I am awake at 7:30, & this has been normal so far. Most people here, especially the ones who work, go to bed early & rise with the sun. You hear tricycle-motorbikes (the rides) at 6am, so its quite hard to sleep after 6:30. We took a long van ride (5hrs) up to El Nido from Puerto Princessa & it was well worth it. This place is AMAZING!!
Everything including the people, the atmosphere (very small village), & the scenery (crystal blue waters, surrounded by mountains, white beaches, & carst topography). Yesterday we took a tour on a bangka boat.. Seriously Epic! I experienced perfection several times throughout the day. The mountains here are unlike any I have seen before, they are coated in sharp igneous rocks like pumice. The waters are the brightest shades of blue, & I am constantly amazed by the atmospheric conditions.
Yesterday, Matt & I sat under the shade of a palm tree drinking milk out of a coconut with a straw, trying our best to fight the heat of the sun, but still it was thundering-quite cool! Then it started to sprinkle with blue skies all around us, the warmest rain I've ever felt. We moved to the ocean & looked at each other with eyes of amazement. It will be straight up raining in one region with a huge cumulonimbus cloud surrounding the region & everywhere else is sunny & beautiful. The rain only lasts a bit, I could lay in it forever.
The under-water world was an experience in itself. Matt, JOhn, & myself signed up to take a day tour around the surrounding islands on a bangka (small boat). We hopped around on a few different islands & each spot had something different to offer. On the first spot we started our snorkeling excursion. There were several little hidden coves which we had to squeeze through small gaps in order to find. I was amazed by the coral species I was seeing, but to my surprise I had seen nothing yet. We all got back on the boat and started moving to the next destination. the guides told us to go snorkeling as they prepared our lunch, with no hesitation we jumped in, and soon enough we were submerged into another world. This world was crawling with life and synchronicity. I have never witnessed such a sight before in my life. There was a vast variety of fish, coral, and other species of life that were all living in unity with one another. It was literally a scene from "Finding Nemo", but in real life. I witnessed every color in the spectrum, and the water is so salty here that I could float perfectly allowing me to hover over this community. I was clown fish (nemo) protecting their habitat (anemone), bright angel fish, colorful corals & fans, and several fish species that I cannot name. But everything was living in unison, everything had a purpose, and its own unique approach to life. Every time Matt & I crossed each others path we had something different to point out to each other. This experience will forever stay imprinted in my memory. I am engulfed by beauty above & below... This section of the Earth has so much to offer, the Earth is throbbing with character & charisma.
Like any other culture the children are the most welcoming, but in the Philippines people of all ages are thrilled to see you. They have the biggest smiles I have ever seen, & it is evident how much they value our smiles. There are many cultural differences that I am continuously adjusting to. For instance, I have always been a bit picky about food handling, here the smells are very potent & they do not adhere to several of the precautions that we do in the states. Sanitary regulations are just different, plain & simple. But the food however is delicious, I have yet the confidence to try the "street food" but I am sure the future calls for it. The toilets are another custom I am getting more used to as the days go by. They are about 1/2 the size I am used to and typically come without a toilet seat. They also have a bucket of water next to the toilets which are used for flushing and washing, toilet paper is quite rare.
The people are genuinely friendly and quite willing to lend a hand when in need. Yesterday the three of us drove motorcycles around the northern tip of Palawan & had the opportunity to see several small villages, the country folk, and some epic views of the rice terraces & distant islands. The whole time we were greeted with smiles & waves as some people asked questions like "where are you going" & "whats your name", their English is surprisingly good...