Palawan, oh Palawan
The long awaited winter vacation to the Philippines has come and gone. There was laughter, joy, anger, frustration, and a few tears wept in happiness and uncontrollable rage. Yes, Misty and Kat were rather embarrassed to travel with me.
We stayed a few days in Puerto Princesa and then headed to the northern town of El Nido. Good friends Sarah and Jason went to El Nido about six months ago and I made fun of them for it. "El Neato?" I said, "What sort of tourist trap is that?" I am well aware of the irony, taking travel advice from the people I just made fun of. I humble myself before you Sarah and Jason. You may now make fun of me (although I'm sure you already do).
Rather than go into everything that happened, I'm going to piece-meal this entry and give the advice I wish I'd had on my journey:
1. Puerto Princesa is not beach adjacent. I repeat, it is not on the ocean. There is no beach. It's amazing how that came as surprise, not just to my small group, but to many other travelers as well.
2. If you find yourself in Puerto Princessa, do the Honda Bay tour. The tour company will drive you fifteen minutes to the port and the boat will take you to three pristine islands. Well worth the cost.
3. The Underground River is cool, just be prepared for hordes of tourists.
4. Do not bring bananas to the Underground River. Rather, plant bananas on your friend and watch him/her get get mugged by monkeys. I saw a monkey straight-up pilfer this Japanese man's bananas. It just ran right up and yoinked the fruit right off this guys backpack. It guess it is true, monkeys go bananas for bananas.
5. Make bus/shuttle van reservations in advance as soon as possible, and be prepared that your reservations may not be honored. Other option is to gather as many other travelers as you can and hire a private van.
6. Stay at Taiyo Cottages in El Nido. Most of the cottages in town are crammed together, and not all that peaceful. Taiyo is different. It's a bit of a walk to get there, but it's worth it. http://www.elnidocottages.com/
7. I don't recommend the island hopping Tour A, B or C packages in El Nido. We did tour A and it was a frantic dash from island to island. Instead hire a private boat (the people at Taiyo can do this for you) and tour the islands at your pleasure. Be aware that the sea can get rough.
8. The Manila airport is a zoo of epic proportions. Get there at least 4 hours before your flight leaves.
9. Zest air is cheap, justifiably cheap.
10. Bring flashlights.
11. Watch out for Satan's creation on the secluded beaches. Satan's creation a.k.a sand fleas and nick-nicks. Bring bug spray. This can be purchased at the Art Cafe in downtown El Nido.
12. Bring all the money you will need for your trip. Puerto Princesa has ATMs but El Nido has yet build a town bank.
13. Bring Immodium or some other bowel plugging medicine. I mercifully won't go into detail here.
I'm sure there's more to say, but the list is long enough. Looking at the list it makes my trip seem full of travel mishaps, bug bites, and mad dashes to the bathroom. It was that, but it was more. We got to party and dance with the locals at an outdoor Christmas rave. We saw fireflies. We laid on the beach, read books, and drank wine. We met people from so many different countries and basically had new experiences. That will do for me any time.