Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Hittin' the Dusty Trail (Manila 2 and the Islands)

As is my usual, I'm a few weeks removed from the events contained herein, so expect that type of post. That said, I wrote up a piece for a contest that's a little more timely. Also, of course, my poems (on the other blog) usually capture my feelings a bit more "in the moment" than these posts.

Getting back to the rumble of Manila made my heart swell. I found a nice little capsule hotel on a block where I ended up spending $4 - $1 for a shave, $1 for dinner, and $2 for beer. I would have stayed there for a few nights, but I was in a rush - I was meeting a girl I had met in Georgetown (Penang), Malaysia in El Nido.

The next morning I was up and out and on a flight to Puerta Princessa where I didn't get to see anything - I arrived at my spot later in the evening and, by coincidence, the owner's husband was making a trip up to El Nido at 6am which I was invited to join in. The five/six hour drive was absolutely gorgeous and impossible to capture. The mist slowly dissipating as we wound our way through valleys in between olive green tropical mountains made me think of those lingering shots from epic movies like Bridge on the River Kwai. The human experience being what it is, however, surrounded by natural beauty and literally on a tropical vacation, all I focused on was how my elbow hit the door on every pothole and how my ass was getting sore from sitting in the car for so long.

El Nido (or Palawan, generally) is for beach-loving tourists. For people who like being hot and sweaty and swimming in salt water. For people who hate Manila. El Nido was not for me, beautiful as it was. Sure, I strolled up and down beaches and watched sunsets. Sure I explored the town and made my own little adventures, but I was never a "regular" - I was a hermit crab without a shell. To add insult to injury, being a tourist destination on an island, everything was several times more expensive than in Manila - often for worse quality.

  • Don't overplan lodging - most places in El Nido and Coron aren't on the internet, have cheap cash prices, and you can inspect the beds and stuff ahead of booking.
  • Hit an ATM / have cash on hand (even USD/Euro) before getting to the island.
  • Convert to small bills whenever possible, since no one has change.
  • Post a public trip on Couchsurfing - unlike the other countries, people in the Philippines actually reached out.
  • Do book flights in advance. Unlike bigger places, the flights get sold out pretty early. It was cheaper for me to stay an extra four days in Coron than get a flight (anywhere!) on the day I wanted.
After a few days in El Nido with friends and making new friends, I caught the ferry up to Coron. That was a cramped, uncomfortable ride - unless you're big into wreck diving, Coron is more of the same as El Nido, except they have a mountain you can hike up.

In Coron I did my best to relax (I had a hot tip on a cheap hotel with a pool), write, and get some of my brain in order. I found some cheap places to eat and overwhelmed the post office with postcards, letters, and packages. I hiked up the "mountain", then hiked around the back side of it. In a "gear" update, my flip flops finally died - right in front of a store I had been eyeing up trying to decide if I should buy a new pair.

After Coron, I hopped on the only cheap flight I could find - one bound for Clark Airport in Angeles City.

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