El Nido, Palawan, The Philippines. The Adventure Begins
Oh, what I wouldn’t do to be back in El Nido, in Palawan island. Well, I wouldn’t fly ANA from SEA to NRT to MNL again, for starters. After a less than comfortable experience flying there and getting to the island, the El Nido airport was a really unique and warm welcome, and not just because it was an ungodly 95 degrees.
We had done some research and we knew that the only way to get from the airport to the hotel would be in a taxi. No ubers, no lyfts available in this small remote island of course. What we weren’t really expecting was the fact that instead of your normal taxi cabs, these would be home made rickshaws. They’re basically a small scooter to which a scrap metal structure was bolted, adding space for two very small carry on luggage and 1 and a half seats. That meant we would need two of these vehicles for the three of us. So we ditched our friend (sorry, Bruce!) who decided to split the fare with a local and we had our own trike.
Being 5’8” I didn’t have much issues going in, but Jon’s 6’3” fit quite comically inside the trike. Once we started the ride, we knew this was going to be bumpy. Jon sat on the actual padded seat facing the direction we were going, and I was relegated to the 1/2 seat which was really just a metal semi-flat surface with rivets protruding, facing the rear. My seat back was the windshield, which laid at about a 45 degree angle and made my head bump against the rivets that attached the glass to the roof. I was at this point starting to feel quite dizzy from all the incessant swerving and bumping to the point I was starting to think of the coach experience in a much rosier light. This lasted for about 10 minutes, until we came to a pretty steep hill. Our driver, at 5’1” and probably 110 lbs, revved the engine to its maximum and just when we thought we were making it over the hill, the trike started going in reverse and the front of if was starting to lift from the ground. So he had me move from my 1/2 seat to sitting on the bike with him, and Jon move from the ‘back seat’ to where I was originally sitting, which made the whole situation even more hilariously awkward, but after the first attempt we were past the hill and onward to our destination.
The hotel was rather underwhelming, especially since we’re used to staying at luxury properties, but considering there are none in El Nido, we knew perfectly well that our expectations needed to be lowered from the get go. And, having said that, it was clean, safe and appropriate. We checked in, but our room was quite ready yet (once again) so we dropped our luggage and decided to venture out in search of food. We walked about 30 feet from the hotel entrance and decided to go for the first option since it was too dam hard to keep walking in that heat. We ordered a truly typical Filipino dish: Hawaiian pizza!
After that, we went back to the hotel, and finally entered our room. At this point, after flying around 16 hours in coach, eating pretty rank airline food and changing from lovely Seattle weather to tropical heat and humidity, I was feeling really sick. So while Jon and Bruce figured out how to make the WiFi that was advertised on the hotel website work and getting a mattress for the bed that was missing one in the room, I decided a nap would help me feel much more energized.
Twenty minutes later, with my head inside the toilet bowl and cursing all of the Japanese gods for their airplane cuisine, I proceeded to empty the full contents of my stomach about 4 times and much to my disappointment had to sit out of all the activities that would take place later in the day. Meanwhile, Bruce and Jon went out for a walk and enjoyed the sunset and researched some of the pretty awesome activities to be done in the island. Once again, Greenviews, the place next door saved the day, as they also provide lodging and tours. Unlike other providers on the island, these guys offered an affordable private tour instead of sharing the boat with a bunch of other people. Not that we were feeling exclusive or fancy after flying coach, it was just a matter of numbers; the difference between a shared boat or a private one was about 7 dollars, and the private version gave us the chance to make our own schedule.
Once they returned, and I was done with my violently throwing up and obsessing over terminal disease diagnoses on WebMD, we decided to go to the center of town for dinner. And guess what, we had to take another freaking trike there…