Tuesday

In Palau, I heard that some of the Chinese tour agencies used to offer phony tours to the unknowing. They would separate the Chinese tourists out at the airport, those who had been to Palau previously and those who hadn't. The ones who had never been before would get an abbreviated tour around all the top landmarks, only the places they took them to weren't actually those landmarks. They would go to the bridge and tell them that was the famous natural arch. They would take them to the nearest corner on the reef and tell them that was Blue Corner. Etc.

I woke up on Palawan having a dream that Fletch and I were driving tourists around on one of these phony tours just for our own amusement. I don't know why we never did that. I suppose it was probably much funnier in the dream.

Fletch and I had one full day left in Palawan, and decided to spend it driving around El Nido on the motorbike and seeing what beaches or waterfalls we could find.

The gas station was out of gas on our way out of town, and so we stopped at one of the dozens of little wooden stands lining the road that had gasoline available for sale by the repurposed booze bottle. There was another family of tourists stopped, taking pictures of the novelty. I'd grown accustomed to seeing reused bottles of gas for sale on the side of the road; they're all over Southeast Asia. But seeing someone else see it for the first time made me relive the novelty all over again.

We drove north, the wind on our faces, the sun giving us tourist tans. I was so happy to be on the back of a bike driving through the scenery that is Southeast Asia. That must be one of the happiest and freest places on earth. We rode until the paved road turned to dirt, playing the passing game with other tourists on bikes as we went. Not having any idea where we were going, but just exploring for the fun of it, we took the first left turn we came to, which brought us through a little residential area with lots of farm land. We came to a halt at a ticketing booth charging a tax of some sort to tourists passing. Whatever this fee was, we had already paid it as a part of our day of diving, and so showed the receipt and were allowed to pass.

We parked on the beach in a large sandy area designated for vehicles, and walked to the shore. The beach was lovely, stretching out in both directions, far into the distance. With sand between our toes and the sun shining on our faces, we began a leisurely stroll along the shore. 

All of the tricycles in El Nido had names just like boats. Naturally, I had to take a picture of 'Denver,' the capital of my home-state, half a world away. 

The beach ended after quite some distance at the base of a small hill, which we hiked up to see the view, a stunning 360 degrees of ocean on two sides. The sky was blue, the ocean was turquoise, a breeze played in our hair, and the sand was perfection. My regards to the parrotfish. Not only was this beach the stuff postcards are made of, but it was surprisingly quiet. Thanks to the internet, if you post a picture of someplace pretty online, it is soon crowded with tourists. Not this beach though. This was one last hidden gem in the world. 

Admiring the view back towards El Nido from the rocky shoreline. (Photo credit: Fletch)

Nacpan Beach, Palawan.

Fishing village on Nacpan Beach, Palawan.

We eventually hiked back down the hillside and made our way along the beach once more. We passed a sleepy little fishing village. Then we found the area where the few tourists were hanging out in the shade of several little shacks selling various foods and drinks. Fletch and I ordered a couple of fruit shakes and then sat and played with the local dogs while we waited. Two adorable little fur-ball puppies were stealing the love of the crowd. One of the older dogs had a cleft palate, something I didn't know dogs could have. She was a cutie. 

Making new friends. (Photo credit: Fletch)

Cleft palate puppy.

We drove along the dirt roads back to El Nido town and stopped to do a little sunglasses shopping. In Thailand, all the sunglasses were knock-off brand names and had cost around $5 a pair. I had accumulated quite a collection, but now was down to my last pair of Prada sunglasses which were ready to fall apart. I found a pair I liked and asked how much. "110 pesos but I give to you for 100." I couldn't even haggle. In places like the Philippines it's custom to haggle when shopping. But when someone tells you a pair of sunglasses costs $2 it's just hard to argue.

We checked on our laundry which we had dropped off the previous day with the promise that it would be ready at 8 the following night. It was an hour or two until the pickup time but we were hoping they might have finished it early. Our hopes were dashed.

Back in the room we showered off about an inch of dirt we'd accumulated from the ride. Then headed back into town to a restaurant called Atmosphere for dinner. We repeated the same mistake we had made in Malapascua of ordering sushi. Once again, it tasted a little funky. This time there was no cat around to reassure us that it was edible. The restaurant was famous for its hand pulled noodles which we ordered for dinner. The flavor was spicy and and noodles were everything you want from house made noodles: thick and gooey and delicious.

We returned the bike at sundown, as the owner had requested, and then made our way back to pick up our laundry via tricycle. It still wasn't ready. They said we could pick it up tomorrow. Fletch told them for the dozenth time that we were leaving in the morning. An awkward silence followed. The lady offered to deliver it to our hotel when it was finished, but we weren't about to trust that after it was already late. Finally arrangements were made to pick it up at 10.

We had 30 minutes to kill before meeting Jamie for drinks, and so decided to do something that we hadn't done yet this trip: get a massage. If you are ever in Southeast Asia, a massage is a must. Depending on where you are, an hour will cost anywhere between $4 and $10, and it is well worth every penny.

We walked into the first massage place we found, and the lady, being short staffed, turned to her daughter to see if she wanted to give the second massage. We said thank you and left. Fletch didn't want to be rubbed down by an underage girl. I didn't want to make her uncomfortable just for the sake of earning a few pesos.

So we ended up returning to the Bazaar where there was a loft with a massage parlor above one of the bars. I went for a foot massage, since we only had a half hour, and getting my sore calves rubbed was simultaneously the greatest thing that had happened all day and the most painful. Thank you midnight trek to Nuts Huts for giving my calves the most intense workout they've likely ever had.

Thirty minutes later, Fletch and I were both floating on little clouds of bliss, and we floated on down to Angle bar to meet Jamie. Drinks were ordered and another night of reminiscing and story swapping ensued.

Fletch left once again to go check on our laundry. When he returned it was with stories of having to chase the lady back and forth across town, from one laundry location to another, but he had finally managed to secure the only clothes we were traveling with. He also figured out why it had taken so long. Apparently, in El Nido, the laundry ladies color code different batches of laundry to keep it apart. How do they color code it? They sew strands of colored yarn into every last piece of clothing. All of our clothes now had lime green yarn sewn and knotted into them. What an inconvenient system, for everyone involved. I'm still snipping green yarn out of my underwear.

At Angle bar, several drinks in, a very boisterous and peppy college grad from California introduced herself and immediately started talking politics and social issues in an almost stereotypical valley girl accent. She was nice enough but would not stop. Her British boyfriend was sitting over at the corner of the bar looking constipated. Their to-go food was sitting on the bar getting cold. Fletch nonchalantly told her a couple times that they should go eat their food before it got cold, and that her boyfriend looked ready to leave, but she just kept on talking like a recent college grad who hadn't been in the real world yet and thought she was the shit because of everything she had learned in her poli-sci class. You know the sort of person I'm talking about. She was very flirty as well, not just with Fletch but with me too. The two of us were sitting on a whole long bench but she just kept leaning closer and closer into me. Finally Jamie's friend, a down-to-earth, no-nonsense kind of girl got in on the conversation, and refused to say where she was from, instead giving answers like the moon. Mars. Pluto. Poor little miss California finally got frustrated and left. When they were gone, Jamie said that blokes like the boyfriend were the reason he had left England. I said that girls like that were the reason I left the US.

By the time Fletch and I left the bar, the tricycles had stopped running and so we walked the distance home under the light of the moon. Palawan had been a short trip, but well worth the trek.