go_east_logoGo East is a series from Lighthouse that brings you countries and destinations that lie east of India and have not hit the big time yet on the travel circuit. Forget Europe, forget Australia, forget Morocco. Give a miss to South Africa, drop the trip to the US, keep New Zealand waiting. Go east with Lighthouse as we move to the Philippines having covered Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands. Yes, you read right. Not 10, not 100, not even 1,000 but more than 7,000 islands. But, it is not just a beach-y destination alone. You can go trekking in the mountains of North Luzon. You can get introduced to the pleasures of spelunking in the cave systems of Samar. You can get airborne on a kite board in Boracay. Did we mention volcano? Plenty of those too. And, then the pleasures of nightlife in Manila. So, where all do you go? Read on, dear traveller.

Since you are going to land in the capital Manila why not start from there itself? The city is a dense stew of urban development and historic sentiment. Get on a jeepney and the past, present and future sit shoulder to shoulder, flying down Manila’s streets.You can sit back, safe, as the city flashes past you. Or you can put your head out, let your hair fly in the wind and see where the city takes you. When the Spaniards arrived in the 1500’s, they built a walled city in place of the kuta (fort) of Rajah Soliman. This city is now known as Intramuros, one of the best models of a medieval fort outside Europe. Or, ride a calesa (horse-drwan carriage) through the historic streets of Binondo and Ermita. In Binondo, taste your way through Chinatown, which is said to be the oldest Chinese settlement in the world. Then walk a few blocks to try your luck at the wholesaler’s haven of Divisoria, where the more you buy, the cheaper it gets! And, the sunsets in Manila Bay are just out of this world.

Then to Boracay. An island seven kilometers long, and less than a kilometer wide at its narrowest point – a postcard-sized tropical paradise. The westward-facing White Beach is your destination here with our kilometers of white, powdery fine sand dotted with resorts, shops, and restaurants. If you’re looking for windsurfing and kiteboarding then it’s got to be Bulabog Beach, on the eastern side of the island opposite White Beach, with large waves and strong winds year-round.

Baguio was the playground of the Americans who built the city as their vacation spot in the 1900’s. Stroll down Session Road and shop in an ukay-ukay (thrift shop). Vintage is king in these places, so look out for branded items at bargain prices. Looking for local crafts? The people of the Cordillera are known for their carving and weaving skills. Visit the Bencab Gallery and Museum, built on the edge of a hill with an incredible view of a rainforest and garden.

Cagayan de Oro’s much talked-about whitewater rafting and river trekking make it the premier whitewater destination in the Philippines. The Cagayan de Oro River is famed for challenging rapids that quickly follow one after the other. It’s really an experience like no other and well worth the initial scare. Still not enough thrills for you? Make sure you visit the Macahambus Hill Cave and Gorge. Admire the view from the 120-meter long Sky Bridge suspended 120 feet from the ground, and then take the 120-meter breathtaking zipline. Understand local customs and traditions at the Museo de Oro. Or acquaint yourself with the people of Northern Mindanao at the Museum of Three Cultures. and the Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village for its showcase of tribal houses set amidst nature trails.

As the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines Cebu has some of the country’s most iconic heritage spots. Magellan’s Cross commemorates the moment Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted a wooden cross on Cebu’s soil to mark converting its locals to Christianity. The Basilica del Santo Niño houses one of the country’s oldest religious relics: a statue of the Child Jesus that dates back to 1521. Not much of a history buff? Cebu still has a lot to offer. Head to Tops, a popular observation deck that offers romantic views of the city. For a more adrenaline-pumping view, ride the Edge Coaster more than 130 meters off the ground, or go for a Sky Walk at the Crown Regency Cebu. No visit to Cebu is complete without a taste of its nightlife. Dive into a little debauchery at hip spots in IT Park or Crossroads. Or just park yourself at your hotel bar.
Ilocos Norte is a coastal province so different colors of sand can be found here — the blackest of black in Laoag, the brown sands in Currimao, the white sands in Pagudpud. Some parts in Pagudpud are also lined with a rocky shore. But over all, Pagudpud’s beaches are amazing — stretches of white sand lined with coconut trees and crystal-blue water. It’s not overrun by tourists yet, but it’s getting there. And we mustn’t forget the flavors of Ilocos, one of the more well-known types of Filipino cuisine.

If you’re searching for city that capitalizes on the outdoors, you might just find Davao City a pleasant surprise. The Davao Riverfront Complex houses the Crocodile Park, one of the city’s most popular attractions. The park showcases more than just crocs — it is also home to a variety of wildlife. Be sure to catch feeding time, educational talks and other shows. The complex also contains the Davao Butterfly House and the Tribu K’Mindanawan, a cultural village that holds an impressive fire-dancing performance. When you’ve worked up an appetite, try Filipino fare or exotic crocodile and ostrich-based cuisine at the RiverWalk Grill. If you’re just looking for a quick stroll, take your pick from the many parks in the city — the expansive and breezy People’s Park is always a good choice.

There’s a whole lot more to see and do in the Philippines but all you need to do so is call Lighthouse on (0) 9818905024 or email theworld@golighthouse.in. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier!

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