Manila, Busuanga and Palawan. Just say no to Balut!!!

Landed in Manila yesterday and i refuse to mention what i had for dinner other than a fair Manhattan. I am staying at the Manila Hotel and its lobby is a cacaphonous extravaganza. I kind of like it already.

Ok, i will fess up. My first meal in Manila was a rather bad pizza. Lesson learned. Again.
Always order to the strengths of the kitchen.
Retreated to my room and tried to figure out why the Philippines Navy is looking so bad ass.

I had to “call a friend”. Those are USN ships.
The USS Princeton, Sterrett and Kidd.

Hit the famous Manila Hotel breakfast buffet, also impressive, albeit in a more understated manner.

Pork letcheon, smoked fish, some crackly stuff and a Chinese tea egg. Very nice!

Went back to my room and admired the view.


Hmm. I thought I warned you against the western food at Hotel Manila :face_with_raised_eyebrow:.

I loved Filipino breakfasts. I’d always get the Bangus (milkfish) and garlic fried rice. Hell, I’d even get the tapa (beef strips) once is a while because I was living large!

Anyway, thanks for the report!

ETA: wait I missed the balut part of your post. Was that balut pizza??


Wait! I thought you said the pasta alfredo was bad. So the whole menu is bad? I am so disppointed! LOL!

The lobby is kind of over the top but i like it.

No balut will be consumed in the making of this thread!

You did warn me…


I miss a good balut.

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Here, you can have mine.

Not actually mine, for informational purposes only!

I went to walk around Intramuros two days ago and between the two churches and Barbara’s at Casa Manila had a great time. Barbara’s has a lunch buffet of various Filipino specialties and it was an excellent way for this tyro to get a better feel for the variety of dishes that are enjoyed here.

I also visited the oldest church surviving in Manila and the Cathedral. Another great way to spend an afternoon.

I also noticed the USS Princeton, Kidd and Sterrett berthed out front of the Manila Hotel. Later on i spotted the USS Vinson way out by Corregidor.

Went to Robinsons to pick up some travel stuff, ran into this little guy.

Breakfast buffets at the Manila Hotel were really good, too!

Squid salad, kimchi, new potatoes and smoked mackerel from the Korean menu.

The above is the church, the cathedral was bigger.

Lets see… If i were a cathedral, where would i be…


Phils is the only place in Asia I have lost weight :rofl:


Oh dear. It sounds as if you did not have good food experiences in the Philippines. I must interject.

My husband and I were lucky enough to take a magical boat trip from Coron to El Nido back in 2013. The cook was a 19-year old plucked from a small Filipino village on one of the islands. The kid was a phenom in the kitchen, and the guy heading our trip said that his cooking represented the best of the island cuisine and that he was also blown away by his food. Our hard-working crew loved this kid’s food as did we the guests. It rivaled the best food we’d had elsewhere in SEA. Fresh seafood that the crew had just fished out of the ocean, wonderful and new-to-us spicing, complex curries. All cooked either over a fire on the beach or in his tiny galley kitchen on the ship. My Chowhound post is long gone and I forgot to save it but I still have my travel journals which I’ll have to dig out one of these days. Long story short Filipino cuisine is a dream. Makes me wonder what became of this kid. I hope he found his vocation (guess he’d still be young, 29 or 30 now).


I visited Coron Town for a couple days and left with definite mixed feelings about the place. I used to travel in relatively poor countries, especially in SE Asia, and did not allow the poverty to get to me. I have to admit that Coron kind of tugged at me in some ways. It is not as poor as some towns I have visited in Burma, Cambodia, Peru or Laos. Or Romania, for that matter. But this part of the Philippines has not made the step forward that Thailand has made since I first started traveling there in 1994. Flip side of the coin, Thailand is not as cheap to travel in any longer. Philippines can be pretty inexpensive travel. Not sure what I think about that.
I loved my hotel, Venus Royale. It is brand new but outside of town, which is a mixed blessing. My room looked out on the pool and I had private steps to the pool which was kind of cool.

For the tourism part, I did the Island Tour Package A and it was a mixed experience. I feel like we tourists are like a flock of hundreds of starlings, flitting around seemingly randomly, our crowds nearly blocking out the sun and crapping all over that beauty that we all came to enjoy. On a more positive note, I really would like to do the same tour, but do it 90 minutes earlier than all the boats currently do it. Because there were 6 boats that seemed to all be going to the same places at the same time and the destinations appeared to be nearly empty until we all got there almost at the same time.
We hit Kayangan Lake and the viewpoint next to the pass to get in to the lake area. Nice climb but not the 367 steps claimed. The sad part is that Kayangan Lake is a beautiful little jewel packed to overflowing with 6 or 7 boatloads of punters. Just. Jam. Packed.
I swam around a bit and then jogged back to the boat, passing the coolest puppy in town!

Man, do I need to get back in shape! Jumped in the kayak I had rented just to see Secret Grotto and spotted my boat load of people all returning to our boat before I got to the grotto. So I bagged it and turned around. I didn’t want to be the guy that made everyone else wait. A woman on my boat did the same thing, turning back before she got to the grotto.

Then we had a thoroughly ok lunch with so-so fish, a fairly good noodle dish and nothing else really stands out. Other than it was where our boat kind of came together and started chatting between groups, which is cool. Because I am everyone in my group! LOL! Traveling solo is both good and bad and group tours can be a mixed blessing. I wish I had had Digga’s chef on my boat!

Malwawey coral garden was nice, excellent soft coral and some medium sized clams, but a bit bleached. Not a lot of fish when I was there. I swam back to the wrong boat so I had to swim back to the right boat against the current which was a pain. Have I mentioned that I need to get in shape? I think I breathed in a bit of sea water because my lungs have been wonky these past couple days. Nothing bad, just heavy.

Wait, I left out most of the food! I hit Om’s for Thai food twice, once for Penang Red Curry plus Som Tam and then for two pork dishes (I did not think this one through) minced basil pork and rice plus Laab Mu. All were pretty darned good, the Som Tam had the slightly fishy taste that I associate, rightly or wrongly, with Isan dishes from the North of Thailand. Good food and a good price. Om’s had no sticky rice which seemed odd.

The best Filipino food (?) I had in Coron was in a hotel dining room that was kind of festive and fun. The ceiling was covered with decorative Portugese Man of War and Jellyfish, kind of creepy and cool. I ordered a really nice grilled shrimp starter and a sizzling squid dish, both of which were really good!

All in all, I like Coron and I am glad I went. I would like to go back and do some of the same spots plus a few new ones, but do so with a private boat at times when there are fewer people there.


Glad to hear from you!! Your mixed feelings came through in that report but there were some high points and nice scenery as well. Where to next?

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I have been in el Nido for a couple days and really like it here! The beach, the crazy street scene, the food, the whole feel is frenetic and fun here.
I walked by the elementary school and the girls karate class was taking turns doing noisy spin kicks into their instructors pad. I saw a beat up old pink trike with an Audi hood ornament. There was an organized high jump competition on the beach. I discovered Silog.
Odd how some places click for you and others do not.


Rode a trike …

To get to the bus stop…

To get to the bus to Agutaya on Long Beach.

Security in el Nido was noticeable coming and going…

On edit: Well, i arrived a bit early and they gave me a very nice upgrade. Sweet!

Now to get back to talking about food in el Nido…


Glad to see another positive update from Coron and El Nido! I visited the Philippines a few years back and really loved it. The beaches were definitely a highlight - so beautiful and perfect for relaxing. When in Manila I tried balut once, it was an experience for sure haha. Not my favorite but I can see the appeal. Anyways, thanks for sharing your trip details, it’s making me want to plan a return visit to check out more of Palawan.


Thank you for your comment, Sarah! I am following in your footsteps, albeit a couple years after you!
Palawan is a jaw dropping place. The beaches and the karst formations (they are karst, aren’t they?) make a beautiful backdrop for just about every scene here. El Nido is just a blast. It is a dusty, jumping, broken concrete, eclectic conglomeration of people, shops, trikes, dogs and cafes with a moderate amount of tourists and a lot of friendly (english speaking! Yeah!) locals. And a long fairly clean beach! With a sphynx-like island brooding on the horizon. Yeah, I know the locals call it Cadlao, but there is a certain resemblance…

Anyway, I did absolutely nothing but walk, take photos, talk, eat, walk, sleep, no boat trips, no mountain trips, just hung out. And it was a very good time. I stayed at Cecilia’s (ok but too concrete’y), Sea Cocoon (very nice, comfortable, ocean view is a waste of money.) and Angel Nido (small set of stacked bungalows with a great little waterfront area). All of the staffs were outstanding, very outgoing and friendly, and Sea Cocoon had a great rooftop breakfast while Angel Nido had an Italian Parma sandwich that was excellent.

Clifford’s was recommended to me by a couple people and I again managed to order poorly. I really need to decide what to order BEFORE i go somewhere, because when I order on a whim, I do so poorly. So I had the Beef Bulalo Stew the first day and the Fried Chicken the second day. And the stew was tough/cold while the chicken was like Church’s on a good day. Good, not great. And they had no sauces, just ketchup and a sweet “duck” sauce. Argh…

I did better at Centrale for breakfast. They have a three choice Silog special so I got sausage, beef and milkfish and all were good. I thereafter got breakfast at Sea Cocoon or I would have gone back. I am still in need of remedial fish picking. I am leaving way too much fish on the carcass while covering myself in grease.

I got a pretty good Seafood Sizzle (their title, not mine) at Angel Wish and a pasta dish that will remain nameless to avoid shaming the chef.

Here is one of the Sea Cocoon breakfasts. They were all rather good. View was outstanding from the 6th floor, my room on the 4th floor had an obstructed view. 5th floor appears to be super secret and private.

Then I went astray and ordered Skydeck Royal Pizza (not bad after I ate the shrimp separately!) at Skydeck and Massaman Gai at Big Bad Thai. When in the Philippines I ought to be eating Filipino food more, but those dishes pulled me in like a culinary magnet.

Anyway, I really enjoyed el Nido, it reminds me of Thailand in the late 1990’s, kind of raw and unpolished but outgoing and friendly, not fake. And it has a natural beauty that they seem to be working to hold on to, for the most part. Do not get me started on setbacks, density patterns and stray canine care… LOL!

Side ramble. El Nido was a town long before it became a destination and the layout reminds you of that. The church (well attended) and the elementary school (ditto) are right in the center of the tourist mashup and it is kind of sweet how everything just works cheek by jowl. One of my first impressions of el Nido was seeing the elementary girls karate class beating up on their sensei’s glove/pad. Followed very shortly by tiny Filipino ladies carrying “hot dishes” into the church, like I was near a Lutheran church in Minnesota. It just made me smile.


Palawan. Wow.
Just wow.

Long Beach near San Vicente was beautiful, and deserted. It was just me, one family and a motor bike driver on one entire day. It stretches over 7 kilometers (4 miles?) from one headland to another. I stayed at Club Agutaya for 4 days and then 2 days at Foxy’s Resort, nearer the airport since I was flying to Manila then Bangkok soon. I was booked on a Sunlight flight to Manila and did not find out until I got to San Vicente that Sunlight flies when and where they like with little respect for your reservation. Luckily I had stretched my layover in Manila to 28 hours instead of 4 hours.
Anyway, I got to Club Agutaya and they had upgraded me to a Villa which was very cool. Lots of wood, a mosquito net and a spacious deck.

So I hit the beach and it was just me and the bartender. Walked and ran up and down the beach, no rock coral, just sand and the odd seashell. Plus a bunch of timid 1/2" sand crabs. What a beach! Water was just right, cold when you went in but not freezing. Love this beach!

Then my ordering mistakes began. I ordered Crispy Magellan which is a fried Lapu Lapu but it is tiny and there is very little meat.

Then i ordered a bit better with a Whitefish dish.

Not sure what the leaves in this soup were but is was one of my better orders!

So then I ordered Szechuan Shrimp. Ordering Szechuan in a small town on a Filipino beach. Not the right dish… It was way sweet and I ended up wearing much of the Szechuan sauce since I had to peel the shrimp.

“Its ok, coach, put me back in the game! I am over my jitters!”
And I did order a lot better after my first two dishes. I started out with mussels prepared Palawan style and they were very good, meaty and fresh. Not heavily spiced just good. I ordered a Buko drink and it turned out to be a chilled coconut which was really good, and heavy! The shell, not the drink!

But at the beach it was just me! And one motorbike guy that wanted a quick peek at the surf.

Then I hit the Filipino dishes a bit better. First I ordered Laing, which is Taro leaves simmered in coconut milk til it reduces a bit. Sweet but very good!

Then I had beef Kaldereta. They said “No goat, beef!” Rich, layered flavors, tender beef, outstanding!

More beach stuff. I really hope I can link to one of my videos!

And I finished up with a Pork Menudo dish that really did not look or taste like tripe, but it was rich and good with large chunks of tender pork. And I swear it had liver and carrots. In Menudo. I may have gotten the wrong dish?

On a completely different note, I saw dozens of these on Sunset Beach near Foxy’s.

They kind of remind me of something else so I did a Google search of the photo and it is a big U-shaped earthworm like critter called a lugworm that swallows sand and digests the algae and micro-organisms and passes the clean sand. As they travel through the sands of the beach they aerate it and clean it. Kind of cool!
Well, Sunlight Air texted me the day before my flight to Manila and said “No, no, no to Ninoy Aquino! We take you to Clark!” 70 miles away and the taxi takes around 2 hours during the day. Argh! But they set up a free bus for all of us and it worked well. So I stayed at the Savoy at Ninoy Aquino International and flew out the next day.
Let me see if a video link will work for me.

Me leaving Club A.


One of my fave vegetable dishes of all time!


Wow that beach looks wonderful! I have heard many people rave about the beaches in the Philippines but so far I have always sticked to Phuket. Is the water there actually nice to be in? Sometimes a beach can look great but you don’t want to be in the water for long.

For example I remember in Koh Lanta Thailand when swimming you would feel these small bites in your skin from animals you cannot even see. Harmless but uncomfortable. I’ve also been to Da Nang’s and Bali’s beaches and while enjoyable I wouldn’t return just for the beach, like I would in Phuket. There you can just swim in the sea all day under perfect conditions.

But seeing these beaches I must go to the Philippines and check them out! Any plans on hitting Thailand’s beaches?


It is really good but I wasn’t sure what to think at first. When it first hit the table i thought i had someone else’s order of Palak Paneer!
Then i took a bite and i was thinking, “This doesn’t taste like anything i can think of…”


Damiano, it is hard for me to figure out a reply. I used to be a Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian beach traveler back in the 1990’s and my favorite beaches tended to be atmospheric rather than crystal clear waters.
I liked the old Sairee and Tanote on Ko Tao but the Sairee i knew is gone. I am thinking about going back to Tanote but i am afraid it will be paved too.
I went to both Ko Changs and can not remember a favorite on either. Ko Lanta the same.
I also spent time at and enjoyed Khao Lak before the tsunami but i made the mistake of watching a Youtube video of the tsunami and saw an old gent lose his wife to the water in front of the bookshelves i used to haunt. I also stayed at Gili Trawangan before the Bali Blast and Covid. I went back to GT and it was a zoo as well.
I really liked Pulau Perhentian Kecil back in the day. Stayed at Abdul’s and had a photo of my bungalow as my avatar for years.
Long Beach on Palawan is close to perfect for me. Though i did not snorkel or scuba dive there, the water was clean and fresh. The people are friendly and welcoming without being desperate and not one person yelled “Boule!!” at me. Plus the prices are good, the beaches clean and nearly empty and the food good. The downside of Long Beach is i hear some people say it has a biting sandfly issue, but i never got bit or saw a sandfly.
Sorry about the rambling response, it was kind of stream of conciousness.

The thing that sucks about travel is that we tend to ruin that which we love.