Paradise Palawan Part 2/2: El Nido!

This post is a continuation of my previous post about Puerto Princesa. El Nido is a municipality located northeast of Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan in the Philippines. It is known for its flourishing marine ecosystem, pristine beaches and island-hopping tours.

I stayed at the Og’s Pension, which is located at the beach front. It is a budget hostel among many other hostel/hotels in the area. But this to me is the most affordable, considering its location.

Og's Pension
Og’s Pension
The view from Og's Pension. Beautiful!
The view from Og’s Pension. Beautiful!

 

There are 5 island hopping tours (Tour A ~ Tour E) available in El Nido, and most of the hotels/hostels offer them and can be availed at least a day before the intended tour. Some of these packages can be combined to fit a one-day schedule, like Tour A & C (although I would not recommend it), but ideally, 1 tour package a day would be the best option. In my case, I chose Tour C.

The tour starts early in the morning, around 8:30~9am with the boat waiting at the seashore to pick up the tour’s passengers. You have to be there at the scheduled time since they would not wait for latecomers. In case you don’t make it, you have to re-schedule again on the next day!

Some essentials to bring:
-Water (LOTS of it)
-Sunblock (LOTS and LOTS of it!)
-Sunglasses
-Hat
-Shawl (preferrably a long one, if ever you sit at the side of the boat that’s facing the sun)
-Ziplock case (For your gadgets. The locals sell them at the beach front, but it’s better to bring your own case)

Tour C Itinerary
Talisay Island

It is about half an hour away from the El Nido beach front. We only stayed for less than an hour snorkelling and then we headed to our next destination.


Hidden Beach 

As a person of novice swimming skills, reaching this place can be a bit of a challenge. We had to jump off the boat and swim our way to get to this place. But I must say it was all worth it!

Matinloc Shrine

This is where we had lunch. I have to commend the boatmen for cooking the scrumptious meal for everyone! We had grilled fish, eggplant, tomato and cucumber salad, as well as bbq and fresh fruits. Perfect meal for an island hopping trip.

The most we could do while we were here was to do some sight-seeing and just chill!

Secret Beach

This wasn’t called “Secret Beach” for nothing. This is another swim-your-way-to-get-there kind of beach. You have to go across a narrow passageway so be careful of the sharp rocks on the side. I bumped my knee into one!!

You can also snorkel here and there are lots of fishes frolicking around!

Helicopter Island

This is the last part of the tour C package, and we arrived here at around 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon. It’s my favorite destination out of the 5 islands ’cause it was serene and you can just appreciate the views and calm waters.

 

So there! It sure was a very rewarding trip and I got to marvel at our country’s famous travel destination! If you come to the Philippines, make sure to include Palawan!

Paradise Palawan Part 1/2: Puerto Princesa

Palawan is the largest province in the Philippines, situated in the country’s southwest side. So if you’re going to the Philippines, make sure to include it in your list of must-see destinations!

A week in Palawan is probably just the right duration of stay to see everything it has to offer. When I spent a vacation there however, I only stayed for 5 days ’cause I only checked El Nido and Puerto Princesa. So I’ll definitely come back another time to visit Coron. 😉 In this post I’ll be talking about Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan.

Before that, here’s an overview; there are lots of travel agencies offering cheap deals for the complete Palawan experience. This is ideal for relatively large groups or those who don’t want the hassle of DIYing their itineraries. But for people (like me) who’d like to have a personalized trip, or perhaps you hate getting up too early, or maybe you just prefer to travel at your own pace, it’s best to come up with your own schedule with the help of some good amount of research.

Most of the accommodations in Palawan offer packages that you can avail upon moment’s notice (although to be sure, buy them at least a day in advance) which include the price for the tour itself, transportation fees (both by land and sea), and even lunch. The prices only vary a little bit for each hotel/hostel in Palawan. They usually don’t exceed 2,000php. In the case of Puerto Princesa, the Underground River and Honda Bay tours are the most in-demand tour packages around. You can purchase them individually or as a combination depending on your preference.

Honda Bay tour is an island hopping adventure and since we were headed to El Nido (which has lots of Island Hopping tours as well), we just settled on the Underground River tour. So from the city proper, it took us about 2 hours by van to get to the port where the boats to the Underground River are.

This is the view when we arrived at the port. Breathtaking.
This is the view when we arrived at the port. Breathtaking.

A VERY IMPORTANT TIP: DO NOT, BY ANY MEANS, SCHEDULE YOUR UNDERGROUND RIVER TOUR ON A WEEKEND, especially during summer. We had to learn this the hard way ’cause our tour was scheduled on a Saturday. And guess what. We arrived there at around 10am, but we had to wait at least 2 hours to get to the boat, and almost an hour in front of the cave before our tour actually began!!

Near the shore are various souvenir shops and food stalls where tourists can check out while waiting for their turn to ride the boat.
Near the shore are various souvenir shops and food stalls that tourists can check out while waiting for their turn to ride the boat.
At least the scenery while waiting was calming enough... LOL
At least the scenery while waiting was calming enough… LOL

The tour guide will be the one to call you once it’s your turn to ride the boat. It will take you to the island where the underground river is. Upon reaching the shore, it’s just a short hike to the entrance of the cave itself.

Underground River Entrance
Underground River Entrance
Stalactite formations at the cave's entrance
Stalactite formations at the cave’s entrance

The local boatmen are also the tour guides inside the cave, explaining how the various cave structures were formed, as well as providing a little bit of background info on the history of Palawan. Plus, they are very humorous!

Inside the cave
Inside the cave
I'm quite amazed I managed to take this shot, considering how dark it was in the cave.
I’m quite amazed I managed to take this shot, considering how dark it was in the cave.

It was an educational tour and I was amazed at how big the rock structures were inside. Even though we had to wait a long while, it was truly worth it. This was the highlight of our stay in Puerto Princesa. In my next post I’ll be talking about El Nido! 🙂

One Piece Tokyo Tower: An Otaku Paradise

This theme park is the first of its kind in Japan, and just last March it became open to the public. I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to experience it in its first week of operation.

Once you arrive at Tokyo Tower, you can purchase the tickets at the counter which also includes an access to the tower’s observatory area.

It is an elevator ride to the One Piece Theme Park, after which you’ll be greeted by the friendly staff and this impossible-to-miss signage/photo spot:

Tokyo Tower One Piece
Tokyo Tower One Piece!!

Upon entry to the theme park, it’s gonna be one fangirling/fanboying moment after the other! With walls decorated with some excerpts from the manga (with special effects!) to life-sized character figures, as well as theme park games and frolicking pirate cosplayers, One Piece aficionados will surely think of this place as heaven on earth.

My favorite part of the theme park was the Zoro’s Soul of Edge. It was a short but fun game! The other attractions had a lot to offer as well. It was just One Piece geeking overload! Moreover, we were right on time to witness the ONE PIECE LIVE ATTRACTION “Welcome to TONGARI Mystery Tour”. The actors nailed it! My favorites were Zoro, Sanji and Luffy 🙂 I was really impressed with the actor who played Zoro, I mean working with the sword props, that wasn’t easy!! :O And we were given glow sticks that we used, which made it an interactive live show.

glowstick
The glow stick that was given to each live show audience
liveattraction
As you can see, the audience sat on the cushions that were laid out on the floor when watching the live show.

I had a really great time trying out all the attractions, and it really helped that I knew some Japanese, especially in the Nami’s Casino and Chopper’s Thousand Sunny Tours. A must-visit place, especially for the One Piece fans! Allow me to show you also my picture of life-size (that’s right LIFE-SIZE) Portgas D. Ace figure:

My favorite One Piece character :)
My favorite One Piece character 🙂

 

Here is the link to the official website for more info. 🙂

Shibuya – A Window to Japan’s Urban Culture

Shibuya is known all over the world as an iconic metropolitan venue with tall buildings on every side, as well as a sub-culture haven.

Getting off at Shibuya station via JR Yamanote Line, once you get out of Exit No. 8, you’ll be greeted by a ton of people hanging out near the Hachiko Statue. The statue is known as an art built in memory of a dog, Hachiko, who waited at Shibuya Station everyday for almost 10 years for his master to return. Then from that point you could walk over the busiest intersection in the world, known as the Shibuya Crossing.

I went to Shibuya to meet my Japanese friend and of course see the things the place has to offer. We went to an obscure ramen place, and what I noticed is that most restaurants have these vending machines where you would place your order and give your payment (this goes to restaurants in other places in Japan too), which I find very convenient. And of course, the food was superb!! 🙂

We then checked out Tower Records, and Tokyu Hands (a large-scale shop for almost anything, really, but for the most part, those who like to do DIY projects). There are also many arcade places all over the area where many students hang out with their friends.

 

Afterwards, we visited the Meiji Jingu. It was a very calm and quiet place, as expected from a shrine, a perfect place for meditation located in an evergreen forest in the heart of Tokyo (totally amazing!). It was a good way to end my day in Shibuya. 🙂

 

I’m impressed at Japan’s way of fusing urban/modern structures with nature. Shibuya is a perfect example of a place that shows Japan’s passion for technology and respect for nature. I mean how can a forest even exist in the middle of a city?! Ask the Japanese. 🙂

LM.C’s Perfect Rainbow Tour became my rite of passage to jrock concerts

I know I have not done a decent job updating this blog in the last weeks.. but now thankfully I get to share another good experience! 🙂

In my trip to Japan last March, I made it a point to witness a local concert and see how the Japanese appreciate music.

Luckily, with some help from my super kind Japanese friend, we were able to acquire tickets to LM.C’s Perfect Rainbow Tour.

LM.C, composed of Maya and Aiji, is Japanese Visual Kei band whose songs were featured in animes such as Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Red Garden, and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan.

The Heaven’s Rock Café where the concert took place was a quick walk from the Saitama Super Arena. It’s a small live house for mini concerts/gigs. LM.C items were being sold outside the venue.

image

When we got inside, we proceeded to the locker room where we deposited our stuff. I was told that when you’re in the live house, it is just an empty space and a stage, so carrying your stuff in there won’t be wise, especially when the room’s gonna be jam packed with people. Basically, it’s a whole hour (or even more) of standing and cramped space! But I guess that’s just how live houses are, which kind of makes sense because if you’re gonna be in a concert (especially at a rock concert), it’ll be such a killjoy if you just sit through it.

By the time we were inside, the place is already full of people. But even so, I could clearly see the stage from my position even though I was standing at the back of the room. That’s how “small” the live house was. Unfortunately, taking pictures is not allowed so I just settled with this picture of the event board outside Heaven’s Rock (and some concert merchandise :p) as a memento for this event. 🙂

LM.C Perfect Rainbow Tour
LM.C Perfect Rainbow Tour

The concert definitely did not disappoint. For the price I paid to be there (which was around 5500yen), it was all worth it. LM.C performed for almost 3 hours and thankfully because of my Japanese knowledge, I didn’t quite feel left out especially when they were taking a break and interacting with the fans. Another thing that struck me aside from the interesting music that LM.C does was the energy of the crowd during the whole concert.

Many of us know that the Japanese are generally quiet, shy and introverted kind of people, so I thought maybe they’ll just bob their heads during the performances. I realised how wrong I was as soon as the first song played. Maya and Aiji started with a very jumpy song, and the crowd went nuts! I mean I’m used to wild crowds as I have been to many rock events before but this was nuts, as in WEIRD. Why, you may ask. Well it’s because their movements were SOOO CHOREOGRAPHED and I’m like “did I miss the fan rehearsal, or something?”. LOL! They would all wave their arms in the same direction, at the same time, and even bang their heads together!! Just imagine me and my friend, in a pool of people with everyone around us crazily head banging and they would start (and stop) all at the same time. Moreover, when LM.C played their famous song, “88” (opening song of Katekyo Hitman Reborn), they immediately took out their glow sticks and waved it all together!!! It’s as if they all have mental telepathy, like, “Guys, it’s time to bring out the glow sticks, it’s for this song!!”

And then it hit me. These fans must have been to almost every concert of this band. What dedication and such a strong fandom. For them to come out every time just to see these guys play is really something. Here in the Philippines, when there’s a concert, almost everyone just screams and sings while the artist performs (trust me, go watch live footages of Manila concerts, you’ll see what I mean 😉 ), with the occasional waving of smartphones as an alternative to glow sticks ( but most just whip them out to record videos, which is quite sad I think). Japanese fans may not be as loud as the Filipinos, but they certainly don’t come last when it comes to fandom commitment!

So here’s us taking a selfie after the concert:

We're still alive after the chaos :P
We’re still alive after the chaos 😛