Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Colorful World: Palawan, Philippines

Traveling to the tropics confirms my belief in God's creativity: bright blue skies, fluffy white clouds, aqua water contrasting with white sand beaches, fruit in array of colors I didn't know existed, and sunsets that fill the sky with an infusion of stunning purples, blues, oranges that take my breath away. Every part of the world has its own hidden beauty, but the combination of colors, plants and wildlife that can only be found in the tropics never ceases to inspire me. Vacation in the Philippines and Bali was the perfect combination of interesting people and culture, jaw dropping scenery, and fun activities.

Shea and I arrived in Puerto Princessa on the island of Palawan in the Philippines late morning on a Saturday after a brief night in the Manila airport. After ensuring that we didn't get ripped off on our short tricycle (see future pics) ride from the airport to our pension, we spent the afternoon letting the sun work its magic and acquiring our first sunburn of the trip. My first impressions of Palawan were colorful, clean (yes, in fact much cleaner than Korea), and friendly. We snagged free rides to and from the beach from friendly locals, and enjoyed having REAL conversations in English with everyone we met.

After a day in Puerto we woke up at the crack of dawn and climbed abroad the local bus to El Nido, among lots of Filipinos, some chickens and bags of rice, a few palm tree leaves, and a goat or pig (we never determined which) we picked up along the way. The seven hour drive to El Nido gave us a taste of the landscape of Palawan: aqua colored coast against white sand, thick palm tree forests, and rice fields scattered through the entire. Palawan reminded me of Costa Rica and Nicaragua with the Asian addition of rice fields.

For the next three days, Shea and I filled our days lazing on white sand beaches all by ourselves, a boat trip to  small islands, coves, and lagoons for some snorkeling in the bath water temperature water, kayaking to a private beach, and enjoying dinner with a backdrop of color brushed sky as the sun set. Often I felt as though I was in a scene from the Pirates of the Caribbean with the pristine, uninhabited beaches, and limestone cliffs. Because El Nido is located in a very protected bay filled with small limestone islands the water was so calm it was easy to forget it was even the sea.

Three and half perfect days in El Nido and we boarded the bus back to Puerto Princessa. Taking local transport always makes for an adventure. This time around the bus was so packed I actually wondered how the bus would make it over all the hills. But eight hours later we safely arrived in Puerto. The last "wonder" that Palawan offered us was a tour of the longest underground river in the world--8.5 km long. This natural river is actually in the running for one of the new seven wonders of the world.

A short flight brought us from Puerto to Manila for another day and half to rest at Shea's boyfriend's aunt's place in Manila. It would be difficult to name my favorite part of our trip but like most of my travels what always sticks with me the most is the people you meet. The highlight of the trip was enjoying two meals with a kind and friendly Filipino woman (Liselle) in her home in El Nido. After friendly chit chat one morning on our walk into town she invited us for dinner. Besides the phenomenal (and cheap) food she prepared, it was wonderful to hear her stories and learn more about Filipino culture. The taste of her chili crabs was unforgettably divine. Besides Liselle, we spent two days hanging out with some fun Spanish exchange students  who were studying in Singapore. I realized how much I've missed being able to effortlessly converse with strangers and friends, while staying in Korea. It's exhausting and often unrewarding, trying to communicate in broken English and Korean. Filipinos exhibited a remarkable language ability. The Philippines is a country with roughly 26 languages, so unlike Koreans, Filipinos are accustomed to hearing several different languages and seem to have a knack for picking up languages. It was a pleasure to chat in English and effortlessly communicate my desires and wishes.

Colorful Palawan left me with healthy glowing skin, lingering tastes of new exotic fruits and foods, new friends, and another place to add to my ever growing list of places to return to. Saying goodbye would have been impossible if it wasn't for Bali to look forward to.

Soon I will bombard this blog and facebook with photos to put my words into visual form, but for now I'm busy wrapping life in Korea up. So for now you will have to take my word that Palawan was amazingly beautiful.

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