Putting the record straight, the 3K budget excludes my round trip airfare, which I got for ₱1,500 (promo) and my expenses and accommodation it Puerto Princesa, which falls on another budgeting category.
To give you a quick summary, refer to the following table.
|Cherry Bus: Puerto Princesa to El Nido||₱370|
|First Night Accommodation: Our Melting Pot Hostel EL Nido||Free|
|Day 1 English Breakfast: OG’s Pension House and Restaurant||₱230|
|Combination Tour: Tours A & C of Northern Hope Tours||₱1500|
|Day 1 Dinner||₱180|
|Belle île’s Mango-Nutella Crepe (you must try this)||₱100|
|Second Night Accommodation: Our Melting Pot Hostel EL Nido||Free|
|Day 2 Breakfast||₱70|
|Belle île’s Condensada Banana Crepe (you must try this, too)||₱100|
|Day 2 Lunch||₱70|
|Cherry Bus: El Nido to Puerto Princesa||₱370|
I only spent tdays in El Nido so that is probably one of the reasons why I kept my budget at minimum.
After landing at Puerto Princesa International Airport, I took a quick stroll around the city and searched for something interesting within. Then I noticed that the city was too dark at 6:30PM. The street lights were off and the business establishments closed early – brownout engulfed the entire city. I found it hard to move in the unlit dusk so I decided to proceed to San Jose Bus terminal. Of course I did not walk, I shelled out ₱25 as trike fare, which I did not include in the table above.
I thought I can take the 8PM air-conditioned RoRo bus, but, unexpectedly, what was there waiting was the non-A/C. I didn’t have that much sleep, hence, I really needed a comfortable ride for me to, at least, relax a bit while on the road. Good thing that the Cherry Bus had 9PM schedule to El Nido. I did not mind waiting for 1-½ hour. I paid ₱370 for the fare.
The 5 to 6-hour ride has two designated pee-stops, one in Roxas, which is 2-hours away, and the other is in Taytay.
Early Morning Walk at El Nido Town Proper
I arrived in El Nido‘s Poblacion terminal passed 2AM. The town was still a kilometer away. When I saw a lady tourist declined a tricycle ride and walked to the town all by herself, I followed suit. Since I was really shy, I maintained a significant distance.
Tada! A Surprise at Our Melting Pot Hostel
I reached the doors of Our Melting Pot Hostel at 3AM and I was quite surprised by its look – it was still under-construction. There was no reception, no guards, nor any welcoming scent. A guy, who arrived few minutes before me, greeted me when I opened the door. I thought he was a guest too. After our short conversation, I learned that he was there to bring some constructions supplies. He woke the young caretaker who was sleeping in an unfurnished room. The caretaker was surprised when I arrived earlier than expected. Well, It wasn’t the plan though. The brownout in Puerto Princesa made me decide to leave the city early.
He showed me a dorm type room, the only room that was habitable that time, and allowed me to stay in a bed, without mentioning a fee. Then I thought, maybe its free (for a while). Well, I was just there to sleep for less than 4 hours and I did not avail any of their promised amenities. And yes, it was free.
Awesome Breakfast, But Duh, That was Expensive!
I walked around the town early in the morning. It was pretty small that I explored it for an hour. The beach wasn’t that impressive, it looked like being invaded by the shop owners. I took my expensive breakfast (yes, I believe that a ₱230-meal is expensive) at one of El Nido’s fine beachfront restaurants, the OG’s Pension and Restaurants.
Haggling for the Tour. I saved half – Jealous?
Before going back to the hostel, I dropped by at the booking office of Northern Hope Tours to confirm my attendance. I initially booked for Tour A but when I noticed from their booking board that they offer combination tours, I took the sheer opportunity to join, which they allowed. That also meant savings for me. Tour A usually costs ₱1,200 while Tour C is around ₱1,400. I only paid ₱1500 for both which also included free use of the snorkel, life vest, and a sumptuous lunch.
Island Hopping! Simply Amazing
Joining me in the Island Hopping tour were the travelling couples Mel and Arrel and the newly weds, Nizah and Gymland. They were cool but I was in an awesomeness moderation. I lost a tooth a week before that trip which caused me some inferiority complex, minimizing my talking powers. We also had a cool and ever handsome boatman, Captain Jones, and an accommodating guide, ah – I forgot his name, but he is Captain Jone’s son.
We hovered at one side of the helicopter island first and peeked at the secret beach, but we weren’t able to land because the waves weren’t cooperative that time.
Captain Jones slowly and carefully navigated the rough sea to bring us the other side of Matinloc Island, the calmer Tapiutan Straight. We docked at Matinloc Shrine and spent some leisurely moments to capture every details of its astounding beauty. The final stop of Tour C was the Talisay Beach in Tapiutan Island. It was where we had our lunch and did some great snorkeling activities.
We headed to the second leg of our tour (Tour A) after our lunch. We swam across a rock hole just to see the strip of the Secret Beach. I am an adventurous type of guy and any little spot that cost an effort to see is pretty awesome for me. I got a little cut when I hit a rock but it was a small price to pay.
We also visited the Secret, the Big, and the Small Lagoons. Since I did not bring any protection to water-proof my cam, I missed a part of my job to document the places we’d been. I saw Mel brought a dry bag but I was shy to borrow it. It was only on the later part of the tour when I eventually used her wet-shield.
We parted ways after the island hopping tour, each filled with accouterments, memories of the awesome day of fun and adventure.
I returned to the Our Melting Pot immediately after the tour. It was already passed 5PM so I expected the power to be up. By the way, electricity in El Nido is available only from 02:00PM to 06:00AM. But when I reached the hostel, the place was dark and sultry. The reason (they gave) was, there’s a Municipal activity so the electricity of some residents and select commercial establishments are cut to funnel the power supply to the activity grounds. Our Melting Pot was one of the select few to be cut out of such important utility.
Using my phone’s flash light, I was able to take a shower and change clothes. They said the lights will return by 11PM so I went out to have my dinner. I also tried the Banana-Condensada crepe of Belle Île and it tasted really good.
I returned an hour earlier than the expected time for the power to return. I was dog-tired already so I tried to endure the heat trying to sleep. It wasn’t a success, hence, I ended up waiting for that elusive cool air from the window-type inverter. The owner visited us from time to time to check us and offered to take us to any hostels available in town. It was just a hassle to repack our stuff so we declined. Then later, he offered refund to those who already paid their accommodation. He also approached me and told me that I don’t need to pay mine. Yay! That was again free.
At 11PM, Tada! the lights eventually went on. I then settled myself and felt every cool breeze from the air-conditioning unit as it touched my skin. And in a matter of minutes – ZzzZzzz – I couldn’t remember anything what happened next. I was awaken when the power went off again at 06:00AM. So I went out and spent some ample time in the beach. I was thinking to take Tour B but I worried that I couldn’t get a quality sleep before going back to Manila so I decided to return to Puerto Princesa afterwards. I still need to report to the office few hours after my arrival in Manila so a better sleep is very important on my last day.
I took the 09:00AM bus to Puerto Princesa and arrived in the city after 6 hours.
It was my first time in El Nido and it was pretty memorable even though I was just alone (technically, not). Captain Jones, his son, Mel, Arrel, Nizah, and Gymland were just few of the interesting people I met and had a fun with during that trip.