I had the pleasure of meeting Jace a few months ago at a blogger meet-up in Seoul. Originally from Las Vegas, he now finds himself living in Korea and has done some serious travelling during his time here. Today he takes us to the pristine island of Palawan.
Where did you go?
Myself and a couple of my friends explored the Island of Palawan which is west of the main Philippine Islands. I traveled to Puerto Princesa, the capital, and El Nido, a beach town up north on the tip of the island.
How did you learn about this place, and why did you want to visit?
It was getting cold in Korea and I had an ache to go on a boat and adventure. A Filipino friend of mine recommended that I explore Palawan which is also budget friendly as well. Great choice indeed!
Can you tell us about your experiences there?
Words can never do justice to how awesome the experience was. When we arrived at Puerto Princesa, we were starving, so we went rampaging for Filipino food and stocked up on the local tropical fruits (our late night cravings fixes).
We had a dedicated tricycle (a motorcycle and a steel wagon welded together) driver a few days who took us just about everywhere from Baker’s Hill (a famous area known for their awesome baked goods), Crocodile Farm, Cheapo massage spas, the local bars and night life, and island hopping/snorkeling sites.
The key is, do not pay the drivers in advance. Just pay them per day, at the end of the trip when you arrive at your final destination. You can calculate the price by give or take, 7 pesos per person. If you go a bit further, then you could just give them a little more for tip. They are quite easy to negotiate with because there’s so much competition. If you end up giving them everything up front, they could just run off and not show up the next day (speaking from experience).
After a week of Puerto Princesa, we took a 7 hour road trip to El Nido for three days which was another breathtaking experience and the highlight of our trip. The ocean waters were completely different up north. In a good way of course. It seemed much more preserved by nature.
We met people from France, Germany, China, Australia, and even locals which are now great friends of mine still to this day.
What are some things we can try there?
El Nido was like a small beach town that had bars/restaurants all along the beach, and the walkways were filled with stores and motorcycle rental shops. This area is famous for their boat tours. The most recommended package is tour A and tour C. It includes a full day of exploring its specific course which included lunch, all for about 40 USD per person. That’s a steal!
I highly recommend both tours if time permits because just when we thought we had seen enough beautiful oceans and islands, we got to see so much more of mother earth’s beauty that didn’t repeat itself.
We were also stranded out in the middle of the deep blue ocean due to our boat engine giving out, but the funny thing was that nobody panicked. It seemed like this happened on a normal basis. No big deal.
We started to dive near the boat and swam with a passing sea turtle to kill time while our replacement boat came by to pick us up. We got to explore the “Hidden Beach” while going on tour C ( Bacuit Archipelago). The only passageway to enter this cove was by going underneath the waters while the waves are calm.
Cliff jumping was another perk, and visiting the abandoned church in the middle of the ocean, which is now a ghost town/museum, was quite an awesome experience. I highly recommend tour A and C to see the places that even pictures cannot do it justice.
While you’re there I recommend trying just about all the seasonal tropical fruits and shakes. Buko (coconut) shake was our most favorite that we had on daily basis.
Try the steamed lobster crabs, and grilled fish. The miniature orange looking fruits that they use to squeeze on seafood is also quite tantalizing when you mix it with the local soy sauce to create a mouthwatering dipping sauce for fish/seafood. Filipino pancit noodles and menudo is also highly recommended along with ube (purple yam) bread.
What makes Palawan stand out from other places you’ve been to?
Palawan is an island that has just about everything from the bustling city life in Puerto Princesa to the laid back island life in El Nido. We just loved having live music no matter where we went to go eat. Everything was relaxing. The people are just extremely helpful and friendly, and many locals enjoy getting to know you on more of a personal level which makes your trip extra memorable.
Jace Im, comes to us from Las Vegas, NV (USA) and is the author of Korean travel/expat blog Lost In the ROK. He is a sharing enthusiast, a neat freak, and a full time animal lover. He has been living in Seoul for 4 years and still counting. You can see more of his writings on his blog, and by joining him on Facebook and Twitter at @lostintherok.