Travelationship Review July 2016

Our Travelationship in Review: July 2016

By: Heather

July had its ups or downs with not much in between. The month started out strong. We finished up our time in Cape Town with a couple walking tours, which included a bit of the street art in the Old District Six and Fringe Street area. As we left Cape Town, we promised we would return, but our next visit will be in their Spring or Autumn months instead of their winter months.

Heather, Matt and Table Mountain.

Heather, Matt and Table Mountain.

From South Africa, we flew to Palawan, Philippines via Dubai and Manila. The weather held out nicely for us until our last week. Then it was riddled with cloudy skies and long rains. The beginning and middle of the month were loaded with sun and tolerable temperatures, which got us motivated to be in the water as much as possible. One of the earlier days we rented a motorbike and drove out of town to a beautiful beach called Nagtabon. The day we went the weather and the water was perfect. Sadly, this beach has recently gained lots of attention and is picking up in the number of visitors. Get there soon if you want to see it before it becomes too commercialized. Our favorite beach in Puerto Princesa was at the Microtel Hotel next to the Emerald Playa Beach and Nature Park. The beach was close to us, so we spent a few days enjoying the views.

Our favorite beach.

Our favorite beach.

We spent one day traveling to/from the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. We are still on the fence about the experience, but we do wish we had spent at least a night in the Sabang area where the cave was located. Lots of hiking and outdoor activities and the area was gorgeous. On the way back from the PPSRNP we stopped at Hundred Caves, which was probably our favorite non-water activity on Palawan. The Hundred Caves is a new attraction located next to the popular Ugong Rock off of Mile 63/64. At the time of our visit, the caves weren’t officially opened yet. They were in the process of getting their final authorizations from the government. Because they are not officially open, they can still give tours but can not charge. Our tour was based on donation only, and it was so good we were glad to pay for the visit. Once open, cavers will be able to choose from 3 different tours (a 4th tour will be available for researchers). We took tours A and B, and it took us a little over an hour. The trek required some physical effort, mostly climbing and bending. We really enjoyed this place and are looking forward to sharing more information about the caves soon.

Hitting the roads on Palawan.

Hitting the roads on Palawan.

Headed out of the Underground River.

Headed out of the Underground River.

All the time in the water and humid caves seemed to wreak havoc on our sinuses, and we both came down with sinus infections and an ear infection, for me. We visited the local hospital three different times and still did not end up getting correct prescriptions. We were both in bed for about a week. Matt is almost feeling back to normal, and I am still struggling with sinus issues and most likely have some ear drum damage. We were not comfortable going back to any doctor in Palawan, so I will be seeking out a specialist for my ear in Indonesia.

We ate way too much all month long. Our favorites included pancit bihon, pork lumpia, longanisa, calamansi juice and our favorite dessert all month was ube/taro ice cream or cake. The staff at Balay Tuko in Puerto Princesa kept us fed with their delicious homemade food. The island hopping tour we took with BiniBini Travel and our dive/snorkel day with Palawan Divers served us some really great food. I especially liked the mussels, and we both loved the eggplant salsa from BiniBini. The chicken and pork adobo from Palawan Divers was exceptionally good. We tried a few different restaurants in PP and El Nido. Our favorite was V and V Bagel in El Nido. I know, I know not very worldly to eat bagels in the Philippines, but we haven’t had a bagel in probably over a year. Matt also had some deelish fried chicken, and I had scrumptious sautéed shrimp at a restaurant on the main road from the beach. Unfortunately, we don’t remember the name and can not find it on any map.

Considering we had about two weeks of illness and crap weather, we still managed to close the month feeling good about our time on Palawan island. Sure we wish we could have seen El Nido at it’s best, but damn that place is even breathtaking in a black-skied thunderstorm downpour. Guess we will just have to come back soon to see it all again.

The Stops

South Africa: Cape Town
Philippines: Manila, Puerto Princesa, El Nido

The Great

Palawan, Philippines was voted by several sources as one of the top islands in the world. We did not see Palawan at it’s best, and we thought quite a few parts were stunning. If you are interested in visiting Palawan, we highly suggest you visit soon. We felt the place was busy, even though it was considered off season. Don’t want to imagine what it would be like at peak season. We enjoyed our time but figured what we would do differently and better.

Travelationship Review July 2016

Every time we hit the water was a great day! Crystal clear, blue waters for miles and miles. What we were really shocked about was we saw just as much and a few times even better sea life snorkeling than we did scuba diving. Matt got to see a turtle, a white spotted eagle ray, a couple blue spotted lagoon rays, an electric clam (it literally lights up), shrimp, crabs, tons of fish and corals up close on his solo dive. On our dive and snorkeling together we saw turtles from the boat, a snake, lots of fish and corals.

Blue Spotted Lagoon Ray.

Blue Spotted Lagoon Ray.

A Lionfish among the corral.

A Lionfish among the corral.

Hundred Caves by far our favorite dry activity on the island. The tour guides and management of the facility are what put Hundred Caves at the top of our to-do list. Their enthusiasm and passion for the work they have done and continue to do preserving and researching the cave system were contagious and fascinating. We admit being one of the firsts to visit the caves was pretty darn cool.

A Hundred Caves.

Trekking through a Hundred Caves.

Trekking through a Hundred Caves.

I grew up eating Lumpia, Pancit, Adobo and Longanisa on occasion. For the first week, all I ate were those four meals. For dessert, we (Matt especially) indulged on Ube/Taro ice cream, cake, crackers, and cookies. Nope, we didn’t try anything crazy. Matt did try chicken and pork adobo (he thinks for the first time).

We are really excited to have met some wonderful people in July. The owners and staff at Balay Tuko in Puerto Princesa took such great care of us. We enjoyed every minute of our stay. Every Sunday Balay Tuko has a bowls game where locals and guests play a bit of a tournament. It starts in the early afternoon and ends at 7 pm when the kitchen promptly serves a huge buffet dinner. Matt had a fun time playing three different Sundays.

On our dive with Palawan Divers in El Nido, we met Molly, Michelle, and Heilly. All 3 of them made our day even better. Looking forward to staying in touch with these ladies and hearing about their future adventures.

The Not So Great

We both got sick and at the same time. Sinus infections and an ear infection kept us in bed for a week. And of course, the week we were in bed was the best weather of the month. We are both convinced the bacteria in the water, and the humid temperatures got the better of us.

We waited too long to get out and see things. We ended up having to cancel excursions because we didn’t take advantage of the good weather days while we were feeling healthy.

My ear has changed the way I function daily. My ear has not cleared properly, and I can not hear correctly out of my left ear. The issue forced me to sit out scuba diving in El Nido. I am still so disappointed I didn’t get to experience a dive in El Nido. I know it was for the better, but still, it sucks. I have waited four years to dive off of El Nido. Our medical experiences in Puerto Princesa were not helpful, and we both decided it best I wait until Indonesia to seek further advice regarding my ear. Hoping the meds hold up for the three different flights to get to Bali.

The Oops!, WTF?, LOLs – Lessons learned, head scratchers & hilarities

Oops! Let’s not do that again lessons

Go out and see things when the weather is good and you have time. Don’t procrastinate. We had a whole month on Palawan and thought we would space things out, and it bit us in the ass. We lost a week from illness and our last week because of poor weather. We missed out on a whole list of things we wanted to see and do.

Water Fun!

Water Fun!

Although we loved our set up at Balay Tuko in Puerto Princesa, we didn’t love Puerto Princesa. We had booked the entire month with BT to cut costs, but we ended up feeling like we missed out on parts of the island because we didn’t move around as much as we normally would. We thought Palawan was smaller, and it would take much less time to get to/from PP to other destinations on the island. Ends up, Palawan is quite large and the roads are slow going because of all the crazy turns and curves. I don’t think we will book ourselves into 1 location again for so long.

WTF? Did that really just happen?

Paying PHP 1100 / $22 USD for three hotdogs and two cans of soda. This lesson pains me so much because we really liked the owners of the place and just didn’t think to ask for prices before we ate. Stupid, stupid mistake, and we got stuck in a total rip off. Best tip – Bring your own food to the remote beaches. I’m indecisive about publicly outing the way overpriced establishment because it was our own fault for not asking first. If you find yourself in Palawan and want to avoid the place, direct message us and we will let you know the name.

We continue to see asshole tourists who treat locals and the environment poorly. Palawan’s waters were some of the most beautiful waters we had ever seen, and the coral life was some of the most traumatized we had ever seen. Our guides and other guides we heard stress to swimmers/snorkelers/divers to stay off the corals, only swim within designated areas, don’t touch any animal life, be respectful, don’t litter, but we consistently saw people disobeying the above rules. Plans for stricter regulations are in the works for Palawan but the damage already done looks devastating.

LOLs our laugh out loud hilarious moments

On one of our days in El Nido, we took an island hopping/snorkeling/kayaking tour with BiniBini Travels. At our lunch stop, we had time to snorkel before the food was ready, so Matt and I walked to the end of the beach to check out the corals and fish. We geared up, Matt asked if I was ready, I put my snorkel in my mouth, nod my head and face plant myself into the water. In a split second, everything goes blurry, my eyes burn, I think I am going to lose my contact lenses, I think I broke my goggles, I panic just a tinge, and pull my head up as quick as possible. I can see, I haven’t broken my mask, and I’m a dork. My mask is sitting atop my head instead of on my face. In my excitement, I forgot to lower my mask to cover my eyes. Matt and I are still laughing and wish we had had the GoPro rolling to catch it all on video.

While we were ill, Matt had heard from our hotel friends that there was a taco stand at one of the open market eatery locations in town. He spent days thinking about Mexican food and cheese. After about five days of obsessing about it, and we were feeling better we hopped on a tricycle and rode into town. We walked about half way through the market and found the taco stand. It was dark and the window and door were locked shut. On the door hung a tiny note stating, “Not normally closed today. Will be open regular hours tomorrow”. Matt was so disappointed. As we arrived back to our hotel, the staff was excited to ask Matt how he liked the food. Poor guy had to relive his fierce disappointment several times as he dramatically explained they were closed. His theatrics while describing his ordeal caused us all to laugh (including himself). BTW, see our August review to find out if he ever did get his Mexican food in the Philippines or not.

One of the days while in Puerto Princesa we decided to spend a few hours at Pristine Beach. It was low tide, so we had to walk out a fair distance to reach a water line up to our shoulders. The location just happened to be next to an underwater grassy area where a few creatures live. After walking out barefoot, we donned our goggles and dunked our heads. We saw a few fish but nothing too overwhelming until I saw what looked like a striped snake next to my foot. Not knowing if it was a snake or eel or venomous, I started to yell at Matt to come and pull me away. I was trying to swim but just seemed to be treading water instead of moving. When Matt asked me what I needed, I told him I saw a snake. He looked at me like I was crazy and said he was not going near the snake. I moved away enough to put my feet down again, Matt came over and then I convinced him to come with me to find it again. I don’t mind snakes, but I don’t like being surprised by a snake. Matt squealed & squirmed the entire time because he absolutely hates snakes. We found it again, and it was a little thing just laying on the seafloor for anyone to step on him. The rest of our time at the beach we danced around and wouldn’t put our feet down because we were scared we would get a snake stuck in between our toes.

Yes, the snake is tiny (just left of center).

Yes, the snake is tiny (just left of center).

The Posts

Our Ears and Eyes

Heather

Still working on finishing “Out of Africa” by Karen Blixen (But I did manage to watch the movie)

Matt

The Accident” by Linwood Barclay
Never Saw It Coming” by Linwood Barclay
Podcasts: The Adam Carolla Show

Up Next

We will depart the Philippines early in the month for a night in Singapore. We hope to see a few sites during our 20-hour layover. From Singapore, we will fly to Indonesia for the rest of the August. We haven’t finalized our plan while in Indonesia but hope to visit places in and around Bali, Lombok, Raja Ampat, Borneo, Sumatra, Komodo, and Rinca. I have no doubt this island list will change once we arrive. My biggest goal is to get my ear healed, so we both can get some dives logged while in Indonesia. We’ve also heard Indonesian food is incredible, and we are ready to eat some delicious healthy meals.

Have any suggestions on where we should go next? Let us know in the comments!

Travelationship Review July 2016

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Comments 19

  1. Pingback: Travelationship in Review: August 2016 - Travelationship

  2. Wow busy July! Glad to hear you enjoyed Cape Town, we heading that way next weekend. (Amazing city)
    Hope you have an awesome time in Singapore and Indonesia.

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  3. You have had a very happening run till July, never a dull moment. A pity that you had to be confined to bed for a week. But all the beautiful experiences and the crystal clear waters of the sea in the Philippines would have definitely made up for all that.

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  4. Great month guys!
    Unfortunately a lot of tourist just don’t care about the environment. We saw a huge diference on marine life in Koh Tao,Thailand in just one year. Last year there were so many fishes and vivid corals. This year there were few fishes and dead corals, so sad 🙁

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      It is so frustrating and heartbreaking to see such ignorance…but it is also frustrating to see the local governments not enforcing or creating regulations to save their own nature. Education needs to be enhanced on how to respect our nature.

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  5. ahhh I hate getting sick while travelling. Actually it happened to be in Hawaii and I choose to dive and burst my ear drum…. But I saw a turtle so kinda worth it 😛

    And $22 USD for a hot-dog…God I hate that you just can’t trust people. I love to be trusting and feel awkward asking price if its not given but you need to really 🙁 Sad. But amazing July otherwise!

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  6. I love reading adventures of diving travellers so loved your tips here, thanks! We plan to visit the Philippines and am grateful you mentioned that sometimes you see just as much from snorkelling as you do diving 🙂 It’s so disappointing not being able to dive due to sickness, hope all is well now 🙂 As for places to visit in Borneo, we stayed on Mabul with Scuba Junkie who also have a place in Komodo – check them out on Trip Advisor, they always receive rave reviews! We are returning to Mabul this Christmas and from here you can dive Sipidan 🙂 Let me know if you make it!

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  7. Such a shame about the ears, but I can’t wait to hear and see some of the spots you dive (given Indonesia is so ‘close’ to home for us).

    Maybe double check your mask in first though 😉

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