Date: January 2007
This trip was when I went one weekend to attend my friend Azhad’s wedding in Kozhikode (Calicut). He lived close to Beypore beach, so the day I arrived, we drove straight to the beach.
Date: April 30th 2011
I woke up at 6am today. Not that it was when I set the alarm for, but that’s when electricity goes off everyday in El Nido (until 2pm). As the fan stopped turning and the humidity crept in, I had no choice but to get up.
I had plenty of time as I only needed to be at Art Cafe by 8:45am, but instead of having breakfast at Spider Pension House, I decided to have it at Art Cafe itself.
I wanted to have a light breakfast as I was going to be getting into the water for snorkeling.
Unfortunately, the pancake at Art Cafe was quite thick and heavy. I felt stuffed by the time I was done and had my orange juice. I mean, the pancake tasted great and all, but… my tummy was already bulging!
I didn’t want a repeat of what happened on my first island hopping tour in Thailand, where I slipped and ended up plunking my camera bag in the water, so I stepped into the water carefully and boarded the boat. I didn’t rush to get a spot in the front of the boat.
Those who paid for kayaking got into their kayaks and made their way towards the small lagoon. The rest, including myself, had to swim all the way there.
As I got in the water, I was supposed to follow the guide but got caught up floating in the water and staring at the corals underneath. It was a beautiful sight… which is all I can say, because I don’t have an underwater camera. (I really wish I did)
I couldn’t float around for too long as the guide had led the group through a small opening and into the small lagoon where there is a small cave.
So I swam fast and made it past the small opening, but just then, my limited swimming experience led to my right leg developing cramps. It hurt a bit as I stressed myself to catch up with the rest of the group. The guide came back for me and when I told him my right leg felt cramped, he told me not to stress it and asked me to sit on a stone inside the small lagoon. He had to lead the rest of the group inside the cave, so he told me to swim back after my leg felt better.
As I sat there massaging my right leg, a nice old Filipino woman who sat beside me on the rock suggested that I take her kayak back to my boat as she had another kayak in her group. I smilingly said “it’s fine,” but she smilingly insisted that I ride back instead of swimming back. I thanked her, and got in the kayak. Even though the kayak belonged to another tour agency and was even manned by one of their staff to paddle, I politely asked him if I could paddle instead. For someone who has always wanted to try kayaking, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be! I rode all the way back with relative ease and thanked the staff for letting me paddle his kayak.
Once I got back on board my boat, another one of boat staff massaged my right leg and it eased my muscles up a bit. As I sat on the boat, I felt I should have gone for the kayak option for this tour. It was a lot of fun and as soon as I got back to the boat, I felt like asking for another kayak. Sadly I couldn’t, as the tour boats can only carry the number of kayaks based on the bookings.
Words are petty compared to actual photographs, so to see what the views are like under water and the cave, check out this guy’s photographs.
We were supposed to anchor here and then be allowed to do whatever we opted to do, but the boat operators were informed they couldn’t anchor their boats for some reason.
And if you thought: “Man, that above panorama shot would make an awesome wallpaper!”, then here’s a 1920×1080 sized version!
The food – grilled fish, grilled pork and sticky rice – was, well, quite dry for my liking. So I just had to gulp it all down with some beer (which the staff were selling for ₱50 a can). Post lunch, we sat on the beach while the staff cleaned up and took all the trash back to the boat.
One of the women on board kept screaming to her partner in the water warning him of the presence of the jellyfish, though some only swam to get closer to it for a better look.
When they did, some of them were panting for breath. The two Italian girls in our group said the currents were quite strong and they required help from our guide swimming back. Quite a scary experience according to them.
Our boat didn’t anchor itself close to the shore, so we had to swim all the way there. I wasn’t going to stay on the boat again, but this time I really wanted to take my camera with me. So the guide told me he would carry it in a plastic bag and ensure it didn’t get wet. He’s obviously a much better swimmer, so he raised the bag in one hand and still swam to the island.
Once we all swam to the island, we had to walk barefoot on prickly shells to enter the lagoon through a small opening.
With that, Tour A was over.
I went upstairs to pay the balance amount for the tour, which cost ₱700 ($16/€12) plus the ₱50 for the beer I had. I told them I used the kayak once, but they said that’s fine.
Even though I may not have made full use of the tour (due to my limited swimming capabilities), as you can see from the above photos, it was still pretty damn worth it! Sadly, today was my last in El Nido and I so wished I had another day to do another tour (like Tour C).
I left Art Cafe, said my goodbyes to the rest of my tour group and walked on. I now needed to go to Las Cabanas beach which is a five minute drive away.
I approached a tricycle taxi and asked how much it was to get to Las Cabanas beach. He said: “₱200″. I asked if that was to take me there and back, and he said “no”. I said ‘no freakin’ way’ and continued walking. As expected, he followed me and we ended up bargaining it down to ₱80.
But it wasn’t a pleasant experience. There were mosquitoes and other bugs buzzing around me and I just couldn’t stand still, having to whack each one away. The tripod with the camera would often tip over in the sand as well.
I took one last panorama shot and left Las Cabanas beach at 6pm.
Once I got back on to the main road, the tricycle taxi driver who dropped me here was still there and I approached him to take me back to the village. He said: “₱100″. Sigh. I told him I paid ₱80 to come here, why should I pay more to go back. He just shook his head to say ‘no’. So I started walking…. and again, he followed me and asked me to get in. Ugh!
As we rode back, I had to ask the driver to stop again when he showed me an observation deck they built for a nice view of the sea. The sky looked beautiful and I just had to capture it!
Once I got back to the village, I went back to the ‘family day’ celebration which I visited yesterday to see if there was anything special going on today.
I leisurely walked back to Spider Pension House and told Joy that tonight I would like to try their seafood buffet for dinner. Electricity was gone again, but Joy still managed to make me a ‘boku milkshake’. I was then joined by three French youths who had just arrived today, and we began chatting.
After a satisfying dinner, I settled my bill and paid for everything as I was checking out early tomorrow. I asked Joy to book me a seat in a private van back to Puerto Princesa.
I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my Philippines journey. Coming all the way to El Nido for these beautiful waters was worth it! If these 159 photos (out of the 861 photos I took) don’t tempt you to take a vacation to El Nido, well, then try this video — it’s all real!
(It’s available in 720p HD)
P.S: There is still one final post left in this series
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Date: April 29th 2011
Woke up really early today morning — like, 5am early! I left Banwa Arthouse and managed to catch a passing tricycle taxi to take me to the Puerto Princesa bus stop. It was a bit of a drive away, but I managed to get there in time. Anyway, I had called up the bus company (called Eulen Joy) the previous day and secured a seat for myself.
Now, despite reserving a seat, the bus is nothing fancy. Anything but! In fact, to get my seat right in the front, I had to walk over luggage belong to the other passengers. When I was instructed to do so, I kept looking at the other passengers with a mental “Im sorry but I have no other choice” look — but all they did was smile back.
The one-way bus ride to El Nido cost ₱380 ($8/€6) and I opted to take the local bus instead of a private van (which cost more) not simply to save a few hundred pesos, but for the very same reason I chose to take tricycle taxi in Bohol — to take clear photos along the way.
Nearly 2 hours into the journey, with the sun hitting my eyes, I felt sleepy again and dozed off after keeping my camera back in.
I was woken up an hour later by the bus driver, who using the universal hand gesture, asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I politely said “no thanks”. The bus had stopped and the passengers got out for a break. I wasn’t hungry but an ice cream vendor on a bicycle asked me if I would like some ice cream. Now, I wasn’t very keen on having ice cream from a bicycle vendor in a remote village for health risks, but he had cones and buns.
Even though the bus journey is longer, and less comfortable, I still enjoyed the experience of what life is to these locals on this remote island.
I finally reached the El Nido bus station as it neared 1pm. I didn’t have a reservation anywhere but I did make a list of accommodation by the beach that suited my budget.
After stopping by one or two hotels I didn’t end up liking (and some that were full), I walked to Spider Pension House — a place I had called the day before and asked for a room to be kept available in case I were to stop by. Fortunately, one private fan room (but common toilet) was still available, so I checked in. I got the room for ₱700, for two nights.
After dumping my bags, I didn’t waste any time and made my way to Art Cafe — the most popular and one of the earliest businesses to promote El Nido tourism.
Besides lunch, I was also here to book a tour for tomorrow. Though there are primarily three tours on offer, I opted for Tour A as it would give me a good enough experience of what all El Nido has to offer. Paid some money as advance and sat down for lunch.
Once I got back to Spider Pension House, I sat on the porch and simply stared out into the sunset, listening to the ever relaxing sound of waves crashing. I ordered a coconut milkshake (or ‘boku juice’ as per the menu) and Joy, whose mother owns the place, sat beside me for a chat.
Even though the sun had set, I still sat there, feeling very relaxed and drinking my second coconut juice (didn’t feel like drinking beer at all). Unfortunately, when I ordered my third glass of boku juice, the electricity went.
I was joined by another guest staying at Spider Pension House (Aldo was his name I believe). A Spaniard based in London, a regular to El Nido and one who liked staying at Spider Pension House so much that he decided to help the owners by creating a Facebook page to help them with promotion.
Since there was no electricity, it was pointless to go to my dark room upstairs, so I continued chatting away to the sound of waves crashing. When it came time to make plans for dinner, Aldo told me there was so much pork leftover from yesterday, that he asked Joy to make something for tonight as well. He had bought an entire pig from the market to be roasted a la lechon style – which they did (he showed me his photos). But needless to say, there was quite a lot of meat left over.
Just as I took out my wallet and asked “How much?,” Aldo gestured “no” with his hand. It was on him, so “thanks” was all I could say.
I finally went up to my room after the electricity did come back, as I had to copy over today’s photos to my back-up hard drive and prepare for tomorrow’s island tour. I had to make the most of the electricity available, because if there’s one thing you need to know about El Nido, it’s this: electricity goes off everyday from 6am to 2pm.
Sigh, I guess I knew what time I was going to wake up tomorrow — that too with the humidity!
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