2011 has been a very good year for me. I lived in Prague, Czech Republic to become a certified TEFL teacher. I traveled back to my motherland, South Korea, a place I have not visited since I was adopted. I moved to Australia and traveled up the East Coast to Brisbane and Surfer’s Paradise. And last week, I spent one week in the Philippines.
It was my first trip to South East Asia, a region that I have been dying to visit since I started this epic journey around the world, and it was also my first time visiting a third world country.
When I landed in Manila last Sunday and took a taxi into Pasig City to meet my cousin for brunch, the first thing I noticed was the poverty – buildings in ruins, people living in huts, and tricycles carrying more people than the maximum limit.
I spent most of my time in Boracay Island because it was referred to me by my flatmate who had visited the Philippines just two weeks prior. If you plan on visiting Boracay Island (and you really should!), make sure you plan in advance. Two ways to get to Boracay Island: catch a flight to Kalibo or Catliclan. The easiest way is to fly into Caticlan and then take the ferryboat over to Boracay. Unfortunately because my friend and I didn’t plan in advance, we had to catch a 10PM flight into Kalibo, spend the night, and then take a 2 hour bus ride to Caticlan and then a ten minute ferryboat ride into Boracay. Sure, by the time we arrived in Boracay and saw the crystal blue water and white sandy beach, it made the adventure getting there all worth it, but if you want to save yourself some time (and stress), fly into Caticlan. I promise you won’t regret it.
Even in touristy areas like Boracay, poverty was still everywhere. Many bars and restaurants have squat toilets, tap water is unsafe to drink for foreigners because our stomachs are not used to the chemicals in their water, and the only places that seemed to have air conditioning were the hotels / resorts.
I have witnessed a lot of interesting things and I have visited many interesting places during my travels, but my trip to the Philippines takes the cake thus far. It was an eye-opening experience and I feel blessed to be an American who has the luxury of living abroad and traveling the world.
I wish every American could visit a third-world country at least once in their lifetime. It would make you appreciate the luxuries – like central air conditioning and flushing toilets – that we all take for granted and realize just how lucky we really are to live such a good life.
My first trip to South East Asia was incredible and unforgettable and it certainly won’t be my last!