The Philippines Part 1 - El Nido, Palawan

What a hidden gem!!! Months ago after originally talking to Emily and Brendan about going to the Philippines, we had no idea what to expect. Sure enough, we slowly started talking to people about what it had to offer! Well to be blunt, this place rules! After spending only 3 weeks here, we didn't even scratch the tip of the iceberg. Better yet, we didn't even see the iceberg! This is the type of place that you could spend years of your life exploring on a live aboard sailboat and be left wanting more. 

Group Shot- Nacpan Beach.

To start things off, seeing Amanda, Nick, Joe and Beth was AMAZING! What a treat to be so far from home and see friendly faces while sharing in the the epic-ness of adventure. El Nido, Palawan was the first stop on the itinerary and what an experience it was just getting there. After meeting up in Manila and packing the 6 of us (Mikaela, Amanda, Nick, Joe, Beth, and myself) into a little clown car taxi to get to the airport, we were of course dropped off at the wrong terminal! It turned out we were flying a private carrier and no taxis knew where it was. Our taxi just said he did to get the fare! We spent the next 45 minutes cooking in the dry Manila sun while walking and trying to get to the right place. Finally after arriving, we struck gold. A free all we could eat breakfast spread and a cozy lounge awaited us while the plane was prepping for takeoff.

Packing into the airport clown car taxi!                                             Photo Cred- Beth!

Two hours later we arrived in El Nido. After a short Jeep-ny ride to the arrivals cabana, we were greeted by a group of women singing a hawaiian-esc island welcome song. We got another quick bite of food and it was time to boogy! We loaded up in what I guess you would call a taxi (a motorcycle with a fiberglass Toyota sidecar shell, making it look like a car) and we were off, barreling down the road at a staggering 15 mph.

El Nido Town

El Nido turned out to be quite the popping little town. After settling into our place, we had a nice dinner on the beach and tried to figure out how much stuff we could pack into the next few days. The following day consisted of renting mopeds and exploring the nearby beaches. What an EPIC landscape we were surrounded by. Massive cliff walls jutted out over the sapphire colored ocean while hundreds of untouched islands littered the area. Speaking of litter, there was none to be found! What a surprise to be in a place this undeveloped and not see any trash on the ground.

First dinner to catch up with friends & fam.

Ohh the joys of dirt roads and dump trucks!

Nacpan Beach.

On to the next beach!

The first place we made our way to was Nacpan Beach. This was one of your empty stereotypical dream beaches with sand bottom as far as you dared to go out and small but fun waves to play in. We then walked down the mile long strip of sand to the far end and discovered a small hill to climb; what a beautiful 360 degree vantage point to really take in where we were. We put some local food in our bellies and downed a few coconuts, then hit the road again. Heading even further north we had no idea where we were going but had heard there were some really nice beaches way off the beaten path. We eventually made it to the perfect beach in the middle of nowhere for sunset, body surfed in the waves, got chased by a massive pig on the way out, and Joe & Beth got a flat front tire to top it all off!

Looking out over Nacpan Beach, full 360

Say Cheese!

The only photo we have of our favorite beach. You know its good when you forget to take pictures! 

The next day we decided to kayak out to some islands a mile or so offshore. It was awesome to get away from town again and just have some good relaxing time in the bathtub warm waters. It was fairly uneventful until I decided to go for a lunchtime snack 25’ up a tree for some coconuts. BAD idea…Just as I touched my prize I was immediately bombarded by a hundred small ants that really took pleasure in letting me know that this was their turf. On top of all the biting ants, I then realized that I had really picked the wrong tree, as I was staring face to face with a green tree viper snake. Time to go down in a hurry!! That was enough excitement for one day.

Right: A sweet little shack we found on a small island while kayaking.

Amanda's Super creepy but effective berka!

The last day on Palawan we were aching to do some scuba diving as we had heard that it was not to be missed. It turned out that the entire group was able to come with us and do some of the same dives! At one point in the dive we even happened to run into them looking at a big green sea turtle! The visibility was decent most of the time, but also not so good for the other half. We really have had bad luck on that front, better luck next time!

Amanda, Nick, Joe & Beth about to get their dive on!

Gearing up!

Chilling out between dives.

Our second dive sight, Twin Rocks.

We enjoyed what Palawan had to offer and wish that we could have spent more time there!! We now had to make a 6 hour bus ride to the airport, a plane ride, one night stop-over in Cebu and then one more plane ride to our next destination, Siargao, to meet up with Emily and Brendan. It isn’t over yet, Siargao here we come! Philippines Part 2 coming soon!

Nacpan Beach!


A Food Detour - South Vietnam

We had less than a week to spend in southern Vietnam before we had to catch our flight to the Philippines. We were most excited about tasting the Pho, because it is one of our all-time favorite dishes and it did not disappoint! 

Phu Quoc Island

We first arrived on a bus in Ha Tien, a border town on the Vietnamese side of the Cambodia-Vietnam border. Tired and hungry, we set out to find some delicious Pho-ood! Just down the street there was a full-on local night market with shopping (clothes, toys, groceries) and heaps of food carts. The first thing we noticed in Vietnam was that not many people spoke English and in this small town there was no foreigners. However, we didn’t let this discourage us and ordered Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup). We did not want to jinx ourselves with the expectations of getting the best pho on the planet, so we went in with none at all. This worked out wonderfully and words cannot describe the joy of such a glorious meal! This became our mandatory breakfast, lunch and dinner meal for the next 6 days.

First bowl of real pho

After the meal, we were feeling adventurous and bought a yummy pancake looking thing-a-ma-bob from a street cart. Upon further inspection, it was a pancake sandwich with mystery meat on the inside (an odd looking piece of bacon and some kind of spam material). Surprisingly, it was delicious, both savory and sweet! 

Mystery Pancake Sandwich 

The next day we rode the Superdong ferry to Phu Quoc, a large island in the south. Before the boat ride, we tried to get another bowl of Pho Bo but weren’t so lucky. Instead we were served a a more intense chili, lemongrass soup, we later found out was called Bun Bo Hue. Still delicious but not what we expected.

Sunset-time!

Phu Quoc turned out alright, and would have probably been really cool for us had we not just come from an amazing beach island only 40 miles away. We made the best of it and found an awesome bungalow run by some very sweet old Vietnamese women! And of course we ate like kings. One night we walked into a small town and found a Pho-only restaurant. They had 3 huge 55 gallon vats filled with broth, and mountains of beef and vegetables on standby for the next customer! Now that’s a lot of soup! 

We also found another supreme street cart score called Banh Xeo, a rice paper quesadilla with spicy mayo, chives, and some more mystery meat. It was a crunchy, tasty, glutard friendly treat! 

Left: Banh Xeo- rice paper quesadilla. Right: The Vietnamese Dong- stacking cheddar!  

Vietnamese coffee is entirely too delicious for its own good. Whoever decided to pair sweet (condensed) milk with coffee is a genius and my hero. Talk about a heart attack waiting to happen, but it doesn't matter. There is something so awesome about watching their crazy miniature coffee maker sit atop your cup, slowly percolating into a massive goober of sweet goodness. This was our morning ritual!

Vietnamese Coffee Contraptions 

A few days later we took a small plane to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to spend a few days before our flight to Manila. HCMC is a huge, busy city with intense traffic and thousands of motorbikes ruling the streets. Here we tried more Pho (of course) as well as Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich. The food cart lady starts off by taking a large piece of french bread and smearing pâté on the inside, then a soft cheese. After that she packs it with all kinds of different meat, lettuce, cucumbers and then pickled daikon and carrots. WOW! So, so yummy, and for only 1 dollar what more could you ask for! Vietnam really knows how to do food! 

Left: Massive traffic (this was light compared to the night time traffic)! Right: Lady carrying 8 million pounds of food on her small motorbike! WOW!

Banh Mi - Vietnamese Sandwich

In HCMC we also went to the War Museum…The museum depicted the Vietnam-American war with gruesome pictures and displays. It all started out fun and games outside, looking at the primitive war planes and artillery that were used throughout the war. Then we went inside…Needless to say, it was a harrowing experience seeing how many millions of Vietnamese civilians were killed in the war. It was an especially hard experience being there as an American, knowing everyone in the building probably still holds some kind of grudge for the horrific war crimes committed, especially in the use of chemical weapons. It really made us realize that there are two sides to every war and to every story. That we have to look at things from both perspectives. Neither of us left feeling very cheerful but what we also realized and couldn’t believe was how kindly we were treated in a place that just decades beforehand had been utterly decimated by warfare. 

Someday he'll be flying one of these! 

Aim and Fire!

Not your average Cessna!

Look at those blades! 

At some point we would love to spend more time in Vietnam! Although we didn’t see as much as we would like, the food and people alone would bring us back! Now it's time to meet up with our family in the Philippines!