El Nido was everything we wanted. Adventure, culture and stunning scenery all wrapped up in a cute, relaxed little town five hours from Palawan’s premier city Puerto Princesca.
The quiet curve of El Nido’s bay is edged with razor-sharp rocks which shoot up from the sea as if surprised. The scenery has been compared to that of Krabi in Thailand or Vietnam’s Halong Bay but I think El Nido beats them both.
It is surreal, to wake up and stare out of the window and be confronted with a sheer wall of limestone rock peering back at you.
We had also managed to stumble upon a fiesta. The Philippines is famed for its legendary fiestas which can stretch for days and include everything from street parades to beauty pageants.
El Nido was celebrating 99 years as a principality, and what better way to celebrate than have a week-long birthday party?!
The streets were strung with bunting and the covered basketball court played host to dinners and shows every night.
El Nido has a population of nearly 30,000 people and it seemed like most of these people flooded onto the streets each night to browse the market, gamble on the main street or watch the evening performances.
This was the main, most immediate difference between El Nido and Boracay. El Nido, despite having the usual strip of restaurants and guest houses, was a town still predominated with locals.
And they were probably the friendliest locals yet! El Nido hasn’t been tarnished with the ugliness of mass tourism as yet so when the kids smile and shout hello at you, they’re not trying to sell you anything, they’re just being friendly.
But back to the fiesta and my favourite show of all. Miss Gay El Nido 2015.
Here, a bunch of fabulous looking drag queens battled it out to become crowned this year’s Festival Queen. Coming from all over Palawan, they strutted their stuff down the catwalk and danced until they could dance no more!
They even had to come and dance their way through the crowds when the power went out for around half an hour. It certainly kept the audience happy!
The Philippines have been historically accepting of the gay community due to their strong family ties and loyalty. In the small town of El Nido alone, we saw plenty of guys wearing lipstick or with boyfriends and no one batted an eyelid. Another reason why the Philippines is perfect.
The roads to El Nido are still only half paved and the airport is undeveloped and infrequently used. This hopefully means that El Nido will be safe from McDonalds and skyscraper hotels for a couple of years yet. As it stands, El Nido is perfect for backpackers looking for a starting point for some amazing adventures.
And we still had them all to come…
But for now, it’s party time!
Have you visited El Nido or been to a Filipino festival? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages!