Palawan: it’s bumpy roads, beautiful beaches and bugs…

Winterstorm in Central Park

Just waiting for the next SNOWPOCALYPSE!  Something that the locals and visitors in El Nido on Palawan are probably not ever worried about but not to say they don’t have the wet and windy equivalent.  The snow is about as inevidable as a typhoon in that region but right now it is sunny and above 70 degrees.  I’m used to snow like a villager in South East Asia is used to rain.  I spent my youth surrounded by snow in Columbus Ohio and blizzards in New England.  I have to admit…the snow is nice for about 10 minutes here in NYC but after a few dogs wander through the fresh white stuff, the garbage reappears and it’s again just a big grey winter mess.

Now, back to El Nido.  Getting there and just about anywhere in the Philippines “involves amusing travel and transportation modes. Taking these various local transportation forms is a traveling thrill in itself” says a local tour company’s website.   At least there are many rewards to putting your life in peril and among them are getting off the beaten backpack trail and having an amazing time once the overland Jeepney, by sea ferry ride  and/or air journey by Turbo Prop is over.

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Overcrowded ferries between islands and coastal villages, Jeepneys and old Turbo Props are the ways to get around the Philippines.  A blog post by Legal Nomads explains her experience in this post during her visit there in 2009.  Basically, be aware that it is common that the ferrys and jeepneys are usually overcrowded,  maned by reckless navigator, are prone to accidents.  There are many reported incidents that have involved passengers being injured, killed and or gone missing.  The most resent of many ferry sinking incidents in Philippine waters is a little over a year ago when a ferry sank right off the coast of Manila.  I have a feeling that many commercial drivers rely on a higher power to get them and their cargo home safely (note the “Jesus is my co-pilot”, rosaries on the rear-view and various religious references that adorn most vehicles.).  This video by exoticjourneys gives a good idea of what the Jeepney culture is all about.

The next or possibly the additional option and of course the more expensive one is the Turbo Prop Propelled plane.  It’s quick, noisy, pricey and the only option if you want to spend less time fearing for your life.  Both are options that need to be considered but it’s the only way and once you are there it was worth risking your life over.

I was there back in late 2008 and me being curious asked my boat captain (on boat taxi from El Nido down south to Port Barton there are so few options on getting around Palawan since it’s such an amazing place.  He soon pointed to a beautiful inlet beach and flat plains behind it and then explained that the governor of the island had recently purchased the land.  The rumor was that he was going to build an airport there.  So, there are things being done about it but it’s a matter of when, how and how much.

Port Barton was the next stop over and we needed to go overland since we eventually get to the island capital of Puerto Princesa City.   The romantic oceanfront cabana turned into the cabana of horrors once the light was gone.  There’s no electricity at many parts of the island so the crunching sound coming from the floorboards (I was wearing flip-flops) was dead cries of a few of the thousands of cockroaches that descended on the villa when the coast was clear. The only thing keeping my husband and I safe from the reaches of the big black bugs out was the mosquito net canopy.  It’s kind of what you get after showing up an hour before dusk and paying just $7 USD a night. (it was $10)  We were up and ready for the first ride out-of-town.  Strange thing about is little gem of a village is that there was a 3 star “resort” just a few door up.  We were able to pull ourselves together, put the bugs behind us and enjoy a full breakfast of eggs, toast, fresh fruit and coffee.

It had rained a little more here in Port Barton then in El Nido, so roads were the usual red muddy mess. We were grabbed the last seats with in a van opposed to the Jeepney that was also heading towards Puerto Princesa.   The ride was a few hours long and included the usually stop at the restaurant/bar in the middle of no where.

Back here in NYC, another storm will hit us here at least one more time in the next couple of months and I’m ready.  I can only hope it’s fast-moving, it melts away before it gets too ugly and the kids get a nice day off from school.  I always enjoyed that part myself.

For more of a visual of what it’s like traveling around Palawan by Bangka check out this video on Tripfilms.com 🙂

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