Beyond Manila: More to see in the Philippines

The Philippines is composed of over 7,100 diverse islands, and one could spend a lifetime exploring them all. Yet, when most people from Guam vacation in the Philippines, they go no further than Manila. It’s easy to see why — so much is packed into this city. You’ll likely find whatever you’re looking for in Manila’s shopping, dining and entertainment options, and it hits you as soon as you leave the airport.

But with all the city has to offer, the Philippines is much more than Metro Manila, and many domestic destinations are only an hour or two away by plane. Cheap airfare is also available through airlines such as Cebu Pacific. The next time you’re in the Philippines, consider adding these places to your trip itinerary and decide for yourself if it really is “more fun in the Philippines.”

Puning Hot Springs, Pampanga

In Manila there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of places to go for spa treatments, but you won’t find one where you can sweat it out under the weight of hot sand, or soak in mineral pools warmed by the volcano that caused the second-largest cataclysmic eruption in the 20th century.

For that kind of adventure, head north to Angeles, Pampanga, about two-and-a-half hours from Manila by car.

Carved into the foothills of Mount Pinatubo, Puning Hot Springs is a hot bed of health and wellness therapy. After the destructive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 199, Puning Hot Springs was developed in an effort to rebuild tourism and create jobs for the local population, including the Aeta, the indigenous people of Luzon.

The actual hot springs comprises 11 pools of ranging temperatures between 104 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit, cascading down a fortresslike resort built around warm waterfalls. Here you are free to wander and hop from pool to pool until you find the one that’s just right.

The sand bath is Puning’s unique sand spa treatment. Guests lay in a bed of heated sand and ash and attendants bury you with the mixture until only your head is exposed. The sand bath is said to improve circulation, and after a while you can feel the beat of your heart through the sand. Just when you think you can’t stand the heat any longer, an attendant is there to fan and dab your perspiring face with a towel.

The sand bath is followed by a mudpack treatment, which is followed by a much-needed shower and buffet lunch.

An exhilarating 4x4 off-road ride across rivers and volcanic ash takes you between all of the stations at Puning Hot Springs. Tip: It’s not the safest, but standing up during the ride amplifies the experience — just remember to hang on.

The facility also provides a change of clothes, towels, and the services of a local guide.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Roughly 1,780 islands and islets make up the whole of Palawan, and some of the small islands, such as Cowrie Island, are privately owned day resorts that offer the standard menu of beach resort activities such as snorkeling, kayaking and paddling.

It’s not easy to market a tropical resort destination to someone who lives in a tropical resort destination. There are few places that can hold a candle to Guam’s beaches and sunsets.

That said, Palawan offers unique experiences that are simply impossible to match in Guam – one of them being the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, also known as the Puerto Princesa Underground River.

Named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, the Puerto Princesa Underground River winds through a limestone mountain cave that contains enormous chambers, major stalactite and stalagmite formations and a variety of natural inhabitants including thousands of bats. The five-mile river is navigable and can be explored through a guided tour on a paddleboat.

Your guide on the world’s longest underground river also serves as boat captain, light crew and stand-up comic. He is all too eager to share interesting facts and answer any questions about the cave, the park, and its ecosystem. Get ready for loads of cave jokes and puns.

There are lots of great laugh-out-loud moments, but with thousands of bats (some estimate as many as 40,000) flying and looming above, it’s recommended that you try your best to laugh from behind zipped lips.

Outside of the cave, monkeys roam free in the park and are known to pilfer belongings from unaware tourists. Look also for the giant iguanas — some are over six feet long and all roam free.

The underground river is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Palawan government is working to protect this natural wonder, including limiting the number of tourists allowed to visit the cave.

Palawan is also home to the largest micro-grid solar power plant in the Philippines, and with businesses actively generating clean renewable energy through the sun, Puerto Princesa has built up a reputation as a city that is living and growing within its pristine and natural environment.

Manila or bust

If you only have a few hours to enjoy the Philippines, then going outside of Manila isn’t an option. But you can still have some fun right by the airport.
Resorts World Manila, located across the street from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, is a one-stop, nonstop entertainment and leisure complex. There are four hotels including the Marriott and Belmont, a shopping mall, convention center, state-of-the-art movie theaters, nearly 50 restaurant choices, world-class entertainment and a casino.

Even if you’re transiting and have just a half-day before your next flight, spending that time at Resorts World Manila is a great alternative to hanging around the airport.

Source: Pacific Daily News
By: Josie Moyer, For Bayanihan
http://www.guampdn.com/story/news/local/bayanihan/2016/08/06/beyond-manila-more-see-philippines/87558358

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