A Grand Adventure: Lost in Paradise

Epic.  What does an epic vacation mean to me? To date, I've visited 172 cities in 23 countries and I still have a long list of places I want to see.  When I look back, the closest to a grand adventure I've ever been in was the trip to Peru and Bolivia.  That was a backpacking experience where I, together with my husband and father-in-law went beyond our comfort zones in an environment so eerily authentic that I have to shake off the notion that I'm not staring at a photograph in a historical book but I was actually there.  Many things happened during that trip, yet I still long for more. 

Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan {Photo Credit: Allu de Rivera, Edited by Arni}
My idea of a Grand Adventure is a trip that would satisfy all facets of my being. It took me a long time to research and figure out the perfect place where I can experience it. Finally it hit me. Guess where? It doesn't fall away from home. It's in the Philippines!

When I heard about a competition to write about a Grand Adventure, where I can spend the most of  £1,000, Philippines was the first thought that came to me. Though it took time with a lot of internal debate whether I should go visit the South of France (a place I wanted to see before I die) for instance, but this tropical archipelago is an inexpensive place to travel. This is exclusive of return air fare from Dubai to Manila of course.

View from Mt. Tapyas, Coron, Palawan  {Photo credit: Allu de Rivera,  Edited by Arni)
7,107 islands. There are many things to see, it'll take me many years exploring all the sites. I will however tailor-make a trip to see as many places while fitting my goals at the same time for an epic journey.  

I long for as much as possible non-tourist-y locations, but breathtaking at the same time. The upside to traveling in the Philippines despite the scattered geographical locations of ideal destinations are cheap transportation -land, air and water and inexpensive accommodation. There are also a lot of"promo air fares" from Cebu Pacific Airlines there's Zest Air, Air Philippines..Oh and not to mention the language. Everyone speaks English.

A backpacking journey will start in Palawan...
Underground River, Puerto Princesa, Palawan { Photo Credit: MarkAngelo - Source}

Take a one-way flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa. Spend 3 Days Two Nights.  Visit the world's longest Underground River by traveling on a boat inside a massive cave.  It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   Activities in Puerto Princesa would be:  
  • Dolphin Watching 
  • Firefly Watching, 
  • Mountain Trekking, 
  • Estrella Waterfalls Visit, 
  • Tabon Cave Tour, 
  • Dos Palmas Day Tour, 
  • City Tour,  
  • Mangrover Paddle Tour,
  • Bacungan River Cruise,
  • Ugong Rock Spelunking and Zip Line
  • and Honda Bay Island Hopping. 

Total Budget in Puerto Princesa: £ 318 ( per person, inclusive of one-way air fare, transport, tours, accommodation and food)

It's definitely going beyond one's comfort zone in taking a 5-6 hour RoRo 10PM Night Bus  from Puerto Princesa to El Nido

Banol Beach, Coron { Photo Credit: Allu de Rivera}
Spend a day or two in tropical paradise of El Nido. When people say "El Nido" first thing that comes to mind is- "Expensive" or "Luxurious",  but there is a way to enjoy 3 Days 2 Nights of Island Hopping in white sand- azure water beaches. Staying in for two nights at Tay Miloy's Inn.

Total El Nido Travel:  £ 102 (per person, inclusive of food, accommodation, island hopping tours transport from Puerto P. to El Nido)

Have a spiritual experience  in Banana Island , Coron  {Source}
Travel to Coron from El Nido by ferry. Subscribing to a 3 Days 2 Nights Coron Escapade Tour {Click the link for the itinerary} via Do It Yourself Coron   inclusive of transport (tricycles, boat rental for a day tour of different sites with diving and snorkeling sites, lunch buffet).  

  • Hike Mount Tapyas
  • Soak afterwards in Maquinit Hot Springs
  • Barbecue with fresh seafood from the market after the swim
  • Town Tour
  • Island Tour - Hop off and swim -Siete Pecados, Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, Banol Beach, Twin Lagoons,  CYC Beach
  • Snorkel and Dive in Shipwrecks

Spend the third day in paradise at Malcapuya and Banana Island .  A day at the beach reading a book, a nap under the sun. 

Total Coron Budget: £ 180 (per person, inclusive of tours, food, accommodation and one way air fare to Manila)

Take a return flight back to Manila. Spend a restful day chilling out in Makati City, window shopping to harmonize with the urban civilization again before heading out to another adventure. Full Body Massages are available at £ 4.8 per hour and there are endless number of spas around. I've considered £ 50 for a one-day stay in Manila including dining in a nice restaurant.

Take a night bus for a 10-hour bus trip  to Banaue. This time we're heading north of the Philippines.

Batad Rice Terraces
Try sleeping overnight in a Bale , an Ifugao Traditional House in Hiwang. Tour the Cordillera Mountains in a tricyle visiting more rice terraces, Bangaan Village, Guijo Pool, and Tam-an Village.  Rub elbows with the locals while chewing "Nganga"- betel quid.

Clockwise L-R:  Tappiya Falls / Bale -Ifugao Hut{Source} / View from the hut in Hiwang
Hike to Batad the next day. It's a lost city that is only accessible by foot, a 2 hour moutain trek.  Add another hour to that crossing rice paddies and you'll reach Tappiya Falls. You can stay with a local family in Batad  for a night. 

Kids in Banaue {Source
Volunteer at Noah's Ark Home for Children, an orphanage in Banaue. Whether it be helping the daycare teachers with the classes, playing with the children, household chores, helping the high school and elementary students with their assignments, and etc.  I'd love to be able to teach Art with these children and have fun painting with them. I think this would be amazing!

L: Sumaguing Cave / R: Bomod-ok Water Fall {Source

If you still have enough energy for another adventure, a trip to Sagada should not be missed. Take a local jeepney or rent a van by splitting the cost with other tourists to cross the Mountain Province for a three-hour journey next to deep ravines and beautiful landscape.   A day tour of the Hanging Coffins, Echo Valley, Sagada Pottery and Weaving.  Go caving at Sumaguing Cave. Watch out for the slippery rocks and steep climbs or you'll fall into those seemingly bottomless dark holes. There are different caving activities available in Sagada. Definitely not for the claustrophobic.

Total Banaue- Sagada :  GBP280  (per person, inclusive of food, transport, accommodation)

The last GBP 70 can be spent heading over to the ancestral town of  Vigan via a bus from Sagada to Baguio and Baguio to Vigan.  Click here for the itinerary of Things to Do.  This would include the bus fare back to Manila all set to go to airport to end the holiday.  Should there be some savings left, an extended stay in Makati City enjoying the night life before departing is what I would most probably do.

{Note:  I came up with these figures during my research and are based on traveling to bare minimum.  These however do not include international  airport taxes or any other unforeseen expenditures and increase in prices from local establishments.}

This for me is an epic journey.
A trip that I can tirelessly do over and over again.

Which activity is your favorite?

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  1. I love these photos! This post makes me want to travel so much!

  2. What a great place to visit! You certainly have done a lot of travelling!

  3. I am so jealous!! 172 places!!

  4. Wow, that's a real epic journey! The photos are really beautiful and all destination stopovers sound really interesting! I would love to relax and meditate at the beach :)

    You're so lucky to have been in 172 cities in 23 countries having so many wonderful stories to tell!

  5. Great photos!

  6. I'm dying to visit the Philippines.. even more so after this post ) xA

  7. Ok, I think I am close to tears at how beautiful the Philippines is! I adored this post and it has me wanting to pack my bags and leave for this adventure today! I had no idea how ridiculously well travelled you are (23 countries is something I definitely aspire to)!!

  8. This looks like a seriously amazing time. I've never been to the Philippines but it looks beautiful! One day when I have money!


  9. What a gorgeous place to visit. I am particularly interested in firefly watching, can just imagine how beautiful it would be!

  10. oh my gosh you've been almost EVERYWHERE! that's very inspiring, and i love how you still want more and something crazier. i love that you chose the phillipines. my boyrfriend's family is from there and we're planning on hopefully going in a year. this got me super super super excited for it. this DEFINITELY looks like a grand adventure :D

    xo Marlen
    Messages on a Napkin

  11. Wow! This is most awesome! The amount of traveling you have done is inspiring! I haven't been all that adventurous but I do like to check out local areas when I'm away. I think your pictures are so breathtaking!