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Published: April 8th 2010
Well El Nido is the kind of place I imagined the Philippines to look/be like. It is part of the Bacuit archipelago; which means it is part of a group of tiny islands, lagoons, secret beaches, palm lined white sand beaches... blue skies, blue seas and endless beaches. We met a lovely Swedish (another one!) girl on the way and the 3 of us hung out whilst there with 2 Canadians (I am still with Julie of course) and so after a relatively pain free journey on a small boat for 8 hours we arrived in El Nido. (I have to say that I had imagined everything to be a lot closer together in the Philippines, and therefore a lot easier and quicker to travel around… this is not the case and travel in the Philippines is not cheap and takes a fair chunk of time!)
However arriving in El Nido I was struck by the amazing landscape - large rocky backdrop to a beautiful white sand beach lined with wooden ‘shacks’ and palm trees! The 5 of us took a boat trip around some of the local islands; this included swimming in two different, beautiful lagoons (I was amazed
the boat ride
It was small but thank god there weren't many of us in it!
as I swam into one of the lagoons through a small opening in the rocks which totally circle the lagoon, to be bitten by a fish… yes.. bitten.. by a fish!!! Couldn’t believe it. I did however get my own back by eating freshly bar-b-q’d fish on a tiny ‘secret’ beach which was cooked on a couple of logs by our boatman! - This is what I had imagined life to be like in the Philippines... it was the best meal I’ve had here so far (which to honest is not saying too much as I have not been overwhelmed by the food here!) We carried on swimming in clear blue waters, topping up our tans and generally living the life of riley for the rest of the day. Julie and I decided we preferred it just being the two of us, so we ditched everyone else and after a day on the beach doing absolutely nothing (it’s a hard life!) we headed in a van to Puerto Princessa.
PP is 6 hours from El Nido and the van ride is not for the faint hearted! In a few years the roads in Palawan will be finished but right
We went on a boat ride to various beautiful locations... just how i imagined the Philippines to be!
now they are definitely not and this resulted in a very dusty, bumpy road… on top of which we had a nutter for a driver who again (this seems to happen a lot out here!) didn’t know where the brakes were… which meant it was impossible to sleep as the sounds of the tyres screeching round the corners was enough to cut through the music I tried to relax to!!
In Puerto Princessa Julie and I happened to find an incredible place to stay, which included a living space with a ‘wall’ made of vines from a nearby tree, funky chilled out music and a table of beads and shells to make your own jewelry! I, unfortunately arrived with a dodgy tummy but after two days in this idyllic retreat was feeling much better (especially after a visit from a masseuse who massaged me to within an inch of my life!!)
So we flew to Cebu (this flight didn’t go entirely without a hitch; as we were starting the descent an elderly man started having some kind of fit, the woman next to him started screaming hysterically to get the stewards attention! It was then announced that there was
Lunch was fresh fish bar-b-q'd on the beach.. heaven!
a medical emergency and was there a doctor on board! It was awful, but we later saw the man in a wheel chair so he was ok - it was just like the movies though!!), we then caught a small ferry style boat to Dumaguete (showing an incredibly inappropriate horror movie, ’30 days of night’ which the 5 year old girl and her mother behind me avidly watched through wide eyes, huddled together, looking terrified!) and then from there another smaller boat (See what I mean about travel taking a long time in the Philippines!) to Apo Island. Now we had intended to spend only a few days on Apo. But this was the real deal. This was the place that I had in my mind when I said I wanted to visit the Philippines. It is a small island with a few villages. We arrived very wet and disheveled after the long journey... for the last boat ride we may as well have swam!! We soon realized that Apo Island wasn’t going to be a luxurious affair! There was no running water, the shower was a bucket (like so many places in India!) the toilet looked like a normal
the secret lagoon
You have to climb through a tiny hole inthe rocks to get here!
Julie, Me and Cilla (a Swedish friend we met on the boat) posing!!
loo but has no seat and no flush!! (A bucket of water is required... paper goes in a bin!) We had booked a dorm with no curtains, a lot of mosquitoes (I must try to remember to take my bloody malaria pills! not doing a good job so far!) and surrounded by a family of roosters ready to wake us at all hours! As it turned out, the roosters were not so bad… the squealing pigs being lead to their slaughter was definitely worse!!
I arrived and within a few hours was diving off the island with a lovely Filipino dive master, Jed, and already planning on how I could stay for longer because the ‘resort’ we had booked only had the dorm available for one night. As it turned out we, and the two Swiss boys (Marcel and Alex) in our dorm all moved to Mary’s House down in the village. (Mary is a lovely lady who gave us a very nice room for cheap cheap... perfect - when I say nice, I mean it has curtains; still no running water or flush loo! But at least no cockroaches or mice - there was a pigeon tied up
heaven on earth?
These are the boats that ferried us around.. they reminded me of spiders sitting on the water!
in the ‘bathroom’! - we never really found out why!!) So with new accommodation and more diving to be done we decided to stay. We also learnt that the Apo Island Fiesta (fiesta = HUGE party) was taking place just after we were due to leave… so we decided to stay till our flight out of the Philippines! The four of us, spent our days diving, walking on the beach and eating, and our evenings eating, dancing at the various discos that were happening for the fiesta and singing ‘videoke’ (they proudly informed us that ‘videoke’ was the modern take on ‘karaoke’ - apparently karaoke involved words written on paper whereas videoke, as the name suggests, includes the words appearing on a video! What it doesn’t imply is the soft porn nature of the videos! - I didn’t mention that our karaoke is the same as their videoke! The Apo residents have a fondness to singing along to various songs whilst watching bikini clad women wandering around various non-descript locations! )
Of course I could not resist the urge and spent a few nights belting out the tunes on the videoke. Apo Island takes Fiesta very seriously and after a
See why we extended our stay!.. who needs running water and curtains and toilets when you have this!!
beauty pageant, an iron man competition, and a dance competition during the day, the nights were spent dancing to black eyed peas on the local basket ball court which had been turned into an open air disco. The people of Apo welcome visitors with open arms and I’ve never felt so welcome! They all seemed to know my name within hours and everywhere I went complete strangers were shouting, ‘hey Kate’ as I walked by! They also insisted on us all coming into their houses to eat endless pork dishes (they kill about 300 pigs during the 2 fiesta days apparently! I say apparently, but we were woken by most of these pigs being lead to their slaughter - I say lead because apparently you don’t hear the actually dying, when you are woken at 5am by squealing pigs that is them being lead to their death, not their actual dying moments!!) It was awesome (not the pigs but the rest of it!) I loved it. What a brilliant way to spend my last week in the Philippines… and the penultimate week of my travels.
Well as all good things must come to an end, after eating, diving and
steel drums and the weirdest tube like thigns that make the most amazing sound (they hit the end of the tube with a flip flop to make the sound!!)
sociaising to my hearts’ content we finally had to leave and head back to Cebu and away from the Philippines. We said goodbye to our new friends on Apo, and to Marcel and Alex who we had spent so much time with, and Julie and I headed towards the proverbial ‘exit’ sign. Here we to had to part ways, and after a day spent killing time (at the cinema, foot massage, restaurants, shops!) we said goodbye and headed our separate ways. I have spent 4 weeks with Julie and it has been a blast... she’s a great travel companion and we’ve had some great times... I’ll miss her. Then again I’ll miss it all … I don’t want to let it go... but I know I have to get back to reality so as I head to Hong Kong I am mentally preparing for London and ‘normality’!!
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