The opening photo should say it all.
During my one hour flight from Manila to Cebu City, I flipped through my Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring.
Where to next?
My original plan was to only stay in the Philippines for the three weeks citizens of most countries receive upon entry. I had already booked my flight to Bangkok by advice from Lonely Planet, as I was not sure whether I would be allowed in the country without proof of onward travel.
(Immigration never asked me to see a ticket proving I would leave in time, so most people may not need this.)
But I wasn’t ready to go to Thailand.
Maybe Hong Kong?
I looked into Sumatra in Indonesia, various places in Malaysia and some spots in Cambodia.
I became discouraged reading the “Dangers and Annoyances” section for each country.
(Highly recommend travelers look at this section once, remember it, but keep it out of their mind.)
I looked through photos in the book and the picture of the main place I wanted to be for the next month or so was of Boracay in the Philippines. So I thought I’d give the country another look. Based on my first week in Donsol and other places in the country, I decided to stay.
On a boat pulling into Sun Splash Floating Bar for sunset and happy hour. Quite inviting, besides the guy in the front. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon
Some may think this is a bad call because there are so many other great countries and cultures to discover in Southeast Asia, there are places a lot cheaper than the Philippines in the rest of the area and the country is relatively small.
A few years ago, I would have agreed with those people. During my first backpacking experience, which was in Europe, I was content with spending as little as a day in some countries. I had the energy to keep going from city to city, country to country without a long break.
Maybe it’s that I’m getting older or maybe I’m just a different kind of traveler now, but I’m no longer interested in just scratching the surface. It’s not really about the sights or things to do, though I still do get off on that. Now it’s about actually getting to know the country and meeting the people in it.
So I extended my visa by 30 days in Cebu City. The process is quite easy, but can require a long wait. Those interested in an extension should visit the nearest Immigration Office. There are offices located in most major cities in the Philippines as well as some tiny resort islands. (Once your on one of these islands you’ll want an extension, trust me.)
I visited the Immigration Office in Cebu City located on the corner of Burgos St. and Mandaue Ave.(Location is according to Lonely Planet. I did not look at the street signs.) It was a Friday so people there were waiting for hours. But it’s an ideal place to meet other travelers and learn of other places. The extension costs P3,030 and requires a valid passport. The office does a background check on applicants, but if you’re passport clears then it’s most likely you’ll receive an extension.
Relaxing on Sun Splash Floating Bar off Malapascua Island with a Caipirina in front of me waiting for the sun to set, I’m positive extending my visa was the right decision.
Sitting on the floating bar off Malapascua Island writing this post. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon