Itinerary 1. 07 August 2013 - BUD-IST Y 2. 08 August 2013 - IST-HKG W 3. 10 August 2013 – HKG-CEB Y- 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Having flown 2 segments overnight we were certainly happy to have a couple nights to rest in Hong-Kong before our journey took us to a completely different world. After the hustle and bustle of Hong-Kong, its busy streets, amazing restaurants, lush scenery sights and scorching heat; it was time for us to make our way to… The Philippines! Why there you may ask? Well that’s simply because…
Or at least that is what the government of the Philippines has been trying to advertise. The decision for us to go to the Philippines was the result of months of research and looking for the best value/quality ratio knowing that we would be embarking on a trip leading us to a third world country, something completely new for us.
For those who like tourism, I’ve included some photos at the end of this report as well as a video, for the others, luckily for you the bonus is at the end so you can go ahead and skip that :)
The Philippines is no small place, 7,107 islands, definitely not the easiest task to pick where to go for vacation. Thankfully with the help of travel sites such as Trip Advisor or other blogs, we decided we would spend some time in the Eastern Visayas around the Cebu area. I wanted to avoid Manila altogether because of its poor reputation and also because we were not planning on lingering in the city so I figured that transiting through a smaller city would make things easier altogether. So Cebu it was and what more natural way to fly to Cebu but with Cebu Pacific! Yes I’d heard some horror stories about them but I was willing to take the risk considering they were extremely competitive and the flight times were convenient for us. This should be noted that 5J loves to change schedules around. When I first looked at their flights, the HKG-CEB flight left HKG at 12:40 AM arriving in Cebu at 3:15 AM! Thankfully when I decided to book with them, their schedule became more acceptable. A lot of their international flights depart and arrive at crazy hours; I am assuming this has to do with landing fees being cheaper then.
If I had to describe my experience in the Philippines, I would say that the country runs on a very chaotic organization. Travel inland is definitely far from being seamless, but somehow, you manage, I’ll explain more below within the bonus section.
After 2 very comfortable nights at the JJ hotel which if I’m honest we were slightly reluctant to leave as we knew we were about to depart for a very chaotic day, we woke up around 6 AM as our flight was departing at 09:40. We decide to take the bus E11 once again as the stop was close to the hotel and it simply is the cheapest way to get to the airport even if it is longer, this time it took us 1 hour 10 mins as there was not much traffic.
Not the best hotel view but still very central
Waiting for the bus on an early Saturday morning
Some views from the upper deck bus entering the underground tunnel connecting Hong Kong Island to the Kowloon Peninsula
I guess a lot of goods are made nearby^^
The other advantage of taking the bus is the very nice scenery along the way which you can’t enjoy as much on the airport express
I would've loved to have been able to go up these cable cars, there must be so much to do around HK in terms of hiking and sports
We arrived at the airport exactly 2 hours before our flight, plenty of time to check in which was effortless. Immigration and security took a fair bit of time as alot of flights were departing early morning, primarily around Asia (It's a broad area I know :-D)
After clearing security we had about 1 hour and 15 minutes before the flight was to leave. I had access to the Travellers lounge with my Diners card and since we didn't have breakfast I went in to grab some water and other things. The lounge in itself was welcoming and comfortable but the food offering was quite disappointing, all they had was bread, abit of cereal, some juice and some Chinese option as well as some yogurt, no pastries nor anything hot to munch on, I was disappointed but then again this is no Star Alliance lounge so it was to be expected. Nevertheless I was able to get a few things while my wife was waiting outside :) (Only 1 entry per card…)
We then took a bus to the Low cost Terminal and caught a few CX birds on the way such as this 777-300
Plenty more to be found there!
ANA 76W chilling with the competition
We had to wait quite a while on the tarmac for this plane to park as well as for others to push back which drew me nervous as we were approaching the boarding cutoff time of 45 minutes prior to departure…
Pretty sure we'll be seeing you again soon buddy!
Finally we made it to our plane, Welcome to this inaugural Cebu Pacific flight on flight-report! I really like the colors of Cebu Pacific, it's a very nice livery and a welcome change from PAL's boring white livery.
I had preselected row 1 at a surcharge of PHP260 (around 4.5 euros), it turned out to be worth it but I will say that the Emergency Exit rowns offer more comfort in my opinion (more on that in an upcoming report)
Engine 1 (or 2??)
We were waiting for a few late arriving passengers who were about to get their bags pulled from the plane utnil they showed up running like crazy down the jetbridge (I would've been too had I been them)
Push back 25 minutes late
Shenzhen airlines A320 (Do they actually fly to Shenzhen from here??)
Eva Air 747
Eva Air 747, Air France 777 and CX 77W
Hong Kong Airlines A332
UA 747 and some more CX + Dragonair
Lots of queing up for the active this morning, Dragonair A320
Uknown bird if anyone wants to help
A blank tail on this Thai 747!
More Dragonair ( I love the design of this airport, it's really modern and spacious and spotter friendly!)
A beautiful CX A333 ( love the A330!)
And another one
Dragonair A330, who will get to the active first?
We did! :-D
And we are cleared for takeoff!! Video below:
And we are airborne. Not much to see over Hong Kong as it has been quite cloudy. But upon leaving the peninsula, the clouds quickly cleared up and beautiful waters below greeted us as we flew south.
Cebu Pacific is what I would call one of the better low cost carriers. For starters their flight attendants are usually very good looking :-D And they are quite pleasant! Their prices are not too expensive, PHP 50 for a bottle of water (about 90 euro cents), PHP 350 for a hot meal (about 6 euros), we didn't order anything on this flight however.
Land! Hoping Saraoutou can name this airport :)
Every flight on board 5J the Flight Attendants engage in a fun little game which is pretty cool I find, it's a way for them to advertise their duty free shop and following the game they pass down with the trolley in case people want to buy some items. It was original I thought and well done.
Looks like some tropical waters down there with warm beaches ahead!
We felt pretty tired after waking up at 6 AM, these sights made us abit more giddy :)
After about 1 hour and 50 minutes we started our decent
The island you see in the background is the island of Malapascua which we will be visiting 5 days from this flight. It is a very popular island mainly for diving to see the Tresher sharks, which are characterized with having a very long tail, beautiful animals, unfortunately I didn't get to go because it seems you need a diving permit to see sharks :-D
Not sure what this island was but it wasn't very far from our final destination for today.
Interesting cloud formation
Getting closer, it is amazing how blue and clean the water looks!
Final approach and touch down
The pavement in Cebu seemed not as well kept as in other airports, if you watched the video you might be able to hear some loud thumping noises upon touch down :) Thankfully though the plane seemed used to this terrain and it was actually kind of fun!
Terminal in sight!
Zest Air and PAL
Deplaning with a last view of our bird
Mactan airport is not the most spotter friendly airport, I was sad not to get a better shot of our plane. Immigration was swift and so was bag delivery, overall a rather efficient airport albeit small (only 3 jet-bridges).
Once you collect your bags, well, it's pretty much into the wild from here so if you're interested, read on, otherwise this marks the end of this flight report. Thank you for reading!
As you leave the arrivals hall there are police officers who will ask you where you are going. then they will go talk to the taxi cabs and negotiate a price for you. Taxis are obliged to use the meter in the Philippines but it is not always followed and also some drivers have attached a device next to the gas pedal which increases the meter artificially. I also had heard some stories (more in the Manila area) of taxis running off as soon as you close the trunk with your belongings. So I was indeed very cautious.
We were set to go to Bantayan island for the first 5 days of our trip to the Philippines. Bantayan Island is a very nice island off the northern tip of Cebu. To get there you can either take a bus for 4 hours and then a ferry, or hire a taxi. Since the last ferry departs Hagnaya port at 4:30 PM we decided to hire a taxi and we negotiated a price of PHP 2,500 (about 43 euros) for the 135 km journey.
Before setting off the driver took us to a place where we could safely exchange our money (again lots of fraud there, from fake bills to money traps below the counter etc). I got a rate of PHP 56 for 1 euros which was acceptable. We also got some lunch, a Mexican burrito for PHP 50 :)
Then off we went onto the main road to the northern part of Cebu. The journey took about .5 hours. There are no freeways on Cebu island, just a main road with LOTS of pedestrian crossways and other crossings, so the trip took a long time. The cultural shock started to set in.
Probably the most popular sight of the Philippines, tricycles and trikes
Cebu island coastline
The country side
After 2.5 hours we reach the port of Hagnaya and from there we have to take a boat to Santa Fe, the main town of Bantayan Island. the journey will take about 1 hour and 30 mins. Remember, we've been up since 6 AM and it is now about 5PM.
Menacing skies make for nice colors
The sun is going down
You can't really see it here but a good 20 people were waiting for us on the shore. Once you arrive anywhere in the Philippines you will be swarmed by porters trying to take your bags (for a fee of course) and asking you where you are going and wanting to take you to the resort where they get the best commission. Remember when I talked about organized chaos? Well this is a perfect example. It's not very difficult to say no to them but they are very friendly and they insist. So for some it can be quite annoying.
And here we are, after 12 hours of traveling, we made it to Bantayan Island, in the absolute middle of nowhere, 5 to 7 hours away from the closest international airport, and we could not be happier. We stayed at a lovely resort made of recycled container vans which was quite interesting, here are some views below.
the Misses below ready to enjoy the beach
The next day we made a trip to what they call the Virgin Island, a very small island with a beautiful beach where you can go snorkeling and drink from a coconut :) To get there you just hire a pump boat, also known as a bangka in the Philippines, they are quite nice boats if I may say, albeit quite loud when at full power.
Being that it is August, the weather isn't as nice as if you went in February for example. But that was fine with me as I don't like the sun since I am very white and burn easily. Also it is already so hot and humid without the sun!
Some views of the island
who wants to jump in?
Back at our resort
In the evening we went to Santa Fe (about a 20 min walk), during the walk you will be asked about 25 times if you need a ride on a tricycle, at the time we were there there was a festival going on, lots of kids on the streets dancing and street food.
The Philippines is a fascinating place. In such remote areas of the world, you are reminded of how poor some people are, yet alot of them don't seem unhappy, and, if I daresay some seem happier than alot of us Westerners, not being stricken by the gripes of materialism and the likes, just enjoying the simple things in life, like a beautiful beach and great weather!
Where we had dinner
The beach at our resort
More views from Santa Fe
Geckos are everywhere here
After 5 days on Bantayan Island we hired another bangka to take us to Malapascua, about 2.5 hours by boat. Our other alternative would've been to go back to Hagnaya port, then take a bus to another port (Maya) and then take another ferry to Malapascua. It would've been cheaper but this way was definitely faster.
Island number 2: Malapascua.
We got beautiful sunsets on this island
For the fans of this game ;)
An unexpected aquaintance
the waters were not so calm the next day, quite the opposite.
View from our room
Did you know there was such beauty in the Philippines? I did not. Actually I had a pretty poor image of this country before I actually went there. I highly recommend it especially since it's so incredibly cheap to stay and eat there.
I miss these sunsets…
The main strip at night
And then it was time to leave
A church in town
Ferry back to Maya port: Again here the price is PHP 80, but only if the boat is full! Since it wasn't the boat man refused to leave unless we each paid PHP 200. and to get on this boat we had to take a VERY small boat amidst the very unsettling waters with all our luggage, we nearly tipped over, definitely an experience (we had to pay for the small boat too, PHP 20 per person)
Once back on the mainland some guys tried to lie to us and tell us there were no more buses so we would take their super expensive taxis for PHP 2,000. The taxis are cheaper going back down since they are guaranteed to find customers back in Cebu whereas here, not so much! But we were in no hurry so we just boarded an aircon bus for PHP 170 per person, yes the trip took 5 hours but we saved money and we weren't leaving Cebu until tomorrow morning anyways.
Lots of stalls to buy cheap snacks before departure
Here is a video I made of this first part of our trip in the Philippines:
Back in Cebu, these trucks are called Jeepeys, they are the local public transport system in Cebu, they are pretty cool looking and each one has a different design.
View from our hotel
On that evening we met some friends at the Ayala shopping center, a beautiful and very big mall downtown Cebu contrasting very much with the poverty surrounding the city. It's a very nice (and safe place to hang out while in Cebu)
More public transport Jeepeys
And this concludes Part 3 of this honeymoon itinerary! If you made it this far, congratulations :)
Teasing for Part 4
Independent The Traveler`s Lounge
Hong Kong - HKG
Cebu - CEB
Cebu Pacific: - I wasn't expecting much by flying with them and I got what I expected, not much! In fact alittle bit more since the crew was quite friendly. It is actually quite interesting how well they speak English. If you did not get the Tagalog bit afterwards, you could totally imagine being on a US carrier, that's how well they speak English! - Comfort: Row 1 is obviously better than other rows so we had some room plus 3 seats to ourselves as the plane was far from full, maybe 70% full. - Catering: Though we didn't have anything I give some marks for the reasonable prices - IFE: No airshow nor movies but the crew made a good effort in entertaining the guests with their games and this was well received, bonus points for this. - On time performance: We arrived at the gate 25 minutes after our scheduled time of arrival. It's hard to decide whether to fault the airline for this based on the fact that the only reason we departed late was because we waited for connecting passengers. So part of me wants to credit Cebu Pacific for being inclined to doing this, thinking to myself that I would've loved this gesture had I been the late connecting passenger. So I'll jet take away 1.5 points.
Travelers lounge: Comfortable lounge bu very disappointing food offering. Also the lounge was rather dark and poorly lit (which could be a good thing if it is 6 AM and people are trying to sleep :) )
HKG airport: No further comments here, the airport is nearly perfect in every way, clean, efficient, spacious, modern.
CEB airport: for a small regional airport, it wasn't bad, I appreciated the fact that there were police officers on duty ensuring tourists wouldn't get ripped off by taxi drivers (though from what I hear, Cebu is far safer than Manila in terms of taxis)
Thanks again for reading!
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