The Philippines: A Conversation with Kimberly Hellmers
Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where do you live? What made you decide to go to the Philippines?
I graduated with a degree in International Business and Marketing from Northeastern University. Most recently I had been living in San Francisco working in the tech industry – for LinkedIn, in their Marketing Solutions division. However, travel has been my lifelong passion, so I resigned in November 2015 to travel Southeast Asia for four months.
How long did you go to the Philippines for? How did you spend your time?
I started my journey in the Philippines, where I spent a little over two weeks on the islands of Palawan and Boracay. I then traveled for 3.5 more months between Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia (stopping in Amsterdam en route home to NY as well).
What were your most memorable experiences? What were the biggest disappointments?
The Philippines, and Palawan specifically, had been on my travel bucket list for years after seeing a beautiful image online of Big Lagoon. During my first week there I rented a private small long boat for only around 50 USD (expensive for the area but for the experience, priceless) to take me out to the Lagoon early before the group boat tours arrived. You can only enter Big Lagoon via kayak and I had the entire lagoon to myself. Sitting in the deafening quiet, taking in some of the most beautiful scenery and crystal clear waters I had ever seen, knowing I was making my bucket list dreams actually happen, was by far one of my favorite memories.
What do you wish you knew before you went?
That it isn’t normal to expect flushing, western toilets or toilet paper so always be prepared and carry your own. Additionally, power would come and go as it pleased, meaning Wifi connectivity was sporadic. If you need to constantly be in touch, buy a SIM card for an unlocked cell phone. I personally didn’t mind being disconnected, but losing AC sometimes was uncomfortable.
Any favorite restaurants/hotels/hostels/
sites you’d like to recommend? Tell us what made them great!
L’ASSIETTE in El Nido town served delicious fresh upscale dishes with a western twist. Go to Sea Slugs, right on the beach, and imbibe a pitcher of weng wengs for a (STRONG) local tropical beverage. Also, try the Filipino delicacy of bird’s nest soup.
Frendz Hostel on Boracay Island was also amazing for meeting fellow travelers. With options for both dorm rooms and air conditioned private rooms, there is something for every budget and the hostel offered free pasta dinners and happy hour specials that made meeting people easy and incredibly fun. It was only a two minute walk from the beach and partnered with a local restaurant on the sand to provide beach chairs and discounts to hostel patrons. Also visit the wet market in Boracay to pick out your own fresh seafood and have any of the restaurants that circle the market cook it up fresh on the spot! So delicious and fresh – king prawns the size of my entire hand!
Is there anything that women specifically should know before they travel to your destination?
I personally felt quite safe everywhere in the Philippines as a solo woman traveler. Be smart like you would in any location – carry a cross body bag with a zipper in front of you to prevent pickpocketing and don’t leave valuables on the beach when you go into the water to swim.
It also helps to learn a few basic phrases like hello and thank you, as you’re immediately treated with a little more respect for respecting the local culture.