Thursday, October 29, 2015

Foreigners Who Fell In Love With The Philippines: Karolin Banhardt

data-ad-format="link">
Born in the US and raised in Germany, Karolin enjoys traveling and experiencing different cultures all over the world. Instead of going to the "usual" tourist attractions in the Philippines, she found herself having fun in some less-traveled destinations in the country. Let's get to know her more and her interesting adventures in The Philippines. (Read more : Foreigners Who Fell In Love With The Philippines)


So about myself:
I was born in the US (South Carolina – that’s why my name is Karolin), and raised in two small towns in Germany. My whole family has been travelling a lot ever since. I have two older brothers who mean a lot to me and inspire me. I am open-minded; I like the outdoors and of course always a little bit of action, therefore I couldn’t live without sports.

So last year I finished high school, worked in the summer and saved money to go travelling in October. I booked a flight, grabbed my backpack and flew alone to South East Asia.
When I came back I was deeply hit by the post travel depression, so having not much money left I did some trips in Europe, I worked and moved to Vienna, the capital of Austria to study International Business with my dream in mind to once combine my passion for travelling and work.

When did I first visit the Philippines?
I first visited the Philippines in December 2014 for one and a half month, which was far not enough.


Why did I choose the Philippines?
Well, first of all I decided to go to South East Asia because I haven't been there before. Then I did some research and I knew I’ll either have to go to Indonesia or the Philippines. In doing some more research I was sure I'll have to go see the Philippines. I don’t remember why, but I really wanted to stay there during Christmas and New Year and that was a very good decision.. To be honest, I didn't know much about the culture, more about places. Since I didn't travel this region before I thought it couldn't harm taking a look at the Department of Foreign Affairs' web page, which scares many travelers away. They tell you to stay away from areas of conflict and warn you about lots of things. In the end I felt really safe and was not scared at all, but of course my parents were scared. When I was about to fly from Ho-Chi Minh City to Manila there was a Typhoon (Ruby) heading towards the Philippines. My closest friends and family told me to wait till it's over and I already made up plan B visiting my brother in Japan. Many flights were cancelled, but mine was running, so I decided to just trust that airline went in the plane. Luckily when I arrived the Typhoon was gone, it was only raining and pretty cold for Philippines.


What do I love most about Philippines?
That is a very hard question. But if I had to choose, I would say besides the incredible nature it's the feeling you get travelling in the Philippines, the vibe...the people who welcome you, who let you join their lives, their culture and want to show you the most and best of it. Throughout my whole trip I felt like I am really free, and because everyone speaks English travelling is so easy in the Philippines.


My top 3 destinations and why:
Islas Gigantes (Carles, North of Panay): A few islands, hidden away from tourism (that will probably change soon). The nature is incredible, they don't even have roads or cars, only a few motorbikes, no cell service, no wifi and of course lots of scallops-a very special place.


El Nido-Palawan: Even though tourism is expanding in El Nido and prices are quite high for Philippines, this is a must see. The rocky island formations are just breathtaking, I once found myself staring and processing that beauty for 15 minutes without being able to say anything. The nightlife is also nice, not that much partying like Boracay but sweet little bars.


Sipalay, Sugar Beach: I only went there because I was on my way from Dumaguete to Bacolod/Iloilo, but then I stayed longer than I planned. There a few resorts along the beach, but I felt like there were 10 people living. Very quiet, good food, super cheap and very nice locals, whom I played Volleyball with every evening. But like Islas Gigantes it's quite hard to get there.


What makes the Philippines stand out compared to other countries in Asia:
A big difference to other countries in Asia is that the Philippines is a Christian country, therefore the culture is different. Then of course everyone speaks English and everyone is welcoming and friendly and helpful, you will never get lost in the Philippines because there is always someone waiting to help you, sometimes next door's police officer, friends of friends of friends or just a stranger on the other side of the street. You can feel how alive this country is, everything is colorful ( tricycles and jeepneys for example). I visited other countries in Asia and I didn't get to really go into culture like in I did in the Philippines. I actually really enjoyed not having tons of other tourists around me all the time, but I think that might change in the future, so now is the perfect time to go there.


Other things I want to share:
I would like to share my arrival in the Philippines, because I got right chucked into the Philippines haha:

I landed in Manila sometime around noon and planned on doing couchsurfing for one night. My host gave me the address, but the taxi driver didn't find it right away, he had to ask several people on the way. Then I finally got there but my host was still sleeping and didn't hear me knocking on the door, so I wasn't quite sure if it was the right house, but the police officer across the street assured me and helped me knocking and shouting till she finally woke up and let me in. Her flatmate loves to sing karaoke which is a typical thing for Philippines (or whole Asia), so I had to do that. His girlfriend is a model and owns lots of dresses she doesn't need. At night we wanted to go to a very posh hotel bar in Makati, where my host's flatmate works. So he wanted to impress his chef and insisted of dressing me with one of those many beautiful dresses and high heels of his girlfriend , which was something totally different for me on my trip as I was a backpacker and normally dressed myself with convenient and comfortable cloths. The next morning I left for Cebu and wanted to do couchsurfing again in Cebu City. On the flight, my neighbor started talking to me and told me about his family, his usual destinations for vacation and gave me tips. Since I was planning on taking a taxi from the airport to the city, my neighbor invited me to drive with him, because he had a driver. On the way they invited me for lunch and dropped me off right in front of my host's house. And of course they didn’t take any money.the only thing they wanted me to do in return was to have a beer at night with them.

Many things like these happened to me and made me feel safe and welcome throughout my whole trip.


Follow Karolin's adventures:
Instagram: @kaluban

Do you know any foreign traveler who also fell in love with the Philippines? Let me know their contact details so I can also feature them here. Please comment below or hit me an email at glen@escapemanila.com.

Let's make The Philippines a better place to live and a better place for travelers to visit. Let's work hand-in-hand to promote responsible tourism which will ultimately lead to a sustainable tourism industry in the country.

***Photos were provided by Karolin.