Last December 2012, two friends convinced me to plan a trip to Palawan to celebrate a birthday. But due to the typical curved balls that life throws at everybody, the celebrant couldn’t come. Two other wonderful people decided to join though and so finally, at the end of March 2013, our party of four went off to discover what a paradise Palawan really is.
At 12:05 PM, our plane from Cebu to Puerto Princesa landed. The original plan was to take the RoRo Bus from PP to El Nido (takes about 8 hours) but our El Nido accommodation offered an alternative – ride a van and the trip will last only 6 hours. Excited to see El Nido, our main goal for this trip, we agreed to go ahead and take the van arranged for us by Makulay Lodge (our El Nido accommodation) through De Loro Travel and Tours. De Loro’s people picked us up from the airport for free and took us to their restaurant to have lunch while waiting for the van that’ll take us to El Nido. All contact numbers of the people/businesses we dealt with in Palawan can be found here for your reference and here’s a summary of our itinery.
De Loro, by the way, also offers rooms for anyone traveling to Puerto Princesa wishing to stay very near the airport. Haven’t actually seen their rooms but their restaurant had lots of interesting decor and their food was okay, nothing special but filling.
The Exhausting Van Ride to El Nido
The van assigned to us was actually late and we waited at De Loro’s for about two hours before it finally showed up. This really doesn’t speak well for the agency but we were pretty chill at this point so we took the delay in stride and patiently waited. After all, we’re going to El Nido, a beach paradise that ranked 14th in CNN’s 100 best beaches around the world! Finally, the van arrived and we immediately got on along with other passengers. Luckily, I got to sit at the front and so was treated to beautiful rural views all the way.
The trip started innocently enough but, man, was I unprepared for the torture that came next! Two hours into the ride, my butt started getting numb and I was getting minor leg pains because of the cramped seat. Another hour and I was losing feeling in my legs and I kept getting this painful tingling sensation every time I shift positions. All these weren’t helped by the blaring Shania Twain songs on the driver’s radio. Seriously, Shania is a good singer but I haven’t listened to her one bit ever since that 6 hours of forced listening to nothing but her songs. Fortunately, we made a couple of stops on the way to allow us to stretch our legs a bit, get something to eat or answer calls of nature. If not for these stops, I really think I’d have jelly for legs by the end of that long van trip!
Overall, the 6 hours van ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido was tedious to say the least. If you have a bad back or hip, it can be painful. If you are subjected to a loop of Shania Twain’s songs for 6 hours while slowly losing the feeling from your posterior and legs – torturous!
El Nido Arrival
Finally, we arrived at El Nido at around 9PM. We got off at a small terminal and I was worried at first on how to get to Makulay Lodge. Good thing there were still many tricycles waiting outside the terminal and we quickly hired two to take the four of us to our lodgings.
The moon was full, the air was cool and I could faintly smell the sea. It was a beautiful evening but I was just so tired from the van trip that all I could think of was collapsing onto a soft bed and forgetting the torture I just went through.
After about 20 minutes, the trike driver dropped the four of us in front of Lally and Abet resort. We had to go through a short and narrow alley beside this resort’s entrance to get to the beach so we can then walk to our lodge. The smell of the sea was stronger at this point and I could feel the salty breeze on my skin. I shrugged my tired shoulders to adjust my backpack and proceeded to trudge through that alley not expecting what I saw next – the view that totally blew all my tiredness away!
The powdery white beach and calm sea greeted us. Off to the distance were unique silhouettes of two karst islands. On the water were colorful traditional Filipino fishing boats gently swaying as tiny waves passed beneath them. And making the whole view picture perfect was the bright glow of the full moon languishing up there in the clear night sky, which was dotted by hundreds of twinkling stars. Now I totally understand why far away El Nido has earned praises from all over the world and was even chosen as a filming location for Bourne Legacy and for big shows such as Survivor and Amazing Race years ago.
That view that greeted us was just so beautiful that my friends and I were transfixed; we just stood there at the mouth of the alley taking all the view in. All the soreness from the long van ride just slipped away and we couldn’t be any happier. After a few minutes, we resumed our walk to Makulay Lodge with more energy. We had to pass through a very dark unpaved road to get there and when we arrived, we could see more of the beautiful view since the lodge was a beach-front accommodation.
Our First Night in El Nido
We checked in to our lodge but instead of dropping to sleep as originally planned, the four of us excitedly went out again with our cameras in tow, fully intent on capturing the beauty that’s just right outside our lodge’s doorstep. We managed to get dinner at a nearby fancy restaurant too, courtesy of our British companion – my colleague Richard Eaves, who by the way was such a good sport all throughout the trip. Thanks for that delicious dinner, Rich! Was fun traveling with you ^_^
After dinner, we walked around the beach some more, took more night pictures and just marveled at the beauty all around us. When we couldn’t keep the sleepiness away anymore, we decided to retire for the night and regain our energy for the next day’s island hopping.
The 6-hours long trip from Puerto Princesa to El Nido inside a cramped van while being forced to listen to Shania Twain all throughout might have been so stressful, but all the tiredness vanished so quickly upon the first sight of El Nido’s beauty. That trip was more than worth it in the end!