Palawan and Uson Islands
After the brief delay at Manila airport, our flight to Palawan Island finally boarded. Palawan Island is in the southwestern part of the Philippines and famous for some of its beautiful beaches, some of which we were lucky enough to experience. It's been a while since I've boarded a flight from the runway, which is always a cool experience. We flew on a small prop plane, maybe 50 people or so, powered by propellers instead of the engines you see on larger flights, and the flying time was only about an hour or so. After the short flight, we touched down on Palawan Island at an airport that was, at best, tiny. It was in the middle of a field, and although the landing strip was paved, there wasn't much room for error. The terminal wasn't much more than a small building, hot, humid, no A/C, and very basic.
Airport in Palawan
Ryan and I grabbed our bags, since we were the only ones making this trip, and headed for the shuttle van that was taking us to our "resort". I use the term lightly because it was fairly simple and cheap. Electricity only runs from 5pm - 9am, so nothing during the day. Minimal A/C in the rooms, wifi was incredibly slow, and facilities were minimal. But, after the hour long flight, a 30 minute shuttle ride, and a 10 minute boat ride, we were at our hotel. This was a first for me, traveling by boat to get to a hotel. Pretty cool, actually. The shuttle ride was an adventure too, traveling through farms, fields, jungle, and roads that were half paved half dirt, and median lines merely a suggestion for how and where to drive.
The boat to our hotel
When we arrived at the resort, we were greeted by a host with some welcome drinks (also a first for me!), given some info on the resort, and shown to our room. We dropped our stuff, and the first mission was to find me some clothes to wear for the island hopping tour we wanted to do the next day. We took the boat back into town where one of our guides showed us where a shop was located that we could buy board shorts. I found some knockoff Billabong shorts, Nike flip flops, and Nike quick dry shirt all for about 600 PHP (about $15), and was pretty happy with everything. No longer stuck in my cotton clothes and hiking shoes, I felt ready for an island tour the next day. I am still stuck in those same clothes, but am hoping to see my suitcase when we return to Manila this afternoon. When we got back to the resort, we talked with the guide about what would be fun to see the next day and on a budget. The places that we made it to the next day were, to say the least, possibly the most beautiful places I've ever seen. So, after a Filipino dinner and some drinks, we headed to bed.
Clothes from the market
The next morning we got up with a small bag packed, and were ready to see the sights. We ended up using a plastic bag that my knockoff shorts came in to carry our stuff because we had no day packs to use and figured it would do well enough. We left the resort at 9am (perfectly timed after the A/C and wifi turned off) and went out for the tour. I'll go through each place one by one because, well, they were gorgeous, and, simply unbelievable. The first place we visited was Kayangan Lake. You head right towards these mountains, and sort of weave in between them before docking at a small beach. There's a small sign where you sign in, and you hike up some rock steps through the foliage. At the top there's a spot with a world class view, before you descend some steps down the other side to the lake. The lake is 70/30 fresh water and salt water, and great for snorkeling and very picturesque. We spent an hour here with our entrance fee before snapping photos at the overlook on the way back and heading to our next spot.
The second spot was Twin Lagoons, where you again wrap around a few hug rocks and find the first lagoon. It would seem that's all there is, but in the corner there's a hole underwater, just below the surface, where you're able to swim underneath and find the second lagoon. Gorgeous. We snorkeled here for a little while and took some photos before diving back under the water and returning to the boat. About this time we were getting hungry and ready for lunch, so we headed to the third spot.
Lunch spot, literally on the water
The third spot was Banal Beach, a white sand beach that was maybe 100 metres across with plenty of shacks for lunch. This was where we decided to eat lunch. The food that was served felt a bit exotic to say the least, but food is food when you're traveling, and if you don't eat you go hungry, so, there you go. We also had a cooler full of drinks, courtesy of the resort, so Ryan and I had a beer or two with lunch on our white sand beach. Such a great moment is all I can really say, but wow. This was the life. We hung out here for quite a while, snorkeling along the beach, swimming with schools of fish, and viewing the starfish. It was great. After a while here, we headed out to the shipwreck which was our last stop of the day for snorkeling.
Second of the Twin Lagoons
The shipwreck was pretty neat, although all you could really see was the bow of the ship covered in sea life. We spent a good amount of time here swimming with schools of fish, snorkeling along the reef, and exploring. I even found a baby Nemo in an anemone! It was an experience that was new to me, snorkeling like that, and one that I'll never forget. This vacation, if you can call it that, is off to a great start despite missing all of my luggage. I'm learning to live with what I have, make do with what I can, and letting go of the small stuff and simply enjoying the here and now and the great experiences in front of me.
Banal Beach, Uson Island
So, after the day of adventuring around Uson Island, we headed back to the resort for food, showers, and wifi. I think we both got sunburned during the day, although me worse than Ryan, but no matter, we cooled off with some cold drinks on the deck of the resort. What's that rule about don't get sunburned on the first day at the beach? Anyways, I passed out pretty early for another 12 hours of sleep (hell yeah vacation!) before getting up this morning. After breakfast, Ryan went down to the pool to hang out for a little bit while I stayed in the room writing starting this post, mostly to stay out of the sun for a little bit.
Snorkeling in Kayangan Lake
After a relaxing morning, we got our stuff ready to go and enjoyed lunch at the resort. Ryan went with some grilled chicken while I decided to try something a bit more exotic on the menu, squid barbecue. All I can say is, it's pretty chewy and, different, but worth the shot. I figured I have a few Clif Bars in my carry on pack in the event things go horribly wrong, and it only costs about $5, so why not. When in the Philippines... After lunch, we checked out, and took our boat to the main island to catch our shuttle to the airport. While waiting for the shuttle, we ran into a couple of girls from Scotland who were just out traveling the world. It's one of the joys of traveling the world to me - you meet others doing the same on a similar path. Most people in this world are good people, but it's the few who aren't that ruin it for everyone. A simple smile and "hey how's it going" goes a long way sometimes in making new friends. After spending some time with them we hopped on our shuttle and headed for the airport. We're hanging out at the airport now with another flight delay, this time due to heavy rain. Another bump in the road, another frustrating delay in traveling the world, but it's all just part of the fun and adventure. Tonight we'll be spending the night in Manila before heading back to the airport tomorrow for a flight to Dumaguete with our friend Alexa who is from Manila to do some more snorkeling and diving. Until the next update, enjoy the photos of paradise!