View of Taytay from Casa Rosa Guesthouse.
We made a break for Taytay, hoping to escape the mass tourism and expensive prices of El Nido
. We took Roro Bus for P138/$3.20 from El Nido Roro Bus Terminal. The bus was air-conditioned and left at 10am. It was a quick ride to Taytay: only an hour and a half. We took a tricycle to Casa Rosa Pension
for P50/$1.20. We scored a basic bamboo fan hut with a shared bathroom for P500/$12. The view from the restaurant was beautiful: definitely worth the climb.
The lady at the desk recommended a local beach named Bincilao. We took a tricycle for P30/$0.70 out to the beach. We walked along a narrow dirt path through the trees and were greeted with the sight of a garbage strewn beach. The water was definitely not clean enough to swim, with many suspicious looking fluids and objects floating in it (although there were some young local boys swimming when we got there). We went back to the Pension, sipped on drinks, and watched the tide go out.
Tide goes out in Taytay
The island hopping tours that Casa Rosa Pension offered (the only ones in the town) were too expensive for us — the cheapest being P1500/$35.60, so we decided to go to the port the next day and look into hiring a boat for a few hours ourselves with the goal being to get out to Pabellon or Quimbaluden Island to snorkel. The next morning we wandered along the port, but no-one seemed interested in making any money. We got talking to one friendly local, John John, who spoke poor English but was happy to talk to us. We asked if he knew anyone with a boat. A boy said that he would get his father.
Watching the kids swim while we wait for a boat.
After a half-hour wait, the boy’s father came down to the port and said he would do it for P1000/$23.70. He took us over to his boat which was the sheistiest looking un-seaworthy vessel I’d ever seen. There was no way I was sitting in that for an hour each way. Not to mention, none of the boat men seemed particularly confident about the location of Pabellon or Quimbaluden Island. To avoid insulting the man’s boat, Ryan told them I was scared of the water and we were gonna need a bigger boat. After the chorus of laughter had died down (at my expense), the boat man took us to find another ride. We stood melting in the sun while his son ran off to find the owner of a larger boat they spotted at the wharf. A friendly family invited us in for some water and shade. Dominique, the mother, spoke extremely good English and became our interpreter. She had been a nurse in Saudi Arabia for five years before she returned to her home in the Philippines to raise a family. There were a lot of people going out of their way to help find us a boat. After another half-hour wait, we discovered that the larger boats were going to cost us P2000/$47.50 or P3000/$71.20, depending on whether they need gasoline or diesel respectively. Too rich for our blood. We thanked everyone for their help, gave John John some money for cigarettes, and chalked the last few hours up to a cultural adventure.
We decided not to stay another night in Taytay and checked out of the pension. We took a tricycle to the bus terminal in Taytay (P40/$0.95) and were approached by the Lexus Shuttle man who told us it would cost P150/$3.55 to Roxas. Roro Bus’ next bus was air-con, so it would be a little more expensive than usual — P155/$3.70. They couldn’t guarantee that there would be space for us, so we opted for the shuttle. It was FAST. It felt like we made it to Roxas in 10 minutes. At one point I actually checked behind us to see if we were being chased. We were dropped off right outside Rovers Pension (P875/$20.75 for A/C, private bathroom; P475/$11.25 for a garbage hole in the ground with a fan; or P300/$7.10 for a stuffy mouldy room with a shared bathroom).
We walked down the street and came across Dona Nela’s Pension. The pension is in an old Spanish villa set in a lovely garden which you could be forgiven for thinking was once used as a mental hospital. We paid P750/$17.80 and got a large air-con room with enough beds to have a town sleepover, but they had rooms to fit any budget (large or small). The man on the desk was very helpful and pointed out all the restaurants in town, he even helped us with future accommodations.
Behind the market in Roxas.
The worst pizza in the world.
Overall, Roxas was no great shakes. However, we did have the worst pizza of all time there; so that’s something that we’ll have for the rest of our lives.
After a few days of being lazy, we took a minibus (150P/$3.55) back to Puerto Princesa where we could get some more cash from an ATM and spend our last two days eating delicious food and getting re-acquainted with our old friend the internet. Despite constantly being told that Palawan was the best place in the Philippines, we found that it was over-priced for the quality of food and accommodations. Since the underground river was named one of the new seven wonders of the world, the island’s prices have skyrocketed. It was also one of the more underdeveloped areas of Southeast Asia that we had been to. That being said, our short two-week adventure in the Philippines would not be forgotten. The beaches, the laid back islander life, the San Miguel beer. We boarded a plane to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia with a better understanding of the Filipino culture and an eagerness to take our first steps into the Borneo jungle.