Currency is USD and the numbers in red are potentially reimbursable expenses.
Siargao, Surigao del Norte (September 22nd – 28th)
What I’m finding out is that the first few days in a new country takes some adjustment time and in both the Philippines and in Bali I’ve overspent as I figure out how to find the cheaper options. I was still transitioning from city life to island along with recovering from food poisoning so I stuck around the resort for meals more than I should have from a frugal standpoint.
Also, I was feeling uncomfortable in the clothes I packed (lord knows why) so I bought some unnecessary clothes in Siargao which I later dumped to save on weight. I probably could have easily saved myself $100 if I had held back my retail therapy impulses and if I had eaten out in cheaper places more often. But hey, it’s all a learning curve!
Bravo Beach Resort was a great place to spend my first week of corporate freedom and I definitely recommend it as a fun place to meet people and relax by the waves. Please note though that you can’t just rent a surf board and walk out to go surfing, you’ll need to hire a boat for $2.54 roundtrip as the waves crash on a reef about half a km to a km out from the shore. If you stay in Harana, you can just walk out to the waves but the waves are a bit more difficult to surf. Harana is also a great party spot ;).
I’d like to point out that surf lessons were $8.47 per hour and I did a total of six hours which I included in the spending cash since I paid in cash. Check out my man Raffie Pablo if you’re in Siargao and want some top notch surf lessons!
I spent $55.35 on an island tour that was booked through Bravo that was a full day of exploring the sites of Siargao. Compared to Hong Kong I wasn’t blown away but the sites in the beginning but I loved the rock pools and the fresh water river that we swam in. I dont know if they offer half tours or if you could arrange yourself but the Sugba lagoon, the rock pools, and Maasin Secret River were the highlights.
Malapscua, Cebu (September 28th – October 1st)
I had spent more cash than I had expected paying for province fees (around 200 pesos per new province for ‘environmental’ reasons?), and also paying for commute such as bus fees, boat fees, etc.
The money I spent on the Thresher Shark Divers for two half day dives including equipment, my Advanced Open Water curriculum, two certified AOW dives, and a photographer for the thresher shark dive was money well spent.
Hippocampus Beach Resort was in line with other accommodations of the same standard on the touristy front of Malapascua. I have to say – after spending days in a dorm with others, having my own room even if I had to pay a bit of a premium was like a breath of fresh air and also worth the money.
I had to use my Bank of America card to pull out cash since I needed cash to pay for food. It’s annoying that Bank of America has extra withdrawal fees because why not? As someone who used to work in a bank, I’m thinking these fees are just an unnecessary money grab to punish Americans for traveling out of the country.
Thankfully no fee with my Hong Kong Citibank card and so I’ll use that from now on because $10 can get you pretty far in South East Asia!
Coron, Palawan (October 1st – 2nd)
I loved Coron Backpacker Guesthouse and the price! I was expecting a lower end hostel and it turned out to be a super comfy bamboo two story building with my own room. It’s definitely not a place for people who want refined creature comforts but it’s perfect for the simple backpacker I’m becoming.
In Coron I also spent my cash on some dinner, a small drybag, reef shoes, and a new bathing suite.
Tao Expedition from Coron to El Nido, Palawan (October 2nd – 6th)
For 4 nights and 5 days the Tao expedition was worth every penny for the fresh farm grown food, the boat hire, the resort-esque base camps, the endless supply of coffee, and the company, the incredible and fun staff, just to name a few.
The cash was what I put on my Tao bracelet which is then scanned to pay for things such as extra drinks or soft drinks during the expedition, I didn’t actually spend that much on drinks and I got the cash back in pesos.
Read more about my Tao Experience here (coming soon)
El Nido, Palawan (October 6th – 7th)
I spent more than I wanted on the El Nido flight but I was starting to feel the beginning effects of a foot infection from my coral kicking session so I knew I needed to get to Manila as conveniently as possible. Going back to Coron for the flight out would have required hours of commute and I would have had to have left in the wee early hours in the morning.
Amakan was sparse and not much worked well in the room but that’s also what you start to expect in the Philippines and the communal areas were nice with free hot water and tea.
Manila (October 7th – 8th)
St. Luke’s was cheap (compared to America) for the service I got. They wheeled me around the hospital, got bellhops to carry my things, and had lab tests done on my infected foot in an hour or less. Honestly, even if I don’t get reimbursed it’s given me faith in medical tourism abroad if I ever get sick in America and don’t want to spend my life savings.
I used what cash I had left to pay for the taxis. The taxi from the airport to the medical center was $5.42. The taxi from the medical center, on a busy Friday night, had to be negotiated since the taxi drivers will try to get as much as possible for the high demand and low supply so I spent $18.63 for the one hour drive from BCG district to Intramuros.
Hopefully the medical costs can be reimbursed with my travel insurance. I definitely don’t regret those six bucks I spent on McDonalds – as much as I am enjoying the somewhat healthy food and endless rice, I miss food that sticks to your bones and can give you an early heart attack. Nothing like a taste of home while getting into my third week of traveling abroad.
White Knight Intramuros was a pleasant old colonial style place in the heart of old Manila. The streets were cobbled and it had a rainforest feel to the place. The only downside is that at 7am in the morning someone was already blasting heavy bass that only a heavy sleeper could sleep through, but playing music loudly at all times of the day seems to be a custom in the Philippines.
I also spent $3.39 on a museum entrance fee to the San Augustin Church in Intramuros which was basically a friar circle jerk on how amazing they have been in the Philippines. There’s this weird obsession with a doll child Jesus throughout the displays but it was interesting to see Philippines history through the lens of medieval inquisition religious fervor.
Overall, my total costs was about $3,000 USD for 17 days. A bit out of budget so hopefully Bali will be a bit cheaper with the lessons I learned in the Philippines!