Following on from my last column, our summer holiday was spent in the Northern Palawan Islands. This was indeed no luxury resort holiday, but more in the vein of adventure and discovery. You always know it’s going to be a cracker of a holiday when you finally arrive at your destination and all the comforting rules and regulations you have back home can immediately be broken. The airport taxi to our accommodation was hilarious – seven of us with six large suitcases squished into a tiny little car, body parts hanging out windows and luggage tied on the roof with string. This suffocating taxi ride took us on a bumpy dirt road to the accommodation I had paid for six months earlier but, unfortunately, now didn’t exist because it had been sold a month before we arrived and they had forgotten to tell us! This tiny oversight started a three-week long ordeal of begging for rooms at basic backpackers, cramming kids into our beds, climbing over luggage, no flushing toilets, no hot water and worst of all, beach sand in my bed!Transport was colourful and easily accessible, but the road rules were a laugh a minute. They went something like this – cram as many living things as you can into any moving object, drive as fast as you can, pass only uphill and on blind corners, close your eyes, pray to God and toot if you think you’re going to crash. Of course, these trips made for a good giggle over the cheap, unregulated local rum at the end of the day. I was quick to learn a good lesson from that stuff, but not so for many others (the bodies on the beaches in the morning made me realise there were a few slow learners out there). The public toilets amused me, too. No toilet paper required apparently, but the rationale behind the signs on them telling people ‘not to wash their feet in the toilet’ eluded me the entire holiday.
The food was interesting, although we mainly ate rice and fried egg. The local speciality is a parboiled fertilised egg with a fully formed chicken in it! Crunch, crunch, was not my idea of gourmet. I also wouldn’t recommend the chargrilled pig intestine either, unless of course you’re interested in an intimate relationship with the toilet bowl for the next 24 hours. Funnily enough, they seemed to make a lot of pizza, although I was pretty certain that it wasn’t a Fonterra cheese product on the top!On the final three days we decided to get a nice hotel. By this stage, we were a scary looking family. My husband looked like a grey-bearded garden gnome, I looked like something the cat had dragged in with hair that resembled a swallow’s nest, and the kids a bunch of feral rug-rats. It was just about all out warfare for the first hot shower (two guesses who won that battle)!
The place was amazing and under-developed, which was perfect, but the best thing about the place was the people. Yes, they are poor but they are so happy and polite and not bitter. Everybody works and seems to have a purpose, which is a quality I most admire. Being a bit of a naughty girl I relished the lack of rules, but I am home now and very much enjoying flushing my toilet and doubling my usage of toilet paper because I will never take that for granted again!