebu in 1521).
Thanks for the advice about Cebu. I'm guessing that we'll stay in Mactan and take day trips to Cebu City and other places. We'll definitely go see some historic sites and we all enjoy city exploring. It's a nice break from hanging out at the beach.
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Old 01-20-2016, 04:44 AM   #12
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I looked up Kawasan Falls and it looks great. I'll keep it in mind while we're there. I was thinking about the Easter holidays, but I figured we might be ok since we are coming a few days after Easter on March 29th. Is it still busy the week after Easter?
I think you will be OK. I would say that the Tuesday after Easter when you are arriving is the first day that it might be semi-normal and especially by Wednesday.

Also, another day trip to consider is taking the ferry to Bohol island and getting a taxi to take you to the sites there including the Chocolate Hills (the viewing stand was damaged in an earthquake a couple years ago, don't know current status). But again, it might be just too much for a day trip. I am not sure if the ferries run at night. The fast ferry leaves from near Cebu Ferry Terminal (just taking the ferry itself is a fun experience).

This is one problem with sightseeing in the Philippines, due to being a nation of islands with poor infrastructure, it can be difficult to get around. I never liked the core of Cebu City much myself (luckily you are staying in a resort area), but there are a lot of things to do close by via boat that are a bit more than a day trip (Bantayan island, Alona Beach area on Panglao which is connected to Bohol, Bohol island sites, Siquijor Island, Dumaguete city on Negros, etc.) I know that due to the nature of your trip, you must limit your activities.

By the way, I really liked spending a couple days in Taipei. That tall building was just amazing and worth going up there. And the night markets were fantastic. Along with that main Chinese history museum there. Getting around is so easy with public transport.
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Old 01-21-2016, 12:24 AM   #13
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By the way, I really liked spending a couple days in Taipei. That tall building was just amazing and worth going up there. And the night markets were fantastic. Along with that main Chinese history museum there. Getting around is so easy with public transport.
I went to Taipei eight years ago for work and one of my regrets was that I didn't take my family. It was my first time in Asia and I loved it and it always bummed me out that my family didn't come (it would have been easy, since we'd only have to pay for their airfare). I look at the few days we'll be there as redemption. Taipei 101 is definitely on the list, as are night markets. A former co-worker of mine is from Taiwan - he's actually there right now after retiring last year - so I'm going to talk with him about what we should see. It should be a lot of fun.

Thanks for the tips around Cebu. Definitely helps in figuring out what where we should go.
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Old 01-23-2016, 12:49 AM   #14
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Agreed, Mactan Island has some beautiful resorts. Little to nothing for tourists on the rest of the island. Sea water quality is a concern. Google these terms: mactan island sewage "open sewers"
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Old 01-23-2016, 02:21 AM   #15
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On Luzon, I would also suggest a trip to Corregidor if you like history. Another vote for Lake Taal. I would see if there is some cultural troop doing dances too.
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Old 01-24-2016, 10:16 PM   #16
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Agreed, Mactan Island has some beautiful resorts. Little to nothing for tourists on the rest of the island. Sea water quality is a concern. Google these terms: mactan island sewage "open sewers"
That's a problem in a lot of these countries. Isn't this a problem in Hua Hin?

The beaches in Hua Hin aren't great, so I didn't worry about it there. Instead we spent our time at the pool or around the city. I know it is a problem on Koh Tao, where we also went. There's no sewage treatment facility on the island, which pretty much tells you where it all goes. It wasn't a big deal during our visit there, so I'm sure we'll manage it fine in the Philippines.

But it's good to be aware that it's an issue. I'm always weary of any liquids running down the beach when it hasn't been raining. Worse comes to worst, we'll avoid some of the beaches and spend time at the pool.
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Old 01-25-2016, 12:14 AM   #17
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That's a problem in a lot of these countries. Isn't this a problem in Hua Hin?
Yes and No. More about that below, but first something from my blog of April 29 2009:

>From an editorial in the Cebu Daily News on Earth Day.

>“Last year … [this newspaper] … reported the Environmental Management Bureau’s findings of high coliform readings in several beach resorts in Mactan, which, at the time, remained unnamed by the paper. Why? In the absence of a response from the resorts, we thought it unfair to single them out.”

>The resorts test the bacteria levels in the sea water regularly, so does the EMB. This year the EMB announced the number of resorts with unhealthy levels of poo in the waters next to them had doubled. The EMB’s report named the resorts, just as it had done the year before. For the second year in a row the newspapers did not report the names of those resorts.

Bottom line is in the Phils the government announces the results of their water quality tests and the press doesn't report it.

Back on Hua Hin. On the plus side, residences and small apartment buildings have septic tanks. There is a sewage treatment facility in town with an outfall pipe into the Gulf.

On the minus side, no one knows if the treatment facility works, if new major construction is being hooked into it or the length of the outfall pipe.

Bottom line is the government tests sea water quality but doesn't make the results public.

The Gulf water is dirty, thanks mostly to the river draining central Thailand that enters the Gulf south of Bangkok then is carried down the coast to Hua Hin. Also the combo of shallow water plus sediment type means it's easily kicked up by small waves. Sometimes it smells. The low lying, shallow sloped land means rain and human water runoff can sit in drainage canals and pipes long enough to work up a good stink. To me, when the Gulf stinks its mostly that drain stink, but it's also ewwww.....
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Old 04-10-2016, 09:44 PM   #18
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We're back from our trip. All in all it was too short. We really enjoyed Taiwan and in retrospect - and assuming we'd get the same price for plane tickets - it would have been a good idea.

After researching Mactan Island we decided to take a pass. The seawater quality is not good and overall, I think we would have been bored. Instead we took the ferry to Bohol and stayed at Alona Beach. A bit too touristy, but after Taipei we were pretty beat, so it was nice to just hang out and enjoy the pool/local area. We really didn't go to the beach much, but we did take a private boat out to Balicasag. In retrospect, we should have ditched the private boat and joined a dive boat for snorkeling. Talk about a tourist trap, but the scenery was beautiful. Pamilacan Island would probably have suited us better. Next time.

Thanks again for all the advice. It helped us fine tune our trip and even though it was short, we all had a good time.

Btw, as for Taipei, we had a long stop-over on the way home and took their high speed rail. We hit a max speed of 300km/h and travelled about 80 miles in 30 minutes. Impressive. We also had a great dinner, with a grill at our table cooking our own food. It was tasty. I definitely wouldn't mind another stopover in Taiwan.
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