Travelling to El Nido, Palawan this year was something I didn’t expect. It never came across my mind to plan a trip to Palawan. Actually, I never really made any concrete travel plans this 2018 except for a trip somewhere in the Middle East at the last week of April (which didn’t push through) and a birthday trip at the last quarter of this year (which I’m unsure too). Then out of the blue, I got asked to join a group of friends to visit one the world’s best islands, Palawan. Who am I to refuse that offer? Paradise + awesome friends was the perfect formula to seal my decision in going on this spontaneous trip. All I needed to do was show up and pay up my share of the expenses as they already arranged everything.
They had their tickets already. With just a month to go before the trip to Palawan, I scoured airline sites that ply the Cebu-Palawan route to find me the cheapest airfare. AirAsia came out to be the best choice and I immediately booked a round trip ticket with them, which includes a 20kg baggage allowance, for just Php3.7k.
When the time came for me to fly out and go on this island vacation, I was ecstatic. I was too excited to board my plane that it sent the butterflies in my stomach jumping for joy. I guess they were too exhausted during the take off that I suddenly got hungry. It was a good thing that AirAsia serves delicious inflight meals at affordable rates so I didn’t hesitate to order one.
Palawan is located on the western side of the archipelago of the Philippines. It is approximately 353 miles west of the island of Cebu. After an hour and fifteen minutes, the cabin crew announced our arrival. That was it. I was in Palawan!
Three of my friends flew from Manila via AirAsia too and I saw them at the conveyor belt waiting for their luggage. They arrived just a few minutes ahead of me. Once we collected our luggage, we stepped out of the airport arrival hall and looked for our assigned driver. We already pre-booked our 6-day trip to El Nido and Puerto Princesa with Northern Hope Tours. We could have managed this vacation on our own doing it the DIY-style but since relaxation was our main priority in travelling to El Nido, we decided to let Northern Hope Tours take care of our itinerary. They are one of the pioneer tour operators in El Nido and the positive reviews from other travellers who availed their tour services was the main reason why we chose and trusted them to help us with this vacation. We also opted for private van transfers and let Northern Hope Tours arrange this for us.
When we found our driver, we asked for a quick stopover at Robinsons Mall so that we can buy some supplies. El Nido is a 5-hour++ drive from Puerto Princesa. Since this town is situated on the northernmost tip of the island of Palawan, some goods sold there are priced a little higher compared to the capital city, Puerto Princesa. It would be cheaper for us to buy some chips, snack food, water and other items to last us 6 days at the grocery inside the mall. This is one of the perks that come with getting a private van for our group. We could ask our driver for stopovers whenever we want to. We could even ask him to drive us through some fastfood chain for takeaway food if we want. We just had to be mindful of our schedule since we don’t want to end up arriving too late in El Nido. The driver also has his own schedule to follow so it’s best to not take advantage of this perk too much.
Once we were done with our groceries, we started the long journey to El Nido. The trip was quite pleasant. The road was in great condition. Our driver told us that in the past, it usually took them 8 hours to complete this trip because of the bad roads. After the government fixed this problem, the travel time from Puerto Princesa to El Nido was cut short.
We found ourselves pulling over an interesting place for a quick pee break an hour after. The place had a spectacular view of the sea. If you need to go to the bathroom to pee, you will be asked to pay up P5.00 to cover the cost of maintaining the toilet. You’ll also get to enjoy a bonus view. I’m not talking about sh*t and toilet view, ok? If there’s an award for the most creative public toilets in the world, this place could probably be at the top spot.
Before you enter the toilet, you’ll read a sign that says ‘Unlimited Selfie’. I know we’re in the age of selfies where it’s already considered normal to take multiple selfies of yourself. But to do it in a toilet, really?
One of my friends went in first and we could hear her exclaiming with amusement at what she discovered inside the toilet. That made us all curious. We waited for her to come out. What did we find out?
Basically, this stopover place has a unique toilet with a view. The view was quite something that I wouldn’t mind staying long in there to do number 2. Check the photo below to see what I mean. 😆
Soon, our driver started calling us back. We still had a long way to go and we hadn’t even completed half of the trip. Some of us took this opportunity to nap. It was probably almost 8pm when we pulled over at a restaurant to have our dinner. There won’t be any open restaurants in El Nido once we reach the town so we made sure to eat dinner before we continue travelling to El Nido.
Once we finished dinner, our driver carefully cruised the pitch-dark highway to get to our destination. Soon, the presence of life came looming from a distance. Some scattered houses with lights started showing up, an indication that we were nearing town. It was my first time to visit this place and despite the limited light, we looked outside our van window to get a glimpse of the town. El Nido looked vibrant at night.
One of my friends noticed that as we entered the town, a white cast seemed to hover above us. I, too, got curious and tried to figure what it was. The white cast wasn’t going away. The more we drive our way to the town’s center, the more we saw those white stuff from above. And then it hit us. It was the karst rock formation hovering above us! So this is what El Nido looks like at night.
We finally arrived at this this quaint town safe and sound. After emptying the van of our luggage and grocery bags, we started heading towards our home for the next 3 nights.
The Northern Hope Inn is available for guests who book with their tours and have not made any accommodations elsewhere. Their room rates are quite affordable and inclusive of basic Filipino breakfast too.
Two of our friends travelled a few days earlier with their group of friends. We exchanged hi’s and hello’s when we reached the inn. Once we got settled in our barkada room, we decided to check the rooftop to get a glimpse of the town and catch up. It didn’t take long before all of us decided to call it a night to rest as we still need to get up early for the next day’s activities.