Sunday 18 October 2015

The Philippine Islands - part II

In Puerto we stayed in Villa Travelista Travel Lodge, a small homestay type of accommodation run by the family living there. We stayed there for two nights with the husband and wife and their latest daughter. If I remember well, they had 4 daughters and maybe even a son. Two of the daughters were Miss Palawan at least. The latest was more interested in watching TV at home. The lodge is located out of tourist's way. I quite enjoyed it, although it was full of mosquitoes.

Puerto is a little town without very much of interest in itself. So we rented motorcycles the following day and went out to Viet Village, an almost abandoned village that had been built for Vietnamese refugees.

Street name shield in Viet Ville

An extract from
Vietnamese migrants first began arriving in the Philippines after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. The boat people who arrived in the country were given aid and shelter, unlike other Asian countries where they were persecuted and abused. But when the refugee program ended, the Palawan camp was declared closed in 1996, and the Vietnamese left behind were set for forced repatriation. Nguyen Van Lam, assistant administrator of Viet-Ville says the community, which includes numerous houses, a noodle factory, two French bread bakeries, Catholic and Protestant churches and a Buddhist temple, now has only about 150 residents. Viet-Ville, a small community of Vietnamese refugees in Palawan, has stood as a symbol of local hospitality and tolerance.It has become a tourist attraction, providing a taste of Vietnamese culture and French-Vietnamese cuisine to both local and foreign visitors. But it is now facing a looming crisis: it is running out of Vietnamese.

From there we went further north on a nice winding road. We drove until once more, the rain decided to pour down on us. We stopped at a petrol station for about 15 minutes, until it slowed down. We put on our rain ponchos and took off to look for a place to eat. It was Sunday, and not much was open. We found a small place that had opened especially for the people going to church. Luckily, there weren't too many people wanting to eat, and we were served quickly.

Small eatery in Bacungan

As it turned out, we chose the right fork off the main highway, because we saw that it led to Nagtabon beach. The lady at Travelista told us about it, and we decided to go there. The rain was almost over, and we decided it was worth a look at least. A few kilometres further, there was a gravel/stone track down to the beach. It was a little bit tricky for some, but we managed without an accident. Down at the beach, we were rewarded with a remarkable view of the local jungle surrounding the small bay area. 

Group of students on Nagtabon beach

A view of Nagtabon beach

We met a group of young folks on the beach with whom with talked a while. They were students from different fields enjoying there week-end at the beach drinking rhum and having fun. At around 3 or 4 we decided to leave because we didn't want to drive at night. We followed the road a little further northward to check out the view and again, were nicely rewarded with a hilly view of the countryside behind the beach. Afterwards we returned to Puerto and went to Baywalk, where the tourists go for sunset. Sunset was amazing. This is also where we met the Israeli couple on honeymoon for the first time. Apart from them, we met a lot of Israeli people, as it was an Israeli holiday during that period.

Sunset in Puerto Princesa

The following morning was spent looking for some artefacts for Caribou, but he didn't find any, and for checking out what was next on our trip. We didn't exactly know where to go from there (north was sure because Camembert was not confident going to the out-of-the-way south). So we stopped at a couple of travel agencies until we found a nice lady explaining to us how nice Port Barton is. She showed us a couple of pictures of her in P.B. on her smartphone to entice us even further. That's how our next stop was decided. It was also decided to leave Puerto the following morning, as we didn't really know what we should further do around there. From our point of view, it turned out to be the best decision.

Caribou quite unsure about the gravel road

The minivan to Port Barton, of which there is only one service running, took us about 4 hours. During the trip, we got acquainted with a German girl going back to P.B. to become a yoga instructor. The last hour or so, we spent on a dirt track full of holes (due to rains) and squeezed between other people who were picked up on the road. Reminded me of Africa, except, we could've picked up even more.

Caribou taking a picture under a basketball hoop

Camembert playing basketball on the road with some kids

We spent our first afternoon settling into a nice beach hotel with an upper deck to read, chill and relax, swim in the sea and later having dinner and drinks with the German girl and another soon to be instructor from Columbia/Mexico/Chicago. Tlawil, with her Aztec name walks on naked people. That's how she describes her occupation. She does that to give people massages. She was kind enough to give us all a small sample.

The rest of the 3 to 4 days in Port Barton were spent eating, resting, walking around and swimming in the ocean.

Activity in Port Barton

One day I followed a path to some other village called Pamuayan where there is a beautiful beach with barely any hut visible. The village is only accessible with this trail.

Walking around

Local cowgirl on a carabao

Another day I followed the same path until the road sign where it split off to the waterfall.

Pamuayan village with its empty beach

After Port Barton we went to El Nido. We didn't stop in between anymore, as there was no real interest point to us. There were some minor interests, but we also wanted to go diving. 4 days of farniente was all it took to get us active again.

Whole fried fish in our hotel

Upon reaching El Nido, we looked around the dive shops until we found a French guy selling cakes, burgers and other really tasty things. He told us about Aquanaut and that's whom we ended up diving with for our first 3 dives in the Philippines.

The French owner of the shop told us his shop is a franchise of his daughter's shop in Toulouse. She had studied with a really old Jew in New York who taught her many good recipes. The owner and his wife went to Toulouse to take a course with his daughter, and then came back to set up the shop. If you stop there, go eat something and say hello. It's located opposite Aquanaut dive centre. Don't ask me its name though...

Crocodile fish in Coron

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