After our Island expedition, we had nothing planned. I knew there was a short “hike” to the scenic viewpoint in town and a hot springs, but we did not have big plans to do anything. After four days on the boat it is amazing how your body adapts to the movement of the ocean and although on land you feel like you are still moving.
We knew after days camping on islands that we would want to have a nicer hotel. When booking the hotel in Taiwan via the internet I was amused that the hotel was called the Two Seasons, after all, there is only two seasons wet and hot. It turned out that our hotel was one of the nicest hotels in the town.
The staff was accommodating our every wish, laundry done, breakfast served, and complimentary cookies/brownies. We expected the shower to be amazing, because anything would be amazing after camping and showering out of garbage bins, but the addition of well-functioning plumbing was an added bonus. Most of the toilets that we encountered in the Philippines were toilet bowls minus the seats and to flush them there was a bin of water nearby that you would manually flush the toilet by dumping water into the bowl. This was not just on the camping trip it was also a common occurrence in the restaurants and hotel lobbies we visited. Not our hotel, we were very grateful and I will never take for granted plumbing again!
During our stay we ventured into town everyday to see what this small town had to offer. The most obvious feature of this small town is that it is small. We repeatedly bumped into our former adventurers in the town and even ended up eating dinner with them and our guide one of the nights. It is a definite diving town and despite not having dive certification we were still able to keep ourselves preoccupied.
On our first day after sleeping in and a great hotel breakfast buffet we set off to “hike” Mt. Tapyas. On our walk into town we passed by one of many second-hand clothing stores. Since D. had his only pair of shorts in the laundry that the hotel said would be ready that afternoon, we stopped to see if any shorts might fit. It was not even noon and the heat and humidity were making me sweaty and D was wearing pants! He found a pair of shorts and after trying them on came out of the dressing room with them still on declaring he was buying them, but going to wear them. He broke his own cardinal rule of washing clothes before wearing them. He really must have been warm! I remember seeing a travel show that talked about the wide variety of second-hand clothing stores in the Philippines. Apparently, most of the clothes that are sold in these shops are imported from the second hand store leftovers from the United States. Interesting, right?
Now that D was outfitted more appropriately for the weather, it was off to Mt. Tapyas. Coming from the PNW this is no mountain, more like a large hill with a nice viewpoint. 721 or 724 steps to the top, we were told different numbers by different locals, but the view is worth it! We met up with five of our island tour mates and began our accent. It was very hot and the sun came out just in time to beat down on us as we went up all 700+ stairs, but the view was worth it!
The next day began very much the same, sleep in, breakfast buffet, and walk through town. Apparently, the best internet in town was supposedly at Coffee Kong, but still not strong enough for me to upload anything to the blog. We looked around at the touristy shops and tried to find the post office, which ironically most people did not know where it is. Eventually we did find it, but it was closed. We walked through the local market full of produce and saw fish being dried in the sun. It was interesting to see the process is not as complicated as you might think. We even went into one of the pearl shops just to see what they had. The worker’s son had hilariously adorned himself with pearls as we were talking to her about the difference between fresh water and salt water pearls.
Later in the evening we met up and shared a tricycle taxi to the hot springs with those from our tour that were still in town, as almost everyone had left. It seemed like the best time to visit the hot springs was at night because it was so hot during the day. I was cooler at night, but not by a whole lot. These hot springs were natural pools that went right out into the ocean. You could go from pool to pool one being warmer than the others and if you wanted to there was beach access, so you could get into the ocean if you wanted to. It was a really beautiful place at night and a nice way to end our last night in Palawan. I somehow don’t have a picture, but after we left here we went and had really good wood fired brick oven pizza. It was a very popular restaurant that had a long line every night we passed, but it was worth it.
On our last day in Coron town we finally found the post office open. I highly doubt that the postcards we sent will make it to the family judging by the piles and piles of mail in that little room, but who knows maybe one day you will get a random post card from the Philippines?! We also stumbled across a shwarma place… it was good too, what are the odds? We split a sandwich and bought another for the ferry ride to Manila. Everything I had read about the ferry was that it is best to bring your own snacks.
Riding the overnight ferry from Coron to Manila we thought would be a different more interesting way to get to Manila. We went through a sort of customs check were the wanted to make sure you did not have fresh mango due to different bugs in different areas threatening the fruit. It reminded me of when we went on road trips as kids, remember when you used to have to stop at the California border and dispose of your fruit? Same principle. Boarding the boat there were many many people and we had our own room. D booked it before we left, which was nice since most of the sleeping accommodations were open air bunk beds with 100’s of others. We felt a that all that space was unnecessary for just the two of us, so when we ran into two of our friends from the Netherlands that we were on the island tour with, we invited them to join us in our room that slept four.
We settled in on the top deck to check out the town and surrounding islands as we left the docks. There was a bar and a karaoke set up, where they apparently had live entertainment at night. Just then one of the strangest things happened. I ran into a former student. What are the odds right? I mean think about it, you are on a ferry in the Philippines at the beginning of February! It was crazy. Interesting enough I had seen him earlier and took note that he was wearing a Seattle Mariners t-shirt, but I taught him over 5 years ago! He did not have glasses and facial hair back then! Once we started talking I remembered him, class of 2012 in my 3rd period US History class. Even who he used to sit next to. It is amazing that these details are still in my brain… Talk about feeling old! Here he is traveling the world after graduating college! It only seemed fitting that we share a beverage to celebrate his accomplishments and the randomness of the entire scenario. The best part of it was talking history. Traveling this part of the world had made him think about history. That right there shows I have done my job.
To pass time on the ferry we watched the in-house entertainment. It was glorified karaoke, but something to do as we slipped into the darkness. All covers, mostly cheesy, but it was something to watch until we got tired. The best part about deciding to take the ferry is that when we woke up in the morning we were getting ready to dock in Manila.