El Nido, Palawan

May 30, 2015

From Sabang I travelled to El Nido on local buses. I first got a bus early in the morning to Salvacion crossroads where I would have to change to the service to El Nido. I knew there were two different kinds of buses (AC/no AC) and the transport vans passing through and I decided to just take the next service that showed up. I only had to wait 20 minutes or so until one of the buses arrived an I got on. Of course it was one of the no AC buses, but at least it was cheap, and all the windows were open so the ride wasn’t too hot. It was very packed and I got the last available seat. They were showing movies on a screen in the front. When I got on they were in the middle of one of the Madagaskar films, then American Sniper came on, it was as bad as I expected it to be. After that two movies I’d already seen and didn’t think were great (Lucy and The Guardians of the Galaxy). After eight hours squeezed on a hard seat I was very happy to get off in El Nido. The bus terminal is outside town so I took a tricycle to a hostel called Hakuna Matata which I had looked up before. I hadn’t booked anything in advance but luckily they had a bed available for two nights which I took.

The next day I walked around town and followed a path along the water. It didn’t really lead anywhere, just to some more houses and hotels, so after a while I turned around and walked back.

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The next morning I found out my hostel had had a cancellation which meant I could stay for one more night, three in total, which was great. I wanted to stay in El Nido at least four nights and wanted to avoid moving around to different places too much.

I went for breakfast around the corner in a hotel where they were doing a breakfast buffet. It was pretty good, especially for it’s price (200 pesos, £3). They had fresh bread, rice, a few different meat and veg dishes and coffee and juice. I ate a bit too much bread and left very full.

I decided to go to another beach outside town as the beach in El Nido isn’t that great. There’s not really any space on it, the buildings go right up to the beach and there are lots of restaurants with tables on the beach and the water is full of boats.

I went to Corong Corong beach which is a short tricycle ride from the city. It was beautiful there, I found a quite spot and spent the whole day just reading and walking along the water.

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At one point I came across a huge, purple jellyfish, it must have been at least 30cm wide!

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I stayed and watched the sunset, which was really pretty, before I walked up to the road and took another tricycle back to my hostel.

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The next day I went on an island hopping tour, it’s a common thing to do when you visit El Nido. I went for tour A, I had heard beforehand that tour A and C were the best ones, but I decided to just do one of them during my stay. I was picked up at my hostel in the morning and led down to the beach where others who were doing tours were waiting. After a while they gathered all tour A people onto one boat, there were maybe 10 of us in total.

Our first stop was “secret lagoon”. The boat stopped next to an island and we had to swim to an opening in the cliffs to get into the lagoon. It was very pretty but not so secret; there were many other boats and people there.

After that we stopped at a small beach on another island.

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The tour people cooked us a delicious bbq lunch on the beach. We had fish, pork, chicken, squid, veg, fruit and rice! It’s probably the best food I had in the Philippines.

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Then we visited a couple more lagoons named the small lagoon and the big lagoon.

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It’s so beautiful around El Nido, and Palawan in general, I really enjoyed just seeing the landscapes on the tour.

Our final stop was another beach. There was a small bar there (I had a coconut shake) and we stayed for about an hour before heading back to El Nido.

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I had dinner with a couple of guys from the tour and later we met up for a drink on the beach.

The next day I had to leave my hostel and move to another one as they were fully booked. They booked me in on their sister hostel on the other side of town, which isn’t actually that far as El Nido is very small. One of the staff went with me there in a tricycle to show the way and check me in, it was a very easy move.

This day I wanted to visit Nacpan beach, I had read about it and it seemed amazing. It’s pretty far from El Nido and getting a tricycle there and back was very expensive. Also, I had read the road could be pretty bad and that a tricycle was very uncomfortable on the bumpy road. So I decided to hire a scooter for the day and drive there myself. It was a great experience, it reminded me of how much I like driving. I walked down to the town from the hostel and found a place that had bikes for rent. It wasn’t super cheap (I payed 600 pesos for the day + petrol), but still a lot cheaper than a tricycle to the beach and back.

It took me maybe 50 minutes to reach the beach from El Nido. Most of the road wasn’t that bad, it was just a normal paved road with not much traffic at all. The last 5km was a small, rocky dirt road, and closer to the beach it got very sandy. It was fine though, I managed to navigate it without falling.

When I reached the beach I parked around the other bikes there. There was a small place that sold drinks and there were some people around there. The beach was huge and as I walked away from the main area it soon got very empty.

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There were more jellyfish on this beach, in some places you could see lots of darks dots in the water.

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Anyway, I was told the purple ones are harmless and don’t sting, it’s the smaller white ones to watch out for, and I didn’t see any of them here.

I was planning on walking along the whole beach but it was just too long and it was so hot. I parked my stuff and it felt like I had the whole beach to myself, I couldn’t see any other people around.

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I spent the afternoon swimming and reading (I was still very into 1984 at this point).

Later I walked to the other end of the beach where it met with another, smaller beach behind it. I climbed up a small hill to get a better view.

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I walked around this area of the beach a bit more and found a path to a higher spot. It was a very steep little dirt path, but of course I had to try and get up.

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Going down wasn’t as easy, I had to take my slippery flipflops off but I got down eventually, and I got a cool view from the top.

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When I got down the sun was beginning to set and I decided to head back before it got dark. It would have been nice to stay for the whole sunset but I didn’t want to drive on that awful dirt road in the dark.

The next morning I left El Nido to go to Port Barton, my final stop before leaving Palawan.

 

Sabang, Palawan

May 8, 2015

From Manila I travelled to Palawan, one of the bigger islands in the Philippines. I arrived at the airport in Puerto Princesa where I took a tricycle to the hostel I had booked. Tricycles are what they call this mode of transportation in the Philippines and it’s the main way to get around as a tourist in Palawan, I don’t think I saw any normal taxis while I was there.

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Of course the drivers at the airport tried to overcharge me, as they do everywhere in Asia, but in the end I got an alright price (80 pesos down from 150…) and was driven to my hostel in the outskirts of the city. I spent the evening making a rough plan for my Palawan stay, I had 11 days and there were a few places I wanted to visit. I decided to leave the next morning for Sabang to see the underground river. There were tours arranged for the river i PP, but they were expensive so I settled on taking cheap local transport the next day and spend two nights in Sabang in a cheap hotel and get the permit and ticket for the underground river myself.

To go to the underground river you need to get a permit from their office in Puerto Princesa, they only allow 900 or so visitors each day which is why it can be good to get the permit in advance. In the morning I walked the 1km from my hostel to the office intent on getting the permit for the next day, but it turned out to be closed until later that afternoon because of some holiday. I knew I could probably get the permit in Sabang and the security guard in the office building seem to think so too, so I made my way to the bus terminal on another tricycle.

The long distance transport in Palawan consists of expensive but fast and comfortable vans or cheap local buses and jeepneys. As I’ve been trying not to spend too much money I decided to skip the vans and headed to the jeepney terminal. I got there and was directed to the correct vehicle and managed to find someone who spoke English enough to tell me what time it was leaving. Turned out it wasn’t until 2pm, and it was currently 11 in the morning.. I decided to stick it out and spent three hours in the car reading while waiting for it to leave. I actually didn’t mind too much; it was a good chance for me to start reading 1984 that I had picked up in a hostel in Malaysia weeks ago.

When we finally started the jeepney was packed with people, but we still stopped a lot on the way letting more people on. The whole journey took about 3 hours, including a short stop for food in the middle of nowhere.

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When I reached Sabang I was planning on looking up the Green Verde travel agency and hotel as I had read they can help you get the underground river permit. I got off the jeepney and asked a man waiting outside where I could find Green Verde, and it turned out it was him. His name was Miguel and I my guidebook had actually specifically recommended him so I was happy to have found him. He told me I could just go down the the pier in the morning and get the permit and I didn’t need to go through Green Verde at all. He asked if I was coming to their hotel but I wanted something cheaper and was going to check out another place called Blue Bamboo. Because it was a bit of a walk and I had heavy bags Miguel was really nice and drove me there on his bike. I’d really recommend going to Green Verde for their hotel, restaurant and travel agency in Sabang, they’re super nice and helpful and have good, cheap food.

Blue bamboo first wanted me to get one of their cottages, but when I asked for something cheaper they showed me to their “dorm” which was these three rooms divided by thin walls.

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It was very basic, a mattress on the floor and a bathroom outside in a small hut crawling with ants, no proper shower just a bucket, but very cheap; I managed to get it for 250 pesos (£3.50) / night.

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Also, technically I had a balcony with sea view.

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In the evening I went for a walk back towards the “center” and the beach. Sabang is a very small village with some houses and hotels along the sea front, but not much else. I went to the Green Verde restaurant for dinner, it seemed to be one of the cheaper places to eat (everywhere else I saw had expensive tourist prices) and the food was good. I went back home to sleep early so that I could get up in time to get my permit the next day. I actually slept really well in that little room, falling asleep to the sounds of the sea.

The next day I went down to the pier, got my permit and paid the boat and environment fee for the underground river. It wasn’t too pricy and I spent a lot less on my whole Sabang trip than I would have done on a one day tour from Puerto Princesa. After getting the permit I went to Green Verde and had a delicious mango pancake for breakfast. Then I went back to the pier and joined the queue for the boat to the underground river.

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Every boat took 6 people so I was put on one together with a Filipino family.

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After a short journey we boarded on a small, beautiful beach where there were already a lot of other boats of people visiting the river.

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We walked a short distance through the forest and reached the end of the river, a small lake that flows out into the sea.

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Here we got on another boat and went into the cave following the river. The guide told us the river is 7km long but we’re only allowed to go 3km (or 4?) in and then turn around. It was very dark in the caves, but the boatman/guide had a torch and talked a lot about the different formations. Once we reached a big opening he told us this part was called the church and pointed out different formations that were supposed to resemble various Christian symbols… I guess you can see what you want to in there.

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Everyone had to wear helmets in addition to the life vests. There were a lot of bats in the cave resting in the ceilings and we were told to close our mouths while looking up at the caves in case of bat droppings…

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When we returned from the underground river I went for a walk along the beach and stopped for a swim when I felt like it.

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I also had a massage the beach, mostly cause I had nothing else to do.

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Then I just took it easy, read and had dinner at Green Verde. It was a really nice day and I really enjoyed just being on my own again.

 

Gili Trawangan

April 10, 2015

I reached Gili Trawangan after 1.5 hours boat journey from Padang Bai in Bali. Gili Trawangan is the bigger of the three Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok. It’s still a very small island, you can walk around it in an hour or two, it’s got no motor traffic, only horse carriages and bikes. When I got there it had been raining (it’s rainy season in Indonesia) and I waded through muddy puddles looking for my hostel. I lost my flipflops on the way, they’d been falling apart for weeks and finally gave up in the puddles. I stayed in La Boheme, a really cool hostel. They’ve got good hang out areas, a small tv room and 24/7 make-your-own pancakes. I did have a lot of pancakes and at the end of my stay I was very sick of them.

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Once I had checked in I met some people who were going out for lunch so I joined them to Le Petit Gili restaurant where I had a sandwich. Later that night we went back for their happy hour before going to the food market for dinner. The market was great, I had tuna and beef bbq sticks with rice and veggies.

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After food we went back to the hostel to have some drinks and later on we went out to a bar. Every night is a party night in Gili T and every night a different bar stays open late so everyone will gather in the same place. It was a good night and it was nice to be out since I didn’t have a night out since I left Malaysia.

The next day I went to a cafe to use their internet connection for a bit as it was very bad in the hostel. I spent most of the day just relaxing, it was raining a bit as well so it wasn’t a good day to go do things outside. In the evening we watched a bit of The Interview, it actually wasn’t as bad as I expected, it had some funny moments but mostly it was just stupid.

The next day me and five girls I had met in the hostel walked around the island. We started with a drink and lunch at a restaurant next to the sea. After walking for a bit we stopped for a swim and then continued onto the beach on the other side of the island where we went on the “sunset swing” (though we didn’t stick around for the actual sunset).

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Later we went for dinner and happy hour and then went back to the hostel where we had some drinks before we went to bed.

The next day was sunny so we decided to go to the beach. We went to a restaurant that had beds on the beach and stayed there for a few of hours.

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In the afternoon I went on my first every yoga class. Next to our hostel was The Yoga Place, a really cool place that also served food. The class was cheap and we got a discount for staying in the hostel. I quite enjoyed it and I might try yoga gain. I went for dinner with one New York and two Kiwi girls I’d been hanging out with. We went to Regina Pizzeria which we had heard amazing things about. It lived up to our expectations, the pizza was delicious.

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In the evening we stayed in and watched Birdman and Maleficent.

The day after we had planned to make a day trip to Gili Air where but when we woke up it was raining so we decided not to go after all. Though later the sun came out anyway so we went down to the beach restaurants and tried a few of them for food and drinks. We ordered dinner to the hostel, pasta, and later that night I went out with NY and NZ girls. We ended up and a small bar on the street next to the packed club that was staying open this night.

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The next day was my last one in Gili T and I was very tired and didn’t do too much. I went to a restaurant, Scallywags, that had a good internet connection and spent a while there. I also started reading more while I was in Gili T (Tales of Dunk and Egg series) which was great and since then I’ve kept the reading up.

The next morning I was leaving to go back to Bali where I had a flight leaving for Manila in one week. I couldn’t decided where in the island I wanted to go so I just went back to Ubud. I wish I stayed a little bit longer in the Gilis cause the day I was leaving was the sunniest I had there so far.

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In total I spend one week in Gili Trawangan.

 

Langkawi

March 7, 2015

After spending a few days in Penang I decided to go to Langkawi. Langkawi is another Malay island close to Penang. I think the ferry from Penang takes 3-4 hours, but I decided to fly as I found a cheap ticket and the flight was only half an hour. I don’t think I’ve ever been on such a short flight, it was very weird, pretty much just up and down.

In Langkawi I stayed at a backpackers called Rainbow Lodge in the Cenang area, I’d read about it before and had some people recommend it to me. Luckily I had called them a couple of days in advance to reserve a bed (they have no online booking), cause when I got there it was fully booked along with many of the other hostels in the same area, probably because of Chinese new year holiday. I met a couple of people walking around looking for a room, they eventually found somewhere, and we decided to meet up the next day and maybe hire some scooters to explore the island.

The next morning I bumped into another person I’d met the other day, he was getting a group together to go on a boat tour to explore a river and some caves. It sounded like a great idea so we decided to join them. After waiting for ages trying to get everyone together and on the same page we set off in two big taxis to a river in northern Langkawi where the boat tour would start.

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At first we went to a spot to see eagles. The driver had brought some food he threw in the water to get the eagles close to the boat to that we could see them better. I’m not really a fan of this kind of “animal tourism”. I’d heard about this eagle feeding before and how it’s not only good as it can make the eagles dependent on handouts from humans. Anyways, it was too late to withdraw from it now and I enjoyed seeing the big birds up close.

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After eagles it was time for more animal feeding, this time monkeys! As we went into the mangrove forest they started appearing and we stopped for while to watch them while people were throwing them nuts that they would pick up from the water and sometimes dive for. One even got onto the boat which just scared most of us! After giving him what he wanted (food!) he took a short swim back to the trees.

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We continued down the river towards a tiny cave that the boat could just about enter and then back out of again. After that we went to a fish farm and restaurant. While we were waiting for the food some of the boys working there showed us the different kind of fish they were breading. The food was ok, we actually didn’t have fish, just noodles with chicken.

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After food it was off the the bat cave, a pretty common attraction in Langkawi. It’s basically a (pretty small) dark cave you can walk through by following a path. You get a torch and can see loads of bats in the ceiling of the caves. There were also monkeys around on the footpaths around the swampy bits.

The tour all in all was pretty good I think, I mostly enjoyed just being on a boat and the nature and good company.

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We finished on a nice, quite beach on the northern coast just before sunset. We went for a swim before we walked back to the river where the tour started, just across the road. The water was warm and it was so nice to go in since I hadn’t actually been to a beach since Sydney.

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The next day we had plans to get actually get the scooters and drive around the island, buuut, I got ill and was in bed feeling sick and with fever for two days. At least this cute cat joined me so I didn’t have to be completely alone. He scared me at first, I woke up in the night and felt something big and soft on my leg, but obviously when I realised it was a cat he was welcome to stay. I had seen him walking around the area earlier and he seemed clean and healthy (except for that cut on his leg..).

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I started recovering towards the end of the second day and decided to go to Jakarta the next day, or I wouldn’t get enough time in Indonesia. It’s a shame I didn’t get to see more of Langkawi, but I can always come back later if I want to.

 

 

The Dandenongs, beaches and Lorne

February 9, 2015

Yesterday I arrived in Lorne, small sort of beach resort town southwest of Melbourne. It’s been really nice and warm in the days but quite chilly in the evenings. Tomorrow morning I’m heading back to Melbourne where I’m catching a bus to the airport to fly to Sydney.

My last days in Melbourne were really good. On Thursday last week I went to the Dandenong Ranges, a mountain range outside of Melbourne, while Bjorn was moving out of his house. I went on the Puffing Billy steam train, it’s on old railway that’s been restored as a tourist attraction.

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I got off at Emerald Lake Park and spent a couple of hours walking around the lakes and forests there, then took the train back. After that I visited the Dandenong Ranges National Park which has lots of walks around the mountains. The forests were beautiful and I spent a long time there just walking around on quite trails with no other people around.

The next day i finally got to go to the beach! It had started getting really hot so me and Bjorn went down to St Kilda beach in Melbourne. In the afternoon I met up with Emmy, a friend of mine from London who moved to Melbourne last year, and in the evening we went out for Bjorns leaving dinner and drinks.

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So yesterday I travelled along The Great Ocean Road to Lorne. I spent the day walking around town and along the beach before I cooked dinner at my hostel. I’ve been eating out a lot recently so I’ve decided to start cooking more myself, at least as long as I’m in Australia where food is expensive. I’m staying at a really nice hostel (Great Ocean Road Backpackers) on a green hill above Lorne. My dorm is a 4-bed in a small cabin, and at the moment I’m alone in there :)

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Today I’ve been going on more walks along the coast and a river. Then it started raining so I walked back home and made some food. I wanted to go to the beach this afternoon but haven’t been able to because of the weather, so I’ve just been reading at the hostel. I’ve been pretty tired so it was nice to just take it easy. The coach to Melbourne leaves tomorrow morning at 7 so I’m going to bed soon so I don’t miss it.