Hello Palawan!June 14, 2018 on the Philippines
As I have learnt in my short time in the Philippines, getting from one island to another takes a long time. Well at least it does when you pick islands to visit that aren’t next to each other. Rookie mistake. Anyway getting from Loboc in Bohol to El Nido took 16 hours and involved getting a taxi to the port, a two hour ferry, a taxi to the airport, a two hour flight (delayed as usual), then a 5 hour minivan to El Nido town in the north of Palawan, an hours trike to Nacpan beach (which I paid three times as much as a should have) and finally a 5 minute walk along the beach in the pitch black greeted at the end by four people shouting “WELCOME TO MAD MONKEY!!”. The only good thing about the journey was that for most of it I was with three french girls I met at Nuts Huts on my last night. Unfortunately they made the smart decision to stay in El Nido town instead of on Nacpan beach (you’ll understand soon). Needless to say as soon as I got to Mad Monkey I admitted defeat and went straight to bed.
Unfortunately I woke up to torrential rain, they type that if you stand outside for two seconds you’re drenched. I later found out we were on the edge of a typhoon. Well it is the “rainy” season. My four day break at the beach was not looking so good. I spent the morning in the bar area talking to a few people and slowly realising that this was very much a party hostel. I knew that before I booked it but bought I’d be spending my days relaxing on the beach. But when the weather is bad the only thing to do there is eat and drink in the bar. There’s one other bar a hundred meters up the beach and then a few little shack shops selling convenience food. Other than that there is nothing on this beach. Added to the fact that the nearest town (with the only ATM) is an hour away. It really is a honey trap there. Oh and by the way every hour between 12 and 12 a bell rings and two staff shout: “ladies and gentleman of mad monkey there are free shots at the bar” (watered down ones I’d like to add) and all the party goers flock like sheep. Needless to say I was very much in the wrong place. Oh and to top it off the place had no WiFi! Just very passive aggressive signs in the bar saying “No WiFi. Talk to each other.” The friends I had met were leaving that day so I decided to cut my losses and leave the next day. In the meantime the rain did stop long enough for a quick dip in the sea (though the current was pretty strong so you couldn’t do more than paddle) and take the obligatory picture. At least the food was nice (even though it was way over priced). Anyway let’s cut to the next day.
I allowed myself to have a lie in (beach life and all that) and left the beach at 12. Luckily I had met an english couple who also wanted to head back to the town to get some money out (spending money on a trike there and back to get cash out is just madness but hey ho) so I could at least split the fair. Unlucky for me was that they were both very tall so I had to spend the hours journey crouched on the back of the drivers bike, uncomfortable doesn’t even do it justice. Back in civilisation I headed to the hostel that the three french girls were staying at as it was the only hostel I knew was there (thanks mad monkey for the no WiFi!). Unfortunately the girl at reception said they’d left after one night (never a good sign). I booked in anyway and then went to a nearby vegan cafe for lunch and had hummus for the first time in a month (hallelujah!). I managed to finally get WiFi and contacted one of the girls and arranged to meet for dinner. The rest of the afternoon I spent in an ice cream shop watching YouTube videos (I can feel the judgement but I don’t care!). I met the girls at a Greek restaurant and told them of my ordeal in not-so-paradise-beach. They had actually gone there that day and tried to look for me but I’d already left. Typical. They also told me they left their hostel because they found a cockroach in their room. I hadn’t seen any yet and their standards are a bit higher than mine so I decided to stay anyway (also mad monkey was pretty expensive so beggars can’t be choosers at this point!). They said they’d been trying to get on a boat tour but they’d all been cancelled because of the weather. I decided to give el Nido one more day and if the boat trip wasn’t running in the morning I’d leave and go to Puerto Princessa and just hang about there before my flight.
Luckily when I woke up that morning I’d got a message from the girls that the boat trips were running again. We met on the beach and hopped on one of the 50 boats that were running. Unfortunately because this was the first day in about a week that the boat tours were running it meant nearly every tourist boat was out that day. The tour stopped at a small beach first where we could swim, but as there was so many people in the water it was more like treading water. We then went to a large lagoon and rented kayaks to go further in the lagoon. This was pretty nice until I jumped out of the kayak and landed on a rock slicing a chunk of skin off my big toe. At least I was in salt water I guess. The tour leader patched me up though and I was fine for the rest of the day. We then stopped at a small cove for lunch. It was pretty funny seeing all the guides carrying to food off the boats over their heads to stop getting wet. After lunch we went to our last stop which was another lagoon and this time snorkelled. We saw quite a few fish which was really cool but I was saddened by how much of the coral was dead. Global warming for you. After the snorkelling we headed back to the beach and back to the town. Aside from cutting my foot the day was pretty fun and definitely salvaged some positive vibes of El Nido. After the boat trip I decided to get the night bus back to Peurto Princessa so I could have a full day in the city before my flight the following day.
I had already trip advisored the town to see what there was to do before I arrived and found that there wasn’t really much there. I decided to give myself a break from backpacking and spend the day in the mall (remember those American malls I told you about?). And boy did I have a good day. I went to the cinema (saw Jurassic World 2, was alright), spent a few hours in a cute cafe, surfed the net, and just basked in the wonderfulness that is air conditioning. It was so nice just having a day where I didn’t have to go a mile a minute and feel guilty for not sightseeing. I know that sounds ridiculous, I’m on holiday, why am I complaining? But seriously walking miles everyday and constantly being on the go is exhausting after a while. This day definitely recharges my batteries. Before I move on again tomorrow.
So there you have my few days on Palawan island. Definitely a love-hate relationship. But as always I met some great people and that’s always a bonus.
Next stop Vietnam!