When it comes to beaches and sunsets, the Philippines is second to none and El Nido in the north of Palawan island would probably occupy one of the top spots on this illustrious list.
We reached El Nido by ferry from Coron. The ride took three and a half hours and was hassle-free. A quick tricycle ride later we arrived at our accommodation. And after pointing out that our mattress was drenched with water dripping from the ceiling, we got a room at another place for the first night.
Knowing that we will have a night in a dry bed, we went out to get some food and have a look around town. I know this sentence is getting old, but again, the place itself wasn’t charming or beautiful; it’s simple, blunt and touristy. But once you sit in a bar at the beach, sip on a cold beer in good company and witness the most amazing sunset you might have seen so far, who gives a sheep what the streets behind you look like?
The next morning, I organized a scooter and we drove up north for a beach day. We did a little research and decided against the famous and crowded Nacpan Beach and headed to Duli Beach instead. After driving past the easily missed access road the first time, we turned around and I stopped a group of two motorbikes that were apparently headed in the wrong direction as well. That’s how we met Xavier, Jake and Kristen, our companions for the next two days. After we managed to reach the beach we were looking for, it became quickly clear that skipping Nacpan was the right choice: besides a Canadian dude that spent the night on the porch of one of the two bars, a guy and his water buffalo and some local kids which we played football with, there was nobody around. With our newfound friends, we spent a fun and relaxing day at Duli before making our way back to El Nido where we met again for dinner together with a few more people the guys were doing their PADI course with. Later, while having a drink at the beach, we made plans for a private island hopping tour the next day.
Our island-hopping day was off to a rough start when we got asked to leave the office of the first guide. He was asking for too much money and we tried to bring the price down. But after some breakfast, Xavier and I managed to negotiate a more reasonable offer. They would make the boat ready and take us to a few spots of our choosing for about four hours. After getting a few cold beers from the market, we were ready.
The first stop was a beautiful lagoon where we could snorkel for a bit. We moved on to Seven Commando Beach and decided to stay there. It’s a nice place to hang out and play some beach volley with some Filipinos, who seem to have their own system of counting that miraculously favours the local team.
From El Nido, Barbara and I made our way southwards. Our ultimate destination was Puerto Princesa, from where we would take a flight to Cebu. In order to break up the six-hour ride, we decided to spend two nights in Port Barton. That turned out to be a very mixed bag. To start with, the ride there also took about four hours or so and the mini-van was very tight and completely full. It didn’t help at all that we stopped at a cross-road about an hour before reaching Port Barton and had to squeeze in a few more people of another van. And while it was very hot, we couldn’t find rooms with aircon anywhere. Not that it would have helped much; electricity went out frequently enough to render it almost useless anyway. So, we melted away for the night.
I spent most of the next day at the beach, while Barbara preferred the pool and her room.
In the afternoon I met Fernando, who we met on the way from El Nido, at the beach and we had a beer. I stayed for a few more and played a beach drinking game with some Dutch and English dudes. By sunset I wasn’t completely sober anymore. The night carried on with different bars and at some point, I made the fateful decision to order a Chicken Adobo in some random place. More on that later.
Then, out of nowhere, I had one of the most unexpected and wonderful experiences of all my travels. The beers did their thing, nature called and I went for a swim. Everything apart from a few lights in the beach bar was pitch black. I went in and suddenly, whenever I moved, the water around me would light up in bright blue sparkles. Bioluminescent Phytoplankton! These miniature creatures emit light when they are stressed and I assume that a giant human being stirring up the water increases their stress level significantly. A truly magical moment, that I have to admit, was possibly intensified by the alcohol.
It was late, or early, when I got back to the room and lied down next to Barbara. But I didn’t get to sleep, remember that Chicken Adobo I mentioned earlier? Well, the next days I didn’t feel quite that adventurous anymore.
That was our Palawan experience, meaning wonderful beaches, beautiful sunsets and frequent power outages.