Travel opens your heart, broadens your mind, and fills your life with stories to tell.
The pandemic has changed the world, and for a Globe-trotter like me, it was heartache. Since the pandemic hit our globe, my travel has been as low as it could be.
The Philippines trip was very unplanned, and when I look back now sitting in my home office, it was totally worth it. This was my 3rd Solo trip (After Portugal and USA), and something I will cherish throughout my life.
I was speaking to a friend “Apoorv” who was then in the Philippines and was going gaga about the Picturesque and outstanding hospitality of Filipinos, and the next thing I know that I booked my flight to Manilla.
I hold an Indian passport and have a valid USA visa, I was eligible for an on-arrival visa.
Day 1 – Reaching Boracay island (November 26th)
I took a direct flight from DXB to Manilla, and my next flight to Caticlan (MPH) was booked via Cebu airlines. I was lucky to book via Cebu airlines, as their flight take off from Terminal 3 of Manilla international airport, which is where all international airport arrives.
By 12 PM, I was in Caticlan (MPH), and from there I took a speed boat to Boracay island.
I checked in to my hotel which was called “Astoria current” and is situated at station 3.
There was a dive center next to the hotel, and I spoke to them to understand the various programs they offer. I was keen on doing “Padi advanced scuba certification” but I heard some amazing stuff about dive sites at Palawan, so decide to pick the fun dive here.
The base price for fun dive was 1800 PHP and for the advanced PADI scuba certification, it was 25K PHP.
The day was a relaxing day and enjoyed the breathtaking views of the pristine and clean beaches of Boracay island.
Island has some interesting rules, such as; you can’t smoke in public spots, and there are designated areas for smoking. Smoking is one of my vices that I’m trying to let go of, and I open-heartedly accepted this rule.
Day 2 – Paddleboat, Relax and Breathe (November 27th)
Day two was another relaxing day, and being on an island at times doesn’t feel like I’m in rush to do anything.
The vibe of an island reminds you to enjoy, and grow at your own pace. After enjoying a relaxing spa, I hit the beach which was right in front of my Hotel and enjoyed swimming and paddle boating.
After enjoying the island, the next few days were all about adventures.
Day 3-5 – Boracay island
The next few days were all about the different adventures this island offers…
I did two fun Scuba dives, and one afternoon went for the island hop.
If you are in Boracay, you have to do an island hop to see all the hidden beauty these islands have to offer. The island hop could take 3-5 hours, and you have a chance to go on a public boat or book a private boat. No matter what, try to leave by 12-1 PM, as most of the island closes by 4.30 PM, and you may miss out on exploring some of the islands.
It was disheartening to see the dying coral life, but the best we could do is to acknowledge it and limit our carbon footprint and be mindful of our actions. Meanwhile, Apoorv left for Bangkok to attend Affiliate World – Bangkok, and my real solo trip started from here.
There is a very strange kinda excitement when you are on your own. I have always discovered myself more on a solo trip than traveling with someone.
When you are solo tripping, it is your 100% of time and decision on how you would like to spend time. You discover your fears, and your aspirations and the overall solo-tripping experience is just wow.
I decided to spend the last two days exploring another dive, and one day only for relaxation.
Earlier the plan was to shift to the “Shangri-La Boracay”, but it would have made the trip very different than what I wanted it to be. Moreover, I was itching to sit down with my diary and write some notes that would be my north star for life. More on it later…
I was lucky to learn a new meditation technique called “Mantra meditation” from a fellow traveler who has been practicing this for a while. This meditation technique is not new to a lot of Indians, but theory and practice are two different things.
Here are a few other places that you might want to add to your itinerary if you are visiting Boracay island –
- Mandala Spa and report – For a Luxury Spa experience
- Aria Cucina Italiana at D’mall – For Italian cusine
- Exit bar – High energy bar opens till 3 AM
It was the end of my Boracay island trip, and now it was time to move to the Palawan district.
Travelling from The Boracay Island to El-Nido Palawan –
I had two choices to pick from in Palawan – Coron island or El-Nido.
My style of traveling is slow pace, and I love to breathe, live and enjoy one place over visiting multiple places in a record time. I picked El-Nido island and planned my journey ahead.
For this, I had to take a flight from Caticlan to Manilla, and then from Manilla domestic airport (Terminal 4) to Lio airport ( ENI). A lot of tourists prefer to travel to Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS) and from there road trip to El Nido or Coron, which is about 4-5 hours.
Anyhoo, for the first day, I booked my stay at Karuna El Nido Villas , and it was an ok decision. The Villa was amazing, but it was away from the main town, and it was on the hill.
By now, I was sure of two things –
- Complete my advanced PADI certification
- Get a tattoo if I find anything meaningful
I had about 4 nights in El-Nido, and I wanted to dedicate this trip to scuba certification.
The first day went on to strolling through the streets of El-Nido town and figuring out the Scuba certification plan, and the next place to stay.
For the rest of the trip, I selected to stay at “S Resort El Nido“, which is actually a hotel. This one is right at the center of El-Nido town.
Before checking out from Karuna El Nido Villas, I spent time at their restaurant with this breathtaking view and started planning my 2023 and future years.
I was very happy with how the first 3-4 hours of my morning ❤️ Diary panned out for me.
I checked out from Karuna Villas and checked in at S-resort. Since the room was not ready, I took a tricycle ride to Vanilla beach.
Tip – Make sure you always have music downloaded on your Spotify or YouTube app. The internet in small islands is not always the best.
Later that night I also found a nice Indian restaurant in El-Nido town and fulfilled my craving for Indian food 🥗.
PADI Advanced Scuba certification – Palawan divers
I enrolled myself for PADI advanced scuba certification at Palawan divers. The cost for the same was 21000 PHP, and you can get a 5% discount if you pay in cash. If you pay via card, there is a markup of 2.5-3% which will be charged by the payment processor. You can also PayPal the money if needed.
Tip – Paying in cash is much cheaper in the Islands of the Philippines, as the processing fees for cards are too high. You can carry up to 50,000 PHP when visiting from your country, or you can always use an ATM to withdraw the funds.
Before reaching El-Nido, I researched some of the best dive institutes in El-Nido, and Palawan divers were highly recommended. I booked my Advanced PADI diver certification via them, and when I look back I was not disappointed.
There as three compulsory dives and 2 adventure dives to pick from multiple options –
- Deep dive – Compulsory
- Navigation dive – Compulsory
- Peak Performance Buoyancy
- Digital Imaging
- Night dive
Since they don’t have a night dive option, we opted for Tunnel diving at Helicopter island, and it turned out to be one of the best dives of my 6 years of career as a diver.
Note – If you opt for any of the PADI certifications, be ready to spend 3-7 hours reading theory before the dives. So plan your trip accordingly.
Every day we took 3 dives, and I could feel more confident and controlled after every dive. My instructor’s name was “Jok Casumpang” he is a local and he was really fun to dive with. Our group consisted of 3 students + one instructor, and it was such a delightful moment when we completed the certification on the 2nd day.
It was my last night in El-Nido, and I was tired. But the joy of Advanced scuba dive certification was pushing me to do more, and I took a leap of faith and went to get myself Inked.
Tattoo – Steampunk diver / Astronaut in the ocean
This is a long pending for me, and I had a meaningful tattoo in my mind after my first few dives.`
I picked “Steampunk diver” which looked like “Astronaut in the ocean”, and seemed apt for my next tattoo. I commissioned a talented local artist named @Joshua for this tattoo, and after spending 5 hours, we were able to complete the inking process.
Watch the below reel to see the entire process…
And it’s a wrap…
Well with this my trip came to an end, and my heart and soul were enriched again with life because of this unplanned and natural beauty of the Philippines islands.
Some places to add when you visit El-Nido –
- SAVA beach bar – Nice beach bar. You should aim to go here not before 10 PM
- Pangolin – A local bar
- Vanilla beach – To relax. Be mindful of the rocky shore.
- Ashoka restaurant – An authentic Indian cuisine
- Cafe Athena – Try the Chicken roll here, and enjoy the breathtaking view.
The hospitality of Filipino people was second to none, and they will continue to amaze you with smiles and the little things they do for you.
Some travel tips for the Philippines –
- In the small islands of the Philippines, cash is the king. Make sure you have enough to pay for your entire trip. I reached home with only 100 PHP left and had to be very mindful of my expenditure in the last 2 days.
- You should find hotels via Booking.com or Agoda, but make bookings directly. You will save a ton of money in this process.
- Better to stay in the middle of town, where the beach and all the restaurants/shops/bars are. However, you might be disturbed by the loud music from the neighboring bar. So plan accordingly.
- “Same vibes attract the same tribe” – When you are on the islands of the Philippines, start every day with a fresh mind.
- There are a lot of ladyboys and transgender around, and they are all good people. But often your friendly smile may lead to a stalker following you 😄🤦🏻♂️
- You are better off planning some part of your trip in advance. Especially how would you travel from one island to another? Also, a rough list of things you wish to see/experience. Anyways, local people are friendly and they will guide you.
- Feel free to negotiate hard, as you could save 10-35% of your money doing this.
- Be respectful of local and fellow travelers.
- You should not solely rely on the wi-fi offered by the resort/hotel, or hostel where you plan to stay. You are better off taking a Simcard with data at the Manilla airport.
Gratitude to the amazing people (Jess, Jok, Cha, Joseph, Noeme) whom I met on this trip, who spread love, and happiness, and shared a piece of wisdom that I will remember throughout my life.
Until next time!