We continued to conquer northern Palawan with our next stop in Taytay, a small town on the east coast, half way between Port Barton and El Nido. Our stopover in Taytay was not at all planned at first but we needed to recharge a little, get away from tourists and as a result save some pennies! We took a jeepney from Port Barton to Roxas where we waited for a bus to Taytay, finally arriving mid-afternoon in the town. By this time a storm had closed in over the east coast and the wind was pummelling the town which was rather exposed on the coast. There was nothing really to do in the vicinity of the town, only day trips. We found a great place to stay, cheap and with walls and a bed. No tent needed! With the horrendous whether we spent the afternoon couped up in the guesthouse restaurant drinking and eating and planning the next week or so. We stayed only one night with the intention of reaching El Nido the next day in time to catch the ferry to Coron. Something we were especially looking forward too.
Our next stop, the last before we u-turn back down to Puerto Princesa was El Nido. El Nido is THE hub, the point where almost all tourists will eventually end up during their time in the Philippines. The reason for this, the media once wrote a few years back that;
El Nido was the most beautiful secret spot in the world.
So since this revelation – boom tourists, tourists, tourists and more tourists! As a result the once small beautiful village has now lost a lot of its charm. Yes it’s quite pretty, unique and it has beautiful scenery, but it’s not that amazing compared to what we were expecting. El Nido is now very busy, noisy and getting more and more polluted. There are definitely much better places in both Palawan and the Philippines. But it’s not the town that attracts the majority of tourists, it’s the beautiful Bacuit archipelago situated just offshore from the mainland.
The secret is out…….
As usual a big touristy destination = more expensive. It’s no different in El Nido. The minimum price we could find for a room was 700 pesos. The majority of those being noisy, bed bug ridden, hot prison cells; definitely not worth the money. To get a half decent room you would be looking to pay 1000-1500 pesos; to get a normal room, 2500 pesos – That’s if you can find any availability in the town. There were 100s of guesthouse, hostels and hotels in the town. With our budget it was pretty hard to find anywhere not fully booked. We ended up staying in a 20 euro room for 1 night only, with the plan to head to Coron the next day. Although not wanting to part with that much money for a bed, we did think the room was definitely worth it and if it had been located in the town centre it would have cost 3 times the price, if not more. It was the nicest room we’d stayed in during our whole trip so far. Our plans for the last two weeks of our Philippines adventure quickly changed when we waited two days for the ferry to Coron. It arrived a day late and then when it finally arrived it never left port. We had chosen to take the ferry rather than the bamboo bangka on the 10 hours journey across open sea, because the end of a Typhoon was sweeping across the north of Palawan – exactly where we were going. The idea of rocking and rolling and being squished liked sardines for that long was definitely a no no, especially for me and my seasickness! We decided it was just not our time to go to Coron and we ended up staying in El Nido for another 3 nights. We took the initiative, stopped sulking, found a reasonable cheap place to stay and hired a scooter for the day leaving the tourist chaos behind.
Incredible road trip
Our day of exploring north of El Nido was just what we needed. We loved it. Deserted incredible beaches, the most beautiful we had seen in the Philippines, empty broken roads, just how we like them! The found the most beautiful kitesurfing spot we had ever seen, completely empty except 1 lucky kiter. It was just great. The locals were friendly, and the whole day a boost for a couple who were starting to get a bit tired of the mass tourism in Palawan.
Life is tough…… another day snorkeling!
After a long time hesitating between different options on what we should do whilst in the area, we finally decided to organise a boat tour to the Bacuit, the main reason El Nido was like it was. We walked the streets of the town asking 20 or 30 odd kiosks organising the tours for their prices, availability etc. etc. We looked into 2 day, 1 night camping tours, 3 days, 2 nights camping tours, individual tours, and combined tours. Each kiosk lied to us in one way or another. We eventually found a good deal and combined tour A and C in one day. We wanted to get away from the normal tours and we left two hours earlier than the masses, so we had 2 hours of deserted islands and beaches before we came across the 100s of others and we returned an hour later than them.
The tours followed the same principle as in Port Barton – you join your bangka with between 2 and 30 other people depending on who you decide to go with and then you’ll stop in 5 or 6 different places such as lagoons, beaches and snorkelling spots. In El Nido we had a nice number of 8 people in our group and everyone wanted the same experience as us. Because we were in a relatively small bangka we discovered later in the day that we could actually go into the famous lagoons which the bigger boats with 15 + on couldn’t. Instead they had to swim! Definitely find a tour in a small boat!
Good timing……. before the invasion!
Disneyland in Paradise
Our opinion of the day was all positive – it was a great day and the Bacuit Archipelago was stunning. We spent the first two hours on our own cruising around the islands and stopping off at some beautiful beaches. The snorkeling was pretty much non-existent but that didn’t bother us in the slightest after almost 7 weeks of what felt like non-stop diving and snorkeling. The rest of the day we joined in with the other 100s of tourist at different spots. We knew what to expect and we just went with the flow. Sunshine, sea and beautiful scenery made the day really enjoyable. JM being the pro photographer that he is, managed to make almost all of his photos look like we were the only ones around deserted in the Bacuit. It was far from that, more like Disneyland, but we’d definitely recommend a tour combination and we were happy with our choice of A and C. All the hours walking the streets to find the best option paid off.
We’d also advise anyone to check out the weather forecast before giving over any money for the tour. When we first arrived in El Nido the wind was exceptionally strong! So strong that two bangkas had capsized on tour A, and the coastguard cancelled all tours for the next two days. People could reschedule the trip for the following days but those who couldn’t because they were leaving were told by certain companies they couldn’t get their money back because it wasn’t their fault the weather was horrendous. So watch out! Most places will ask for a deposit – a lot safer than giving the whole lot.
After our great day on the boat we started to get itchy feet and decided to ask if we could move our flights to NZ one week before our scheduled flight – Something we were told we could do up to 3 days in advance, free of charge with our round the world Zip World ticket. Unfortunately we were given all this spiel that they couldn’t because of this, and that, and we ended up having to fill one more week in Palawan. We loved the Philippines and if we’d been in the Visayas we wouldn’t have had a problem, there’s so much to see and do. Unfortunately for us we almost felt a little bored in Palawan. We had done everything we wanted and we weren’t ones to just sit in the sun for the next week. 1 week was enough on the Island.