After I had my final exams in NUS, I travelled for about a month in the period of May-June as my “graduation trip”. I visited the Philippines for 10 days and then Japan for 16 days. Both countries are charming in their own ways and I would love to re-visit them again. There are so many beautiful places that I have not seen yet! What I truly enjoy about my travels is how I took my time to enjoy the different places instead of dashing from one tourist spot to another. I am probably getting old I guess but I really don’t see the point of seeing the place without experiencing it.
I visited the Philippines with 5 other Singaporean friends from the university. Together, we went to Cebu, Coron and Bohol and we began our adventure in Coron. Coron is the largest town on the Busuanga Island and Busuanga Island is the largest island of the Calamian archipelago in the northern part of Palawan. Palawan is said to be the last ecological frontier of the Philippines and there is a great variety of nature in this archipelago including wreck-diving sites (Coron), longest underground river (Puerto Princesa) and beautiful beaches. Even though Coron is the “largest town” on the Busuanga Island, it is actually very small and much of it was damaged by Typhoon Haiyan last year. Coron’s main economic pillars are fishing and tourism. Coron is famous for its wreck-diving and snorkeling sites, beautiful beaches and a safari park. Even so, Coron is not your typical touristic honeymoon island. I think Coron is a great place to go to if you are young and you enjoy water activities and that you don’t mind the poorer sanitation, walkways and the heat. In my opinion, Coron is not quite ready yet to receive a heavy influx of tourists. The Busuanga Airport, for example, really has the bare minimum of what an airport needs. It does not even have the X-ray machines to check the bags; the staff checked our bags manually with a torchlight. There are no traffic lights on the roads too.
It is impossible to fly directly from Singapore to Coron so for us, we flew from Singapore to Cebu and took a domestic flight from Cebu to Busuanga Airport on the following day. We took up a tour package in Coron (SGD$376 per pax) which included a 3 and a half day tour and 4 nights stay at Asia Grand View Hotel. I think the price is reasonable considering the fact that Asia Grand View Hotel is a fairly luxurious hotel. The view from the dining area is simply majestic especially in the evenings when the sun sets.
On the first day when we reached Coron, we climbed Mt Tapyas which was located near the city center. It was higher than I had expected but we had a good view of the city and the surroundings at the top. There were numerous trees, which were uprooted by the typhoon last year, lying on the slopes of the mountain. Our guide said that the stairs which we used to access Mt Tapyas were built by the government for the tourists. Surprisingly, we did not need to pay admission fees to go up the mountain.
After climbing the mountain, we made our way to Maquinit Hot Spring (entrance fee = 150 pesos) located in the midst of mangroves. The water is not too hot by Japanese onsen standards so we spent quite a bit of time lazing there. At the back of the hot spring, we saw a really nice view and watched how locals waded in shallow waters and picked crabs with their bare hands.