It`s no secret that a Philippines holiday is a fantastic and affordable, holiday and many go there for a variety of reasons, from all over the world. Many, in fact, choose to remain, living in paradise - forging a life for themselves, or to retire - in the Philippines; and others, perhaps, only wish that they could. So, what is it about a Philippines vacation that is so attractive to so many?
Well, that, of course, depends on what you`re looking for. And in many respects, it could well be the case that the Philippines has it all: from beautiful beaches to unsullied waterfalls, from rustic provincial living, to metropolitan nightlife. Additionally many Filipinos always seem to be ready with a smile on their face, a joke at the ready, and a song in their heart. This is one of the things that has always thrilled me, with the Filipinos, actually; their innate musical ability, and the ease with which they are adept at interpersonal communicative skills. I don`t think I`ve ever had a conversation with a Filipino, that did not posses a natural ability for song and, at very least, a voice capable of holding key, to go with it. And when this is witnessed in a beautiful young woman, well....
Two of the most beautiful vacation islands to visit are the islands of Boracay and Palawan. Let`s make a comparison between these two as there are some differences in accessibility, costs, and overall holiday experience, in these two tropical island getaways, in the Philippines.
In the past two - three decades Boracay has become a very popular tourist destination, and walking along the main beach between 8:00 am and 10:00 pm there can be no mistaking this fact. It can feel like walking through Shinjuku station, in Tokyo. The crowds are thick and those locals that make their living selling their wares, and services to tourists are ever present - if not right in your face. Boracay seems to me to be promoting itself as a hip disco-tech island, for the young, financially independent and fancy-free traveler. And it really is seeing some serious foreign investment. In just the month that I was there two new bars metamorphised as if out of no-where, and were suddenly “open for business”.
Oh, we must make a distinction here. When I say “bars,” there is really only one bar, as such on Boracay, as far as I`m still aware. And there is one night club. What I mean by the above is that there are many “restaurants” that serve food and, of course, alcohol, but these restaurants pack away the chairs, or generally make space, after a certain hour and turn themselves into a bar. Most of them seem to do this, to some extent or another. And of course, soloists and groups are employed in these venues to the tune that it`s as if you`re experiencing a music competition of some kind; songs and singers blending and swaying all, at once. There are several types of other acts employed nightly in these venues. It`s all about fun and relaxation and providing a good time for the tourist so as to keep business turning over. And whats wrong with that?
Puerto Princesa is, of course, another popular tourist destination of Palawan Island, including Princesa Beach. Puerto Princesa is described as a city nestled within a forest. Like El Nido it is slightly more rustic, but it is a much larger town, a city really, with more nightlife attractions, and a greater variety of restaurants and accommodation than El Nido. It, of course, has tours to stunningly beautiful islands and coral reefs, like Honda Bay, and Arena Island Turtle Sanctuary. It disturbs me, a little, that they`ve kept the name, “Honda” Bay when one does some research on what occurred on Palawan Island during World War II. But, we won`t go there. I`d much rather talk about El Nido as I`m the type of traveler/adventurer that much prefers to get away from it all, and do my own thing as much as possible, with access to the “real culture” of a country/region but, somewhat ironically, still in need of some creature comforts for down-time.
During high season, the streets of El Nido will, also, be packed with tourists and this on its own makes for a lively destination for any age-group. Personally, I preferred to visit in low season, for reasons mentioned above. It`s a small town, surrounded by shear cliffs that make rather stunning scenery, from within. Five important features of consideration for the traveler regarding an El Nido tour are the prices, the food, accommodation, access to the region, and access to money.
You can expect to pay roughly half of what you`d pay, in Boracay, for pretty-well all good and services, in El Nido. To give you one example, I was paying 2,500 pesos for a full-day motorcycle rental in Boracay whereas, in El Nido, I was paying 800. The bike was smaller in El Nido, and some scooters are available for as little as 300 pesos for the day. Another example is that I paid 900 pesos for a mask and snorkel set in El Nido, whereas in Boracaythey wanted to change me 1,500 pesos.
Obviously, when you travel to another country, your body is coming into contact with bacteria, pathogens, and even viruses that it is not as yet used to; that your body has not, as yet, developed an immunity to. As such, it`s usual to get, at very least, queasy at some point during any holiday, or travel. However, El Nido does have occasional problems with the viral disease, Dengue Fever. Antibiotics are available - at relatively low cost, and without prescription - over the counter, everywhere that I`ve been in the Philippines. This, however, is 1) Attempting to right a problem, after the fact, and 2) hoping that the antibiotics will work, when several scientific studies instruct us that antibiotics actually only work against 4 types of bacteria. So, you`re much better off to be a Boy Scout and “be prepared”. What I use is colloidal silver.
The food, perhaps, still retains a more Filipino influenced style of preparation. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that, and this may sound like something of a misnomer when one researches the history of the Philippines. But, if you`re more accustomed to Western or Asian styles of preparing cuisine - such as can be found in Boracay, and particularly Manila - you may notice the difference to the extent that it takes a little while to get used to.
As with food, you can expect to pay roughly half the cost for accommodation in El Nido which ranges, most significantly, in size and style. You can, of course, pay for the luxury of the larger hotels, as there are several of them in this region of Palawan. Most of what you will see in El Nido town itself are pensionnes and small apartments. And, I do mean “small” apartments. You may be well advised to note specific information on room size before booking, and most significantly check that the room has air-conditioning. El Nido is hot, hot, and hot. And if you`re like most Westerners, you`ll want air-conditioning in your room for relaxing and for sleeping, after a day of adventuring.
Of perhaps the most important information for you, regards El Nido, is that there is no ATM Machine anywhere near this area of Palawan, and no bank that serves international accounts. You can access money from two businesses within El Nido town. The manager of the pensionne where I stayed, and some other locals, did inform me that El Nido is expecting to boast an international ATM sometime next year (2016). But, all good blog posts, and tourist services, recommend that you take plenty of cash with you.
Blog Post by, Elliot Sabino
Sep` 29, 2015.