THE PHILIPPINES part II

EL NIDO.

The next day it was an early rise again to be on time at the airport. If you have ever been to Manila before you know how bad traffic can be. For the Dutch readers… if you think traffic in Amsterdam is bad, come and try to move from one side of the city to the next in Manila.

Because we left early and our hotel was close to the airport we had no problems arriving at the airport on time.

Note.. you do need to know which terminal your flight departs from beforehand as these buildings are not connected as they are at Schiphol airport.

Because we were so early we were given a small breakfast, that was perfect to carry us till our destination, El Nido.

The flight was short but comfortable and before we knew, we were landing at the one-track concrete runway of the El Nido airport, in the middle of the green country side. From the air, you could see some of the beautiful island and sandy beaches already, so it looked promising.

After picking up our luggage from a small cosy and comfortable space, it was waiting for our transportation to arrive. No big automated luggage belts here, but just a few guys that would unload the aircraft, move it to the runway’s adjacent building, check the labels for the correct location and then pass it through a door into the room where a small ribbon was placed from where the passengers could pick up their bag.

The simplicity but effectivity…. I loved it and I realized that it was time to relax and calm down from the busy Dutch office life.

After a few minutes waiting, our transportation, which was arranged by our hotel, had arrived. Our bags got strapped at the back, we took place and the tall driver started the engine after having squeezed himself in as well.

It was funny to see. My first time in such a tricycle, and what an experience it was.

The road to the village led us through a mountain area where here and there the road would seriously go up. Being as heavily loaded as we were, and not having the greatest traction from its flat worn out tires, our driver had trouble enough coping with the steep hills. But we made it, and all in one piece. I was just happy that it didn’t rain that day.

We arrived in town where another tricycle would come and pick us up to drive the last part to the resort.

The small driveway towards the beach was a bit blocked by a light post, only allowing smaller tricycles and motorcycles to pass.

The weather was good, so waiting a few minutes was not a problem and soon our next transportation had arrived. Along the beach and a small back road, we were driving into the jungle. I would say forest, but in the tropics its call jungle, right?

The last part of our journey to the resort we had to walk. Not only had earlier weather made the road one big mud pool, there was simply no road to carry us all the way. Mud or not, walking was inevitable. Knowing that we had to walk this part, we had brought some easy to carry bags with us instead of a regular suitcase. Luckily there was a small path made of sandbags to keep our feet dry and clean from the sticky mud.

Where we were prepared to carry our bag, the guy from the resort would not know of it. He picked up both our bags and started walking. All we had to do was to follow him and keep up.

It was about a 5-minute walk along the beach before we reached the resort. An absolute beautiful place to be. In the meantime, it had started to rain as we checked in.

Because we were so early we had to wait until the room would be ready, so it was time to try the kitchen. Let me tell you…. The mango pancakes were delicious. Together with some fresh coffee it was a treat, and the wait passed before we know it.

The view from the resort was stunning. There were just a few cabins near the beach with a central building that served as reception, common room to sit and relax and as a restaurant.

To keep it clean… you follow the example and take of your shoes or slippers and leave them at the door.

It was from this resort where we made some day trips with a boat, and kayak to explore the surrounding islands. In the evening the chairs or hammocks provided a perfect way to calm down and to go over the day spend while overlooking a beautiful sunset. Our cabin was modern, clean and had air-condition and provided all comforts needed to enjoy our stay.

The service we experienced over the days spend was perfect and I would love to go back there any time and can recommend it to everyone who likes a place to rest and relax. Thank you Armie for your hospitality.

El Nido, a 5-minute walk and 10-minute, by the hotel owned tricycle ride away, was the nearest small town from the hotel. The streets were busy with tourists and tricycles but of course we had to go and see what it was like.

In the evening the main street was blocked for tricycles making it one large pedestrian zone. A perfect and smart way to provide the many tourists a safe way to stroll along the streets.

Where some of the facades of the building looked old or a bit scruffy, it was the diversity that surprised me the most. Among the many places selling waterproof bags and boat tours there were also some excellent bars and restaurants. From modern Italian to bbq-restaurants serving literally the catch of the day. Fresher fish than this you can’t get.

Leaving El Nido hungry would be your own fault.

Delicious fresh fish was also served for lunch at a small beach during our day trip along the islands. Tip: bring a waterproof camera, snorkel and flippers, because you’re going to need them.

In town there are many places where you can book a boat trip. Ours was arranged by our resort. We were picked up and in the late afternoon dropped right at resort. Perfect, as in no hassle to get things arranged or to walk with all goods you want to take with you that day.

Its so funny.. the first time you walk on the beach you are like “Darn.. there is sand in my shoes or sandals”. After some time it just doesn’t matter any more, you wash your feet in the sea or with some water at the resort. Life becomes more relaxed and these little things stop bordering you.

Our day along the islands was perfect. The hot burning sun from the days before was having a break and made place for some clouds with here or there some drizzle. Perfect to be out on the boat without burning. While the captain steered his vessel from island to island, another guy cooked lunch. On a small BBQ and stove on board. Can you believe it? While the boat was moving up and down trying to cut its way through the waves, this guy was cooking lunch on the most primitive way.

Lunch however was far from primitive. It was absolutely delicious. Fresh fish, fruits, rice, salad… it was all there, it tasted wonderful and was enjoyed at a private beach.

At each of the islands boatman number 3 was taking us to the beaches or escorting us through some rough streams to excluded beaches informing us all about it.

I am telling you… the water is so clear and the fish are amazing. I never snorkelled before, let alone in an aquarium. That’s how it felt while swimming there. The fish I saw I only knew from a tv documentary or an aquarium. You really feel free and it feels amazing to swim there.

In the evening when already returned to our resort, I caught some fishermen trying to catch something in the waters near our resort.

The days flew by and before I knew it was time to leave again. Before we would leave the island there was one nice attraction still to experience. The man from our hotel who had brought us to and picked us up from town so many times, made that day one more trip to town to do some grocery shopping and while so, dropping us of at the canopy tour.

All harnessed up we were ready to go up. In no time we were walking along the tree tops aside the town. It provided us with a wonderful view of the town. A perfect way to say good bye to El Nido.

El Nido.. it most certainly has a special place in my hearth and one day I hope to return there. Writing this now, makes me realise that it counts for almost everything I have seen. It is only when leaving and being away that you realize where you have been. I don’t write “at home” but “away”, because I did feel right at home when I was there.

What came next was of a completely other order.

PART I

PART III

PART IV