Author Topic: Eandd's packed trip to Hong Kong, The Philippines, and Thailand  (Read 678 times)

Offline eandd

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Eandd's packed trip to Hong Kong, The Philippines, and Thailand
« on: January 31, 2017, 09:39:02 PM »
Three weeks in Hong Kong, The Philippines, and Thailand

I've been reading the DansDeals forum for a while, but my first real post!

Firstly a disclaimer: being very, very new to credit cards and points, this entire trip was paid for out of our pockets

My husband and I got married in the summer, and since we both love to travel we were hoping to go somewhere extra special for our honeymoon. When the cheap Hong Kong flights came up last summer, I jumped on them keeping in mind the beautiful Asian countries in the vicinity. Weíre all about beautiful nature and less about city, so we planned on spending very little time in Hong Kong. Iíd seen very enticing pictures of the Philippines, but there was very little (kosher) information online. I knew I wanted to go to Thailand as well. We decided that three weeks during our long college winter break would be enough time to see all three countries. After doing A LOT of research I realized that there was A LOT to see and do in the Philippines, that travel within the country would take up a lot of time, and that we would need to take A LOT of flights.  I knew that I was hooked on visiting Palawan after seeing the unbelievably gorgeous pictures on many travel blogs, and since I couldnít decide between Coron and El Nido, we settled on visiting both. The cute Tarsiers and Chocolate Hills of Bohol became our other destination in the Philippines. Iíd originally planned on hiking the Taal Volcano during the day in Manila we had in between Palawan and Bohol, but we realized a few days into the trip that we would need the time for a bit of relaxing from all the travel. With regard to Thailand, the descriptions of Koh Lipe were very appealing, however I knew that after the Philippines we would not be up to all the different modes of transportation that it entails. So I decided that we would spend a week in Phuket and Khao Lak, and a weekend in Bangkok.

Flights: I ignored all the bad reviews of Cebu Pacific and AirAsia and booked all the domestic and international flights (besides for the China Eastern between Hong Kong) with them. Contrary to all the reviews that they constantly are being delayed, out of our many flights only one was delayed and we managed to get on an earlier one anyways.

Hotels: The hotels were mostly very cheap guesthouses that were booked through Agoda, although I did make sure to find ones with very good reviews. All were clean and most exceeded our expectations. Booking a couple of months in advance for both hotels and flights definitely made a difference price- wise, especially since we were travelling during the very high season.
Food: At the time, the Chabad Houses in the Philippines were located in Manila, Cebu and Clark therefore we planned on bringing our own food for the time that we would spend in the Philippines. We figured that in Thailand we would rely on the Chabad restaurants for most of our meals. We packed one suitcase dedicated to food that included lots of protein bars, nature valley bars, meal mart and labriute shelf stable meals, meat sticks, oatmeal packets, soup cups, lots of crackers, packs of peanut butter, salmon sleeves and cans etc. Turns out we literally did not find anything kosher in the locations that we visited (besides for the occasional kosher snickers bar or Pringles can). We were planning on spending the one Shabbos we would be in the Philippines alone, since there wasnít supposed to be a Chabad house in Palawan. We were in luck however, as we found out at the Chabad of Kowloon, a Chabad couple had moved to El Nido a couple of weeks before, intending on opening a Chabad house there. It was so nice to be able to spend our Shabbos with them and their Israeli backpacker guests.

Activities: After reading lots and lots of trip reports, forums, guidebooks, and everything else I could get my hands on, I had a very good idea of what we wanted to see/do. I noticed that it would not be necessary to book anything in advance, and actually that ended up saving us A LOT of money. More details to follow.

The actual day to day report of what we did is taking a lot of time to write, so figured I would post this first and the rest is to follow sometime is the nearish future.

Offline shulem92

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Re: Eandd's packed trip to Hong Kong, The Philippines, and Thailand
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2017, 10:08:56 PM »
Keep it up! Great first "real" post!

Online TimT

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Re: Eandd's packed trip to Hong Kong, The Philippines, and Thailand
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2017, 10:17:38 PM »
Thanks for taking the time. Looking forward to the rest. Palawan is truly beautiful.

Offline srap

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Re: Eandd's packed trip to Hong Kong, The Philippines, and Thailand
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2017, 11:01:32 PM »
Well organized.  I enjoyed reading the thought behind your decisions.
I'd love to see some pictures if you can...

Offline shmueli2007

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Re: Eandd's packed trip to Hong Kong, The Philippines, and Thailand
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2017, 11:13:18 PM »
Nice!, I'm visiting the Philippines in June.
Sammyboy - All Trump All the time.

Offline Dan

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Re: Eandd's packed trip to Hong Kong, The Philippines, and Thailand
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2017, 11:13:42 PM »
Great start!
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline eandd

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Re: Eandd's packed trip to Hong Kong, The Philippines, and Thailand
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2017, 10:26:51 AM »
Thanks for the nice comments!

Iím going to skip the Hong Kong part of our trip since thereís a lot on here already, and we didnít stay there for long anyhow. However I will mention that we stayed in Kowloon, and ate at the Chabad of Kowloon for both meals. The food was amazing, the people warm and friendly; we just had an overall very good experience.

Sat night We flew Hong Kong to Manila via Cebu Pacific with a very uneventful flight. The highlight was meeting some very friendly Filipinos that live in the US that gave us lots of travel advice. The one thing that scared me before this trip was the stories Iíd heard about parts of Manila being very dangerous and the taxi driver scams. We were told to just avoid taxis by sticking to Uber or Grab (an app similar to Uber that was made for Asian countries) and to stay near the airport or in Makati while in Manila. Another tip for Manila is that the different terminals are located in completely different areas, so be sure to make note of where your flight is arriving/leaving from, especially if youíre there on a stopover.

Sun-Wed  Weíd stayed in a guesthouse near terminal four so that we wouldnít have a long drive to catch our flight to Coron. The traffic in Manila is notoriously crazy and unpredictable and we didnít want to deal with it. Terminal four does not look like any airport Iíve ever been to but it works. Also what was cool about all our domestic Philippines flights was that you walk onto the tarmac to board the plane.I should mention here that there will be a common thread running through this trip report or terminal fees. Whenever we flew or took a ferry, there was a terminal fee. And besides for those, plan for entrance fees at unexpected places. 

The very scenic flight to Coron is on a small propeller plane, only about one hour long. I should mention that there are no flights to Coron after four because there are no lights on the runway, so by us booking the last flight of the day we were chancing it getting canceled until the next day (which supposedly happens often.) The airport there is the size of a room, and walking out you encounter the shared tourist vans that all charge a standard price of 150 php per person to drive you to your hotel. Our driver decided to first drop off a family in the opposite direction of the main Coron town where we were staying, and then go back to the airport to pick up some friends of his that he would drop off in town; it made for a very long trip. I wonít go into details about the places we stayed, but if anyone needs recommendations for cheap but nice accommodations please pm me.

The town of Coron is tiny and very third Ė world looking (to my limited experience at least.) All the roads look like alleyways; there are chickens and dogs roaming the streets, and garbage all over the place. For delicious and cheap fruits and vegetables, get directions to the market which is right near the pier where all the island hopping boats leave from. The mangoes are insane!

We booked our two island hopping tours through our guesthouse, and that seemed to be the cheapest option in town. Make sure to shop around because there are a lot of tour agencies and a lot of different prices. We did ĎTour Cí or the three island tour on the first day, which was 1250 and the Coron Island ultimate tour (combines tours A and B) for 1500 php on the second day. You get picked up by a tricycle (metal contraption attached to a motorcycle) that drives you to the pier where you board the spidery looking  banka boat. Boarding the boat can be scary, where you walk down a thin plank suspended between the pier and the bow of the boat with a bamboo pole held by the boat crew to hold on to. I donít know how anyone older or with poor balance and mobility would be able to make it across. The first tour took us on a long one and a half hour boat ride to bulog dos, banana and Malacapuya islands where thereís snorkeling and beautiful beaches. On Malacapuya we paid a guy to chop the top off a coconut so we could drink the juice inside. The second tour was our favorite with a much shorter boat ride to the locations, and more stops then the first. We saw a gorgeous lagoon, the famous Kayangan Lake, much better snorkeling and two more stops that I canít remember. On both tours they served a huge buffet lunch which we couldnít partake of because we keep kosher. We tried asking them before the tour to leave some of the fruit uncut for us, but they didnít really understand so we just brought our own.

On our third day there we spent the morning walking around town buying souvenirs (make sure bargain!) , and then took the Montenegro Lines ferry to El Nido in the afternoon (1750 php per person , make sure you donít get charged more.) There are a few ferries that make the trip to El Nido, however this particular line is the only one that takes 3.5 hours instead of about 7 hours. We were nervous that all the seats would be booked up for the day we wanted to leave, but buying the tickets from a random tour agency on the street the night before turned out to be perfectly fine. The boat is modern looking with very comfortable seats (and a terminal fee ) . The ride though was extremely choppy, with the boat rocking very high from side to side. Although Iíve never gotten seasick in my life (and Iíve ridden on numerous boats before) I did on this trip. We arrived in El Nido after almost four hours, and took a trike to our guest house (which almost couldnít hold our two suitcases and carryon-the trikes in El Nido are much smaller than their Coron counterparts)

With regard to pictures, I still havenít gone through them, so will try to upload later (although I know itís much easier to have them in line with the text. )

Offline davidmal

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Re: Eandd's packed trip to Hong Kong, The Philippines, and Thailand
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2017, 11:16:55 AM »
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it ~Ferris Bueller"