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We love the Philippines!!
We are already talking about what we will do when we come back – not just next time we come back, but the time after that as well!! There is so much more we would love to do in this country.
There is so much to love about this place – it’s beautiful, it’s very cheap, it’s easy to get around,the people are lovely, it feels adventurous without losing modern comforts, it’s easy to feel like you are off the beaten path. And that’s not even mentioning the many awesome beaches or the yummy seafood. Or the fact that so many people speak english. We love it here.
Our favourite place would be tricky, but I guess I would have to say Boracay. It was just so nice and easy, but if you come here, please try to go elsewhere as well or at least leave White Beach, as White Beach is very different to everywhere else we have been.
We liked everywhere we went, except Manila, for different reasons and recommend them all. Boracay is great for a relaxing beach break, especially if you prefer your beach breaks to come with all the comforts of home. Roxas was a beach break in a more Filipino style and with gorgeous seafood. Our quick stop at Sampaguita was a bit of fun if you like something different. Iloilo was just a nice and easy way to see more of the Philippines and what life is like in a medium size city.
Manila was not our cup of tea, but not somewhere to be overly paranoid about either. It can be hard to come to this country without at least transiting here, so take the opportunity to explore a little.
Our biggest gripe here would be the ATM charges. It costs 200 pesos (about $5) to withdraw cash and you generally can’t withdraw more than 10000 pesos (about $250) at once. Some ATMs are only 5000 pesos. For this reason, we used our credit card where we could instead of cash. We actually got a better rate on the aussie dollars we exchanged than money withdrawn from our card, after you took into account the 200 peso fee. I will bring aussie dollars to exchange and use my card as little as possible when we return.
Things are really very cheap. It is easy to eat for a couple of dollars including drinks outside resort areas. Beers are less than a $1. Clothes washing is about $1 a kilo. A bus for a few hours is a few dollars. The kids are generally free for everything. We really have not thought about money at all and are going a fair bit under budget of our $150 a day (except in Boracay, where our accommodation was $140 a night).
English is widely spoken in the Philippines. I only saw english street signs. Many advertisements are in english. Tv shows we saw were at least partly in english. Even signs in parks about picking up rubbish were in english!! People tend to speak at least some, and many people speak a lot, especially kids. Some families seemed to speak english amongst themselves. This made things very easy. There was also a fair amount of spanish about the place and mixed in with the language, which we enjoyed.
I had worried how travelling here in Holy Week (a massive deal in the Philippines) might affect us as our guidebook had this listed as the one very bad time to come here!! However, it wasn’t a problem at all. There seemed to be no difference in anything until the Thursday, and that was just like what I imagine any public holiday would be like. Good Friday saw many more things shut down, but we haven’t been left starving or anything. We didn’t have problems booking accommodation for this period, although we did book about a month ahead.
Things are going very very well!
A few days into our stay in the Philippines (so about 2.5 weeks in to travel), I would say that we all hit our travel stride. S has stopped talking about home (although she still talks about her best friends and pretends that she is playing with them!). They have both stopped being as whingey and tantrum throwing and are generally both a joy to travel with. J and I seem to have negotiated our new roles as travelling full time parents. Things are going smoothly.
Z loves all the attention that he gets and has started actively seeking it out, smiling at everyone pretty much all the time. His eating skills have improved, so thankfully now he will eat off a plate without hurtling it across the room, so no more eating off tables. He is sleeping better than ever. He had only slept through once ever before this trip – he has done it a few times in the Philippines!! He is a happy content little boy. It was a great place to spend his first birthday.
S doesn’t love the attention as much and her red hair and green eyes are certainly giving her a lot of it. She usually ignores people or just grips onto me, although she will eventually warm up to people if they are persistent. I have found that barely having any toys has been a great thing. Her imagination is blooming and she makes games out of everything. She is doing much better with walking everywhere (instead of wanting to get straight in the pram every time we leave somewhere like in Thailand).
The kids are playing so much together. It is really beautiful to watch. Z can seemingly chase after S all day. It is better to try and keep them apart on transport though. They always have to be touching each other and this always leads to someone being hurt (accidentally, but not worth the screaming!).
I have loved travelling overland with the kids. It has not been nearly as hard as we feared. They have both adapted really well, and behave well at the times that really matter (like when we are sorting out which bus/taxi/boat etc to take). I have no problems taking care of both kids myself, freeing J up to manage our luggage and people. There are always porters around to help.
I am actually enjoying travelling with kids, more than I did without kids! One of my favourite parts about travel was the satisfaction and confidence that came with getting around and working everything out myself. Travelling with kids, makes this satisfaction even greater. It is awesome to experience things through their eyes and to get all this family time together. We also have far more interaction with locals this way, and it’s great how much everyone warms up to our kids. There is no pressure to go to any tourist attractions like museums, that you may not really be interested in, but feel you must go. The only must see attractions are fun ones – like swimming pools and kiddy theme parks!
We are having a great time and, if it wasn’t for my school placement in late April, we would be considering extending the trip.
You can read more about our thoughts on family travel in the Philippines.