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The Philippines has suffered in the tourism stakes because of its position on the map. Imelda Marcos once said it was "hamburgered" geographically. What she meant was that the Philippines receives fewer visitors than other Southeast Asian countries - about two million a year compared to Thailand's six million - because it is not part of the Southeast Asian mainland. Travellers on the traditional Asian trails tend to get as far as Thailand or Hong Kong, but ignore the Philippines because it involves an extra flight, albeit it a short one, across the South China Sea.
Perversely, it is this very lack of mass tourism that makes the Philippines such an appealing destination. If you want to explore, and if you are ready to cope with some eccentric infrastructure and a distinctly laid-back attitude towards the passage of time, the Philippines has more to offer than many of its neighbours. When you plan your travel booking ahead, time is definitely an important factor.
The Philippines is a big country in a small package. It is the second largest archipelago in the world, with 7107 islands (sixty percent of them uninhabited) and 58,390km of coastline, all in a land mass no bigger than Arizona. Filipinos refer to it as their string of pearls. Your biggest problem is likely to be deciding which of the pearls to see first.
Most flights from outside the country land in the capital, Manila , which is choked with traffic and dilapidated, but also has some of the ritziest shopping malls and most spectacular nightlife in Asia. JM Nakpil Street in Malate on a Friday night is a sight to behold. Beatnik poets mingle with film stars, models, swaggering transvestites and a smattering of expats to create a good-natured outdoor rave that makes all other raves look tame by comparison.
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