Whenever I talk to someone who has visited Asia or wants to visit Asia, I often hear the same countries come up in conversation: Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and so on. And while I have either visited or want to visit all of these countries and see no problem with them being mentioned, there's one place that isn't often at the top of the list but absolutely should be — the Philippines.
Made up of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is a country that, since I've been, I can't stop telling people to visit. Part of me almost doesn't want to say anything because I selfishly don't want the Philippines to become bombarded by the masses, but a larger part of me is asking the question, "Why aren't people talking about the Philippines as much as these other countries?"
And so, here I am, attempting to spread the word far and wide about a place that is very much worth seeing. Here are 10 fantastic reasons to visit the Philippines:
1. The Food
I deliberately put food at the top of this list for a reason — the food in the Philippines is great! It's fresh, flavorful and, like the rest of the country, underrated. Filipino food consists of popular dishes like adobo, lumpia, pancit, lechón and much more. There are also many well known and lesser known fruits that make up Filipino cuisine. During my time in the Philippines, I was consistently blown away by how much flavor everything has, from my chicken joy at Jollibee to the garlic rice in my Filipino breakfast. And if Filipino food isn't your thing, there are tons of other cuisines available. I even saw a Jamaican food stand at a mall in Manila!
2. The Beaches
You can't talk about the Philippines without talking about its beaches. Why? Because the beaches are spectacular. Not good or great, but spectacular. Soft white sand and stunningly blue water make you feel as though what you're seeing isn't actually real and you're in some hybrid of The Beach/Survivor/The Bachelor. Fortunately, the beaches are real and have to be seen in person to be truly appreciated.
3. The Natural Beauty
What is so unique about the Philippines is that it's not just about its beautiful beaches. There is so much other natural beauty that exists, like the lagoons tucked away in between impressively rocky islands, the beautiful coral and fish that swim in crystal clear water and the plant life that grows in the most unexpected places. Palawan, one of the most beloved places in the Philippines and a true slice of paradise, is a prime example of natural beauty at its best.
4. The People
There is much to be said about the people of the Philippines — their warmth, hospitality and accepting nature. Throughout my time there, I continuously met people who were a joy to be around and often times, that joy was contagious. I admit, I never know what to expect when traveling to a place where I know I will stand out like a unicorn, but I only felt welcomed in the Philippines. It didn't hurt that my first encounter was a conversation with my taxi driver while he listened to Hotline Bling.
5. The History
I didn't know much about the history of the Philippines prior to arriving there, mostly that it is a predominantly Catholic country — which is rare in that part of the world — and that it was colonized by the Spanish. I learned so much more after my visit to the Ayala Museum and after taking a tour around Manila and its oldest district, Intramuros. It's a really fascinating history that explains the unique present day life of the country. Anyone who visits Manila should take the time to visit these places and learn about the country's past.
6. The Culture
Separate but of course related to its history, the culture of the Philippines is really interesting. When you look at the language, religion, traditions, clothing, cuisine and everything else that make up Filipino culture, you can't help but be intrigued by how it all comes together to be distinctly Filipino. I had that thought while attending a Catholic service on Christmas Day in Palawan, Philippines. Those who have attended a Catholic service before know that the structure is typically the same no matter where you are in the world, but it was particularly fascinating to attend a service in Tagalog. It's one of those aspects of Filipino culture you can't experience elsewhere.
7. The Fun
If you're someone who is all about the parties, then head to the Philippines. Yes, Thailand has its full moon parties but the Philippines definitely holds its own in the fun department, both during the day and at night. For example, in Boracay, daytime fun includes everything from island hopping to windsurfing to snorkeling, while nighttime fun runs the gamut from club hopping to hanging out at jam-packed bars to watching lively performances on the beach.
8. The Shopping
You may not have put the Philippines and shopping in the same sentence before, but one visit to a mall in Manila will have you changing that very quickly. The malls in Manila are not just big, they are massive. Like, this-mall-feels-never-ending massive. And, they are full of so many great stores. When I was there, I discovered stores I had never heard of that were full of unique and fashionable clothing, stores that can be found everywhere in America (I bypassed those) and several of my UK favorites that I don't get to frequent nearly as often as I'd like (hey, Marks and Spencer!). So basically, Manila makes for a happy shopper.
9. The Relaxation
If you're not interested in shopping or island hopping or anything else I've mentioned so far, and you just want to do nothing and relax, then you should still visit the Philippines. It's a choose-your-own-adventure kind of place, and if your idea of adventure is you laying on a lounge chair with a cocktail while you lose track of time, you'll be able to do just that on one of the 7,000+ islands that make up the country. The Philippines also has amazing spa services for those looking to be pampered for a day (or two or three).
10. The Affordability
Last but definitely not least, the Philippines is a great place for the budget-conscious traveler. While airfare may vary depending on your point of departure (or you can use miles *hint hint*), once you're in the Philippines, you can find a wide range of accommodations, restaurants and activities that appeal to both the backpacker and the big spender. Or you can mix and match and splurge selectively. It's all up to you and your budget.
As the country's slogan says, "It's More Fun in the Philippines." I would agree and say it's definitely fun, but more than that, it's an all-around great place to visit for anyone looking to travel to that part of the world.
So, the next time you're thinking of going to Asia, make sure the Philippines is at the top of your list.
Have you ever been to the Philippines? If so, what was your experience like?