Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Don't let me get Hangry

Aside from the people I meet, some of the most memorable travel moments and stories revolve around food.  I like to think I have a pretty healthy diet but when it comes to traveling I generally have no rules.  Street food? Definitely  Mystery meat? Sure, why not.  "I'm not telling you what this is, you just have to try it" Fine. Actually, I'm not even good at the 'don't drink the water in xxx', i'll try to improve on that one though.  With food, my motto is to try anything once, worst thing that happens is you don't like it, okay so then try something else.  For the first 25 years of my life this has done me pretty well, so I don't see a reason to change a thing.  Although the people in the Philippines left a lasting impression on me with a strong desire to return the food was just, well, food.  It wasn't amazing but it never disappointed either, but i'm sure there's lots I didn't even try so i'll get those on my next visit. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

All good things must come to an end

After my day on the water, and a refreshing shower, I figured I should devote a little time to the streets of Coron.  I ventured out with my camera, but no real purpose or destination in mind.  On the way out of the Sea Dive resort I ran into our captain from the day, Jam-Jam, who seemed amused when I responded "I don't know" to his question of where I was headed.  If there was a rush hour in Coron I think I ran straight into it, the market and surrounding streets were overflowing with people, many of which appeared to be school kids, recently released from class.  I zig-zaged my way through the rows upon rows of market stalls, covered a few blocks of the center of town and started to head up towards Mt. Tapyas when I ran into Ian, my new friend from the previous days boat. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Welcome to Coron

Thankfully, getting settle in Coron, post boat ride, was a breeze. Ian and I walked part of the way to town, eventually flagged down a tricycle and soon arrived at the Sea Dive resort, where I had a room booked.  There was a kitschy bar, conveniently located about 10 feet from my room so Ian and I decided to grab a drink before calling it a night.  The next morning I was up early thanks to the combination of roosters, construction and the dive office being directly next to my room, there really is no sleeping in with budget accommodation.  I made my way into the dive office with planning to figure out an island hopping tour for the day; different than El Nido, where you pay per person/per tour, in Coron you pay 1,500 for the boat but can share it with up to four people.  I didn't really want to hire my own boat so I was looking to tag along with a group of two or three. It was my lucky day because a Chinese couple were just preparing to leave and said it was no problem if I tagged along. 

Another day of this? Don't mind if I do

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I'm on a boat ~

Thursday morning I was up early, packed up the remains of my belongings, said goodbye to my friendly hostel owners and made my way to the pier. I still had some doubts about the day ahead of me but there was really no turning back at this point.  I was told to arrive at the pier at 7 o'clock (an hour before we were due to depart) but knew there would be a lot of waiting in store for me. I considered stopping to buy more snack for the journey but then decided I didn't need to, and instead went to sit at the pier.  There were already a few people waiting while others slowly trickled in, couples, friends, two families and a few other solo travelers.  I kept quiet and enjoyed my morning of observance, watching the people that I was lucky enough to spend the next 8+ hours with.  I knew that an 8 o'clock departure meant we'd be lucky to leave somewhere around 8:30 but many others seemed to be a bit annoyed at the lack of urgency on getting us aboard. Finally, closer to 9 o'clock they brought us to our boat, loaded our luggage and then gave us the go ahead to get on the boat, "one by one" to which no one paid much attention and stormed the boat like a pack of wild animals.  I hung back and laughed at the idiocracy with two others, as the rest of them made their best attempts at sinking the ship before we even left the port, great I was about to be stuck on a boat with 30 morons. 

Let the waiting game begin 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Finding my own little patch of paradise

After Loudine's early morning departure it was time for me to do some exploring on my own. I didn't really have any plans for the day but thought I should see what I could do in El Nido, sans money.  Each time we ventured out on a boat I noticed that there was somewhat of a walkway around the coast to the northeast, so I decided to explore.  The path led through some more remote resorts, nestled in amongst the local villages. I got a fair amount of stares, but let's be honest when doesn't that happen in Asia, as I passed by resorts, shops, houses and even a quaint little cemetery. I wanted to keep going along the trail and see how far it would take me, but my stomach thought otherwise.

Random pontoonish boat

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

From boats to bikes

On our second day in El Nido we knew that we wanted a more relaxed morning and time to try one of the traditional breakfasts (well I did at least), so we made our way to the beach. Being the savy budget travelers we are, we did a lap up and down the beach comparing menu options and prices before settling on Sea Slugs, which seemed to give us the best value, as well as a great location. If I could wake up and be served breakfast on the beach everyday i'd be one happy lady.  By the time we were seated I was starving and the traditional Filipino breakfast, Tosilog, hit the spot - pork, fried egg, rice and fruit, yum. After breakfast we made our way back to the Fast and Furious shop with hopes of renting a motorbike for the day, allowing us to explore the peninsula on our own accord.  Things went pretty smoothly, we were handed the keys and stopped back at our place to pack our bags before venturing off, but then the bike wouldn't start. We pushed it back to the shop and explained the problem to which they asked us what we did? Ummm nothing your bike is a piece of $#!*.  They took some time running around trying to find us another bike but were unsuccessful.  Seeing as it was almost noon, I told Loudine we'd be better to cancel our plans, rent Kayaks for the afternoon and come back for a bike the next day. 

Good solution 

So this is what all they hype was about

After our, thankfully, uneventful bus ride to El Nido, we decided to get a trike to the El Nido Art Cafe to get recommendations on where to stay in town, since we hadn't prearranged anything.  The cafe is basically the central 'go to' spot in town for all of your needs - clothes, snacks, tour bookings, boat and plane tickets, as well as a good meal/drink.  They were helpful in providing us with a list of accommodation (including price range) so we decided the best method would be to start knocking on doors.  We originally wanted a beach side cottage but upon realizing the 'non-beach' properties were literally 10 ft across the street we settled on a cute room at the El Nido Plaza Inn for only 500php per night, such a steal. Once we were settled in our room it was time to explore the town, get to the beach and find something to eat! 

Home away from home

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An introduction to Paradise

Despite our delay, Loudine and I made it safely out of Cebu and on to the wonderful island of Palawan, first stop the Bamboo Nest. I found Jonathan and his awesome house on Couchsurfing and couldn't pass up the opportunity to stay with him, not only did he sound like an amazing guy but his house set-up was intriguing.  He gave us great directions from the airport including two tricycles (both of whom tried to overcharge us, of course) and a short walk leading to the 'back gate of his property'.  I'm sure, had it been light out when we arrived this all would have been a bit easier, but as Loudine and I wandered down a dark dirt road we weren't exactly sure what we had gotten ourselves into.  Despite a few moment of doubt we arrived safely and were greeted by Jonathan and his warm, welcoming smile. Our room was in the second story of the [hand-made] bamboo nest, which was awesome, I felt like I was sleeping in a tree house.  We later found out that the reason for the sketchy 'back-door' entrance is that Jonathan lives on the Navy compound and can't have random foreigners walking in and out the front gate, fair enough.  After settling ourselves Jonathan invited us to join him for dinner in town at Imas vegetarian restaurant where we enjoyed great food and good conversation.  
Path to Jonathans, much better in daylight 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cebu, not sure how I feel about you

Although it produces amazing memories, interesting stories and some great pictures, budget travel isn't always glamorous.  In order to get that cheap airline fare you might have to be okay with arriving somewhere in the middle of the night, tired and a bit disoriented. Lucky me, I turned up at Cebu airport somewhere around 2am still having to navigate my way into the city.  I've learned to keep an eye out for other solo travelers, especially in situation such as these, so when I found a girl that looked to be a similar situation as myself I decided we should join forces.  Cabs from the airport are known to try and scam tourist so I figured we should join forces and at the very least we could split the fare into town. Although the cab drivers tried to feign ignorance, we got lucky in that our places were only a few blocks from each other, I guess being outgoing worked in my favor here.  I quickly 'checked into' my room and drifted off to sleep, I briefly awoke around 5 to let Loudine in (she had a later flight) and then found myself wide awake around 8am, why? We decided to venture out in to the city as we were both starving, wandered the streets for  close to an hour before stumbling into a Thai restaurant, comatose.  Once our stomachs were full we decided to go back and nap, shower and prepare ourselves for a day of sightseeing.  

Meet, the Jeepney