A Travellerspoint blog

Going to the nest

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large_5550_13611889821121.jpgEl Nido beach looking rather quiet when I arrived in the late afternoon.
We had booked a shared minivan to take us to El Nido [El-Nido-travel-guide-879955], a seaside town. I don't know it is called "the nest" in Spanish but it feels like it is named after a Nestle infant milk powder. The ETD was 0930 but had to ready at 0830 in case we were collected early in the pick-up route around town. We were collected at 0815, as soon as we had finished our breakfast.

After going around town a bit to collect other people, we eventually hit the road in earnest around 0930. The van was cramped. We had one meal break in Roxas [Roxas-travel-guide-1328212] which I used to stretch my legs too. The road was unsealed and dusty in parts but it was far from the worst rides I’ve experienced.

I enjoyed the scenery along the way.large_5550_13611889838375.jpgEl Nido beach looking rather quiet when I arrived in the late afternoon.Parts were very lush with coconut groves while others were drier. Palawan is sparsely populated and the land is rather untouched. So, rivers run clear annd there isn't much litter. Rather paradisical, really.

We reached El Nido about 1530 and checked into the Strong Tower Inn which Karsten had booked by phone during the journey. We had agreed to share a twin room in light of the tight accommodation situation in El Nido.

His friends were staying at the same place. All five of them study and live in Beijing. I later understood that the place is so busy due to Chinese New Year. Many expats from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea are all holidaying in the region.

We grabbed dinner at Pukka, one of many beach-side restos in El Nido. The food was great, as was the location.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

The hero and the princess

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large_5550_13611887138375.jpgFish farms? Traps? Aquaculture? Scene from the plane above Manila Bay.
Leaving Manila [Manila-travel-guide-885524] and impressions thereof

With the much-deserved lie-in (to compensate for previous night flight), an 1100 checkout from the hotel and a 1600 flight, I couldn’t do very much.

After checking out, I taxied to Victory Liner’s Pasay terminal to buy a bus ticket for my journey to Banaue [Banaue-travel-guide-874280] in northern Luzon. From there I continued to the airport, getting there about four hours before the flight.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 was quite nice; but let’s put it into perspective … the airport tax is P200 (NZD6) as opposed to MYR6 (NZD2.5) compared to KLIA LCCT.

What a contrast from four years ago, when the domestic terminal then was a very old rundown building (1950s) with matching old propeller planes from a similar era.large_5550_13611887134799.jpgComing in to land at Puerto Pricesa with its Cathedral on the left.Our connection then required a bus-ride through traffic to get to a newer (but still old) building in the midst of renovation.

My day in Manila yesterday was fruitful enough. I didn’t expect the sights to wow me and they didn’t. It was a surprisingly nice city by the bay. In terms of filth and chaos, it is probably better than Bangkok, with some modern areas that really do shine though. But then I didn’t make it to the slums.

The Philippines is truly a melting pot; make that a well-stirred melting pot. While Filipinos are of the same or similar stock as Malay [Malay-travel-guide-1327917]s, there are many light-skinned people with European or Chinese blood. Travelling around the city, you could think you’re in Indonesia, Mexico or Spain … it does have that multi-faceted character.

Once again, I note that eating was more expensive than expected (especially when compared to more affluent Asian countries). A cheap meal in a mall or a local-style resto is around P100 (around USD2), which is quite expensive compared to the rest of SE Asia.

Manila also gave me spectator’s insight into sex tourism. The foreigners that stand out male, white, usually old (or older, but some young) with a young lady in tow. It isn’t like Bangkok where all sorts come to have good clean fun with sightseeing, shopping and eating. The intentions or interests here are much narrower.

Flying to Puerto Princesa

The flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa on the long island of Palawan [Palawan-travel-guide-1294037], took about 45 minutes plus a long taxi to get to the runway before take-off. Upon arrival I took a tricycle (motorcycle with sidecar; aka autorickshaw) to Banwa, my chosen guesthouse which I had prebooked.

Karsten from Denmark arrived straight after me; he had sat across the aisle from me on the plane. We would end up spending a bit of time together in El Nido [El-Nido-travel-guide-879955], our next destination.

Over the next few days, I made some enquiries as to why the island was called Palawan. No one knows the answer. As the residents of the area were largely Malay before colonisation, I wondered if it meant “hero” (Pahlawan in Malay). I do pick up some words in Tagalog that are identical or very similar to Malay (and its dialects).

Planning the next move

I had made enquiries to go to the Underground River at Sabang [Sabang-travel-guide-1325543] but permits have been booked out for days. So I decided to move on to El Nido tomorrow and booked to do the river after. Karsten elected to do likewise.

After a very good inhouse dinner, we both rang a considerable number of hotel but had no luck. They were either booked out, line disconnected or did not answer. We eventually gave up.

In case we had to pay more than we’d like for accommodation, we both went to town to look for an international ATM. Fortunately there were quite a few to be found by McDonald’s.

I spent the remainder of the evening separating my stuff so I could move on to El Nido with minimal luggage.

Well at last

About a week into this trip, I caught some kind of a strange flu which affected my right ear. While there was no obvious congestion, the post-nasal drip affected my chest badly. After two rounds of antibiotics, some decongestants, I decided to get some steroidal nasal spray. After a few days, it had cleared nearly everything up and I was able to slowly wean myself off it. I feel well, finally!


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Old town and dog meat

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large_5550_13608487497041.jpgManila Cathedral; closed for repairs.
Arriving in Manila [Manila-travel-guide-885524]

Coincidentally (as with my flight a few hours ago) my flight on Cebu Pacific to Manila left 20 minutes early too! On board, I lay down on three seats but couldn’t sleep. The 3h30 flight wasn’t long enough to warrant a sleeping pill.

Upon arrival, the queues for immigration were very long and took about 45 minutes. Once I collected my bags and went out, I struggled with the ATMs. Only one accepted Maestro whereas the Plus ones were more common (but they’re equally common in town).

That machine kept giving me declining my transaction. Luckily I suspected that it was rejecting due to the amount being too much; the maximum it would issue was PHP10,000. Unfortunately this limit meant that I would need more frequent smaller withdrawals, with each one subject to a local fee of PHP600.large_5550_13608487501221.jpgThis one needed repairs more badly but I guess it is beyond help.

I taxied to the Tune Hotel in Ermita where I had booked two nights (last night and tonight) as it was cheap enough. I grabbed a few hours of much-needed sleep around 0700 before waking up at 1030.


I found that taxis are very reasonably-priced and with my limited time for sightseeing, it made sense to use them. I took one to Intramuros [Intramuros-travel-guide-1328178] (the old city) where I had a walk around. Except for a few churches, many historic buildings have been modified beyond recognition. Many historic buildings serve as schools and universities; they have been placarded with their names, brief history and old photographs … one can’t see the resemblance in most cases.

From there I took another taxi to the Chinese cemetery where the rich are buried in what could be terraced houses.large_5550_13608487504528.jpgEateries on the city wall at Intramuros.Since when I was a child, I’ve heard people rave about these cemeteries … but for me it was very much a case of “Whatever!” … and “Why!”. As for the latter, an outspoken friend of mine once said “When you’re dead, you’re just dog meat!”.

With the short night sleep, that was enough sightseeing for me. I taxied back to my nearby mall for some snacks before resting in my room.

I ventured out but not very far to grab dinner. I heard a lot of dogs yelping but not within view. Then I saw street BBQ. Not sure if the two are related. I settled on Chinese dumplings for dinner before an early night.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Good bye pain!

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I woke with a hint of soreness; it is the sixth day after Kinabalu. I was told by many the pain would last about five days. I didn’t feel any more of it until I walked down the stairs at Kuching Airport to get on to the apron to board my flight to Kuala Lumpur [Kuala-Lumpur-travel-guide-1096867]. I was relieved the Kinabalu aftermath was largely over.

My AirAsia flight to Kuala Lumpur departed 20 minutes early and arrived equally early. I had built in a bit of contingency in case the flight was delayed. So, I had to wait for the check-in for my Manila flight to open. It’s better than being late and missing the check-in cut-off!

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Flying home for Chinese New Year with Family

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I woke up sorer than yesterday. So I spent the day between bed and the mall for essentials like food, massage and a haircut. Just as well I organised a late checkout for a small fee.

I departed for the airport at 1645 in rush hour, getting to the airport an hour later. The queue at Malaysia Airlines' checkin was bad and it took an hour to check-in and go through security and domestic immigration. Sabah state, like Sarawak has immigration controls to help maintain its unique culture and ethnic balance ... otherwise it could end up like Tibet or Hawaii.

I enjoyed my time in Sabah [Sabah-travel-guide-1319168] with both diving, my friend David ... and kinda did as well with my achievement in scaling Mt Kinabalu. I also enjoyed the ethnic diversity here. But it is a bit confusing not knowing which language to use when speaking to people; the Kadazan-Dusun are quite light-skinned and can be easily mistaken for Chinese.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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