Hello from El Nido, tropical paradise at the top of Palawan, Philippines!
It was a bumpy ride, but we made it, and this makes it all worthwhile.
In contrast to our other travels in Asia, everyone here in the Philippines speaks English. There are a variety of native languages spoken on each island, and the country's common language is English. It makes traveling remarkably easier. The other thing that has struck us about this country is the nature of its people. Everyone we've met has been friendly, helpful, and kind, even those outside of the tourist industry. Small children yell greetings and women and men smile as we pass them on the road. It's so welcoming.
Now here's the short version of our adventure so far.
* * * * * *
Sabang was our first stop, and we took a two hour jeepney in a monsoon to make it there. These common vehicles are made from the front of old Jeeps (hence the name) left here by the American military, with a longer cab and room on top and along the back bumper for brave travelers .
That was an interesting ride...
Once we got to Sabang we realized the storm was more of a typhoon, but kept our fingers crossed for clearer weather in the morning. We settled into our cute little bungalow.
The next day delivered and we set out in a boat for the town's main attraction, an underground river. Inside the massive cave were numerous bat colonies and interesting rock formations. We spent the rest of the day at the beach, soaking up the sun we thought we'd never see.
Later that night I got sick. Really sick. Like heaving off the side of our bamboo bungalow in the middle of the night sick. Did you expect me to walk the two minutes in the dark to our shared bathroom? It wasn't pretty. Nor was it pretty the next morning at 7:30 am when we boarded a van to our next stop. Five and a half hours in a cramped van on an unfinished road was not what the doctor ordered. Luckily a friendly woman we met on the van brought us to the door of an adorable guesthouse in the center of town once we arrived in El Nido.
"My best friend's parents run it," she said.
It was clean and we were there.
The guesthouse has turned out to be a gem, complete with delicious food (not that I ate a full meal for the next four days) and creatively designed seating in wooden nests overlooking the ocean. Ryan has tried every Filipino breakfast option on the menu, always pork--dried, spiced or marinated, served alongside a fried egg and garlic rice.
When I was periodically feeling up to it, Ryan and I walked around the tiny town these last few days and took in the friendly local faces, tiny storefronts selling strips of instant coffee and small bananas, and the foot traffic and tricycles (motorcycles with a side car for passengers) whizzing by us.
Once I was finally back to myself again we planned an island hopping tour, the town's main draw. Giant cliff faces jut straight out from the ocean and the lagoons, caves and sandy beaches these islands hold are on the menu at every tourist shop in forms of Tour A, B, C, and D.
After numerous sunny sick days we awoke to rain and wind that forced us to stay on the mainland rather than take our tour. Cribbage and more walks around town have helped us pass the time. I'm almost done with book number two; Ryan widdled some ducks from wood found on the road. Electricity is only available from 2pm to 6am, inspiring early mornings and full days for beach walks and long talks. Island life agrees with us. (:
We're hoping for sunshine tomorrow as we finally head out to explore the islands!