Exploring Palawan, day 1: raiding the nest

For someone who’s had Palawan on her bucket list for most of her life (way before she was old enough to know what a bucket list was), this post has been a long time coming. A few weeks ago, that dream was finally crossed off my to-dos when my friends (the motley crew I was with at Ilocos, Aklan, and Calaguas) and I set off for a six-day adventure in the province. We split our trip into two – El Nido and Puerto Princesa – and this post is the first of a six-part remembrance of those glorious days of heaven.

(Please bear with the lengthy storytelling; I’ll try to make it worth your while.)

We scheduled our trip to start on a Friday and end on a Wednesday (major props to our bosses for not giving us crap about filing a four-day vacation leave) partly because we were trying to get promo plane tickets and these were the very few days we could travel to get them. We met at the airport at about 7:30 AM, checked our friend’s bag and proceeded to the boarding gate, where we had to wait a while. After being delayed a total of 3 times – twice that day and once a week before when we received a text message about it – we finally boarded at around 11:00.

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On the way

All week I’d been checking Accuweather to find out if we’re in for a rainy trip (remember our great Aklan adventure?), and the website kept screaming “thunderstorm,” so we were pleasantly surprised to land on a dry and hot Puerto Princesa Airport at about 12:20. We didn’t have hotel pick-up because we decided we’d start our vacation at El Nido. No worries; there were a bunch of eager merchants to choose from who were offering semi-private rides (we were riding with other tourists) to El Nido if you didn’t want to wait for the bus. We chose one at random and hoped for the best.

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Land ho

Turns out, the van service was actually very friendly, so we booked our island tour (tour A) with them, too. That, plus the ride to El Nido that day and the ride back to our Puerto Princesa hotel on Sunday, cost Php 2,000 (That’s Php 1,000 for the roundtrip van service and Php 1,000 for Tour A. I’ll try to itemize as much of our costs as possible for those thinking about taking a trip).

About an hour into the six-hour drive, the sky became overcast. Then it rained. Hard. Fucking great. Then the rain stopped, and started again. The weather would keep that pattern until about 6PM, when we reached Swiftlets Inn. After checking in, there wasn’t much to do except wait for dinner time, so we just had coffee, hung out, and watched TV until 7.

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The gigantic limestone in front of our hotel
Coffee break after a 6-hour trip

None of us had ever been to El Nido before (one had only stayed in Puerto Princesa years ago) so we weren’t sure where to go for dinner. We went to the busiest part of town where all the restaurants were and found El Nido Pizza, an Italian place that also offers Filipino dishes. If you end up in the area craving for Italian fare, I hope you’ll try this one. The servings are generous for the price (a single order of carbonara costs Php 230 and can easily feed three people, two if they’re extremely ravenous), plus the servers are incredibly friendly and accommodating.

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Had to take the rest back to the hotel

Later on, we decided to take a walk towards the beach where, lo and behold, the seafood and grill restaurants we were actually hoping to stumble upon were set up. No worries, we thought as we walked the length of the beach, we still had another night to try these places out. By the way, the beach here isn’t so much a beach as it is a moor for boats, so swimming might be out of the question.

None of us were really feeling like hitting bars, so we got back to the hotel at about 10, where we just had more coffee and settled for bed. A little early, I know, but we had to wake up early the next day anyway. The islands await.

Coming up:
Day 2 or: how we learned to stop worrying about the weather and love the islands

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