A couple of years ago, we decided to spend my 30th birthday in the Philippines. It was a bit of a dream for us as it had always seemed like a rather large mission to travel to but since living in Hong Kong, the flight time was significantly lower. 2 hours and we were in paradise. Pretty much, anyway! We decided to spend 10 days travelling in Palawan, a large and popular island, east of Manila. We first flew to Coron and spent an idyllic few days exploring whilst making our base at La Natura Resort. This was perfect; it was such a beautiful guest house and a fantastic place to relax with a pool and a cute tree house. The staff were super helpful as well and we hired a moped to explore Coron on one day that they were able to organise for us. They also helped us organise a boat trip to all the most beautiful islands dotted around that you see on postcards.
We decided to do this trip just the two of us with a guide rather than join a big boat full of tourists. This was mainly because we were going in Chinese New Year and it was quite the popular time to visit and we wanted to be able to relax and take our time with the islands and visit them at our own pace. And the extra cost really wasn’t that much more. It was totally worth it. We were taken around each destination and were able to spend as long as we wanted snorkelling and swimming and taking photos. Having a waterproof camera is a must here.
Once we had finished exploring Kayangan Lake- the iconic azure blue sea, towering limestone cliffs and white sand, we found that our boat driver had caught a couple of fresh fish and was cooking them for lunch with fresh mango, rice and salad. Best. Lunch. Ever. We visited Barracuda Lake, the Twin Lagoon and, after swimming more than we’ve ever done before, finished our day with a much needed nap on Smith Beach, which we had to ourselves. It really was a fantastic start to our trip.
Our next destination was El Nido, which was on Palawan island. We decided to get a boat from Coron that took 9 hours. We had read so many scare-stories about this trip; the boat capsizing, people drowning, storms wreaking havoc, etc. I definitely did not get a lot of sleep the night before. However we boarded ‘ship’ and found a relatively shady area outside on wooden planks that would make our bums numb after half an hour. Still, we made it to El Nido and it was definitely a relief to be off the rickety boat and on to dry land again.
We shacked up at a place we found on the beach front for one night and found food very easily at one of the numerous beach bars full of elephant-pant, Chang beer-vest wearing twenty-somethings. Apparently as soon as you turn 30, you feel much older and bitter. The next day, we took a private boat to our boutique hotel, the El Nido Resorts. This place did not disappoint. We had a gorgeous over-the-water bungalow and every night we stayed there, a short bedtime story that was local to the area was placed on our pillows. I’ll never forget this personal touch for some reason!
The food was epic, the scenery was something out of a film, and even though we were on a private island, there were many things to do. The hotel rented out paddle boards and kayaks free so that guests may explore the numerous caves and smaller islands that are dotted around. One evening, Mike surprised me with a dinner on a deserted beach to celebrate turning 30. We were taken in a small boat and there waiting for us was a table set up and a chef preparing the food. We had about 7 ridiculously amazing courses, unfortunately (for our completely overwhelmed stomachs) finishing with a chocolate birthday cake. We were serenaded by the chef, who was obviously very multi-talented and did a wonderful rendition of John Legend’s ‘All of Me’. What a night to remember and I feel very lucky to have experienced such a time.
This whole trip was perfect (albeit a small incident with a jelly-fish sting on my leg. No, Mike did not pee on me…) and I can thoroughly recommend the beautiful country, stunning scenery and hospitable people.