The flight to this part of the world takes FOREVER, so this is what I bring: For the flight, I recommend noise canceling headphones, a wrap-around memory foam neck pillow (e.g.,http://www.skymall.com/shopping/detail.htm?pid=102521365&c= ), and a memory foam sleep mask. I usually take a Benadryl after getting on the plane, and keep some Tylenol, ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, immodium, wet naps, and kleenex handy. After catching URIs after a couple of long flights, I have also started bringing on board Bacitracin ointment to dab on my nostrils, Listerine antiseptic mouthwash to use every couple hours, and Purell hand sanitizer, to use periodically, especially before eating. It seems to be working. The only liquids I trust drinking on board are those coming straight from a newly opened can or bottle into my cup, i.e., nothing from a pitcher or coffee pot. I also bring my own liter of water, since they never serve enough. When not bringing gifts for my GF’s there, I only travel by carry on, and take only quick drying lightweight synthetics; no cotton. I usually wash everything in the sink or tub a couple times during the trip, hang dry it, and it is all ready to wear by next day.
In addition to what you are wearing, including good lightweight walking shoes, bring four or five shirts (go through two a day in that humidity; half should be long-sleeved, to avoid sun burn in the day), one or two pair of pants, four or five boxers, 2-3 pair of socks, a swim trunk, good pair of sandals (what you’ll wear except clubbing at night), a broad-brimmed packable lightweight hat, a pocket-size rain jacket, sunglasses, your camera, an unlocked cell phone (local sim cards are $4, and you will want one), and also a netbook, if you wish (most hotels have WiFi, more convenient than an internet cafe). A small combination lock to keep all your bigger stuff safely locked away in your pack while you are away or entertaining company is also a good idea. (Rooms will have safes for passport, cash, camera, and smaller items.) Shorts and t-shirts or tank tops are optional, but please don’t plan on wearing those to the clubs. Too many tourists/expats do that already, and trust me when I say that you do not want to be grouped with them in any girl’s minds.
After getting ripped off by the charges of my bank, the local Philippines bank, and the less-than-ideal exchange rate for every ATM transaction I have made, totaling about $9 for every $230 withdrawal (10,000 pesos, the usual maximum), I now just take what I need with me in cash (new looking hundred dollar bills; worn ones are frequently not accepted). http://www.cabelas.com sells a good leather money belt, if you need one. Holds $1100, in hundreds.
Lonely Planet Philippines (10th Ed., 2009) and Philippines Travel Guide by Jens Peters (3rd Ed., 2009) are the two tour guides I recommend.
Staying in Manila, Angeles City, and Subic. Here are places to stay in these places. In Manila, the Copacabana Hotel . I recommend the one bedroom suite, but the standard rooms are good enough for 1-2 nights. Ask for a room high up, preferably not facing EDSA (the main highway, and very noisy at all hours). Totally guest-friendly. It is right across the street, via a walking bridge (I walk there, if it is early in the evening, and spend $2 on a taxi to take me and any company back to the hotel later at night; reported muggings) from the EDSA complex, a group of seven go-go bars all housed in the same building, that you can wander between for the evening. No cover charges, but if don’t order a drink, for $2, when you enter a bar and a waiter asks what you want to drink, you will be asked to leave. I stick with Coke Zeros for most of the evening, unless I intend to stay in a place for a while, then switch tnighto San Miguel or San Miguel light. Makati City in Manila is a good place to hang out as well. The bars clubs and restaurants here are a little more expensive, as they are full of more professional types.
The Heritage Hotel, right next door, is also a slightly more expensive alternative ($66/ through http://www.agoda.com). Ritzy looking. Very nice rooms. Pool is nothing special. I stayed there once, with a girlfriend, so I don’t know what the reaction would be to bringing a new friend back there at 2 AM. You might get charged extra, for the extra guest.
In Subic, Sheavens Resort. I recommend a deluxe room on the third or fourth floor, which is high enough above the surrounding trees to give a nice panoramic view of the bay from front window and front terrace of these units. At a little over $50 a night, these rooms, overlooking the bay, are steals. Totally guest-friendly. Open air patio restaurant overlooking the bay has very good items, although the selection is very limited. Good Thai food in the bar/restaurant right next door.
An acceptable nearby (50 yards away) alternative would be the Superior Beachfront rooms (choose #34, 35, or 36, which have an unobstructed view of the water) at Blue Rock Resor — totally guest-friendly. I stayed there last trip. The rooms are a little bigger, more run down, and more expensive ($70) than Sheavens. The restaurant is bigger, livelier, and has a more extensive menu. I personally prefer the smaller, but newer and nicer, rooms at Sheavens, as well as the more tranquil atmosphere. I can wander over to Blue Rock’s floating bar, if I want to be in a party.
In Angeles City, Pacific Breeze Hotel. I always ask for the Executive Plus ($60) or Executive ($57) Room, facing away from the main road and away from construction, with one large bed, not two smaller beds, nonsmoking. Beyond totally guest-friendly. It has a bar/restaurant with decent food and a good atmosphere, next to a pool which is big enough to swim laps in. The hotel is one block away from ground zero (Fields Avenue) which is about as close as you would want to get. Any closer and you’d be hearing it through your window all night long. This is always where I stay now. They don’t require a deposit, only an email confirmation of your reservation, so you may want to book April 18-23 there like I did, in case we decide to book over there early. You can always call and cancel out the first day or two if you need to, without penalty. This place does get fully booked frequently.
If Pacific Breeze is booked, a block away is nearby Valentino’s
which is OK. Guest-friendly, as I would imagine any hotel in this part of AC is. I stayed there, once. The rooms are very nice, but it does not have a pool or a restaurant (website says it has a bar, but I don’t remember ever seeing it), or even a very big lobby, so there is nowhere to hang out except your room, which makes the transition of moving a new friend from the bar to your place a bit more abrupt and potentially awkward. I always like using a stop at the restaurant or pool back at the Pacific Breeze to have a drink and/or appetizer as a nice icebreaker, which usually improves the remainder of the evening.
Makati city in Manila for more professional women. More expensive than other parts of Manila, but really worth it for the hotter Y that abounds here.
God Damn Factor 8.0