If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, by now you’ll probably realise how much I utterly love the Philippines. To put El Nido in comparison to all the other great places I managed to see, I think this was the best place I went to in the Philippines.
El Nido was the moment for me where I just realised how much I’d actually grown to love one country.
The story continues…
So I think it was meant to take us about 6 hours to get from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, which is right at the top tip of Palawan island. Our driver had other ideas, and managed to halve the time.
I left the hostel with my new German friend, Max, that i’d met in Puerto Princesa and we soon arrived in El Nido in the afternoon in the midst of heavy rain. We went to a small café where we had a sandwich each, before the power went and we ended up staying there rather longer than intended to see out the storm.
The thing we soon learned about El Nido is that power cuts are regular, and internet is very hard to come by. I actually didn’t mind this at all, it was kind of refreshing.
Maybe the best evening of my entire 100 day trip?
There were plenty of times during my trip that I had great nights out, having beer with new-found friends. But my first evening in El Nido for some reason is the most memorable. I didn’t take pictures at the time because I just wanted to enjoy the moment but let me explain.
I think what added to the emotion was that I’d started to become acutely aware that my 100 day trip was fast coming to an end, and no matter how much I didn’t want to, my mind started turning to the fact I was coming home to the UK very soon.
Me and Max wanted to find somewhere to chill and have a few beers that evening so we walked along the beachfront and found a small bar with a few plastic tables and chairs outside. It was called CocoBar and it served lovely cold Red Horse beers. We started having a few drinks in the early evening and eventually it got a little darker.
And then a live Filipino band started playing. And Filipino’s are amazing at singing!
The bar started to fill up with more people who could hear their singing, a lot of local Filipinos came along, as well as some foreign tourists to sit down and hear them sing some classic English tunes. Oasis…Guns n Roses…Bon Jovi.
By magic, I found Rizza, the Filipina girl I’d met in Puerto Princesa and we got talking again.
It was starting to get very dark outside, and then it began to rain again so everyone crammed inside the small indoors section of the bar where the Filipino band were playing. People started dancing, more beers were drunk and everyone just seemed so happy in that one moment.
And then to make the atmosphere even better…
We suddenly had everyone crammed inside the small bar drinking, whilst it was dark and raining outside. The band were singing ‘don’t look back in anger’ by Oasis and everyone was joining in, dancing and talking to each other.
I can’t fully describe why. Maybe it was because it was my first night in El Nido. Maybe it was because I knew this was my last stop in the Philippines and my trip was ending soon. Maybe it was just because the atmosphere on the night was incredible. Maybe it was the people. For some reason though, this evening sticks out to me as possibly my best of my travels.
Finding a place to stay…
When I left Puerto Princesa for El Nido, i’d already booked my first night in a homestay as I knew we’d arrive about 4pm. I didn’t quite realise at the time that my new-found German friend Max hadn’t booked anywhere so we shared the room and the double bed for the first night. Lovely.
After our fun evening of beers, we managed to awake an hour after we were meant to check-out which left us in the awkward position of needing to find a place to stay.
So, backpacks in hand, we walked around El Nido with one challenge…
Where was the cheapest place we could find to stay in El Nido?
And I’m pleased to be able to give you an answer to this question!!
So, i’m not sure quite why we endured this but anyway, walking through El Nido, right in the centre is a small ‘hostel’. This is what we got for 200PHP (~£3), which was the cheapest place we could find in the whole of El Nido…for good reason haha!
Notable features of the hostel included:
- Ladyboys in the other beds that kept arguing to each other – seemingly about drugs
- Lockers that didn’t really work. If you look carefully at the second picture, you’ll see one of the locker doors propped up off its hinge.
- Thin beds with electric wires coming out
- A notable moment where Max said ‘where’s the sink?‘ and I found it had come off the wall and was just on the floor
- Shower didn’t work, (but the bucket made for a good water cooler for our bottle of Tanduay)
So whilst it was a super amazing hostel, we decided the next day to again find somewhere else.
We walked around El Nido and this time looked for a private room. We were quoted some quite high prices, until we found a lovely place along the beach front with stunning views.
We were offered a family room with 2 double beds for 1800PHP/night right on the beach.
So I started haggling away with the woman in charge, using a combination of charm, smiles and upfront cash. I even slipped in a joke about Jesus being born in a barn in an effort to reduce the price. In return she reduced the price to 1400PHP/night which was far less than we were quoted elsewhere.
So what did we do?
The boat tours of El Nido are probably amongst the most popular things to do, and I do regret that we only did Tour A. Apparently A and C are the most popular, and their are huts selling the tours all around El Nido. Most quote a price of 1200 pesos, but without even trying to haggle we were offered Tour A for 800 pesos which is a fantastic deal.
Tour A included:
7 Commando Beach, Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon and Simizu Island.
They even allowed us kayaks to go around in the lagoons, and free cooked lunch so it was an absolute bargain for a day out.
It was a lovely hot day when we did the tour:
Some random El Nido highlights include:
- Checking each day if the one cash machine in the whole of El Nido had any cash in it as the delivery of money came only once a week.
- Getting bitten (nibbled) by a stray dog along the El Nido beach GRRRR
- Seeing a foreigner randomly driving and toppling a trike – still have no idea what that was all about.
- Going to a café purely for wifi, only to find out that the café didn’t have wifi. Then having walked in, ordering some soup only to see the chef heating it in only an apron.
- Cushion fighting in our room
I’d made it this far on my Asian trip and unbelievably hadn’t done any Karaoke. Well this had to change!
Me and Max randomly found ourselves passing a mysterious door in a dark alley and decided to see where it went. Turned out that it took us to a Karaoke bar! We sat down on a table with some Filipinos that worked in the tourism and put in our requests!
Luckily we’d had a fair amount of beer because the Filipino’s were amazing singers so otherwise i’d have been embarassed. At one stage I actually tried to sing a song in tagalog by basically reading how it would sound in English, I can only assume how weird it must have sounded to native Tagalog speakers! Max, who is German, decided to try ‘My Way – Frank Sinatra’ whereas I tried ‘Save Tonight – Eagle Eyed Cherry’.
Safe to say I won’t be embedding videos of either of these renditions.
The Filipina’s on the table wanted to head to get some more drinks so we ended up at Pukka Bar which was a reggae style club.
Interestingly, foreigners and Filipina’s could enter for free, but any local guys and ladyboys had to pay an entry fee. It was a little hardcore really for my more relaxed El Nido experience but we danced around a bit, had a few drinks and it was a good evening.
My goodbye to El Nido, and the Philippines…for now
I want to do a more detailed blog post about my thoughts on the Philippines another time.
But for now i’ll say this.
When I started my 100 days of travels, I didn’t have a plan of what would happen, where I would go, who I would meet or what I would see.
However I did know that I really wanted to go to the Philippines.
So when I left El Nido in the evening to go back to Puerto Princesa where the next day I would fly out of the Philippines, there was only one thing on my mind.
To me it just felt like…
And I can’t describe my feelings any better than that.
I’d seen quite a few places in a month in the Philippines, but there were so many more I wanted to go to.
So to me I know this isn’t the end – more than that, this is just the beginning for me and the Philippines.
I’m coming back, and i’m coming back soon.