The Great Escape

Rediscovering life in Palawan Philippines

Archive for the tag “travel”

The Feist’s Great Escape: Facebook

Life is like a book filled with chapters. In these chapters are snippets of every day life. We’ve just launched our Facebook page ‘The Feist’s Great Escape: Coron Palawan’ to share these little snippets. Here, you’ll find travel tips, get an inside perspective of what it’s really like to live on a third world tropical island and maybe get inspired.

Visit our page –

My Favourite El Nido Videos

There’s all sorts of videos out there about El Nido that range from the humdrum to the self-absorbed but there are a couple of gems that stand out. They manage to capture the spirit and expansive beauty of Palawan. Forget about the humans that grace the landscape, it’s the scenery that steals the show. Humans simply give scale and context.

I still get that ‘wow’ feeling when I think back to the time ‘the Chef’ and I were there. If you visit El Nido and open your heart and mind to the experience you just might end up feeling the same way.

I’m Canadian, Eh? 021

Photos and thoughts about Canada.

Our environment, our experiences, and the people we choose to surround us shapes us into who we are. In this series I search the web for images about Canada, the country I grew up in.

Maple Syrup Lines, Wyebridge, Ontario

Maple Syrup Lines (photo: David Allan Barker)

Figgy duff, Saskatoon berry pie, and split pea soup are just a few of our tasty exports. ~ 12 foods Canada has given the world (besides poutine), Maclean’s, August 3, 2012

Ooh All Dressed Chips

Ooh All Dressed Chips (photo: Chinkerfly)

There seems to be some sort of confusion surrounding one of our most delicious, addictive chip flavours; Canadians know All Dressed Ruffles chips have a unique taste all their own, keeping us coming back for more (and more and more and more). ~ Americans are finally getting All Dressed Chips, but they don’t understand them…yet, The Loop, September 21, 2015


McBarge (photo: Taz)

Whatever you eat here is one sad, sad meal. This boat was once home to a rare floating McDonald’s, which was built as a shining beacon of innovation for Canada’s 1986 World Expo. Conveyer belts delivered shakes and fries, glass windows offered panoramic views, and a tiny tugboat pulled up alongside the barge to collect Big Mac wrappers and cups. ~ Abandoned Floating McDonald’s Does NOT Serve Happy Meals, Huffpost Travel, March 17, 2015

The Land Where I Was Born 020

Photos and thoughts about the Philippines.

Our environment, our experiences, and the people we choose to surround us shapes us into who we are. In this series I search the web for images about the Philippines, the country I was born in and which I am now rediscovering.

Halo halo especial

Halo halo especial (photo credit Jeff Younstrom)

Summer isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and the best way to beat this unbearable heat is with every Filipino’s undisputed favorite shaved ice dessert: the halo-halo! A medley of sweetened jewels, a gracious layer of icy granules, a heaping scoop of ube ice cream, all drowned in creamy milky goodness-it’s a sweet tooth’s dream. ~ Top 10 Halo-halo in Manila (2014 Edition), spot.PH, April 24, 2014

Power Breakfast Pinoy Style

Power Breakfast Pinoy Style (photo credit weye)

Magandang umaga! ~ 21 Delicious Filipino Breakfasts That Are Actually Hangover Cures, Buzzfeed, August 21, 2015


Lechon on the table (photo credit whologwhy)

In restaurant circles, the dreaded F-word—fusion—is usually reserved to describe some sort of disparate multi-culti combination, like sauce soubise on top of tamales. But in the case of Filipino food, there’s no stronger term to capture the essence of Asia’s most unique, idiosyncratic, and underrated culinary tradition. ~ Coconut, Vinegar, and a Whole Lotta Pork: An Introduction to Filipino Cuisine, Serious Eats, June 14, 2014

Be Prepared: Dangers in a Tropical Paradise

‘The Chef’ picked up a large Ziplock bag and held it up for me to see. I almost gasped with laughter. It was bulging at the seams with gauze, tape, bandages, and assorted first aid essentials. In all the years I’ve travelled I never needed a first aid kit so I kind of thought it was over-the-top. I don’t think so anymore.


Dangers lurk in the water and on land in a tropical paradise.

Now as we get ready to make the move to Coron I’m reminded of the dangers that lurk in ‘paradise.’ Just last month in August a 24-year-old tourist died of speculated anaphylactic shock from stepping on a stonefish or sea urchin and also last month the town of Busuanga declared an outbreak of dengue fever (carried by mosquitoes). At least 90 people were admitted to the Coron District Hospital and one person died.

As beautiful as Palawan is it’s also fraught with dangers. There’s a big controversy now that the town of Coron is not ready to deal with medical emergencies. The tourist who died from stepping on a sea creature was apparently never warned by anyone, including the boatmen, not to step on the corals. They didn’t know what to do when he was in distress. The tourist’s boyfriend was the only one to attempt CPR. One can only speculate what the outcome would have been if the they had a first aid kit with an epi-pin.


There are other critters besides mosquitoes that like to bite. Antihistamines are a good addition to your first-aid kit.

On our second trip to Coron we stayed at a semi-remote cottage at the edge of the rainforest. ‘The Chef’ was bitten around the ankles by little black flies. His ankles swelled up, turned red, black and blue and became painful. He limped when he walked. It took 10 days and 20 antihistamines before it returned to somewhat normal. During that time the owner of the cottage thought we should have it checked out at the hospital which was a little concerning after she told us the hospital has the reputation that you ‘only go there to die!’

Nasty blistering rash from walking through grass.

I got a nasty blistering rash from walking through grass.

It started as a little itch on my leg. Over the course of 48 hours the itch had turned into a nasty, oozing, blistering rash. It didn’t hurt but it sure didn’t look pretty. I applied a topical antibiotic and ‘the Chef’ wrapped it with gauze to keep it clean. I drastically wanted to know what it was so I resorted to searching the internet to try and find out what it could be (I know that’s not a good thing). I was hesitant to go have it checked out as I knew the poor reputation of medical care here in Coron. The last thing I wanted was to be prescribed something I knew nothing about from someone who might not know what they’re doing.

As it turns out I must have brushed against what they call ‘burning grass’ when we went on an excursion to check out a property. A local told me to clean the rash, then pour hot, hot water over it a couple of times a day. It worked but it took a long four weeks for it to fully heal. During that time I joined a handful of other tourists in town whose appendages were also wrapped in gauze from various mishaps.

Tropical heat and sun should not be taken lightly. Make sure you stay hydtrated.

Tropical heat and sun should not be taken lightly. Make sure you don’t get over heated and stay well hydrated. We visited during the hottest part of the year and the three of us went through 1 jug (25 litres) of water almost every day in addition to all the beverages we consumed while we were out exploring.

Renting a motorbike can be perilous especially if you’ve never ridden one. Our friend King, received cuts and bruises when he crashed his motorbike over the side of an embankment trying to maneuver over a dilapidated wooden bridge. He was very lucky. In hindsight we probably shouldn’t have attempted that particular trip and at the least would have insisted he wear a helmet. King as we found out is quite accident prone. During one of our property searches he stepped on a rusty nail while walking through the jungle and had to dig out a little piece left behind in his foot when he took out the nail.

Probably the most common health risks in the tropics relate to the heat and sun. Sunburn, heat stroke/sun stroke, heat rash, and dehydration can sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention. We’ve experienced all of these so now we know what to look out for.

Be Prepared

We sometimes take for granted that there will always be medical help when we need it. You should be prepared.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Educate yourself on the dangers in that environment.
  • Don’t assume medical help will always be close by or even adequate.
  • Make sure your basic vaccines (such as tetanus) are up to date.

DIY First Aid Kit List

What you put in your first aid kit will depend on risk factors like how long will you be travelling, what kind of activities you will be doing, etc. We usually stay a minimum of three weeks and are quite active. We like to swim, snorkel, motorbike and explore off-the-beaten path places. Here’s our first-kit supplies (we’ve used everything). We’ll probably add an antifungal cream and an Epi-pin.

    1. Analgesics (eg. Tylenol, ASA, codeine, ibuprofen, Tylenol #3)
    2. Assorted bandages and gauze
    3. Topical Antibiotic (in Canada we have Polysporin)
    4. Antihistamine (such as Benadryl)
    5. Adhesive tape
    6. Scissors
    7. Tweezers
    8. Anti-septic wipes
    9. Eye patch
    10. Safety pins
    11. Antidiarrheal (such as Imodium)
    12. Antinauseant/motion sickness (such as Gravol)
    13. Mosquito repellent (the local OFF is very effective)
    14. Sunscreen

Would you rather buy a first aid kit? Day Tripper puts together an excellent one that’s compact, lightweight and easy to tuck away in a travel pack or suitcase. Adventure Medical Kits Day Tripper

The #1 Reason We Love Palawan

Spear-fishing with Fred

Spear-fishing in Coron Bay.

“Do you want to go spear-fishing tomorrow?” Don asked. “Hell, Yeah!” we said. You didn’t have to ask us twice. Water is one of the many reasons we love Palawan. We are both inextricably drawn to the call of the sea.

Childhood memories

Bringing back childhood memories.

On our first visit to Palawan ‘the Chef’ was standing on a beach and with the sensation of sand between his toes was transported back to a time when he was an 8 year old boy. Back then his father was in the German army which gave the family the opportunity to move to a base in Sardinia, Italy. Here, his family lived on the beach in a canvas tent.


Water is life.

Imagine your father taking you and your little brother out to sea in a small boat and throwing you both overboard. This is how ‘the Chef’ learned to swim. With his new-found skill he learned to spear-fish with the local Italian kids. I didn’t have it quite so dramatic. We had civilized swimming lessons in grade four. I wasn’t a strong swimmer but always felt comfortable in water, so much so I jumped off the high diving board without really thinking about what happens when you reach the bottom.


Being part of the sea.

As mesmerizing as water can be it has incredible power that needs to be respected. The sea and mother nature are in constant flux. We got this dose of reality on our boat expedition from Coron to El Nido.

Forboding seas

Realizing you’re only a tiny part of mother nature.

Cruising over the Linapacan Strait, our small bangka groaned as we crested ten foot swells. I realized it was a hairy situation for the crew of the Krisolo when Jem our guide came to the front and asked us if we were okay. He had a concerned look. I knew we were in good hands with our old school Captain Lolong so I wasn’t so much concerned as I was captivated and exhilarated by the sea’s powerful energy.


Nothing cures whatever ails you like salt water can.

There’s just something about escaping on the water that calms the soul. Palawan is the ultimate water world for any nature lover. We can’t wait to make it our backyard.

It’s a Long Way from Canada

Let’s Fly

I didn’t know which was worse – the young, tattooed Asian dude constantly being smooched by his thickly eye-lashed girlfriend in front of us or the little kid crying sporadically behind us. In the end the little kid won when he threw up and peed during our decent into Tokyo. I can’t say much about the airplane food either which also almost made me want to throw up.

After a painful 22 hours of travel we arrived in Manila bleary eyed but excited. We were a little behind schedule but going past immigration and collecting our bags was a breeze. The exit doors opened and our Philippine adventure officially began. Our first task was to try to pick out my aunt from a sea of waiting faces. Fortunately, ‘the Chef’ stands way above the height of the average Filipino. Even with his eagle eyes and circling the waiting area a dozen times we could not find her. We had our ‘Philippines’ cell phone with us but without a load it was useless. Eventually, we found her. I’ve discovered given enough time things always seem to iron themselves out. The hardest part is you need patience.

It feels like a sauna

It feels like a sauna

I knew we would be coming during the hot season but I didn’t realize just how hot it was. We arrived smack in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures hovering in the 32 degree celsius range and humidity making it feel like 40. ‘The Chef’ and I would be sitting around my aunt’s kitchen table and I would see the beads of sweat build on his forehead. Good thing we brought lots of handkerchiefs. Meanwhile back in Toronto we found out there was a frost warning!

Our sense of time was already eroding. It didn’t help that clocks here never seem to be set to the exact time. We were staying with my aunt in Laguna before heading down to Coron, to acclimatize and get a few important tasks accomplished. We were ready for bigger challenges waiting for us in Palawan.

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