In Southeast Asia there's a land that seems forgotten. It is almost as if this remote land is completely hidden from the rest of the world's radar screen, and almost forgotten by its own country. This unusual place is an island by the name of Palawan which is considered to be the last frontier of the Philippines.
Looking on a map of the chain of islands that make up the Philippines, Palawan doesn't appear to be part of the main group because it is located 294 miles off the west coast of the Philippines far out in the Sulu sea, just off the northern coast of Borneo. At first glance, Palawan looks alone, unclaimed, unimportant and inconsequential -- a curious land worth discovering.
One may feel isolated when arriving to explore this unique corner of the world. It was my good fortune to be able to bring along my traveling companion, a native Filipina who spoke the language: Visayan. Quite a few people on Palawan speak English just as they do in the rest of the Philippines, while many in the outlying areas do not.
This story is about a journey of discovery in a nearly-forgotten land, with a stay at a beautiful oasis called the Crystal Paradise Resort, Spa & Winery.
We arrived by plane from Cebu, Philippines and landed at the island's capital, Puerto Princesa City. It was a one-hour flight. This small airport is served by both Cebu and Manila. Puerto Princessa City is a small town, and amazingly busy with traffic. In no time, we were soon outside of the city, having been picked up at the airport in a van from the resort. We were now headed south along the isolated coastline to our destination at the other end of this very long island.
The road was mostly a straight two-lane, but a bit rough with potholes. We soon observed a few farmers working in their rice paddies. A little further down the road we passed another farmer on his cart pulled by a water buffalo. In the Philippines these large, slow-moving beasts are known as caribou.
After a long and gruelling ride to the southern end of the island, we finally arrived at our destination: The Crystal Paradise Resort, Spa & Winery.
It was a welcoming site. Tropical beauty and romantic tranquility made our long journey worth the effort. This was a scene to behold; an immense garden cove of coconut palms and tropical flowers carpeted by a sprawling green lawn stretching out towards the black sand beach.
We were warmly greeted by a woman with a welcoming smile and two garlands of yellow flowers which she draped around our necks.
She escorted us into an alcove where we were asked us to sit and make ourselves comfortable. We were each brought a large green coconut containing buko juice, the water of the cocunut to refresh ourselves.
Next, we were shown some rooms and given choices: Irresistible, followed by nice. By the time we got to "nice" we saw the wisdom of showing us their finest accomodations first. Once we saw the finest, the choice became quite easy.
We opted for our own private bungalow on the beach with an infinity pool. This was called, the "Amihan Pool Villa Executive Suite."
By now, it was nightfall and getting late. Tomorrow would be a wonderful day of exploring our newly-discovered surroundings.
The following morning, we enjoyed breakfast at the restaurant which was a beautiful, open-air pavillion.
There was a nice variety of tasty food to order from the menu and the service was quite excellent. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available and the prices were reasonable. The staff seemed to anticipate our needs and quickly responded to our wishes. As it turned out, we practically had the entire resort to ourselves.
The beach-front bungalow we chose was tastefully decorated with solid wood and rattan furniture, white-tiled floors, and canopy beds. The most surprising feature was the magnificent view through the sliding glass doors which opened up to a private infinity pool. Just 20 feet beyond was a private stretch of beach.
Beautiful, swaying palm trees framed an idyllic, aqua-blue sea as we sat on our chairs by the pool, sipping our favorite beverage.
The warmth of the sun and the sound of the pounding surf just a few feet beyond, gave us an unmistakable signal -- we were deep in the heart of the tropics and loving every minute of it.
After enjoying some pool time, we decided to walk over to the spa. If a spa treatment is on your "must-do" list, be sure to try their one-hour cleansing scrub using all-natural ingredients, plus massage, for only $18.76. This is done as you lie on a bath-like pedestal of warm circulating water.
Another fun option we chose during our stay, was the "day trip" to Estrella Falls which included a catered picnic lunch alongside a jungle mountain stream. All we had to do was let the staff know we wanted to go, and everything was soon prepared and brought along in order for them to cook the meal at the site. We hopped into the van, and off we went enjoying the view as we were driven to Estrella Falls.
Once we arrived, we let our two guides set up and prepare lunch as we explored the nature path along the stream that leads to the Falls.
On our way back, we saw a Palawan monkey eyeing us curiously from his perch, a safe distance high up in a nearby tree.
Once back at the picnic table, our hosts had prepared a barbequed lunch of assorted grilled meats, vegetables and rice.
Later, we headed back to the resort and spent some time wandering the grounds, laying in the hammock under the palm trees, and taking a dip in their huge swimming pool in the park.
A few days of unwinding in a care-free, laid back tropical resort like this will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to get back to the real world to face any of life's challenges. This had proven to be very effective down-time for us, Filipino-style.
Palawan really is a pristine paradise worth exploring for at least a few days, and this resort is the perfect place to unwind while you do so. You will most likely walk away knowing that you’ve been thoroughly pampered and spoiled. The Crystal Paradise Resort, Spa & Winery is perhaps Palawan’s best-kept secret.
To inquire of their services and rates, you will find them at http://www.crystalparadiseresort.com
As of this writing, the Philippine peso enjoys a good exchange rate with the US dollar, so now is a great time to go.
You can de-stress and unwind with ease in the heart of the tropics on the island of Palawan, the last frontier of the Philippines!