Top 10 Islands in the World: Cebu – paradise on a budget | The most densely populated island in the Philippines, Cebu is famous for its beaches on the mainland as well as across many of the surrounding islands. Not as wild as Phuket in Thailand, not as high-end as Fiji or Seychelles, Cebu is more personal, with plenty of cheap upcoming restaurants. The cost of living is still comparably low – approx. 50% cheaper than living in Paris. This means in order to have the same standard of living you’d get for 5,000 Euros in Cebu City you would have to make 10k Euros in Paris. Cebu City is the most expensive area, so the prices outside are even lower. The climate is tropical. It’s hot and humid year-round. There are only two seasons: wet and dry.
For some reason one water creature draws a lot of attention among Cebu tourists: the whale shark. You can go for a swim with whale sharks! It’s not dangerous. And it’s also not every day that you get to say you’ve swum with huge sharks right beside you. If you want to tackle this once-in-a-lifetime experience, then make sure to check in at Oslob where this recreation is located. It’s just a few hours’ drive south, and there you will get to see and be with one of the world’s gentlest sea giants: the whale shark. In the Philippines, Donsol in the Bicol region has been known to be one of two places to watch migratory whale sharks. Whale sharks in Donsol are called “butanding”. In Oslob – the other place – whale sharks are called “tuki”. The tuki feed off krill and plankton that are abundant in the area all year round.
Island Hopping is very close second to whale sharks. It’s so hard to choose! There are so so many tiny islands with perfect white beaches, you will feel like you were in a movie. There’s no way it could be real. But it is. To get a true taste of island life, head off the grid on the Camotes Islands, two hours east of Cebu. Bring cash because there are no ATMs.
If you want to live vicariously through an American who escaped the 9-to-5-and-concrete-jungle-life and moved to Cebu, follow @Ninjarod and his fiance @rajbelandres on Instagram. Most photos in this article were taken by them.
Getting to Cebu
Many Asian airlines have direct flights to Mactan Cebu International Airport from neighboring countries like Singapore or Malaysia. The airport is located on a different island and it takes 30 minutes by taxi to get to Cebu City.
Where to stay in Cebu
Cebu is paradise on a budget. If your wallet cannot compete with hyped 5-star-locations such as Seychelles, Maldives or Fiji: come to Cebu. You get the same value for less money. With 154 resorts below 50 Euros per night booking.com lists far more accommodation in the lowest price segment than in any other. Examples:
Underrated Tourist Spots – Shirakawa-Go, Japan | Japan is not famous for preserving historic buildings. But there are exceptions. The villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are a Japanese UNESCO World Heritage Site. These villages are known for their houses constructed in the architectural style “gasshō-zukuri” (合掌造り, prayer-hands construction) Outstanding feature: thatched and steeply slanting roofs resembling two hands joined in prayer. The design is exceptionally strong and allows the houses to withstand the weight of the region’s heavy snowfalls in winter. Houses are quite large for Japanese proportions, with three to four stories encompassed between the low eaves. The densely forested mountains of the region still occupy 95% of all land in the area. Narrow bands of flat lands running the length of the river valley limit the area available for agriculture and homestead development.
The upper storeys of these traditional gasshō-style houses were often set aside for sericulture. Areas below the ground floor were often used for the production of nitre, a raw material for gunpowder.
Disappointing travel destination: Petra, Jordan | Our last disappointing travel destination is Petra in Jordan. Petra, the mysterious city of the Nabataeans, came to prominence as a powerful trading post on the Silk Route, reaching its zenith around the 1st century AD before disappearing into the mists of legend. Known only to local Bedouin, it was kind of “rediscovered” by a Swiss traveler in 1812.
Petra is a huge let down, simply because of extremely high prices charged. The entrance fee to Petra per person per day is US$70 (50 Jordanian Dinar). Most tourists travel to Jordan primarily to see Petra and its Treasury (-> greetings from Indian Jones). On average Petra visitors only stay for 2.5 hours. But hold on. The ticket also includes a map and a horse ride! Yey! until you find out that the horse ride is not really for free, because you definitely end up negotiating an extra tip with the driver. And even after having successfully negotiated that tip, you might be held hostage on the top of the horse until you agree to pay more. Last not least: don’t google information about the treatment of the animals. It will leave you very unhappy.
No wonder that tourists feel on the defensive the entire time at Petra. Seeing the Treasury might be fun, and taking the obligatory Petra selfie is a must. But all that is not worth the money. “Attempts” by the Jordanian government to ease the pain for tourists only made matters worse. Earlier this year a so-called “Jordan Pass”. The idea of this pass: combining the country’s via fee of 40 JD with the notoriously costly Petra entrance fee as well as giving access some additional sites within Jordan. However users have reported problems making use of the Jordan Pass because local staff at some tourist attractions and border points were unaware of its existence.
Disappointing Travel Destination: Sakura bloom Japan | Each year the Japanese Weather Association’s annual cherry blossom forecast prompts a rush of international bookings as travelers race to experience the country’s famed Sakura blooms. This annual ritual is called Hanami. Meaning: Stop to view and appreciate the beautiful spring blossoms. Most commonly it’s cherry trees appreciated. Hanami gives Japanese a chance to recognize and reflect on the beauty of nature while welcoming the new season. Japan’s highly urbanized population desperately needs this kind of recognition of nature. 94% of all Japanese live in cities that have more skyscrapers than trees.
Nobody outside Japan really gave Hanami a serious thought until the internet changed our way of life. Apart from watching cats, naked women and photos of food, tourist selfies became a vital part of our daily dose of online entertainment. Sakura and Mt. Fuji pretty much sum up Japan for an unprepared tourist. And the ugly side of a perfect tourist selfie at Hanami: Tourists shake, kick and climb trees to create ‘pink rain’ for photographs or video clips. We recommend: Don’t fly to Japan for Sakura. Instead enjoy your own cherry tree blossoming at home.
Those of you laughing at us now and waving with a ticket to Tokyo: the cherry blossom usually starts on the island of Okinawa in January, then works its way up the archipelago until it hits Hokkaido in early May. Sakura blossom peak in Tokyo is in the very beginning of April. But these are rough estimates. Sometimes the weather has different ideas.
Disappointing travel destination Male, Maldives | For half a century the tourist industry on the Maldives was building a reputation as a destination close to paradise. And it’s true if you remain in your resort. Just don’t visit the capital Male. Approx. 133,000 people live in Male. But the city only has 5.8 sqkm of space to offer. It is #11 in the list of places with the highest density of people per sqkm in the world. Since there is no surrounding countryside, all infrastructure has to be located in Male itself. Water is provided from desalinated ground water. The waterworks pumps up brackish water from 60 m deep wells and desalinates that. Sewage is pumped unprocessed into the ocean. Solid waste is transported to nearby islands, where it fills in lagoons. The airport was built in this way. Electricity is produced by using diesel generators.
Why does an ugly place like Male actually exist in the first place? Blame the Portuguese. They founded Male as a trading post in the 16th century.