Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Exploring El Nido Town and the Twin Beaches of Calitang and Nacpan


Nine years ago, a 20-year old young lady embarked on a very unusual journey - visiting a dear college friend in Puerto Princesa on her own. She endured the 22-hour boat trip to Palawan watching the movie Titanic on her cabin. The cabin was supposedly for four persons but no one seemed to occupy it but her. 


She wasted no time and explored the old ship and chatted with some of the passengers. The constant wavy motion of the ship felt so normal that when she landed her feet on land to meet her friend she stumbled. She spent 10 days of what she consider as a "freedom trip" - freedom from almost 16 years of formal school. She learned to hate trekking because of the Jungle trail on their way to the Underground River. She spent countless mornings savoring chao long and iced coffee from Rene Saigon's Chao Long. She ate tamilok. She ate fresh fish and red rice almost everyday. Experienced the rural life just like a Palaweno. That girl was the 20-year old me. And thank you Ira for letting me experience all of those things. 


halungkat-baul
less the crowd and the unimaginable fees
Underground River tour - 50 pesos each (9 years ago)
Fast forward. I went back to Palawan last December 26 to 30, 2012 (thank goodness for my job, I get to enjoy the same long vacations of my students) and explored El Nido. I didn't thoroughly plan ahead of time (again) because I want our time to be as flexible as possible. And then we learned that there was a typhoon over some areas of the Visayas and Mindanao on the day of our trip. Our flight was delayed (of course) but we were still thankful that they didn't cancel it.

There are many options to get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa City. You can get there via a shuttle van or bus. A week before our trip, I reserved two slots on the 8:00 a.m. schedule of the Lexus shuttle van company through text (0912.100.2651). They booked me and didn't require us to make an advance payment. We arrived at Puerto Princesa airport at around 9:00 a.m. and took a tricycle outside the airport to the San Jose Terminal for 70 pesos

Of course we were late for our scheduled van and the sad part was that all of the seats were reserved for the 9:30 departure and the next available van will be at 1:00 p.m. We scouted for other vans but all of them were already for reserved passengers. And then someone told us that we should catch the Eulen Joy non-aircon bus to El Nido which will leave at 10:00 a.m. (we didn't know about the RORO aircon bus yet). We were just in time for the scheduled departure of the bus, we didn't even bother to ask how long will it take for us to get to El Nido. The fare was 300 pesos each person (250 pesos for students like me, woot!). The shuttle van would cost you around 500 to 700 pesos. 


San Jose Terminal - Puerto Princesa City
the epic 7-hour non-aircon bus to El Nido
The bus ride itself deserves a separate post but the slacker in me didn't get to do it. I stayed at the window side of the bus. The sun was shining brightly on my side. The fresh breeze, the dust, the occasional drizzle, the sweat, the tears - I'm being over dramatic but I experienced it all. I slept a few times but the sound of chickens inside the bus and the loading of all-you-can-think-of-stuff on top of the bus woke me up everytime. But the view from the window was great. There were also two stops for some refreshments and some quick body stretching. It took us 7 hours to reach the paradise of El Nido. Whew!


sun - dust - drizzle - wind - sweat - tears
and they chose my window
define strength and balance
And then we saw the limestones peeping through the huge trees which got my groove back. We were finally in El Nido after endless hours of trees, roads and houses. On the public market, we took a tricycle to the pier as per instruction (10 pesos each). We were greeted by Ate Neriza (thanks chyng) and showed us her lodging house. 

It's the Northern Hope Inn (0939.902.2216), a month old lodging house which is very near the beach - a good 20 meters if I estimated it right. She showed us our room for four days. We occupied a fan room for 700 pesos per night. The room is very basic; a bed, fan, clothes rack and private toilet and bathroom. They also offer free coffee anytime of the day and you can also borrow a flashlight which is a must when going out at night as the power supply in the town can be erratic at times. 

Ate Neriza also offers island hopping tours, tricycle rentals, van transfers, ferry boats from Coron to El Nido and vice versa, and almost everything you need in El Nido, she can provide it for you. What I particularly love about Ate Neriza was how she treated us. We never felt like a guest or a tourist, we were like a long lost relative of hers. That's Pinoy hospitality there. One more thing, she's a true-blooded native of El Nido. 


El Nido made easy by Ate Neriza  +639399022216
Inn, Tours, Transfers, everything
1-month old Northern Hope Inn
Fan room for 2pax - 700 pesos
ensuite bathroom and toilet
Aircon room for 2 pax - 1,200 pesos
Aircon room for 4 pax - 1,400 pesos
So there, our first day was spent on the road. We were very tired and famished so we went around to feel the vibe of the town. The amazing limestones circling the town is just the perfect backdrop. There were more foreign tourists than Filipinos. There were some restaurants and eateries of all sort. Expect that even quaint eateries would serve crepes and french toasts. And then we went to the beach front to check out the night scene. There were restaurants and pubs near the beach. 

But what's cool about El Nido and its night life is that it is very quiet, calm, and placid. A juxtaposition from the live bands from the pubs where people party like it's the end of the world. People were actually dining and having a casual drink or two. I dunno. It just felt that way. Or maybe I was just comparing it to other beachfront pubs in the country. Or maybe it was just the vibe of the whole community - locals and tourists alike. It just felt really good to have a drink by the beach.


some hotels have their own generator set - aahhhh
maggi savor, gina salt at katinko ang pulutan
We slept very nicely on our bed. Maybe we were too tired or maybe the pouring rain calmed our spirits and rejuvenated our souls. But then at around 6:00 a.m. we instantly got up when our fan turned off on its own. Apparently, power supply in El Nido shuts off from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. everyday. Well not a problem for us 'coz we intended to explore the town during the day. We bought some bread from our favorite store and had some morning coffee. 

The weather was gloomy, drizzling at times. That was not a good sign for we booked an island hopping tour that day. I texted Ate Neriza and she confirmed that the tours will push through and that we should be ready by 9:00 a.m. At around 8:00 a.m. Ate texted that the coastguard cancelled all boat trips that day due to bad weather. Ok. So we went back to bed. Move on agad.


paggising may bagyo... ok tulog na lang ulit...
We got up again and felt our stomachs grumble. The weather suddenly got better from what we experienced earlier. The sun regained our spirits back. No bed weather anymore. We looked for a decent place to have brunch. I realized that we've got nothing to do so I texted Ate Neriza if she knows someone who could bring us to the twin beaches of Calitang and Nacpan. She called me up and told me that the tricycle was already waiting outside the lodging house. Whew! That fast. We hurriedly went back to the house to meet our driver - Eric. And our journey to the twin beaches started. It was 12 noon. The standard rate for hiring a tricycle for the twin beaches is around 500 pesos to 1,000 pesos per tricycle.

I somewhat expected a rough ride on the way to the beach. But I didn't realize that the heavy rains the night before would make it really hard for us to pass the flooded areas. We were asked by Eric to alight and walk a few times for him to pass through the muddy road. I realized that passing through that road on a regular sunny day would mean heavy amount of dust from the road all throughout the trip. Bring your masks with you. Well a hanky would do.


hiphop?!
It took us an hour to get to the twin beaches (although it felt more than that). We then saw a few tourists on the shore. Maybe the island hopping cancellation paved way for them to explore this side of the town. We walked further and looked for the twin beaches I've seen on some posts. We finally saw the twin beaches and took some photos of it.  I love the long stretch of the shore. We ran and played tag like kids. No one was there. It was really fun.


island hopping cancellation equates to beach bumming
not a vendor - he's on his way to fix a boat
the twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang

We wasted no time and took a dip into the water. The sun was shining at that time and I forgot to bring sunblock with me that day (and my skin is still recovering from being burnt). The seabed was clear from any rocks and corals - quite fine. The waves were big - maybe because of the typhoon. The water was not that clear but nonetheless free from any dirt. And yes we had fun on the beach that 2 hours seemed to fly by so fast. 

my mom: Carla 'di ko na alam 'yung totoong kulay mo
lost pants
At around 3:00 p.m. we decided to go back to the town. We had a quick snack with Eric and asked him where to find Corong-Corong beach for us to view the sunset on that side. A tricycle ride there would cost you 50 pesos from the town but we opted to walk. And it was a long walk. We found a way to get into the beach even if some of the resorts didn't allow us to pass through their properties. We went into a residential area and found a way to get into the beach. 

We then waited for the sunset. We were quite early so we chatted with some kids who were playing on the shore. It was nice to see them having fun with their makeshift toys. And then the sunset. It was really nice to view it from that beach. After the rainy morning, it was so refreshing to finally see the horizon at its happy state. I silently wished for a nice weather the next day. 


reminds me of my childhood days...
and this one too...
Corong-Corong sunset

On our first and second day in El Nido we've experienced it all. The dust, wind, and drizzle from the 7-hour non-aircon bus trip. The gloomy, sunny and rainy weather. The bumpy and muddy tricycle ride. And having been to 4 different beaches in El Nido. But we couldn't ask for more. Really. And it's just the first two days! Island hopping tours next. 

40 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post! I've been long waiting for Northern Hope Inn's pictures. Di naman hassle kasi non-beachfront siya?

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    1. hi becky! hindi siya "beachfront" pero 20 meters lang nasa beach ka na. i should've taken some photos for visualization noh? malapit lang siya sa beach especially sa dock ng mga boats for island hopping :)

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  2. Sorry I have no idea about El Nido, pero kung van or RORO bus gano lang katagal ang land trip?


    http://www.dekaphobe.com/

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    1. hi mich!

      if van, 5 hours ang pinakamabilis kasi walang bababa sa ibang town, sa mga designated refreshments stop lang. 500-700 ang fare, depende sa company.

      if RORO aircon bus, yung sinakyan namin pauwi, bale 6 hours and 483 pesos ang fare.

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    2. Noted. Thanks blissfulguro! :)

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  3. Best in balancing act naman si kuya sa picture! haha

    Gah, how I miss El Nido. Looking forward to your island hopping post. :)

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  4. wow ganda ng talga ng El Nido :)...

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  5. Palawan, Palawan, Palawan kailan kaya ka namin matitikman. Chos!

    For sure there are a lot of dramas during your 7 hour bus journey to El nido. Looking forward on your island hopping adventure.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. pag andito na kayo sa pinas for sure iikutin nyo lahat. kulang ang isang lingo. hehe

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  6. hi mam carla ^_^ ok pala ang room ni ate neriza sa kanya din ako nagpareserved.sana wala kabagyuhan sa pagpunta ko.

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    1. hi abeng! sana nga walang bagyo pagpunta nyo. wow! kay ate neriza din kayo. say hi for me :)

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  7. pernes! ganda ng rooms ni ate neriza!

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  8. Makagawa na nga ng itinerary! Hehehe! :D

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    1. makagawa na nga ng IT sa calaguas.. haha

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  9. Awww, I suddenly missed El Nido. I remember how tough the road was going to Nacpan considering na maganda yung panahon pagpunta namin. :)

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    1. i think mas ok yung medyo umulan kasi hindi maalikabok. mas masakit sa ulo at lungs yun. hehe :)

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  10. Can't wait for the next installment. Hehe. Parang book series lang. Love the way you narrate your experiences, Carla. Very raw. :-)

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    1. wow thanks naman ryan. goodluck on your trip this weekend :)

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  11. hindi kayo napigil ng bagyo ah. miss yah

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  12. WAA Epic talaga! Yung Eulen Joy non-airon talaga sinakyan niyo! GUSTO KO BUMALIK NG EL NIDO period. LOL.

    HAHAHA Nagtext saken si Kuya Cherald kagabi, sabi kagagaling mo lang daw sa Guimaras?? Astig talaga!! Gala ka na lang ng gala teacher!! <3

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    1. hi ada! ako din gusto ko ma-experience ang van. haha

      eehh... kakadating nga lang namin. nakakatuwa si kuya. ganun pa rin siya. ang kulit. tuwang-tuwa nanay ko sa kanya. at magkikita rin nga daw kayo ah. from boracay to iloilo to guimaras. whew! mas epic yun ada. hihi

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  13. kahit majulanis bongga parin sa pic ang EL nido!

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    1. hi kebler! ganda talaga ng el nido. whew! miss ko na agad :)

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  14. Walang papapigil sa bagyo! :) Love your photos, another great piece. :) Can't wait for the rest of the story! :)

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  15. I'm starting to read your blog posts! Great photos and of course great stories behind them. :)

    Ang ganda rin ng place! And thanks for the comment in one of my blog posts. :)

    http://anotsopopularkid.blogspot.com/

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    1. thanks renz! maganda talaga ang el nido :)

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  16. What a road trip 7 hours? Ang layo din pala... eh pag-van kahit mahal ilang oras... Isa din 'to sana sa gusto kong mapuntahan kaya pala yung iba nag-aairplane para mabilis kaso mas mahal...

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    1. pag van usually mga 500-700 pesos pero 5 hours lang ang travel time. bongga nga sana kung may cheap airline company na may direct flight :)

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  17. Sis, saan kuha yung photo mo na may caption na "paggising may bagyo... ok tulog na lang ulit..." May bath towels ba na pinoprovide si Ate Neriza?

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    1. the photo was from an inn along bacuit bay. i can't remember if they provided a towel pero i am sure you can always ask for it. super accommodating talaga si ate :)

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    1. hi ms.carla,ang ganda nga tlga sa el nido,sobrng ganda,ang bait ng tour guide nmin c kuya nelson.syang lng di nga lng kmi nagkita ni ate neriza,sobrang bait nya,taz ang laki pa ng discount nmin sa house nya,cool yung house ni ate neriza,srap matulog..grabeh ang tour c,pamatay ang alon,nilalaro kmi,pero sobra pa ring enjoy.salamat ng marami sa blog m about el nido,di n kmi nhirapan pa na hanapin ang mga dapt puntahan,nxt year babalik kmi,kc gusto ko mapuntahan ang nacpan beach,and tour b and d,yun nga lng mas mahal na,pero anjan nmn c ate neriza,xa na bahala sa amin,sma ka sa amin,nxt year,, :-)

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    2. hi amor! i wish makasama ako. ang tagal ko na rin gustong bumalik sa el nido eh. pero good thing nag enjoy kayo sa trip nyo :) mabait talaga si ate neriza. sayang di mo siya nameet personally...

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