• Travel Stories
  • Balabac: the Unspoiled Beauty of Palawan

    Staying in my home country for vacation, wouldn’t be complete without doing a local travel destination. I used to go on my own, with family or friends but this time with a twist. I decided to join an organized tour as recommended to me by my friend and the trip was in Balabac, Palawan. Honestly, I wasn’t familiar with the place. All I know is the famous spot like El Nido and Coron but never heard of Balabac Islands from before. But when I saw all the pictures online, I was awed. Without a second thought, I joined the group. At the time I was checking Balabac Palawan, there was only a few available information on the Internet, so I took the opportunity to join a group to save money, time and for safety reason.

    Balabac is a second class municipality in the province of Palawan. It is a group of islands located at the southernmost tip of Palawan. It is 50 kilometers north from Sabah, Malaysia across the Balabac Strait and lies in the Sulu Sea.

     

    Getting to Balabac, Palawan

    I left Manila to Puerto Princesa via Cebu Pacific early in the morning and met my travel group for the first time at Puerto Princesa airport. I was happy to know we were 12 in the group plus the trip leader. Before heading to Rio Tuba which is the gateway to Balabac, we had our lunch in the city and bought additional food for the journey. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the full travel were provided in the package. From Puerto Princesa City to Rio Tuba was about 6-7 hours by van. There is a rough road on the way, but if you are used to long travels by land, then it is okay. If you wish to do it by yourself, Rio Tuba can be reached by jeepney, bus or shuttle van which departs daily from the city. We stayed overnight in Rio Tuba,  Bataraza before starting our trip to Balabac.

     

    JJAS Pension House, the place where we stayed overnight in Rio Tuba

     

    The group prepping for our trip

     

    We left early in Rio Tuba and traveled roughly 1.5 hrs to Bangkalan port. Balabac Palawan has 36 islands and sandbars, and the main transportation is by boat. There is no public boat that goes from one island to another as most of the locals have their own boat. A 3-hour boat ride takes a traveler to the main island of Balabac from the port. To save time, we started our island hopping right away!

     

    Bangkalan Port

     

    No fancy port to Balabac

     

    We are so ready for the adventure.

     

    Mangroves near the port

     

    I was mesmerized by the beauty of each island we have visited.  Each is having their own characteristics. If you want to be with the harmony of nature, Balabac Palawan is the best place to be.  

    Here are some of the islands and sandbars we visited:

    Patawan

    Photo Credit: Yob Red
    Clear water and white sand

     

    Look, I got my huge swimming pool!

     

    The Pink Island

    Isn’t it calm and relaxing?

     

    You can always have your alone time.

     

    Or a perfect getaway with friends.

     

    Grainy pinkish sand

     

    Blue sky, clear water, and sunbathing

     

    Candaraman

    Photo Credit: Yob Red

    Photo Credit: Yob Red

     

     

     

    We slept on the hammock for our overnight stay.

     

    Angelica’s Sandbar / Anjela Sandbar

    Photo Credit: Yob Red

     

    Lots of sun basking.

     

    The boatmen chilling!
    Blending colors of the sky and the water. Such a stunning view!

     

    The water is so clear. I have been to many beaches in the Philippines and out of the country, but this place is truly breathtaking! I cannot count how many times I said the word ‘WOW” in a day!

     

     

    Punta Sebaring

    Photo Credit: Yob Red
    The finest white sand I have ever seen!
    The first time I saw a stingray!

     

    Punta Sebaring in Bugsuk Island is one of my favorite islands in Balabac. With its long stretches, powdery white sand it is just irresistible. We were lucky we were able to visit the island as it is already privately owned by one politician and it will be closed to the public soon. To when I am not sure.

    The most sought island is Onuk, a private island owned by the Mayor of Balabac. Due to some misunderstandings to our operator, we weren’t able to visit the island. But even we end up not checking Onuk; I swear all other islands are worth to visit.

    In mainland Balabac, we stayed in Sing and Swing Lodging House. There is no high-end resort available if you are looking for one. But the room is spacious and clean. We stayed in an air conditioned room, but there are also non-aircon room if you are on a tight budget.

     

    Main town of Balabac

     

    The place where we stayed

     

    People are friendly. You can walk around. Habalhabal or tricycles are the main means of transportation within the island. Malaysian products are widely available due to its proximity to Sabah.

    Different kind of tricycle. I find it adorable.

     

    I can’t get enough of him.. so cute!

    There are many beautiful places to visit in Palawan. Balabac is my first place to visit in Palawan, and until now I cannot believe I reached the most remote, isolated and one of those untouched islands in the Philippines. The whole trip was five days; two days was spend for island hopping than the rest for the transfers. The whole trip was short but was so worth it. Now I can say Balabac is enchanting more than the photos I have seen online. It was such a perfect getaway! 

    Our trip leader managed the whole trip so well. We had so much laughed and fun conservations all throughout the trip. Balabac even relatively unknown is truly magnificent and hidden gem of Palawan.

     

    Total Expenses: 12,700 PHP/ 255 USD/ 98 OMR

    9,500 PHP /190 USD/ 73 OMR – Accommodation, rental of private boats , land transfers and food

    3,200 PHP/ 64 USD/ 25 OMR  – Roundtrip airfare Manila- Puerto Princesa + terminal fee in Puerto Princesa

     

    Helpful Tips and Reminders:

    1. Most of the islands are privately owned, proper coordination is a must. Join an organized tour to save money, time and have fun with other travelers. You may contact Yob Red on his Facebook account who arranges travel trips around the If you wish to go solo, research and plan well before the journey.
    2. Buy bottled water and food, probably in Puerto Princesa before the trip to Balabac.
    3. Some of the islands are 2-3 hours away apart, so be prepared to be toasted. Protect yourself from the sun. Bring lots of sunblocks, wear glasses and bring sarong /long clothes with you.
    4. Bring some personal medicines. (Paracetamol, loperamide, and medicine for motion sickness)
    5. There might be Nik Nik (sand mites) in some islands so bring long sleeves, pajama, and socks for protection. Bring insect repellants lotion. Lit a bonfire on your campsite to push away the sand mites.
    6. No ATM is available in Balabac. No establishments accept credit or debit card. It is a must to withdraw money in Puerto Princesa.
    7. Electricity is not 24/7 in the main town of Balabac. The power runs only from 4 pm until 6 am. There is no electricity at all to other islands. Bring flashlight. Bring a full charge power banks and extra batteries for your camera on your trip.
    8. This trip is not for all. It is for adventurous person. It is advisable for cowboy type of people, ready for anything. This trip has lots of sunbathing, transferring from one boat to another,  distant land and sea travel distance and camping out. You might experience heavy waves.
    9. There are phone signals and data in Balabac proper but none to other islands.
    10. If you wish to buy Malaysian products, there’s a lot in the mainland Balabac and near Bangkalan port.

    Video of our Balabac Trip:

    Video Credit: Yob Red

    So do you want to go Balabac, Palawan? Share in the comments below.

  • Travel Stories
  • A Guide to Taal Volcano, Philippines

    I can’t count how many times I’ve visited Tagaytay and admire the view of Taal Volcano from afar. My family used to go Tagaytay when I was still based in the Philippines but never set foot near the Taal Volcano. 

     

    Taal Volcano is one of the smallest active volcanoes in the world. Indeed it is one of the wonders of the world. Since I was in Manila for my vacation, I took the chance not to miss the beauty of Taal Volcano on a closer look.

     

     I traveled from Manila to Tagaytay with my friend by taking the public transportation. We’ve met in Taft Terminal Station and rode a bus from there. There were numerous bus companies offering rides to Tagaytay. We took Genesis bus and passed through Cavite/ Aguinaldo Highway and reached Olivarez (Tagaytay proper) after 2 hours of travel. We paid 156 PHP/ 3.1 USD/ 1.2 OMR for two persons. We left Taft Terminal Station around 7.30 in the morning, but  I suggest leaving Manila early if you plan to go for a hike or better stay overnight in Tagaytay to climb early in the morning.

     

    When we reached Tagaytay (Olivarez), we rented a tricycle going to Talisay and then back to the town proper. We paid 500 PHP/10USD/ 3.8 OMR for the rental. You can also check the jeepney on Tagaytay Rotonda and ask them and compare the price.  

     

    Our driver said we were the first customers to his new tricycle. (Locally known as Bokyo)

     

    We stopped by to this beautiful spot before going to the Boat Station.

    We hired a boat to take us to Taal Volcano Island. We arrived at the boat station around 10.20 in the morning. We registered ourselves and paid a total price of 2750PHP/ 55 USD/ 21 OMR inclusive of the boat, tour guide, docking fee and entrance fee. The boat rented is good for 6 to 7 persons. I suggest going with a group to divide and save up money.  I came up with contacting Angelo (+63 9197280514)who manages a boat rental service in Talisay Bay. We contacted him before going to the boat rental station for convenience.

     

     

     

    The pump boat ride took us around 20 minutes across the lake to reach Sitio Tabla, Pulo Island, Talisay, Batangas.For safety reason, we were required to wear life vests. It was also bit splashy so be prepared to get wet when riding the boat.

     

     

    When we reached the island, we were greeted by a friendly barangay. You will see a lot of tourists, especially Koreans. Visiting the island, reminded me of my town in Bicol where most of the people’s main living is fishing.

     

     

     

    Double on socks to prevent blisters!

     

    You can go for two options going up the crater lake. First, by foot. Second, go by horse.  The horse rides cost 450 PHP/ 8.9 USD/ 3.4 OMR, but we decided to go trek to enjoy the scenery. The hike was overall easy.  The tour guide was also helpful with us. He is quite knowledgeable about the place.

     

    My hiking buddy to Taal Volcano.

     

    Our tour guide

     

    We started our hike around 11:00 am. Thank goodness the weather was excellent. It wasn’t hot and humid. On the way up, there were local vendors who sell cold drinks, and it is expensive. I suggest bringing bottled water.

     

     

    On the way up, there are stations of the cross for pilgrimage.

     

    It took us roughly less than an 1 hour to reach the top. We stopped at some interesting point for picture taking. At the summit, there is a deck to get a 360-degree view of Taal Volcano and Tagaytay.  The crater lake was worth the hike! There were also vendors selling souvenirs such as t-shirts and ref magnets. You can rest, eat or simply just enjoy the view from the top. We stayed a little longer to take photos (of course, hehe).

     

     

     

    There was a strong smell of sulfur that can be smelled once near the summit which means I’m really stepping on an active volcano.

     

    The view from the top: 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The trail going up the summit

     

    Helpful Tips and Reminders:

    1.Eat breakfast before starting the trip.

    2.Bring some water or cold drinks and snacks. It is bit costly onsite. 

    3.Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. I prefer to wear my hiking shoes.

    4.Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a cap, sunblock, and glasses.

    5.Bring mask to cover your mouth and nose. It is bit dusty due to volcanic ash.

     

     

    Have you visited the Taal Volcano? How was your experience? Share on the comments below. 

     

     

     

     

     

  • Travel Stories
  • So you want to look fresh after a long flight?

    Long travels are exhausting. The most extended trip I had was 24 hours.I honestly can’t recall how I made it but it sure took a lot out of me and it showed. Yes, I may had a long flight but I refuse to look like one. I mean who in their mind would like to look tired, right? Therefore, when I recently had my 8-hour flight to the Philippines from Oman,  I made sure I’m prepared for it.


     

    Mental and physical preparation helps a lot for a comfortable flying experience. The following are tips I’d like to share so anyone can keep it fresh.

     

     

    1. Moisturize

    Staying long hours in an airplane cabin can dry out the skin. Keep face and your body moisturized by bringing these essentials: face moisturizer, lip balm, and hand cream. Make sure it is a travel size so that it will pass the security.

     

    Here are some of my favorites: moisturizer on a sachet and tinted lip balm from Faceshop and hand cream from Bodyshop

     

    2. Stay hydrated

    Buy water after you passed through security. Drink lots of water all throughout the flight. Staying hydrated is probably the most important tip of all. Avoid salty food or alcohol to avoid feeling and looking bloated. Avoid drinking caffeine which means coffee, tea, and soda.  Caffeine will keep you awake and dehydrated. 

     

    3.Get some sleep

    I know it might be impossible but try to have a good sleep before your flight. Try to sleep on the plane too. Take off your shoes or sandals and wear socks to keep you warm. Bring an eye mask if you are more comfortable having it on. If you have a noise canceling headphones, bring them as well. Bring earplugs or ask the flight attendant as they have it usually on board. 

    If your flight is in the morning or afternoon, it might be difficult to sleep but with some tricks like brushing your teeth and removing your make up if you are wearing one on the plane might work.

     

    4. Snack wisely

    Choose lighter option as much as possible. Bring healthy snacks on the plane, so you can eat on your own time instead of waiting for the flight attendant to come around.  Have some nuts, apples or dried mangoes. Avoid fatty and carbohydrate meals which are heavy on the stomach that can cause gasses.

     

    5.Keep travel essentials handy

    Bring toothbrush, toothpaste, wet wipes and hand sanitizer with you. Keep your skin and teeth clean while on the plane. Bring some mints or breath spray to avoid bad breath. Not all airlines will provide you a toothbrush and toothpaste so better to bring those items. 

     

    6.Pack clothes to change on your carry on bag

    Wear something comfortable and loose fitting clothes on your flight. For men, this can be a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and for women leggings and a sweater. I like to add a scarf to keep me warm on the aircraft whenever it gets cold. Once you land, change dress if you wish.

     

     

    Any tips for looking refresh after long hours of flight? Share on the comments below.