TJE 55: Dear Friend, I Went to Palau but I Forgot My Camera

Audio version available 🙂

Dear Friend,

I want to tell you a story – a travel story.

It was August 28, 2015, I was so stoked to be going to one of the pacific island states. A sea dweller’s dream: Palau. But there was one problem: I forgot my camera.

I packed my stuff the night before and put in the car’s trunk. I would leave that car in the office, and just Uber my way to the airport. (At the time there’s still Uber in the Philippines!)

Work hours ended. I rushed to the parking lot, changed and got my stuff. I needed to avoid the traffic. Thing is, I couldn’t immediately book an Uber. And I waited a bit for a taxi to pass. None. What should I do? Wait, I got an idea!

I started walking towards the other side of Filinvest. I called my friend working in another company nearby. I asked if he would like to drive me to the airport. I’d pay him. With no hesitation, he said, “Okay!”. So we met just outside his office building. Great, off to the airport!

The GPS indicated the traffic’s still okay. We would arrive with ample time. We took the Skyway, and ample time we did have. But then it hit me, I forgot my camera! Shit! I would go to one of the most beautiful places in the world and I don’t have a camera?! Aaaahhhh! Well, I just had to shake that off quickly. The experience was more important. And I still got my phone’s camera!

We arrived quite early actually. I handed my friend the money and got off. LOL

Shortly after, I met my relatives and my brother at the airport.

The plane ride took almost 3 hours. Palau is an hour ahead of Philippine time. It’s around 2 AM already (1 AM PHL time but still already way past bedtime). So we wanted to settle quickly. Good thing Koror isn’t really big so the ride to the hotel was short.

We checked in at Sea Passion Hotel and dozed off as soon as the rooms were ready.

The next day, we immediately saw how beautiful Palau is – just by looking outside. The hotel has its little white sand beachfront, and you can already see the clear water and tiny karstic islands around. I was so giddy with excitement at the sight. It truly is a pacific paradise.

Snorkeling in front of the hotel is already an amazing experience. There were so many corals and fishes a few meters from the beach. There’s also a remnant of World War II in the form of a sunken Japanese jet fighter, not far off, and not that deep. I just swam there for hours that day.

Due to this trip happening on short notice, we didn’t have a clear itinerary. So, I also allotted time looking, arranging for a tour. To our surprise, it’s expensive to be a tourist in Palau. They really charge high for exploring the paradise.

I overheard at a restaurant some local officials talking about how they didn’t really care if the high price would limit tourists. In fact, they prefer not to have too many tourists to preserve the beauty of their state. It makes sense. And the place deserves the premium treatment.

Back to the tour. We found one that provides the best value for money: Palau 7th Wonder Dive and Tour Services. And we scheduled a full day with them for island hopping and sea exploration. It was owned by a guy named Nathan, not sure if I remember the name correctly. He is half Palauan and American I believe. We booked only one day with them because we thought of sightseeing inland the next day. Minus the travel and lead time needed to check in the airport, we only had 2.75 days to enjoy the place.

Allegedly good for the skin

It was time to magnify the Palau experience! First on our itinerary was the Milky Way! It is a shallow pool within a cluster of islets. The sea floor is fine white sand, that’s very smooth to touch. It’s like stepping on ice cream – so therapeutic. Looking around, we saw a number of tourists whose faces and bodies were covered with it. Allegedly, it is good for the skin. Not to miss on the opportunity, we covered ourselves up with white sand too. Well, that white sand is actually sulfur sand fizzing through the rock. So it’s volcanic in origin.

Next on the itinerary was a stop at one relatively large island for our lunch. It has white sand beach as usual, and it has space for dining – with tables and benches. We were asked a day prior what we wanted for lunch. Part of the package was preparation of our food. And they have prepared a feast. Honestly, I don’t remember what we ate anymore. I just remember the feeling of satisfaction. We stayed in the island for a couple of hours – resting and hanging out after that delectable lunch.

Our next activity was swimming with sharks! That was a lot of fun. At first we were seeing lots of remoras, then suddenly sharks started appearing. It was amazing. I’d never seen sharks prior to that experience. (Well except for a whale shark :D)

Next on the itinerary was definitely the highlight of our Palau experience: Jellyfish lake. We hiked a bit on the rocky island that hides it. As the water is quite clear (as usual in Palau), you can already see the golden jellyfishes. My eyes just widened at the site, and I could not wait to swim.

Snorkel and flippers – check! Time to enter a dream. Swimming in the lake just felt unreal! It’s so peaceful and strange at the same time, what with all these gentle creatures surrounding you in a blue-green space. It is without a doubt, one of the best and unforgettable experiences anyone can have.

When reality is better than a dream

With a bit more time to spare, we went to another snorkel spot where giant clams thrive. I just kept on swimming until our time’s up! And because the rocky islands are just beautiful to see, every bit of the trip including the way back was a treat.

We freshened up, rested a bit, and then treated ourself again with a nice dinner. And that was August 30, 2015 – one of the best days ever!

One waitress at the hotel’s restaurant became friendly to us. Melania, if I remember correctly. We were asking her questions regarding the different sites of Palau. And she suggested that on her day off, she can tour us inland. And we agreed. We didn’t have a clear itinerary, so we just let her tour us. We dropped by a river where crocodiles live, we went to see some World War II artifacts. There was one place though, that we requested her to find for us: Melekat falls. I think she suggested that too, though she wasn’t sure where it is located exactly. But since we saw intriguing pictures of it with a quick search, we insisted that we should find it.

The gate at the road entrance was closed initially. And our guide had to inquire if it could be opened for us. After a bit of waiting, we were given access to the road. Then we hiked a bit to see the falls. At first it was strange, that instead of hiking up, we were going down. Then we saw a stream. Where’s the falls? We could hear it though, so we had to investigate. We were also cautious as we saw a snake nearby. So only my brother and I went downstream. Then we finally saw the falls. Cool! It’s small though – or so we thought. Going further down, we saw that the cascade was quite high. It’s beautiful.

I went up again, to call my cousin. “You should not miss this!”

It was a hot day, so we took a dip after taking a bunch of photos of the waterfalls.

We explored a bit more, aimlessly, till we called it a day.

The next day was just relaxed. We didn’t have any plans, so naturally, I just snorkeled again at the hotel front before we checked out. We arranged for a van that would take us to the airport, but first accompany us as we look around Koror to kill time. There was a funny moment when we were looking for a place to eat. We were late for lunch already. We went to this seafood restaurant recommended by the driver. When we got there, it was closed and would reopen only at dinner time. But since we had no where else to eat, my aunt begged (or coerced) the owner to open the restaurant for us. LOL. He gave in.

In the afternoon, we just looked around for souvenirs. And then we stopped by another restaurant to eat, before heading to the airport.

Late evening of September 1, 2015, I was dropped by an Uber ride to the office. I headed straight to the parking lot to bring my car home. I opened the trunk to put my bag and just shook my head a little bit upon seeing the camera I left.

Hope you’re doing well my friend. – Jerico

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