Friday, January 28, 2011

Palawan: A Study in Beauty, Relaxation* and Preservation

Four-thirty in the morning comes very, very early.  We are off to El Nido on the island of Palawan and have an early morning flight, and have to leave the house by 5:30am.  When we get to the hanger, Zoe and I go immediately to check out the plane; there is a technician turning the propeller and I joke with Zoe that he is winding up the rubberband (remember those rubberband airplanes from when we were kids?).

Our plane to El Nido
It is a 75 minute flight to El Nido.  We land on a hard dirt runway and are greeted by singing when we step off the plane.  After a brief introduction to Palawan, we are loaded into a Jeepnee and head to the port—via El Nido Town. 

Welcoming Committee
El Nido Airport
El Nido Town
El Nido Town (love the chicken crossing
the road in the background)
We take a large outrigger to El Nido and again are greeted by singing at the dock of Miniloc Island Resort, and are treated to a wonderful fruit drink.

Miniloc Island Resort
MIR Welcome Committee

It is incredibly beautiful here; we have a cottage on stilts over the water with a small balcony equipped with daybed.  The view is to die for.

Our home for the next three days

Ecology is very important to Palawan; they ask that you leave nothing other than your foot prints and take nothing (no coral or shells) other than pictures and memories, which we are happy to oblige. Ecology awareness is at a high.  To protect the megadiversity of this beautiful island, only eco-friendly programs are allowed by tourist establishments.  Serious efforts are undertaken to preserve this last ecological frontier, with more protected areas than any other province in the Philipines.  The entire province was declared a Fish and Wildlife Sanctuary in 1967. At El Nido, their motto is G.R.E.E.N. Guard, Respect, Educate, El Nido.  Each guest is given an eco-bag, and are asked to place in it anything they find on their excursions that isn't biodegradable. 
On the boat ride over our Activities Coordinator, Grace told us about the various activities of the resort, but today is all about relaxing, and we lay on loungers under cabanas. We have scheduled spa treatments for later in the day.

(*warning: this post contains descriptions of embarrassing self-indulgence)

My spa treatment begins with a Balinese Foot Bath.  Sitting on the balcony, my feet are submerged in warm water in a large wooden bowl to which is added rose oil and rose pedals that are rubbed over the legs and feet, followed by a wash with rose soap and rinsed. Following this is a salt scrub. The only time I have felt more decadent was when I had a body polish in Napa.

Next I lay face-down on a mylar sheet and am slathered with water lily gel, I roll-over, which is tricky with the sticky gel on my backside, and am slathered again, before being wrapped in the mylar and covered with a large, thick towel. Almost immediately your body heat creates a warm cocoon. After 15 minutes, I’m requested to shower before my aromatherapy massage, which is just the right pressure, and I am soon in a semi-conscious state.

At the end of the massage is a honey-cucumber facial which is lovely; until the end when they place thinly-sliced, ice-cold cucumber slices over your entire face and neck, including your eyes. I thought my eyeballs would freeze they were so cold—not that I am complaining, this was without a doubt two-and-a-half hours of pure indulgence.

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