The Promise of El Nido: Beaches. Coves. Lagoons. 💚

A paradise for sea lovers.

Acclaimed as the most beautiful island in the world, Palawan has a reputation that speaks for itself. During the five days we’d spent on this island, it was hard not to fall in love with the luscious forest and white sand beaches. And of course, the most remarkable of all–the lagoons. Small, big, blue, secret, hidden, not so secret… majestic lagoons.

And this was how it all started…

A year ago, a piso fare promo went up on the Air Asia website. My high school friends and I had traveled here and there, but mostly we just went to places like Quezon, Zambales or Ilocos. These were places that could be readily reached by the bus. But like all travel enthusiasts, we all wanted to go to El Nido, Palawan. It’s a highly recommended, ultimate getaway destination. So when the opportunity came, we went ahead and grabbed it.

Fast forward to July 23, 2016.

10:00am

Scenario: Heavy traffic on the way to the airport.

Other scenario: We’re hungry.

Other, other scenario: We’re soooooooo excited.

It was my first plane trip in the last ten years. The last one was so eventful that I never forgot it. I kind of expected the same thing to happen. I was preparing my mind for turbulence or air pocket. Hahaha, thankfully there had been no such thing. It was a comfortable ride to and fro Palawan.

Thanks, Air Asia! What a budget friendly yet comfy way to get to your destination.

So the bags were ready and off we go. According to the weather forecast, it would be raining for the next few days. But anyone who lives in the Philippines knows how to hold on to some hope. As long as there are no typhoons, there’s always a chance that the weather will be good. But yes, it was a bit raining when we got to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, where we would take a van to go to El Nido, Palawan.

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#rainyafternoon

There are several options on how to get to El Nido, Palawan. We chose the van option because… well, it was already there when we got out the airport. Haha! Well-thought. Well-thought. One thing that never gets old when it comes to creating fun memories during trips is doing things the spontaneous way. Like you know where you’ll be going, but taking chances on the how to get there is actually the fun part.

It was around three in the afternoon when we landed in Puerto Princesa airport. We made some arrangements for the van ride (which was expected to be five to seven hours). A little food hunting and off we go…

…or at least that was the plan.

We waited a bit more for a few more passengers to fill the van. So while waiting, we came up with this ‘brilliant’ idea–to draw the drawing friend who said he would come but he didn’t. 😂 ‘Drawing’ is the term we use whenever someone says he will do something but ends up not doing it, or when he says he will go but will not come all of a sudden. It’s literally like drawing on a piece of paper and that’s it. It won’t materialize. In the end, it will stay as a ‘drawing’.

Thus, the term.

So while idling around, Derrick (left part of the photo) started drawing Jem on pictures, as if he was with us. Wish you were here moment hahahahaha. And this was the first one:

5

Eventually, this drawing event became known as the ‘Chronicles of Jem’. And wait for it… El Nido Arc! We were so proud of ourselves. 😄

Oh, and in the end, they had transferred us to another van, where a family was already waiting. So instead of sending off two half-filled vans, they all placed us in one.

At around six in the evening–for real this time–off we went to El Nido, Palawan! 🙊

We traveled on the long and winding (x1000) road. Keep a tablet of Bonamine (anti-motion sickness medication) ready. You’ll need it. Or sleep for the entire ride. Whichever way worked. Sitting beside the window did the trick for me. As long as I kept my thoughts entertained by the view outside, the rough ride to El Nido was somehow forgotten.

We had two stops. One was two hours later to grab some dinner. I doubted that we had enough appetite, but we did eat. Next was unremarkable because most of us were sleeping. But if you needed to use the toilet, this would be of some help.

Moths and one bat casualties later, at around eleven in the evening, we finally arrived at El Nido, Palawan. We had a reservation with Casa Cecilia, and five warm beds were waiting for us when we got there. Casa Cecilia was actually one of the nicest accommodation we’d had in all our trips. I’ll highly recommend it. It was just a few minutes away from the beach and located right in the heart of the small town of El Nido, Palawan.

There are three options when booking accommodations in El Nido, Palawan.

  1. Corong-Corong.
    1. Pros: A nice stretch of golden sand beach, and an amazing sunset view.
    2. Cons: The shore, where the island hopping trips starts, is a tricycle ride away.
    3. I’ll recommend this if you want to spend more time at the beach than go to island hopping tours.
  2. Town proper
    1. Pros: You’re in the middle of everything–souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, etc.
    2. You don’t get to see the shore right when you open the window.
    3. I’ll still recommend this one out of the three. After all, the beach is just a few minutes away.
  3. The beach area.
    1. Pros: You see the beach 24/7.
    2. Cons: The beach is crowded during the day, when all the activities start.
    3. I’ll recommend this if you want a bit of nightlife.

So there you go. Calling it a night after one rough van ride, we were asleep before we knew it. 😄

 

July 24, 2016

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Hello, El Nido!

 After breakfast, we went ahead to our first tour. The first ones on our list were Tour C and D. It was an all-in-one package. They gave it to us for the price of one. I didn’t know if it was because we would do all the tours or what. Instead of just one tour package, they combined it. Maybe there was really such a thing.

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And you know what we did all day? We went from one beach to another. It was a beach hopping galore. Imagine the perfect beach, and then imagine another one after. It was like that the entire time.

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Helicopter Island

Aerial shot of this island–drone, where you; right, I don’t own one–would give you a helicopter-like shape of the island. It’s also known as Dilumacad Island.

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That’s me sitting on the rocky shore. For day one, I didn’t get to take a dip in the water. Take a guess and you’re probably right why. Imagine the feeling of just watching my friends enjoy the water and go from here and there, while I stayed on the boat (taking pictures and falling asleep until I remembered that I’d brought my headset with me and wished I had an audiobook on my phone and listened to music instead). Bookworms! I suddenly remembered that an audiobook would be perfect for the five hour ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. It would also be helpful if you were, like me, stuck on the boat or on the shore while they enjoyed the waves.

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Someone’s enjoying the sea so much.

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#tropagoals

After Helicopter Island, we passed by Matinloc Shrine. We didn’t get off, but instead we went ahead to the Hidden Beach. This was the start of my agony. And don’t even remind me of the Secret Beach. 😭

But I did enjoy taking pictures of them.

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From a distance, there’s the Hidden Beach. You have to swim all the way there or use a kayak.

Wish I was there moment…

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And from the view while sitting on the boat:

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Majestic. That was one word to describe these wonderful works of nature.

 

Lunchtime! I didn’t know where we were, but it was another beautiful beach. And happy me was able to go down and have a moment to sit on the white sand and take in the beauty of the place.

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Did I mention that we had a clear fine day for the first day of our trip? See? Ditch the weather forecast and hold on to hope when here in PH. 😂

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I could stay here on the shore for hours. Wake me up when you guys were done snorkeling.

We had a wonderful lunch (that was so well-presented). Unfortunately, no picture had been taken because we were so hungry at this point that Instagram was altogether forgotten.

p.s. Phone signals were good at some islands.

After this one, we headed to another beach… or they did. This was the Secret Beach. 😭 You have to swim all the way there and inside a little cave-like entrance.13738316_10208755533237638_86129336911722663_o.jpg

Next stop, Cadlao Lagoon!

This was my absolute favorite for our first tour. I was seriously mesmerized. I wished we could have stayed longer, but our boatman only drove us around the lagoon for several minutes. And of course, we hurriedly took pictures! 😁

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The jade-colored water was sparkling. And I seriously had no idea how that could be happening. It was like entering a fairyland.

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This shot was close to the real thing. The sun was resting on the waves as it glowed. Another more…

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That was why Cadlao Lagoon became one of my absolute favorites in El Nido, Palawan.

And after we exited  fairyland, we were off to another beach.

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This beach had the finest sand. It would remain unnamed until I’d be able to locate what it was called using Google. 😂

But if I was not mistaken, this might be Paradise Beach.

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If it was truly Paradise Beach, I wouldn’t be surprised. You could see how amazing and scenic the view had turned out to be in picture. A paradise, indeed.

Next, we went to Pasandingan Beach.

This was where I met the white crabs. And I was so holding a grudge because they didn’t let me take any picture of them. They were so fast. While my friends were swimming/snorkeling, I was hunting down those white crabs.

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The forest was so alive in this island.

And of course, the long stretch of white sand.

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And one more beach stop before we called it a day.

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#LifeinElNido

A candid shot. Not seen in the photo: a dog that Derrick was playing with. I was walking on the white sand, lost in wonder. The couple was talking near the boat. And Joyie was the one who took this picture, while she was enjoying her time in the ocean.

And a random drop off of passengers before going back hahahaha. Because they couldn’t get enough of the ocean, our boatman decided to let them enjoy the blue sea for the last time that day. Into the blue scenario.

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They were so terrified. 😂 They literally couldn’t see anything. It was like in movies when a shark would appear out of nowhere and take you alive. But you could see that they were enjoying it just the same.

For me, I watched the sun and the sea, a few minutes before dusk.

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Later that night, we were searching for a place to eat. Joyie randomly mentioned Art Cafe out of nowhere. I suddenly remembered Shim’s post about her eating in that cafe. So deciding that it might be a good place to eat, we went there.

It was a few minutes walk from Casa Cecilia. And that, my friends, led to us calling that place our hideout in El Nido.

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When in El Nido, this restaurant is a must try. You won’t regret it. We ordered five different meals that night and all of them tasted delicious. Service was also awesome.

Do order their bestseller–Seafood Pasta. And no one would ever forget their avocado ice cream. We ordered two scoops of avocado ice cream with one scoop of cheese flavored ice cream. It was so good.

And yeah, don’t ask what we did for the next two days. Clue: it involved  lot of avocado ice cream scoops. 😍

 

July 25 2016

The best Monday ever!

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El Nido during the day.

Don’t worry about toiletries and such. There were groceries stores here, even pharmacies if you suddenly felt a bit unwell.

So today was the day when I could finally join in the water activities. Agenda for today: Tour A. It was all about the lagoons.

But first, the Seven Commandos Beach.

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I was so excited to finally be able to join them in their underwater activities. So while Joyie was swimming and taking pictures (and she took off her life vest and snorkeling gears), I played with it, making it a flotation device here and there.

Until this happened…

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Um, that was my fault. I didn’t even notice that it fell while I was playing around with her life vest. We tried to pick it up using our foot, but to no avail. We had to call our boatman and ask for help. He got it in one dive. Okay. So much for our mundane struggle. 😅

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This was such a rare shot. Because one, I was afraid of underwater activities–fishes and all. The only thing that gets me interested when it comes to underwater stuffs are the corals. But we did see a lot of small jellyfish here. So tiny that you would readily miss them.

After the Seven Commandos, we went to Small Lagoon. This was my personal favorite for the day. I really did enjoy kayaking while sightseeing and gawking at these magnificent works of nature.

See vlog below for our 360 degrees turn. It was funny because we did it the first time and it turned out that the camera wasn’t recording, so we had to go back again and do it all over. It was fun.

And the place was so magnificent. My greatest regret was thinking that there wasn’t much to see, so I didn’t bring my camera. It turned out that the place was so beautiful for words. Never judge a lagoon by what you could see outside. Once you entered inside, you’d be out of words.

Lunchtime again! This was slowly turning to be our favorite time of the day. 13668642_10208756294936680_4239445064288250010_o.jpg

Menu for the day:

Liempo

Grilled fish

Pineaple

Watermelon

Rice

Crabs!!

After that wonderful meal, we were off to Big Lagoon!

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Need I say more? It was beautiful.

Um, shortly after, our boat encountered a small malfunction. It would have been nice to be stuck there in the Big Lagoon, but the boat untimely broke down a few distance from the exit of the lagoon.

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Well, aside from taking lots of pictures, the best person to see was the ice cream man, who was riding a boat, and yeah, selling ice creams. And the best thing to do? Enjoy a chocolate popsicle under the heat of the sun in the middle of nowhere.

A few minutes later, the boat was up and running again. We headed to the Secret Lagoon.

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It was a lagoon where you had to enter a small opening to get inside. Inside the Secret Lagoon:

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After that, snorkeling!

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Where there were fishes, you wouldn’t be able to find me. 😂 The fishes and I, we weren’t meant to be located together. I freaked out whenever they were near me. But my friends enjoyed this so much. You could tell by the amount of pictures with fishes that they’d taken.

 

Later that night, we were planning to try a local specialty here–the crocodile sisig. But funny thing was, when we got to the restaurant, they were close on Mondays.

Epic timing.

But we went ahead with our other plan: sunset viewing at Corong-Corong. It was a tricycle ride away from the town proper. And apparently, it had one of the best sunset views in El Nido.

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The golden sand of Corong-Corong. It was raining a bit where we were sitting.

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Why do you use an umbrella when watching sunset in El Nido during the month of July?

a. It was raining.

b. It was hot.

c. All of the above.

d. b more than a

Our answer: d  😂

So after the sunset viewing, we went back to town and searched for a place to eat. We badly wanted to go back to Art Cafe and end the search, but we’d decided to try another place.

We ended up in Squido, a local restaurant that had squid specialties. We ordered their bestseller–Mixed Seafood Curry. And yup, it was worth the long wait.

But then again, we couldn’t let go of Art Cafe yet. It’s dessert time!

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During our stay in El Nido, I think we were able to taste everything from the dessert menu. The technique was that all five of us would order different desserts and then we would taste everything. But I think that out of everything, the avocado ice cream won our hearts, hands down. And the espresso with ice cream. And the cheese flavored ice cream. And… well, you get the picture.

There was a thunderstorm happening a few miles away from where we were, but you could see it from the cafe’s veranda. I tried to take pictures of it, but to no avail.

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El Nido at night was peaceful. There was also a BPI ATM machine if you needed some cash.

And a view of the port:

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July 26, 2016

Last day! Sepanx kicked in a day before we actually left the place. This escapade was coming to an end, and you knew that you’d surely miss the place even before you left.

Tour B was all about caves and snorkeling and some more lovely beaches.

First stop, lunch. We were late for the last day of the tour. So the boatman brought us to Entalula Island and let us enjoy the beauty of the place while they prepared our lunch.

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It was simply breathtaking. And there was one funny story that happened to me while here on this island.

I really adore taking pictures. So they went ahead to snorkel while I took some more pictures of the place. I took my time, enjoying the scenery and going here and there.

When I was ready to catch up with them, I got bitten by something. It looked like a fly or a really unusual bee. It didn’t feel itchy or anything, but I got a bit paranoid because the bite was a bit painful compared to your average mosquito bite. And then I saw a reddish bump and a minuscule amount of blood. Nothing to worry about…

…well, until it decided that I was its prey for the day and wouldn’t let me be. It kept on biting me for some reason. I had no choice but to go back to shore and remove my life jacket. It turned out that it was attracted to my life jacket at first. And then, when I went to the other side of the shore, it kept on following me!

When I submerged myself into the water, it somehow decided to let me be. Finally, it went away. In the end, I didn’t get to join my friends while they snorkeled, as I got held back by this insect. Okay, I Googled it. It was a horse-fly. That painful bite! 😂

After that horse-fly incident, we went to Snake Island!

It was supposed to be a sandbar. But then, the water was high (up to waist-deep) that day and it was a bit raining at some places. So we got this situation instead:

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But whatever the situation was, when you were in the right company, you’d find ways to enjoy it. Like this one:

Now that’s what you call relationship goals. 😂 They weren’t real couple, but instead were childhood friends and neighbors. Derrick decided that it was tiring to walk all the way to the other side, so he asked Joyie to drag him.

On the way back, he was enjoying it so much that he buckled his life jacket with Joseph’s life jacket. 😂

Next one was Cudugnon Cave. The first cave for this tour. On the island, we saw some locals cleaning up the shore. We had a chat with them and asked about the place. You could actually rent the rooms on the island (I forgot for how much; I think it was around 12k Php) or camp overnight for only Php 200.

When it was our chance, our tour guide set up some life jacket in order for us not to get hurt by the rocks. Getting inside the cave was the tricky part.

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Forget about the cave smell (as all caves usually had the same smell), and take in this view.

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Creepy. LOL. That was the first part of the cave. It got better where sunlight was able to get in. Okay, it was still creepy there, for some reason.

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After this, another cave was waiting for us. Cathedral Cave!

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We were only allowed to pass by the cave and have a look. When my friends asked if they could snorkel, the answer was a big no. Our guides told us that there were sea snakes on this part of the ocean.

And last one on the list: Pinagbuyutan Island.

Coconut trees were everywhere. IMG_0665.JPG

However, the beach and the view remained splendid.

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With a heart full of memories and sand in the pockets of our shorts, we went back to shore washed over with melancholy and happiness just the same. 😊

 

And now, for the most-awaited crocodile sisig hunt. On our way to the restaurant for the second time, we met this friendly tricycle driver. And for the first time, we actually met a real tour guide. During the short trip from town to the restaurant, he told us stories about El Nido.

The original name of the place was Bacuit. I didn’t know if his succeeding story was accurate, and even the tour guide sounded unsure himself. But he said that the reason why it became Bacuit was that when the Spaniards first asked the locals about the name of the place, the local replied, “Bakit?” That was a Tagalog word for why. And so the name Bacuit.

“On June 17, 1954, Republic Act No. 1140 was approved changing the name of the town from Bacuit to its present name El Nido after the edible nests of swiftlets (collocalia fuciphaga), found in the crevices of its limestone cliffs. These nests, nido in Spanish, the main ingredient for the gourmet nido soup…” (from Wikipedia)

If only it was still early, we would have probably end up hiring him to take us on tour with his tricycle and just tell us stories. He was currently setting up a tour office with a relative of his. If he was the tour guide, I was certain that every trip would be enjoyable.

His contact details:

Mark Louie

0907-496-3413

Back to the crocodile sisig…

After a few minutes of waiting while watching Dolce Amore, the sisig was finally served. The texture was really good. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference right away, but it sort of had the same texture as chicken.

And guess what? We went back to Art Cafe to grab some dessert. This time, we got a table at their extension, the one facing the shore. It was such a tranquil place.

The avocado ice cream was so popular among us that we ordered everything with one scoop of avocado ice cream on top. 😁 This was what you called as panic buying. LOL. It was superb.

We had a great chat, which touched the topics of relationship, life, and eventually, ghost stories. There was no escaping this one. We stayed at the cafe until it closed at around eleven in the evening. And then we strolled around town some more before going back to our accommodation.

And you wouldn’t believe what happened later on.

We were watching the news and preparing to sleep, when all of a sudden, the lights went out. Hahahaha! What a great timing. We finally experienced the blackout in El Nido. And given our previous topic during dinner, we all huddled together on one bed. After a few minutes, the lights went on again. This time, it was the generator that had taken over while the blackout persisted.

I shortly fell asleep after. Two remained awake. One was using the bathroom when another blackout happened. LOL. Imagine that. Thankfully, our accommodation had a generator. The lights were back after a few seconds. And yeah, no ghosts or anything.

 

July 27, 2016

Goodbye, El Nido.

After having breakfast, we prepared for the ride back to Puerto Princesa. We left El Nido at around nine in the morning, and we arrived in Puerto Princesa at around two in the afternoon.

We had an ample time to see the city, before our 7:45 flight later that evening.

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We went to Baker’s Hill, a famous place here in the city. They were known for their breads and pastries. But we also came here for their…

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…which we didn’t get to eat. It was out of stock that day. Tamilok are shipworms. I was up for the challenge, but it was sadly unavailable. Maybe next time. Puerto Princesa City also has so much to offer.

Off to buy pasalubong (souvenirs).

Things to buy when in Palawan:

-Cashew Nuts

-Dried Squid (all kinds; they were all good)

-Breads and pastries from Baker’s Hill

-Crocodile sisig. The store could be found in the market. This one’s preserved and could last for three days w/o refrigerator or six months in freezer. Soooooo good.

-Pearl earrings

-Palawan rainmaker

-And whatever you feel like buying. Buy everything. 😂

 

For dinner, upon Janine’s recommendation, we went to Rene Saigon to grab some chaolong. It was a Vietnamese dish, which was very popular in Palawan. One word: delicious. And the staff were very friendly.

 

After that, it was time to say goodbye to this paradise. ‘Till we see you again, Palawan! ♥️

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THE CHRONICLES OF JEM (EL NIDO ARC)

#wishyouwerehere

Credits to:

-Joyie for her lovely pictures and videos that I also included on this blog.

-Derrick for the pics and for editing most of the pics in “Chronicles of Jem”.

We had a great laugh. 😄

 

Rough breakdown of expenses for those who are interested:

1,200 – Plane tickets (back and forth)

3,000 – Accommodation for four nights w/ free breakfast

1,400 – Tour C and D

1,000 – Tour A

1,000 – Tour B

1,000 – Van ride to El Nido (back and forth)

2,000 – Food expenses (Art Cafe, Squido, Crocodile Sisig, etc.)

300 – Tricycle rides expenses

Total: 10,900 Php

 

We did all tours when people usually do just Tour A and/or B. And then, when it came to food, we went all out. Told you, desserts. 😂

 

And here is the vlog:

 

Until next trip,

Freesia 💛

 

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One thought on “The Promise of El Nido: Beaches. Coves. Lagoons. 💚

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