El Nido – Puerto Princessa – Manila to Bangkok

We got to El Nido and had the task of walking from the boat to our next place we were staying. There’s always many people trying to get you to get in a taxi but Google maps said a 10 minute walk and we always trust in Google (naively). The main road in El Nido is full of little shops selling clothes, snorkels, beer and anything else you can think of. It seemed more aimed at tourists wanting to chill out in the town more than Coron.

Our hotel was a room with a shared bathroom, luckily with a young family which was fine. The curtains were see through and we were on the corner where everyone walked by so we had to put up towels to make it dark enough to sleep and to cover our modesty when changing… Thanks to Mark and Sam yet again saving the day! Slightly different from what we had just experienced.

We decided to have a chilled out beach day here, Stu researched and we ended up at Nacpan Beach. It was a 40 minute transfer with lots of mosquitoes on the bus but we made it to the quiet beautiful beach. The sand was white and felt like flour between your toes. We had cocktails, sun bathed and went swimming in the sea. It was definitely worth the bus ride, we were sorry that we had to leave and probably would have been happy staying at the hostel there.

There are lots of tours that you can do from El Nido. We chose tour C, which was a day of lagoons, snorkeling and a different beach to see. The group was a mix of ages and nationalities which is always great. We got some awesome tips from a woman from Hong Kong for our trip there. The tour itself was crammed full of different boats and so many tourists. We queued up to go into the secret lagoon, everyone seemed to know the secret. We could have happily missed this out really, you stand in the middle, take a photo and then crawl back out. They also don’t tell you that you have to pay extra for kayaks for you to see the different lagoons. This is part of their scam which was a little irritating, as we only brought enough cash for extra beers. Thankfully we had enough for the big lagoon which was beautiful, the water is so clear it looks like you’re floating in mid air. We did some snorkeling but wish we had a stinger top, there were so many jelly fish about and tiny stingers that were hard to see floating by us. A lot of people opted to sun bathe on the last lagoon. We’re glad we did it as we got to see some beautiful scenery.

El Nido was really great for food. There was much more choice for veggies and not a Jollibees in sight! There were lovely and quirky bars as well, which was great to spend the evening in sipping cocktails at happy hour. One of our favourites was the Happiness Bar that had swings instead of bar seats and a great espresso martini for Stu. There was a hidden bar at the back of a shop as well, where you had to find the stairs at the back, though I ordered the worst drink ever and still haven’t lived it down with Stu. Warm rum sugar and lime, but local rum. It was bad. The restaurants at the beach have to dig the sand up around the tables to try and get them straight so your plates don’t tip off into the sea that comes up to cool your feet down!

We had to get down to Puerto Princessa to get our plane to Manila which was a seven hour drive. We decided to have a couple of nights there. A lot of people just stay to get to the airport and don’t do much here. We were staying here just as Easter was starting, being a Catholic country a lot was closed. We did find a mall, surprise surprise, but we got very excited because there was a cinema! We had missed going to the cinema and Black Panther was still playing, in English too! There was a directors showing so we went for it. The seats reclined all the way back to a laying down position, free popcorn and a button to press if you wanted a refill. All for £5 a ticket! It was exactly what we needed. The film is incredible too! We also found a pizza restaurant that served Quorn, on a pizza!!

We had another day to fill so after some more researching we found an inflatable water park… It was amazing. Just like Total Wipeout! It’d only been fully open a few weeks so it was hard to organise the tickets with only one company doing transfers. The slides were huge, the tallest in Asia and about 40ft. We decided to just go for it choosing the hard way by rock climbing to the top instead of the easy ladder… I did get shakey legs halfway up but did it and got to the top! Though there was a trail of blood from my leg courtesy of the barnacles under the inflatables, that wasn’t too great. The rush of flying all the way to the bottom and into the water was amazing. We had so much fun being stupid and throwing ourselves into the water and falling off numerous times. Stu was hilarious in the hamster spinning thing trying to keep it going and falling every time. It always helps with the hot sun to dry out with after as well. The whole place is run brilliantly, we went on a nature walk and our tour guide was great. We found him funnier than he was meant to be, he tried to show us a rock that looked like Jesus and a horses head. We just stood their smiling at what clearly just looked like a rock. The hike to the top of the hill was a bit much though! We’d really recommend anyone doing a stop in Puerto to have a day doing this.

Water park

Manila was mainly closed when we got there. Easter weekend was a good and bad time to visit. The city was so quiet that traffic wasn’t a problem but all the museums and main attractions were closed. We did manage to get tickets to the third final for the men’s basketball though! It was at a massive arena about an hours drive away and the atmosphere was amazing. The stadium was full and we were routing for San Miguel’s team. Weirdly though they didn’t sell their own beer, or any beer at the venue… The game was a close one and really exciting but they won so we chose the right team! The entertainment was also hilarious with a kind of circus show in the middle and the very American style t-shirt catapults into the crowd, we tried but failed to catch one. After the game we got to watch the art of salad bars. You can only go up once so people stack it high. Em was more impressed by this than the basketball.

Basketball

Our month in the Philippines was over. We absolutely fell in love with the country and it’s people. We felt safe and welcomed by everyone. There’s endless things to do and see here and so much for their potential to grow in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way. We’ll want to come back and explore more in this country. Happy we had our birthdays here and celebrated them a little too luxuriously maybe but this is a trip of a lifetime. We headed off to Bangkok where Stu got his first abroad haircut, they styled it with a lot of gel… and got our flight to Hong Kong which we’ll write about next.

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