After two weeks on the island of Luzon it was time to explore the Philippines by Boat. We took the ferry to Coron. I remember images of ferries on TV, years ago: ferries packed with so many people and wares that they sometimes capsized. When we heard we had to stay in dorms we were a bit anxious about what we would find.
However, the organization was top. The boat clean, assigned bunk beds, enough space, well organized, super friendly staff, a (meager) meal was included, but you could also buy food and you could refill your water bottle. It was perfect.
Coron and Bintuang
While we had booked the ferry to Palawan, stories of others travelers made us disembark at Coron. And so there we stood at 5 a.m. At least the advantage of the tropics is that even if you have to wait outside for a while because everything is still closed, the temperatures are pleasant.
We liked Coron, even though it’s just a string of not particularly attractive houses, restaurants and travel agencies along the shore. It had a kind nice of hustle and bustle about it, we felt. We found the Krystal Lodge, accessible after walking across a long walkway – a lot of the places along the shore are built in the water on stilts.
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It offered a beautiful view of the sea, with islands in front of it. Krystal, one of the family owners of the place, and her sister-in-law were incredibly nice and helpful. We felt at home and hang around for a couple of days, reading a book and renting a motorcycle for a day.
The motorcycle trip was fun, feeling free to go and stop where we wanted. It wasn’t the most scenic motorcycle trip imaginable, but we enjoyed nevertheless. As on one of our stops under palm trees, looking out of the ocean, we figured this would be a great way of exploring the Philippines (if you can’t bring your car). Buy/rent a small motorcycle, bring camping equipment and off you go.
The motorcycle rental place is at the far end of town. When you rent a motorcycle you can then stay with the owner’s family in the nearby village of Bintuang. This is how we met Mr. Guido and his wife Victoria. We stayed here for a couple of days, reading more books, spending time with each other, and one morning Mr. Guido took us snorkeling.
Many people come to Coron to dive and see shipwrecks from WWII. Here, near Bintuang lies the only wreck you can see when snorkeling, plus there is a beautiful stretch along the shore with corals.
What we Loved Best and Least about Exploring the Philippines by Boat
Our stay with Mr. Guido and his wife in Bintuang. When snorkeling we could take as long as we wanted, which we realized was a privilege after a tour group from Coron arrived and the tourists had barely ten minutes to snorkel before instructed to move on.We also loved the fantastic vegetarian meals downtown Coron (at Restaurant La Brujita, serving vegetarian, local and international food).
Way too many tourists. Having said that, what pleased us – not being party animals at all – was that here, but also elsewhere they enforce quiet nights. No huge, loud partying until deep at night (maybe at far-away, well-isolated places, I don’t know). Despite what you may expect at such a big (young) backpackers’ scene, it was peacefully quiet at night.
El Nido & Port Barton
Off to the next island: Palawan. That’s what you do here, after all, island hopping, in one form or another. It was a day ferry, about seven hours. Again clean, enough seats and life jackets, a good meal for lunch. The last part of the trip was quite spectacular, through karst cliff islands and it was easy to see how idyllic El Nido once must have been: a white beach along turquoise waters against a backdrop of mountains.
Now it’s completely built up with everything for the tourist infrastructure. We found a guesthouse with a balcony offering a great view of the bay, which at the end of the day filled with outrigged boats that returned from day trips to surrounding beaches and snorkeling paradise. We enjoyed yet another book and worked on our computers (WIFI has been miserably slow everywhere in this country), and sat on the beach at night with a beer.
Time to move on. This time in an SUV with a bunch of travelers to a much lesser developed place: Port Barton. If they don’t regulate it, it will soon grow into another El Nido. For now, while the focus is on tourism, the town is still small with unpaved roads and a long stretch of beach for sunbathing and swimming. A more tropical-on-the-beach-kind-of-vacation spot, if you like.
Late afternoon swim and evening strolls were a good way to end this trip.
From here we took another SUV to Puerto Princessa, flew to Manila, and were off to our next destination where hopefully we’ll soon have our home on wheels back: South Korea.
Back to overlanding!
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