Philippines – El Nido and Boracay – 23rd November ~ 1st December 2013

It is another Philippines trip with family.

I asked my kids where they wanted to go and they replied “Philippines!”. I know what they are up to. All they wanted are Tom’s world, Time Zone and island hopping.

So here I go again. Planning another trip for them.

(For those panorama pictures, please click on them to see the bigger version).

Day 1 – 23rd November

We took the Cebu Pacific flight out of Singapore and surprisingly the flight leaves on time!

There is no congestion in Manila too! Wow. I would consider this a rarity for my trip. However, the baggage claim at NAIA is testing my patience. I felt that the time needed to claim my baggage is getting longer for each of my visit. I was wondering are the airport authorities using donkeys to pull the baggage cart.

After for some unknown amount of time, we finally got our luggage and we clear the customs in a jiffy.

We then quickly proceed to the check-in counter for our next flight with Cebu Pacific.

I noticed that for domestic flight, you will need to check-in using the kiosk and also a seat number will be assigned to it right on the spot. However your seats will be assigned at random. You can choose your seats at the kiosk but not all the seats are open using the kiosk.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0011You will still need to queue in to check-in your luggage anyway. So when we check-in our luggage, we request our seats to be group together and the staff oblige our request.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0002As I have some ticketing issues with PAL Express, I proceed to the PAL ticket office in NAIA T3 to sort it out.

There isn’t many people in the office but the request by each passenger need a long time to handle and there is only one staff at the counter!

The poor staff has to run around to get things done. After 15 mins, another staff open another counter and there are more passengers now.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0008After some agonizing wait, the staff handled the queries quickly and make the necessary amendments.

After so many flights in Philippines, I am surprised that PAL Express which I assume has a more solid financial backing from PAL will have a better website to handle such change request. Instead their rival Cebu Pacific website is leaps and bound ahead of them. Buck up, PAL!

We proceed to enter the domestic terminal to prepare to wait for our flight.

The flight is on time again! Weee!!!!! This is a stark contrast to our previous family trip.

The flight to Puerto Princesa (PPS) is again uneventful and we reach PPS on time. Baggage claim is fast. Our transport will not here until 1100hrs and it is only about 0945hrs now.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0016 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0018I contacted KZ of Daytripper to ask them can they fetch us earlier. KZ responded that they will try their best and I really appreciate that.

I would like to highlight a feature of Daytripper booking system from PPS to El Nido. If you are the first to book for a trip from PPS to El Nido, you can dictate the time when to leave PPS between 0900hrs and 1400hrs provided no one else has book a seat after you. Once there is another person that book the same transport as you, you will not be able to dictate the time to leave PPS. So if you want to leave later like me, be the first to book the seats and tell Daytripper what time you wanted to leave PPS immediately.

The usual time that the transport leave PPS is 0900hrs. Since we are the first to book, I changed the departure time to 1100hrs after going through a bad experience in our PPS trip.

On the contrary, everything work like clockwork and now we are early. KZ said the transport will be there at around 1015hrs but it was 1030hrs then the transport arrive. I am still appreciative about their efforts and we proceed to pick up another 2 passengers.

They have switch the transport from Executive Coach (12 seater/P900 per seat) to Executive Van (10 seater/P800 per seat). I was a little disappointed actually as I wanted my wife to sit in a more comfortable van. Nevertheless it is still fine and the van is indeed much smaller. Daytripper also refunded me the difference of P100 per seat.

The Executive Van does not have much space for luggage so we put our luggage on the isle.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0021There are 7 of us in the coach so it is still comfortable. We are each provided with a small bottle of water and a bag of fried banana chips.

Our first stop is Roxas which took about 2 hours to reach. By the time we reach there, my kids stomach start to turn upside down. Please do not be misunderstood. The driver Dennis driving skills is fine but still fast according to my standard (wait till you read the rest of my El Nido journey).

We have lunch in a Filipino-Vietnamese restaurant and till now I still do not know the name of the restaurant. I quickly ordered food for my family as I believed they are already starving.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0069The setting of the restaurant is very Filipino style. Simple yet sufficient. Staff is very friendly but if you speak English, please speak slowly to them as I found that they may have difficulty understanding our type of English.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0066 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0068 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0071We ordered a hot dog with rice, fried rice both special and normal, fried chicken with rice and some other food which I can’t remember the name.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0040 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0044 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0047The food served here is generally alright but the fried chicken meat is like stone. I ordered coke for each of my kids and it turn out to be a wrong choice.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0050 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0051 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0054After the meal, we proceed with the journey and the next stop is Taytay (pronounced as dai-dai). It was during this part of the journey, two of my kids start to vomit. It is not the fault of the driver but my kids stomach is weak. Furthermore the road from El Nido to Taytay is paved but some parts are pretty winding. So maybe all these contributed to the state of my kids and not to forget the gassy coke! So one tip here. When you are in the plane, grab as many puke-bag (this is what I called them) with you just in case you need it.

When we finally reach Taytay, the whole dustbin in the coach is already filled with my son’s vomit. Fortunately we have enough puke-bag to go around but not enough for the return trip. Furthermore the trip from Taytay to El Nido, the roads are not paved completely. This really worries me.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0075 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0076 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0078There is nothing much to see in the Taytay stop over.

After a quick P5 toilet break, we continue our last leg of the journey.

The road from Taytay to El Nido is not that bad. There are some big potholes but the driver will negotiate slowly. The driver will try to ride on the paved portion of the road where possible. You will need to understand that the way Philippines paved their road a little by little on each side of the road. It is hard to explain. You will have to see it for yourself to understand what I am trying to say.

After another 2 to 3 hours of journey, the driver announced loudly “Welcome to El Nido.” It seems like he is announcing that our suffering will come to an end soon. According to the ordinance of El Nido, van transport are not allowed to pick up and drop off passenger in El Nido. They will need to drop the passenger off at the bus terminal and then a trike journey to the hotel. However our driver is very gung-ho and he drive us all the way to our hotel at Bulskamp Inn.

Bulskamp Inn is located on the quieter side of El Nido.

The owner of the Bulskamp Inn Tayao Virgie personally came out to welcome us.

The Inn is very lovely. It feels very homely and there is a big koi pond. The common area is filled with greens. You will need to place your shoes on the ground floor and from the room corridor onwards is a barefoot area. If you just return from island hopping, you can wash your shoes and feet at the washing area provided on the right side of the shoe rack.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0746 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0747 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0748Peace and tranquility is appreciated here. So we try not to make too much noise with the kids around.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0756 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0758The room is very basic but sufficient for us. Note that there is no TV here and free WiFi is provided here. The 3 beds room is very cramp but the double bed room is fine. There is additional charge for hot water for shower.

3 beds room
3 beds room
3 beds room
3 beds room
Double Room
Double Room
Double Room
Double Room

El Nido has no power from 0600hrs to 1400hrs daily. So you will need to plan your power usage carefully like charging your gadgets through the night.

By the time we settled down, it is already in the evening. Imagine a 13 hour trip from Singapore to El Nido!

I am thankful that the kids and wife for bearing it with me so far.

Now our tour operator Midnight Sun has arrived at the Inn to greet us. We agree on the time to meet up and the meal we are going to have. I request for shrimp (extra cost to be borne by me) and they oblige.

At first I thought El Nido should be quite big but I noticed that it is mainly consists of one main street.

 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0088 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0090There is a lot of massage services in the town and also quite a number of small restaurant. There are also many accommodations available from big to small. Even the road leading to El Nido town is filled with accommodation. However I feel that most accommodation in El Nido is not cheap. If you have a preferred low-budget accommodation, I suggest you book early.

Another important info. There is still NO ATM in El Nido. Cash is king here and bring lots of it!

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0089 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0106 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0109The town is quite lively I would say, much better than the sleepy Coron Town. Of course different people different stroke.

The town is dominated by one main street and certain parts of the town even have like a small market.

The beach also has restaurants that you can dine in.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0085The famed Altrove is full. So we walk down and found a place called IBR fast food. We just need to get a quick bite to fill our stomach.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0091 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0092Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0093 We ordered grilled squid, seafood curry, chicken curry and again “I-do-not-know-the-name” food.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0095 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0097 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0101 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0103Food was decent and some a quite delicious. Price is alright (It is not that cheap either) but I can’t remember the cost.

After we filled our stomach, we decide to turn in early for tomorrow island hopping trip. I prayed (to whoever control the weather) for good weather tomorrow.

Day 2 – 24th November

We all woke up early to prepare for the big day.

El Nido has been famed for the pristine and majestic view of island hopping and limestone islands.

Do you know that the ending scene of The Bourne Legacy is actually shot in El Nido and the novel of the movie “The Beach” by  Leonardo DiCaprio is actually based on El Nido and not Phuket.

I think I can even see Helicopter Island on the background of the movie.

I have been waiting for this trip for two years!

The boatmen that will be bringing is for the trip is Clarg and Jason where the latter is the elder brother.

The time to meet up is 0800hrs. If you only do one tour, the time to meet up is usually 0900hrs. They use a motorbike to bring my 3 kids to the boarding point. My wife freak out hearing this but my kids seem to be very excited about it.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0121I just ignore my wife’s concern and told Clarg to drive slowly and safely. The kids quickly board the bike and left us.

It took about 10 mins before Clarg return. My wife and I board the bike. This is my wife first time taking a bike so she naturally is very scared about it. Furthermore both me and my wife and Clarg rode together. My wife is so nervous that she actually hold on to the handgrip of the bike!

Clarg drove out of the town and down a small dirt road. Then we ride through a short stretch of the beach and finally reaching out boarding point. The kids are already there waiting for us.

The place to board the boat is out of El Nido Town and is a very quiet place.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0711 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0712It start to drizzle now and the wind is picking up speed but Clarg assured us the weather is still fit for island hopping.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0687 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0694 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0703As it is low tide, we have to wade through the water to get to the boat. My second kid is luckier. Clarg uses a kayak to bring him to the boat.

Soon we set sail and from afar, we can see Helicopter Island.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0157We do a combination of Tour A and C. If you will to do separately, there should be around 8 islands but we were brought to 7 only due to time constraint.

I actually cannot remember which island I am brought to first. I remembered secret lagoon, big lagoon, small lagoon, Matinloc island, helicopter island etc.

I think the first island is Small Lagoon.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0172 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0186 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0195The second place we went is the Big Lagoon which I really like it.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0203 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0206 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0208 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0213 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0215 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0217 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0221 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0237I can’t remember the next place.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0249 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0254 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0274Next stop is Secret Lagoon. Entering the secret Lagoon involved going through a narrow and small hole. So be careful when you are trying to negotiating through it.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0287 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0290 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0292 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0296 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0297 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0302When we are going back to the boat, we spotted two turtles and I think they are mating! Clarg paddle the Kayak with me holding on to the Kayak to see the turtles! I appreciate such kind gestures from vendors.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0311All the islands that we are brought to are fantastic. Both Clarg and Jason took care of my family well.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0354We went to one of the beach in Matinloc island for our lunch. As there are corals along the beach, Clarg brought us to the beach using a Kayak. Jason cook for us a simple meal of fish, shrimps, chicken and pork. The chicken and shrimps are fantastic.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0320 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0328 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0330 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0333 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0334 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0340After lunch, we set sail towards Matinloc Shrine which I tell them to pass and proceed to our final destination.

This is the best part of the journey. The banca is sailing between two islands with high cliffs. The feeling is very majestic and surreal. Too bad I did not manage to take a good picture of it.

The final island we visited is Helicopter island. This is the only island that we have been to where the boat can directly dock at the beach.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0365Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0383 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0437We stayed at Helicopter island for the longest. My kids have a great time there in Helicopter Island where I have a good view on the surrounding islands…..

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0447 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0448 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0450 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0463 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0464 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0465 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0466 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0468 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0471 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0650……… and ahem….. certain other views.  :p

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0652We finally set sail back to El Nido town.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0685I really enjoyed the island hopping tour from Midnight Sun.

Jason and Clarg are very professional and friendly. They are indeed a great team and their chemistry is good. They take care of the kids well too which is paramount to me.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0677One advice when doing island hopping in El Nido is to wear your reef shoes with you as some parts are very rocky. There are even sea urchins in Big Lagoon.

I lost my balance a few times and got cuts all over my legs and hands. For very small children like smaller than 4 years old, my advice is to stay on the boat.

What I enjoyed most is the boat journey, flanked by high cliffs. The feeling is just great.

However, the bad news is the rates for island hopping is going to be doubled! I think this is greed of the authorities to generate more revenue.

The manager of Bulskamp Inn does not agree with the increase. They are afraid fewer tourist will visit El Nido.

I also suspect that the increase is targeted at Europe, US and Australian market. The reason I thought so is that their currency is so much stronger compared to Asian currencies. So even if the rate is doubled, the Caucasian tourist may not feel the pinch as they may still find it affordable.

If this is true, then the authorities has neglected the Asian market which form a sizable number of tourist.

I cannot find a reason for such a steep increase in rates. All the island hopping “equipment” is almost free. The beach, sand and sun are free. You may maintain the beaches so you only need to raise the environmental fees but not the island hopping rates.

Furthermore do you think the authorities really maintain the beaches?

All these greedy officials is going to kill the tourism there.

When we reached back the beach, it is already after 1700hrs. I made the payment for the balance and Clarg again drive us back to the Inn using his trustworthy bike.

We ate at the same place as all other restaurants are full!

Day 3 – 25th November

Our transport back to PPS is at 0900hrs.

So we brought our kids to have an early breakfast at the same old place.

After that I went to El Nido beach for some photo taking. A low-level mist has covered the banca creating a mystique feeling.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0716 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0726 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0729 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0740

We bid farewell to the manager of the Inn.

Bluskamp Inn is really a nice place to stay. Quiet and tranquil. My only grouse is the flushing system is weak where it will clog easily.

We board a trike to the bus terminal which is about 10 mins away. At the bus terminal, you will see other van services like Lexus and Eulen Joy. It was then I found out that there are also other bus services to PPS other than the RoRo.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0762 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0765 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0766The bus terminal is actually very basic or even run down I would say. However it is good for me to let my kids to experience such environment once in a while to let them understand how other countries are and how fortunate we are. This is also to let them see the real Philippines instead of the swanky Makati.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0767 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0769 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0770The Daytripper van is located beside the RoRo bus but the van is nowhere in sight. I contact KZ again and found out that the transport is at Corong Corong which is not affected by the Town’s ordinance.

To my surprise, the Executive Coach came and I was not charged for any extra. The coach is indeed more comfortable and more roomy. You can even put small luggage at the top of the seat.

The driver apologized for being late and after he prepare the goodie bag for each of us, we set off for PPS.

As mentioned earlier, the road from El Nido to Taytay is not fully paved. So there are potholes here and there but most of them are small potholes. There are many stones along the road.

I was seated in the front of the van so I have a good view of the road and also the dashboard of the driver.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0772 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0773The driver is travelling at 80km/hr along the unpaved road but it is still bearable. The driver will still slow down if necessary. What amaze me is that other van services can zoom past us when we are already travelling at 80km/hr.

They have little regards for the road conditions and just drive recklessly. They still slow down for those big potholes but to me it is not good enough. All the van that pass us by are nowhere in sight further down the road and not even at Taytay. So you can imagine how fast they travel.

We went to the same restaurant to eat on the way back to PPS. This time I ordered the spicy shrimp and I waited a long time for it. However the wait is worthwhile as it is really delicious. I specifically told the wait staff to inform the chef that the dish is sarap (delicious in Tagalog).

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0774 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0776We then proceed with the journey. As we are nearer to the city, the traffic began to slow down due to all the trikes on the road.

After 7 hours of travelling, we finally reach our hotel, The Blue Lagoon.

Yes, we are back to the same hotel when we first visited PPS. I actually wanted to book Go Hotel which is half the rate of The Blue Lagoon but our kids like the pool very much.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0783 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0784 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0785 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0788We let the kids play at the pool for a short while we settle down.

After a while it is dinner time and you can imagine the routine that we will have.

We went to Hup Chan (my wife’s favourite place in PPS) for dinner. She ordered a feast that compensate for all the lousy food in El Nido.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0789 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0791 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0794After that we went to Robinsons for kids time. Yes! Tom’s World! My kids’ favourite place in PPS. The just need 30mins to “burn” my money that I needed 8 hours to earn.

After all the crazy running in the arcade to play the games, it is time to turn in.

The trike back to Blue Lagoon is actually P80 but I manage to bargain down to P70. Hahahah!!! A P10 discount achievement!

Finally, I return to my favourite place in PPS; the bed.

The manager of the hotel is kind enough to provide us a spare mattress without charge to us. I actually quite like Blue Lagoon. The pool give the hotel a feeling of calmness.

I will definitely return to stay if I can afford it.

Day 4 – 26th November

Our last day in Palawan.

We have our early breakfast in the hotel. The breakfast doesn’t taste bad and the staff is really friendly.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0840 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0843 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0844After that is another round in the pool for the kids.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0826 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0832Just as I expected, my holy master (read my wife) wanted to return to Robinsons. This is just to let the kids have another round of Tom’s World. I protested and asked why must I spend money on such wasteful activities. She told me that she need to vent her anger on something so arcade is a good place for her. I think I got her hint and also knowing my resistance is futile so I might as well join in the fun by playing with them.

After Tom’s World, it is Hup Chan time again! A well-fed wife is a happy wife and the hubby will be spared some agony.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0852 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0854 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0856 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0858 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0860 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0862After the meal, we return to the hotel for some final packing.

PAL Express has changed our schedule long time ago but only inform us one week before the flight. Why I know it long time ago because I periodically check the flight schedule and found the changes. I even message PAL Express via Facebook to confirm and one week before the flight, they called me to inform me about the changes!

This also applies to Cebu Pacific. They have changed 80% of my flight time without even informing me! Though the change in time is not significant but they should still inform me.

So passengers taking flight within Philippines, please check not only your booking consistently but also do a mock booking of your flight schedule to see if the flight has been re-timed or cancelled.

We reach the airport by the hotel transport. MAS Wings (a subsidiary of Malaysian Airlines) has started their Kota Kinabalu – PPS flight. I hope they succeed as I do not see a strong demand for this route.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0866Now another round of authorities greed. I remembered the last time I was in PPS, the terminal fee is P40 but now it is P100!

I did not see any significant improvement of the airport. The floor tiles may be new but the tiles of the waiting area has even popped up and waiting for contractor to repair it.

Are all these increases due to the popularity of the Underground River? Does winning the so-called prestigious award of the new 7 Wonders screwed up the minds of the authorities? I wonder does the win has become a curse for Palawan.

I really do not understand. Maybe I do not have a PhD mind of the authorities but it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0868The flight leave on time and we are heading to Manila for a night.

The flight reach Manila on time and the queue at the yellow taxi is longer than my income tax return form.

So we decide to opt for the fix rate taxi and the rate is P440 + P20 for the skyway.

We reach Makati in 30mins or maybe shorter. We stayed at the same place; Alcoves in BSA Tower but we chose a 1 bedroom instead.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2319 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2320 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2322We are meeting up a group of friends that will join us for the rest of the trip. Since they have a bigger group of 6, I let them stayed in the 2 bedroom apartment instead.

The 1 bedroom is like half the size of the 2 bedroom. It has one double bed and one sofa bed. The owner is kind enough to give us a mattress to accommodate us.

The owner also allowed us to leave some of our bags in the room since no one has made any booking during our absence.

We went for dinner and guess what? The kids wanted Jollibee! I almost fainted when I heard this and again I gave in. It is their trip after all.

I also should not complain too much about Jollibee after all after what I have been through in Moalboal.

After the meal, we do some shopping in Landmark Supermarket.

When we return to our apartment, I met up with my friends, DC to sort up tomorrow schedule. She brought with her family and two friends. She is curious about my consistent visit to the Philippines and she would like to see this country for herself.

Day 5 – 27th November

Our flight is at 1100hrs so we depart at around 0800hrs from the apartment. After meeting up with DC, we set off from the airport.

We reach the airport early so we check-in early. When the staff is processing the check-in, I asked the staff is the plane is going to Caticlan and not Kalibo? She replied “yes, to Caticlan.” “You sure”, I jokingly asked again.

“Yes. Very sure”. She replied.

We still have a little bit of time for breakfast so we decided to try the Pancake House. This is my first time trying it and I ordered a Chocolate Pancake to share with the kids.

I thought the white stuff on the pancake is ice cream and I took a bite. Awww!!! It is butter! The brown thing? It is peanut butter!!!

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0873It doesn’t taste bad but not enough to make me come back.

My friends are actually impressed with the terminal 3. I must admit that there is improvement in the terminal compared to when I first experience it. It has more restaurants and the overall feel is better.

We enter the domestic terminal and go to our gate to wait for our flight. As usual, the gate is crowded with people for different flights. Soon our flight is ready for boarding and we queue up to board the bus to bring us to our plane.

Flights to Caticlan uses turboprop planes meaning propeller planes as the runway in Catclan is short.

The flight is one hour and if you want to have a view of Boracay from the air, make sure you get a seat on the left side of the plane.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0884 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0885

The flight landed on time and baggage claim is fast. Once you leave the terminal, you will need to take a trike to the jetty. You can definitely walk there but I would not recommend it.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0889When you buy the trike ticket, you can buy the boat ticket at the same time. The journey to the jetty is less than 5 mins.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0892When you reach the jetty, you will have to pay for terminal fee and environmental fee. The fee is P100 and P75 respectively.

Now this really irk me. P100 for terminal fee? I do not see any reason to justify the increase! The jetty still looks the same as 2 years ago. The boat is still made of wood and not steel. The boat is still small and cramp. So where is the justification?

So for one person to get from the airport to Boracay, one will need to pay P200. It is not a lot for a foreigner like us but we would like to know on what basis they raise to terminal fees. There is virtually no improvement in the terminal!

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0981The way to board the boat is still the same. You will have to balance yourself on a very thin plank of wood which is improvised by the boatmen.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0898 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0899 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0902I must give credit to the boatmen because they are really friendly and helpful. When they saw kids or you have a problem boarding the boat, they will try to help you to get across.

The boat ride to Boracay is about 20mins and the boat is really slowly. This is for the comfort of the passenger. I believe the boat can go faster and that is provided you want all the passenger to be a Merlion (vomiting).

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0909 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0910When you reach the Boracay jetty, many touts will approach you to take their transport. If you want a very comfortable ride, go for them. I am a kuripot so I took a trike to Station 3 which is P100 per tricycle.

The trike driver drop us off at one of the back alley and we walk down to the beach. A familiar sight soon greeted me and I was not so please because I only see two colours in the sea; blue and white.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0915Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0918 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0919I do not know which smart alec can come out with an ordinance that dictate the colour of the sail of a boat must be either white or blue. I prefer the colourful sail of the past and this add character to the boat and the island.

So what is next? Paint all the buildings white on white beach so Boracay will look like Santorini?

We walk towards our resort which is about 5 mins away; Marzon resort.

When I was in Moalboal, I tried to contact Marzon to ask about the status but both internet and phone line seems to be dead. I was wondering is the damage is so bad that the whole resort has been destroyed leaving only a few coconut trees standing?

It was about one week before the trip that the resort replied that they are fine and business as usual.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0928 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0929 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0930Check-in is fast and we were shown to our room. We have a family room and it consists of two single bed and one double bed.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1197 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1199 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1202The room has virtually no windows. The air con is strong enough and water pressure is good.

After we settled down, we walk down towards station 2 for a late lunch. The weather is very hot and we are tired from the journey already.

After some hesitation, we decided not to head towards D’mall and just settled for a place to eat nearby and Reyes Barbecue was chosen.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0921We ordered our food and once again I can’t remember their name.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0923 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0924 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0926The food doesn’t taste bad but still not to my liking.

During our lunch, there is a brown out but business is still as usual.

While they are having lunch, I decide to head to Station 3 to look for an operator for sunset paraw sailing.

The first stop I approach is Red Pirates. We need two boats but unfortunately they only have one available.

So I approach one of the touts and he agreed to provide me with two boats with P800 each but it was much later that I found out that the sailing time is only 30mins sailing. The boarding point is said to be just 3 mins walk from Marzon.

I hesitate and said I will consider it.

I walk down beyond Marzon and saw a fleet of banca on the beach waiting to bring guest for sunset sailing. I enquire about the rates and they are charging P200 per person for a 30min ride.

This is a huge jump from 2 years ago and it seems like the sunset sailing has been run like a cartel.

The Koreans are coming in droves and took all the available boats.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0934 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0936The tout saw me and approach me. I told him I wanted two boat at P800 each and with at least 40mins sailing time.

Furthermore. I wanted to drop off at Station 1 and our main aim is to walk from Station 1 to Station 2 but they said there is an ordinance that disallow a boat from picking up passenger from Station 3 and drop them off at Station 1.

He agreed to the 40min sailing time (I believed they will not honour it at the end) but by then there are no boat! By the time the boat is available, I can’t even see the sun anymore. I decline the tout offer and walk away.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0944 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0946I then decided to run back to Red Pirate and book the boat for the next evening sail.

Red Pirate offer P800 per boat for 60mins of sailing. They do not believe in excessive profiteering. So far this is the best rate I have got in Boracay.

We then continue to enjoy the sunset on White Beach.

An idea suddenly came to my mind. Since we can’t take the boat to Station 1, we then take the trike!

I huddled all of them together and took the trike to Station 1. I can’t remember the fare but the trike driver wanted to drop us off at D’mall but I negotiate with him to drop us off further up. He then agree to drop us off at Astoria Boracay with the same fare.

The journey is about 10mins and we then found an alley that lead to the beach.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0952As all of us is hungry so we start searching for food. We ended up in a restaurant called Asian Kitchen.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0959 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0960 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0961It is P275 all you can eat and kids is at half price. The concept is you choose the ingredients by yourself and the chef will cook it for you.

So you can have pork, chicken, squid, olive oil, terayaki sauce etc. All mix into one and the chef will cook. So it may taste awful or nice.

My bowl is mix is pretty nice but I will not dine there again. Food is slow and you do not know how will your food taste because you mix it yourself unless you are good at mixing ingredients.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0963After two bowls and felt that it is a disappointment. I left the restaurant for a breather. I stroll down with one of my kid and saw a Tea Bar. The staff keeping telling me to try their drinks. I was coaxed into it and I ordered a mango shake.

The staff made me a nice mango shake in a cup and pour the excess into another glass for me. It is a very nice gesture of her.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0968It is later found out that it is called the Bon Appetea Beach Bar. I will try them again if I pass them by again.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0969Soon the rest of them join me and we walk down the beach.

We soon reach D’mall and spend some time there. There is nothing much there actually and we left about 30 mins later.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0972 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0973 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0974As we walk down the beach, we saw fire dancers and as for me, I even saw chef dancing!

We then saw a familiar sign on the beach. As a matter of fact, it is spotted by our kids. It is McDonald’s!

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0975One saving grace is that McDonald’s is not located along the White beach but in a small alley. Only the sign is visible on the beach. I am not objecting Mcdonald’s setting up shop in Boracay but it is like a sore thumb on this island. Having said that, it can be a saviour to some parents when their kids are picky about food. Mcdonald’s seems to be like a universal food for some countries.

You just need to walk into the alley and you will find the restaurant.

My kids must be starving since the Asian Kitchen food do not suit their taste. The kids have their second dinner there and they are satisfied.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0977 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0979Feeling tired, we slowly walk towards our hotel and guess what? The kids saw a McDonald’s kiosk selling ice cream! What a smart business idea. The kiosk is doing good business!

The kids ordered their dessert and finally we can walk back without any interruption.

It is indeed a long day today.

Day 6 – 28th November

Now what should we do today?

My kids have been travelling a while now and they are still sleeping. For me? I am wide awake at 0600hrs and the sun is already up.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0984 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0986 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0989 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0992I went to the beach to take a walk. The weather is good, cloudy  and windy. There is a new hotel beside Blue Mango Inn and it is Hey Jude!

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0932Hey Jude! has a branch in D’Mall and now this is their second branch.

White Beach dorm rooms have increase to P600 per night up from P500.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1003Amelia has been rebuilt or renovated as I was told. So far the exterior looks nice.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 0996One thing I found out that Marzon doesn’t do is to lay out their deck chairs like others. They kept everything and the guest will need to do it themselves. Weird.

Soon the kids woke up and we went down to the restaurant to have their breakfast. Another strange thing is that regardless of the room type, you only have two breakfast entitlement.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1015 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1016A breakfast meal in Marzon can cost between P150 and P170.

The kids ordered waffles and the serving is quite huge for my standard.

After their breakfast, the kids can’t wait to change it to their swimwear for the beach. Three of our members have sign up for island hopping and will be back by 1300hrs.

One thing good about White Beach is that the slope is gradual. So there isn’t a steep drop even at 30m away from the beach. However still keep an eye on your kids when they are near or in the water. Safety always comes first!

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1052 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1054 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1115We stayed at the beach till around 1030hrs when we have enough of “sun”.

The kids washed up and stayed in the room for TV. Around 1200hrs, I ask our group for lunch suggestion and was surprised that the members that went for island hopping is back.

I then suggest we go to Talipapa for some seafood. I have missed out Talipapa on our first visit and thanks for Tripadvisor, someone in the forum has given me a more precise location of Talipapa.

There are two Talipapa in Boracay. One is the old one where the wet market no longer exist and there is another one near to Regency which has the wet market.

If you are lost, just follow these directions.

Walk towards Station 2 until you see this sign.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1235Walk into the alley until you see the next sign. Follow the sign direction.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1232Continue walking until you see the wet market.

We do not know which kitchen is the better one so we choose the one that has the least people so it can accommodate the 11 of us.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1220The rest of the members went out to buy the ingredients where I am sitting at the restaurant perspiring.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1204 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1205 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1206 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1209In less than 15mins, they are back with fish, squid, prawns, mussels and some vegetables.

I do not know exactly how they charge for cooking but there is a menu like the cooking cost for squid with curry is 180, mussel with soup is like P200 etc.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1216 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1217 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1219Most of the food turn out to be quite nice except for the pork.The total bill comes out to be around P4200 with P1500 cooking fee included.

My friends this is much better what we have last night in Asian Kitchen.

During lunch, the members that went for the island hopping mentioned that the trip is a disappointment.

Crocodile island waters are murky and there isn’t much marine life there too.

Talipapa also have a small market where you can buy souvenirs.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1222 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1229 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1230 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1233We then slowly walk back to our hotel and the kids have another round of Mcdonald’s dessert at the kiosk. I should have open one instead so I can retire in Boracay.

We slowly walk back to the hotel to take a rest and to meet up again on 1645hrs.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1237 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1239 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1241While the rest of the members rest, I can’t help but to stroll along the white beach. It is just beautiful.

Though Boracay is very touristy but the vibe is not enough to make me hate that place. The Boracay 30 years ago must be awesome where there is no electricity and the sand is whiter than now.

We re-group at 1645hrs and walk towards Red Pirates for our sunset sailing.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1277It is sad to see that the sails of the Red PIrates banca has become white, I remembered it used to be red.

We split into two groups into two boats.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1278To me, this is the number one reason to return to Boracay; Sunset sailing.

The boat sail out straight to Station 1 and then turn north of white beach facing the sun. After which they turn left back heading back to Station 3.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1311 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1360 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1436 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1562The sunset of Boracay is really amazing. Unfortunately like in El Nido I am not able to get a good shot when on the paraw. Maybe some memories are destined to be captured in our heart and not on photographs so we will cherish them even more.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1621 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1640 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1706Though the whole trip is less than an hour but I still find it worth it with Red Pirates.

After the sunset sailing, our original intention is to go to Blue Mango for dinner but they are having a Thanksgiving dinner so no dinner will be served. I was upset because I really like their Chicken Bicol Express.

I then suggest having Thai food. Not wanting to walk anymore so the rest agree.

I return to Sulu Inn for Thai food.

We ordered shrimp cake, Pad Thai, fried rice etc.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1851 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1852 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1859Again it is still way off from the original Thai but it is good enough. It is not awful either it is just that the cooking style may have local flavour incorporated in.

We just sat there to chat while the kids have fun along the beach. Soon the kids want their dessert fix again and I soon find myself in front of the Mcdonald’s dessert kiosk.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1861After that I return back to Sulu to continue to chat with them a while more.

Soon we decide to call it a day.

Today indeed is a wonderful day.

Day 7 – 29th November

A sad day for me as we will leave Boracay today. Our flight is 1230hrs but Cebu Pacific changed it to 1250hrs without informing us.

I woke up at 0430hrs and go to the beach to catch the day break. It was very nice sitting on the beach enjoying the sea breeze.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2153 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2155

The rest get up early for breakfast and check out at 0830hrs. We took the trike to the Boracay jetty and found out that the terminal fee has increased to P100 too with no visible improvement of the terminal.

I gave up thinking about it.

At Boracay jetty, you can buy a ticket to Kalibo with ferry included for P200. We did not choose this option. We just bought the P25 ferry tickets.

We board the boat and we found ourselves in Caticlan at 0915hrs. I never expect we need 45mins to reach Caticlan.

Once you are in Caticlan, there are many transport vendor there and they will approach you offer their service to Kalibo.

I dread about the trip to Kalibo as my previous experience was bad. The drivers drove like there is no tomorrow. The van conditions are poor too.

Just as we exit the terminal, someone approach us and offer to bring all of us to Kalibo. I have a look at the van and it was pretty new. The cost of booking the whole van is about P1500. The van can seat 8 to 9 adults comfortably at the back.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2305So we took it and soon we are on our way to Kalibo.

Fortunately the driver is not a descendant of Michael Schumacher. He drove within our comfortable limit. This time I can really enjoy the ride and the ride is quite scenic. My friends are surprised that Philippines has such scenic drive.

This is a huge contrast of my previous experience.

During the drive to Kalibo, I heard a familiar song from CD that the driver is playing. It is the Filipino song that was played when I travel to the airport in Cebu and my trip from Angeles City to Mount PInatubo. I was very attracted to this song.

Once we reach Kalibo airport, I offer to buy the CD for P50. He gladly sell it to me. I know I have overpaid for it because you can get such a CD for P20!

So if anyone can identify this song for me, please let me know!

I have forewarn my friends about the condition of Kalibo airport. I told them it is like a zoo.

True enough, the airport is pack with people that we can’t even get into the terminal.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2307The queue for each airline is long and there are hordes of Korean tourist group. After we check-in, we then found out the terminal fee of Kalibo has increased to P100!

I also found a notice that the CAAP has given a timeline of the impending increase in terminal fee for several airports in 2014 and 2015!

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2310Our flight arrival is late and the air condition system of the plane is faulty so the airline have to fix it. By the time we took off, it is already one hour behind schedule.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2312I think the pilot turn on the plane after burner, we reach Manila in 50 mins and thankfully there is no major congestion at the airport.

When we exit the terminal, we are surprised to see huge traffic jam just outside the airport. Both the fix rate and yellow taxi rank have long queue of passengers but no taxi in sight.

As the kids are tired, we opt for the more expensive ride; P600 to Makati. Even with this option, we still have to wait for 20 mins for the vehicle to arrive.

It is almost 1700hrs when we  reach BSA Tower. We quickly get ourselves ready for dinner and we are all famished!

The group wanted to try Chinese food but I can’t think of any except Hup Chan. Yup, I have limited knowledge about food so I suggest we go to Max restaurant instead.

They agree and soon we are gulping down food. The verdict is that my friends quite enjoyed the food in Max. They also like the Crispy Pata!

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2335 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2338 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2342 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2345 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2347 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2348After that we just do some window shopping and call it a day.

Day 8 – 30th November

One of the members went to trek Mount Taal and the rest of us decide to do some shopping. Since I am the tour leader, I suggest a more tourist friendly place like Greenhills.

We have our breakfast at Jollibee and then make our way to Greenhills. We stayed there about 3 hours and then proceed to Mall of Asia.

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2387 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2390 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2394 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2395 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2396 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2397 Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 2398Again after some shopping, I brought them to see the fireworks and my friends have the impression that it is sponsored by the Philippines government. I told them it is sponsored by SM.

We then go back to our hotel to prepare for next day departure.

For me, there is a Tripadvisor meet in Makati so I join them for about 30mins before I have to go back to report to my family.

It is good to see the rest of the forum members after 10 months and I finally met papalo and Trip@dora.

The real Papalo fit my imagination about him. A flamboyant guy with charisma. A funny guy indeed. I am still waiting for his resort to be build in Siquijor!

As for Trip@dora, I did ask her out for a meet up previously but she just disappeared after a few correspondence. I guess she must have thought that I am some sex predator. Hahahah!!!!

Overall, it is a nice meet though it is a short one. I really wished I could stayed longer.

Day 9 – 1st December

The day we depart the Philippines.

We took a taxi to the airport and the traffic is very light. The flight even leave on time!

Thankfully the trip went about without much hiccup. Other than me feeling sick throughout the trip, everything is good.

My friends impression about Philippines has been good too. They told me it is very different from what they have imagine.

They found that the Filipinos here are generally friendlier compared to the ones we encounter back home. The are also surprised by the food options available. Chinese, Thai, Filipino, American etc. You name it and you will almost have it.

They are also surprised what Boracay can offer. The sunset sailing is a blast and a unique experience for them. As they have been to Phuket, they feel that Boracay is more laid back.

Even the member that went for the Taal trip, she found her driver is very friendly and even offer to drop her off in Intramuros.

For me, El Nido island hopping is awesome. If I will to give Coron island hopping a score of 8 out of 10, El Nido will have a score of 8.1. El Nido just have a little edge over Coron for me.

Firstly it is the scenery of sailing between high cliff and El Nido is a little more livelier than Coron Town.

At the least El Nido has a beach though not a very good one.

I really need a long time to recuperate this time round. So no more Philippines trip for the next 6 months!

Philippines - El Nido & Boracay - 2013 1803

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4 thoughts on “Philippines – El Nido and Boracay – 23rd November ~ 1st December 2013

  1. Hi, the title of the Tagalog song is “Ikaw Pa Rin” by Ted Ito. 🙂
    It’s a nice song.
    And I’ve enjoyed reading your travel blog entries. Thanks for the all the information.

    -Jen

  2. As usual, another entertaiing blog report, I shared your blog site to my Singaporean friends who are keen on travelling to Pp.
    Love that song too, the japanese version is very nice too

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