Palawan: More than Just a Pretty Face *Video*

Erin_at_Secret_LagoonMost people come to Palawan for the insanely beautiful beaches. The island province wasn’t voted one of National Geographic’s 2011′s 20 Best Travel Destinations in the World for nothing. Here I am on my afternoon excursion to Secret Lagoon – unforgettable! Watch the video.
But what I think I like most about Palawan are its charming towns. Perhaps it’s because most of them don’t have electricity until 6:00 pm, nor do they have an ATM. Or that the towns are situated along one main street with no car traffic. Or it could be the province’s strict “no litter” law, so there’s no trash to be found, a rarity in a developing country.

All of these attributes enhance the islands’ picture perfect island setting. Here’re my three favorite destinations on Palawan:

El Nido: “The Nest” in Spanish, El Nido is named after the swift bird nests that are considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. With 30,000 inhabitants, the town has one main drag, Hama Street, which fronts the shoreline. Its town beach is just OK, but the little shops are full of character with colorful flags waving from their doorways.

Coron_on_Stilts_2El Nido is the jumping off point for some of the most amazing snorkeling I’ve ever done. Not just beautiful coral and an abundance of fish, but really weird underwater limestone rock formations that were carved 20 million years ago.

Admittedly, I got a bit banged up on all that beautiful coral during one of our island hopping tours. The tide was out and we had to navigate our way across the coral back to the boat. I got pretty badly scrapped up and took an anchor in the chest, resulting in blood streaming down my breasts. All this extracurricular excitement and I still think the place is amazing. That’s high praise indeed.

Coron: This bustling town of 32,000 is built on stilts overlooking Coron Bay. It has an active daily market, full of vegetables and fish and corresponding smells. Some of the hotels and most of the houses and bars are reached by walking down long elevated walkways made of bamboo. It’s a little perilous, even in daylight. And with luggage – nearly impossible.

I think Coron is a little town with aspiration. Perhaps because it is home to some of the most fascinating wreck diving in the world, with about a dozen WWII Japanese war ships sunk within an hour of its harbor. You get the feeling that it will be really built up over the next 10 years and you’re seeing the island before the tourist explosion hits.

Culion_Neighborhood_2Culion: Formerly the world’s largest leper colony, Culion was declared free of leprosy in 1999. It’s now trying to catch up to the world after almost 100 years of isolation. It’s a place full of hope and tenderness.

The people are both a bit shy and friendly. The older people especially all greeted me with a cheery “Hello!” And residents even ask me to take their picture. I passed out Hello Kitty stickers to the children and they seem genuinely happy as they lined up for their afternoon halo halo treat, a uniquely Filipino shaved ice concoction.

Culion is like stepping back in time with a mere 18,000 people and no cars. Men enjoy an afternoon siesta in swinging hammocks during the heat of the day and after school children run along the water’s ramparts. So very sweet.

Treasuring the Past in Palawan

Each of these three towns gave me a feeling of immense calm. I imagine that this is what life was like in some bygone era. I suggest you seize the opportunity to visit soon. You don’t get many chances to turn back the clock.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 4th, 2011 and is filed under Asia Pacific.

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