The first week of my holiday I spent in Boracay, which was very beautiful (but at times felt like a shopping mall). The second week I went to El Nido in Palawan, which was probably one of the most remote and amazing places I have traveled to in my life.
We got there by taking a flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa, then after a six hour journey we arrived into El Nido town, at a row of dusty shop fronts, restaurants and dive shops. The nearest ATM was a three hour bus ride away.
From El Nido town we spent two days on a boat in Bacuit Bay with Palawan Divers. Two glorious days, where we saw no other humans and had no internet access. Nothing but us, the crew and tales of the sea. I have never felt further from anywhere before, except for maybe when I traveled to the Thai Islands and Cambodia for the first time 14 years ago.
It was an amazing, uplifting, thought provoking and interesting experience, which made me fall in love with travel again.
(Real travel, the kind that fills your soul and makes you want to quit your job.)
Once again I am home, with all this ‘stuff’ surrounding me again, wondering why I need it all. Books, clothes, make up. A cupboard full of extra laundry stuff and shampoo. Sneakers (ones that can get dirty), bikes we don’t use. A pantry full of food. A drawer full of cling wrap (several different kinds I might add).
There are some things though, after my week in El Nido that I would like to say that I am truly grateful for.
1. Drinking water
If you live in El Nido you are part of the 544 million people in Asia that do not have access to safe drinking water. There are taps and there is water, but you can’t drink it, unless you want to get a stomach bug pronto. This is part of a global sanitation crisis.
You can buy it in bottles but this only adds to another environmental issue – a million water bottles, a lack of environmental awareness or local facilities to recycle.
2. Electricity – all the time, anytime
When in town in El Nido town and you hear a big clunk, then the electricity turns off. That is the sound of the generator stopping. And who knows when it will come back on. Apparently to this day, there are 1.6 Billion people in the world without a flow of regular electricity, if at all.
3. Medical care
Whilst travelling in paradise, the rule is don’t get sick in paradise. Sadly for me, this was the trip of the allergies. A series of infections before leaving Australia probably left me susceptible to such things. The Ginger Hunk had an upset stomach for a week. I got covered in bites (which our traveling companion self diagnosed via Google as Seabather’s eruption), a reaction to jellyfish and sea anemones. I then got infected Lymph nodes under my right armpit. They were the size of golf balls and very sore. I asked my dive instructor what he thought it might be. He said he wasn’t sure, but that his Filipino wife had a similar thing, and used ‘local leaves’ to get rid of it. “Is there a doctor?”, I ask. “Yes, but no good.” I take my chances on a pharmacy. She says one word I understand, “antibiotic.” I traveled with some in my bag, so I took them, hoping the golf ball under my arm would disappear. It eventually did, a little, and after seeing my GP on return yesterday I am now thankfully on the good stuff.
“What happens when women in El Nido have babies?” I asked one day. They learn to hold on during the six-hour bus trip back to Puerto Princesa, or ‘it just happens here‘ my dive instructor tells me. I didn’t want to ask any more. (Good thing you can get things laminated there though, always handy.)
4. My bed
There is nothing at all in the world quite like the feel of your own bed. The linen, the feel of the cushions, the room temperature, the duvet pressure. I feel into a heap last night and slept for 13 whole hours.
And I woke up today thinking I shall never complain about the little things again. (And that I want to travel more.)
Any places you have traveled lately that reminded you of how lucky you are to be at home?
What were they?
Photo above by James Mills - going to work with Dad means riding the Trike in El Nido!