Teacher Guest Post: Exploring the Philippines during Spring Festival
Hi, my name is Megan. I’m a Film Production graduate from Solent University and am currently working as a Senior Teacher at a private language school in Fuzhou.
As January rolled round, the time came once again to call in the Chinese New Year! And with the Chinese New Year comes the Spring Festival holiday, where essentially the entire country gets an extended break from work and school.
When it comes to national holidays like this, I always advise fellow expats to get out of China! Mostly because normal tourist attractions in China get even busier, not to mention domestic trains and flights; and considering how incredibly cheap and easy it is to travel abroad from China – why wouldn’t you go? But the question for me this year was, where?!
Fortunately, that decision was made easy when my co-workers invited me to join them on a week-long adventure to Palawan island in the Philippines, backpacking across three different destinations: El Nido, Nacpan Beach, and Port Barton.
The most common way of getting to El Nido is by flying into Puerto Princesa, and then taking an air-conditioned minivan from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. This road trip will take 5-6 hours to do, but at 500 pesos (£7.62) it’s the cheapest option. Not to mention, there’s a pitstop for lunch by the beautiful coast halfway through the journey.
Once you get to El Nido town, you’ll soon realise that it’s incredibly easy to get around with most things you need within walking distance! If you do need to go somewhere a bit further out though, there are tricycles/tuk-tuks tucked behind every street corner that will drop you anywhere you need for 100 pesos (£1.50) or less.
You’ll also notice that nearly every hostel/hotel, shop, restaurant, and pop-up travel agent in town will be jumping at the chance to sell you an Island Hopping tour package. We highly recommend Tour A! Each tour is a full day adventure with opportunities to snorkel amongst the corals, and swim to secret beaches and lagoons! There is also a cook onboard the boat who kindly prepares lunch for you during the trip.
Aside from that, you’ll be spoilt for choice on where to eat, where to grab drinks, where to shop, and if you’re up for a true Palawan experience, you can even get involved in the market stalls housing some rather colourful gambling set-ups that actually reminded me of some classroom activities I play with my students!
After all of the island hopping, it was time to take a break and chill out at some of the local beaches. We chose to visit Nacpan Beach for a few days, and we definitely weren’t disappointed!
Nacpan is a 45-60 minute drive away from El Nido town. We opted to make this journey via tricycle/tuk-tuk since they’re so convenient and fun to ride in! I advise grabbing one from the local bus station as they have set prices of 1200 pesos (£18.28) for up to 4 passengers, but you can certainly haggle this price for much lower. When we arrived, we were absolutely blown away by the blinding white sand, crystal clear blue water, mind-blowing golden sunsets, and endless stretches of coconut palm trees! It truly felt like a secluded tropical paradise (even with all of the other tourists around). There are plenty of restaurants along the coast from local Filipino cuisine to Mexican burritos to Italian gelato, so there’s no end to treating your taste-buds! As you’re walking along the beautiful coast, trying to decide where to eat today, you can easily take off your flip-flops and enjoy the feeling of the rich, powdery sand in between your toes. Honestly, I’m pretty sure I didn’t wear any shoes for at least 90% of my time here!
Our stay in Port Barton was arguably my favourite. From the quaint yet bustling market stalls to the even livelier locals, its quirky village charm completely won me over. It truly is a hidden, tropical gem yet to be fully discovered!
Unsurprisingly, one of the best things to do here is more island hopping. But, this time, we were in for a real treat. With destinations on the agenda like Starfish Island, Inaladelan (private island beach resort), and various turtle-inhabited reefs, we were blown away at all the hidden beauty Port Barton had to offer.
Not only this, but cosy beachside bars with fire dancing performances, lively streets filled with trendy, Western restaurants, and a week-long festival that celebrated into the early hours of the morning each day, made our time here all the more enjoyable! It’s safe to say that we were all immensely sad to leave.
RETURNING TO CHINA DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
Flying back to China only days after news of the outbreak hit international news was, of course, nerve-wracking. My co-workers decided to stay in the Philippines for longer so the lonely trek home felt even longer and more daunting.
Fortunately, my mind was put at ease once I landed in my home city of Fuzhou. Between getting off the plane and arriving back at my apartment, I was temperature checked 5 times, and then inundated with plenty of health and safety advice from my school.
The lengths at which the government are currently taking to contain the virus and protect its citizens is truly remarkable and reassuring!
I’ll talk more about what life is currently like in China amidst the outbreak in my next blog post, but if you’re interested in the meantime, you can check out my latest updates on my Instagram @thepicturelock