Thursday, August 2, 2007

Puerto Princesa, Palawan

I arrived at Puerto Princesa, Palawan on a gloomy tuesday afternoon that seemed like it’s almost ready for a heavy downpour. I almost got disappointed as I didn’t like rainy days. Photos aren’t as vibrant when it’s too overcast. But as soon as I got out of the plane, I couldn’t help but notice the enigmatic view of the runway. The mountains that almost seemed silhouette-like and the lush greeneries around it served as a backdrop of the airport. It’s one of the best views I’ve seen from all the airports that I’ve been to in this trip.

I also found it impressive that the tourism office in the airport is efficient. The people manning the booth are very informative as they try to answer each of your questions patiently. I asked one of the guys if he’d know a cheap hostel that’s close to the city and in a heartbeat I was off to Duchess Inn. Duchess inn is situated a few minutes away from Rizal Boulevard, one of the main streets in the city of Puerto Princesa. The room that I had was fairly simple. It had the things I wanted in a room, a bed and an electric fan. I’ve lived in a dorm before so a shared bathroom isn’t an issue for me. And for 150 pesos a night, how can I complain right? Another good thing about this city is that tricycle drivers are so informative! Apparently, the tricycle drivers are required to attend seminars conducted by the local tourism office of Palawan. This is the only city that I’ve been to that had everything organized. Amazing! Kudos to Mayor Hagedorn!

Puerto Princesa is a relatively cheap city. Usually, getting a tricycle from other airports would cost you a few hundreds, but here they’d only charge you fifty pesos. The distance from the airport to the city is quite long so fifty pesos isn’t that bad. As for me, I learnt my lesson before so I caught one outside the airport and only paid thirty pesos. Food is fairly cheap too, a meal would be somewhere around sixty to eighty pesos.

I didn’t let the bad weather ruin my stay in Puerto Princesa, so I started my tour right on the same day I arrived. My first stop was the Vietnamese Village. It’s quite far from the city but the tricycle driver was willing to take me there for only eighty pesos. The Vietnamese Village had a number of refugees from Vietnam during the Vietnam War. But now, there are only seven families left in the village, most of them have moved to Australia or elsewhere (according to the tourism facts). Apparently, only Vietnamese or Filipinos who have married Vietnamese are allowed to stay in the village. The village wasn’t that maintained unfortunately, although you could still see remnants of the village such as their houses, a small temple, a catholic church, street signage that had written Vietnamese characters on it, a bakery that is still owned by a Vietnamese family. From walking around the village, I realised that Vietnamese people aren’t as different from Filipinos. Their houses looked pretty similar to ours, their way of living are pretty much the same with Filipinos (farming, fishing, etc) and yes, even the way they look.

The next day, I went on an island tour in Honda Bay. Honda bay is one of the most visited tourist spots in Puerto Princesa. It has a thousand plus islands along the bay, but I only visited three, Pandan Island, Snake Island and Starfish Island.

The three Islands that I’ve been to had cream to white sand beaches. The beach was impressively clean, it seemed to be well taken cared of. The Water is crystal clear and perfect for snorkeling as fishes are very visible despite the absence of corals (make sure to bring loaves of bread to feed the fishes). If you were to ask me which one’s my favourite, I’d have to say Snake Island, I’d like how the island is shaped like a snake. I liked how you can cross from one part of the island to the other part by walking along the white sand bar. I also liked the huts that are placed along the shore as I had a good hour or so to just sit and read. It was very relaxing, perfect for those who just wanted to have a quiet time.

The next day, I was told that the underground river tour shouldn’t be missed while in Palawan. So I booked myself to an underground river tour and hopped on the van to get to Sabang, a small port where you’d have to take an outrigger to get to the underground river. It took two and a half hours to get to Sabang. The road to get to Sabang was bad but tolerable. The view compensated with the bad road, as I kept saying wow while on the way. Mountains that are made of limestone covered most of the area. I was told by our tour guide that the underground river is inside the mountain that is now popularly called St. Paul as when you get inside, it seemed like you’re inside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

While on the way the underground river, we were welcomed by dolphins swimming right beside our boat. I was ecstatic as it was my first time to see dolphins in their natural habitat. It was a bonus for me as I didn’t have to pay extra for dolphin watching.

Little did I know that I don’t only get to see dolphins but wild monkeys too! While at the façade of the underground river, wild monkeys were running around the area roaming around freely. Freaky looking monkeys! We were told not to show our food as these monkeys are snatchers. They could easily get the food out of your hand and might even bite you if you try to fight with them. I thought it was so cool to see them that close but I was scared as one of the tourists tried running then a number of monkeys ran after him. It’s like a walking Ebola running after you! Hahaha! Yeah, I’m laughing now but I was sh*t scared while it was happening!

The underground river tour only takes half an hour to forty five minutes. It was such a great experience as it’s another first for me. It was amazing to see stalactites and stalagmites that close, I felt like Indiana Jones for a second, but realised that I’m not when I almost had the boat flip over when I tried dodging a bat flying towards my head (I was holding the light so I think they got attracted to it). The stalactites and stalagmites were awesome as some of them were naturally formed like different images of things, people, animals, vegetables and even religious figures. The only source of light we had inside was the battery operated light on the boat that I was tasked to maneuver as I sat in front. The smell inside made me sick and the flying mosquitoes annoyed me to death, but despite all these, the things I have seen inside are definitely worth all the trouble. Despite my being claustrophobic and all, I painstakingly went on the underground river tour as I knew I had to see it. And it was definitely worth it!

In the next few days, I’d be roughing it a bit. See, I couldn’t afford a plane ride to El nido, so I decided to take a bus or jeepney (no aircon) for 8-12 hours depending on how the weather is and the number of passengers getting off different areas. I thought it would be better to cut the trip into halves. My first stop would be Port Barton, 3-4 hours from Puerto Princesa. I plan to explore the area for a few days before I take the bus to El nido which would take another 4-6 hours. So wish me luck, hope I get the best seat which is the roof top, like these people!

Wish me luck!

Til then,

The Lost Sputnik.


punkthepump said...

Awsome dizayn :) I wanna to add ur page to my blog like link exchange if u accept^^ my email is email me :)

Terence Chang said...

wow.. Looks like you are having some serious fun!

Keep it up!

narendra.s.v said...

nice pictures n interesting to read

Anonymous said...

ohmygosh.. dolphins.. i love dolphins...

- k

cHe said...

Hi.. How much does your trip in EL NIDO from Puerto Pricesa cost ?? And is there a cheap resort in EL NIDO?
I hope you can tell me because I'm going to Puerto Princesa and I'll like to do a side trip in EL NIDO.. Thanks

Travel to palawan said...

There are many tourist attractions in Palawan, but for me El Nido is the best. Love the photos. Thank you.

Travel to palawan said...

There are many tourist attractions in Palawan, but for me El Nido is the best. Love the photos. Thank you.