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Philippines Travel Guide

flights to Philippines

The Philippines is about as un-Asian as an Asian country can get. A fusion of Indonesian and Malaysian cultures with a heavy dose of Spanish and Chinese, topped up with Japanese and garnished with a sprig of American and there you have it - the definitive proverbial point at which east meets west. The stew pot has since been enriched by the influx of tourists from various European countries producing a truly cosmopolitan facade to an essentially unsophisticated country. Made up of around 7,000 islands, the Philippine Archipelago is split into 3 main regions - Visayas in the middle and Mindanao to the south. A land of wonderful landscapes - rainforests, lakes, volcanoes, verdant plains, white sand beaches and coral islands - much of it is archetypal paradise. Settlements vary immensely from small isolated communities to sprawling metropolises, from idyllic beach resorts to Spanish colonial port towns. Whatever you choose to see, you will be in for a rich and immensely fulfilling treat.

The capital, Manila, is as different to the delicate white flower after which it was named as you can get. A sprawling metropolis, covering nearly 250,000sq miles and home to approximately 10 million people, it is almost the antithesis of the rest of this laid back, often breathtakingly beautiful country. If the Philippines are where east meets west, then Manila is also where old meets new. The city is a virtually unfathomable jigsaw of Spanish colonial architecture, dragon temples, vast basilicas, mosques, ancient, ruined fortresses, steel and glass skyscrapers, slums, plazas, wide boulevards, traffic jams, bustling market places, myriad cafes and pubs, streetwalkers, peddlers, horse and carriages, makeshift taxis, wonderful parks, rivers, beaches and ten million people from all walks of life and virtually every nationality. Southeast Asia's second largest city is not for the faint-hearted, it's relentless bustle and notorious nightlife are both enthralling and draining.

Away from the 24 seven party of Manila, things slow down dramatically with probably the most famous holiday destination being Boracay, the island paradise that has become a Mecca for sun worshippers the world over. It's white sandy beaches and warm blue waters are complimented perfectly by a way of life and attitude that make the phrase 'totally laid back' seem like an understatement. Most Filipinos, however, prefer to holiday in the upland area of Baguio. At over 4,500 feet above sea level it is considerably cooler than the lowlands, making it a pleasant escape from the relentless heat of the Philippine summer. Picturesque to a fault, the spectacular setting makes it one of the country's most fascinating destinations and it is very handy for tourists wishing to visit the Ifugao Rice Terraces at nearby Banaue. Even more eye-popping is Lake Taal . Situated in a volcanic crater with a group of islands in the centre, it is a favourite spot for watersports, sailing, trekking, picnicking and horseback riding.

Bohol is also a popular resort, with white sandy beaches backed by rolling hills and virgin forest. The main attraction is it's proximity to the famous Chocolate Hills - hundreds of huge limestone domes that turn brown when the sun dries and burns the grass that covers them. Most of the scuba dives throughout the Philippines are good but some of the most interesting can be found at Batangas, where the coral reefs are almost legendary and the colours simply stunning, and the Pearl Farm resort where you can dive a Japanese wreck and may well come across giant Taclobo clams.

The Philippines have yet to be over-run by tourists, with many of the remoter islands still virtually untouched by visitors. The people are friendly, polite and hospitable and the prices are distinctly wallet friendly. Weather-wise you'd be hard pushed to find anywhere more pleasant and the beaches are amongst the very best in the world. Certain places may be a little rough and ready but I guess that's the price you pay to stay in paradise and so many parts of the Philippines really are just that.

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