A great thing about China is the amount of public holidays they have. Within two weeks of being in Shanghai, offices shut down for a whole week to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival. I’ll take it.
We decided to go somewhere hot and landed on The Philippines! I never had it on my travel wish list, so I didn’t know what to expect. I did extensive research and learned there are over 7,000 islands in the Philippines, and not to expect amazing food….among other things. Thanks to Lonely Planet I weaved a simple itinerary together taking the advice to stay in one area if you have limited time because it’s a big country and so spread out.
We flew into Manila, which was only a two-hour flight from Shanghai, then hopped on a connecting flight to Cebu City. We spent a day in Cebu, then headed south on a ferry to the island of Bohol….more specifically Alona Beach on Panglao Island. The cultural aspect wasn’t exhilarating. Everyone spoke English, there wasn’t amazing street food like you would find in Thailand or China, and I found the streets looked exactly the same. BUT the Philippines blew me away with their gorgeous beaches. When the sun hit the beach, the water turned into the brightest aqua marine blue and the whitest of white sand was a spectacular compliment. It felt like walking through a postcard or one of those beach calendars that make you hate winter.
To be fair about the food, we had excellent fresh fish BBQ along the beach, which was awesome.
October is a risky time to go because it’s the end of monsoon season, so the weather was a bit hit or miss. One minute we were raving about our postcard beach, the next minute a dark cloud rolled in and we found ourselves in a tiny one-man security booth trying to stay dry. That’s another thing – the people are very friendly. The security guard saw us scrambling for shelter in the rain and called us over to his hut. We were there for so long and ended talking about Bon Jovi and Metallica. No joke.
On the flip side to going in October, you’ll get good deals on hotels. We stayed in three great places – The Henry Hotel (in Cebu), Amorita Resort and Hennan Resort in Alona Beach.
Cute hotel room at The Henry…I LOVED the green wall
One of the highlights was taking a day trip to Balicasag Island for snorkeling and Virgin Island for lounging, AND one of the craziest things I didn’t think I would ever do — we went swimming with whale sharks. I was the last one to get off the boat, but I eventually hopped in the water and trusted that these creatures really are the gentle giants they’re marketed as. They were massive, measuring nine meters in length! I just kept if you went to an aquarium, they wouldn’t let you get inside, but here we were chilling with the whale sharks. It was wild.