Sunday, 3 January 2016

Philippines pt. 2 - Palawan: El Nido and Puerto Princesa

Finally a blog post about the highlight of the holiday… El Nido, Palawan. I was beyond excited for this part of the trip. The beach, sun, sea! Who wouldn't want to relax on one of the most beautiful islands in the world? The weather in the Philippines was very hot and humid, however in Manila it was full of pollution. It wasn't as bad in Palawan so it was nice to get a breath of fresher air.

After a standard McDonalds breakfast (where by the way, the workers are ten times friendlier and the food is also better), we took a taxi to NAIA Terminal 3; specifically for domestic flights. It would only take us at least an hour to get there so we made sure to leave the hotel at an appropriate time. The plane was absolutely freezing, the air conditioner was on full blast the whole time. Although, I slept the whole way throughout the plane trip as I was still struggling with jet lag.

At 2 o’clock we arrived in Puerto Princesa waiting for our van driver to take us to El Nido, which would be another five to six hour trip. We didn’t leave until 4 due to complications, as I anticipated it was horrible. The roads were very shaky and it wasn’t your typical motorway, they were almost zigzag shaped. There was absolutely no chance I was sleeping. My cousins did warn me about this beforehand, I just did not expect it to be that terrible! Finally after a gruelling five-hour and a half journey we arrived! The infamous Filipino tricycle assisted us to the hotel, as the van couldn’t.

We stayed in the Garnet hotel. It was an average, standard hotel. Nothing amazing, also there was collective dirt in the bathroom sink that I wasn’t too pleased with. Even though we were all slightly tired from the journey ,we were excited for the next few days. So we decided to stroll around the town for a little while and we found somewhere to eat.

Eric and I opted for noodles called pancit canton and my cousins chose to have rice, eggs and I assume chicken? This came with a bottle of sprite, despite my dislike for fizzy drinks. I do have to point out that since El Nido is a very popular tourist location, the prices there prove to be more expensive compared to Manila. 
Upon hearing that we had to be up very early at six the next morning, we all fell into a food coma and made our way back to the hotel. I slept like a baby!

Day one:
As soon I looked out of my hotel window, I was baffled by how beautiful the place really was. From our hotel window I could see the huge rocky mountain and wondered where that came from. Bearing in mind we arrived at night.  
The view from our restaurant was something I'd only ever seen online. I kept questioning whether or not it was real?! 

The view from our restaurant:

The restaurant we dined at every morning was called Habibi Restaurant, it's also a shisha bar! The food there was absolutely delicious, fairly cheap too. When I converted my GBP into PHP (Philippine Pesos), £1 would be 65 pesos. So if you look at the cocktail menu on one of the images below, can you imagine just how cheap the drinks were?!

I wanted to stick to a normal breakfast, I didn't feel like having anything too heavy so I ordered cereal with banana and tea. Everyone else chose a bigger breakfast!

Toast with sausages and egg.
Toast with a scrambled egg omelette.

Not long after, at 8ish we met our tour guide right outside the restaurant. He was extremely friendly and soon introduced us to the rest of his boat crew, we would be touring with them for the next 3 days. 
From the very beginning they were so welcoming and accommodating, they helped us in any possible they they could whether it was getting on the boat to cooking our lunch for us, which you will see later on. 
I'm only showing you guys the best pictures as this post would be far too long if I was to include all my 2,000 pictures from Philippines! 

On day one we visited the following islands: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Payong- payong Beach, Simizu Island, Intalula Island, Seven Commmandos Beach. I will mention which pictures show which island!

This picture was at the Big Lagoon, also the place where I wounded myself. The ocean had lots of tall rocks and since I'm clumsy, I tripped and scraped my knee. It wasn't anything too drastic, it did sting and the salty sea water made it feel worse. On this island, we went sight seeing and enjoyed the white sandy beach (unfortunately, not the big tall rocks).
Our boat crew prepared our lunch held at Payong-payong island. Isn't it delicious?! they managed to make this all on the boat itself with a homemade grill. Luckily, our boat was also exclusive and so it was only myself, Eric and my three cousins that got to devour this feast! The difference between us and non-exclusive boats was that non-exclusive boats had an estimated 10 people on it. They were served the same amount of food as us (possibly more, I didn't really think to look properly) It was refreshing to see so many tourists from all over the world.
Below shows, rice, fruits (inc. melon, banana and pineapple), pork, shrimp, eggplant, cucumber and tomatoes, fish and soy sauce! They cooked it so so well, we almost finished everything. 

After eating Eric decided to work it off via snorkelling.

Kayaking on Entalula island (plus jumping off the boat for pictures) 
There were a lot of other tourists on this island too. Some were kayaking, others were snorkelling and some were swimming. I did find the water to be quite deep so kudos to anyone who managed to swim. If you didn't know this yet, filipinos love to take lots of pictures; anything and everything. For the fun of it, Eric and the rest of my cousins took jump shots off the boat whilst Gilbert took the photos. As for me, I was too scared. The sea was very deep indeed.

This was my favourite beach by far. This is the Seven Commandos beach. There was all sorts here, a resort, a shop selling halo-halo and coconut juice, volleyball area, giant swing, snorkelling. etc So much to do! I enjoyed this the most. It was at the end of the day, I was badly sunburnt and exhausted from all the snorkelling and swimming. That didn't stop me from snorkelling, eating and going on the giant swing. I loved it so much!

At around 4pm we got back on the island where our resort was, tired and starving. By the time we left our hotel, after taking a shower, to look for a place to eat it was already very dark. We dined by the beach (although not being able to see very much) at a restaurant called 'Spider Resto Bar' a very lively atmosphere, the food was okay. Pretty average, the singang was delicious though.
Margarita pizza, I have to admit their pizza's are not as good as the ones back in the UK.
Sinigang, sweet and sour fish and fried prawns. 

Day two:
My goodness, my body stung so badly the next morning... I was definitely burnt. Everyone else was experiencing the exact same thing, we applied sun lotion like crazy and consistently re-applied. We got the opportunity to hire a GoPro, to take some pictures for underwater when we were snorkelling. It worked out to be quite cheap, 1000PHP for the entire day. Converted into GBP was £20. Much cheaper than purchasing a GoPro! I don't travel often either so I wouldn't find much use in one. We swiftly made our way to Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach and Helicopter Island.

Matinloc Shrine (below) was very beautiful. We went sigh-seeing and climbed one of the mountains so we got such a good view of everything from the top. I have to give credit to gilbert (main boat crew member) for taking pictures for us underwater. We couldn't swim that low to take decent pictures of the corals and fishes. He also has a waterproof bag which saved our cameras and phones.

Aren't the pictures our boat crew, Gilbert, took impressive?!

The following pictures are now from the GoPro. In all honesty, they take better quality videos as opposed to pictures. On the other hand, they were still decent.

As you can see, the activities that day were similar to the previous day. It consisted of a lot of snorkelling, swimming and sightseeing. One of my favourite things to do in-between the journey to the islands was to sit at the front of the boat. It was a lot much fun, especially when the tides were high. 

Day three:
The very last day of island hopping. Unfortunately, I couldn't find what the names of these islands (except for the island shown in the image below, the love island) were online. It was a resting day, all the islands we viewed were empty. No other boats or tourists other than us. Complete and utter bliss! Island hopping does get very tiring especially when your skin was sore. It was incredibly painful trying to put on our life vests.

I couldn't thank the boat crew enough for their effort and help. They're one of the nicest, friendliest people I've ever met and I was sad to leave them. If you're ever booking an island hopping tour, make sure you ask for Gilbert! he's very funny, friendly and informative.
We had to go back to the island a little earlier that day since we were making our way back to Puerto Princesa. I was not looking forward to this 5-6 hour journey. 

22:00, Puerto Princesa
Our journey to Puerto Princesa was the worst. The van driver almost crashed six times due to reckless driving! He wasn't very considerate of his passengers and others on the road. Nevertheless, we made it to our next hotel, Rofolfo Royale Hotel. Starving and still eager to explore the city, we took a tricycle to the Tikki Bar in Puerto Princesa. One of the most outrageous and unexpected bars I've ever been to.

It was ridiculously entertaining watching people dancing as we sat on the first floor overlooking the dance floor; people attempting to twerk as the hosts managed to pull tourists onto the stage. 
It wasn't all pleasant though...
For starters, I was shocked when nobody at the entrance was checking people for their ID (they were just searching bags) so anyone could get it. Additionally, you see what all these documentaries show on TV, young girls being taken advantage by old men. It was disgusting and yes it did bother me. I was baffled that I was actually seeing it happen right in front of me. They looked so much younger than me and these men were old enough to be my granddad! Another thing was I saw a young boy (around six years old) on his fathers shoulders on the dance floor. Whilst some may view this as funny, I certainly do not. There is definitely a line between what's appropriate. A lot of the things I saw in that bar really did open my eyes to the amount of exploitation there is in the Philippines. How the government is failing to even do anything about it...

Day four:
Evidently, we have been very tired throughout the entire Palawan trip due to the early mornings and late nights. But it was very much so worth it. At eight in the morning we took a van to go to the Underground River, approximately an hour and a half ride. I took advantage of it and slept throughout the whole of it. We also had a different tour guide this time. Again, very friendly and willing to answer any questions.
As soon as we arrived our tour guide made sure we were one of the first in line to get a boat to the Underground river. Now these boats did not seem as steady as the ones in El Nido so I was slightly petrified, especially as the tide was pretty strong.

Upon arriving we went through a forrest which apparently had monkeys, just freely roaming round. We were warned of any loose items of course in case they tried to take them. Sadly, I did not see any... I was on the lookout though.

The boat ride into the cave lasted for approximately twenty minutes. As we made our way throughout the cave, our tour guide explained what some of the rocks represented or looked like. The cave was full of bats and bat poo. So it didn't exactly smell the best. The view was intriguing though, especially the history behind it. We had to pay extra for an extended tour guide of the cave, we felt there was no need though. Swiftly moving back to Puerto Princesa... 

A very short trip to the Underground River indeed, we had a flight to catch later on thus, we didn't want to risk any time. We made our way back to Puerto Princesa and stopped over a market to buy a few things... souvenirs and food! My cousin also brought back some crocodile meat as requested by her dad.
Eric learning how to drink fizzy drinks the filipino way.
The trip to Palawan is one I will never forget. Even typing up this blog post has given me so much nostalgia. I will definitely return one day, it's such a beautiful island with such wonderful people. The lack of sleep was definitely worth it, I would do it all over again.

Yours truly,
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