Wednesday, August 13, 2014

hello el nido!

Today was another day spent traveling. This time we are heading to El Nido in Northern Palawan. We had to wake up at the crack of dawn to catch a jeepney bus that supposedly left at 8am.

jeepney bus
When we arrived we found out we were one of the last ones on the bus, good thing our hotel had made a reservation for us. Somehow though I found myself sandwiched between Alanna and this really big dude on a seat that was barely made for two people. Other people were luckier in that they just had two people per bench. Can you say uncomfortable?!?

on the jeepney bus before the 3rd guy squeezes in
Man all the rides prior to this felt like luxury. It was so hard to sit between two people all squeezed in like that. We had to put our hair up so that when we got covered in dust it wouldn't be going all over the place. We arrived at Roxas where we had to transfer to another bus to El Nido, at first we couldn't see any of the buses just signs advertising Lexus vans that cost a fortune. A couple we had met at the resort were also going in the same direction so we could have split the van but we decided to find the bus because I had done my research and I knew there were buses somewhere. We finally found them and Alanna had to run back and grab the couple, who stayed behind about to take the more expensive van.

The bus wasn't air-conditioned but we had big wide benches all to ourselves so we got to spread out a bit. Good thing too since the next part of our journey was going to take 4-5 hours!

en route scenery
Upon arriving in El Nido we went to a hostel and tried to a get a cheaper room. For most of this trip none of our rooms or anything were booked before. We did some research and then we would go to the hostel we had in mind and try to get them to lower the price of whatever they stated. Usually this works if we are actually willing to move on to another hostel if the price is too high but we tend to just stay at the hostel we found. Being a huge planner I am not a fan of this method but it worked out for us during low season since prices quoted on their website were generally more expensive.

view from el nido
As you can tell the sky is looking pretty ominous so my first impression of El Nido wasn't the best. The contrast between the green islands and blue water were astonishing but not living up to all the pictures and such I've heard about this place. The beach near El Nido is actually just where all the tour boats docked their boats so it wasn't an ideal location for water activities. I had nothing to worry about since the best views were to be found on the island tours. The main attraction of El Nido are the island tours, to come here and not do an island tour is super foolish and a waste of the time spent to reach this small town. We planned to do the island tour the next day so we spent the rest of the day exploring the several small streets that comprised this "town" and ate some lunch!

If anyone does any research on El Nido they will come across the El Nido Boutique & Artcafe which is the main tourist center in El Nido. We decided to eat lunch at the Art Cafe and get some information about different tour packages and prices at the same time. The tour prices at Art Cafe are pretty pricey I would just use it as a guideline of deals you can find at your accommodation or just walking around town.

pancit canton - filipino noodle dish, spinach quiche & fresh lumpia - vegetable spring roll
The meal was delicious! Actually the best we've had so far. I realized after being in the Philippines for a few days that a lot of Filipino food is very similar to Chinese food. As we were eating those ominous clouds opened up and let down a torrent of rain. This was that monsoon weather we were expecting but it was amazing that even though the rain was super heavy it only lasted for a couple minutes. After that we went and got some cheap massages, Alanna a body massage and mine a pedicure and foot massage. We ended the night with some dinner at a place called Elsa.

native vegetables with coconut milk - 150 php
crab with garlic and butter - 180 php ~4 USD
 mango juice for lunch & pineapple juice for dinner
OMG freaking crab for $4!! So delicious. I wish I could go back and buy some more especially considering food in Japan is so expensive. Real fruit juice is actually pretty pricey so after this day of indulgence I had to resist.

The Details
Jeepney from Port Barton to Roxas
leaves from 8am daily from the Tourist Assistance Center, all buses drop off here too - however we left closer to 9am
cost: 150 php ~3 USD - ask your hotel to help you make a reservation beforehand
travel time: 2 hours

Bus from Roxas to El Nido - Cherry Bus
cost: 180 php ~4 USD
travel time: 4-5 hours
website - you can now book tickets online 3 days in advance but only from Puerto Princesa to El Nido or vice versa

There is no direct bus from Port Barton to El Nido so you have to transfer at Roxas. There are multiple buses that depart from Roxas to El Nido. Besides Cherry you can also take Roro Bus.

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