I apologize for being such a lousy blogger. For once, I have free time on my hands but I haven’t been in the mood to write. Just to keep you in the loop, I’m back in Manila, Philippines for the summer break. I’m halfway through it and I’ve decided it’s about time to get the ball rolling, productivity-wise.
What would have been an uneventful vacation turned into an action-packed (that is, for a tita like me) trip as the boyfriend had decided to tag along. I made a list of places where I wanted to take him given the fact that our budget is peanuts. I know El Nido, Palawan is not exactly a budget-friendly destination and it’s rainy season right now but I wanted to wow him from the get-go with some of our best beaches.
We were still battling with jet lag from our Europe to Asia flight when we had to take another flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa. We took an Uber to NAIA, having had only three hours of sleep. I personally require eight hours of sleep in order to function at optimum efficiency so the trip kinda started on the wrong foot.
I had never been to El Nido nor to Palawan so we shared this experience both as first timers. To tell you the truth, I can’t for the life of me swim. I would normally think twice before going island hopping because I wouldn’t want to invite even the remote possibility of ending up dead at the deep end of the ocean. The boyfriend has always been amazed by that fact since I grew up in a country made up of islands (drowning scares the shit out of me, ok?). He’s no David Hasselhoff but his presence was reassuring. At least there’s someone to hold on to during moments of mini panic attacks underwater.SIDENOTE: There are direct flights to El Nido but they cost around ₱6,000 one-way per person. That’s pretty steep considering there are low-cost airlines that offer return flights from Manila to Puerto Princesa (PPS) for as low as ₱1,000. We got ours for ₱2,413 each.
I allowed myself to break one of my personal travel rules: I booked us a package tour for the whole trip. I’ve done most of my trips DIY but this time, I wanted to save the hassle of making my own arrangements. After reading some blogs, I decided to go with Northern Hope Tours. With the land transfers, accommodation for 5 nights and 3 island hopping tours, the total came to ₱12,600.
DAY 1 | Puerto Princesa
We arrived late afternoon, before sunset. No more vans were scheduled to go to El Nido that late. We weren’t in a rush so we just spent the night in Puerto Princesa. The staff from Green Villa picked us up from the PPS airport. I’ve always found seeing someone holding a piece of paper with my whole name amusing. It makes me feel like I’m important.
Typical Filipino breakfast: silog. For non-Filipino readers, silog is the triad of sinangag (fried rice), itlog (egg) and a third component. Below photo (L-R): sinangag + itlog + longganisa (Filipino sausage) = longsilog.
DAY 2 | El Nido Town + Las Cabanas + Marimegmeg Beach
Not sure where Day 1 ends and Day 2 officially begins but I will wing it.
230 kilometers and 5 hours later, we arrived in El Nido. Such a shame the van trip from Puerto Princesa to El Nido took so much time out of the day. Also, it was a literal pain-in-the-butt since I could barely sit my ass on the most uncomfortable seat in the UV express, the one beside the driver.
We checked in at the lovely Northern Hope Inn (dripping with sarcasm), left our things, collected our thoughts and off we went to wander the streets of El Nido town proper.
We ordered pancit bihon and tocilog for lunch in Silog Republic. They had meals for around 100 pesos. In El Nido, that’s hard to come by.
We had the whole afternoon to fill in but we couldn’t do any of the island hopping tours since all of them started at 9 AM. Still a wee jet lagged, the thought of chilling by the beach and doing mostly nothing sounded appealing. Marimegmeg and Las Cabanas Beach felt like the perfect place to do so. To get here, you can hire a tricycle for 100 pesos (if you have master haggling skills).
Finally, a beach with clear, warm water and powdery, soft white sand. Plus, there seem to be more dogs than people, which is perfect because dogs > humans.
This beach, apparently, is popular for spectacular sunsets. Naturally, we waited with the camera at the ready to snap some photos but alas, gloomy skies obscured the sun. It was a bit of a bust so we just packed up and hailed a tricycle back to our inn.
After a bath in our shower-less room (what up tabo?), we went out to get something to eat. Food in El Nido is generally expensive and it was getting a bit frustrating because we had to budget accordingly. We passed by this restaurant, which at first, we were hesitant to try because there was no one inside. We went in, anyway. Ha! Another personal travel rule broken. Glad we did because it turned out to be quite a good one. For 200 pesos, you can get well-presented meals that taste just as good.
As much as I hated how shabby our inn was and the fact that there was barely any wifi or data internet signal from our room, the location kind of made up for it. It’s at the beachfront and within walking distance from a lot of restaurants and bars. The streets looked like your typical sketchy Filipino neighborhood but we didn’t feel unsafe walking at night. We ambled home and I set off to bed, with visions of the deep dark abyss we call the ocean and how confident AND terrified I was at the same time.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Paradise in Palawan: El Nido series!