Monday, June 13, 2011

Oh Para Para-Dise Ey Ey Ey

To quote from Beyond's song, this is how I would describe Palawan. Ok, maybe I should stop over-using the word 'Paradise', else it'll soon from 'Hot' to 'Not' from the over-publicity. But how else can you describe an amazing place, easily the most beautiful beaches/islands/landscape I've been to. Yes, the place is El Nido in Palawan Philippines. So much better than Halong Bay in Vietnam (similar concept but the plus point is it's fresher here, less crowded and alot more bigger in scale & awesomeness).

Expect a long blog post here, I will try NOT to spare any details cos the place deserves much more than the photos posted here, even more than the videos posted in the previous post! You have to experience it in person to absorb in the beauty. Photos can only capture that split second frozen frame, but in person, u really get to breathe in the freshness of the sea breeze, admire the beauty of the landscape & formations and slowly be enchanted by the magical allure of El Nido. I've heard people spending weeks and weeks in El Nido, and you'll think 'Why the hell would people spend weeks here, only in this place? It's only a coastal area, what are you doing here for weeks?'. Only after I've been there did I realize the charm of El Nido, the magical spell it casts on all visitors. It becomes obvious and comprenhensible that people will fall in love with this place! Just spend a few more days, lazing by the beach, doing nothing, and slowly you'll realize 1 week has passed by easily and followed by a few more weeks! This is how enchanting this place is! And the plus point is it's still not overcrowded with throngs of tourists (which kinda spoils the beauty of a peaceful place) so for now, this is perfect!

Ok, more of El Nido praising later on. Lest you think I was only in El Nido, you're wrong. The itinery was Puerto Princesa-Sabang-El Nido-Coron. And the longest time spent was in El Nido and I would say those days were the HIGHLIGHT of the trip!!! Yup we spent 7 days in El Nido, easily 7 days and it didnt even seem that long!

Has the introduction ignited your interest in knowing what happened during the 2 weeks and how fantastic those 2 weeks were? I hope it did cos here goes nothing -

Palawan Unfolded and Retold

What do you do when you've quit your job, and waiting to be 'enlisted' into your new job, with 2 weeks of downtime?

- Stay at home and catch up on movies/TV shows etc? Meet up with friends (lucky if they're free during weekdays)? Spring cleaning your room and tidy up your stuff? Read up on your new company and learn about your new job (sounds very interesting isnt it)? Absolutely do nothing and enjoying doing nothing? -

Or maybe pick a location, buy a ticket and fly there for a short holiday?!?! Knowing me for who I am, this was the obvious option for me, although at some point, I was contemplating just doing nothing at home cos I was a little tired of trying to plan something within a short period of time (<2weeks to be precise). Choosing the right location and right activities to fit into 2 weeks is not an easy task cos you have to fit the itinery so perfectly that you get to do what you want within the short time span and make it back in time.

So luckily for me, my lucky star came in the form of Welsh boy Mr Max Davies whom I knew from my Mulu Trip!! He has been travelling within SEA since March and will be in Philippines some time before my last day at work and it seemed like perfect timing to meet up with him in Philippines to do some travelling together! It's always nice to have a companion and someone to share ideas and plan together. Saves me the trouble to racking my brain for locations and activities.

Lo and Behold, I was looking at Palawan being a possible destination and when he suggested Palawan as well, and departing on the 1st day of my freedom, I jumped on that opportunity! How perfect has this turned out! The place I've been looking at, the place Pinoys have said 'Must Go', and at the exact date I'm free to travel! Not 1 minute wasted, the day after my last day at work, off for vacation!

So 2 days before the departure date, I booked my flight to Manila and the internal flight to Puerto Princesa (starting point of the trip) and got down to business. Packing needs to be done (not excessive, afterall it's a beach vacation!), supplies need to be purchased (some), grooming and preparation to be settled! Haha, beach vacay = sun, sand, sea, bikinis, beach babes & hunks! No lah, i didnt go into demonic training to achieve the perfect beach bod (where got time!) but my regular gymming session + swimming + yoga had already equipped me with the necessary physique to boast :) Anyway, I did my packing on the night before I flew off (like I always do) and went to bed dreaming about my Paradise!

Early next morning on the 25th May, off to the airport for the 1st flight out to Manila. All excited and eager to go, only to encounter my 1st almost detrimental road block - That You require a return ticket from Philippines before you're allowed to fly to Philippines!! Damn! I was never told that! It was not required for any other countries (as far as I know, I was never asked for a return ticket!!) But at the counter, it was made known that it was mandatory and I was not allowed check in until I purchase one! So now you know, I had not purchased a return flight when I booked my flight to Manila. No, not that I envision myself not coming back (then again, who knows what was actually going in deep down in my subconcious mind), I just did not know WHEN i'll be flying back. I thought i could buy my return ticket a few days before I decide on the actual date and time but apparently it doesnt work in Philippines. DAMN! So panic as I was with 40mins before the flight departs, I had to quickly search for a flight back on the last possible date and booked it. It was a mad frantic rush cos early morning all lines are busy and processing was slow. The counter gal was also anxious, trying to make the cut-off time for check in and looking out for porter to check in my bag once my purchase was confirmed. With like 15mins to go before flight departs, I managed to buy my ticket, had my bag rushed into check in and blasted through immigrations for my flight. What a relief man! It was really like live or death situation. I really almost couldnt make it for my flight, and that would have been really bad cos I would NOT make it for my connecting flight (then again, as u read on, I may make it anyway). They should have told us travellers when we buy ticket that a return is required! It would have saved me the heartache, panic, nervousness and just plain shock!

Anyway I arrived in manila international airport and had to transfer to the domestic airport which is like a distance away and even though there's supposed to be a shuttle bus between terminals, I think it's a scam! Cos the shuttle seems to NOT be running and the people there would just ask you to take a cab. Thinking that I'm pressed for time with 90mins before my flight departed, I took the cab (it's not expensive for a 15mins ride) and when I reached the domestic terminal, I was greeted with a terribly long Q at the check in counter for the notorious Zest Air! Quick scan of the Q spotted Max and jumped next to him! Poor boy juz got off an overniter bus with nary a wink of a sleep. Just when we were done checking in, torrential downpour started and we just went 'Ah Oh', cos raining is no good for flights, especially in Philippines. So there we were, sitting in the departure lounge waiting for our 3.30pm flight which just never seemed to take off....

And waited and waited and waited until 6.30pm when FINALLY the call for Zest Air to Puerto Princesa was made!! Cobwebs were starting to form on us! After a 1hr peaceful flight, we reached Puerto close to 8pm and proceeded to Banwa Art House on a Tric. We were quoted 100P (1SGD = 32P) per pax for the ride, which we bargained down to 50P per ride, locals looking to bank in cash from tourists..... After check in, with stomaches growling from hunger, we went in search for dinner only to be less than satisfied with some local dish...

Next morning F&E in Puerto while Max went to renew his visa. Well, if you don't have time, don't stay in Puerto. It's really more of a stopping point for more fantastic destination up north (or down south). It's just a small town with nothing much going on. We slept in till late and wondered round the town and back to the hostel early and prepare to embark on our trip to Sabang the next morning.

Woke up early to catch the 7am jeepney to Sabang (200P per pax), but we just barely made it (reached bus terminal like 3mins before it departed) all thanks to Max checking online on Mozzies (perpetually 'obsessed' with Mozzies) Surprisingly, the 2hrs ride to Sabang was rather smooth, not like what the book said about being bumpy and dirt road etc (well the book was written in 2009). We thought we could get an early permit to visit Unesco World Heritage Underground River but alas, all early permits were sold out and only 3.30pm was available. Note: Next time, buy the permit early in Puerto before heading to Sabang. They have an office there. Lucky for us, we were staying overnight in Sabang so it didnt really matter. But Damian, Swiss traveller, was there for day trip so he had to source for a van to take him back to Puerto. (Last official trip back to Puerto was at 2pm, after which you'll have to find private tourist van to take you back at higher cost)

We stayed at Green Verde, managed to bargain the price down from 600P to 450P SWEET!! Nice quiet beach @ Sabang. We were with Brad & Veronica (from Puerto and whom Max met from Donsol) and also Damian and Holly (Minnesota), went for a swim in the sea and waited for our 330pm trip. Then it started to pour once again (Monsoon season....) We opted for the boat ride to the entrance of the cave (100P each pax) if it were not raining, it would be good to walk the 5km to the entrance.

Sabang Beach

Short boat ride, 200P for the permit and we started our Underground River expedition.

You see many limestone formations from melted candles, to Mary, to Church, to Vegetables to Holy Family... Quite nice though the ride was abit short, guess it was cos we were the last group.

Imagine paying 1,500P for an organized trip when it only cost you 200P for one-way transport from Puerto to Sabang (400P for return), 200P for permit & 100P for boat ride (or FOC if you walk). Add about 300P for lunch and you only add up to 1,000P!! Overcharged by 500P!! That 500P pays for a night's accomodation in Sabang!!

Tiring day makes for good sleeping as we just basically zoned out straight after dinner. Nxt morning we took a private van (1,000P each) to El Nido with Brad & Veronica and Amit & Alice (Indian & French couple). A good 5.5 hours with the last stretch of road being much more bumpier and worse for me cos I was right at the back. Had a pretty good bum massage after the ride! The view that greeted us right when we entered El Nido made all that bumpyness worthwhile!

El Nido, view just outside our cottage

Checked in to Chixlyk Cottage, a small cottage just by the beach! Yes we had a beach cottage for 600P per night (cheapest beachside cottage) Apparently, Monsoon season doesnt mean low-season as accomos were all expensive and not easy to find! We were lucky to get 600P cos the others were going for 900P and up! And we had a tree house just outside our cottage!

Our cottage, the one behind the tree house

What to do when you're staying by the beach?? Do nothing, laze around and go for a swim!! Precisely what we did the next day of F&E, laze around, source for diving trips and expedition and swam and suntan by the beach.

Officially started our activities on the 3rd day at El Nido with 3 dives (3,000P include equipments and lunch which is quite a steal). Diving in El Nido is not the best, marine life is ok, corals are all dead, but at least we saw a HUGE lobster and 2 fucking HUGE turtles. More exciting will be the next 3 days of island hopping expedition which we booked with lovely nhel (lady boy) for 4,000P each (hacked down from 5,500p). It will be like survivor (camping on secluded island). That night we started the 1st of many drinking session with Alina and Seb (who'll join us for the 3D2N expedition) till the wee hours. Before we got drunk, we had an interesting conversation with the Indian/French couple, mainly with Amit (the Indian) where he shared with us his interesting travel experiences (almost got eaten by Carnivores in Papau New Guinea, travelling to many exotic places). It was an interesting listen as he told the stories with a straight face while we were all like "Wow". That night, the 4 of us downed 2.5 bots of RUM (with coke). The result of all those booze? Max decided to free a chained monkey and ended up agitating it and it climbed onto his head!! Luckily he was not scratched, but damn it we didnt film the hilarious scene! Bloody hell, it was fucking HILARIOUS when the monkey just jumped on him!!!

So the adventure started at 830am (supposed to be 8) and didnt depart till close to 10am (when u're in philippines, get used to the time lag, although surprisingly, their scheduled bus/jeepney rides are very much on the dot).

Bright lovely morning, a surprise departure from the windy, rainy days earlier. Yes, the Monsoon is finally over!

Our team of 5 + Max as the photographer. My lovely green hat which was blown away

On our boat for the 3D, we had a team of 6 that requires abit of introduction:

-Brad & Veronica (He from australia, she from Canada, they met in London and will be moving to Australia after this trip)

- Seb & Alina, not a couple (He from Australia, the 1st RAW dieter I've ever met but drinks beer and rum which aren't exactly RAW, looks like Jesus has a zen-like attitude who's perpetually obsessed with Angie from TayTay; She from Romania but lives in Norway, the lady with a big and infectious laugh and an even bigger personality Love you)

- Max and I (My travel buddy, from Wales also known as Mad Max, Occupation: International Spy, been travelling around the world and started SEA since March, perpetual fascination with caves and any places with dark openings and holes, up to monkey business all the time what with climbing up rocks, trees, caves and anything he can get his grips, with the most amazingly HUGE appetite I've ever seen but with an almost OCD-like attitude over mozzies "Kill them All"; Me from Singapore. Period. No further explanation needed.)

So here goes the story of 6 travellers from different nations on a 3D2N expedition on secluded islands with our lovely hostess Nhel. You know what they say 'What happens on the island, stays on the island', but of course, some things can be shared while others are best to remain secret SHHHHHHHH

Let the few pictures do the talking now....

Our 1st stop - Hidden Lagoon, what a good way to start the expedition! You couldn't see the lagoon from outside, until the boat slowly meander its way through rocks into a small stream of water till you see LAND!! Amazing start! It was snorkelling time and the place was amazing (i realize that this word will be overused again and again but man, it is the most apt description)

Dear Seb on a rock...

Then it's time for lunch! Lest you think lunch will be a measely affair, a few grains of rice, some meat & maybe a few strands of vege. You're wrong!! Lunch was cooked onsite, grilled fish + chicken wings + salad+ heaps of rice+fruits! And the portions are big!! Loads of fish for just the 6 of us! And Delicious!! Easily the best meal we've had in Philippines! FYI, food in philippines NOT CHEAP & if you eat what the locals eat, the portions are pathetically small (tho cheap but i guess you pay for what you get). A meal like this above would have easily cost each person close to 400-500P, economic rice in Singapore is like what SGD4??

After a good feed, time for photos!! With food down our stomach, energy flows back to the brains and time for creative photo shoots!!!

The Great Bum Shot! We had alot of frames of the bum shot at different stages of readiness..Mad Max was voted the one with the whitest ASS

Thanks to Nhel who suggested a bum shot! The most brilliant idea EVER!! Yes, next time on a beach holiday, this is a MUST do shot! You only live once, and you're young only once! Do it when you can flaunt it! No need to be paiseh, anyway, nobody remembers you once you leave the place :) (I should have done a full naked back shot...Bloody hell regret now...Note to self: Next time at a secluded beach, do it...)

Never mess with Mad Max, he'll stab you with his spear gun

More snorkelling and stop overs followed. We even got a spear gun! Intention was to catch some fresh fish & grill them for dinner but apparently, the DIY spear gun was not tt user friendly...

Next stop was snake island (we may have stopped by other places but damn, i just can't remember all the names of the islands) so called as during low tide, there is a passage to walk across that kinda looks like a meandering snake...

Then it's time to search for our resting place! Our secluded island resort!!! Ala survivor style, we jumped into the water a distance away from land and swam towards LAND!!! It was a fun long swim but a nice way to welcome home...

The island only has 3 huts & a bathroom with no flowing water. Only the so-called housekeeper lives here but apparently no one was around when we were there, so we had the whole island to ourselves!!

That's our hut!!

The huts were pretty well built, sturdy, and we were provided with good mattresses, mozzie net (much to the delight of Max), warm blankets & thick towels! This will be our 5-star resort for the next 2 days!

Alina with her bright swimsuit! We did a couple of Sports Illustrated worthy shots (me as Photog)

The hair flinging shot, Brilliant!

While waiting for dinner, time for some R&R, beers & fun! Oh, in preparation of island camping, we bought 2 bots of RUM (bloody cheap 75P for 1 big bot of 80% concentration) and like countless bots of beer. Yes, island camping is the time to drink and be merry! A few drinks down the stomach and alot of miracle things happen.....

Another brilliant group shot with Boracay Rum!!

Couple of drinks down, and the fun begins!

Some how more well rested the 2nd day, it was time for more fun!! Where did we actually go? Can't really remember well. But we visited a cave (great cave much to the delight of Max who went exploring and scaling the rocks much to the shock of our guide who kept asking - where's the guy?)

Our last stop of the day was 7 commandoes beach so called cos 7 commandoes kena malaria some years ago when they stopped by this beach... And this was the place where we got edificated by Seb on the natural wonders of coconut!! The flesh is a good natural facial scrub and hair conditioner, the husk can be used as a floss, sand is a wonder scrub for the skin! We were all trying it out, having a ball of a time! I think it really works haha I felt my skin being reborned after the scrubbing :) And the day wouldn't end with some fun shots! Playing with the coconut..

What you do with coconut shell after drinking it...

Since it was our last night on the island, it's time for some BIG partying!!! All booze out, no hold backs! Tonight is the night to finish what we've brought and end it with a bang! Which was what we did! Everyone was totally knackered! We invited the crew to drink with us, and they brought their own RUM as well! By the end of the night, everything was kinda a blur. But of course, before we got too drunk, we took time out to admire the star-filled sky (i've never seen that many stars in the sky), fireflies filled trees (there were aplenty!) and plankton spotting!! They were glowing in the water! Max, Alina and Seb went for some plankton snorkelling and they squieled like little kids!! Lest to say, everything that happened 1hour after that felt like a bullet train flash that went 'ZOOMMM' past. Dear Maxie simply looked delirious and zonked out! And Good old Alina went one up by drinking Veronica's Orange Juice!! Hahaha That was so Funny!!! Little background update, only 4 of us were drinking, brad & veronica went to bed. That was so CLASS!! We were all so like shocked she did it, but the next day, it turned out to be a brilliant joke...

The next morning, woke up slightly groggy and missed the s'posed morning call again (yes, it was Max and I who woke up late once again...) But all was good cos this was the most fantastic day ever! Like they always say 'Leave the Best for the Last'. We started with Secret Beach, THE HIGHLIGHT!!!

From outside, you almost couldnt see the small opening beneath the rocks, but once u'r underwater, you can see the BIG opening where you need to swim through to get to Yes you guessed it Paradise!

The hole from underwater.

It is called secret beach cos it's hidden, if you hadn't known there's an opening, you wouldn't have know it leads to an enclosed beach. Now you wonder who the hell discovered this place!!! Brilliant!

After secret beach, it was secret lagoon, another place where you have to climb through a hole (this time not underwater)

Secret Lagoon

Then we had lunch and some snorkelling at Similac Island. Spotted this cute little red starfish and we were taking loads of photos with it...

Pretty red little starfish

After lunch, it was time to feed the fish! It was so fun! We were all so excited and Oohing and Aahing as the fish came swarming over us with the fish head...

Our last stop of the day was Small Lagoon. Apparently, Survivor Sweden is currently filming on location @ El Nido and when we were at Small lagoon, there were some fixtures for the challenges being fitted at Small Lagoon. Big Lagoon was out of limits that day as they were filming onsite.. Must keep a lookout for Survivor Sweden when it airs... Haha, now you know the islands are NOT as secluded and secret as it's made out to be on TV!!

Small lagoon was nice! Big area and we went swimming through the lagoon and what do you know, found a cave once again!! Yes Max was the most excited about the discovery of the cave, while Seb was a little hesitant in entering the cave (It was cold - what he said). Corals are nice underwater in small lagoon, so much better than the ones we saw during diving...

Left: Alina, mad max, me, Seb, Nhel

A perfect itinery for a perfect day, and just when we were heading back to pack up our things and go back to mainland, it started to pour!! Heng ah! How lucky were we! But it was still good! The best day out of the 3 :) Returning back to mainland, Max and I had hoped to catch the unreliable, schedule-less cargo ship to Coron, and true to its promise, there was no cargo ship at dock which means no go for our overnighter to Coron. So in the end, we decided to stay 2 more nights (1 extra day in El Nido) and do some island hopping again the next day! You just can't get enough! This time with a fully charged battery for Max's underwater camera, we will head back to some of our favourite places to do more photo shoots!!

The day didnt start out well, it rained and rained in the morning, which almost made us (Max, Alina and I. Dear Seb went back to Puerto, and possibly Tay Tay to visit Angie) abort our original plan. But Thank god we didn't cos the sky cleared towards mid morning! So we hired a boat (2,000P) added a few more for lunch and flippers and off we went in the rain. We were initially abit worried cos the rain seemed to get heavier as we approached hidden lagoon but after splashing ard in hidden lagoon, the sky cleared! WooHoo! So onwards we went to Secret Beach! We were told 'Maybe cannot go secret beach' as the captain was afraid that the current was too strong, but we persevered and went anyway. Turned out it wasn't bad at all! We were all so excited and enthralled with the swimming underwater through a hole that we filmed the whole process and did it over and over again and again. At least 4 times we went in and out in and out....And the best thing? We were the only group there!!! Secret indeed SHHHHHH

Putting my years of yoga practice into use for a good shot. If only the photo was taken after my legs were straightened

Lunch back at Similac island. And After lunch, we headed to Big Lagoon!! This time, Big lagoon is open and small lagoon was closed. A little disappointed we couldnt get to small lagoon but they were filming so it was off limits...

Big lagoon appeared to be the accomodation site for the crew (the houses were too nicely built to be for the contestants) and there were several structures built for challenges. Which we tried.. We had wanted to climb up a platform several meters above water level and jump down but was stopped by the production crew who was checking it for safety. What a pity...

We are survivor!!

Brilliant idea by Alina, Having a Terrible Time! Keep the tradition going!

The day ended with one of the most beautiful sunsets in El Nido, pinkish sky. Perfect ending for a wonderful 7 days in El Nido. The next day - onwards to Coron on an 8 hr boat ride...

The boat ride departed at 830am (though it was s'posed to be 8am). Dragging our half asleep bodies, we boarded the boat which was only slightly bigger than the normal boats used for island hopping. And we had thought it was a big boat (as described by Nhel). Not the most comfortable for 8hrs, where we struggled to find a comfortable position to take a snooze. All was well initially as I got space to lie down and max found a nice spot outside to sleep, when it started to rain, and everyone got back in under shelter and my space got 'invaded' once again by Max who woke me up from my sleep.. Then it was trying to get into a position to snooze a little, only to be woken intermittenly by the very bumpy ride...

8 hrs later, we finally arrived in Coron, where it was the 1st time in 2 weeks we felt REALLY REALLY unbearably HOT and HUMID!! To think that it was sunny and bright in El Nido during island hopping where we were exposed to the sun whole day, and yet it felt even worse in Coron. Literally melted few minutes upon arrival!

As we were wandering around trying to find accomo, Ricardo approached us to offer help. At 1st, we thought 'Oh another tout trying to scam us of money' but turned out he was really helpful! He's like the mafia of Coron, knows almost everyone, has connections with alot of places and able to help arrange almost everything! So next time you go to Coron, look for Ricardo! His name is almost everywhere on signboards in Coron Town. He got us a room, with air con (god bless air con, we needed it soooo much) & private bathroom for 500P per night, which I would say it a steal, considering it has AIR-CON!!!!! And of course mozzie net upon request (who can forget mozzie net with Maxie around Throw him anywhere, just give him a mozzie net!)

Coron town is surprisingly busy and bustling. And food is much better and bigger portioned than in El Nido haha! Prices are reasonable (as I said, food in Philippines is not that cheap anyway). We had good curries on the 1st night and I immediately zonked out after a hot, tiring day of travel...

The following day after arrival was F&E. I settled my flight arrangements out of Coron and Manila, and basically just walked around town abit. This was the day we finally get to watch some cock fight!! Missed out on it in Puerto, and finally got to see it in Coron!! The favourite pastime of Pinoys, on a lazy afternoon. Nothing stops Pinoys from enjoying and participating in cock fight! There was a lot of waiting, weighing of cocks, selecting opponents and prepping to be done before the real fight begun. It is a brutal fight where cocks are fitted with blades on their feet and the aim is to stab the opponent until they're disabled or even die!! It's fight for the death! And what awaits the loser - A delicious chicken meal for the owner...

The night ended with a great pasta meal at Bistro Coron (another great find for food) and some Internet surfing (at 20P per hour, that's like NOTHING!!!)

The next day begins our WRECK DIVING!!! What you come to Coron for!! Went with Coral Bay Diving at 2,700P for 3 dives, include equipment+torch+lunch, the cheapest you can get!! We went to 3 wrecks - Kogyo Wreck, Morozan Wreck and East Tangat Wreck.

Me on dive boat with DM RJ

Fitted with long wetsuits (not the easiest to wear but good for wreck diving) Max and I were the only 2 doing the wreck diving itself. The others on board the same boat were doing recreational basic diving so not certified to do wreck diving. Actually, Max is not certified to do wreck diving (only basic open water diver), but the thing is they don't really do checks on your certification (Shh don't tell), so dive at your own peril!!! He was abit paranoid when he signed his live away on those forms, but Max being who he is, proceed nonetheless. I mean, you're in Coron how can you NOT do wreck diving!!

The 1st wreck - Kogyo, was amazing enough. Swimming in pitch black with only our tiny torch to 'enlighten' us through the body of the wreck, squeezing through unbelievably tight spots up and down. WooHoo! So much fun! The thing about wreck diving is - It's not about marine life. It's about the wreck, so it's not everyone's cup of tea. but it's exciting in itself!

2nd dive was the best - Morozan! More swimming through of the wreck, going up and down, squeezing in through more tight spaces and tunnels. You really have to be careful and wade slowly as any sudden movement can kick up alot of sand and blur your vision. At one point, we went up above a pocket of air and you could take off the regulator and breathe and talk normally! We were madly excited when we tried it and really laughed and went 'WooHoo'!!

3rd dive - East Tangat, the shallow dive. it was ok, but as we were diving with 2 additional people (who are really amateur divers, not great with controlling bouyancy yet had an underwater camera with them.....) it was not the best experience. They were in front of us and kicked up alot of sand when squeezing through the wreck and we at the back had to feel our way through cos we couldn't see a thing! But all in all, it was a fantastic dive day!!

That's the tip of East tangat Wreck

And back in town, we were treated with a most fantastic sunset over Coron town!! Damn sunsets! The best thing when You're at coastal areas! How many fantastic sunsets have we had over the 2weeks? Countless!!!

My last day in Coron was spent doing island hopping. 650P per pax, we went to Kayangan Island, Twin Peaks, Twin lagoon, Attawa Beach, Coral Bay, Cyc Beach and Barrakuda Lake (extra entrance fee for the last).

Kayangan Lake was amazing!!! A big pool of fresh water lake with amazing rock formations underwater. It's an Underwater Pinnacles!!

Amazing Kayangan Lake

We did some underwater shots, and I must admit, as much as I love watersports and swim tons and tons, I have a small lung, which can only take in limited air capacity... I can dive into water, but not for ridiculously long period of time, which explains why I consume so much less air during diving... So for all the crazy stunts and antics that Mad Max cleverly displayed for the camera, I can only marvel in awe but couldn't quite replicate. I shall practice to enlarge my lung capacity for the next time, and Maxie, I'll repay your superb effort of taking great underwater shots the next time :)

Crazy antics by Mad Max. Splits, upside down turns etc etc

Tried my very best to grap hold of the rock but my breath ran out. Still a nice effort

Twin peaks was good for snorkelling, and Twin lagoon was alright. You can enter the lagoon by swimming underwater or climbing overhead. Obviously there isn't a choice for us - Swimming underwater is the way to go! Not as exciting as in El Nido (when you've been to Secret beach, any other underwater swim through pales in comparison).

Lunch was at Attawa Beach when it rained and sucked when it rains... More snorkelling @ Coral bay next... And we headed off to CYC beach, which was explained to us when we booked the tour as a piece of WHITE, SANDY beach... Which was exactly the total opposite when we reached there! Not only was it littered with all sorts of rubbish, there wasn't much of a beach to be had!! Call it Rubbish dumpsite..

Our last stop was Barrakuda lake. Only Max and I opted to go for which we just need to pay extra for the entrance fee (100P each). It was a sight to behold! All round the lake, you just see Pinnacles over and over! The lake is famous for it's extreme temperature differential, but I guess you can only feel it when you dive there as you need to go really deeper down. Mad max tried diving down probably to 7m but no difference there...

As a dare and as it was my last day of the trip, I somehow convinced Max to try Balut! Haha, we've been talking about this since the start of the trip but somehow we never saw it being sold anywhere but here in Coron!! Although he hesitated, he gamely tried it! Yup, that's Mad Max. for 15P each egg. Peeling off the eggshell, the egg itself smelled terrible. And it was excruciating watching him bite into the egg (the full video is posted on my FB page). Bravo to him for taking a few bites of the white and the embryo itself..But ultimately, he didnt finish the egg and couldn't do it...

The Balut...Eeks

I didnt take a bite.. I can't eat a chick.. But on hindsight, I kinda regret not taking just a wee bit bite into the egg part... Damn... And Mad Max was all over himself afterwards for not finishing the egg!!! Saying how disappointed he was for not downing it.. Alrightey, give it another try the next time and make sure you tape that down and show it to me!!

The flight back home the next day was just another round of adventure. Zest air from Coron to manila, which surprise surprise was delayed by 2hrs. As I sat in the Coron airport, watching Cebu Air come and go, Air Phil come and go, Zest Air was still not in sight... Gist, I guess I'll strike the lottery if Zest Air is ever punctual! But I guess air travel is still the easier way (time consuming) though at Coron airport you pay 20P for domestic travel, but tt's paltry compared to 200P you pay in Manila!

So there I was, panicking cos I would miss my flight back home (210pm flight from Manila to SG). So the minute I landed in Manila (close to 3pm) i rushed to the international Terminal (which was another 15mins away damn) and lucky lucky!! My flight was delayed!! haha chain reaction i guess? Managed to get home safe and sound :)

And so ends my fantabulous 2 weeks in Palawan. What can I say? I had the best time of my life easily!! That's what a beach vacation can do to you! I haven't been to a real beach vacation in 2yrs!! I'm a beach person, I need a beach to recharge and this was what I need! It brings out the real me from within hahaha! And I really needed this recharge! It was the most ad hoc travel trips i've been to, yes there was an agenda, but nope everything wasn't like planned ahead of time, which makes it spontaneous and fun! And I liked the feeling of going with the flow...When was the last time we did that? It's always been 'I need to be there by XX, I need to stay here for XX days etc etc'. Yes of course there were some kinda timeline to stick to, but it wasn't like a timeplan that must be adhered to...

Aftermath of the trip - My handphone got drowned damn. I've never realized how handicapped and reliant I am on my HP, until it died and I was uncontactable for 3 days... Numerous scars on my beautiful legs (thanks to coral cuts and don't know what kinda cuts I suffered), mozzie bites and sandflies bites. And of course, another coat of tan all over me. Yes, no surprise, I just got darker AGAIN!! It didnt seem much when you're at the beach with other people tanning or getting tan, but the moment I returned back home, I felt different cos I was so tanned and people around me are so much fairer! I need to go back to the beach hahah!

I think I need to get an underwater camera. Haha it's times like these when you realize, damn if only i can take pictures underwater. It's not everytime u meet people who have underwater cameras and are willing to take pictures of you and send it to you. (Yes, photos of underwater are courtesy of Max's camera). It's really useful, maybe I should consider getting one, and bringing 2 cameras each time. You never know when you'll need/use it.

Glad to have met all the beautiful fun-loving nice people on the trip (Yes, I'm referring to you Alina and Seb) You make the expedition a real CLASS!! It would have been so much different w/o you guys (you know what I mean).

Of course, I cannot forget my beloved travel buddy - Mad Max who made this trip possible! For gamely inviting a strange Singaporean lady who could 1)potentially wreck havoc into your travel plans; 2) be a maniac stalker; 3) be clingy, boring, authoritative, bossy person; 4) mad hatter bomb. Thanks for helping me finish off my pizzas, and I'm still amazed at how much you can eat (1 big plate of pasta + 1 baguette filled with beef & cheese + 2 slices of pizzas) yet not put on an inch of fat... But please don't do anything stupid (like trying to free a monkey and instead getting jumped on by it) without me around to film the act as evidence. Lest you can do is film it yourself and show it to me :)

Being back home makes me miss the holidays and Paradise. Dear god, I'm thinking of where to go next!! I've always wanted to go Africa, take a very long holiday (maybe a couple of months) and explore the whole of Africa. Maxie!! If and when you decide to go Africa, sign me up!!!

Or maybe South America? Or maybe Tibet? Or maybe Mongolia?? Haha

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