Featured

DIY Baguio – Sagada – Banaue Journey, the Pine Tree Trail

Starting from the day I was fascinated with traveling and journeying, there were several destinations that my inner explorer wanted me to go.  This famous tri-province trail is one of them. For me, the trail is exotic, fun and none-of its kind – one that communes you with nature. If Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand have their “Banana Pancake Trail,” the Philippines has “The Pine Tree Trail” up North.

The three provinces you’ll get to hit with one stone are Benguet, Mt. Province and Ifugao – each one boasting a different experience. And for 4 days and 3 nights, we unbelievably  traversed the “The Pine Tree Trail” (albeit with crazy amount of bus travel). Below is how we did it:

Baguio City, Benguet

The first of the pine tree trio is Baguio City, Benguet. My first experience of Baguio was way back 13 years ago. My memories there were fond as I remembered Baguio to be unPhilippinely clean, beautiful and relaxing. It’s been branded “Summer Capital of the Philippines” and for good reason. But news of overpopulation, slow degeneration, increase in temperature has slowly mopped out Baguio from being one of the go-to Pinoy destinations. The fear that Baguio was not anymore what I remembered bugged me during the 8-hour bus ride from Manila. That fear almost came to fruition as a crowded, wiry place greeted us. Thankfully, deeper into the heart of the city, we discovered that Baguio is still one of its kind in the country.

We arrived at the bus drop-off point at 8:00 AM, picked up a quick breakfast in Jollibee and for one day and a half, explored Baguio as much as we can.

Session Road – Baguio City

Below are the quick overview of our trip:

  • From the Bus Stop, we walked our way to the Baguio Cathedral. We paid respects and gratitude for the safe ride, and took photos of the picturesque Holy Place. Aside from Php20 strawberry taho that Baguio is known for, we shelled out no penny.
  • Next, we hailed ourselves a taxi and went to Mines View Park. If you see solo pics of Baguio  in an overlooking view, most probably the shot was taken at the Mines View. Taking pics are free so take all that pose you want. The only cost we paid at the park was P25 for renting an Igorot attire to don our photos.
  • From Mines View Park, we walked kilometers to our next destination. Gladly, walking in Baguio is not difficult because of the fresh, cool air, clean place and lesser vehicles. Walking the highways of Baguio felt like walking in a giant park.
  • We stopped by at the The Mansion, the official residence of the President of the Philippines in Baguio.
  •  Walk more and you’ll see yourself at the entrance of Wright Park. It’s the best park to take your family, have that strawberry ice cream for your kids, take photos of everyone surrounded with tall pine trees.
Highways in Baguio are especially wonderful for walking around the city.
  • Further along the way, you’ll be at the Baguio Botanical Graden where you’ll be welcomed with flourishing flowers Baguio is also known for.

As you may have noticed, the leisurely and relaxing walk from Mines View Park to Wright Park didn’t cost us more than P300 (well, if not for the souvenirs and other things we bought). By the time we finished Wright Park, it was almost 12 noon (it was not hot at all!) and we decided to ride a jeepney to SM Baguio for that hearty lunch (we think) we deserve. But even the jeepney ride is just P8.

Tall pine trees are relaxing therapy.
  • By 12 noon, we ate lunch at SM Baguio and rested ourselves in the hotel until 3 PM. The hotel was the costliest we had in our Baguio trip, for P2,300/ night. If you want to spare yourselves few bucks then you should book way way way ahead of time (we booked a night before haha).
  • By 3 PM, we walked (seriously, you should just walk around Baguio) to Burnham Park. We rented a small boat for P100/hr and kayaked arouns the giant pond in the middle of the park. Afterwards, we treated ourselves with variety of snacks: ice cream, sliced unripe mangoes, shawarma, deep fried chicken skin and more for almost P200.
  • It was 6 PM when we called Burnham off since the time calls for dinner already. We headed to the famous Session Road for food trip. I bought a packed meal of sisig with hotdog and generous serving of fried rice.

Sagada, Mt. Province

Approximately 6 hours of bus ride from Baguio, you’ll find yourself in Sagada, Mt. Province. The place rose to fame thanks to the local film “That Thing Called Tadhana (Destiny).” Parting off Baguio at 9:00 AM, we arrived at Sagada by 4 PM. That’s 7 hours of delving into the scenic mountains and view of the Cordillera Mountain Range. By far, it is the most outstanding mountain range I’ve been, with the numerous pine trees, mountains with detailed ridges and the fantastic rice terraces of local farmers every now and then. After arriving, we bought a Marlboro Sunrise Trail and Sagada Adventure Trail for P2,500.

Our alarm rang at 3 AM. We had to wake up early since we had to leave by 4:30 to Marlboro Country to witness one of the spectacular sunrises in the country. It didn’t disappoint us. Or to better say it, it even exceeded our expectations. The first crimson rays of the sun awed every onlooker present; and its beauty even magnified by a sea of clouds beneath. I looked at it for as long as I can, hoping to etch the breathtaking scene into memory.

First rays of the sun atop a sea of clouds in Marlboro Hills, Sagada

Walking along the Marlboro hills, you get to have a better view of the beautiful Sagada.

Down the trail, we enjoyed the pine forest we didn’t actually see going up since it’s still dark. We ate freshly picked wild strawberries and took photos of vibrant flora around.

By 7 AM, we drank a hot cup of Sagada arabica coffee and ate breakfast to bestow upon us energy for the Sagada Adventure trail by 8 AM. The highlights of our 3-hour Sagada adventure trail follows:

  • Guided by our 47-year old Igorot guide named Dangwa, we started the trail by splashing in a ice-cold waterfalls.
  • Next, we followed through an underground river for 10 minutes, seeing stalactites and stalagmite formations and flying bats.
  • Along the path, we talked with our guide – who by the way has 12 hand fingers! – as an opportunity to know personally how they talk, how they think and their culture. Igorot tribe is one of the famous in the country, but it will be my first time to encounter one.
  • We learned that Dangwa’s name is in their language, as his Christian name is Pedro. But he preferred to be called Dangwa – it grounds him to his roots.
  • The end of the trail was culminated with the Sagada Hanging Coffins. The word coffin will frighten you at first until you know the story behind the tradition. Igorots bury their dead inside a cave located along the slope of a towering rock formation. Dangwa showed us a video of the practice taken in the 1980s. They climb rocky mountains of hundred feet high – with nothing but their feet, hands a sturdy rope to cling for dear life.
  • Igorots decide where they want to be buried while still alive. At present, there is now a semetery but the tradition is still being practiced.

After the trail, we walked around the town to buy local food and souvenirs before we hit our next destination – the Banaue Rice Terraces.

Banaue Rice Terraces

From Sagada, we took a 45-minute Jeepney Ride to Bontoc, Mt Province before 4-hour bus ride to Banaue, Ifugao. Needless to say, this is where the breathtaking Banaue Rice Terraces can be found – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 8th Wonder of the World, built by the hands of the genius Ifugaos, a masterpiece in a mountainous canvass, extraordinary, proudly Filipino and life-changing. To say its panoramic is common but it truly:” when at the right position, the rice terraces will engulf your whole vision, even the peripherals.

I tried my best to give the best photo I can of the rice terraces, in an aim to capture its actual greatness. Sadly, my photography skills are not enough. That’s why I’d say the everyone should just go to the marvelous place.

I also happen to encounter Ifugaos – young and old – along the way. It was heartwarming to see them give you their brightest smile. The Ifugaos were very hospitable to every tourist that comes over.

Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand – Indochina DIY

It is one of the most famous multi-country routes in the world; and for Filipinos – one of the most accessible. In this new post, I’ll be telling you our experiences and how we traversed across the tri-country of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and the five cities of Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Phen, Siem Reap, Bangkok and Pattaya, all by ourselves (I’ve also put costs for important must-stops/ activities).

HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM

Our first destination is Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, formerly Saigon (yes, like the Miss Saigon broadway musical which gave Lea Salonga the Tony’s). We arrived late at night (since most economy flights from Manila to HCM are late) and not until a full night sleep were we able to tiptoe our ways to the heavily motorbike-laden streets of the Vietnamese capital.

During our pre-trip research, one of the things we anticipated the most in Vietnam is their coffee – and man, to say we were not disappointed was an understatement. The first coffee I bought was from a street stall. I can’t say I’m a coffee afficionado but that Php30 street stall coffee could easily beat Php100 coffee from famous coffee shops in my city.

And due to my happiness to the quality of coffee I’m drinking, I bought 2 cups – which was enough for me to get fidgety and overly active all day (don’t underestimate Viet coffee!).

During the day, we roamed across French influenced architectures – the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office and the Saigon Opera House. I recommend light packing and clothing with lots of water since the heat can be terrifying!

Saigon Opera House – one of the French influenced architectures in HCM.
Notre Dame Catherdral is under renovation when we visited. The heat is tormenting us!!!

At night, we climbed our way to the Bitexco Financial Tower – the tallest building in Vietnam! There, we marveled at the HCM lights. We also joined a Heineken tour in Bitexco for Php500.

Welcome to Bitexco Financial Tower – the highest building in HCM, Vietnam.
In Bitexco Tower’s viewing deck. The tower is the highest point in HCM where you can see a magnificent view of the Mekong River and of course, the capital.
Views from Bitexco Financial Tower.
The spectale is much different when seen personally.

Of course our visit in Vietnam will not be complete if we don’t try ourselves Vietnamese food! We headed to Ben Than Market to eat and to buy souvenirs as well. I and my friends were new to the Vietnamese taste so I can’t say we liked it that much. But then, it’s worth a try.

Welcome to Ben Than Market!!!
The market is swarmed with tourists wanting to buy cheap souvenirs and eat local cuisines.
Local Viet cuisines – their own versions of stir fried noodles, the usual noodles and fried rice with various meats.
And of course, Viet coffee again! Would you believe that it is usual to drink coffee instead of water or juice after meals?! Insane but awesome, I know.

PHNOM PENH and SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

After our 3-day stay in Vietnam, we rode a Giant Ibis Bus (P900) on our way towards Phom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. From Ho Chi Minh, it took us almost 3 hours to reach the Vietnam-Cambodia border. And so far in my yet short traveling experience, the Cambodian immigration in Bavet was one of the most lenient.

To tell you honestly, our first sight of the Cambodian lands were underwhelming. Unpaved roads, unwelcoming sights – I felt I entered a barren place. But my prejudice was thankfully eradicated as we entered the more progressive Phnom Penh City. It wasn’t the best of Asian Cities, but it is a worthy place to be traveled.

It was only a day tip in Phnom Penh, yet it was already a fulfilling cultural experience. How we wished we stayed longer. In this pic, we sat down on a rug ala-aladdin to eat in a street market.
Cambodian delicaciessss!

We didn’t stayed that long in the capital as our goal in Cambodia was still eight hours of land travel away – Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap. Again, we rode a Giant Ibis Bus (P900) – this time a sleeper bus (my first time) at 10 PM.

Giant Ibis sleeper bus from Phnom Pehn to Siem Reap.

By 4 AM, we set our feet in Siem Reap. To our surprise, we found Siem Reap better than Phnom Penh despite the latter being the capital. Later on we would find out that it is because of Siem Reap being far more the tourist destination of the world in Cambodia.

Indochina has a lot of marvelous, jaw dropping temples.
Cambodia is also scorching hot! …
… but the Khmers are way cooler!!!

Warning: Be wary of straight drinking nights. Siem Reap has the cheapest but the best beer in the world.

Cambodia has the finest beer in all of Southeast Asia!!!

The first thing we did was to look for our hostel we booked in AirBNB. Turned out we booked the best and most hospitable hostel in Siem Reap – Nature Park Sok Chan. Honestly, our stay in Siem Reap would not be better as it was if not for our hostel attendant – Alyssa, half-French and half- guess what- Filipina!

Alyssa’s story was a heartwarming one. She was not supposed to stay long and work in Siem Reap. But en route to Thailand, she broke up with her beau. And you guessed it right, she decided to stay in Cambodia for a while – to heal, er, move on if that is so.

We had the best host in Siem Reap!!!!! Alyssa is the girl behind us (on the head of my friend).

It was Alyssa who recommended an Angkor Tour for us.

Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia is the home of the largest religious structure in the world, arguably one of the 7 wonders of the world, where Angie Jolie shot Tomb Raider, something I’m sure the Khmer people are extremely proud of – the Angkor Temples. The Angkor Tour is a worthy Php1,500 for a day trip.

The famous facade of the Angkor Wat. Our tour guide said that the temple is perfectly symmetrical that to know it was built thousands of years ago is architecturally mind-blowing!
Not only is the outside outstanding but the inside of the temples are equally marvelous!
This was the pool of the ancient Khmers! I can imagine the fun swimming in the freshwater … and there’s two of them!
Taken from Bayon temple. You think this is another carving of a face? This is actually the tip of a temple!

The temples are not the only ancient things in Angkor, but the trees are centuries old also – and gigantic!

At the rear side. Angkor

Having witnessed one of the best ancient places in earth was a humbling experience, wondering the genius that is our ancestry. Cambodia is a lucky place to have the world spectacle at this rich past.

Pattaya, Thailand

From Siem Reap, we rode a Giant Ibis (Php1,200) bus to Aranyaprathet – the Thai-side of the Thai-Cambodian border. Due to the hordes of tourists coming in, it took as a while to pass immigration. An amusing experience of us was when the bus attendant gave instructions, he singled us out Filipinos to show our return tickets and hotel booking confirmations – amongst a bus group of Americans, Japanese and Europeans.

This is my second time in Thailand. Way back 2017, I and friends went for the first time in Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Phuket. For our complete experience of the trip, please click here. Back then, I was so sure this is not going to be the last time I’ll be seeing Thailand, especially that the country is enormous and there many things to experiences and places to marvel at. Now, here I am again.

Unlike my 2017 trip where I stayed for ten days, I only have 3 days to spare in Thailand. Thinking of the nearest place that I’ve never been, I thought of Pattaya City, Thailand. The city did not disappoint me. Being arguably tagged as the sin city of Thailand, Pattaya exacted my comrades the experiences they were expecting (and ones I prefer not to detail).

Welcome to Pattaya!
The Walking Street in Pattaya is bright and active.
Thai food is one of the best! Their ice cream and fresh coconut is superb.

Pattaya has that trademark of Thailand – the one I’ve experienced in Phuket. Calm, relaxing but wild. You can sleep at the sound of the waves, dance at the street parties at night, have yourself a fest of the palate with the myriad selections of tasty streetfoods or embrace yourself with the morning breeze while watching the sun rise. Overall, Pattaya was the sweet, cool and super-relaxing vibe I needed to cap my tongue-fest, temple-search and cultural immersion at the heart of Asia.

Bohol, Philippines

Century old churches, little green hills, white sand beaches, countryside feels: these are rather some of the many reasons why visiting Bohol should be on your travel checklist. Few places in the country have important impact culturally and historically than that what we could witness in this limestone island.

Going to Bohol is easy as the island’s lone city, Tagbiliran, is now serviced by an airport. However, if you’d like to traverse the cheaper yet challenging path, take a ferry from Cebu (and perhaps, pay a visit on the island as well). Gutsy as we are, we took the second option; and option which we’ll probably not forget for a while. The waves gave us a  two-hour pseudo-roller coaster ride.

IMG_1304
Port of Tagbilaran. You’re supposed to arrive here.

Now that you’re stepping on the island, you can jumpstart your trip and go on for an exploration.

First stop: the renowned Chocolate hills. The hills were named as such because of the way it changes its color depending on the weather. During dry season, the hills dry up and turns brown, much like giant “chocolate kisses!”

To relish the most of the hills, take the 200-plus steps up a viewdeck; or if you prefer an up-close experience, ride the ATV.

 

Anne
Close encounter with the hills – on an ATV.

Next on your destination are the aged churches which dates way way way back to the 16th century when the Catholicism is first introduced by the Spaniards to the once pagan island. These religious structures are made up of limestone which makes them visually different from the normal, cement made churches.

IMG_2471
Dauis Church in Dauis, Bohol

IMG_1324
Baclayon Church – one of the most recognizable churches in Bohol

It’s near lunchtime and perhaps you’re hungry. Then a lunch on a river cruise isn’t the baddest of idea, is it? The Loboc River Cruise and Floating Restaurant will take you to a lunch-ing experience like no other. From the indie fame of “Panaghoy sa Suba,” the Loboc River is a testament to the Bol-anons extra care to their home and the environment.

IMG_1508
Loboc River

IMG_1498
Clean waters and healthy green trees, the Loboc River is a testement to the environment-friendliness of the Bol-anons.

IMG_2520

img_1583.jpg
Culture as preserved and then showcased.

The hills are mesmerizing, the churches calming and the river cruise thriling. It’s about time we release the energy for some skinny-dipping!

Okay, just dipping.

Bohol also boasts its white sand beaches that could rival the likes of Cebu, Palawan or even Phuket, Thailand. The most notable are the beaches in Panglao.

IMG_2150
Panglao is minimally untouched I can’t help but take a pic with it.

IMG_2216
Couple relaxing on the fine sand.

IMG_2218
Despite the influx of tourists, locales are endeavouring to maintain the beauty of Panglao.

IMG_2566
Panglao at night.

There are lot of places to go and things to to enjoy in Bohol. It makes me kinda sad that our island hopping was cancelled last minute due to weather conditions and that our personal encounter with the famous Tarsier was limited to few minutes due to time constraints.

IMG_1325IMG_1438IMG_1678

But come to think of it, I have reasons to come back to Bohol (as if the places I’ve been are not enough reasons to go back). Until, then I can’t wait and see you again, Bohol!

IMG_2626.jpg

Summer Must-Go: Cebu, Philippines

It wouldn’t be called Queen of the Southern Philippine Islands if it does not possess the unparalleled beauty typical for a royal seductress – mesmerizing, captivating, one you can’t help but gaze.

Often featured as one of the world’s best islands among magazines as Travel + Leisure (6th), Cebu is a spectacle one should not miss dropping by: a mirror of what could be a complete Philippine experience – from the simplistic way of coastal living caught between the blazing sun’s heat and the cooling sea breeze, to the life-changing and surreal encounter with creatures of the ocean, to the modern-day way of city life.

An opportunity to visit Cebu came my way, and everyone knows I have to grab it. And I did, despite the lack of a concrete plan and solid savings. All I had were tiny specks of guts (which were enough for me to apply a 3-day vacation leave despite having been hired for only 10 months) but a big will to travel.

The flight was at 3:30 AM, an hour of delay so that’s 4:30 AM. I was with my officemates. We were sleepless, hungry and heavily disorganized. The one hour plane ride was scarcely enough for a nap.

At almost 6:00 AM, we took our first groggy steps in a 6-day stay in Cebu.

IMG_1295
Take a Bus Ride! It’s a perfect chance to explore the Cebu’s countryside.

Simala: Nook of Catholic Faith

We stopped by at the place of our friend’s friend to cater our personal necessities – water, a little rest, and of course, the toilet – before heading to our first stop: the Mama Mary of Ligodon Church in Simala.

From Cebu City, Simala is a 3-hour bus ride south. It’s long but it’s a fantastic opportunity to explore the Cebu island’s country side which excellently reflects the Philippine country scene as a whole.

History has it that one man prophesied about a mysterious woman appearing in grasslands and hills which now will be the Church of Simala. Years later, in the 1990s, a group of monks traversed amongst the area and the prophecy materialized: an image of a woman mystically appeared.

Now, the Church of Simala is an important place for pilgrims in Cebu and daily, hundreds of people from all over the country come to the church to deliver their petitions.

On the way back, we stopped by at Carcar City to treat ourselves with the nationally revered chicharon Carcar.

Million Sardines and Some Turtles

Next day, we woke up at 4:30 AM to head to Pescador Island in Moalboal, Cebu. The sun is so our mood that morning: dreamy, half-wanting to rise, half-wanting to recline. The sky is crimson orange and after almost two hours, the smell of the sea was already prevalent in the air.

The engine of the motor boat we’re riding to cross island to island  silenced our conversations, so we had the chance to just marvel at the vastness of the sea and beauty of the panorama.

Pescador Island is  a home for a million sardines and some sea turtles.

20170429_094233
Sea turtle gracefully maneuvering in the sea

20170429_093203
Sardines Run!

20170429_100956
Meek big one

Witnessing them maneuver  adeptly under the sea, in their natural habitat, was mesmerizing – especially the medium-sized turtle who swam like a ballerina in a perfect piece with its flippers gliding through the water flawlessly.

Taking the Canyoneering Plunge in Kawasan Falls, Badian, Cebu

Kawasan Falls was our next trip and highlighted by a 3-4 hour canyoneering adventure. Not just mentioning the time it takes to overcome the adventure, but mostly how to overcome the trail – the rocky steep slopes, sharp boulders, the strong current of the river, and especially the 20-, 30-, 40-ft. leaps from a barely enough stronghold  of cliffs down to the splash of blue, relaxingly cold but deep freshwater.

Personally, before I took that 40-ft jump, large amounts of fear, hesitation and excitement collided in my brain. Who wouldn’t when you’re not a professional diver lest a good swimmer? But then our guides told us to not think about the height or the fall. Thinking will only exacerbate the fear. Just take the leap. It only takes a second of courage to overcome the doubt and experience glory.

Unfortunately, we haven’t taken a lot of photos of our canyoneering trail because along the way, our action cam failed (sad).

Butanding!

At 5:30 AM the next day, we headed to the beach in Oslob, Cebu to witness with our very own eyes the one of the majestic sea creatures there is: the whale shark or locally known as butanding. Each morning while the sun is not yet too hot (thus, the early time) these gentle giants come to the surface to be fed by the local fishermen. This makes a fantastic opportunity for people to bond up-close with them, especially that they are generally harmless.

Encounter time is limited to only 30 minutes but were actually enough to revel at the sight of our friend in the sea (although at first sight, when it was 1 or 2 meters away from me and close to its overwhelming size, I was terrified. But that’s part of the process. It wouldn’t be called the biggest fish in the world for nothing).

20170430_063037
A queen fish in a queen island – Butanding in Oslob, Cebu

Sadly, we saw one wounded whale shark and somehow I questioned myself, am I enjoying at the expense of these beautiful beings? I hope not, but still it didn’t felt right and I pray the whale sharks get the care and respect they deserve.

From the sea to the top

After immersing ourselves in Cebu’s waters for days, we reached its highest point – the Osmena Peak. As is with other hikes, the trail was energy-consuming albeit not that difficult. After 10-20 minutes, we found ourselves marveling the Cebu island from its crown.

IMG_1522
A local boy from Osmena Peak

IMG_1500
Tourists not minding the cliff to get better photos

IMG_1492
Looking all over Cebu shrouded by dark clouds

18194130_1478915908837347_8434432393807286612_n
The mandatory group photo

And the richness in history and faith.

At a very young age, we were taught the richness of Cebu’s history: the landing of Magellan (who led the first navigator ship to circle the world – Victoria) and his death at the hands of arguably the first Filipino hero, Lapu-lapu, in the notable Battle of Mactan. The setting of Magellan became an important turnaround in Philippine history, paving the way for a 333-year of Spanish regime. This day, Magellan’s cross became a monument of this history. I can’t help but be amazed as I witness things I was taught as a young Filipino, as if ridiculously I was watching history unfold in my very eyes.

But perhaps what can be attributed most to Cebu culture-wise is the depth of its Catholic faith, as is evidenced by its monumental shrines and the nationally hailed Sto. Nino (celebrated annually during the Sinulog Festival).

IMG_1595

The sporadic food trips:

There are tons of A-class restaurants that offer palatable food in Cebu. In this trip, we went to Casa Verde (where we’re treated for a dinner by a generous officemate), La Vie Parisienne and Zubochon (where we satisfied ourselves with the cuisine Cebu is known for – the lechon Cebu). But coming to the point when we have to budget, thankfully there is a local street eatery that gave us just what we need, cheap but delicious meals – the Pungko-pungko sa Fuente – where crabs, chicharon bulaklak, hotdog, porkchop and chorizo are put all together in one rectangular plastic container. Just pick one and eat. It was fun since we haven’t had that kind of eating experience before.

IMG_1590
Pungko-pungko sa Fuente! Fun dining experience

20170501_131018
Magellan’s Cross – a monument of the 333-year Spanish regime in the Philippines

 

There’s still a long list of places to visit in Cebu: Bantayan Island, Tumalog, Aginid Falls and more.  Next time, I’ll make sure I’ll tick off everything.

Until the next time, Cebu!

A Guide to the World’s Best Island: Palawan, Philippines

“The water is unbelievable! I’ve never seen anything like this before,” we heard an American woman comment on the El Nido waters. Of course, as Filipinos those were overwhelming to hear not only because we heard them from a foreign person but more so from someone who’s been talking about how she’s been to several places in the world already. It’s the world’s best island for two consecutive years according to Travel and Leisure magazine, and obviously for good measure.

 

In this post, I’ll be sharing our do-it-yourself itinerary and the costs journeying the most beautiful island there is – Palawan.

 

Before coming over, I and my friends were quite hesitant about a DIY itinerary in Palawan. It’s going to be costly and risky. The beautiful places are far from each other and the transportation is still limited. Yet at the very last minute, we ditched the travel agency we’ve contacted for a tour and decided to venture all by ourselves. I’m telling you right now, that was the best decision we made in this trip (and we saved ourselves a couple of bucks).

 

It’s worth noting that when budgeting for a Palawan trip, you need to know whether you’re traveling during the low or peak seasons as prices are double (or triple!) on the peak season compared to the low season. According to a local we conversed, peak season in Palawan runs from November to May while the low season is from June to October. Ours was on an August and honestly, we preferred the low season since there are less tourists (and again, we saved ourselves a couple of bucks).

 

Port Barton: The Next Thing in Palawan

 

The place might not be as famous as El Nido or Coron, but it’s worth spending a few days or so for. I’m talking about Port Barton, an out-of-place town in the middle of Palawan. The place is like time traveling to a certain period in the early 2000s when the internet was limited (or in my case, none at all), electricity is time-scheduled (6PM – 12MN) and the  locality is plain simple. When we were dropped by the van we rode from San Jose terminal in Puerto Princesa to our homestay in the town, I and my friends could not contain our reactions. The town was creepily quiet (not like how we were so used to living in the city) yet serene and relaxing at best. The town is the perfect spot if you’re looking for what they call me-time. My friend even said that if she’d be broken hearted, she’ll impulsively book a flight to this place (which is not entirely an absurd idea).

 

If you need to use a little bit of adrenaline, Port Barton has also many activities you can enjoy, the most common of which is island hopping. For just Php700, you can scout for tour agencies within the area and  book a day tour of the many islands that pepper the place.

 

Then there’s also kayaking. Even at what’s supposed to be a rainy season, the sea was calm enough for kayaking. Venture a little farther from the shore and you’ll have a spectacular view: waters in jade green below, the blue sky dotted with white clouds above and the vast expanse of the green mangrove trees in between. The view pulls strings of the heart (something I’ve never felt before). An ikebana of nature.

20953227_1542952455765898_1231098632604524825_n
Kayaking is splendid in Port Barton.

And snorkeling! I’ve had my fair share of snorkeling experiences in many places before but that what I took in Port Barton will forever hold a special place in my heart. Why? Because I saw a manatee, my first time! I’m going to say that again. I saw a MANATEE; a sea cow; in the wild; swimming and swirling gracefully and freely in the ocean alongside swarm of colorful fishes. She was a meter away from me, and I couldn’t get closer. She’s quick and she felt unreal. As a testament to the rarity of this event, our guide who’s lived in Port Barton his entire life of more than 20 years has never seen a dugong before. I’ve only been in Palawan for 2 days and God has afforded me the sight of His beautiful  creature. It was a humbling experience.

20992986_1542988082429002_2384339021585448118_n
We swam along a tortoise!

IMG_4619
God has blessed this place several ocean life forms.

IMG_4620
This place is love.

We stayed in Port Barton for three days and here are our costs (per person):

Port Barton

Note that these are the costs during a low season. If you want the costs for a high season, then double everything. Also, you might have noticed that meals are expensive. You noticed right, because food in the place is insanely pricey (and that’s not even luxury eating yet). If you’re planning to save, better bring some ready-to-eat goods with you,

 

El Nido: A Haven Can’t Be Explained Enough

 

When people say Palawan people think of the skyrocketing island rock formations floating in unbelievably clean and clear turquoise waters. The thing is you’re not thinking of Palawan, but a facet of it – that is, El Nido. Translated as The Nest, El Nido made Palawan famous around the globe. The town is surrounded by walls of rocks as tall as city buildings, giving El Nido the feeling of being enclosed, secluded, separated from anywhere else. Few meters walk and you’ll see yourself captivating at the beach view.

 

To make the most of your time in El Nido, island hopping is a must. Island hopping in El Nido is divided into four tours: Tours A, B, C and D. Many from the locals we talked recommended tours A and C and since we’re only staying for three days we chose those tours. Perhaps if given more time, we would’ve availed everything. Anyway, the tours can be in groups or in private (then you’ll have to pay more). We chose the group tours since we’re on a budget and we thought them as perfect chances to meet people.

 

However, if you want a beach for free then there’s the Las Cabanas Beach or Nacpan Beach down farther. A word of warning: those beaches may be free but they are inexplicably gorgeous. You might not want to leave.

IMG_4554
Trying to do some shots along Las Cabanas beach.

IMG_4603
They say sunset in Las Cabanas is breathtaking. Sadly, it was cloudy when we’re there. Nevertheless, everything is still exceptional.

We first had Tour C while Tour A on the next day. Truly, these were the best tours because of two phrases: rock formations and lagoons. All of the beaches (and those that composed it: sand, waters, sea creatures) in El Nido are superb but they can be easily compared to other famous beaches like in those in Phuket, Thailand (read about my Thailand travel here). But El Nido’s rock formations and the small and big lagoons – they are unique, they can never be found anywhere else (or so I guess). We were traversing the waters of the small lagoon when we heard one comment from an American woman, “The water is unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” I hope those words were enough to picture the beauty God has blessed El Nido with.

20994091_1547375375323606_5310222966600496325_n
Paddling on the surface of the El Nido waters.

20992718_1544803168914160_5610844888279906938_n
El Nido is a good snorkeling site too!

20994291_1544798852247925_2696160248721369924_n
It takes an actual eye to marvel at the astounding rock formations in El Nido.

IMG_4606
Of course, we’re more than willing to take the risk of taking a photo on a boat’s edge.

1
Here’s another angle.

21034341_1544798725581271_1921578044435968553_n
And that familiar photo along the seashore, El Nido has the perfect backdrop.

We stayed in El Nido for three days and here are our costs (per person):
El Nido.jpg

Again, these are low season costs and just like in Port Barton meals are also expensive in El Nido.

Puerto Princesa Underground River (National Park)

Lately, Palawan is starting to be known for another acclaimed site: the Puerto Princesa Underground River. Dubbed as the longest underground river in the entire world, it is listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The only con we experienced in this part of our Palawan itinerary is that the entrance to the river is expensive (not costly, but expensive). When we asked the driver we commissioned why is that so, he explained that the high costs reduce the number of people coming to the underground river (thereby protecting it) and the maintenance cost of the site is demanding as well.

 

But ultimately we realized that what we paid was nothing compare to the thrill of experience the course has brought us. It was religious: communing with nature. Completely dark and peacefully silent but for the echoes of the bats, the experience is like going back to our natural, environmental roots.

 

Along the way, we saw astounding natural stalactite and stalagmite sculptures: huge vegetables, animals, even a teasing Sharon Stone. But what really made us gasp was what they call The Cathedral. We were carefully boating in a narrow cave when suddenly we’re welcomed by a humongous dome, much like a dome of a cathedral without the stained glass windows. To amaze us more is knowing that all of the recognizable rock formations were religious-related as well: a veiled Virgin Mary, a giant candle, the Holy Family,  an archangel, a reenactment of The Last Supper and Jesus’s face. Our audio guide said these stalactites and stalagmites took million of years to be created through heat, wind, sedimentation and erosion. That alone should amaze us. “Thankfully, nature is a patient artist,” affirmed our audio guide.

 

On our way out the cave we were told that despite the darkness and silence, the underground river is a home for thousands, even millions, of species. Indeed, “even at the deepest, darkest part of nature, life blossoms.”

IMG_4591
The Underground River took million of years to create. Thankfully for us, nature is a patient artist.

IMG_4590
In the deepest, darkest part of nature, life blossoms.

For information, tours do not cover the entire underground river. In fact, you may only cover a quarter (or one-eight) of the whole length of the subterranean river. But surely whatever you’ll get is enough to prick a bit of your humanity. Our underground river and Puerto Princesa City tour was packed in one day. Here are our costs (per person):
Underground

Again, these are low season costs, and since there are already fast food restaurants in the city of Puerto, food can be cheaper.
Places to Look Forward To

As you might have noticed, we spent a complete week with that itinerary. But the thing is there are still a lot of places in Palawan that everybody should go, particularly Coron. I and my friends all agreed that this island is one you can always come back and feel amazed over and over again. And we promised next time, we’ll explore more. For now, that would be it. So whatever your worries about Palawan being costly and difficult to traverse, don’t drop them off. But remember that everything is going to be worth it. Take that from someone who’s been there and wants to be back again.

Please follow me on:

Instagram: @jobmarc

Twitter: @jobmarc

Or email me at:

opallajobmarc@gmail.com

Thank you! 😊

Just go to Thailand

“If you don’t trust me, you can’t trust anybody in the world,” said the Thai saleslady to me, as me and my friends were searching for the cheapest tour to Maya Bay and Ko Phi Phi in Phuket. Then and there I realized how I’ve been unjustly sceptical of the Thais, despite the many kindness these people have shown to us for 5 days now. I’ll be defensive though in saying you can’t blame us. I’d researched about the place and always encountered warnings of scams, overpricing, etc. Admittedly, we were not safe of them, but that’s a facet of traveling. You go outside your country, your home, your comfort zone and anywhere is unsafe. You have to take risks. In the end if it’s not scary, it’s not worth it.

When I lived in Taiwan for four months, some of the few people I got along with are Thais (you can read about my Taiwan experience here). They are very friendly that sometimes it borders to a little bit awkward. And the facial similarity with them and us is hilarious that one can’t tell which one is Thai and which one is a Filipino! It is from these friends that the idea of visiting Thailand budded in my mind. It took me three years though to materialize the idea.

In this post, I’ll be sharing our do-it-yourself Bangkok-Phuket-Ayutthaya itinerary, the costs we’ve incurred, the locals we met, the cuisines we delved, the Thai culture we’ve witnessed and of course, our overall experience.

BANGKOK

Getting into the heart of the Metropolis

Our first concern when we landed in Suvarnabhumi International Airport was how to get to our hotel with an address we know nothing about. Thankfully, Thailand railway system is A-class it made our journey a lot easier. There is an MRT station right underneath the airport (called the airport link) that connects to other Bangkok MRT lines and to the superb Bangkok BTS Skytrain (transfer in Phaya Thai Station). Thailand, much like Taiwan’s, railway system to me are first class in terms of their convenience, efficiency and cleanliness that I hope someday Philippines will have a mass transport as awesome as this.

Fare from the airport to the Phaya Thai Station (to transfer to BTS) costs 15 baht while BTS Skytrain fare ranges from 30-50 baht, depending on your destination.

BTS
Capturing a snap inside Bangkok’s BTS

Meet Bell!

We found our way to McDonald’s in Tesco Mall near On Nut BTS Station where our AirBnb host is going to meet us. Our problem now is: Where is our host?  We only contact her through Facebook Messenger and since arriving in Bangkok, we forgot to buy a tourist sim for Internet because our minds were still scrambling to understand everything. We were there for an hour making every possible way of procuring the needed sim (my friend even went to the extent of asking passers-by where we can buy the sim, but Thai people hardly understand our English). Frustrated, we let few minutes pass by as we sat down. There we noticed two people (a guy and a girl) who looked very much like Filipinos, but we were still hesitant in approaching them since Thais deceptively look like us. We were trying to listen to them but they were not near enough. And then the miracle happened: we saw the guy was wearing a shirt with a Vigan print. Vigan is a Philippine city! What we saw triggered us to approach them, and indeed they were Filipinos! It’s always heartwarming to find Filipinos out of the blue in a foreign land. Going back, we asked favour from them if they could call our host.

That’s how we met Bell.

Bell was just sitting behind us all along, and had been contacting us. We learned she waited 2 hours for us and we can’t help but feel guilty. “Never mind,” in thick Thai accent was her constant replies to our sorry. She fetched us with her car to her home which was very clean and comfortable as well. But what really amazed us is how she treated us like we were her friends and not just her guests. Bell made us feel the Thai brand of hospitality. Her home was “rakhome” she said, which means “love home”. In her home, we were “her family.” Bell was our first real encounter with Thai and we felt very welcomed. She said she owes this sense of hospitality and kindness from her experience in Japan, where she was adopted by a lady for a night while she was locating her lost wallet. She had none but when her wallet was returned to hers, not even a single cent was lost. “Paying it forward,” she would tell us, an attitude we hope to apply to tourists in our land.  Most importantly, Bell is also a very pretty person.

Bell
Bell, our awesome host (farthest right)!

Chatuchak Weekend Market

First point of our itinerary was the Chatuchak Market, also called as Jatujak Market or JJ Market, the largest market in Thailand. To get to Chatuchak, take the BTS Skytrain to Mo Chit BTS Station or alternatively, take the MRT to Chatuchak Park Station.

Chatuchak, with over thousands of stalls, offers everything of Thailand that you need: clothes, souvenirs, Thai foods, Thai massage. Getting your way along the market could be really tough though since the lanes are narrow and the crowd is unbelievable (mostly are Western and Chinese tourists).

Fare to Mo Chit BTS Station is 42 baht and 1,000 baht budget could give you a lot in the market. In our case, we spent 150 baht for massage, 270 baht for a plate of Pad Thai and a bowl of spicy Tom Yum soup, and a couple more baht for souvenirs.

ChatuchakFoodMarket
Welcome to Chatuchak Weekend Market

Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Grand Palace

Our second day was a wonderful tour around Bangkok City. Thankfully, we had a local to guide us – my Thai friend Tarn. Tarn is a close friend I met in Taiwan. She told me when I come to her country she would tour me and my friends around Bangkok and she did!

We went first to Wat Arun, one of two famous Buddhist temples in Bangkok (the other being Wat Pho). To get to Wat Arun, we crossed the massive Chao Phraya River from Saphan Taksin BTS Station. Ferry costs 14 baht. Just as always, I’m always in awe of the detailed architecture and ornate design of Buddhist temples. Entrance fee for foreigners in Wat Arun is 50 baht.

ChaoPrayaRiver
Sailing at the wide expanse of the Chao Praya River in Bangkok is a must, too!

WatArun
Wat Arun was under construction when we came, but it was still a beautiful view.

The next temple was Wat Pho, a boat ride away from Wat Arun (costs 3.50 baht). Wat Pho is the home of the famous giant reclining Buddha who at first sight I found domineering and intimidating. It is here in Wat Pho that we witnessed a speck of the religious culture of Thai people. Always remember to take off your shoes before entering the temple and be silent. Inside the praying room, we kneeled in front of the Buddhist altar and bowed three times – trying to get a vibe of Buddhism. It was the closest encounter to a non-Christian religion I had. Entrance fee for foreigners in Wat Pho is 100 baht.

RecliningBuddha
Tarn (center) who’s from Bangkok, was our day’s guide. Here, we are inside Wat Pho with the giant reclining Buddha.

WatPho
One of Wat Pho’s structures.

Just around the corner from Wat Pho is the spectacular Grand Palace, previously home for the Thai monarchs. We weren’t able to go inside the Grand Palace because some VIPs came and the Palace has to be closed early. Nonetheless, the Grand Palace is still a spectacle of a view even from the outside.  Entrance fee for foreigners is 500 baht.

TheGrandPalace
The outside view of the Grand Palace.

While we were on our way to the Grand Palace, we notice a long queue of people in black just outside the gate of the palace. When I asked Tarn what they are queuing for, she said they are Thai people wanting to get a last glance of their King who passed away not more than a year ago. Thais love their King so much and everywhere, we saw memorials of him as proof of their gratitude.

Malling!

Thailand as well is a haven for shopping enthusiasts and avid mall goers. If you’re coming from Grand Palace you can return to the Saphan Taksin Station and take a bus to Central World (which was the route we took; costs 20 baht) or you can take the BTS again and get off at Siam Station where series of malls connected by bridgeways will greet you with their day and night vibrance. First of these parade of malls is the enormous Bangkok Central World. I and my friends treated ourselves a refreshing Thai milk tea here after long day’s walk within the busy urban.

Next would be the Siam Discovery (the first of the three Siam Malls in Bangkok). If you could indulge a little more baht, buying few designer clothe would be fun. We were traveling on a tight budget so we settled for window shopping.

Right next to Siam Discovery is Siam Paragon which boasts a beautiful transparent façade. When we came here, Siam Paragon was having a fruit fest and we were able to buy longan (a type of lychee, I think) for just 40 baht/ kilo. If you want more feast of the stomach, Siam Paragon’s lower ground has the gourmet market offering myriad choices of Thai and other international foods.

SiamParagon
Siam Paragon! My eyes are closed but this is the only nice group photo of the mall’s facade.

Finally, beside Siam Paragon is Siam Center. Here we found an intimidating but amusing life-size wax figure of George Clooney in a Madam Tussaud museum. I didn’t expect to find a branch of the famous museum in Bangkok which is why it was really a plus to this city tour.

MadamTussauds
With George Clooney in Madam Tussaud’s

Bright City Lights in the Lively Khao San Road

It’s getting darker and Bangkok’s lights are turning on one by one. Perhaps, never in the city are the lights more colourful and the atmosphere inviting than the Khao San Road. The road very much resembles Taiwanese night markets: array of cheap but flavourful Thai streetfood stalls, souvenir shops, etc.

KhaoSanRoadSign
Welcome to Khao San Road!

From Siam Paragon, we commissioned a tuk-tuk to drive us to Khao San Road for 140 baht. By the way, when you are in Thailand don’t miss out the chance to ride a tuk-tuk at least once because it’s so famous here it’s becoming a national symbol (remember the national costume of the Thai candidate for Miss Universe 2015?). It’s fun when the city wind blows your face as you speed by through the twists and turns of the metropolis. Just always remember to haggle down the price because tuk-tuk drivers tend to overprice rides for foreigners (ours was originally 150 baht).

Tuk-tuk2
Hail a tuk-tuk ride for a fun experience, but don’t forget to negotiate the price.

Tuk-tuk
Trying to take a snap during our tuk-tuk ride

Khao San Road is one of Bangkok’s oldest cities, and now a major backpacker hub. We saw several tourists (mostly Westerners and Chinese) traverse the short road, pausing every now and then to eat pad Thai, have their hairs in dreadlocks, drink beer and chill in a bar, or eat durian, absurdly huge cockroaches, scorpions and other exotics.

KhaoSanRoad
The bustle along Khao San Road

We got ourselves henna tattoos, ate mango sticky rice, drink a bottle of beer and to be more adventurous bought a stick of scorpion for 100 baht to eat! It wasn’t really a nice taste, though. Along the road, we met two drunken German guys who challenged themselves with the durian. With just one bite they threw off the fruit, which we found absurd because we love durian (the fruit being native to us)!

Scorpion
Grilled scorpions are only one of the exotics found in Khao San.

It was getting late, but the street lights were not getting any dimmer nor the noise fainter. Yet, we really have to go back to our hotel to pack up things. We have an early flight to the next major Thailand place we’re visiting – Phuket.

Continue reading “Just go to Thailand”

Palawan: Island of Dreams

“The water is unbelievable! I’ve never seen anything like this before,” we heard an American woman comment on the El Nido waters. Of course, as Filipinos those were overwhelming to hear not only because we heard them from a foreign person but more so from someone who’s been talking about how she’s been to several places in the world already. It’s the world’s best island for two consecutive years according to Travel and Leisure magazine, and obviously for good measure.

In this post, I’ll be sharing our do-it-yourself itinerary and the costs journeying the most beautiful island there is – Palawan.

Before coming over, I and my friends were quite hesitant about a DIY itinerary in Palawan. It’s going to be costly and risky. The beautiful places are far from each other and the transportation is still limited. Yet at the very last minute, we ditched the travel agency we’ve contacted for a tour and decided to venture all by ourselves. I’m telling you right now, that was the best decision we made in this trip (and we saved ourselves a couple of bucks).

It’s worth noting that when budgeting for a Palawan trip, you need to know whether you’re traveling during the low or peak seasons as prices are double (or triple!) on the peak season compared to the low season. According to a local we conversed, peak season in Palawan runs from November to May while the low season is from June to October. Ours was on an August and honestly, we preferred the low season since there are less tourists (and again, we saved ourselves a couple of bucks).

Port Barton: The Next Thing in Palawan

The place might not be as famous as El Nido or Coron, but it’s worth spending a few days or so for. I’m talking about Port Barton, an out-of-place town in the middle of Palawan. The place is like time traveling to a certain period in the early 2000s when the internet was limited (or in my case, none at all), electricity is time-scheduled (6PM – 12MN) and the  locality is plain simple. When we were dropped by the van we rode from San Jose terminal in Puerto Princesa to our homestay in the town, I and my friends could not contain our reactions. The town was creepily quiet (not like how we were so used to living in the city) yet serene and relaxing at best. The town is the perfect spot if you’re looking for what they call me-time. My friend even said that if she’d be broken hearted, she’ll impulsively book a flight to this place (which is not entirely an absurd idea).

If you need to use a little bit of adrenaline, Port Barton has also many activities you can enjoy, the most common of which is island hopping. For just Php700, you can scout for tour agencies within the area and  book a day tour of the many islands that pepper the place.

Then there’s also kayaking. Even at what’s supposed to be a rainy season, the sea was calm enough for kayaking. Venture a little farther from the shore and you’ll have a spectacular view: waters in jade green below, the blue sky dotted with white clouds above and the vast expanse of the green mangrove trees in between. The view pulls strings of the heart (something I’ve never felt before). An ikebana of nature.

20953227_1542952455765898_1231098632604524825_n
Kayaking is splendid in Port Barton.

And snorkeling! I’ve had my fair share of snorkeling experiences in many places before but that what I took in Port Barton will forever hold a special place in my heart. Why? Because I saw a manatee, my first time! I’m going to say that again. I saw a MANATEE; a sea cow; in the wild; swimming and swirling gracefully and freely in the ocean alongside swarm of colorful fishes. She was a meter away from me, and I couldn’t get closer. She’s quick and she felt unreal. As a testament to the rarity of this event, our guide who’s lived in Port Barton his entire life of more than 20 years has never seen a dugong before. I’ve only been in Palawan for 2 days and God has afforded me the sight of His beautiful  creature. It was a humbling experience.

20992986_1542988082429002_2384339021585448118_n
We swam along a tortoise!

IMG_4619
God has blessed this place several ocean life forms.
IMG_4620
This place is love.

We stayed in Port Barton for three days and here are our costs (per person):

Port Barton

Note that these are the costs during a low season. If you want the costs for a high season, then double everything. Also, you might have noticed that meals are expensive. You noticed right, because food in the place is insanely pricey (and that’s not even luxury eating yet). If you’re planning to save, better bring some ready-to-eat goods with you,

El Nido: A Haven Can’t Be Explained Enough

When people say Palawan people think of the skyrocketing island rock formations floating in unbelievably clean and clear turquoise waters. The thing is you’re not thinking of Palawan, but a facet of it – that is, El Nido. Translated as The Nest, El Nido made Palawan famous around the globe. The town is surrounded by walls of rocks as tall as city buildings, giving El Nido the feeling of being enclosed, secluded, separated from anywhere else. Few meters walk and you’ll see yourself captivating at the beach view.

To make the most of your time in El Nido, island hopping is a must. Island hopping in El Nido is divided into four tours: Tours A, B, C and D. Many from the locals we talked recommended tours A and C and since we’re only staying for three days we chose those tours. Perhaps if given more time, we would’ve availed everything. Anyway, the tours can be in groups or in private (then you’ll have to pay more). We chose the group tours since we’re on a budget and we thought them as perfect chances to meet people.

However, if you want a beach for free then there’s the Las Cabanas Beach or Nacpan Beach down farther. A word of warning: those beaches may be free but they are inexplicably gorgeous. You might not want to leave.

IMG_4554
Trying to do some shots along Las Cabanas beach.

IMG_4603
They say sunset in Las Cabanas is breathtaking. Sadly, it was cloudy when we’re there. Nevertheless, everything is still exceptional.

We first had Tour C while Tour A on the next day. Truly, these were the best tours because of two phrases: rock formations and lagoons. All of the beaches (and those that composed it: sand, waters, sea creatures) in El Nido are superb but they can be easily compared to other famous beaches like in those in Phuket, Thailand (read about my Thailand travel here). But El Nido’s rock formations and the small and big lagoons – they are unique, they can never be found anywhere else (or so I guess). We were traversing the waters of the small lagoon when we heard one comment from an American woman, “The water is unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” I hope those words were enough to picture the beauty God has blessed El Nido with.

20994091_1547375375323606_5310222966600496325_n
Paddling on the surface of the El Nido waters.

20992718_1544803168914160_5610844888279906938_n
El Nido is a good snorkeling site too!
20994291_1544798852247925_2696160248721369924_n
It takes an actual eye to marvel at the astounding rock formations in El Nido.
IMG_4606
Of course, we’re more than willing to take the risk of taking a photo on a boat’s edge.
1
Here’s another angle.

21034341_1544798725581271_1921578044435968553_n
And that familiar photo along the seashore, El Nido has the perfect backdrop.

We stayed in El Nido for three days and here are our costs (per person):

El Nido.jpg

Again, these are low season costs and just like in Port Barton meals are also expensive in El Nido.

IMG_4618
I’m blessing you with this aerial (and amateurish, lol) photo of El Nido.

Puerto Princesa Underground River (National Park)

Lately, Palawan is starting to be known for another acclaimed site: the Puerto Princesa Underground River. Dubbed as the longest underground river in the entire world, it is listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The only con we experienced in this part of our Palawan itinerary is that the entrance to the river is expensive (not costly, but expensive). When we asked the driver we commissioned why is that so, he explained that the high costs reduce the number of people coming to the underground river (thereby protecting it) and the maintenance cost of the site is demanding as well.

But ultimately we realized that what we paid was nothing compare to the thrill of experience the course has brought us. It was religious: communing with nature. Completely dark and peacefully silent but for the echoes of the bats, the experience is like going back to our natural, environmental roots.

Along the way, we saw astounding natural stalactite and stalagmite sculptures: huge vegetables, animals, even a teasing Sharon Stone. But what really made us gasp was what they call The Cathedral. We were carefully boating in a narrow cave when suddenly we’re welcomed by a humongous dome, much like a dome of a cathedral without the stained glass windows. To amaze us more is knowing that all of the recognizable rock formations were religious-related as well: a veiled Virgin Mary, a giant candle, the Holy Family,  an archangel, a reenactment of The Last Supper and Jesus’s face. Our audio guide said these stalactites and stalagmites took million of years to be created through heat, wind, sedimentation and erosion. That alone should amaze us. “Thankfully, nature is a patient artist,” affirmed our audio guide.

On our way out the cave we were told that despite the darkness and silence, the underground river is a home for thousands, even millions, of species. Indeed, “even at the deepest, darkest part of nature, life blossoms.”

IMG_4591
The Underground River took million of years to create. Thankfully for us, nature is a patient artist.

IMG_4590
In the deepest, darkest part of nature, life blossoms.

For information, tours do not cover the entire underground river. In fact, you may only cover a quarter (or one-eight) of the whole length of the subterranean river. But surely whatever you’ll get is enough to prick a bit of your humanity. Our underground river and Puerto Princesa City tour was packed in one day. Here are our costs (per person):

Underground

Again, these are low season costs, and since there are already fast food restaurants in the city of Puerto, food can be cheaper.

Places to Look Forward To

As you might have noticed, we spent a complete week with that itinerary. But the thing is there are still a lot of places in Palawan that everybody should go, particularly Coron. I and my friends all agreed that this island is one you can always come back and feel amazed over and over again. And we promised next time, we’ll explore more. For now, that would be it. So whatever your worries about Palawan being costly and difficult to traverse, don’t drop them off. But remember that everything is going to be worth it. Take that from someone who’s been there and wants to be back again.

Please follow me on:

Instagram: @jobmarc

Twitter: @jobmarc

Or email me at:

opallajobmarc@gmail.com

Thank you! 😊