Monday, July 25th, 2016 Coron, Palawan, Philippines.
The first thing we notice when we arrive in Coron is that it smells like something is burning, but no time for that right now. We need to get situated. Our arrival at the 2Go Ferry dock in Coron goes much more smoothly than our arrival in Puerto Princesa. It probably helps that it’s 1:00 PM
rather than 9:00 PM, but let’s just say we’re also more experienced now. We negotiate with two trikes for only slightly more than the going rate, straight to our new lodging: Jazmine’s Place. They have us in a king room on the third floor. We look at the two scrawny girls that act as porters, consider my gimpy knee and beg for anything on the first floor. We end up with one twin bed and one double bed, a desk, a “closet,” air conditioning, hot water, and a rotating fan. This works fine for us - anything to keep the luggage on the first level!
We immediately connect with Chris Cruz from CouchSurfing. He puts Tom on the back of his motor bike to deliver him to RockSteady Dive Shop, setting him up to dive the next day.
*Aside* Rock Steady has a Jamaican, Bob Marley theme to their dive
shop complete with a red, yellow and green jeepney that blasts reggae music to transport the divers and gear from the shop to the boat. As soon as Tom saw the jeepney he told the German-born owner that it wasn’t a real jeepney. “Vat?” she replied? “No,” said Tom, “It has tread on all the tires including the spare.”She laughed and nodded, “And they vere very expensive too!”
That settled we head out for some local Filipino food.
*Aside* Local Filipino food is often prepared earlier in the day then displayed in little showcases that are neither heated nor cooled. Much Filipino food is eaten cold. This is not just a Filipino habit but seemingly an Asian habit, as we saw this in Okinawa as well. In many countries it is not unusual to keep food at room temperature over night, using leftovers the next morning or the next day. As Americans we find this frightening and fear for our lives if not the health and safety of our guts. However, being brave and with guidance from locals as to what’s safe and what’s not, Tom and I have eaten some of this food finding it not only delicious but have not suffered Montezuma’s revenge from it.
Chris is a Dive Master and accompanies Tom on two days of dives: mostly WWII wrecks with a fresh-water lake thrown in to keep it interesting. We say goodbye to Chris at Altrove Restaurant over pizza as he’s leaving tomorrow for a new position at a resort north of Coron.
We are now on our own. Because of Rebecca’s knee we really can’t island hop because snorkeling will tax her knee. We can’t climb the 750 steps to the top of Mount Taypus because of Rebecca’s knee. We can’t go to Kayangan Lake or Barracuda Lake because they are higher than sea level and you have to walk up rickety stairs to get there. That pesky knee is getting in the way of a lot of stuff.
Then Rebecca gets a migraine.
*Aside* Let’s just say it’s not desirable to get a migraine anywhere in the world but even less so in an emerging economy country (Chris Cruz told us it’s no longer acceptable to call the Philippines a third world country). Rebecca travels with her prescription drugs that usually knock the headache out, even if they do make her kind of stupid and groggy for a bit, but they did not work this time.
It’s 7:00 PM so there’s no choice but the local hospital.
*Aside* In the U.S. a quick trip to the doctor’s office or the Urgent Care for a shot of morphine makes Rebecca sleep like a baby in complete ease, waking up with a new head. We hope for something similar.
At the hospital the first thing Rebecca notices (and she is almost beyond noticing anything) is that anyplace you can put your hands is filthy. The top of the half door into the nurse’s station is painted green except the top edge of the door which is nearly black with hand soil. The second thing she notices is that the doctor looks about 80 years old and is wearing a bright blue polo shirt with jaunty yellow and white stripes as though next he might go off to play a game of tennis. He looks at the drugs Rebecca has already taken and proclaims them “pretty strong drugs.” He gives Tom prescriptions to fill across the street: drugs, sterile syringes, and a sterile IV shunt. They insert the shunt and do a skin test for allergic reaction to the drugs. Forever later (this is from Rebecca’s perspective - probably about 15 minutes) they decide that the drug will not kill Rebecca and give her a half dose of it.
*Aside* It might have been a little better if Rebecca wasn’t lying on a gurney in the bright light of the lobby with someone retching repeatedly on one side and a small child crying incessantly on the other. However the injection only almost takes the edge off the pain, so 30 minutes later they give her some more of it. Rebecca, longing for the smooth launch into pain-free oblivion offered by morphine in the U.S., is still not pain free. Finally they give her a half dose of the second drug. The doctor told Tom that he thought they ought to keep Rebecca overnight for observation. Tom told the doctor that he thought she would do better in a dark, quiet, air-conditioned place that looked more like their room. Rebecca sat up, free of enough pain to want to get out of the hospital to return to quiet and sleep. Cost for this outing? About $10.00 for the prescriptions. The hospital is free: dirty but free.
*Aside* We made a $20 donation. I hope they buy cleaning products with it.
Next day Rebecca is back to normal - well as normal as she gets. Tom and Rebecca make a quiet day of it just wandering about the town of Coron a bit. They opt of dinner at La Sirenetta. Dinner is great and Mother Nature serves up a stunning sunset as a side dish with dinner.
Next morning Tom and Rebecca go down the street for breakfast.
*Aside* There is a free breakfast that accompanies our room but it served cold: fried egg, rice and
some sort of breakfast meat, all cold. Every morning it is cold and arrives at the table wrapped in plastic wrap. The plastic wrap is probably to thwart the ants that are everywhere, but it increases the unappealing factor.
Today we opt for hot eggs and toast at Coffee Kong, then a walk around the bay. There are lots of boats in port because it is the “low season” (actually the rainy season) and not many tourists as compared to high season. We see huge loads of fish coming off the fishing boats getting packed in ice to be shipped to Manila. Then we see one of the new electric tricycles.
*Aside*The new president of the Philippines wants all the old gas guzzling tricycles replaced with these electric carts. This would eliminate a lot of pollution - both air and noise pollution!
We ask how much to Maquinit Hot Springs? 150 pesos per person - just like the gas trikes. We need our swim things from Jazmine’s so the driver delivers us to Jazmine’s and then we’re off to Maquinit. We can actually talk during the ride and the suspension is amazing, even on the rough road. In about twenty minutes we arrive at the spring.
Aside* The temperature of the water at Maquinit Hot Springs is roughly 105º. We used to maintain our hot tub at this temperature. It is feed by a salt water spring. This probably means that sea water flows underground and past something in the earth that heats it up before it arrives in the Maquinit pools. The water is very clean and clear and also supposed to be full of minerals - very healthy for soaking. You can see there is iron in the water from the staining on the rocks under the waterfalls at the edges of the infinity pools.
Rebecca’s knee loves the hot springs. All the muscle tension eases out of our bodies. If it was closer we would certainly make a repeat visit. Now if there was just a spa nearby for a massage we would be totally twitterpaited.
In Coron there is a lot of BBQ (not very good) and smoked meat (also not very good). To create these delicacies they burn stuff: a lot of wood, coconut shells and hulls, bamboo and anything else that will burn. However much of it is not dry, but green which makes a lot of smoke, which is what we smell day in and day, making this one of the smokiest places I’ve ever been.
*Aside* The new president may want to consider how to stop this pollution!
On our final morning in Coron we make our fourth and final visit to Coffee Kong.
*Aside* Remarkably they don’t seem to remember us. We’ve ordered the same thing for four days but they are surprised when Tom wants English Breakfast Tea. They are out of it now. I guess they had a three day run on it? They are polite and smile, but there is no acknowledgement that we had ever walked in the door before aside from the ubiquitous, “Hello Sir, hello “Ma’am.” If we were going to be in Coron another day, I’d find a different breakfast joint.
After breakfast we head to 2Go Ferry terminal to wait for our ferry back to Manila, then on to Cebu. This is a better customer experience. The staff recognizes us on this, our third trip on their ferry. They ask about our trip and our plans, making us feel like valued guests. We settle into our room - the same one that took us to Puerto Princesa.
Aside* It is very noisy again. On the trip from Puerto Princesa to Coron there just over 300 passengers onboard. Now there are more like 550 heading to Manila. In high season there are over 900 passengers with the ferry sold out most of the time. Wow! That’s a lot of people coming and going from Manila to Palawan.
This transit is rockier than the first time. You can hear things going bump, bump around the ship, but once I closed my eyes it was like being rocked to sleep. Tomorrow morning we’ll say hello to Manila again.
What I liked about Coron:
The Maquinit Hot Springs
What I disliked about Coron:
The alternating scent of garbage and burning green wood
The vehicles parked on the sidewalks requiring you to walk in the street with the tricycles and motorcycles beeping at you because now you are in their way.
The cold, plastic wrapped breakfasts
The really dirty hospital