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Published on July 18, 2018

48 Hours in the Philippines

Mag-Aso Falls in Bohol, Philippines. Image: Visualhunt

It’s another four days of summer vacations in the glorious ASEAN region. Today, we are traveling to the Philippines, a nation of more than 7,107 islands.

The capital city of Manila is a fantastic urban playground, but with only two days in the country, most travelers head straight to an island to enjoy nature. From Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, there is an average of 424 domestic flights per day for the best island-hopping in all of Southeast Asia.

Day 1: Natural Treasures of Bohol

First up, we are headed to Tagbilaran in Bohol Province. As soon as you touch down, climb in a jeepney or a converted passenger jeep. This brightly-painted vehicle is a favorite mode of transportation for locals and visitors alike. Pass your coins to the driver and ride into the town center of town to book a local tour guide who can drive you around Bohol. Your guide is sure to know a place to stop for some lechon succulent roasted pig for lunch.

Chocolate Hills in Bohol. Image: Visualhunt

You can tour the Chocolate Hills, a region of strange curious topography that locals say is a coral reef risen from the sea. The hills are named for the brown hue the hills take during the dry season. The region is said to hold over 1,700 hills, all of which are similarly cone-shaped and sized. While scientists and geologists have developed numerous theories, the commonly accepted notion has been that the hills were, in fact, the result of coral deposits rising up through geologic shifts, which then faced the effects of rainwater and erosion. Avoid the crowds and explore the majestic 20-meter-tall Mag-aso Falls instead. After a day of cool waters and warm sunshine, get dropped off on Panglao Island to catch the sunset on the quiet shores of Danao Beach.

Danao Beach on Panglao Island

Here you will find Pearl Restaurant, where you can enjoy dinner with your toes in the sand.

Order kinilaw na tangigue (Spanish mackerel ceviche) and get halo-halo (a Filipino dessert made with mixed fruits, sweetened beans, milk, and crushed ice) for dessert. Stay here or in a neighboring resort for a peaceful night’s rest.

Day 2: Island Life

After a breakfast of tapsilog or dried beef, fried eggs, and rice, get ready for more island adventure.

Hinagdanan Cave on Panglao Island in Bohol, Philippines.

Call up a traysikel scooter tricycle and ride out to Hinagdanan Cave, a nearby pool in a limestone cave. Though it’s dark, these the waters are clear and deep enough for cliff diving! Watch some local kids, see where to jump, then spend the afternoon doing endless cannonballs without worrying about a sunburn.

A typical karinderya. Image: Visualhunt

After drying out, stop for lunch at a karinderya, a type of local Filipino restaurant which can be found on Dauis-Panglao Road on the way out of town. For less than PhP 100, enjoy a full meal of rice, boiled egg, rich pork adobo, and a side of mongo lentils.

The natural wonders of the Philippines are incomparable, but how about relocating your summer vacations to the peaceful mountains? When it’s so easy to travel around Southeast Asia, hitting two countries in four days is no big deal. A quiet countryside sounds like the perfect way to spend the next 48 hours.

Let’s jet over to Myanmar, a part of the ASEAN region where temples from thousands of years ago still dot the landscape. Here we go!

48 Hours in Myanmar

Over 2,000 temple ruins in Bagan, Myanmar.

Known previously as Burma, the country of Myanmar’s history has seen multiple kingdoms, British rule, and a 50-year military dictatorship. After thousands of years of transition, modern-day Myanmar boasts diverse populations and historic ruins that spread across its vast lands.

For two days, we are going to explore some of the best-preserved ancient ruins you can find when traveling to Asia.

Day 1: Temple Hopping

After flying into the former capital of Mandalay, the next stop is Bagan. For travelers who have time, there is a scenic bus ride from Mandalay with gorgeous views. For quick visits, we choose to fly directly to the ancient city.

Drop your bags at the Oasis Hotel and go next door to the electronic scooter rental shop. Since Bagan is spread out, an e-bike is an ideal way to get off the beaten path.

Have brunch at a roadside restaurant. Start with a bowl of mohinga, or fish stew. Savor bouncy noodles in a light curry sauce topped with lime, fried shallots, greens, pe gyaw chickpea fritters, bu thee gyaw savory fried bread, and a boiled egg.

After this hearty brunch, you are ready for sightseeing. The two most informative temple tours are Shwezigon Pagoda and Ananda Temple from the Bagan Dynasty, both examples of Bagan in its golden era. Shwezigon is a classic example of Burmese architecture while the Ananda Temple is a fusion of Mon and Indian architecture, so intricate that it’s called the “Westminster Abbey of Burma”.

For a unique experience, scan the horizon and point your e-bike towards whichever pagoda catches your eye. At designated temples, you can climb thousand-year-old ruins to find a vantage point all your own for watching the sunset.

Laphet Thoke

For dinner after dark, drive to The Moon, an all-vegetarian restaurant, and then order the lahpet thoke fermented tea salad. This local delicacy is a textured and aromatic mix of crunchy beans, fried garlic, sesame seeds, chilis, and green tea leaves.  You will be dreaming about this deeply addictive flavor for years to come.

Retire to the tastefully simple Oasis Hotel and shower off the ancient dust from your day on the road.

Day 2: City Life

Like waking from a dream, fly back to the bustling city of Mandalay in the morning. On the urban development fast track, Mandalay buzzes with constant construction.

In this city of one million people, you can stay in a large tourist hotel like A Little Bit of Mandalay or try Airbnb to rent a room directly from a local Mandalay resident.  

Pyar Tha Lat Pancakes

Store your bags and hit the streets for Bein mont, sweet morning snacks. You’ll see fried bread and sticky rice treats with fresh ingredients like shaved coconut and fruit. Another breakfast favorite is mote Pyar Tha Lat, a type of bubbly street pancakes, served with tea.

Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay

For a history lesson, spend your day walking the local sites. In the Kuthodaw Pagoda, you will see 729 pointed stupas called the “world’s biggest book” because they each carry a stone marble slab inscribed with the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. It was inscribed onto the Memory of the World Register in 2013.

Next, go inside the walled city to see the Royal Palace built by King Mindon in 1861. Finally, take a 30-minute walk up Mandalay Hill to see the Mandalay region from above.

For dinner, Aye Mit Tar is a solid local restaurant for your final Burmese feast. Chicken, fish, pork, and mutton curries are served with fresh vegetables, dips, rice, and traditional side dishes. Walk off your dinner while the fading light filters through Mandalay’s enchanting rooftops.

Sunset in Mandalay, Myanmar. Image: Visualhunt

From the beach to the mountains, we have spent four days in two of the most majestic countries in all of Southeast Asia. The natural beauty of the Philippines and Myanmar are beyond imagination and our vacation is not over yet!

Next, we are headed to Vietnam and Thailand to discover more of the beauty that the ASEAN region has to offer. Join us on our two-day tours and see how much excitement you can pack into 48 hours on your summer vacations!