Palawan Trip Day 1: Touchdown Puerto Princesa & El Nido

It finally happened. I’m 30, and there’s no turning back. I celebrated my birthday in Palawan, which was an almost impulsive decision made by my more risk-taking, better decision-making girlfriend who wouldn’t let any opportunities pass whenever she sees one. She saw a promo package online a couple months ago and decided to sign up right away. We got all the itinerary all set up and just waited impatiently out of excitement for this day to arrive.

Unfortunately, nature had other plans for us and all our scheduled tours got cancelled due to the bad weather. But that’s no reason to cancel our trip, especially since we were already in El Nido when the news came that a storm would hit the province. We may have not been able to visit the places indicated in the itinerary but, just like nature, we made our own plans and battled our way through the rough weather to get to our destinations.

Since there’s a lot of stories to tell, I’ll be making three separate posts- one for each day- for our vacation in Palawan.

We were supposed to tour the famous Big Lagoon, and then go to Commando beach and some other places I already forgot in our original itinerary. Big Lagoon is where you can take those cliche “back shots” while sitting down on a boat and facing the pathway in between two islands that leads the lagoon. We’d probably have one of our own had the tour not been cancelled.

Arrival at Puerto Princesa Airport

We departed from NAIA Terminal 4 at around 7:30 AM and arrived at Puerto Princesa Airport at around 8:30 AM. After about half an hour, our tour van arrived, and we started our six-hour long travel to El Nido.

Stopover lunch at El Fredos

After traveling the road for about three and a half hours, we stopped at El Fredo’s Restaurant to have lunch. We ate in a bit of rush since we only had 30 minutes before we hit the road again. There’s not much to see in the area, although it has a nice, relaxing ambiance that is good for people taking a break from their journeys.

I’m pretty sure what I ate was Sinigang but it was kinda lacking sourness so I couldn’t tell. The taste was similar, though, so I’m guessing I’m right. The Pancit was delicious, too.

Yeah, by the way it looks, it’s most likely Sinigang with fish. (I know, it’s odd that I didn’t even know what I was eating.)

After the break, we continued to hit the road for another three exhausting hours with a couple of 10-minute breaks. Just sitting down that long really drains my energy. At around 4:00 PM, we finally arrived at El Nido. My butt and back were sore after that long and tiring journey, but it was still exciting, anyhow, with all the beautiful views that I’ve seen along the way.

Checking in at Rodriguez Lodge

When you arrive in El Nido, you’d wanna expect the prices of food and most things here to be twice as high compared to those in Manila. A five-minute tricycle ride from the terminal to the lodge we were gonna stay at already costed us 50 pesos.

Upon arriving at Rodriguez Lodge, we were welcomed by a gentleman in his 40’s to 50’s (I’m bad at guessing someone’s age by their looks) who directed us to the front desk. We found out later that he was actually the owner, Mr. Rodriguez. He’s very nice and accommodating that I didn’t even realize he owned the place. Same goes for all the other people in there. I’m not sure how they’re all related but it’s obviously a family-owned business.

A scenic view just outside our room.

The weather was fine when we arrived. Sunny afternoon and very windy. We took a few minutes to relax in our room and prepare our things. Although I felt drained from after the six-hour long journey, the afternoon would be a waste if we’d just sleep right then so we decided to go out and started exploring.

El Nido is a place where you can rent a motorbike or scooter and ride it even without a license, and you won’t have a hard time finding one since they’re available almost everywhere. You know damn well to be extra careful, though, because unless it’s a mechanical failure, you can’t blame anybody if you get your ass in trouble while riding. That’s what I was keeping in mind the whole time I was using our rented scooter.

The lodge we stayed in also have motorbikes available for rent. It’s originally 500 pesos for the whole day but they only charged us 300 pesos during this day since it’s already almost evening. If you have a smartphone, it’s recommended to turn on your data and check your map if you’d like to explore any destinations on your own. Asking around wouldn’t hurt, either. The people here seem really nice.

It’s been a while since I last rode a scooter and I’m not as confident as I was back then, especially since I was riding a rented scooter that I didn’t even know if it’s working well. But it was exciting and everything went well anyhow as we rode our way to Las Cabañas Beach. There’s more story about our scooter experience which I’ll save for my next post.

Las Cabañas Beach

***

Las Cabañas Beach was the first place to visit since it’s closest to where we were staying. As my girlfriend said, it seems that there’s no nightlife at least here in El Nido. It was probably around 4:30 PM when we arrived at the beach and it already looked like the restaurants were already cleaning up and some people are already preparing to leave. I’m thinking maybe it’s just because it’s off season, though I’m not sure. There’s quite a few people, though who are there, either swimming or just watching the sunset.

***

We walked along the beach and I could only see Palawan’s beauty everywhere I turn. The beach had such a laid back vibe as people were just sitting or lying on the sand, and some were sitting by one of the restaurants’ wooden stairs while watching the sunset. No loud party music, just the sound of people talking and, of course, the calming sound of waves. It was at this point when I started to feel thankful for being here. This is exactly what I was hoping to see when we arrived here.

My last couple of beach vacations, there were loud music and partying involved. Though I also enjoyed that, El Nido showed me what a beach vacation really is about- A moment of peace and relaxation. The beach is one of nature’s gifts to people who wish to take a break and free themselves from all the noises and toxicity of the city, as well as the internet. A chance to turn our backs on our daily obligations and take some time to refresh our spirits.

As far as I can remember, out of all the beaches I’ve been to for the past couple of years, Palawan may be most strict when it comes to the implementation of policies regarding maintaining cleanliness in their beaches. I love how there were no garbage scattered on the sands and on the water. No empty bottles or plastic bags since they’re prohibited in the area. It’s either the local government is very quick with comprehending violators, or the people here are just well-disciplined, something I didn’t think exists in this country.

Either way, the thought of people’s respect for nature here adds to the peace of mind as I walked along the beach.

Dinner and a little sightseeing around town

After spending a few minutes of peace and sunset at Las Cabañas Beach, we drove back to town to find a place to eat. Taking the same highway route that we took to go to the beach, we turned left going to the inner part of town where it’s more crowded and lively. Like I said, everything here in El Nido is quite pricey, so we had no choice but to pick the best one we think we’d enjoy the most. We ended up at Amos Restaurant which wasn’t too far from our lodge.

I wasn’t ready to explore unfamiliar dishes so I ordered this beef with mushroom meal and, well, it’s really delicious that I think it makes the price reasonable. My only issue with the restaurant could be the waiting time. It took about 30-40 minutes for two dishes to be served. But I’d feel embarrassed to complain since their staff is actually very nice, especially the guy who served us even helped lift my scooter when I couldn’t get it up an elevated concrete while I was trying to park it. That’s some tiny effort, but still quite big for me to complain about the food in return.

Overall, I’d say my dinner was amazing, and I’d recommend Amos Restaurant if you happen to stay around Real cor, Rizal St, Barangay Buena Suerte, El Nido.

Night markets and more restaurants

It was still an early evening that would feel like a waste if we go to bed already, so we decided to explore what’s behind this “Walk zone” sign standing just across the restaurant which leads to another street. It is guarded by some local officials to stop vehicles and motorcycles from passing. I guess it’s only closed during the night probably to allow tourists to freely walk on the streets while exploring.

On this side, you’d find more restaurants where you can have a drink. Some of them feature fancy wall arts and designs. There are also stores where you can shop for clothes, accessories, and souvenirs.

***

After our little sightseeing, we drove back onto the highway going back to our lodge. It’d take just about ten more minutes but we got caught in the sudden heavy downpour. We weren’t checking the news and were clueless about the storm that was building up and would go on for the next couple days and destroy our itinerary. We arrived at the lodge totally soaked. Such a nice welcoming gift that concludes the first day of our trip.

The next day, the weather only got worse. Again, all our tours got cancelled, but that doesn’t mean we’ll let the day pass doing nothing and just feeling sorry for ourselves. In fact, we had an unexpected adventure as we visited two more beaches in El Nido which I’ll talk about on my next post. Thanks for reading!

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