Hopped out!

Trip Start Dec 24, 2007
Trip End Dec 24, 2008

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Sunday, February 3, 2008

Palawan is regarded as the Philippines "final frontier". This immediately brings to mind: "Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise...".
Well, if this is what a final frontier looks like, Captain Picard and his crew probably had to buy tickets to tour the Galaxy! Maybe they even went planet hopping...

Palawan IS a bit harder to travel than the rest of the Philippines, but it is by no means off the beaten track. Most places we traveled to were crowded (by Philippines standards) and most guest houses were fully booked. Indeed, traveling during the Chinese New Year played a small role (many Westerners working in China spend their holidays in the Philippines), but only small.

Palawan offers many activities, including the "usual" white-sand beaches, waterfalls, wild nature etc., but the main activity here is "island hopping". Island hopping means you get on a boat that takes you from island to island in whatever archipelago you're at, the best one being the Bacuit Archipelago near El-Nido.
While hopping, you snorkel at some places and lay or stroll on the beach at others, and just when you think you've seen the most beautiful beach you're ever going to see, you reach the next spot.

We went on our 1st island hopping in Port Barton, a relatively secluded beach, where most people come to for R&R. Then we hopped 3 more times in El-Nido. Everyday of island hopping was amazing by itself but at the end of our 4th tour we were a bit hopped out.
We would like to emphasize that "amazing" doesn't really say it all. The snorkeling was the best we ever could imagine, and, yes yes, we saw another turtle! The beaches were just stunning. White-sand beaches, dotted with coconut trees, some dramatically surrounded by spooky cliffs.

Oh yeah, people do come to Palawan to relax and spend time on the beach, but not us. We were exhausted by the end of each day (following a turtle, which is roaming around, is rather tiring), and the one day we decided to stay on land, we found ourselves at the top of those spooky cliffs, all sweaty from the rigorous climb. Every night in El-Nido, we looked for a new place to hang out (and drink some rum & coke), but somehow ended up in the Balay-Tubay restaurant, listening to the same band playing the only live music in town (and drinking rum and coke).

We met very interesting and very nice people. Some took pity on us after our camera displayed its annoyance with the salty air, and especially with the salty water it was submerged in (as the Filipinos described it). In fact, all the camera really displayed after the said incident was: "lens error, restart camera". Palawan may not be a true last frontier, but Canon have not yet opened a lab in El-Nido. As a matter of fact it took us a few hour just find a suitable screw driver in town! Keep in mind though that even if we could find a lab, we didn't have the cash needed to fix the camera. The only ATM's in Palawan are found in Puerto Princessa, several hours away and credit cards can only be used at a handful of places (for a hefty commission). Since that was our entry point to Palawan and we never intended to go back there, we had to calculate the amount of money required for the whole Palawan period, and stock up on pesos. This left little margin for error, but not for "lens error"...

Being the picture taking freaks that we are, we became picture beggars. Our begging period ended with the amazingly (we do use this word a lot don't we?) irresistible offer made by our island hopping British companion - Kevin. Kevin offered us to borrow his camera for the following weeks until we reach Shanghai where he currently lives. We really couldn't say no. Well, we could have, but we didn't want to.
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