Location: Palawan, The Philippines
Highlight: Christmas on Nacpan Beach; the number one beach in the world according to Conde Naste
The crew rolled out the plastic benches especially for our 6 hour ferry journey to El Nido. This was the place we were most excited about, having seen all the picture postcard perfect beaches when we were researching.
It did not disappoint.
We arrived on Christmas eve and after checking in to our little hillside hotel outside the main town, we headed straight for the highest rated restaurant on trusty TripAdvisor.com, which just so happened to be right on our doorstep – a tapas bar with great dancy tracks and lots of people who were up for a good time. So due to a) our excitement of arriving in paradise, b) the anticipation of Christmas day tomorrow and c) the fact we had delicious, strong beers for a mere 70p each, we got a little carried away. When we crossed the road back to the accommodation we each excitedly Skyped our relative relatives and I can only imagine we were little more than unintelligible, but happy to share our excitement.
(Read the following in the voice of Slade in the intro to ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’:)
We figured that the best way to solve the inevitable dehydration on Christmas day was to head to the beach and lie in the sun all day. But not just any beach – the number 1 beach in the world as per Conde Naste. We took a tricycle and were lucky enough to see Santa sat atop a moving van, throwing sweets to the children on the street below.
I made friends with a couple of travelers we were sharing the beach with, and together we built a snowman. It was quite a challenge, but we stuck to it and achieved something that has been called many things from “a sand turd” to “Jabba the Hut” by onlookers.
The best part of spending 2 hours building it was the many more hours afterwards watching people walk past and take selfies with it and more. They were really loving it, which I, in turn, was really loving.
Then the sunset which was, debatably (the debate continues), the best sunset I have ever seen.
We headed back and had far more intelligible conversations with our loved ones than the night before (some who claimed that we had spoken the night before, though because I don’t remember, I’m still not convinced it happened).
Dinner of a very unfestive pizza topped off an excellent Christmas day.
On the agenda for Boxing Day was nothing but beaching around in El Nido. Marimegmeg was particularly glorious, as you can see in the photos below.
The next morning, the van company we booked our onward travel with forgot to pick us up from our hotel, so we were stranded for 3 hours. We eventually made it down to Puerto Princesa, the town where we would later take a flight to Cebu. We stayed Puerto Princesa for three nights, although one would have been plenty. There wasn’t much to do there other than watch Filipino cover bands in the evenings and we had a day trip to an underwater cave.
The underwater cave day trip proved to be more difficult than it seemed. Knowing that It’s a mere 45 minute canoe journey along part of a 12km river running through caves, how hard can it be?
The trip was cancelled the first day, meaning we had to do it on the same day that we were flying, but we left at 6am, it’s 2 hours to reach by van and it lasts 45 minutes. So the best case scenario is that it’ll take 5 hours including 15 mins of faffing around. Worst case scenario, if it takes more than 14 hours we’ll miss our flight.
It took 13.5 hours.
We spent many hours sitting on a jetty with people constantly trying to sell us tat, in the heat of the sun, watching the clock and we gave up hope of making our flight.
We eventually made it to the underground river, and it really was spectacular. Thousands of bats hanging under the caves, the only light coming from the head torch of the canoe’s oarsman, silence strictly observed by all other than the audio guide in our earphones who pointed out rock formations which looked like the Last Supper, a grocery stall, the Virgin Mary and a sexy naked lady (or so he said anyway, you really needed to use your imagination to see these shapes).
Unbelievably, we made our flight, and we were soon on our way to Cebu, where our terrible twosome was to became a terrific threesome with the arrival of Jenny, a friend from London who was joining us for New Year’s celebrations in Cebu, and later moving on with us to Bohol and Boracay.
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