Withdraw enough money before going to an island. It is difficult to find ATMs and they usually extra charge you.
Always calculate the transport time with extra time because buses/vans are almost always late or stop along the way etc.
El Nido IS touristic, true, but still gorgeous.
I would recommend to book the islands tours at Art Cafe: they are really nice, well organized, and take the credit card.
What to pack?:
Solar cream + sun glasses + hat/cap
Passport + driving license
Camera / go-pro
Sport /hiking gear
Scuba diving kit
Waterproof bag / phone case
Small pillow + eye mask + ear plugs so you can sleep in transports
Dates: 5/10/17- 16/10/17
Departure: Paris, France
Arrival: Manila, Philippines
New craziness: to book a round trip to the Philippines, just for 10 days.
Indeed, I found those SUPER cheap flights (460euros if I remember well!) online from Paris to Manilla, so I just booked 😂
THEN I realize it is the rain season but whatever, I want to go back to Asia and to backpack.
THEN I realize the French embassy recommends not to go to the Philippines now.
And yes, such cheap flights come with really long layovers in Saudi Arabia.
But once again, whatever ❤
Let’s go! I take the plane in Paris and arrive in Jeddah for a 5h layover.
As usual, flights go well for me (thanks dear sleeping pill and movies).
In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the airport is super small and everyone looks at me weirdly but I don’t care. I read and sleep most of the time.
Then let’s go again: direction Manila!
OMG, when I arrive I am SO happy to feel the humidity, the warm, the effervescence around. THIS is Asia and I really missed it.
No time to rest, I head over to the next terminal for ANOTHER flight. Direction Puerto Princesa on the Island named Palawan.
It’s late when I arrive and I don’t intend to stay in the city (the French embassy even recommends NOT to travel there because of terrorist groups). I booked a room in a hotel close-by, the Canvas Boutik hotel. It is really nice, super European/modern style but beautiful and nice pool!
Diner and straight to bed!
Already 3 days I am “traveling”. I want to SEE things, but no, now it’s a 5-6hours drive in mini-van direction Port Barton.
Nevertheless, the road is just gorgeous and it’s a full immersion in the Filipino culture. I am glowing. I am like “THIS is life! Why am I sitting at a desk all day…?!”.
Anyway, I always have existential crisis when I travel ^^
The road goes through the rice fields, the fields, the mountains, and along the sea. Gorgeous.
Then I arrive at Port Barton, at the Deep Moon resort… it is… paradisiac. Seriously, insane. I love it. Wooden cabans, white sand, palm trees, turquoise water, sun, hammocks etc etc, it has it all!
I go for a walk along the small beach and everyone is so nice! I pick up restaurants’ names and boats tour recommendations.
Then, it’s a tradition, sunset yoga flow on the beach. The dream.
Then… massage time! It’s on the rooftop terrasse of the “hotel” so it’s so nice. I fell asleep.. 🙈
I go for diner at Ausan and end up on the terrace of the hotel, drinking San Miguels (love it) with a Californian couple, super chill. I also have to look what I do the next day because this trip was so last minute that I am planning day after day.
At last, sleep in my private little bungalow on the beach ❤
I just cannot sleep and I am awake at 5am. At 5:30am I take my decision: sunrise yoga sesh on the beach! I am NOT a morning person so for once I am awake at sunrise I should grab the opportunity 😆
It’s one again a magical moment. I even finish with a run on the beach, barefoot.
All the cliches are reunited 👌
Then great surprise: they have porridge for breakfast, youhouuuu. I can have my daily injection 😉
Then I rent a kayak and go exploring the surroundings of the beach. I head towards a beach called “White sand”: promising! And indeed, I am along the cost and then pass a cliff and then the beach appears, all white and with all those palmtrees… Exactly what I imagined / wanted to see when I booked the trip.
Short refreshing bath and I head to the “sand bank”. Indeed, it’s a sand bank in the middle of the ocean. It looks like Robinson Crusoe’s island. It’s just sand in the middle of nowhere. I stop to walk on it and it almost feels mystical…
Unfortunately i still do NOT have a go pro so no pics of it.
I head back to Port Barton and have lunch at Elsa’s Beach resort.
Then I take a van direction El Nido.
Everyone told me about this place so I cannot wait to arrive. BUT, we leave super late and then the driver decides to actually say hi to every single person on the road 🤦♀️ Seriously, I think we met his entire family…
I arrive at Cliffside Hotel. The cliff is beautiful but the hotel is really not great AND I realize all my money got stolen at the Blue Moon while I left my luggages at the reception. I don’t really want to explain the next hours of my trip but it’s a shit-show because I need to find cash and it’s late and the international ATMs are closed until the next day 10am. Anyway, let’s pass this.
I end up at El Nido beach, really not the most beautiful place, especially after Port Barton but it feels like holidays still with all the restaurants with their tables outside on the sand. I have diner at the first restaurant with wifi I find because I need to plan the next day.
Then I just go to bed.
I am just exhausted. This time I just want to sleep again and again. I push the wake up until checkout time and head to the city center to find cash. Once again, a long story that I will skip. I end up at Art Cafe because they take credit cards and have wifi! Also the place is super nice and THE place in El Nido where all the backpackers go so super nice atmosphere. They also have their own “travel agency” and you can pay by card. At last, food is really good.
Well deserved breakfast <3
I rent a scooter and head to Kuyawyaw Waterfalls. The way to there is breathtaking because you are along the rice fields and see the beaches popping up and all the islands in the horizon.
Once arrived, I walk up to the different waterfall levels. It‘s gorgeous. I have a bath and go back down. Really nice spot that I recommend.
On the way back I stop to the beach Las Cabanas… it’s a postal card seriously. White sand, blue waters, palm trees, and more especially other islands popping up in the horizon. I have lunch at Las Cabanas resort. Great view and good food.
Then I drive back to el Nido because I have to grab a van to Dandalay Bay in the north. I meet with the driver at the elementary school of El Nido and I have time to check around and watch the kids playing.
I arrive at night at Dandalay Beach Resort.
Jerome, a Deutsh guy working here (he left everything to come to work here and to renovate a boat) welcomes me. We have a beer, talk about the meaning of life (as always when you backpack) and he gives me tips of where to go around. So I head to the branded new Mad Monkey on Nacpan Beach. What a nice spot! They even have a veggie burger! Paradise 😉 I also try for the first time the Red Horse beer… it’s strong!
I can guess how the beach will be beautiful tomorrow and I cannot wait to see it at day light!
Chill wake up, sun salutations, short run and workout on Nacpan beach. Between each round of the workout I jump into the water because it is SO warm (but I love it). Btw… indeed Nacpan beach is INSANE. So big and really more savage than what I saw so far. I highly recommend to go there.
One thing though… there is trash and plastic everywhere… So over the next days, each time I walk on the beach and head back to the hotel, I will pick up a bag of trash.
I have breakfast/lunch at the hotel and I rent a scooter to go to Duli Beach because I red that it’s the only place in Palawan were I “could maybe” surf.
On the way… my tire dies. I am in the middle of nowhere!
Thank god in Asia you almost always have those super small garages by the houses and I found one easily. A super nice adolescent helps me. It’s really old school like he burns some caoutchouc on the tire, test under the water etc etc. Well, I learn a lot!
Ready to go again!
I arrive at Duli Beach (the way there is pretty challenging) and it’s so gorgeous. I KNOW I say this every 10 lines but I have to because really it is!
This beach is so big and so empty! Only 1-2 small hotels/restaurants with some bungalows. But… no waves… I am starving so I have a break at North Swell. Tables and chairs in the sand, I love it. Banana pancake, “coffee” (ok, powder in not even warm water ^^) and sunny nap. Then I head over to Duli Beach surf and after talking to the tenant I decide to postpone to the next day the surf session because there are just no waves. Right decision because on the way back I am taken under a storm, seriously. The already muddy road become small rivers, it’s an adventure with the scooter.. Never again!
I have diner at the Calitang Beach Resort. Once again the tenant, Matthias, is European who left everything and founded a business and a family there. They are super nice and seem happy, good for them! I have a huge diner and chill with Matthias and Jerome. I try the local whisky… not my favorite drink ut still something to try ;)
It is pouring rain and I am SO sick. Nothing to do with the whisky ;)
It is definitely an insolation. I am burning, I am exhausted, I need to drink, I have no strength. At one moment the weather gets lighter and I push myself to head to Duli beach again. I HAVE TO try surfing in the Philippines. Kind of a bad idea because the roads are horrible. I arrive at Duli Beach Surf and the tenant is SOOO nice. He is Filipinos and used to work in finance in Manilla but then he dropped everything to come on this beach and open this small surf spot / restaurant.
The waves are SO small… but I still go out with a 7.8
ahah, it looks so huge next to me.
I catch some baby waves but my patience is (not at all) legendary so I am out of the water after an hour. I have lunch at the surf spot and it’s super nice because there is an Italian couple, a Taiwanese and an Irish guy, all traveling the world. I head back to Nacpan beach to walk on the beach but I am SO exhausted, like I cannot even walk anymore so I stop and have a nap on the beach. The wind is getting stronger and stronger and wakes me up (I am also covered by a small layer of sand now!). I have a mango shake (oh yeah) in one of the beach restaurant and it is SO fun: a group of adolescent and children are watching youtube videos. At one moment a what, 5-7 years old boy, starts dancing (hip hop style) and it is SO good! We all applause. Really nice moment with the locals. I head back to Dandalay beach and I arrive for the sunset. It is just insane: the view, the colors, the reflection of the clouds on the water… I cannot resist: yoga flow at sunset!
Some kids are also on the beach and see me doing yoga, and handstands. They come to me and want to try! OMG this is what I just love when I travel: those simple moments I will remember for life, when I randomly bound with locals. I teach them the will and handstands and they show me jumps, kicks etc. Such a nice moment.
It is dark now so I head back to the hotel and go to the Calitang Beach resort for the wifi because I don’t even know where I go and where I will stay tmrw ^^ I book something in El Nido and I also book a new flight back for Manila. Indeed I first took in and out flights from Puerto Princesa but I learn that there is actually an airpot at El Nido! So I prefer to take another flight back than to have to lose one full day to drive back to Puerto Princesa (and it’s dangerous). I spend the rest of the evening drinking Red Horse with Matthias and Jerome, chill evening.
Ok, the insolation got SO worst with surfing and the day out (yeah I know, predicable) and I spent the night suffering and burning (seriously, you could have cooked an egg on my skin). So really difficult wake up. I check out at 6am and drag myself into the van direction El Nido.
I directly go to Art Café to book an islands tour. I book “Tour A” for later on (it’s only like 8am!) and have breakfast there (so good). Then it is time to join the group for Tour A. I meet Ingeborg, a German woman, retired, who now lives in NYC and used to work for the UN in Tanzania… yeah… I cannot wait to talk more to her!! I also meet a couple from Guernsey island, Harriet and Hayden. She studied photography but mainly work in a restaurant where she met Hayden who is a chef. What a team we have!
Tour A = Small lagoon and Big lagoon (both on Miniloc Island) + snorkeling around Miniloc + Simusu Island + Entatula.
Get ready… I will write it again… it is INSANE! You are in a small boat, cruising on turquoise water, among islands popping all around you… When we arrive at Minilov they stop the boat we we have to go by swim to the small lagoon and it is like in the movies: you swim, see a space between 2 rocks, enter and then discover this PARADISIAC lagoon. It is breathtaking.
Also I love swimming so I can really go far in the lagoon and explore all around. We head back to the boat and go to the big lagoon. Gorgeous too. A bit more crowded because tourists can access more easlity with kayaks. Anyway, I swim around and it is an amazing moment. We take the boat again and go to another spot close by for snorkeling. Unfortunately we can already see the effect of tourism/pollution on the corals.
At last, FOOD! On the boat, all natural, so nice.
We then go to Paradise Beach. Well, I guess no need to explain what I thought about this beach… ;) I really miss having a go pro or waterproof camera to show you all of this!
I have a nap to digest all the food and then I pick up trash until we have to leave to the next spot. The crew helps me so nice solidarity moment. I head back to El Nido and go with a tuk tuk to my next hotel, on Las Cabanas! I liked it so much last time that I booked there. I walk along the entire beach and on the way back I caught the sunset… one of the most beautiful of my life, and I am lucky I already saw a lot of gorgeous sunsets in insane places.
I feel so small facing this real piece of art from Nature. I speak with 2 filipinos, they are here with their old mother on a “girls” trip and wait for it… one works in Hamburg and her best friend worked for adidas in Germany at the Transportation center! So she knows Adidas erzo, the campus, Nuremberg etc.
WTF, seriously, the world is so small!
Then I booked… an aloe vera massage on the beach!
It’s on a small terrace facing the sea and the girl uses real leaves of aloe vera for the massage. It is so good and I feel like I changed my skin after that.
I am done for the day ^^ I have diner on the terrace at the hotel and check what to do the next days and I head to bed.
Difficult wake up, I can feel that my body is paying the constant early wake ups, activities and transports. Yoga sesh on the beach, coffee, banashake and I head to Art Café. I meet Ingeborg there because we booked Tour C the day before with the same group ❤
I have some free time so I go for some practical shopping around: waterproof bag and phone case.
Oron, an Israeli on a honey moon (but his wife is sick) joins the team!
Tour C = Matinloc and Tapiutan Islands + Secret beach (like this name! ;))
The weather is not really good but I relativize because until now I was kind of lucky for the rain season.
We start by secret beach and indeed it is a secret beach! It is hidden in a lagoon and from the outside you just cannot see it. It’s an impressive spot.
Then go or snorkeling on another island and we see some colorful fishes but once again the corals have suffered a lot
The weather is getting worst so we decide to stop on a beach for lunch because the waters are getting wild. The beach is beautiful because no one stops there usually ^^ We start the barbecue but the weather gets really wide. Luckily there is a super small cave so we eat there. I really don’t see how we can even reach the boat now, the sea is crazy and the waves are huge. We make it to the boat (thank god I bought the waterproof equipment earlier on!), I am freezing ad completely wet.
We head to Helicopter island because on the list but once there we all agree that we should head back home directly. On the way back the waves crash on us, we cannot be more wet and freezing.
At last, we make it to Art Café. We all warm up with food (and beers).
It is POURING rain. Indeed the typhoon they were announcing reached the island. I am still so wet that I realize there is no hope to be dry at one point so I decide to go for some shoping for the family. The streets are small rivers but I don’t really care and at least there is no one ^^ Shopping for the family: done!
Then, I feel like having a massage (ok, I always do) and go to Pure Bliss for a full body. The place is not really nice but the massage is super powerful so good point. After that I meet the group at Art Café again and we all go to diner. We end up at Scene onsight Seafront. The place is nice/local and on the beach. There is a huge barbecue so all the guys just eat SO MUCH ^^ Later, we go to Sava for some last drinks. The place is so fancy/European but yes so nice… Then I leave because I really want to run the next day. Warm goodbye to the crew, the past 2 days were amazing mainly thanks to them ❤
It rained all night long and it is still pouring rain when I woke up (typhoon style) so I have to cancel my run and my plan to do the zipline over Las Cabanas. I pack my suitcase, practice yoga in my room and head to the reception for breakfast and check out. The Filipinos girls are here with their mum and invite me to join them. Nice moment.
I go to El Nido because I want a haircut and to do my nails.
It is SO chip: 5euros nails and 4euros hair cut ahah.
The girls in the saloon are SO nice. They also help me find a tricycle to go to the airport later on.
I still have some time before heading to the airport so I go… to Art Café ^^
And good surprise! Ingeborg is there!! I seat down with her and 2 Australian girls traveling the world. Once again what a nice conversation we all have. Still some time left… so… massage! I don’t have a lot of money left so I can only afford a foot massage, but still, so nice. Then the time has come… I meet the tricycle driver in front of the hair saloon and I head to the airport. Super nice driver, a young boy with 5 sisters and from el Nido. He tells me about his life and how they leave, about school etc.
I arrive to the airport: it is so small but kind of fancy ^^
I wait for the plane… a propeller plane…
Should I also remind you that we are in a middle of a Typhoon?
I know I have to leave but on the other I am not sure we should! 🙈 Anyway, here we go… In the plane I seriously thought I could die. We have huge ups and downs and the pressure in my brain makes me feel like fainting…
Anyway we make it alive and the weather is ok in Manila
I am seating next to a French guy traveling before his studies so at least I have a buddy to talk too!
I arrive in Manila and head directly to Zen Rooms hotel. OMG the uber drive is so nice because I go through Manila and I feel like in Bangkok. I love this atmosphere, this energy. I also spot the 7/11!! I found my activity for tonight ^^ The hotel is “ok”. The rooms are HUGE though. I have a walk around at night, do some shopping (you know all those useless things but that look so cute and are so cheap ^^) at 7/11 and end up in a Chinese restaurant, Golden Lang. I do NOT recommend it, super expensive for what it is and not super good. I take away and watch “What’s the health” in my room. Early sleep to have the time to explore tomorrow before the flight.
Nice wake up, I am such in a good mood. I pack and practice my sun salutations (every day!).
Now, I have less than a day to visit Manilla… I selected the old town after friends’ recommendation. Since I don’t have super long I will run and walk all day to do all I want to do.
Then I run the Raval Park. It’s a Sunday and many families are out and there are some celebrations. It is SO nice. People are also so nice, so many salute me on the way. They also probably think I am crazy to run on a Sunday under this heat. Then I arrive intra-muros.
It is SO cute and beautiful. I jog around, stop whenever I want, take a lot of pics.
For breakfast I found a lady selling fresh mangos and fresh mango juice on the road. I order so many ^^
I am one of the only occidental here, it’s weird for such a big city. Then I go to Fort Santiago and super nice too. The view on the river and the building from the backend of the Fort is great.
I then find a district with graffitis / street art, super nice.
At last, I run back to the hotel along the fort walls. Once at the hotel I get ready, have a last glance by the window and jump in a uber. Manilla: I will definitely be back!
Once at the airport I chill and at last take the time to finish writing my travel journal.
Just for you to know: I never directly write in my blog. I first have a travel journal where on the right page I write and on the left page I attach my polaroid pics, hotel cards, memories etc. I think all my travel journals are part of the most precious material things I possess!
Then I arrive in the plane and final joy: an entire row for myself! So one movie and sleep!
Once again, a 5h layover in Jeddah and then second plane to Paris, and then… a 4h30 layover in Paris at Terminal 2G (if you know, you know)! What a long way back! But I will spend most of the layovers planning my next trip to Italy (blog article already live).
To summarize: This trip confirmed once again that I love Asia. I love the energy, the people, the atmosphere. Also I really needed this break because I could feel the burnout coming since my work is an “always on” job.
I will go back to the Philippines, I have so many islands left!