I just had a read through the first part of our Philippines vacation to see where I needed to pick up and wow, I am reminded of what an amazing place it was. I have to give Lisa all the credit for taking some great pictures, but the place was truly as beautiful and serene as it looks the pictures. That being said, I will try not to mess up any of the beauty of the imagery with words.
After our two nights in Dos Palmas, we were fully eased into the Philippine island life. Lack of consistent network, intermittent brownouts, and absence of noise and air pollution are the perfect antidote for our buzzing Hong Kong life.
As I write this on a Saturday, I am listening to hammers, horns, and saws and I am still getting pinged with work emails. In Hong Kong, there is so much life going on around you, your focus inevitably shifts to your external world but on Palawan, in less than 48 hours we relaxed into a mode that we hadn’t recognized in ourselves for months.
I could be dramatic and say, “and that was about to change,” but the reality of it was that when we returned from Dos Palmas to Puerto Princesa, we shifted gears and became mobile. It was time to head up to the northern tip of Palawan island and see a place that had received passionate reviews; a remote paradise called El Nido.
As always, when given the chance to travel, I am going to take the opportunity to adventure. Initially, we had planned to fly into El Nido’s airport but when that became impossible I had to get creative, (thus the title of the previous post.) So what we ended up with was my awesome idea of riding a 125cc motorbike 230 km through rural Philippines. This was awesome.
After a 2 minute/300 meter lesson, a map and a couple of helmets, we headed off.
It took us only 30 minutes to get out of the suburban area into lush greenery, ocean breezes and expansive rice paddy valleys. The road had been paved in the last few years so it made for an easy ride; some nice open stretches with panoramic views and some fun sweepy turns through hilly jungles. The observation from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, that riding a motorcycle through a place provides the full experience of being in that place unlike any other mode of transportation was undeniable.
We saw working water buffalo, tons of sun-drying rice, curious dogs, muddy pigs, busy chickens, and lots and lots of basketball hoops. The Filipino people brought a love to the game unlike I had ever seen before. Elaborate schoolyard courts with sponsors and colors, to hoops tacked on to palm trees on the side of the highway. They love it any and all shapes and forms.
It was a beautiful ride. I’m going to skip the part where it got dark and we thought we missed our turn and doubled back 3 times and our butts got sore to the point of numbness. In the end, we totally got there.
Every morning in El Nido, we woke up to the sound of roosters as the town lazily came to life. By 10, if you hadn’t jumped on an island boat tour, you could enjoy the quiet town or nearby beaches until the eventing. In our few days there, we did both.
On our first day we headed up to a popular beach to find some friendly dogs, talented Czech volleyball players, white sand, blue skies, gentle waves, and fried chicken. We of course had a massage to loosen up our backs from the 6 hour ride the day before.
Our second day we toured the islands. We explored expansive geologic features and colorful ocean life and laughed as we watched chains of life-vested Filipinos be pulled from the boat to shore by our tour guides. We ate fresh caught tuna steaks for dinner.
On our third day we ventured a bit further past the beaten path to find the nicest beach I have ever been to in my life. We shared it with only four other people that were so far, we could barely see them, and a few dogs. The waves were big and consistent, the dogs were friendly (except when they tried to make a way with our bag of, you guessed it, fried chicken.) Sitting back and watching the waves roll in was so relaxing and yet so overwhelmingly beautiful, it was almost too much to take it. It was a once in a lifetime experience. We sat in a manicured open-air courtyard and mixed some tapas style restaurants for dinner.
Finally, it was time to return home. We paced our ride back by documenting all the hoops of Palawan island, some fried chicken and more stretch breaks. In Puerto Princesa, we had our best massage of the trip (and maybe our lives) on New Year’s eve as people started to test their fireworks stash. We were so relaxed, we didn’t even notice when the clocked rolled into 2016.