Next Stop – El Nido!

Sunday 7th May 2023

We were up at a decent time to actually enjoy breakfast today! Our rate at our hotel didn’t include breakfast, however they did have an Abaca Bakery & Cafe downstairs that served a buffet breakfast for anyone staying at the hotel for around AUD$17 per person.

We decided to give this a go as we had our hair appointments at 10am so didn’t want to go around trying to find something to eat. I’m usually a big buffet person, however I’m always a little disappointed in buffet breakfasts in Asia. Mainly because I find the food so dry. The pancakes are dry, the waffles are dry, the little mini muffins and croissants they serve you are always dry. Safe to say, everything I had was pretty dry 😅 but oh well, we had food and that’s all that really matters.

After our breakfast, we took a GRAB to the mall for our blow-wave appointment. I was called first and was in the middle of having my hair washed when Bree came over and told me that they told her they couldn’t do her at the same time and she would have to go after me. As we had a flight that afternoon, we didn’t want to waste time so Bree said she’d find somewhere else in the mall to do her hair. It was quite disappointing as I had double checked with the receptionist the night before and she said they could do us both at the same time. They tried saying it was because two staff had called in sick however I didn’t quite believe that as when we arrived that morning there was a customer asking if they could do her hair right away even though she didn’t have an appointment and they said yes 🤔

Actual photo evidence of said lady asking them if they could do her hair for her. 😂

The blow wave was fine for $10 – nothing amazing but I wasn’t expecting much either. I was hoping there would be some kind of scalp massage in the conditioner process but sadly there was not (me over here just dying for a good massage somewhere 😩)

Bree did find somewhere a few shops down that could fit her in for a blow wave so with our freshly washed hair, we headed back to the hotel so we could pack up the rest of our gear, check-out and head to the airport.

Blow wave – straightened by me as the humidity made it frizz on the way home 😅

The drive to the airport was around 40 minutes so we arrived about 3 hours prior to departure – plenty of time to spare! (The check-in actually wasn’t even opened when we arrived) so we were quite early.

Once check-in opened, we checked in and received our boarding passes for our flight to El Nido which is on Palawan Island. I also had to sign a document saying I was less than 34 weeks pregnant and was able to fly without a medical certificate (you usually only need a note if you’re 26 weeks+)

If you’re ever going to El Nido, the fastest way is to fly with Airswift (which is the only airline that fly directly to El Nido Town). However, this can be expensive at around AUD$200-$300 per person. The cheapest way most people do it is by flying to Puerto Princesa which is the main international airport on Palawan and where the major airlines like Cebu Pacific & Philippine Airlines fly to. The only downfall to this is there is then a 6 hour drive to El Nido. 😩 however the flights are probably around AUD$30-$50 from Manila or Cebu and the transport is AUD$20 to El Nido which makes for a cheap trip if you have the time. We however, were only in The Philippines for a week so went with the nicer option of a 1.5 hour flight with a pick up from the airport by the hotel and a quick 15 minute drive to El Nido ☺️

There were quite a few food options at Cebu Airport and even though I probably had enough to eat already that day after the breakfast 😒 I got a yummy punnet of fries with this sour cream seasoning for lunch and a little Dunkin Donut 🍩 to eat on the plane.

By the time we had browsed a couple of the shops and walked around a little, we had an hour until boarding so we sat at our gate waiting for the call to board the bus that would take us to our plane on the tarmac. I remember at one stage the name “Sarah” being called over the intercom but I didn’t really register as they CONSTANTLY were talking about gate changes and saying peoples names over the intercom. I think Bree mentioned something like “hey was that your name?” And I probably said “nah I don’t think so” however the gate agent came over to me and asked if I was Sarah. I said I was and she asked if I had a medical certificate to fly as I was pregnant. I told her I’m sure I didn’t need one as I was under 26 weeks but she said I did and I’d have to go with another gate agent to be seen by the airport doctor. Bree and I were a little confused as it was literally about 5 minutes from boarding. I went with her anyways and someone (I assume the doctor) took my blood pressure and temperature at the medical office they had at the airport. Then they kept having discussions with each other in Filipino (obviously about me and whether to let me fly or not) i overhead the doctor say the number 34 so I quickly said “excuse me, I’m actually 24 weeks” – they looked puzzled and someone else said “no your age is 34” which I replied “no I’m 31, I’m 24 weeks though” but I still don’t think they understood and actually thought I was 34 weeks pregnant. Bree messaged me on Messenger at this stage and said everyone had boarded the bus so I got a bit nervous worried that I was gonna miss the flight. I mentioned it to the gate agent sitting next to me and she said no one was boarding yet but when I told her that my friend had messaged me and said they were she was like “oh really?” And then started messaging someone else 🫣

Anyways, 15-20 minutes later I signed some documents and got a medical certificate saying I was fit to fly (funnily enough throughout this process I actually realised I was now 25 weeks pregnant but I didn’t want to say anything Incase I caused any confusion and more doubt 🫠)

With certificate in hand, I was back at the gate where Bree was waiting for me with my carry on suitcase. Not to mention everyone on our flight was waiting for us on the bus 🫣 woops.

When we got to the plane, we got off the bus and were escorted onto the plane first. I assumed everyone was coming behind us but we must have been getting the special pregnancy treatment 😂 we were shown to our seats, helped with our luggage and told if we needed any help from the attendant to just call the call button. All the while everyone else was stopped to wait on the tarmac while we were seated. I had kept joking to Bree throughout the trip “when am I gonna get my special pregnancy treatment” and I definitely finally got it 😂

The flight to El Nido was about 1.5 hours and apart from a bumpy landing onto the runway, it was quite enjoyable!

We had a driver from our hotel waiting for us at the airport to take us to our accommodation which was nice not having to organise anything.

Already we knew we would enjoy El Nido more than Cebu. Driving through to the main centre of town, everything looked more relaxed and there were more tourists which was a relief as I’m not sure how much longer we could cope with being stared at in Cebu being the two white tourist girls 😅

Our hotel was nice. H Hotel is a relatively new hotel right in the centre of El Nido (about a 3 minute walk to the beach and to where all the boat tours leave from). The staff were really welcoming and helpful and the room was nice – albeit a bit small. The had decorated it for Bree as a ‘congratulations on her upcoming wedding’ but the colours they used made it seem more like a honeymoon set up 😂 maybe they misunderstood my request.

The only thing I didn’t like about the room was the random swing which actually ended up being kind of annoying as it was in the way when you were getting in and out of bed. Plus when you sat in it it kept swinging into the bedside table so there was a bit of a design flaw there. Also the bathroom lighting wasn’t ideal for applying make up (girl issues) as the light was right above the mirror so it was hard to see and there was absolutely no bench space for your toiletries. In the picture below it looks like there’s a cupboard but it doesn’t actually open. Plus the little shelf hadn’t been screwed into the tiles properly so it was on a lean the whole time and all our toiletries kept slipping off. They also had a cupboard with a rack to hang your clothes but no coat hangers?

Once we’d checked in and dumped out bags, we explored the streets of El Nido which were so cute! It definitely had the beachy island vibe we were looking for on our holiday.

We saw a place that had a happy hour going so we stopped there to get some drinks & nibbles before going out for dinner. (Well, Bree had the 2-4-1 cocktails and I had to buy a lonely mocktail haha)

We decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant on the first night which was their Vegan restaurant called Ver De. I don’t know why we ordered so much food because we definitely couldn’t eat it all!

Everything was really yummy! Even if we couldn’t finish it all 😩

I really wanted a cupcake too but was too full 😞

I was eager to finish my night with a massage as my last two were pretty mediocre. I went to the Spa underneath the hotel that had really great reviews. They did cost more than the other massage places on the island but I assumed it would be because they were really great. Anyways, I paid for a 1 hour Pregnancy massage and it was even worse than the last two 😭 I specifically told her when she started massaging me to please go firm. And she kind of just smiled and nodded but didn’t apply a different pressure so I said to her again I wanted a strong massage. She then says “it is relaxing because you are pregnant” and I said “no it’s fine, I really want firm, strong pressure” but then she said that because I’m pregnant they only do it lightly. GRRRR I wanted to say “I’m not going to give birth right then and there because you massaged my neck too hard” but of course I didn’t and I suffered through another wasted massage. It was so hot in the room too that I just became uncomfortable and irritated the whole time. All she really did was rub oil onto my skin, there was no actual ‘massaging’ going on. I rub oil into my skin harder than the pressure she used for me 😣

By the time I got to bed, it was around 11:30pm (not quite the semi early night I had hoped for). Luckily we had a private boat tour booked for the next day and to avoid the crowds we were starting around 9:45am so we had a semi-early sleep in which was nice ☺️.

Day Two of Cebu – Bagels & Massages

Saturday 6th May 2023

This morning we had quite the sleep in. I think I woke around 8am to go to the bathroom then went back to sleep and woke just after 10am.

By the time we got ready for the day, the cafe downstairs had stopped serving breakfast so we Google mapped where we knew there was a beauty spa we could get Nails/Hair/Skin done and figured we would just find something to eat around there.

Bree ordered the GRAB (as per usual as for some reason my credit card isn’t working on the app) and our driver came and picked us up in his boy racer car 😂 when I opened the door there was this massive cockroach 🪳 on the inside door so the driver had to come round and get rid of it for me

When we arrived at this little shopping area called ‘The Greenery’ we quickly noticed there weren’t really any place of interest for us to eat at. It’s definitely a Philippine thing because they loveeeee their chicken! Literally every place is a chicken store and so many food outlets sell chicken 😂 I think our options were chicken or seafood and we weren’t keen on either so we walked 10 minutes down the road to a cafe called Abaca Bakery Cafe. I mentioned in my last post about how so many restaurants, cafes and stores here seem super over staffed and lots of people just stand around… well that was definitely the case with Abaca Bakery. We walked in and there was one person sitting and having a coffee and cake. We walked to the counter and they had two staff at the till (one a trainee and one training) then two other guys behind the cabinet. Then they had another 4-5 staff off to the side of the counter just standing there watching. It’s honestly so awkward (this has happened to us a few times) where we walk in a place and it’s dead silent and they all just look at us and wait intensely to what we’re after. I ordered a Calamansi Juice as I kept seeing it advertised everywhere and wanted to try it. Along with a toasted bagel and lamington. Bree ordered a toasted bagel as well but she skipped the drink as she grabbed one from somewhere else prior. After confirming our order about 3 times they got our name and we went and sat down at a table.

Now this is the weirdest thing. When the juice & Lamington were ready, they put it on the counter and called out my name to go up and get it. Call me crazy but there’s literally all these staff standing there doing absolutely nothing that they could have just brought it to our table 😂 but instead, we got up and walked to the counter as they all watched us in silence to pick up our food and sit back down. When our bagels were ready they did the same thing, called our name out and watched us get up and get them just to sit back down again. I can totally understand when it’s a busy cafe you wait for your name to be called and you grab your drink or whatever but they literally had one customer and all these people had nothing to do. When we started eating our food, one staff member came over to me and said “I’m so sorry ma’am but we do not allow outside drinks in the cafe” and handed me a paper bag for Bree to put her drink in 😂 totally fine, but 1. I’m obviously not the one with the drink so I don’t know why she didn’t direct this to Bree and 2. Did it matter that much? As like, no one else was there. Haha, it is what it is but just little things like that make me think, would you not have just let that slide? 😂 I dunno… I’m just adjusting to the culture I suppose.

The bagels were actually really good! I’ve come to the conclusion that Filipinos make really yummy bread.

We walked back to The Greenery and went to this skin clinic called DMV Dermatology so Bree could enquire about Skin frequency type treatments – however they said she’d have to make an appointment with the clinic doctor before she could get any treatments done? We had no time for that and also didn’t see the point of it so we declined and went to another beauty place called Revive. (Note: we had Instagram searched all these places prior to arriving and they looked so nice but when you turn up it’s such a different story and every place you go to looks really dodgy 😂) Bree booked in to have a pedicure done and I asked for a manicure with backfill. (This took a lot of explaining as they thought I wanted extensions on all of my nails) I had two ladies working on my nails and one lady massaging my feet.

As they do it over here, they filed my old gel colour off then scraped it off with the cuticle remover 🙃 then they used this tube of gel looking substance to put on all my nails to ‘backfill’ them. Everything is an experience honestly 😅 the end result was fine, however they did look a little round and clunky but I suppose they were better than before.

The whole process took nearly 2 hours. Bree and I started at the same time and her pedicure took just as long as my nails. One thing to note over here, everything is definitely on ‘Island Time’ and there is no rush to go anywhere or get anything done quickly. Something which we’re learning to adjust to 😅

While we were getting our nails done, this cute little 4 year old girl came in with her Mum and Nanny to get her nails and hair done. Just had visions of my future child haha! While her nails were getting painted her Nanny was hand feeding her chicken 😂 (of course)

It was after 4pm by the time we finished so the day had pretty much come to an end for us. We headed back to our hotel and I dropped some washing off at the laundromat across the road to get done before we headed off to El Nido the next day.

While the was getting done, good ole’ Bree spent an hour at the hotel gym while I went in the pool and lounged in a pool chair 😂

It was 6pm before we knew it and we were starting to think about dinner. As the mall was really the only place of familiarity at this point, we ordered a car to take us to Ayala Centre and had dinner at this Italian Restaurant, finished off with ice creams at Dairy Queen 😋

We hadn’t washed our hair since we left Australia and wanted to treat ourselves to Blow-waves so we booked at a hair salon at the mall (that had good reviews) called David’s Salon. We were tossing up whether to get Kerastase Hair Treatments but as we were heading to El Nido the next day and would be doing a boat tour with swimming we decided to save that for another day.

I confirmed with the receptionist we could both get our hair done the next morning at 10am and she booked us in.

It wouldn’t be an Asia holiday without a massage every day so we ordered a car to take us to a different massage place called Aloha Massage & Cafe (again, good reviews on Google)

It was located in the weirdest place though – right next door to a pub playing super loud music and live bands with lots of people all outside at tables drinking and smoking. You literally had to weave your way through the tables to get to the massage parlour. Once you were inside the massage parlour you could still hear the band playing and everyone laughing and talking outside so I wasn’t sure how relaxing this massage was going to be…

When we arrived, the receptionist asked if we’d made an appointment so I immediately thought “wow this place must be good if you have to book”

Bree booked a volcanic hot stone massage for 90 minutes and I did the Swedish 90 minute massage. (AUS$18)

The experience started off great, we were escorted to a little area where they washed and scrubbed our feet and put flip flops on for us. Then they took us to a curtained room where we could lay down on these massage beds and put on these disposable shorts 😂. It was however so dark that I probably put mine on back to front. You wouldn’t want to be elderly as you could barely see a thing.

Massage started off fine however THE PRESSURE was a massive let down. Prior to the massage they had us fill out these forms saying how you wanted your pressure and where you wanted them to focus. I circled neck & head and wanted STRONG pressure. The pressure was so weak. Plus she kept going over the same area with the same movement over and over and over again. I was so close to asking her to change it up as the movements were starting to irritate me 😅 and she wasn’t really massaging deep anywhere, just lots of soft strokes up and down and not getting in anywhere. I’ve gathered because I’m pregnant everyone treats me like a glass vase Incase they break me which is super frustrating. Not to mention she spent barely any time on my head and neck I wondered why I even bothered filling out the form 🤦‍♀️ Half way through the massage though, the LOUDEST snoring was coming from Bree’s side of the room and I had to keep stifling my laughter that she’d fallen asleep this fast and that she actually even snored that loud. I kept thinking ‘wow she must have been SO tired’ however towards the end of the massage when I peeked over at her I realised it wasn’t even her but the person in the curtained room next door to her. Not the most relaxing experience with spa music playing + the live band + some guy snoring his head off all at once but we survived 😅

It must just be my massage’s over here being not up to par as Bree said her massage was great! Plus there were some people before us that re-booked for the next day so if you’re ever in Cebu and want a massage I wouldn’t completely write off Aloha Massage & Cafe.

When we got back to the hotel it was after midnight so it was straight into bed after having showers. Thank god we were leaving Cebu the next day as we were running out of things to entertain us. Hopefully my next post will be a bit more interesting as we head off to El Nido! ☺️

First time in The Philippines 🇵🇭 Flying Scoot & Arrival into Cebu

So much has happened since I last wrote a post, however I have no time for a life update as I’m currently on Day 1 on my trip in The Philippines!

I’ve never been to The Philippines and to be honest, I hadn’t thought much about going. I’ve never done much research on this beautiful place in Southeast Asia, however my friend Bree is getting married in July and she mentioned she was thinking about doing a trip to Asia as a pre-wedding celebration so I jumped on board! She’s a bit like me where she could hop on a plane and travel solo anywhere so when she said she thought she’d tick off a country she hadn’t been to, it would have been rude of me to let her go all alone…. (Well, that’s what I told the husband anyways 🤫)

So Thursday evening, Bree’s fiancé Jack dropped us off at the airport where we had a smooth check-in with Scoot Airlines then made our way to the Airport Aspire lounge for drinks, dinner & some yummy little carrot cakes for dessert 🍰

Thank god we had the lounge because our flight was meant to depart at 9:45pm but was delayed until 11pm so it was nice to have somewhere to relax to pass the time. By the time we boarded the flight and everyone had taken their seats we took off for Singapore around 11:30pm

When we looked at going to The Philippines originally, the flights were around AUS$480 each. By the time we decided on dates, I got time off work and we booked online the flights came to around AUS$800 per person. When you add your seat selection and baggage etc… it’s not as ‘cheap’ as advertised but still not a bad price. We considered going with Singapore Airlines instead of their budget airline sister Scoot, however the flight departure and arrival times weren’t ideal so we stuck with Scoot.

The flight was scheduled to take 5 hours, 50 minutes however it only took 4 hours 30 minutes which was a relief because it was definitely in the top 5 worst flights I’ve had. Not because the weather was bad or anything but because it was a red eye flight and I barely slept. Firstly both Bree and my seats wouldn’t recline at all, then it was too hot in the cabin so I started fanning my face with the emergency instruction card when we had taken off. THEN I started thinking about how hot it was and started to feel claustrophobic and got anxious feeling that I would pass out. This has happened to me in the past (like mini panic attacks) and usually I put my head between my legs and I kind of come right but because the seats were tight and my belly is 6 months pregnant 🤰 than it was all just impossible! I even got up to ask a flight attendant if there was an empty row I could just lay down as I felt like fainting and she just said “no sorry” then went back to preparing the meals people had ordered. I wasn’t expecting her to find a row out of nowhere but at least act concerned 🙄

Anyways, it was not an enjoyable flight so I was relieved when we finally arrived in Singapore. As we only had an hour before our connecting flight, we found our gate and I found a little spot on the floor to have a 30 minute nap before we boarded.

Luckily our flight was on time and we got into Cebu exactly at 10:04am, 1 minute earlier than originally scheduled. This flight i actually had a seat that reclined and I got a tiny amount of sleep to make me feel normal again so it was automatically better than the first!

Once we’d collected our suitcase, we headed outside and grabbed a taxi to our hotel. The taxi was about 650 pesos which works out to be around $17-18AUD for the 30-40 minute drive. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the currency here as I’m so used to going to Bali and automatically knowing how much things are in AUD.

One of the first things I noticed here was everyone drives on the right hand side like they do in America. And the cars are all left-wheel drive. The roads are similar to Bali in terms of its infrastructure however I didn’t feel Cebu was as full on as Bali was with the traffic. Plus they have traffic lights that people actually wait at haha!

We had booked 2 nights at Citadines Cebu which was a serviced apartment type accommodation in the city. Check-in was easy and the room was nice. They even decorated the room with some balloons and cupcakes to celebrate Bree getting married which was nice of them. Unfortunately though the ants got into the cupcakes a little but we were so hungry we blew them off and ate them anyways 😂

Once we had both showered and made ourselves look a bit normal after not sleeping for 24 hours, we went downstairs to the corner store and bought a couple of SIM cards for our phones. There was also this cute lemonade stand/store outside our hotel and I got us a couple of lemonades for like AUS$2 each which were yum!

The SIM cards were a bit of a nightmare to figure out how to work but we tried setting them up anyways and Bree ordered a GRAB car for us (like Uber) to somewhere nearby where we could get our nails done. The first place we went to looked super quiet and we weren’t 100% sure on the treatments so we went to another place a couple of doors down that looked a little better and asked if we could get two pedicures.

This was not the finished result, this was when I started haha

It wasn’t until we sat down that they said only one lady could do us so we would have to go one at a time. (Which was weird as I’m not sure what the other 5 ladies who worked there were doing) I went first and it was a terrible Pedicure! 😂 she took my old gel colour off with a nail file and when she was doing my cuticles she made me bleed. Bree and I were messaging each other while we sat there and quickly agreed that she wouldn’t be getting one. The pedicure was only about AUD$24 altogether but I wouldn’t be going back.

My toes didn’t end up looking too bad in the end – even if it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. After the pedicure we took another GRAB to the biggest mall in Cebu, Ayala Center. It was definitely big! I think there were about 4 levels and every time we explored one level there were just more and more corners or shops we hadn’t explored yet. I bought myself a dress, crop jacket and crop shirt (for after pregnancy haha) and Bree bought some pants & a top.

We had barely eaten apart from some lollies when we were boarding the plane to Cebu and the ant cupcakes so we had a semi-early dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant at the mall. For 2x plates of spring rolls, veges, rice, satay chicken and 2x drinks it came to around AUD$50 which wasn’t bad. What was funny were the staff kept yelling out something to the other staff members and they all responded at once with “YES!”. We’re not sure if they were saying something like “Asked customer if they would like desert?” “YES!” And they did it every time they did something customer service-wise but it was so random that we kept laughing through our dinner. Not to mention we were asked about 3 times if we wanted more cutlery. Even a spoon was offered a couple of times when we weren’t eating anything that really required a spoon. As soon as we started the dinner too, they came over and asked us if we wanted to look at the menu for dessert. I felt like saying “can I finish my first meal first and then decide?” Haha. Filipino people are very helpful and kind but also lack a little common sense/need to read the room a little better 😂 (I have more stories regarding this to come)

Once we’d finished dinner we went and had the most delicious gelato’s afterwards – I think we tried about 5 flavours each before settling on 2. I ordered a white chocolate and caramel flavour along with a chocolate Malteser flavour.

We had said we were going to try and get as many massages as we could so we went to a massage place in the mall and paid about AUD$10 each for hour long massages 😅 as I’m pregnant I couldn’t sit in one of those massage chair so they just had me sitting on this stool which if I’m honest probably made my back ache more. The massage wasn’t terrible, she could have gone a little harder but I also don’t want to complain for $10 haha. I nearly fell asleep as I was so tired so it must have relaxed me anyways.

After the massages, we thought we would check out the Metro Supermarket in the mall and it did not disappoint. They had soooo many types of groceries from around the world. Bree was especially impressed as there were heaps of things from Canada that she can’t get in Australia. As we have a night in Cebu before we head home, we said we’d definitely come back for a grocery shop before heading back to Australia 🇦🇺 hopefully we don’t over-do our luggage limit with Scoot Airlines!

A quick GRAB ride back to the hotel and we were asleep by 11pm. To be honest, we were wanting an early night but we spent way too much time at the mall! We decided we wouldn’t set our alarms and wake up at whatever time the next day so we could catch up on some sleep.

Next post: Beauty treatments & yummy bagels 🥯