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Exploring the Philippines and Singapore

9th June 2011

Peter Finch from Spence & Turner Travel Associates earlier this year explored the Philippines’ picturesque main island, Luzon.  He also discovered why Singapore is the perfect stopover destination.


The Philippines is a destination that strangely is not often considered by travellers when planning their Southeast Asian adventure. With the exchange rate at 45 Pesos to the dollar and English used throughout, a Philippines holiday is the perfect tropical getaway and just a seven-hour flight from Brisbane.

Our trip began in the capital of the Philippines, Manila, where we stayed in a five star hotel by the name of the Heritage. Close to the airport and offering a free shuttle bus to the monstrous Mall of Asia, the Heritage makes for a great stopover point en route to other parts of the Philippines.

The focal point of my trip was Baguio, known as the summer capital of the Philippines due to its mild temperatures. Baguio is situated within the Cordillera mountain range and lies at an altitude of 1500m.We got there via a Victory Liner deluxe coach which took five and a half hours from Manila. The bus was fitted with toilets and television, and the fare included a bottle of water and snack.

As well as being considerably cooler than the rest of the Philippines, Baguio has many cultural and historical drawcards. My favourite place was Camp John Hay, a former US air base turned eco-tourist attraction. Here you’ll find a world-class golf course, stunning gardens and hiking trails, restaurants, shops, a hotel and convention centre, and a range of activities such as paintball, mini golf and abseiling.

As a university town, students comprise a third of Baguio’s population. It is the education centre of North Luzon with eight higher education institutions within the town.  One of these is the Philippine Military Academy, the official training school for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The academy is also a popular tourist spot with plenty of great photo opportunities, such as a helicopter display and tree house.

Upon returning to Manila we stayed at the Berjaya Hotel in Makati, about 30 minutes from the main commercial area. Makati is one of 16 cities that make up Metropolitan Manila, and is the largest business district of the Philippines. From here you can do trips to many of Luzon’s attractions such as Intramuros (the old Spanish fortress), the Pagsanjan falls, and Tagaytay – the vantage point for Taal Lake and Volcano Island.

This trip uncovered just a tiny speck of what the Philippines has to offer, and I can’t wait to go back and discover more of this amazing country. I can certainly advise not overlooking the Philippines when planning your next Asian escape.

I also recommend travelling via Singapore on one or both of your journeys if possible. We were there for two nights on the way to the Philippines and had an amazing time. We stayed at the famous Marina Bay Sands which certainly lived up to its reputation. With a $6 billion casino, rooftop infinity edge pool, theatre, and shopping centre complete with ice skating rink and indoor canal, the resort is the absolute pinnacle of luxury. From here we visited the Botanic Gardens (the National Orchid Garden is a must-see), and the Singapore Zoo where we did a fantastic night safari. A stop off in Singapore is truly the perfect addition to any Asian holiday.

Our experiences are only half the story.  Share yours in the comments section below.