A worthwhile experience
By the time I arrived at the ferry port I was exhausted and quite frankly, glad to be starting my 28 hour voyage from Manila to Puerto Princesa. I was glad to find that the ferry taking me there was a lot nicer than the run-down cargo-ship I had imagined. It resembled the passenger ferries I’ve previously taken across the English Channel to France, although my bed for the evening was in Economy Class so I was on the top of a long line of communal bunkbeds spanning the top deck of the ship. I was the only white female on the entire boat which was packed with Filipinos which meant that I almost became a celebrity status, met by constant hellos.
I quickly made friends with a Filippino man named Rio who was a chef at a fancy hotel in Puerto Princesa and returning from a job interview in Manila. He was so kind in making sure I was ok and bought me countless mangos and sweet treats throughout the journey. The great thing about taking the ferry from Manila to Palawan was that meals are included, great for a backpacker like me! After a small but surprisingly ok dinner of chicken and rice I headed to bed at 9pm just before the evening karaoke was about to start. With the countless chickens and dogs onboard as well as the evening entertainment, the chance of a good nights sleep was scarce but a small dose of valium and some ear plugs resulted in one of the best sleeps of my entire trip spanning a total of 14 hours.
Fully refreshed, I woke just in time for my breakfast of a hotdog, rice and a boiled egg. I spent the day on deck chatting to Rio and other Filipinos and catching up on some writing. There wasn’t too much to do onboard the ferry but it had a nice sun deck where I was lucky enough to get a seat being a typical western sun worshipper. Filipinos are renowned for their love of karaoke so it was no surprise that the karaoke machine was in constant use. I didn’t have a go myself but enjoyed watching others sing countless American pop songs.
Most people sat in bed fanning themselves in the midday heat, munching through boxes of Dunkin’ Doughnuts and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts they had picked up in Manila. Oh how I envied them! I was lucky enough to be bought a traditional Filippino dessert called Bilo Bilo which was warm milk rice pudding mixed with sweet corn and very nice indeed. The 28 hour boat journey went by surprisingly quickly, the food was of an edible standard and there was plenty of choice in affordable drinks and snacks to help pass the day. The staff at Superferry were attentive and I made friends with a couple of young girls who told me how they only get a few hours off between each 28 hour journey, so they haven’t ever got to explore Puerto Princesa which made me realise how hard they work.
The ferry arrived in Puerto Princesa just a few minutes behind schedule and with the help of Rio, I managed to bypass the pestering Tricycle drivers waiting for us at the harbour. Rio had a cheap guesthouse in mind for me to stay so I walked with him to find it. He suggested we go for dinner on the way and although I wasn’t hungry and by this point, ever so tired, I took the opportunity to check out where the locals eat. We went to a popular Vietnamese restaurant along the Main Street, Rizal Avenue. I let Rio order for me as I figured he would know best and moments later two bowls of meat noodle soup with garlic bread arrived at the table. After an enjoyable meal the atmosphere turned a little weird when I was left to foot the bill.
By the time we had found an available guesthouse it was past 1am and I was so fed up and tired I just wanted to get out of the city and continue my journey to El Nido where I could relax. Rio wouldn’t leave my side which was a little odd and thinking back, he was probably just being friendly, but I was a little rude and excused myself at OMG Hostel who kindly let me use their shower for free as I had planned to take the 4am bus so there was little point me paying for a room for just a couple of hours. A few hours later I was woken up by the fan turning back on after a blackout, haven fallen asleep on one of the beds at OMG Hostel missing the first bus of the day.
Annoyed at myself having wasted a few hours, I jumped in a trike to the bus station forgetting to get vital cash out on the way as I was pre-warned that El Nido doesn’t have an ATM. My eagerness to continue my onwards journey resulted in me having to pay out a ton on credit card fees. I often ask myself why I always seem to be in a rush all the time when I have nowhere I need to be. Maybe it’s the “London” still in me but whatever the reason, the key to happy travelling is to take your time. Remember that!
Living life, loving travel,