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Palawan, Philippines

Puerto Princesa and El Nido

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Keen to get out of Manila and without a plan as to where, Palawan sounded a good bet. We booked flights for under £50 for the 2 of us, left a load of stuff in Manila and headed off.

At the airport we watched a Brit in his early 20s, absolutely steaming, bounce from group to group exclaiming that the Philippines was the best place ever. We overheard that he'd been here for 2days and only in Manila. We managed to avoid him, though it turned out he was on our plane.

We got to JLC hostel fairly late and were up for a film and an early night. It turned out that Sophie had booked it on Agoda for the following month...after a little confusion, they had a slightly pricier ac room (700pesos, £10) available, so all was good. The place was simple, friendly and clean, with the erratic cockerels being the only downside (this would prove to be the case throughout the Philippines - they don't wait for dawn!)

Puerto Princesa is the main "city" on Palawan. It's dubbed an eco-city, which is true compared to Manila, but the roads are crammed with smoking contraptions. There was a little to do in PP, but none of it was a particular highlight...

We hired the first tricycle we came across outside our guest house, who was a boy; shy and seemingly had never done a tour of the local sights for tourists before...he told us to pay "as you wish, Sir". The going rate seemed to be p500 so we gave him that, a list of where we wanted to visit and set off for Baker's Hill for breakfast...

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We got a bit out of our "guide", Jerry (suspiciously the same name as our driver that took us from the airport the night before) on the journey. He seemed nice so we bought him a little treat from the bakery shop. He seemed surprised, then happy.

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We ate our purchases (very cheap, but not up to Japan's bakery standards) before exploring the slightly schizophrenic garden...

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A bit further up the road was "the ranch", which had decent views, a zip line (not so soon after breakfast) and some horses that we assumed you could ride. It seemed a little underwhelming and when asked to pay to see the view from a verandah, which we had essentially seen from the road, we passed and headed to our next stop...

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The Butterfly House and Tribal Village was probably the day's highlight. The butterflies were impressive enough and you were free to wander through the small garden with them flying all around. This was slightly marred by the captive crocodiles in tiny tanks. There were also scorpions, with a sign saying "Dangerous: don't touch". Naturally the Filipina guide picked them up and started handing them around...

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The tribal village was through a door at the back of the garden. The explanation was that the inhabitants visit for a few weeks from their remote rural homes to demonstrate their tribes skills in return for donations, which they then take back with them, encouraging them to keep traditions alive...we weren't quite sure, but their skills were pretty impressive with a blow pipe! They hit the middle of a 10cm diameter target from 10m and we were assured could do it from much further. We weren't going to argue, and their snake, called Ginger, was pretty cool too.

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The "Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre" was next. We arrived to find it closed for lunch. The onsite restaurant could have been an option to pass the time, but we decided against it and read in the shade for a while. Crocodile sisig as the first thing on the menu should have given us a hint that there wasn't so much conservation going on... The crocodile part was described as a farm to be fair, along with housing some crocodiles that had "interfered with people" and would have been killed... A few of them were HUGE at nearly 20ft and would make me think twice before swimming in any of Palawan's rivers! The rest of the place was full of dingy cages and sorry looking animals - we didn't stick around.

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The bear cat is a pretty cool looking animal...

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Last up was the Cathedral, where we would say bye to Jerry. We had a potter around, checked out the boardwalk and giant Xmas tree and grabbed some very average food.

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Determined to end the day with some better food, we ordered a seafood chowder from a nice outdoor restaurant with a huge outdoor screen showing basket ball. The sites of PP were definitely miss able, but we'd had a good day.

El nido

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People go to Palawan for El Nido and we were pretty excited to see what it was all about. The bus was arranged by our guesthouse and cost less than a tenner for the 6hr journey north. There is little chance of falling asleep, with the last few hours being along unsurfaced roads. Not what I expected. We arrived to find a pretty rustic, charming town. The place is alive with locals and backpackers. No big resorts, just laid back wooden guesthouses, bars and restaurants. We began our usual door-to-door check of establishments: "how much for your cheapest room?"... It seemed a little pricy with most places quoting over £20. After a little persistence, a little lane led us to Mountainside Inn, which was clean, friendly and p500, £7, a night with our own bathroom. We were home.

We spent the afternoon at Corong Corong Beach which was white, lined with palm trees and fairly empty. We were happy. The one cafe on the beach served decent food and was decent value. While we were there a fellow traveller came in with jellyfish stingers wrapped all around her. She was incredibly calm as her friends scraped and cut them away. She had pretty big burns all over her and only wanted a beer to take her mind off it. It put us off doing much swimming, but it seemed she had been very unlucky. We were assured that there should not be jelly fish at this time of year and that it must have been a fluke occurrence...

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The islands off El Nido are stunning and house a number of high end resorts. Though plush, they looked a little boring, so I think staying on the mainland and visiting by day is the best and most budget friendly option! There are usually 4 tour options, but as there was a typhoon warning, boats were staying close to mainland... Tour A it was. There were a fair few people in the small lagoon, which hindered the aesthetical appreciation a little. After this, our boat seemed to avoid the crowds a bit and we had some good snorkelling, a great lunch and plenty of beach relaxation. I'd prefer to have gone out on our own with a fisherman or private boat, but this was a good, cheap and easy option.

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Food wasn't particularly enticing in El Nido but the Italian proved a good option with one of the best pizzas of our trip and was surprisingly stylish once you ascended the stairs.

We requested a motorbike to do some exploring around El Nido, but after waiting for nearly 2hrs for it to arrive, we aborted and jumped in a tricycle to Corong Corong beach again. It was very relaxing and the sun was shining. It was hard to believe that a massive typhoon was about to hit the Philippines, as the news was suggesting...we decided to be safe and head back to Puerto Princesa the next day. We would have loved to spend longer in El Nido, but didn't think being stranded there in bad weather would be much fun. The road was bad enough in dry conditions! We also decided to book a flight, expecting it to be cancelled, but hoping we'd be on one of the first flights out once the storm had passed...

We took the Cherry Bus back at 8am. It started with blaring house music, which was not what we needed in the morning having had a good few tanduay rums the night before. Eventually the music gave way to a terrible, but much quieter martial arts film so we could drift off a bit. Back in PP we stayed in a very cheap guesthouse near to the airport. Soph was not impressed, but it was clean and I was more than happy with it as somewhere to crash for the night.

Having spent the evening checking weather forecasts and flight departure information, we didnt know whether we'd be flying to Cebu or hunkering down to let a typhoon pass. We woke the next day to find the sun shining and our flight was good to go...

We grabbed some breakfast at a nice little cafe and it turned out to be an anniversary of the place opening. They had a theme song, strange people in costumes walking around and gave us a free umbrella... Having got to the most relaxed/lax airport we'd ever been to we found that umbrellas were not allowed in hand luggage and the weight of the umbrella pushed us over the weight limit. There was no luggage disappearing along conveyor belts having been checked in at PP airport. Bags are just put behind the desk where a number of dodgy people mill around. We gave the umbrella to a kind looking attendant and he said our bags would be looked after... it worked out well! The security check seemed pretty primitive, though they pulled me up for having some electrical tape in my hand luggage? The water and lighter were fine! Soph was allowed to walk back out of departures, ask our baggage guy for the checked in bag back to put the tape in and then walk straight back bypassing security...

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The flight left on time. The airlines tagline was something like "have a fun flight". To facilitate this, 3 passengers were requested to head to the front of the aircraft to sing Xmas carols into the PA system in exchange for a windup hand fan...it was truly bizarre!

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Posted by bloorsontour 05:44 Archived in Philippines

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Comments

A very welcome, long- awaited update. It all sounds really quirky and fun! A lovely read and super photos. We particularly like Butterfly Sophie!! Xxxxx

by Ma and Pa

Love the photos. Your flight has beaten my first Ryanair flight when we were asked if anyone fancied karaoke ! Lots of love from mutsi xx

by mutsi

Love reading about your adventures - you should make them into a book!! Enjoy and keep the stories coming (especially when Mutsi arrives!!) xx

by Steph Cartledge

Lovely to hear more stories of your travels,keep them coming. Glad to see you both look well. Love you lots xx

by the wrinklies

Love reading your blog, and beautiful photos. Looking forward to reading about Cebu next, xxx loads of love and stay safe

by Rach and Tez

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