This is an entry in the We Said Go Travel Writing Contest written by Gloria Snyder from the USA. Thanks for your entry Gloria!
From underwater, the distant breaking of quiet waves on the beach sound like sand moving, rhythmically, from one end of an hourglass to the other. On the thin beach between the ocean and a giant limestone cliff, bathing-suited people reclined on sunny slices of sand sit up, and put their sunglasses on. Swimmers and snorkelers who are scattered and barely noticeable in the shallow, clear water smell it, too, and make their way out of the halcyon ocean. They congregate, sit on chunks of wood or smooth rocks, in a shaded area up against the limestone, where a barbecue is releasing savory smoke into the salt-bitten air. This communal gathering is done without a word or cue.
This is the location which inspired Alex Garland’s The Beach, and anyone can see why.
From Puerto Princessa, on the Filipino island of Palawan, El Nido is a speeding, winding, bumpy bus ride away with half paved roads and a driver who sucks his teeth for seven hours. You arrive a shade darker from the dirt blown onto (or into) your clothes, face, nostrils, and hair, and as you arrive, you step off the map. The small town of El Nido is nestled between a limestone cliff and a beach that faces multiple islands rising tall out of the ocean, covered in vine-like greenery. The two-story buildings, worn by coastal weather, and tangled telephone wires are attenuated by the presence of these natural wonders. Boats floating offshore look like brightly painted water bugs with outstretching legs and long, thin bodies. It’s only natural to feel dwarfed, as human influence feels minimal.
The people cement El Nido’s tone as a slow, coastal town. Locals, shop owners, tourists have a presence to them, a balance that comes with having less to be anxious about, and it’s addictive. During the day, everyone is out island hopping, kayaking, beach slugging, scuba diving or relaxing in coffee shops with a lap top or book. In the evening, tourists and locals gather in the center of town, usually around the “Snack House” known for its drinks and crepes, to chat and people watch.
Maybe because of El Nido’s status as a difficult to reach coastal town which has only within recent years been toured by more than Filipinos, it feels secluded, a feeling I’ve only experienced when wandering in the woods behind my backyard in Upstate, New York. Seclusion within nature comes with an automatic sense of pride – pride that you got there. And that return to nature is rewarding in El Nido. After all, electricity only runs from early afternoon till early morning, waking you up at 6a.m. from the heat. It is a return to a life where the elements affect you more than modern life concedes, and that allows you time to yourself.
When sitting on the shallow balcony of a beachside restaurant, watching the night tide come in below, a meditative state overcomes you. The breeze cooling your sunned skin, the hush of the waves returning to sea, the ebb and flow of the air around you and the water beneath you brings serenity to your actions and thoughts, sometimes stilling your mind altogether. There’s something in the El Nido air that gives such power to your experience.
About the Author: Gloria Snyder: I’m an English teacher in South Korea, loving traveling and writing. I love scuba diving, horseback riding and reading. Here is a link to my facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/gloria.snyder.144?ref=tn_tnmn