El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

  I arrived at the bus station in El Nido and was greeting by a bunch of tricycles, the Filipino version of the tuk-tuk. The tricycles look like they came out of back to the future. Each one is decorated differently, and they all look and feel like they’re about to fall apart.  

My first two nights I stayed at Our Melting Pot, the popular backpacker spot. I was shocked when I first arrived and saw that the only hanging out spot is a tiny narrow room next to the reception downstairs. Advertised it says that there’s a rooftop deck but apparently that’s just being built now.
I stayed in the 6-bed dorm upstairs which was clean and quite. However, on my third day I came back to the hostel and the guy at the desk tells me I have to move to the 10-bed dorm because no one wrote down that I was staying longer, even though I told two of them. The 10-bed dorm was cramped and crowded. They were triple bunks and I was shoved into the top bunk (third up) in the corner. I got attacked by bed bugs within two hours of trying to fall asleep and after killing a few I got out of bed to complain. It was 5am and the guy manning the front desk just stared at me. He said he would change the sheets in the morning and that the hostel is full. An hour later I checked into Egay’s Budget Room, 600 pesos for a single room. The room was clean and that’s all I needed. I stayed there for two nights.
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My first night I went out to dinner with people from the hostel. We went to Lonesome Carabao Lounge, the Mexican spot in town. I’d read great reviews but the food was mediocre. I had the shrimp tacos which lacked spice, although they were at least cooked properly. The restaurant was out of avocados (guacamole,) coconut and beef. A joke for a Mexican restaurant.
The next day I did Tour C with a few people from the hostel. There are four tours that are advertised all around El Nido- tours A-D. They’re all island hoping just to different islands. 
With Tour C we went to islands that are farther away. First we went to Hidden Beach, a small beach hiding behind the rocks. There were other tour boats around and the beach was jam packed. I attempted to snorkel but the snorkel I rented was broken. The only thing to see underwater were massive jellyfish, and the goggles were enough. 

 

Next we went to Secret Beach, which wasn’t much of a secret. There were boats everywhere. To get to this beach you have to swim through holes in the rocks. 
Next we had lunch on a tiny beach, which was relaxing. We were served eggplant kinilaw, grilled pork and chicken, a grilled fish, and yellow watermelon for lunch. 

   

We then stopped at a small church hidden in the rocks. We walked up a few steps and had a great view of the islands and the water. 

 Lastly we went to helicopter beach. We pulled up and there was an ice cream boat which we indulged on. I then walked the beach collecting sea glass and shells. This beach has the most incredible shells I’ve ever seen in a wide range of colors. I had collected a few tiny different ones to bring home but when I got back to the boat I was told it’s illegal to take shells from the Philippines. Sad at the time but a great law.

For dinner we went to La Playa, one of the many beach grill restaurants. I had a grilled calamari. Late night we went to Reggae Bar, the only real night bar. There’s live reggae music before midnight, then a DJ after. The bar is covered in neon paint and the locals look like stoners. I danced a bit but it was too hot to stay too long. 

 

The next afternoon a bunch of us took the 45 minute tricycle ride to Nacpan beach. The ride was mostly off-road, and an incredibly bumpy ride. The motorbike gauges didn’t work and parts of the tricycle housing were about to fall apart. However, the journey was worth it. Nacpan beach was a long white sandy beach like you see in postcards. There are a few beach restaurants where we got food, shakes and coconuts throughout the day. There were only a handful of people on the beach which was the best part. 

     Nacpan beach is famous having the twin beaches, two beaches almost touching each other. 
   

After the sunset we headed home. For dinner we went to Art Cafe and I had the traditional kinilaw, Filipino style ceviche. This one was mackerel with ginger.
I went to bed early and had the whole bed bug fiasco. The next day I woke-up late in my new guesthouse and wandered around town for the first time. I stopped at Silog Republic for lunch and had the sizzling tofu. 

 

At 5ish I met up with a Swiss guy (one of the people I’d been hanging out with) and we took a tricycle to Las Cabanas beach for sunset. The beach was a different vibe from Nacpan. It was crowded and the sand wasn’t as white, but there were beach bars playing music and the view looking out towards the islands was spectacular. The sunset was better here. 

   

Later on we went to Seaslugs, another beach grill restaurant, and I had calamari again. The restaurant had a live band which was nice. I also had a calamasi juice with honey. A calamasi is a Filipino lime; however, it looks more like a small tangerine with green skin.
We then went back to Reggae Bar for a few beers. Apparently there’s a law that kids under 14 have to be at home past 11pm, but that night there was a group of local boys who were around 12 years old dancing at the bar. They were grinding on each other  and doing a dance circle (just them.) As a westerner it was definitely a sight to see.
The next morning Switzerland and I caught the ferry to Coron at 8am. The ferry was a small boat with the typical bamboo pontoons. We were packed like sardines, using our life jackets as pillows. The trip is only 80 miles north but it takes the boat 7-8 hours. We were served lunch around 11am, white rice with a handful of boiled vegetables. 

   

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