if all airport experiences were even remotely close to flying the ITI private plane to el nido from manila, i would be a much happier traveler. a private terminal with assigned tables, snacks, and wooden boarding passes. wait staff that know your name and politely tell you when it’s your time to check in, which means no line waiting at all.
i haven’t ever been in an airport airline lounge, but i’d imagine it’s something like this minus the wooden boarding passes and lineless check-in.
the booking process is not quite as smooth though. email some random tourist shop in el nido five days before your desired departure date (and no earlier). they’ll let you know if there is space for you. might take a day of back and forth before you’ve secured your seat and paypal-ed the funds to them via internet still living in the 90s.
the small resort-owned plane is the only one that flies directly into el nido. you are welcomed to palawan with native lyrics singsonging into your ears as you once again indulge in free snacks.
well, maybe not free. the two hour flight costs about $100. if you live in america, this is pretty standard, but the other option is a $50 flight into puerto princesa and a dirt cheap six hour bus ride to el nido.
however, we stepped outside our cheap ass, dirt bagger ways this trip. we flew the fancy way. we paid $40/night for an ocean front view and a private bathroom and an army of ants to keep us company.
they warn you about monsoon season. we didn’t listen, and after a week of glorious sunshine and foreigner-free streets, we thought we’d totally lucked out. the slow season was treating us marvelously.
enter el nido.
our dose of reality (if you can call it that).
the earth was wet when we landed. it was still drizzling as our tricycle slowly navigated through puddled potholes the 15 minutes it took to get into town. into the small beach town on the northeast section of palawan. we checked in at rosanna’s without prior reservations, but not without a minimal amount of prior research.
he wanted beach, so i found him beach. immediately the hammock went up, and we were home for a few days.
el nido is known for epic island hopping, decent scuba diving, and even some deep water soloing for us climbers. it is nestled between ocean and mountain. towering cliffs that teased us with their possibility and the smell of salty sweetness.
we went for a wander and had a moment of shock as we passed tourist after tourist strolling the beach, aimlessly gazing at the bars and restaurants promoting their happy hour deals. we were no longer the only foreigners. we were one of them. we were one of many. i can imagine this tiny filipino gem gets pretty hopping in the busy season.
but that was not now. and i’m glad that was not now.
now was the monsoon season. and we soon found out what that meant.
beautiful afternoon thunderstorms that came out of nowhere and knocked over your “it’s five o’clock somewhere” seashore cocktails.
perfectly timed sprints back to your hotel room that inevitably end up being unperfectly timed. shaggy wet hair dripping onto bare feet and framing our smiles.
we loved it.
rain pounding so loudly it made you listen. to nature. to each other. to nothing, and everything.
and then, we wanted to scuba dive.
as you might imagine, this weather doesn’t really lend itself to good diving conditions. we curled up in the hammock and read our course theory only to be told that we’d have to wait another day to go out on the boat. and another. and another.
since no boats could set sail, we rented a kayak to do a bit of our own island hopping. we (and by we i mean mostly ryan) paddled through the choppy waters from one island to the next. we rested on a small beach.
“i could live here.”
“look at all this treasure.”
i love this man. this man who sees a semi-deserted island covered in washed up trash and thinks he’s struck gold. this man who climbs up the first tree he can find and scopes out the lay of the land. this man who carries a giant piece of wood in from the waves and imagines what sort of furniture he can make from this waterlogged masterpiece. this man who can paddle us past the break and against the current and get us safely back to shore.
safely back to local seafood and filipino fun.
the people of the philippines are genuine. they smile and laugh. they are welcoming and accommodating. they tell us where to eat and what to see.
but we decide we must go.
i had it in my head that i wanted to complete my open water diving certification. no more looking in awe and envy at the photos from ryan’s latest pier dive. however, the weather really wasn’t participating in this endeavor. doesn’t mother nature care about my wants?!
i looked at a map. where could we go to escape the rain? north, south, east, west? the locals told us that it would be raining everywhere in the philippines.
but malaysia looked close. what about the weather in borneo?
on a whim, we booked flights. we spent our last evening strolling through corong corong (el nido’s neighbor) and enjoying beachside ceviche under a streetlamp… until the power went out.
we walked home along the dark street. we took a tricycle to our door. we packed our backpacks.
today, el nido.
tomorrow, puerto princesa.
then, onto malaysia.