just as the road bends north from an hour driving in dark lava field, the vatnajokull glacier.
The best beaches in the world demand a little bit of work from its visitors. Its a way to keep the shy and the weak from reaching its shores, perhaps to keep its idyll, to keep a little isolation. It’s true of Turtle Bay beach in the island of St. John, hidden in well preserved tropical rainforest. It’s especially true of Lopes Mendes beach, on Ilha Grande in Rio, for which the intrepid traveler has to trek a good half hour on mud and bug-ridden slippery paths, and that’s after a rough boat ride from the old pirate base town of Abraåo.
But the payoff is unbelievable. These are not your reggae-candied spots. You can’t wear a pair of Havianas here, we’re not talking about the Boracay, or its deadly cousin Taganga in Colombia, E. coli-friendly beaches, proof that easy access is a scourge to seafarers.
So, on the island of Palawan, somewhere north or south or east of El Nido, about 45 minutes on a rented motorbike, roughing through red clay dirt road, one of the best beaches in the world awaits. You know you’re on a great beach when you share the sand and surf with the world’s greatest beach dogs.
The beach in question is Nacpan beach. Most backpackers rent motorbikes and ride the rough roads from the town of El Nido. We got lucky, we hired a rinkydink tricycle from a toothless local called Chito who gave us a fair price. A day trip (that will also take you to Maremegmeg beach and to another spot I can’t recall) would set you back about 1500 pesos (30 USD). Every now and then Chito would warn us that the day before yesterday, the highway was all bloodied from a collision between a cyclist and van hire, poor dude got cut in half at the waist. Apparently it happens all too commonly.
Makes it all worth it.
Nacpan beach, as it remains relatively isolated, is beautiful. Sun-drenched, laid-back, a bit rough around the edges, its surf, not too tame and not too wild. The sand is white and fine, uninterrupted for a good stretch, lapped by water the color of the morpho butterfly. Surrounded on all sides by small, limestone islets characteristic of this part of Palawan, its a picturesque spot to get lost in, to remove yourself from the grid. wink wink.
See you there next year?
The rooms on the northeast corner of the Ambos Mundos hotel in Havana look out, to the north, over the old cathedral, the entrance to the harbor, and the sea, and to the east to Casablanca peninsula, the roofs of all houses in between and the width of the harbor. If you sleep with your feet toward the east, this may be against the tenets of certain religions, the sun, coming up over the Casablanca side and into your open window, will shine on your face and wake you no matter where you were the night before. If you do not choose to get up you can turn around the other way in the bed or roll over. That will not help for long because the sun will be getting stronger and the only thing to do is close the shutter.
-Ernest Hemingway, Marlin Off the Morro
“Havana’s architecture is our golden egg,” Coyula says. “We have to be smart enough to avoid the pitfalls of urban renewal. How do we regulate that? Look at what’s happened to Shanghai—it’s no longer a Chinese city but a city in China.”