Shabby chic is a term typically used to describe furniture, home decor, or clothing, but it kept popping into my head when I was in El Nido.
Urban Dictionary’s definition of shabby chic: Slightly ratty but damn gorgeous.
This is EXACTLY how I would describe El Nido. The views are beyond picturesque, but the town itself is still very rough around the edges.
In town, there’s so much distraction and chaos. Tricycles with multiple families dangling off the sides honk relentlessly while maneuvering past each other on tiny roads, and gangs of kids speed around on bicycles. Dusty and dark shacks (that might collapse if the wind blows too hard) sell a variety of food and souvenirs. Beggars with small children are ever present.
And yet, the entire town is nestled into these gorgeous, towering limestone formations. El Nido means ‘the nest’ in Spanish, and it’s a fitting name. The town in snuggled up against these powerful, artistic works of Mother Nature.
You can’t get more shabby chic than new clothes hanging outside a shack underneath this limestone cliff backdrop.
Although there are tons of dusty shacks selling junk, there’s a fair share of chic boutique stores with overpriced clothing, trendy coffee shops, enjoyable international restaurants, shops selling handmade jewelry and soaps, and little churches with motorcycles parked out front.
And then there’s the beach.
The whole stretch of the beach smells like fried chicken heavily masked by gasoline- from all the boats, and the restaurants arcing around the water are well worn.
But the San Miguel is refreshing and cheap.
And the Philipino food, like Chicken adobo, is delicious.
And the scenery? That’s the best part.
I can do shabby chic because I like the perfectly imperfect. El Nido is chaotic, the internet sucks, and infrastructure is subpar, but it’s also warm and magnetic. It has a tattered third world charm about it that many find irresistible. Or, as my boyfriend describes it, “it’s a dangerously picturesque toxic dump.”
Is El Nido my favorite beach town? Definitely not. I still prefer many of Thailand’s beach towns to El Nido (because they are not as shabby, but they offer comparable views). However, in El Nido, the people are friendly, the food is fabulous, the water is clear, fresh fruit shakes are cheap (I recommend the calamansi + pineapple + ginger combo), the scenery is stunning, and excellent beaches and islands are close by.
That makes this El Nido alright in my book.