Country Face-Off #1

When you’ve got the travel bug, you always want to go everywhere, see everything and do everything. This, unfortunately, does not gel too well with the real world and it’s limitations of money and time. With that in mind, we need to start trimming some of the fat off of our trip. And what better way to do that then by enfranchising you, our readers? In an series of intermittent and in-no-particular-order face-offs, we will be asking you to help us decide which of two similar countries should stay on our itinerary, and which should get the boot. So please vote in the poll at the bottom, and leave us a comment in the comments section to enlighten us about why you voted the way you did.

In our first face-off, we’re looking at two island nations in Southeast Asia.


Indonesia or Philippines

So really, both of these countries are so enormous (and islands so numerous) that we will never see all of either one. The Philippines has over 7,000 islands, but that’s dwarfed by the over 18,000 islands that make up Indonesia. Both consist of a “main” island that is the home to a majority of the population, Java for Indonesia (124 of 234 million people) and Luzon for the Philippines (40 of ~80 million people). This means these two islands are not a particularly attractive travel destination for us, due largely to the overcrowded cities, development and pollution. Disagree? We want to hear about how wrong we are.

What we are more interested in is the “less developed” part of each country. We are largely looking at the Cebu region of the Philippines, and Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. A little more detail on each, you say? As you wish.

Cebu City is located on Cebu island in the center of the Philippines. It is a hub for the myriad of ferries that fan out to all of the smaller islands in the region, and a quaint city in its own right. Within easy reach by boat are (obviously) beautiful white sand beaches complete with crystal clear waters, reportedly some of the best preserved WWII shipwrecks for diving (we’ll worry about that certification thing later), and the cherry on top, swimming with whale sharks at Donsol (which is actually on the southern tip of Luzon island).

Borneo and Sumatra are raw and natural islands, some areas of which have still been undisturbed by man. Borneo is known as the home of Orang Utans, pygmy elephants and pygmy rhinos, while Sumatra has its own version of each of these species and more. On Borneo, river boats go up into the jungles and the native outpost villages that exist, which sounds entirely exotic and amazing. Sumatra is a touch more developed, but not dramatically so. Plus they each have their requisite beautiful beaches and opportunities for relaxation after all that action.

So there’s a bit of an introduction for you guys. It’s a tough decision. Both are relatively inexpensive, offer beautiful scenery with a touch of adventure, but in subtly different ways. Of course, we’ve only mentioned here what we found most interesting about each country, you may be interested in entirely different aspects. Here’s some places to find a little more information if you want to dig a little deeper before casting your vote.

World Travel Guide Philippines

World Travel Guide Indonesia

Without further ado, open the polls!




21 Replies to “Country Face-Off #1”

  1. Indonesia was my vote. The first season of Survivor was shot in Borneo (and I think its been back various times throughout what will be its 16th season with the premiere on February 7.) One time I watched a show on Discovery about Borneo (What haven’t I watched on Discovery?). It was about all the yet to be discovered species (including new findings and such) and the untapped wilderness that modern man literally has never seen. I don’t know what it is but the Philippines (hmm…all these years I think I’ve been pronouncing it wrong. I don’t see it spelled often but clearly its Philip-pines and I thought it was Philli-pines, but since it was named after Philip II of Spain…whatever) aren’t jumping out at me as the place to go. I don’t know about you but I just hate having to choose between the Philippines and Indonesia, such painstakingly difficult decisions. Deciding on dinner is hard enough.

  2. Swimming with whale sharks??!? Seriously?! Phillippines it is. It seems like they both have similar activities to offer, but the “Top Things to Do” list for the Phillippines sounds marginally better. Plus, c’mon, whale sharks!

  3. I’m definately about Indonesia. The Philippines has been very westernized, according to my friends who just got back from there last week. They spent the majority of their time in shopping malls. I don’t know, that’s just not my idea of fun…

  4. You jest Greg, but you’ve got a point. Though we may throw it up to see what people would say =). Terrorism and extremism is on the rise in both Indonesia and the Philippines. I ignored it in the post because I don’t want to focus on such things, but they do need to be considered. Actually, it is not recommended to go to the south Philippines (Mindanao) due to muslim extremists carrying on a guerilla war there. The rest of the country seems fine though. And we all know about the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 (we have no intention of heading to Bali). So these are not non-issues.

    On a more uplifting note, thanks for the votes and thoughts, and keep ’em coming. Becca, is Zimmern the guy who eats all the crazy food? We saw him eating calf brains and couldn’t watch any more. I’m not sure I would call that a rousing endorsement. But as Paulina noted, I am pulled by the whale sharks. Strongly. On the other hand, discovering and naming my own new species would be pretty sweet too, better odds of that on Borneo. Tough decisions, indeed.

  5. Thanks for the info, So Cal. What we’ve read about the Philippines is that it has a very interesting, Latin/Spanish/Western vibe to it. But yeah, I’m not so interested in shopping malls, we do that in this country better than anyone, so why leave if that’s what you’re looking for.

  6. My initial instinct was Indonesia, because of the obvious factors such as its extreme wilderness and Orang Utans and the such. I’m very much of the exotic opportunities that are very specific to a country.

    My knowledge of the Phillipines however goes little past its struggles with war and our fine nation. But I will admit, whale sharks sounds pretty darn awesome, thought I’m not much a fan of open water.

    Initially, diving in WWII wrecks sounded swell and all, but I’m sure there is good diving in many of the countries you are visiting.

    So in the end, the big hairy primates of Borneo win out.

  7. Philippines is great. Loved it there! Haven’t been to Indo yet though. Will probably head down there in January for a couple of months. I swam with the whale sharks at Donsol in February and it is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. Cebu City isn’t that nice but the charm of the country is in the smaller places.

  8. Oh and there’s absolutely nothing unsafe about travelling to Iran or North Korea. They’re probably two of the safest places out there. North Korea because you’re stuck in an expensive tour (it’s the only way to see the place) and Iran because of the amazing hospitality of the people, even towards Americans. Visas are tough to get for you guys though.

    Mindanao is generally considered to be safe except for Zamboanga and the islands that run off of it towards the south west. That’s pirate territory. I went to Camiguin, a little island off the north of Mindanao, and it’s perfectly fine. Great place too… if you have a chance, check it out.

  9. Just a note.

    There are 2 part of Borneo. Am wondering which part of Borneo are you talking about in particular? Borneo that belongs to Indonesia is call the Kalimantan while the other Borneo belongs to Malaysia aka Borneo Malaysia or East Malaysia and Borneo of Brunei.

    Referring to #Gregory, the Survivor Season 1 was actually shot in Malaysia side of Borneo at Pulau Tiga!


  10. No, you didn’t miss anything. We never made it to Indonesia or the Philippines. I think our eyes were bigger than our stomachs…so many places we wanted to go and so little time in the end to do it. Plus by the time we got to SE Asia, Indonesia was being rocked by earthquakes and the Philippines was getting drowned by typhoons, so it wasn’t really the ideal time to visit either.

  11. I voted for Indonesia. although I’m Indonesian but I really love traveling around my country, try to do as much as I can. Beside Borneo, you can try to go to East Nusa Tenggara or Papua, there are best diving spot.
    Sulawesi has Toraja too, which is famous for it’s funeral ceremony (make sure you see the ceremony).
    But i think every place has its own beauty and uniqueness :).
    Oh, also, visit Yogyakarta, though it’s in Java island but Yogyakarta is the center of Javanese culture.
    Enjoy your traveling in Indonesia, the smiling country.

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