Tagged: island hoping

Coron, Busuanga Island, Philippines

  In Coron town I stayed at SeaDive on the waterfront. I got one of the budget rooms for 450 pesos ($10) a night but since I dived there I got 10% off the room. My room was behind the dive shop. A basic double with a shared bathroom. The hotel complex is directly on the water and I could see the sea through my bedroom floorboards.  

I came to Coron to dive the Japanese shipwrecks so right away I headed to the dive shop. Switzerland and I signed up for 2 days of diving. We then walked into town to Big Mama’s restaurant for dinner. After ordering the power in the whole town went out but our restaurant seemed to be the only place with a generator. 


The next morning we woke-up and had breakfast at the hotel overlooking the water. We ordered and forty minutes later we got our food. The chef forgot and then I ended up getting my eggs cooked wrong. A bit annoying. I had an egg with the homemade pork sausage which was delicious but a greasy fatty mess.
Our first dive of the day was at Lake Barracuda, a fresh and saltwater lake in an old crater. It’s thermocline ranges from 28C at the top to 38C at the very bottom. There are three layers of climate.
The boat parked and we had to swim to shore with our gear on, and walk up and down stairs to get to the lake in the island. Luckily I didn’t slip because it would have hurt a lot.
The dive was interesting. There wasn’t much sea-life except for a bunch of small catfish, and colors were non-existent. There were massive rock formations and a few underwater trees. Although the dive was visually boring the temperature changing was very cool. At 38C it felt like an insanely hot jacuzzi and the water looked like oil in between levels. 


Our second dive was at Tangat wreck. I was having mask issues with this dive but we penetrated the boat and saw a jail cell and a family of lion fish. 


The third dive we went to Olympia Maru wreck. Here we went through the cargo door and small passages. I really liked the coral garden on the top deck of this wreck. 


That night we ate dinner at the local street food spot right next to our hotel. There’s a chicken man selling whole roasted chickens. Then there’s the guy who grills everything- meat skewers, calamari, fish, pork slabs, minced pork, corn on the cob, etc. There’s the convenience stand lady in the back with the cheap mango shakes. That night we got a whole chicken, a whole calamari, 2 corn on the cobs and a mango shake each. There were 3 of us and we paid 160 pesos each, which is not even $4. 


The next day we went out for our full day of shipwrecks. Our first site was Akitsushima wreck, the only battleship in the area. This is my favorite wreck to date. The lighting inside this ship was incredible with tall windows throughout. There is a ton of moss and sea life on the walls. 


Next we went to Taiei Maru wreck, the longest ship at approximately 200 meters. This boat was huge and very dark. There is a Japanese jaw bone left for divers to see.
Last we went to East Tangat wreck, the smallest wreck I’ve seen. There were a lot of divers around and not enough wreck to go around. It was not a great last dive, except that the boat was shallow enough that photos show the true color. [I still can't find a GoPro red filter in any stores.]


After diving we headed to Le Bistro Coron to play pool and have dinner. A few locals raved about this place but we were disappointed. There were children running around the pool table while we tried to play, and at one point they were playing soccer with a dead cockroach. We also encountered the male western owner scolding his local femal employees. As for dinner the portions were small and the food was mediocre. I ordered the kinilaw and it was covered in mayo.
The next day we went island hoping. We did Tour A with JG Travel. We first boarded a boat and realized we were the only non-Filipino. There was a long bench on either side of the boat- one had four people and the other had two. Before we even had a chance to sit the two people switched to the other side leaving us alone on one side, and doc people on the other. We told them to come back but they wouldn’t. 
About five minutes later we were switched to another boat with other westerners. There was us, two Polish boys, a Peru/Japan couple, an African/Thai couple, and a Danish/Filipino couple. Very multicultural. In general people were antisocial even though I attempted to talk to everyone, and the two Polish boys were especially unfriendly when I guessed they were Russian- one of them looked incredibly Russian.
On the tour we went to five islands. First we went to a tiny dot of an island with a small beach. I snorkeled but the only thing to see were Black Sea urchins.      
Next we went to a snorkel spot. Then a hidden beach where we had lunch. 


Then we went to Coron Island for the famous Kayangan Lake, the clearest freshwater lake in Asia. Personally I loved the freshwater but it didn’t seem any clearer than the other lakes we went to. 


There were two bamboo rafts in the lake and I hoped on one of them with a local boy and two British girls. The boy paddled us around the far corner of the lake and I got a chance to see how big it is. When we got pretty far out I could see that he regretted bringing us there. He was exhausted and struggled getting us back. We offered to help but we were pretty useless.
When we got back Switzerland and I walked home from the boat port through the local tourist market area which sits in a massive empty sand lot. 


That night we went to Coffee Kong for the wifi, then had street food for dinner. I then got a mani/pedi across the street. The woman who did my pedi asked me what was wrong with my voice and I told her it was my normal voice. 
After we went to HellDiver, the bar at our hotel. At first it was almost empty but by midnight it was crowded and we were drinking with the local hotel employees. One was obsessed with me so I made a quick exit when I was ready to leave.
The next morning I took the shuttle to the airport. I had a flight to Cebu at 10:40am. I had a slight fiasco with my backpack because it was overweight at 12kg but eventually I got it through as carry on; this was the first time I’ve ever had an issue this whole trip.
The one airport waiting room was packed as we waited for our plane to arrive. When it finally did there was a drum percussion for the entering passengers. It felt just like I was back in the Caribbean.
More dive photos: 


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.
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.