I smell fish food. Why do I smell fish food? Bc someone’s bag got wet who seems to have been transporting dried fish. Why is someone’s bag wet? Bc there is a thunderstorm going on all around us in the middle of the ocean. Why are we in the middle of the ocean when this ferry was supposed to have arrived at its destination hours ago? Bc the propeller broke mid-trip and the crew spent two hours fixing it and not telling us what was going on. Why did the propeller break? I do not know. But that’s Southeast Asia for ya, folx. And how do all of the tourists react to the fact that we are seemingly stuck for eternity in the middle of the 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines with no phone service nor mobility? We shrug our shoulders and get to know our neighbors, bc this is just another day in the life of the adventure that is traveling through Southeast Asia.
So you know when people take in a stray bc it’s juuuust sad and pitiful enough to almost be cute? That’s me, with my new Canadian travel buddies Frejya and Jill who have known each other since middle school. I ran into them at the airport van terminal when we all bought tickets from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. We spent the painfully long ride over getting to know each other and bonding over our inability to plan even a few hours ahead. It seemed to be an unspoken agreement that none of us totally sucked bad enough to leave behind, so upon our arrival in town, we set out together to find accommodation for the next few nights.
This proved more difficult than anticipated as none of us had booked anything in advance (what a surprise) and EVERY SINGLE HOSTEL WITH ANY SORT OF ACCEPTABLE CONDITIONS was booked full. We ended up at a loveeeely establishment (sarcasm) called Hakuna Matata, which contrary to the origins of the title involved many worrisome things. There was no AC, cockroaches and mice all over the place, tiny bedrooms with no space to exist outside of your bed, and power that went out like it was its job – which meant that the ONE FAN IN THE ROOM THAT DIDN’T EVEN OSCILATE stopped working, and it was like sitting in a damn sauna. To combat the heat, we grabbed some wine (and beer for those of us who can drink it – not me) and headed to the beach to hang out, which is where we met potentially the most annoying person on the face of the planet – a Canadian dude named Ryan. There was nothing necessarily wrong with Ryan, but rather his entire existence was obnoxious. It sounds cruel, but you didn’t have to hang out with him. He was a rare breed.
For example, when we met the most adorable puppy EVER, who we named Trip, Ryan wanted to feed it. So what did he go find for our new baby Trip? Not meat from one of the many beach grills nearby, but dried mango. Dried. Mango. He said he googled it to make sure dogs could eat it. WHAT KIND OF PERSON BRINGS A STRAY PUPPY FRIGGEN DRIED MANGOS, THIS DOG IS NOT A VEGAN. So then he starts to feed the pupperino, calling himself his “food daddy” – disturbing in and of itself. And then, as the cherry on top, he literally fed this almost assuredly flea and disease-ridden pupper the dried mango FROM HIS OWN MOUTH. It was all I could do not to gag. To be completely honest, I was more worried about any potential bacteria Trip was going to have to fight off than I was worried about Ryan and his now impending death, but I digress.
This signaled the end of the night for the girls and I, who were sufficiently disgusted, so we headed back to our hot box to get some sleep before waking up early for our island hopping tour of the islands surrounding El Nido. We’d gotten a discount deal to do a combination tour so that we could see more of the famous sights of the area – something Frejya tried to bargain for to absolutely no avail which was remotely hilarious bc somehow we always seem to spend more money than was even asked for in the first place when she tries her hand at haggling. What we didn’t anticipate, however, was a ten hour day visiting eight of the famous natural wonders of El Nido, with a tour guide who was very knowledgeable but also seemed to expect us to be Olympic qualifying swimmers as he booked it from one spot to the next with no regard for the fact that I haven’t exercised in any way, shape or form since I left for this trip SIX MONTHS AGO. It was great. Add that to the minefield of BITING FISH that were in half the locations we had to swim to – they were lil’ asshole fish that bit you if you put your feet anywhere near them so you could not stop swimming or they would try to slowly, systematically eat you. Like I get that we’re in their territory and if my only defense against the monster creatures swimming through my area was to bite them, I would use what I got, but come ON. I am not a water monster trying to destroy your habitat, cut me some slack.
By the end of the day we were ready to sit down before we fell down, but not before seeking out WiFi at the nearest coffee shop which boasted quality internet connection. Lies. Wi-Fi in the Philippines (or data, for that matter) is about as common as flying pigs. Maybe less so. We headed back to the hostel and had chats on the roof (bc outside was somehow less despicably humid than our actual dorm room) until we were ready to pass out for the night.
The next morning, we woke up to a power outage. I felt the fan turn off around 7AM, and the room temperature rapidly reached one similar to that of the surface of the sun before we were forced to crawl out of bed and complain loudly about the fact that we were experiencing heat stroke and death was coming for us. We packed up (some of us slower than others @FREYJA) and left our bags at the hostel lobby while we went on the hunt for breakfast. As luck would have it, we ran into our BFF Ryan right as he was about to eat – and we had just finished eating – so we made our excuses and booked it out of that part of town. We needed to find a place to stay that wasn’t going to kill us in our sleep so we started the search through town until we found a cheap dorm with aircon AND cheap breakfast. We still didn’t want to go grab our bags from the other hostel due to the disgusting heat, so we decided to look for a place whose WiFi actually existed.
We happened upon a coffee shop whose WiFi was at least enough to send Whatsapp messages and let our families know that we weren’t dead on the side of the road, so naturally we spent several hours there chatting with the owner and enjoying Ube lattes – a delicious purple-colored latte made from a yam indigenous to the Philippines. By the time we were finished at the coffee shop, it was time for another meal, so we headed to a beachfront curry shop to plan out the rest of our day. On the way, we saw Ryan but he didn’t see us, so we froze in the middle of the street like deer in headlights before grabbing each other by the arms and literally running in the opposite direction. Poor Ryan. We decided that it would be a chill night as we had booked an 8AM ferry to the next big town (Coron) for the next morning and wanted to get some rest, so we hung out in the beautifully air-conditioned hostel (which didn’t feel cold by any means, it was more like we appreciated that it wasn’t unbearably hot) until the next morning, which is when we embarked on the journey of a thousand miles that this post started with.
So it looks like we’ve come full circle, people. We have made it safely to Coron – after an absolute mission of a tricycle ride which involved the slowest motorbike on the face of the planet and a TIRE CHANGE that we had to HELP WITH on the side of the road half way through what should have been a 45 minute journey that turned into a THREE HOUR MISSION - and are staying in a gem of a hostel that has functional fans and next to no WiFi. Can’t have it all, ya know?
But for now I think it’s time for another (4th) cup of coffee and some lively debate with my fav Canadians about the pronunciation of words like “bag” and “pasta” and “about” – which they pronounce COMPLETELY INACCURATELY.
Until next time folx - XOXOX
PS and also fun fact that our boat hopping tour guide shared with us while he was trying to kill us through overexertion: 70% of Filipinos can’t swim, which is pretty unbelievable considering they live in a country made up of 7k islands. Crazy, right?
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece, Vatican City, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Guatemala, Kenya