A Philippines Travel Guide for First-Timers

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As a Filipino-American, it took me some time to warm up to my ancestral homeland of the Philippines. But once I experienced it for the first time myself, I fell in love and haven’t looked back since. As one of the most scenic locations in all of Asia, the Philippines has become a vacation hotspot in recent decades, drawing in a whole new wave of tourists from all over the world. It’s not hard to see why-pristine, remote island beaches accompanied with friendly locals and stunning wildlife make for a once in a lifetime trip. For those who have never been, the following are just a few key aspects of this country that may sway you in visiting sooner than later.

Hospitality

As mentioned, Filipinos have a reputation as being very kind and generous, being warm and welcoming to tourists and encouraging them to explore their native country. Many Filipino’s take pride in their country, showcasing the best parts of the Philippines for visiting tourists. Singing and dancing is an enormous part of the culture here, so don’t be surprised if you’re pulled into one of the many celebratory events going on throughout the summer.

Rarely is a tourist’s naivety or unfamiliarity taken advantage of in the Philippines. The locals are happy to lend a helping hand and ensure that your time spent in their country is enjoyable, memorable, and leaving you wanting to come back again.

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Having said that, it’s also highly important to remember that as a visitor in their country, you should be respectful and humble at any place you find yourself. There are many things you might find odd or strange in their culture that might conflict with your own, but it’s always a good idea to respect the differences and focus on just enjoying your time.

Beaches

Being one of the largest collections of islands with 7,107 total, the Philippines has some of the most flawless beaches in the world. White sand, crystal blue waters, and incredible rock formations make up hundreds of these somewhat private locations, which are not always flooded with tourists so long as you know where to look.

Perhaps one of the most iconic beaches and best one for your Instagram feed is White Beach in Boracay. This beach consistently finds a spot on the list of top 10 beaches in the world, and is one of the most famous. That being said, the crowds here may be a little larger than what you’re looking for, but the aesthetic is absolutely worth the trip.

Nature

If part of your vacation plans involves seeing exotic wildlife, the Philippines then becomes that much more appealing. Home to some of the most diverse animals and plant life on Earth, this country includes nearly 200 species of mammals, over 600 species of birds, hundreds of reptiles, amphibious creatures, and coral species. One of the most popular attractions here is swimming with the native whale sharks.

In terms of geography, there are a total of 37 volcanoes found throughout the Philippines, all of which are accessible via hiking tours in addition to the country’s many caves, lakes, and waterfalls. To add to its beauty, temperatures here rarely ever reach levels of extreme heat or cold, making a trip here ideal in nearly any month of the year. However, experienced visitors typically recommend anytime between the months of November and May.

Food

As the late Anthony Bourdain once famously said, “Filipino’s love feeding people”. While Filipino cuisine may not be as well known around the world as their Asian counterparts, you might be more than impressed with some of the food you may encounter here. A traditional Filipino meal will have tourists experiencing a mix of Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, and even American-style cuisine, with foods like pancit, sinigang, barbecued chicken intestines, halo-halo, and much, much more.

The fruits found growing around the Philippines are among the freshest you will most likely ever try. From fresh mangos, pineapples, to coconuts, to papayas, Filipino fruit grows within an incredibly nurturing environment that adds to its flavor.

And good news for the avid seafood enthusiasts, the plethora of sea creatures found around the Philippines’ many coasts including lobster, crab, tiger prawns, and octopus among many others. Chefs around the country are highly skilled in preparing some of the most delicious seafood meals in Asia. However, if you are less inclined to try something adventurous, there are still plenty of options for those that are more accustomed to the Western ideals of flavor.

And did I mention how inexpensive eating out in the Philippines can be? More often than not, you’ll pay a fraction of what you might pay for a similar meal in North America or Europe.

Relaxation

While all of the aforementioned aspects certainly fall under this category, the Philippines is also a perfect getaway for travelers who would prefer to do nothing other than relax, unwind, and fully embrace a week of well deserved laziness. For starters, prices for alcoholic beverages, just like the food, are significantly cheaper than most other countries. Rum is actually cheaper than most of the juices served throughout the restaurant scene seeing as these juices come from the highly sought after fruits around the islands. Their Red Horse beer cost just 20 pesos, and is a little stronger than the average beer with 6.8% alcohol; a cheap, delicious way to take the edge off.

Once you’ve settled in and grabbed a drink, add even more to your spiritual pampering with a massage on the beach, or at one of the many spas around the country. From Swedish, to Shiatsu, to manicures and pedicures, Filipino spas and masseuses offer several different types of massages and are usually more dedicated and experienced than the types of massages you’d find elsewhere. Additionally, over 75% of the country speaks English, so language barriers are hardly ever a problem.

For more info on the Philippines and how to book your first trip, check out this site here and do some research of your own. The experiences mentioned above are just scratching the surface of what you can do in this beautiful country, and if you’re still thinking about it, take my word that you won’t ever regret making the trip.

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Travel Books That Will Inspire You to See the World

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During one’s downtime in which they are not traveling, what better way to keep their exploratory passion alive than to read some of the most intriguing books on the subject? The following are just some of many travel books to read that will keep your travel bug alive and have you yearning to visit every possible corner of the world.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

In the years following World War II, Jack Kerouac and his friends traveled across the United States in search of all that life has to offer. Narrated by “Sal Paradise,” who serves as Kerouac himself, readers follow these men from New York to Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles where they encounter various forms of art and some of life’s troubles. You begin to notice the characters, particularly Sal, grow and gain more confidence. This piece of literature is sure to inspire even the most introverted individual to travel cross-country.

Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Don’t let the fact that this is somewhat of a romance novel deter you from reading. As a well known travel blogger, DeRoche details her fear of the ocean and and the incredible feat of overcoming that fear to sail across the Pacific with her boyfriend. Her vivid writing paints a picture in readers’ minds and evokes a moving feeling; something that, again, is sure to get even the laziest person up off the couch and out in the world.

The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto

For individuals especially keen on New York City, Russell Shorto’s book details the history of its foundation through Dutch settlers and their conflicts with the British and eventual losing of the city. These settlers have left such an impact that most of the city’s culture still emanates that today, in addition to many street and neighborhood names. After reading this story, it will be difficult not to have a newfound appreciation for New York City culture.

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

A book on vagabonding by none other than the king of vagabonding himself, Rolf Potts has spent over 10 years hitchhiking and exploring areas all over the world. His book contains some of the best insight imaginable, crucial travel tips and information, and several inspiring encounters; a work that should be considered an absolute must-read for those new to the world of traveling. Potts delves deeper into the philosophy of traveling as well, explaining why traveling for extended periods of time is an enriching experience.

New Zealand’s Greatest Attractions

Commonly referred to as the adventure capital of the world, New Zealand is full of exciting activities and stunning sights that locals take pride in and tourists can enjoy on a daily basis. With a landscape beautiful enough to garner the attention of numerous film crews (see The Lord of the Rings trilogy), New Zealand has just about everything. From adventurists to food connoisseurs, nearly everyone who visits this country is sure to find something for them.

Hang Gliding

Being the adventure capital of the world, New Zealand’s enormous mountain ranges make for some of the most opportune hang gliding experiences. Beginning at Coronet Peak, the highest takeoff point in Queenstown, visitors are paired with an experienced instructor before flying over some of the most scenic landscapes you will ever see.

The Tamaki Maori Village

For one of the coolest history lessons you’ll ever receive, check out the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua to learn about Polynesian culture and their practices. Guests can stay overnight, taste traditional food, and see traditional rituals and ceremonies dating back to the 13th century. These ancient warriors are of the most proud cultures in the world, and express their deep roots through some truly awesome dances and songs.

Zorbing

As weird as this activity may sound, it can be incredibly fun. Starting right here in New Zealand, Zorbing involves tumbling down a hill in a giant protective orb typically made of inflatable transparent plastic. They aren’t as dangerous as they sound. Their protective makeup is also buoyant, so they can remain floating in a body of water. Those inside are strapped safely with harnesses before they are sent rolling down various courses.

Rotorua, being the birthplace of this activity, has numerous courses visitors can check out, as well as plenty of hot springs to help you relax following the plenty of adventures you’re bound to have.

Whale Watching

Being a coastal country, New Zealand is home to many of the world’s sea creatures. In Kaikoura specifically, both humpback whales and orcas are spotted so frequently, that if whale watching groups don’t see any during their time at see, all guests are refunding 80% of their ticket money; a pretty confident, yet admirable gesture.

Originally posted on LeonardRaymundo.org

5 Countries to Visit During Winter

Depending on whether or not you are trying to escape or embrace the colder temperatures, deciding where to travel during the winter months can be a tricky task. While the majority of vacationers seek warmer climates this time of year, visiting countries with equally winteresque landscapes can be an experience unlike most. Below are just a few countries to consider for those wanting to bask in the warm sun, and for those seeking a winter wonderland.

Lithuania

This one is for the snowmen (and women). Lithuania averages 23-35 degrees fahrenheit from the months of November to February, giving way for plenty of snow. The city of Vilnius, the country’s capital, is well known for its baroque architecture and cobblestone streets. Top this stunning scenery with a light dusting of snow, and Lithuania becomes what feels like the inside of a giant snow globe. One of the country’s many seasonal events, “Christmas in the Capital” hosts holiday performances at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, as well as the Three Kings Procession, a miniature parade comprised of biblical characters who provide well wishes to the country.

South Africa

Both for the sunbathers and lovers of wildlife, South Africa averages a mid-80 degrees fahrenheit in the winter months, as well as the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife organization; a conservative effort for the country’s biodiversity. Here, visitors can stay at the company’s resorts and campsites to see Africa’s native animals like lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and much more, making this a great vacation for families.

Puerto Rico

Another warmer destination for those that want to fly south for winter, Puerto Rico hosts one of Central America’s largest winter events known as the San Sebastian Street Fest in San Juan. Parades, food vendors, and a plethora of music combine to create a lively environment that goes well into the night. Not only is this party free, but the gathering of both locals and tourists allows all visitors to experience true Puerto Rican culture. Even the late, great Hunter S. Thompson remarked his experiences here in his famous piece The Rum Diary.

Sweden

A true winter experience wouldn’t be complete without staying in a hotel made entirely of ice, would it? Just outside the city of Kiruna lies Sweden’s world famous Ice Hotel. This art exhibition is also a fully functional inn, but is only open during the winter months, as it is rebuilt every year after melting in the Spring. Sweden is also home to some of the best ski slopes in the world, with beautiful hotels to match. The Åre resort has 91 kilometers of slopes, with 32 chair lifts to navigate the enormous hills.

Argentina

When consider South America for a winter vacation, one would assume heat is the primary objective. However, in Patagonia, Argentina, there is a different story. The Andes Mountains, one of the largest mountain ranges in the world, are truly a sight to be seen for lovers of snow and ice. The Los Glaciares National Park is home to even more icy giants, and the Llao Llao Hotel provides luxury lodging for those who wish to stay in this surprisingly chilly city.

From LeonardRaymundo.org