February 2011 Chinese New Year holiday we went on our first Asian adventure. I had just been teaching a few months in Shanghai and we wanted to escape the noise and cold damp for the 10 day holiday. Booking late we found high prices and limited availability. We searched and found a very cool little resort that was different from your typical hotel room. We were delighted by its rustic charm and felt like we had landed on Gilligan’s Island. Most people we met there were on their second and third visit to this little gem. We vowed to return and this Chinese New Year holiday we did.
This year we booked early, but prices were high due to poor air quality that gripped Shanghai. We booked 5 nights since that was the cheapest option. Flights nearly doubled for extending our stay a day or two in either direction. It would be a short trip, but nice to get away to the most relaxing place we had ever been. The place is called Coco Beach and it is located in Puerto Galera on Mindoro Island in the Philippines.
Welcome to Coco Beach – View on approach by boat
The resort has been around since the 1970’s and it resembles a type of Philippine traditional home. They are simple huts made with bamboo and palm leaves. The rooms have no TV, internet or air conditioning. A simple sliding window and canvas curtain open to reveal the best views, better than any HD TV. Rooms are equipt with bathrooms with cool running water, which is fine due to the heat and humidity. You look forward to the cool water. Rooms are set along a hillside to take advantage of the view. This time our hut was set back further from the ocean, so our view of the sea was partially obscured by the towering palms. This also blocked out the soothing sounds of the sea to lull us to sleep each night and the palms blocked out the cooler sea breezes. Nights were hot, but a fan kept us comfortable. Weather forecasts called for rain or cloudy days, but we lucked out with sun, warmth and blue skies everyday. The day we were leaving a quick rain shower passed through, but it was short-lived.
View from our balcony
Huts nestled into the Hillside
To get there was quite the adventure. We had a late morning flight and got up early to head to the airport. We were met with a thick dense fog. I figured we would be slightly delayed, which was an understatement! Once in the airport we learned from other people in line the flight may be delayed until 3:30 that afternoon. It was now 9AM. It took over 2 hours to get to the counter where the delay was confirmed. The long wait was attributed to attendants trying to re-book the numerous connecting flights. Most people connect through Manila to the more popular Boracay and Cebu beaches. Once we got to the gate more rumours started to be passed around that the flight was further delayed or even cancelled. The flight was now scheduled for 8:20 PM. Since we had gone through security we were stuck waiting. The fog/smog mix remained heavy and didn’t lift. Finally late afternoon the first flights could leave. The visibility had only slightly improved. Our flight would take off, hopefully, once our plane arrived since it was still in Manila. About 4:45 it was confirmed the flight was in the air, but it was still uncertain we could leave since fog was rolling back in. Being close to the sea and 2 rivers certainly has its disadvantages.
The beach – coral reef almost touches the shore
Finally about 10:45 PM, 5 minutes shy of our morning departure time, nearly 12 hours before we were able to leave the gate. Tired and wary we arrived in Manila about 2:oo AM. The next morning came fast since we had a 6:30 AM shuttle to take us to Batangas where we would board a boat to Coco Beach. It was all worth it once we stepped off our boat and quickly porters grabbed our luggage and brought it to the main building where the staff awaited us playing guitars and singing Welcome to Coco Beach. As before each guest was presented with a shell necklace and handed a drink and shown a place to sit and relax. When we were ready the kind staff gave us our keys and gift box filled with homemade soaps, creams and shampoos made on site. 3 days here would go by quickly, so we had to make the most of every minute to soak up the sun, kind smiling faces and relaxing atmosphere. Aaahhhhh we’re back…..
steps leading up the hillside to the huts
What crazy travel delays have you encountered?
Stay tuned… and be sure to check out my previous post from today… RED #2 -Tourist in Your Own Town.