Coron/Busuanga Day 1: Mt. Tapyas and Maquinit Hot Spring

This is the latest installment of my series of posts about the before, during and after of travelling by focusing on my recent travel to Busuanga Island and its surroundings last December 2017. Today, we will delve on the official first day of touring that was provided by our Tour Operator: Touring around the vicinity of Coron Town Proper and its sights

We have to wait sometime at the grounds outside of the terminal after our shenanigans at the airports when our van arrived. There were about eight of us on the van (five Filipinos and three British) and while travelling, our driver, Eric, apologized to us as he were advised late that we were about to be picked up (He was one of the many freelancers we will encounter during this trip). I was seated beside the window and the thing I noticed is that there are very few people living here as evident by the lack of houses near the road but that soon starts to change as we approach Coron town proper as structures (and traffic) starts to pop-up.

We were the last to be dropped off as we were checked in at Centro Coron Bed & Breakfast which is in the center of town. We arrived there at noon and we were advised by the female staff Angelica that we will be picked up by around 4:00 pm for the tour. We actually got the largest room with three double beds which can theoretically fit six people with a nice bathroom and a hanging area for our clothes and for the purpose of having a roof to sleep at night, it was alright. After eating our lunch, we spent the next few hours dozing off at the room.

Almost half hour past 4:00 pm, our tour van arrived with our tour guide Kim helping us with our stuff. Even though it will be cheaper to just do a DIY on the Coron Town Tour as I computed it will just cost us more (the specific tour was priced at Php 750 vs. Php 450 for DIY based on internet searches mostly just for Maquinit as you can theoretically just walk/climb to Mt. Tapyas for free) because of our late booking, we weren’t given an option to personalize it. The first destination for this town tour (which was just a few blocks from our base) was the Coron Souvenir and Gift Shop which the timing to go here I find odd. I mean l, the first thing that you will do on a guided tour is to spend money? The area is huge and it was a one stop shop for all of the things you can think of you wanted to buy. All four of us in the group decided that we will do our shopping some other time.

 

Because of the traffic scheme of the Poblacion area, we actually have to travel to the reclamation area specifically Lualhati Park (mostly used for parking of boats for tours as there was another port on the edge of Poblacion for larger sea vessels). They allowed us to take some pictures and Kim even took some photo for every group in the tour. At this area you can clearly see the ‘tapyas’ (bevel is the English counterpart) on Mt. Tapyas that was caused by a bombing during WW2 and also Coron Island which was striking as it looked different from Busuanga Island and the surrounding islands as well.

Coron Island Panorama
My obligatory panoramic shot of the Port with Coron Island on the Background. Lualhati Park, Coron, Palawan.

Then we head to Mt. Tapyas. There were already lots of tourist in the area as Kim said that sunset is the best hour to climb it. There are steps in there and it looked easy enough but boy it was hard. A few hundred steps and you could already feel the sweat dripping down on your clothes. The mountain looks steep enough from afar but you can never guess how steep it was until you climb it. There were break stations every few hundred steps and the tour actually provided us with water bottle. Upon reaching the peak, the view was spectacular: The sun was already started to set and the natural beauty of the surroundings is awesome. We actually spent some time there and took as many pictures as possible.

Mt Tapyas 1
The view of the top of the mountain on a rest stop during the hike . Mt. Tapyas, Coron, Palawan.
700th step
The 700th step nearing the location of the view deck. Mt. Tapyas, Coron, Palawan.
Mt Tapyas 4
The view of the surrounding islands and the sunset from atop. Mt. Tapyas, Coron, Palawan.

The sun had already set when we went down and the tour actually provided us with merienda/dinner on the form of ‘pancit‘ and a pair of loaves. We had to travel quite a distance (and had to content with the 6:00 pm traffic) to go to our final stop today: Maquinit Hot Springs. What makes this unique is that it is a saltwater hot spring which in itself is unique much more here in the Philippines. The area will require an entrance fee (Php 150 as of December 2017) and has areas for changing clothes and picnic tables for your stuff. The spring itself is divided into three pools and (as we later found out) has differing temperatures. Upon dipping into the pool, now I understand today’s tour structure as it was refreshing to dip after spending lots of energy climbing up to Mt. Tapyas and you could feel some of the tensions released from your body. After taking some break (ten minutes is the maximum dipping time as recommended by the locals) we dip onto the middle pool and it was noticeably hotter. I personally enjoyed it but my colleagues gave up because it was so hot. I wanted to try to dip into the hottest pool but we were the only ones from our tour left and as a courtesy we had to leave (one cons of joining a guided tour).

Maquinit 1
The view of the hot springs as seen from a view deck overlooking the ocean. Maquinit Hot Springs, Coron, Palawan.
Maquinit 2
The smaller hottest pool and the least hot portion of the springs from the vantage point of the grotto. The area really has a lot of lights at night. Maquinit Hot Springs, Coron, Palawan.

It was already past seven when we were unloaded back to our base and we were starving. We started walking around and we end up in a restaurant that was owned by the travel agency we were booked! The food was excellent but it was also at this point that we realized that this tourist area as a whole is indeed pricey.

You would think that a coconut shake would be cheaper than a watermelon shake but no and my shake was smaller! The highlight of the dinner was the ‘sinigang na lechon’ which is just delicious! (Sidebar: this food seems to be only found in the islands south of Luzon as I have yet to see it served here). As we were walking home, you would imagine there would be people walking around but nope. Sure there are areas which the foreigners seemed to flock into but other than that the streets are almost empty as compared to other tourist areas (especially since it was a Friday night).

Siningang Lechon
The expensive but exquisitely tasted Sinigang na Lechon. I might have eaten two whole cups of rice more than I usually did.

The day was tiring and after resting for a while and taking a bath, we immediately went to bed but we all agreed that the first day was overall enjoyable and we can’t wait for the next day…

Next: Coron Islands and its surroundings Part I…

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