Friday, October 17, 2014

Jungle Beach Resort

I had booked myself for three nights at the Jungle Beach Resort on Palawan. It came highly recommended on TripAdvisor and sounded like a nice place to chill for a few days.

I had breakfast at The Green House, then chatted with Ad, the B&B owner, about my plans. His wife had suggested that I take a tricycle over to the bus station and catch the bus from there. Ad very generously offered to drive me over. First we stopped at Ad's favourite coffee shop, Itoys, and I hit the bank to get some cash. Ad had sorted out my ATM problems the day before. Apparently there was an Asian block on my ABN AMRO card that prevented me from getting any money. A few adjustments on my account and I was good to get cash again. It's a good thing I brought my e-dentifier with me.

This access to cash was a good thing, because I knew credit cards weren't going to be accepted in many places, and I'd read that there were no ATMs in El Nido, which was my destination after Jungle Beach. So I maxed out my withdrawals on a couple of account and I was set.

Ad then drove me to be bus terminal, which was a good distance out of town. He let me know that during regular hours it could be an hour and a half drive just to get to the station. That's what happens when there's just one road on the island.

Catching the bus was challenging. It shouldn't have been, but when I got there there didn't seem to be any logic for what was going where, or what buses were the ones I wanted. To make it worse, there were drivers everywhere yelling at me to come with them, and it was crazy hot out. I eventually found a bus that said it was going the right way and jumped on. I was the only guy on it. About 45 minutes later the bus was packed full, with people hanging in the aisle, and it was just getting hotter. But we finally headed out.

I later discovered that pretty much any bus going north would do. There's only one road, so as long as you don't head south, or to the underground river, you're good.

The trip was long and uncomfortable. We'd stop periodically and vendors would jump on to sell water, eggs, or whatever else they had. I counted down the kilometers and at the 73k signpost I jumped off and Jungle Beach was right there.

It's a small place. I think there were only four places to sleep. I had the Papaya hut. On the beach. No AC, but a fan. And a nice patio leading out to the water.

There weren't many others there. At the moment it was just Jürg, the Swiss owner, and a Filipino guest from LA who was in the Philipines to visit his grandmother. Jürg's wife Birgit was home in Switzerland visiting family. Later that evening another couple, also from Switzerland, arrived. They had stayed there before and weren't happy with the next place they'd visited, so they'd come back.

Jungle Beach also had its collection of animals. There was Gina, the dog who would chase sticks and rocks all day. There were a few other dogs, whose names I didn't pick up since Gina was the star. There were three monkeys, usually tied up on a long lead in the back of the main building, but Jürg would hang out with the youngest monkey on his head. And Desiree, the chef, would spend some quality time with the monkey.

Jungle Beach is a great place for scuba divers. There's a reef just off the shore, and more if you want to swim out. Jürg was very eager to loan out diving equipment but, while I'm PADI certified, I haven't been diving in a few years and wasn't feeling like just jumping in and giving it a try. Jürg would probably have provided a refresher course, but I was perfectly happy to head out snorkelling a couple of times. To be honest, the reef is so near the surface that I don't think I would have got a lot more out of it if I had gone down.

There's usually a sandy beach in front of the resort, but there wasn't while we were there. Jürg said that the waves and rains take it way from August to October, and by the end of November it's all back again. So it was rocky and tough to get in the water while I was there.

There were also huge rain storms that came in during the evenings that made us hide under cover. A lot of reading was done, and one evening we had a big game of Risk. Teaching the rules of a fairly complex board game to people who don't speak much English can be tough, but we got through it. Plus, amazingly for a game of Risk, no one hated anyone else at the end. But maybe that's just because we didn't play to the bitter end.

Breakfast and dinner were big buffet spreads. Delicious foods prepared fresh by Desiree and some other staff. Lunch was available if needed, although the breakfast was so big that you could make your way to dinner without. My only issue with this was that they made lunch seem like an imposition, so if you were hungry you felt not great about asking for food.

A couple of days at Jungle Beach was perfect. Very relaxing. However, as a solo traveller, I don't know if I would have wanted to stay for longer. There weren't that many options for things to do, and at some point I needed to move on. After three nights it was time to head the rest of the way north on Palawan to the town of El Nido. I'd heard mixed reviews about it, so was a bit apprehensive, but I was going to give it a shot.

No comments: