Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Philippines or indonesia

A traveler’s note

This post was spurred by a conversation between Marc Hiller and myself (plus Alicia and his girlfriend Erica) over sunday brunch. He and Erica lived in Jakarta for many years and have travelled Indonesia extensively. They are both fluent in Bahasa Indonesia. I’ve spent three weeks in both the Philippines and Indonesia this year.

He posed a very simple question to me: Which did you prefer?

A simple question indeed. With a very complicated answer. Here’s the fruit of that discussion, with a few other categories thrown in. Remember, everyone’s experiences are different, these is just my impressions, coupled with the aforementioned discussion.

Getting There and Around
Philippines. No question. Tickets from Beijing to Manila start at $75 round trip. Domestic flights on Cebu Pacific were under $100. Meanwhile, we spent $600 just getting to Bali from Beijing, plus pricier domestic flights. Both countries have ever-changing ferry and boat schedules, so no edge to either there. Honorable mention to Indonesia for having mopeds available everywhere. Jeepney’s and trikes are pretty awesome though…

Backpacker Friendly

Philippines. Unless you speak Bahasa, there is a limit to how far off the beaten path you can wander in Indonesia, although really, a seasoned traveller can go just about anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, the majority of Filipinos speak excellent English along with the native Tagalog, which has familiar hints of Spanish as well. Traveling the Philippines is also a remedy for the over-touristed Thailand/Laos/Vietnam circuit which is all too common these days. I’ve heard the Philippines of today compared to the Thailand of 40 years ago, before it became too popular. Go now and go often, before it’s too late.


Tossup. This is tough. Both countries offer exceptional value for accommodations on the beach, a bottle of beer, or a delicious meal. Get away from Bali or Boracay and you can easily stretch your money further than many other S.E. Asian options.


Indonesia. With hints of Thai cooking mixed in, Indonesia offers banana pancakes for breakfast, fried noodles or gado-gado for lunch, and tempeh curry or fresh fish for dinner. The Philippines’ only entry in this category is Adobo Chicken with Garlic Rice, which is absolutely delicious, but one dish is, i believe, the opposite of variety. Still neither country is a match for Thailand, or even China for that matter.

Friendly Filipinos

Philippines. Not really a fair fight, since Filipinos are arguably the world’s more welcoming people (Subic notwithstanding). Most everywhere i went (again, see Subic), i encountered the friendliest people to date. This is not to say Indonesians are unwelcoming, but i bet knowing a bit if Bahasa would open up doors that would otherwise be closed.

Indonesia. If ancient temples, tribes untouched by Western hands, and diversity are your thing, you can hardly do better than Indonesia. And if these aren’t your things, they just might be after an extended visit. With 17,000 islands and almost 600 languages, there’s no shortage of variety.

Indonesia. I was partial to the rocky landscapes, sky-piercing volcanoes, and beautiful architecture.

Boracay Beach, Philippines

Another Tossup. It’s really hard to beat Boracay, given that it is the perfect beach. However, just for sheer volume of beaches to choose from, not to mention the beautiful ones we found, Indonesia is definitely a strong contender.

Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia

Indonesia. I’m not an expert by any means, and i’ve only logged about 50 dives, but there’s a reason why Komodo, Sulawesi, Sumatra, and the Banda Islands consistently rank among the best diving in the world. Having enjoyed a liveaboard in Komodo, i certainly know why: it’s nothing short of incredible. Now, i haven’t yet done Tubbataha or Apo reef, but the ten or so dives i did were no match for Komodo. The Coron Wreck Diving of northern Palawan does not disappoint, however.

Alun Alun Indonesia, Jakarta

Souvenir Shopping
Indonesia. I want everything in my house to be Indonesian. Or Tibetan. Please. Indonesia just does handicrafts exceptionally well. I didn’t see anything in the Philippines worth buying.

The Result?
Both countries are relatively cheap once you get there. Both have amazing beaches. Both have interesting people and cultures and have stunning landscapes.

For the traveller on a budget or with a short time frame, take the Philippines. It hasn’t been overly touristed yet, they speak English, and it doesn’t take much searching to find your own personal paradise. Cebu Pacific has dozens of flights from Manila to the furthest reaches of the country to meet anyone’s needs. Plus, the cheap international flight options to Manila make the base investment cost low. I sound like a salesman.

However, if you are going for 3-6 months, are a seasoned traveller and want to take it slow and have an adventure, Indonesia is the place. Every island will have its own flavor and i hear you can pick up Bahasa in only a few weeks.

So to answer the original question, as long as flights are too cheap to ignore, i’ll keep hitting the Philippines. But when i finally shove off for a multi-month excursion, you can bet i’ll be spending a few months in Indonesia.

But really, i recommend doing both. Life is too short not to.    Posted by Akhyari

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Palawan Bayron-Manuel is Asia’s Culinary Star

Palawan culinary star

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Dec.21 (PIA) – Palawan lass Raine Bayron-Manuel is Asia’s Culinary Star after beating 200 chefs from 18 countries in the 2nd Asia Culinary Cup held in Thailand recently.


Asia’s 2nd Culinary Cup is an international event where talented chefs from around the globe showcase their culinary skills and innovations. Professional teams compete for gold, silver, and bronze in different categories including Thai, Asian & western cooking, Italian pasta dishes, cold-food and hot-food categories, dessert-making, fruit and vegetable carving.

The competition was also participated in by teams coming from Australia, Austria, China, Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, Netherlands, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Slovakia.

The annual event, now on its second year, was organized by the Thai-Swiss Culinary Consultants with the help of the Thai Chefs Association, Thai Hotels Association, and the Thai Convention and Exhibition Bureau with experts from World Association of Chef’s Societies.

Manuel graduated with a Diploma in Professional Chef training at the Global City Innovative College in Taguig City. She will compete for the World Culinary Cup next year. (vsmendoza/pia Palawan)


Southeast Asia's Best 5 Unspoiled Places

Map of Palawan showing the location of Cuyo
Image via Wikipedia

And then there were Five: a Take on Southeast Asia’s Best 5 Unspoiled Places

The biggest continent in the entire world, Asia is nothing less than a display of everything and anything wonderful. With colors, cultures, traditions, practices and religions as diverse as the continent’s awesome assortment of exotic animal species, this garden of numerous landscapes certainly has something to provide to satisfy any tourist. With its immense landmass covering 29.9% of the Earth’s total land area, Asia is appropriately divided into 5 geographical regions- Southeast Asia, East Asia, Southwest Asia, West Asia and Central Asia- all offering a unique flavor despite being housed under one colossal soil.

Of all the Asian regions, Southeast Asia presents a very rich but similarly distinct experience to all vacationers. This part is composed of 13 beautiful countries, divided under the mainland and maritime categories. Mainland consists of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Peninsular Malaysia, and Vietnam. Maritime is made upof the islands separated from the main continent, such as Timor-Leste, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, East Malaysia, and Brunei.

If you do decide on a vacation to this region, it is highly recommended to travel in places that are well-preserved and unspoiled by widespread tourist trade, to genuinely experience the place. Here are the five best unspoiled travel sites in Southeast Asia that you shouldn’t pass-up:

5. The Bach Ma National Park in Vietnam

– Developed in 1991, the national park that showcases its richness in floras and faunas houses 233 species of birds and 55 species of mammals, and even a broad vegetation array of more than 500 plant species. Because of its verdant forest that covers an area of 22,031 hectares, the park is considered as one of the biodiversity centers of Indochina. Tourists have been visiting the place since the 1930′s, when French colonials constructed a hill resort to enjoy their summer away from their humid plains. With this kind of history and scenery, having a trip in this park where tropical monsoon and sub-tropical forest combine their natural elegance is always enjoyable.

TOP 4: THAILAND (Sukhothai)

- Name translated as “the dawn of happiness,” Sukhothai is an historic and small city based at the lower northern part of Thailand and 427 kilometers north of the capital, Bangkok. The city is a popular tourist spot offering a blast-from-the-past feeling of olden times of Siam, the ancient name of Thailand. Sukhothai Historical Park manages the preservation and refurbishment of the historical temples and monuments of the circa-13th Century A.D province. The ideal way to enjoy the awesome views of this city is by leasing a bike or a motorbike, while traveling to the parks and the fresh market in which you can check out the scrumptious Sukhothai noodles at the street.

TOP 3: CAMBODIA (Siem Reap Province)

- Known as the provincial capital, Siem Reap is nestled at the northwest of Cambodia. The name, which means “Siam defeated,” reminds Cambodians of the historical clash between the Khmer and Siamese. Providing travelers a glimpse of their ancient temples, the town is only 7 km from Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport and accessible by boat and bus from the country’s capital, Phnom Peh. Vacationers must never miss the famous travelers’ spots: Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom that show the beautiful history of Cambodia and are now recognized as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in the World.

TOP 2: INDONESIA (Kalimantan) -

Kalimantan is made up of a portion of Borneo Island and 73 percent of Indonesia’s area. Known as Indoneasian Borneo, Kalimantan is well known for this rich biodiversity and outstanding views incomparable to other Asian countries. Trekking enthusiasts would enjoy to go to Kayan Mentarang National Park and reach the top of Apokayan Highlands. In this part, trekkers and hikers can encounter friendly orangutans, proboscis monkeys, unique-looking birds, and even the odd sun bear. The urban village of Sungai Mahakam offers travelers a glimpse of a river village and a day at the floating markets.

TOP 1: PHILIPPINES (Cuyo, Palawan) -

The well-preserved and historical place of Cuyo in the island of Palawan, Philippines has a population of less than 20,000 people. Featuring a provincial life during the Spanish invasion, some of the very well-maintained ancestral houses and old-age chapels and churches became travelers’ favorite photo subjects. With a perfect tropical weather and warm-hearted people, many vacationers fell in love with this alluring place. Vacationers mostly visit Cuyo during October to March, and it is best to gear up and windsurf, before taking a leisurely stroll to the market and tasting the prominent sweet cashew nut brittle made by locals.


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