Ten day return trip from Manila to Palawan for 10,000pesos ($200)

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Do you live in Manila and have always dreamed of spending a week in beautiful Palawan but could not afford the expensive booking packages? I’ll show you some ways how you can do it very cheaply.

First of all, as explained in my travel itinerary suggestions for the Palawan area, if you have a limited time and budget, I would suggest you skip Puerto Princesa entirely. It is not a very appealing town, and the only reason to even go down that far, the Underground River Tour, really isn’t that spectacular. You’ll lose an entire day waiting in line and be herded about with the massive crowd of other tourists. Then you’ll lose an entire day making your way up to El Nido.

If you love nature, glad to get away from the tourist crowd, have a limited budget and only about one week’s travel time, I would suggest you take the Atienza ferry straight to El Nido. That costs 1,700p, you sleep overnight in a bed (so you save one night on accommodation), and they feed you, so you save on food costs.

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The contact for Atienza’s Manila office is (Smart) 0999 881 7266 or 0998 532 6553, or (Globe) 0917 633 2090. Other details on our ferries page. Note that if the waves get too rough, sometimes the coastguards delay them from leaving. There is only one Atienza ferry doing the Manila > El Nido > Linapacan > Manila route, once a week, so a delay will delay the whole cycle.

 Day 1: 1,700p, 1,700p total 

If you have the budget and want to get that extra day in, you can take a Air-Swift flight to El Nido for around 6,500p, so about 5,000p extra.

El Nido

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Now you have several options. You can check out our El Nido page for info on accommodation and what to do there. You can get a room for as little as 500p, perhaps less, so if there are two of you, that would be 250p each.

You can rent a kayak for 400p, so 200p each for two. The zipline for around 700p is worthwhile, otherwise there are a few nice things you can do for free. Meals are around 200p in restaurants, or there is a good public market across from the bus terminal.

El Nido is famous for its lagoons, but that will add to your budget. Note that, because they are famous, they tend to be flooded with tourists and perhaps you’d be satisfied just renting the kayak to explore the island across from El Nido. Also beautiful and you may very well be by yourselves.

Note that you may be charged 200p each for the local environmental fee.

 Day 2: 2000, 3,700 total 
(includes budget accommodation, 3 meals a day in restaurant, kayak for 2 and zipline)

El Nido has a good night life with lots of bands playing in different places, but if you want to avoid the tourists and save, you can always move on towards Sibaltan, depending on when the ferry arrives.

Moving to Sibaltan

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Moving east along the El Nido peninsula, we come across Nacpan, Calitang and Duli beaches, with various resorts off the beaten path as explained in our suggested accommodations page. The most affordable of these is Where to Next on Calitang beach, but close to the end of Nacpan beach, so you get two beaches for the price of one. 550p tent for two is their lowest offer.

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On the Sibaltan page below there are some contacts to bus and jeepney services. May require some juggling to hop along the coast, but ask the resorts you will be staying at to help you. When in El Nido you can also ask at the bus terminal.

 Day 3: 1000p, 4,700p total 
(assumes 500p for food, 300p for accommodation and 200p for transport)

Sibaltan

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Sibaltan is a lovely little archeological village with a very long stretch of beach quickly filling up with one quaint resort after another. You should be able to get accommodation for as little as 500p for a room, and there are many options. Definitely worth visiting.

 Day 4: 1000p, 5,700p total 

Linapacan

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I would consider this the jewel of your stay. So much to explore, but the best way to get there, if you have the budget, is by a private boat. That way you get to see a bunch of more jewels along the way, such as Pical (30 minutes by boat from Sibaltan), Takling (a deserted island you can camp out on, and there are many others), Calacala, and the tons of great places to snorkel and lounge (check out our most popular boat tour stops).

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With enough people, such a tour can actually be quite affordable, especially since you will only be going from Sibaltan to Linapacan, perhaps on a two day trip, combining it with a boat tour of the Linapacan area on day 2. Or we have small boats for 2-3 people that are much more affordable, but not so comfortable, details here.

Trekking on Bolina island, Philippines, PalawanBolina, deserted island across from our nature camp where you can sleep overnight.

If you cannot afford a private boat, there is the Lara and other ferries leaving from San Fernando, just north of Sibaltan, at least four times a week for about 700p. That will take you to Linapacan (San Miguel), where there is tons to see by inexpensive local boat tour, and affordable accommodation easy to find (about 500p/room or two people).

return-trip-manila-palawan_20161212View of our nature camp beach from our island mountain.

And if you really like to get off the beaten path into beautiful and peaceful nature, you can stay at our kitesurfing nature camp. We have beach volleyball, good music, several instruments with which to play live music around the campfire at night, wakeboarding, rent a banca and borrow our fishing rods, jungle trails to explore, but general all out relax. We also cook together and food costs are only 250p/day, so a good place to save.

Drone shot of our island.

Here in Linapacan there is also an environmental fee of 200p, and perhaps also along the route to get here, so keep that in mind. Tents for as low as 600p for two, 400p for one, more details here. So roughly 500p a day including food, and assuming you will want to party it up a bit or maybe do an affordable local group boat tour, a budget of 1000p a day should be sufficient for the rest of your stay and include the Lara ferry to get here.

 Days 5/6/7/8/9: 5000p, 10,700p total 

Back to Manila

Snorkeling nearby.

So if the Atienza ferry leaves Manila on Saturday (make sure to call and check their schedule), arrives to El Nido on Sunday, leaves for Linapacan on Monday (which you can obviously take if you want to save more money by not going to Sibaltan), and leaves from Linapacan back to Manila on Monday, it should be on the same schedule a week later. Day 10 should be the next Monday and when the ferry will head back to Manila, overnight arriving on Tuesday, 1,700p, food included. Total price then:

 Day 10: 1,700p, 12,400p total 

Of course savings can be made here and there, such as not boozing up so much while staying at my nature camp (1L beers selling for 100p or big bottles of Emperador for 200p – or simply bring your own), such that, technically, you could have a ten day trip through the best parts of Palawan for as little as 10,000p.

return-trip-manila-palawan-beach-volleyballFree activity.

But if you do have more meat in your budget, there are certainly other options to making your way back to Manila. For example, you can shorten your stay in Linapacan and take one of our boat tours, small or large boat, up to Coron, visiting the most popular Coron spots along the way. If you are an avid diver, there are 8 shipwrecks around Coron, but no beach and not much else to do there.

Twin-lagoons-coron-Twin_Lagoon_Palawan-120Twin lagoon near Coron.

Or if you do not have the budget for a private boat to Coron, take the Jessabel ferry, and then the 2Go ferry onward to Manila (all info on the usual ferries page).

So lots of options to choose from, depending on your budget or time off. If you prefer packaged tours, I can arrange that as well.

Hope to see ya!

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Opening a bank account and atm cash withdrawal for foreigners

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After struggling with this issue for half a year, I finally found an excellent solution.

Background history

I’m a digital nomad, deriving my income from my various online jobs and businesses, a luxury which has enabled me to travel around the world for the past 15 years. The problem with this is big brother is growing and about a year ago the banks where I held accounts started asking me to prove that I still live in the country where my account is located. A few years before that my PayPal US account would no longer issue debit cards. One by one I was losing my cards. As a seasoned traveler, I like to have several cards and accounts for backup purposes, and different card types, because some smaller, remote villages might only have mastercard atms, while others only visa.

Now the number of my cards has whittled down to only one: my Bulgarian visa card. But it uses the latest technology with a little chip in the card which the old atm machines in Coron cannot read. I tried everything to resolve these issues but the only solution would be to fly back and show up at the banks in person. This was not an option, so I finally resorted to my good friends at Seadive Hotel in Coron, who would accept a direct paypal payment from me and either give me cash or write me a check. An expensive 10% commission option, but at least there was a way.

Opening a bank account

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So an obvious solution would be to open a local bank account, move my income stream to a local PayPal account (where I get all my income), connect the two and we’re done. Since Coron is the closest town with banks to my beautiful little island, I started first with BPI, since the Seadive had an account there and it seemed the most established.

After spending an unbelievable 30 minutes to exchange $300 in cash to Filipino pesos, the clerk filling in all sorts of forms, punching in details of my passport and who knows what in the computer, vigorously stamping many papers in the process, it was finally time to work on opening the account. He grabbed a purple pink little pad of sticky paper, pealed off one and proceeded to scribble down a small list of instructions of what I needed to get, smiling assuredly when I asked him, “That’s it?”

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Because it was low season and the regular ferries to my area were not operating, I was forced to hire private boats to go to Coron, three and a half hours away, to do occasional shopping and sort out these headaches. I therefore ran out and arranged for the copy of my passport and other requirements.

Long story short, I had to go back to my island and back to Coron many times, and each time I showed up with the needed documents, I would hear what I have been hearing my entire life whenever dealing with banks: “Oh yes, and we still need this and that.”

By the fifth visit I finally blew up and demanded to see the manager. The woman came over and I filled her ears with questions why doesn’t such an established bank have saved in its computer system a simple form they can just print out with all the requirements necessary to open an account at their bank, without resorting to these amateur gumby and inaccurate sticky papers that waste a lot of my time and money. To this she responded that, in the end, it is still up to the discretion of the bank, even if I fulfill all their requirements.

To that I could only respond by asking what discretion, the manager’s particular mood that day? She seemed quite taken aback by that comment, and my head was so boiling hot I was very close to adding that it might also be influenced by her menstruation cycle.

The final solution

I will not go into detail about a host of other Filipino bureaucratic idiosyncrasies I’ve come across during my stay in this lovely country. The locals know it themselves. But the final solution was to buy a Globe sim card and request a GCash mastercard from them.

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With the card you can:

  • buy things online or in shops like a regular credit card
  • download funds from your PayPal account, for ZERO charges, withdraw from atm for the next to nothing Filipino rates, about 100k a month once everything is verified

The small catch is, as usual, the PayPal account must be Filipino, but that is easily resolved by using another email address, if you already have a PayPal account elsewhere. If you do not have another email address, simply set up a free one at gmail or yahoo etc.

When setting up another PayPal account or transferring funds from one to another, make sure to first log out of one before logging in to another. Otherwise some alarm signals can go off and your account blocked. Then you have to phone in, which is always a traumatic nightmare, and answer all the security questions you may have easily forgotten.

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For extra paranoia, I would use a different password, to avoid any possible automatic red flags, and a different browser. You should use your real name and other truthful information, in case some day they ask you to verify yourself by sending in a picture of your passport etc. For your local address, make sure it is the same for both your Filipino PayPal account and your GCash account. It cannot be a postal address. Since I live on a paradise beach island with no streets or “addresses”, I just made one up. I don’t need paper bank statements, since I am a digital nomad.

Just go to an official Globe shop, bring your passport, and they’ll set you up. But hey, either it’s because it’s a banky sort of thing, or maybe I’m always plagued with these sorts of things, but I did run into problems, so I’ll go through those so at least you’ll have a heads up on what you might run into.

  • First of all, try to use the same email address for both accounts, and all other information, exactly.
  • There is some verification process on the Globe end that takes about three days. You can expedite that to immediately by going to your official Globe shop and ask them for that, or apparently there is an online option using your Facebook account.
  • In your PayPal account, verify your account by connecting it to the same GCash debit card (detailed instructions below). You will need at least 150p on your GCash account for the verification to work.
  • With your GCash card you will receive a little brochure of information. So little in fact it has hardly any useful information other than the weblink. Follow that, open an account and connect to your phone number (the one associated with your GCash card).
  • Download the GCash app to your phone. When trying to figure out why it was not working, one website stated that it needs to be at least Android 5. Follow the simple logic and connect to your Paypal account. Detailed instructions below.

Troubleshooting

Sometimes I think there are little devils in another dimension who meddle into my IT life and aggravate me in so many ways to hinder my spiritual advancement. So I will just list some points I had to struggle through, in case the above does not work for you.

After everything was verified according to the above, I tried to transfer USD funds from my PayPal account to GCash, but I received the error message:

“Oops! The payment cannot be processed because no payment source is available.”

Tinkering around, I then converted some USD funds to pesos in my PayPal account and tried transferring that. It worked! Unfortunately, only that one time (after that I always received the above message). One website said they had the same problem and resolved it by removing the USD account on PayPal and making the pesos account primary. Didn’t work for me, and my housemate said she regularly sends money from her USD balance to her GCash card without a problem.

Tinkering some more, if you click on Profile > Profile and Settings, then My Money, then Update for “My preapproved payments”, you will find a link to Preapproved Payment Plans, which will take you to the following window:

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In my case I found two for the same service, because I accidentally did it twice. I removed both, added a new one, but was still getting the same error message.

And the final solution? I tried and I tried and finally the next day it worked. Sometimes a little patience can do wonders!

Useful Links

Some useful pages I read when I was trying to troubleshoot the glitches.

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Bulog Dos

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#14 of top things to do near Coron according to Tripadvisor.

Like Malcapuya Island, Bulog Dos also has a nice white sandy beach, although rather short. It also charges an entrance fee, and has a long snaking sandbar that connects it to Malaroyroy Peninsula and the rest of Bulalacao. It has interesting rock formations, but is currently under negotiations with the same new owners of Malcapuya, so it may be closed to public soon as well (make sure to check the latest comments in Tripadvisor above for the latest news).

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It is usually part of the same tour package of three islands, including Malcapuya and Banana island. “Bulog” means bald, describing the shape of the mound that resembles that of a bald head. Snorkeling there is good if you get out far enough (although Banana Island is better), and overall the best visit among these three islands. A rather small island that can be explored in less than 30 minutes. There’s a lone hut on the island which may be possible to sleep in. Otherwise, if you’d like to stay in the area, you can walk across the sand bar to the 5 star hotel on the neighbouring island.

Back to Suggested Travel Itinerary for the Palawan Area

Bulog Dos 3

Bulog Dos 6

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Banana Island

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4.5/5 of 241 reviews on Tripadvisor, #12 of things to do around Coron.

200p entrance fee.

Preserved and privately-owned by the Gallego Family, they allow visitors to swim and see the clams, corals and lots of fishes just a few meters from the shoreline of the island. The waters are deeper than Malcapuya Island, so you can expect a greater variety of sea life.

Some info according to http://blog.macoymejia.com/2015/11/23/banana-island-coron-palawan-philippines/:

  • Beach camping on the island is no longer allowed
  • Day-tour entrance fee is PhP 200
  • Overnight fee is PhP 850 ~ PhP 1000 per night
  • Most of the cottages have lights and electric fans run through electric generator
  • Some
  • They can cook for you, but bring your own food to cook
  • No fishing, but you can ask them to fish for you
  • They have a small store that sell few items like softdrinks, beer, alcohol drinks, cigarets, and chips

More officially known as Dicalabuan Island, the name Banana catching on later because of the island’s shape.

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The beach can be somewhat pebbly, but it does have a volleyball net.

A little tip: There is a sandbar jutting out from Banana Island to Malaroyroy Peninsula. You can hike over the base of this sandbar and walk all the way to Malaroroy and Bulog Dos along it. During high tides you can still get across if you don’t mind wading through chest-deep water.

It is more developed than Malcapuya or Bulog Dos and has a reasonable sized convenience store where you can get beers.

Banana Island

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Malcapuya Island

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#2 of top things to do around Coron according to Tripadvisor.

This island, along with Bulog Dos and Banana Island are part of a package offered by local tours in Coron because they are located so close to one another. Each of these stops (at least two of them) charges an entrance fee of around 200p/person, and is located close also to our recommended stop for this area, No Name island. Bulog Island is apparently the best of these three, and any of these four is a good stop to break up the trip into smaller parts. If you want to visit more than one stop in this area, you might not have time during the same day to also visit Araw Beach.

The island has white sandy beaches comparable to Borocay, as does Bulog Dos.

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This one has an entrance fee of 200p but they have begun work on a new resort, so it is uncertain how long it will remain open to the public (check out the Tripadvisor link above to make sure).

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At the moment it offers accommodation as explained on http://www.traveling-up.com/a-night-in-malcapuya-island-coron/ (TravelUp pics):

  • Our room for the night was a simple cottage by the beach, an enclosed thatched hut with an electric fan and a mattress on the floor. Cost for cottage rental was P750/person.
  • There are two restrooms with open air showers a few meters away from the huts.
  • The island does not have electricity, but they have a generator which provides light and electricity at night.
  • There are outlets in the huts where you can charge phones and camera batteries.
  • You can also opt to stay in a simple house-for-rent on an elevated portion a few meters from the shoreline, which has a single room, basic yet comfortable beds, and a decent restroom.

Rather undeveloped at the moment, which only adds to its charm, with many deserted and protected beaches.

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Single One Day Boat Trips Tours Between Sibaltan (El Nido) or Coron and Linapacan

beach-hopping-tourCheck out our page for the latest info on the public ferries between these locations, but since they do not run every day and you might not have enough time during your limited travel schedule, we have private boat options.

Large or small boat?

The most comfortable option would be our larger boats, which can accommodate up to 20 people in good weather, 15 in harsher/bigger waves. It has bench space for 8 people and plenty of other space for comfortable sitting, or lying down, with tons of space for baggage. It also has a sun and rain shade, but if it looks like it might rain, or if it will be wavy and windy, for a more comfortable trip you are advised to bring an umbrella or some kind of rain gear (in very very wavy weather—usually around February—even snorkels to cover your eyes).

This costs 10,000p for a single day trip, plus 1,000p for each additional person above 1.

Budget travelers can take our smaller boat with a maximum capacity of 3 for

  • 5k for one person
  • 6k for two people
  • 7.5k for three people

There would be tight sitting room for three people and the boatman, with gear you will find it difficult to stretch your legs, but there is a small awning cover against the sun and rain.

Island hopping or not?

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The journey by the faster big boat can take roughly 3.5 hours, while 4.5 hours for the small boat. You can alleviate this journey with a bit of island hopping for frequent trips along the way, but that would require the boatman to come the night before so that you could leave first thing in the morning. This would cost an additional 1,000p for the smaller boat or 2,000p for the larger boat. You can meet the boatman the night before, he can show you some sites around town, and it would be nice if you would buy him a beer or two. They will be sleeping on the boat. This way you can stretch out the journey to seven hours or more.

If coming from or going to Coron, you can include in that the three most popular sites: Twin Lagoons, Kayangan Lake and Malcapuya Island, which would save you money from having to hire an additional local tour for those. You can check out the boat stops page for ideas where you could take breaks along the way.

Special prices from Sibaltan (El Nido)

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Sibaltan is a nice archeological village well worth visiting and located about one hour by van east of El Nido. Our boats do not go directly to El Nido because it is significantly farther, can be dangerous around the north peninsula, and all of the beautiful spots to visit are on the east side of the peninsula.

We happen to also have a couple of boats in Sibaltan (most of our boats are docked in Linapacan), so if you want a quick day trip to Linapacan, tour the area, and make it back the same day, that is possible.

* Note that prices may increase in October.

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Twin Lagoons, Coron

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No. 4 of things to do around Coron according to Tripadvisor.

Located not far from Kayangan Lake on the same island of Coron (the town of Coron is located on another island), another worthwhile stop along a boat tour. The coastline is splendid and the bay mystifying as you approach the little house wedged into the sharp rocks at the lagoon’s mouth.

Twin-lagoons-coron-twin lagoonsPhoto left: the usual entry is at the boats in the upper right, where the house is. But boats can also get into the second lagoon, shown bottom left.

The house owner will paddle out occasionally, collecting the 200p entrance fee from the various boats, but if you’re hungry, this could be a good stop for lunch because they’ll also grill you up some fresh fish. If you take a peak behind the house you’ll find the usual hung laundry, roaming chickens and dirt floor backyard that you’ll find in any other rural Filipino home, so obviously the attendants are not collecting much of the entrance fee.

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Grilled fish diner and entrance fee collection.

Because the lagoons are so popular, you can expect a lot of tourists bobbing in the water, but still much less than the lagoons around El Nido.

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To get to the other lagoon, if tide is low enough you can swim your way under a tight impasse, otherwise you can crawl over on a funky ladder system.

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If it is low tide, the ladder is a worthwhile climb if you want to take some good pictures.

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View from the top of the ladder to the second lagoon.

Alternating cold fresh water with warm ocean water can give a slightly eerie feeling, which is why the locals call the lagoons “strange waters”.

Here is a short video:

Kayangan Lake

 

Kayangan-lake-20170209_123804Click on pic to zoom in.

No. 1 of things to do around Coron according to Tripadvisor.

But it requires a steep 75m climb (about 300 steps total), both up and down into it, about 15 minutes if you are in reasonably good shape. That includes the waiting time, as the path is too narrow to accommodate traffic in both directions, and because it is a popular destination, be prepared to slide to the side and wait occasionally.

It is a hall of fame awardee for the cleanest and greenest inland body of water in the Philippines and dubbed as the cleanest lake in Asia. However, when I was there it didn’t seem so clear but somewhat murky, and hardly as clear as the waters around Linapacan.

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If the climb is too much for you, another alternative is the nearby Barracuda lake, one of two out of eight lakes in the area open to the public. It has only 30-40 steps.

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The lake is surrounded by a karst scenery of limestone cliffs and guarded and maintained by Tagbanua tribesmen, who consider the lake a sacred cultural site. It is believed that spirits used to dwell in the sacred lakes and that a ritual was performed to transfer the spirits from Kayangan and Barracuda to Cabugao, the largest of all the lakes. Kayangan Lake is 70% fresh water and 30% salt water. According to Coron Tourism it is the most photographed spot in Coron.

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Typical shot of Kayangan Lagoon from the top of the climb.

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The busy docking area in the lagoon.

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It has astonishing underwater rock formations (which have jagged edges and can be fun to grab onto to keep underwater and pull yourself along), and you can discover the enchanting Awuyuk Kayangan Cave, where you’d have to swim to go through its narrow entrance.

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There is a cave you can check out at the top of the climb. At the top there is also an area where you can take a beautiful shot of the Kayangan Lagoon, where the boats dock.

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The trip from Coron there is itself breathtaking, the shoreline adorned with beautiful limestone cliffs and hidden little beaches.

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There is an entrance fee of 200p to enter the area.

Seeking Yoga Retreat Teacher

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Live on a beach paradise island, excellent snorkeling in the clearest waters in the world, very peaceful environment with a maximum of 30 guests, with 15 local fishermen families half spread out on each side of the island. The perfect meditative environment where to focus without distractions.

I myself have learned some Reiki, crystal healing and massage, but only a little bit of yoga, my healing page here.

The perfect environment where a teacher can develop a business. We can figure out some profit sharing plan, or volunteer work when customers are few.

Latest pictures of the place here.

Types of available accommodation here.

Benefits of Yoga

Our bodies are comprised of roughly 85% salt water, with electrical currents constantly traveling along the nerve highways (like wiring) that we are essentially walking energy beings. There are 7 energy focus points called chakras, the imbalance of which can lead to diseases and sickness. With proper eating, a healthy alkaline environment and energy balance, we need never get sick.

Yoga teaches how to position the body to balance its energy. It is an ancient science of health and well being by tuning the body for optimum energy flow.

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Experience AWESOME sunrises and sunsets in this peaceful paradise.

History of Yoga

The beginnings of Yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati in Northern India over 5,000 years ago, although some argue that its beginning could be from as long ago as 10,000 years. The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred text, the Rig Veda, a collection of readings used by the Vedic priests. Yoga was slowly refined and developed by the Brahmans and Rishis (mystic seers) who documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures. These scriptures basically described the internalisation of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas, preaching sacrifice of ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga).

In this pre-classical stage of yoga, the practice was a combination of different ideas, beliefs and techniques that often conflicted and contradicted each other. The Classical period is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras, Patanjali often considered the father of yoga.

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More pics of sunsets, sunrises and fluffy clouds on our Facebook photo album for this,
where you will find lots of other albums with the latest pics of this place.

A few centuries after Patanjali, yoga masters designed a system of practices intended to rejuvenate the body and extend life. They rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. They developed Tantra Yoga, with radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. This exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body-centered practices led to the creation of what we primarily think of yoga in the West: Hatha Yoga.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, yoga masters began to travel to the West, attracting attention and followers. This began at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, when Swami Vivekananda wowed the attendees with his lectures on yoga and the universality of the world’s religions.

The importation of yoga to the West still continued at a trickle until Indra Devi opened her yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947. Since then, many more western and Indian teachers have become pioneers, popularising hatha yoga and gaining millions of followers. Hatha Yoga now has many different schools or styles, all emphasizing the many different aspects of the practice.

Types of Yogaseeking-yoga-retreat-teacher-Yoga

Hatha Yoga

Hatha in the ancient language of Sanskrit actually refers to any yoga which teaches about physical postures, making all yoga technically Hatha in one form or another. It is good for beginners because it advances slowly and you only need to hold the posture for a few breaths.

Vinyasa

As a beginner I tried Hatha when I lived in Thailand, but as a sportsy guy who likes movement, I think I would much prefer this form of yoga, as it combines movement and breath in a dance like way. No agonising, long held postures which would only bring discomfort or possibly even muscle cramps, but poses are short and the pace can be quick. Prepare yourself for a good, ergonomic workout combined with music beat to match. Endurance athletes are often drawn to this type of yoga because of the continuous movement.

Iyengar

Now we’ll get real nit-picky and focus on the detail, using yoga blocks, blankets and straps to help you maintain the postures longer.

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Excellent snorkeling (past the point in this pic) just offshore
in the clearest waters in the world.

Ashtanga

If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll love this form of yoga as it cycles through the same six series of specifically sequenced yoga poses, breathing through each pose to build an internal heat.

Bikram

Speaking of internal heat, why not add some by cycling through a specific series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises in a room heated to more than 40C with about 40% humidity. The 90 minute sequence is usually all the same, but remember to always hydrate yourself properly beforehand. It can get strenuous!

Hot Yoga

Similar to Bikram but not limited to the same 26 poses. With your muscles so heated and hydrated, you are able to hold certain poses longer, but it might be easier for you to overstretch, so be careful. Good for hardcore sweat lovers.

Kundalini

This video should give a good idea of what it’s like here.
More on our Google+ page.

A fascinating form of yoga whereby you combine repetitive exercises with intense breathing, while chanting, singing and meditating for the purpose of opening up the highway of energy between the chakras in the hopes of channeling it to break through your third eye, that chakra point hovering in front of your pineal gland.

This can make you a much more aware person and connect you better to the cosmos. But beware! This practice should be supervised properly because there have been stories whereby the force was so strong that it dislodged the person’s consciousness from its body, only to be replaced by demon(s). Read kundalini.se for interesting testimonies.

Good for people interested in spiritual advancement and a more meaningful use of yoga.

Yin Yoga

If you don’t mind poses, be prepared to hold them for minutes at a time. A meditative type of yoga focusing on the deeper connective tissues and fascia. Props will be used to help you relax in each pose instead of relying on your muscles. Good to restore the body’s youthful vitality. A good way to stretch and unwind, but those who are super flexible should be careful not to overdo the stretching.

Restorative

A mellow, slow-moving practice with longer holds focusing on deeper relaxation and restoration of the body. Good for those who are anxious and can’t seem to slow down, those suffering from insomnia or anxiety in general. Also good for athletes on recovery. Poses are held long but supported by various props to help you fully relax.

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Or join one of the many boat tours we organise to explore the broader area.

The high season is a success

Since my connection with the caretaker, my situation has felt much more certain. I no longer feel like such an outsider of a village on the verge of pulling out their pitchforks, but someone with possible clout. It went from someone who could be charged by the locals for collecting bamboo washed up onto the beach, to someone who is in contact with the owner of a property they traverse in order to get to the island’s only water supply. And I made sure to mention that when our relations seemed strained.

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The beginnings of my humble hut.

But according to my initial spirit of wanting to maintain good community relations, which is also mandatory for future successful business, I found more effective ways of shmoozing their favour, such as:

  • sending nice guests, preferably female, to request fish or coconuts from the locals, so that they can see foreigners are not monsters, or at least not the madman I am;
  • a popular bonus has been to sell their local brandy at cost so they do not need to go all the way to town;
  • buying them ebay presents, such as inflatable water dinosaurs for their children or solar powered Christmas and other lights. After setting up two in the big community hut, they inadvertently changed my settings to flashing disco mode;
  • picking up supplies for them in Coron, such as 12v led lights and deep cycle batteries they now use for squid fishing at night instead of their stinky, loud and gas guzzling generators;
  • lending them money, such as to Elsie who had her second baby and the doctor advised for an ultrasound. Since then I have become the regular island bank, payable back in coconuts and fish etc., written down on pieces of paper instead of dealing with currency, which they never seem to have any of anyway (getting change on the thousands I get out of the atm is almost impossible in this entire region).

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Due to popular demand finally managed to get a harpoon, for $100 used from a German tourist passing through. Together with my fishing rod, lures and banca paddle boat, some guests will certainly be pleased.

The nice thing about the Christmas lights, as I discovered one dark evening as we were arriving late from another Coron shopping trip, it gives you a welcoming feeling of home as you approach the blinking and lit up beach from a distance. Like a bustling metropolis sprawled out along a paradise beach, waiting for you to join the party.

Although relations have improved overall with the locals, other problems have surfaced.

For example, by the end of the rainy season, during the full moon of November and December, and a little bit of January, the waves reached so high up on the beach that they added more than half a metre of sand, completely burying our campfire and sucking away two of the massive logs that surrounded it for sitting. We managed to roll up some replacements, but instead of unearthing the two remaining logs that were now buried, I decided to shovel out the sand to turn it into a campfire “pit”. It’s actually quite cozy down there now, leaning against the logs with the sand outside the pit flush with the top of the logs. Another reason for this approach is to show people the possible effects of global warming. Talking about it and seeing the effects while sitting in it are two different matters.

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Above, the campfire place is half buried, but once the full moon arrived in a few days it was completely buried. The beach is now flush with the property area, having risen almost a metre. Hope it won’t be the same next year!

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Another annoyance has been the chickens and cocks. Always venturing into my kitchen while I work on my computer, just around the bush. Cackling away, knowing I do not like them making their mess (digging up all the leaves in search of worms and bugs for food), until I purchased myself a few sling shots from ebay. I even offer guests the bribe of a beer if they score. But somehow the little buggers always seem so sharp and evasive. Managed to only get them twice, once right in the butthole, but they hopped off with almost no regard, cackling in a way that sounds like open chuckling. I realised that this must be where the word “cocky” comes from.

But small fry in annoyance when compared to the previous rainy season. And to prepare myself for that, especially now that I received official authorisation from the property caretaker, I began building my own hut. I’m sure you can imagine that living in a tent for a couple of years can get rather old. No electricity to keep the laptop running while watching movies or working in bed, no big fan during hot stagnant nights, and the other many discomforts.

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Took about 4 days to clear out the dense innards of these prickly trees to make room for my hammock lounge area behind my hut, but was quickly appreciated by this Lithuanian volunteer.

In typical grandiose fashion I masterminded a two story “hut scraper”, complete with terrace, wide open windows, removeable seethrough plastic windows, and bamboo walls which could drop down from the ceiling during the typhoon season or for when I need to go away for a while – this hut should promise to make my stay here much more pleasant. I will move inside the stereo system, set up more Christmas lights and store everything else on the ground floor, greatly increasing my security.

On the other hand, my motivation does sometimes waver as I build this hut hurriedly before the upcoming rainy season, imagining that the Italian owner has managed to sell the property and forcing me to leave just as I tighten the last screw or bolt in the last LED light.

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Speaking of increasing the comfort level, following several complaints by boyfriends of female guests, I have started building a shower. I don’t know if it is because the girls feel their boyfriends wont love them anymore because their hair is no longer shiny, or they feel a need to completely remove salt from the surface of their bodies in order to have slippery sex at night, but it will be on the verge of luxurious. Collecting rainfall, a bucket above a barrel used to filter the well water, and a complete shower and nozzle system with its own filtering mechanism. Should definitely give the place a facelift once done. The runoff can also irrigate the future garden, boosting the camp’s organic image.

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The beginnings of the shower, a blue barrel I one day found washed up on the beach, which will be propped up on stilts while plugged into the below showerhead. Gotta up the comfort level!

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And since a lot of the volunteer work has already been completed, I have started to shift towards beautification, and now even marketing, whether it is writing an article about their stay, or instagram tips.

It has been nice watching the place develop organically as the volunteers are given more freedom. Even the guests have expressed interest in helping out, sometimes contributing more than the volunteers.

One great visit was by Hugo from Malaysia. A Brit whose job is to manage millions of dollars of monthly purchases for a major distribution company there. So stressed out and high strung, when he saw my camp on airbnb he decided he HAS to come here. First guest who sent $300 in advance without almost any discussion.

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His big project was to make a trap for all the crabs, octopus and barracuda lurking in amongst the coral reefs. It was a fun project to haul out his home-made contraption, balancing it on my frail banca paddle boat as we fought against the relentless onslaught of incoming waves.

It was great partying with him in San Mig over Christmas and New Years, and we even had a perfect brainstorm once back on the island, cranking the music and staring out from the beach. There across from us was Bolina Island, where I send occasional guests to “run naked on their own deserted island”. While we both enjoyed the deep house music, I remarked how the big fat beach on that island could accommodate 300 ravers, and thus was born the Linapacan Music Festival, which I think will be a great way to put this lovely area on the tourist map.

Another nice quality of paying guests is I collect cash for simply entertaining and taking care of them. With enough guests, my food is paid for, and so can my greatest budget expenditure: beer. I had 3 Finnish guys passing through who managed to polish off 60 1L bottles in only five days. Wooohooo! For every two they drink, I get one paid for! But they drank my stock dry and you can imagine what sour faces the four of us wore before we managed to replenish our stock with a special boat trip. It was certainly an interesting sensation to just breath, eat, drink and talk for free while your wallet grows slowly fatter. Until you have to thin it slightly by going to the bank, which in my case is a hole in the ground.

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Some of the guests were rather exotic, who just showed up on my beach unexpectedly in their kayak, inflatable longboard, or four Russians who beached up on shore in their slow, powered inflatable raft (above pic). All three of these visits were on a mission to circumnavigate the 2,000km distance around Palawan. Although they did express some concern for the southern tip, where pirates are known for kidnapping and extortion, or where there are 6m long sea crocodiles. The skinny Italian’s 2m longboard, complete with inlayed compass and various compartments, certainly did look impressive, but I presume that those big critters can swim a lot faster. He visited for only one night and was off early the next morning, when it was cold, dark and showering miserably, in order that he could keep up with his rigid 8 hour schedule a day. I did not envy him as I waved him off into the horizon.

Besides things going well on the campsite, February actually bringing in enough earnings to cover all costs, the boat tours were really picking up well. Starting around October they were actually pulling in enough revenues that I did not have to translate, at all. For the first time in 25 years. It was a great relief and I enjoyed developing a website to help automate many of the tasks, because it was starting to consume a major part of my time. I was able to survive this way for a full six months, but now that the dry season is coming to an end and the slow season has started, I hope that I will not have to return to translation, also because it takes at least two months to receive payment as opposed to the immediate payment I have grown accustomed to with the boat tours. This may lead to a dangerous cash shortage.

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Part of the beautification and organisational process, marking the various
camping sections from A to F and giving them individual names.

Therefore, I’d say I have finally entered a nice cruising period, where food is cooked for me, the place remains tidy, and I more carefully select volunteers and guests. Just today I guided one guest to the top of the second mountain. It has been a long time since I walked to the very end of the beach, but I noticed how much of the sand had been dragged away and replaced by immense boulders and logs. That could have a major impact on the property’s value, since that was the nicest section of beach. We’ll see if the sea continues to eat away at the beach, potentially extending my stay. Now I just need to scrape it through this next low season.

Scraping through the next low season in comfort and style

The low season is for a reason, because it is the rainy season. And with the rain the swamp in the back of the property fills up, bringing with it the mosquitoes and all the other bugs. The air can become quite stagnant and wet at night, rather uncomfortable as I lay sweating in bed in the hot air of the tent, irritated by little yellow slippery beach bugs drawn into the tent by the light of my laptop as I try to enjoy a movie.

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But with my own hut in the making for the past six months, I just managed to get enough of it done that I could officially move into it just as the weather changed. Until then I slept as I always do during the dry season, which is outside under the stars, a cool breeze often making the sleep just perfect.

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Making “Sawali slabs” to string up into position.

Into my hut I move my latest purchase – the best mattress that Coron offers. It’s time to up the comfort level. But somehow I have fallen out with the caretaker as he no longer responds to my text messages, without an explanation. I had already paid him in advance for some Sawali, which is interlaced bamboo strips used for hut walls. My existing Sawali ran out and I have not yet been able to weather proof the top floor, where I now sleep. Sometimes the wind picks up at night as it rains, that pouring at such angles that my new bed can get completely soaked in a manner of minutes. I remedy this by opening up one of the big sun shades and cuddling up protected under that umbrella. Or if it really starts to pour, reluctantly crawl back into the dreaded tent.

I scrounge together some savings and manage to buy a few more rolls of Sawali. I have finally moved the solar panel with electricity into the hut, so now I can watch movies or work in bed, one of my favourite workstations. Now living on the second floor, the dreaded slimy yellow beach bugs can’t reach me, and overall the bugs and mosquitoes are fewer. But the remainder have been dealt with by good mosquito netting around my bed and new workstation, and a battery operated fan to blow away the little black ones which get through the usual netting.

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Sawali slab tied up into place with mosquito netting over fanciest mattress. From the ceiling hangs framed windows which can be put into place according to need (front and right of workstation – always need beautiful view!).

One potential downfall has been the loss of my main volunteering account, at Workaway. One girl complained about the environmental tax and caretaker fee, but it is actually a welcome break, because the constant flow of volunteers have truly been taxing. The locals are less than pleased though because it means lower sales in fish, coconuts and local boat tours.

Since the big boat tours have dried up, I have been forced to go back to translating. I now spend my days on the occasional translation job, in peace and quiet mostly on my own, with the occasional volunteer passing through for a longer period, since I am now more strict concerning their minimum stay. If not translating then I continue working on my hut, patching up this and that as I find various leaks when the rain pellets me from different angles.

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The new workstation with rolling blinder (nicest coloured bedsheet) to block out the setting sun, framed window left up to the right during the rainy season. To see more pics of the hut’s progress, check out its album on our facebook page.

And work hard I must, for my cousin from the UK has announced that she plans to visit Vancouver, the home of both my mother and sister, in April of next year. I have been strictly instructed that I simply MUST attend this rare reunion. By that time I should have my hut completed and able to lock up everything tight for an extended departure. Which I might make an annual routine during the six month rainy season – depends on how my comfort/discomfort level pans out during this experimental period. Perhaps the following year I will try fruit picking in Australia.

And because there are so fewer volunteers and paying guests, I have been using the free time to work on promotion, most recently in the form of converting the big hut into a home (with its own solar power, lights and dining picnic table), to give the site an overall facelift and finally post it on booking.com, agoda and many other sites. I imagine it could get quite busy by the next high season, in conjunction with the boat tours again. But one thorn remains: now that I’ve fallen out with the caretaker, how precarious is my position here?

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First sunset enjoyed from new workstation.

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