Peace of Paradise
Cheryl T. Baldicantos, WEEKENDER | Wed, 11/30/2011 3:21 PM |
Luxury doesn’t have to come with a big price tag, as the simple delights of Coron reveal.
Let me tell you of paradise and how I lived there cheaply yet in luxury.
On a little island in Palawan, Philippines, lies the quiet town of Coron. The town boasts beaches with crystal-clear waters, hidden blue lagoons and towering limestone walls in between. Yes, you may find similar delights in Bali or Thailand. Tourism in Coron, however, has not yet blossomed – which simply means fewer tourists and more Zen time. Sometimes you’re left feeling like an explorer discovering lagoon pools in limestone cracks!
Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. To most, taking tours around the island is a bit expensive. Let me share three tips on how I happily stayed there on a budget.
Board and lodging: It often helps to scout online for good accommodation. But when you are on a tight budget, it is always better to scout by foot as all the hotels are very near each other. You can also hire a tricycle for only 8 Philippine pesos (about 20 US cents) per person and look around the town – it only takes around 20 minutes to circumnavigate it. You may be surprised to find hostels and homestays for as little as Php 300 (US$7) a night. Oh, and free WiFi seems to be standard in Coron lodges.
Bicycles: It’s always fun to ride a bicycle through the countryside. In Coron, however, bikes for rent are rare. If you look like you’re well behaved, though, you can rent bikes at Dr. A Cycle for Php 25 (60 cents) per hour. The owners don’t usually rent out their bicycles as they mostly just do motorbike repairs and such.
Island tours: If you depend on your hostel for a tour, it may cost thousands. But if you go to separate tour agencies, you may find yourself a full blast for as little as Php 650 ($15), including entrance fees to the small islands and a heavenly lunch!
Now, you can get started on living the happy life. Get drunk on the beauty of 219 islands and islets with white sands, seven discovered lagoons, hot springs, mountains, caves and plenty of good old nature!
A note for diving junkies: Forbes Traveler magazine selected Coron as having one of the 10 best scuba diving sites in the world, mainly for the Japanese shipwrecks from World War II. If you are not a diver, then just snorkel with the myriad colorful fish around the islands.
There are also quite a number of lakes, accessible by swimming under or climbing around cracks in the limestone walls. It’s a delight to simply float in the placid water or pick one of the beaches and feast on mangoes.
One of the more famous lakes is Kayangan Lake, considered to be the cleanest and clearest lake in the Philippines. Another one is Barracuda Lake. It has been dubbed the country’s craziest dive site because it still has barracudas in it. They say that the lake was named such because a gigantic barracuda skeleton was once found at its bottom. Mystically, swarms of white butterflies fly around the lake.
For a change of activity and scenery, try a trek up to the cross on Mt. Tapyas, more than 600 meters above sea level.
To relax your aching muscles, you can have a dip at Maquinit Hot Spring. It is the only spring in the Philippines known to produce hot saltwater – 40 degrees Celsius – instead of fresh water.
And if all this doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve found paradise, then you must be numb to simple sensory delights. Or you haven’t switched off your work number.