The Philippines is defined by its emerald rice fields, teeming mega-cities, graffiti-splashed jeepneys, smouldering volcanoes, bug-eyed tarsiers, fuzzy water buffalo and smiling, happy-go-lucky people.
Islands & Beaches
With more than 7000 islands, the Philippines is a beach bum’s delight. There’s an island to suit every taste, from marooned slicks of sand in the middle of the ocean to sprawling mega-islands like Luzon and Mindanao. Sun worshippers and divers should head straight to the Visayas, where island-hopping opportunities abound and the perfect beach takes many forms. More adventurous travellers can pitch a tent on a deserted stretch of coastline and play solo Survivor for a few days.
Why I Love the Philippines
By Greg Bloom, Writer
With 7000 tropical islands on my doorstep, all ripe for exploration, I find it easy to like the Philippines. Love, on the other hand, is borne of subtler things. Love is borne of long rooftop jeepney rides through the mountains of North Luzon; of a frosty San Miguel at sundown on a sublime slab of Visayan sand; of a fresh-fish lunch, followed by a siesta on an interminable bangka journey through Palawan’s islands; of friends with names like Bing and Bong; of phrases like ‘comfort room’; of – dare I say it – karaoke. Now that is love.
We’ve all had it happen: your trip to paradise is ruined by day after day of torrential monsoon rain (in the Philippines that paradise is often Palawan). There are a couple of simple ways to avoid this. One, study the climate charts. The western parts of the the country get hammered by rain at the peak of the southwest monsoon (July to September), so go east during this time (unless there’s a typhoon brewing). Two, stay flexible. Dispense with advance bookings so you can migrate to fairer climes if need be.
The Philippines is a land apart from mainland Southeast Asia – not only geographically but also spiritually and culturally. The country’s overwhelming Catholicism, the result of 350 years of Spanish rule, is its most obvious enigma. Vestiges of the Spanish era include exuberant town fiestas (festivals), unique Spanish-Filipino colonial architecture and centuries-old stone churches. Malls, fast-food chains and widespread spoken English betray the influence of Spain’s colonial successor, the Americans. Yet despite these outside influences, the country remains very much its own unique entity. The people are, simply, Filipinos – and proud of it. Welcoming, warm and relentlessly upbeat, it is they who captivate and ultimately ensnare visitors.
The Philippines isn’t just about finding an isolated beach and getting catatonic. From kayaking to kiteboarding to canyoning to spelunking, the Philippines can capably raise any adrenaline junkie’s pulse. While surfers are just catching on to the tasty (if fickle) waves that form on both coasts, divers have long been enamoured of the country’s underwater charms. Freshwater pursuits include rafting and wakeboarding. Back on terra firma, trekking can be done just about anywhere, while rock climbing is gaining popularity. And the Philippines is also, unofficially, the zipline capital of the world.
Source: Lonely planet
Ascend to the realm of the gods, Angkor Wat. Descend into hell at Tuol Sleng Prison. With a history both inspiring and depressing, Cambodia delivers an intoxicating present.
An Empire of Temples
Contemporary Cambodia is the successor state to the mighty Khmer empire, which, during the Angkorian period, ruled much of what is now Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The remains of this empire can be seen at the fabled temples of Angkor, monuments unrivalled in scale and grandeur in Southeast Asia. The traveller’s first glimpse of Angkor Wat, the ultimate expression of Khmer genius, is sublime and is matched by only a few select spots on earth, such as Machu Picchu or Petra.
The Cambodian Spirit
Despite having the eighth wonder of the world in its backyard, Cambodia’s real treasure is its people. The Khmers have been to hell and back, struggling through years of bloodshed, poverty and political instability. Thanks to an unbreakable spirit and infectious optimism, they have prevailed with their smiles intact. No visitor comes away without a measure of admiration and affection for the inhabitants of this enigmatic kingdom.
The Urban Scene
Just as Angkor is more than its wat, so too is Cambodia more than its temples, and its urban areas can surprise with their sophistication. Chaotic yet charismatic capital Phnom Penh is a revitalised city earning plaudits for its gorgeous riverside location, cultural renaissance, and world-class wining-and-dining scene. Second city Siem Reap, with cosmopolitan cafes and a diverse nightlife, is as much a destination as the nearby iconic Angkor temples. And up-and-coming Battambang, reminiscent of Siem Reap before the advent of mass tourism, charms with graceful French architecture and a thriving contemporary art scene.
Siem Reap and Phnom Penh may be the heavyweights, but to some extent they are a bubble, a world away from the Cambodia of the countryside. This is the place to experience the rhythm of rural life and timeless landscapes of dazzling rice paddies and swaying sugar palms. The South Coast is fringed by tropical islands, with just a handful of beach huts in sight. Inland from the coast lie the Cardamom Mountains, part of a vast tropical wilderness providing a home to elusive wildlife and a gateway to emerging ecotourism adventures. The mighty Mekong River cuts through the country and is home to some of the region’s last remaining freshwater dolphins. The northeast is a world unto itself, its wild and mountainous landscapes a home for Cambodia’s ethnic minorities and an abundance of natural attractions.
Why I Love Cambodia
By Nick Ray, Writer
Where to start? I first came through as a young backpacker in 1995 and the turbulent history captured my attention. However, the people were the most memorable part of that first trip, their smiles infectious. Angkor is spectacular and special and continues to reward no matter how many times you visit. The coastline is beautiful and blissfully undeveloped compared with some of the region. And it remains a frontier for motorbike rides from the Cardamoms in the southwest to Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri in the northeast. Even as it develops, Cambodia remains an authentic adventure.
Source: Lonely planet