D booked a camping expedition that is going to take us to see some of the islands between El Nido & Coron. In order to get there we need to travel 5 hours North of Puerto Princessa. The hotel arranged a van to pick us up and along with 12 others we set off for El Nido. It is a long curvy bumpy road through the villages of Palawan. One of the passengers in the back did not fare so well in not getting sick along those bumps and turns, much like my sister and I in our long road trip family vacations. Thankfully for me, I was fine on the ride. It is a long journey, but the scenery is pretty. The car ride reminded me of how they drive in Costa Rica, lots of hairpin turns and passing in oncoming traffic, but somehow you make it safely.
We made a new friend on the van ride, Rex. D noticed he was using the same app we use to study, so of course we became instant friends and good conversation ensued. We invited Rex to meet us for dinner later that night in El Nido and since he had already gone to his meeting he said he would try to meet us later.
After checking in, we had two hours to explore the town before our tour expedition briefing at the tour company’s office. El Nido to me seems more touristy than Puerto Princessa, but it could be because it is a smaller town right on the ocean and it is densely populated. We walked along the streets looking at all of the little shops and restaurants most which cater to tourists. We walked the length of the beach and at the end there was a small beach front restaurant and bar that was having a buy one get one free happy hour, so we stopped and had a beverage. The cliffs are impressive and the color of the water is breathtakingly beautiful.
At the briefing we had to fill out documents that essentially say you understand that you could die and the company will not be at fault. I tried not to think too much about that fact as we listened to a very general explanation of what we would see and what to bring with us on the boat for our one-way expedition to Coron. The funny part of the briefing to me was that rum and cola is provided, but if you want beer or anything else to drink you needed to bring it with you. We made a mental note to buy beer before tomorrow.
After the briefing we went and bought a dry bag, made late night massage appointments at one of the local spas, and went back to the hotel to check email to see if Rex had responded to our invitation. The hotel we were staying in was simple and clean with spotty internet on their second floor balcony where they had complimentary tea and coffee. After no reply from Rex and a chance to put pictures on Instagram to prove we are still alive, we went downstairs to go and find dinner. We passed a few Mediterranean restaurants, which are hard to come by in Taiwan, so D had made up his mind we were going to try one of them for dinner.
Outside our hotel, Rex was waiting for us! It was exciting to have a local friend join us for dinner. He had not tried any of the Mediterranean food restaurants, but was up for trying something new. D told him that for tonight he was on vacation with us and that we would have fun together. Rex explained that he works as a mechanic on call in Puerto Princessa, so he makes the 5+ hour trek a couple of times a month to support himself, but he lives with his family in a small village on the outskirts of El Nido.
The Restaurant was busy, which we thought was a good sign and was full of both Filipino and European tourists. On this side of the world, I am finding that being an American tourist is more of a rarity. The food was good, not as good as Shawarma King back home, but we are starting to accept the fact that we will either have to travel to the countries where Mediterranean food is the local food, or accept that there will have to be substitutions. We have definitely taken for granted the amazing food scene in Seattle with all of the different ethnicities representing their food. On the other hand, we are living an adventure right now, so we should focus on the local food that is around us. The grilled fish, homemade pita, and hummus were delicious. After great conversation, good food, and equally amazing pina colada we walked with Rex back to his motorcycle parked in front of our hotel, since he had to get up for field service the next morning.
After bidding our new friend farewell, we walked back to town for our pre-excursion massages. A one hour deep tissue Thai style massage was 600 pesos, about $12.00 USD. It was very relaxing especially after the long van trip from Puerto Princessa. Tomorrow the excursion begins! I have yet to find internet strong enough to post anything on the blog, so this will probably be posted after we return from the expedition.