Philippines – El Nido, That Was the Place That Was

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines, May 2016. So, as this visit to El nido draws to a close time to look back and reflect on whether the stay here was a price worth paying?
El Nido is a dump! that was my initial view on arrival after having ridden on a crowded bus for 7 hours. A view exasperated a few hours later when I couldn’t find any local food to eat and a view exasperated even further with the realisation the place is over run with Westerners and of the boozy kind at that – boisterous, raucous, how little sleep do I need? So, well and truly stuck in a tourist trap, forced to eat tourist food with drunken tourists and with accommodation on the pricey side here, all the ingredients for less than  satisfactory trip! Why did I come to El Nido? because all the blogs and research says “it’s a wonderful place to be”.
undeniably the scenery offshore is stunning.That wow factor kicks in immediately then wears off after about an hour as one gets used to the array of lush green islands, shaded blue sea and a blue sky. The town itself actually does have a mildly picturesque element to it – that is when the hundreds of tourist boats have left the beach front. The small crescent beach fronting the harbor with a few local fishing boats anchored gives the place an air of tranquility from 10am until about lunch time. Then its boom boom base and boobs from the likes of the reggae bar and others as the peace is shattered among the other competing bars here.
Well, it took a few days but life in El Nido has improved significantly. No longer do I have to suffer the expensive tourist food after finding a local canteen and the discovery of a small beach where I can hangout and be lazy and not see another drunken tourist for hours! Oh and drink coffee while tapping into the Wifi and its a pretty decent wifi at that. The only people to hangout with here are the Filipino family that run the place – Garden Bay.
So, with basic costs of hanging-out averaging around £12 per day (£9 room, £3 food and drink) I’d say this trip to El Nido was worth the price to experience those natural wonders off the Palawan coast. The cost will of course escalate for those eating tourist food 3 times a day and taking the rather pricey tours around the bay, not to mention the alcoholic intake. But then from my observations most visitors here only stay 1 to 2 days before move on.
Will I return? no. On the whole, its an expensive stay (not dorm) compared to other developing towns – Cambodia’s Sihanoukville for example is half the price and that includes Island hopping tours! Its just this time I got lucky with the guest house allowing me my own coffee and letting me eat their food for free – Austria’s Place, Real Street. Awesome, from the king of frugality go, check it out!
Having traveled extensively across Asia, I’d say there’s better value elsewhere. Indonesia for example offers much better value for money if one is seeking island hopping and a subsea experience. Consider a trip to Southern Cambodia – value for money here is unrivaled with Island hopping trips and Island camp-outs – happy travels 🙂

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