Sometimes, in place of writing an early retirement post, out comes a journal entry instead. Is it OK to do that? Of course it is, because being retired means that I get to choose what I do, a feeling that never seems to get old! Anyway, as you'll have gathered, this is more of a travel journal post, so feel free to read if you're interested, but skip if you're not.
Related posts are:
As I write this, we're already home. Instead of being too hot in 30°C/86°F, I've just cleared snow off the terrace. That's quite a change. In the next few days, I'll be on my skis, seeing if I can remember how to turn and stop!
But back to the Philippines. One aim for spending a whole month in Coron Town (most people spend just a few days) was to have time to do things as well as some normal life type of stuff. It partly worked.
In the seeing and doing things category:
We of course caught up with our friends, Mr and Mrs G
Did an island tour
Coron Island boat trip with beaches, snorkelling, lakes, lagoons, wrecks
2 night (3 day) stay at Al Faro resort, which had fantastic views
Hiked Mount Dalara
Rock Island - spent a night (2 days) on a private island, it was just us (and the staff)
Climbed the steps up Mount Tapyas for the view - I ran up it for some reason🤷♂️
A day on a floating platform
Splashed out on a 3 night (4 day) stay at Sunlight Resort
Snorkelling at Siete Picardos, followed by a different floating platform day
Those doing and seeing things covered about half the number of days that we spent in Coron.
The other half should therefore have fitted into the normal life type of living category:
We rented an apartment in town for 2 weeks
I maintained an exercise regime
I kept up with my blog posting schedule
But I didn't really live my normal life most of the time. We ate out much more than we would normally do, and I spent a lot more time being lazy than is typical (normally I only allow myself to be lazy at weekends)
The rented apartment wasn't really what we were looking for. Our original plan was to find a home from home place for a month, but that type of accommodation doesn't seem to exist in Coron Town. We found the best place that we could, it was clean, but not homely comfortable, and it didn't feel like a home from home.
Overall, my idea of living my normal life in a different place didn't quite work. I was pleased that I maintained an exercise regime and my blog posting schedule but, outside of these, it felt that I let my routines slide. And I quite enjoyed that. It made me wonder if I should do this more, but I worry that I'd become lazy and bored without my routines, targets and to-do lists. Perhaps the balance is to escape the routines while travelling, but generally stick with them at home.
We stayed with Mr & Mrs G at the start and end of our time in Coron, and they were perfect tour guides throughout. Not only was it great to see them, but it was also fascinating to see their version of early retired life, particularly because it's different from mine. Either with them, or on their recommendation, we visited some stunning places. But however good the scenery, it's always the people who make the difference. Coron proved that to be true, and we say a huge thank you to Mr & Mrs G for being outstanding friends and hosts.
I genuinely don't know what the highlight of my time on Coron was. Outside of the people, perhaps the stunning views from Al Faro resort and Busuanga Bay Lodge. We lunched at Busuanga Bay Lodge on our first day on the island, and again on our last day. Dining with our friends and enjoying the million dollar view was the perfect start and end to our visit to Coron.
For our final week of our trip, we headed to Manilla, specifically the area called Bonifacio Global City, or BGC for short. Google describes BGC as "a commercial hub known for glitzy shopping areas like Bonifacio High Street, filled with big-name brands and flagship stores. Upscale global restaurants mix with cocktail bars, hip cafes, and mainstream nightclubs". I didn't visit any nightclubs or cocktail bars, and we found more Starbucks than hip cafes, but it seems a fair description. I ran alongside the golf course, found the polo club, saw Ferrari's, Bentleys and the large houses in gated communities where they presumably park. It was completely different from the part of Manilla we stayed in on day one of our trip, and completely different from Coron Town.
The purpose of visiting BGC was for our health check-up. We arrived on Tuesday, had our health check on Thursday morning, and departed the following Tuesday. We stayed a week thinking that the test results and follow up doctor's appointment would be done by then. They weren't. It's not an issue, we'll have the follow up doctor's appointment by video. If we'd known of the video appointment option in advance, we wouldn't have stayed in BGC so long. Contrary to my initial intention, I was too lazy to battle Manilla's traffic to search out any sights, so instead had a week of cafes, restaurants, reading, daily exercise (bar one day), and watching the World Cup football (soccer, if you're American). And wearing face masks, which were almost universally used, but something we've got used to doing without.
And then we took the long flight back to Europe. We still need to make our video appointment with the doctor to finalise our health checks. In a future post, I'll provide feedback on the health check process and whether I think it's something that I'll continue to do.
Our Philippines trip was completely different to our previous early retirement travels of four months in Asia and Australia or three months in Costa Rica, Colombia and California. Neither better nor worse, just different.
Do I think I'll go back to the Philippines? I'm sure we'll visit again, to see Mr & Mrs G and to also visit some other parts of the country. If we head to New Zealand or make a return visit to Australia, I can imagine breaking the journey with a week or two in the Philippines.
As to whether the Philippines makes a good retirement location - it's horses for courses, and it clearly works for Mr & Mrs G. Using my criteria, and basing this on Coron Town, where I spent the most time, I score:
I struggle with the heat, hence the lower score
Cost of living
Mr & Mrs G live off a fraction of our costs
Family & friends
A bit far from our kids and wider family
English is widely spoken
1 or 2
Enough cafes and restaurants. But no good supermarket and very limited other stores. Water activities and beaches, but these aren't really my thing. I'd struggle with running in this heat and on the roads. Other locations in the Philippines may score higher
Safety, security, healthcare
3 or 2
Coron feels safe, but local healthcare is limited (a flight required for anything serious). Perhaps the healthcare would make this a 2
My total score is 18, which happens to be the same as I scored my current location in France. However, when looking at the scores, one also should ask if there are any dealbreakers. For example, on cost of living, I scored our home in France just 2 out of 5 but, as we can still afford it, it isn't a dealbreaker. I also scored climate in Coron a 2 but, as I don't do well in the heat, that probably is a dealbreaker for me.
I'm including a list of what we did during each week of our trip, it's a reminder for myself, but feel free to read if you're interested.
Week 5 in Philippines / Fourth week in Coron
Saturday:🏋️♂️ Other than my workout, did nothing all day, other than a short walk
Sunday:🏋️♂️ Another lazy day. Breakfast with the G's. Shopping for tomorrow's picnic. Out for evening dessert and coffee.
Monday:🏃♂️ Ran up Mount Tapyas for views over Coron Town and the bay. Floating platform in St Nicholas with the G's and a picnic. Dinner in Pacifico
Tuesday:🏋️♂️ Reading, coffee, laundry, bought sun-cream, dinner at Full Lotus
Wednesday:🏃♂️Sunlight Resort. Boat trip to the resort. Reading, lazing by the pool.
Thursday: 🏃♂️ Another resort pool day (I find some shade), reading my book.
Friday:🏃♂️ Pool day, sitting in the shade, reading my book
Week 6 in Philippines / Fifth week in Coron, then to Manilla
Saturday: Last morning in Sunlight Resort. Breakfast while writing my blog with a fantastic view. Boat back to main island, lunch at Epic Cafe then headed to the G's
Sunday: Snorkelling at Siete Picardos, Michael's floating restaurant.
Monday:🏋️♂️ Laundry and breakfast in town. Busuanga Bay Lodge for lunch. Early evening drinks in town. At the G's for England vs Iran in the World Cup
Tuesday: Packing. A spin in Mr G's buggy. Fly to Manila. Grab taxi to Airbnb, explored the area a bit and watched some World Cup on TV
Wednesday:🏋️♂️Cafes, restaurants, reading, World Cup TV watching
Thursday: Health check. Starbucks for lunch. Sports bar for football with Mr G and Ken
Friday:🏃♂️ Laundry, Starbucks, reading, blog writing, restaurant, football watching on TV
Week 7 in Philippines / Manilla (BGC) then home
Saturday:🏃♂️ Watched England vs USA on catch up. Starbucks for a slow coffee and breakfast. Blog writing, wandering around BGC High Street, World Cup watching
Sunday:🏃♂️ Posted blog, usual Starbucks routine, walk to show Sally the green route I'd run. Reading. Restaurant. Football on TV
Monday:🏃♂️ Starbucks coffee and breakfast routine. Reading, World Cup football, restaurant for dinner
Tuesday: Travel day. Checked out of Airbnb, passed the time in Starbucks, lunch at Shaka. To the airport for our long journey home.
Wednesday: Arrived in Zurich. Our trip is finished. We're spending a few days with our daughter before heading home
🏃♂️ = Running
🏋️♂️ = Stretching and core workout