Thursday, October 16, 2008

Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

Palawan, a collection of 1,780 islands and islets, offers a wide range of attractions and activities to travelers looking for a tropical adventure. Explore hidden lagoons, caves, and limestone cliffs. Hike through lush forests that are home to a highly diverse wildlife. Dive, snorkel or kayak in crystal clear waters with extensive coral reefs that host thousands of species of marine life. Or simply soak up the sun on a white sand beach.

Palawan, where every island has its own special adventure, awaits you!

It's been a long time since we planned on getting to Palawan. To my surprise, we made our plan a week before the trip date. Actually, I was only a “sabit” to this trip, my boyfriend – Myke should be traveling alone. But since I am a born traveler, I decided going with him :)

We supposed to stay there for only two nights, that’s what his plan was, but I convinced him for a four night stay. We immediately booked our ticket and then there our journey began….

Day 1: Arrival and All the Amazing Dining Experience

The clock alarmed at 6 o’clock in the morning, we quickly took a shower and get dressed. We arrived at Centennial Airport Terminal 2 at 7:30. Yes, I’ve heard that local flights are often delayed but I wasn’t expecting that it happens all the time, matter of fact, ours’ was 45 minutes late.

We arrived at Puerto Princesa Airport an hour after. We were picked up by
Lola Itang’s staff where we had our reservation. We grabbed a lunch at the Inn’s restaurant after checking in. I ordered Buttered Fish while Myke chose tempting Zizzling Seafood. We were looking for their Bilao version I saw in their website menu, apparently, it was not available...Sayang!

This day, we haven’t get a chance visiting places because we were the one who was visited by our friends living within the city. We just ate at Bilao at Palayok in Rizal Avenue.

The Resto has a nice fish pond and a pleasant native ambience, they offer dishes which are satisfying to every diner’s palate. Myke decided to have their specialty called “Ihaw Ihaw sa Bilao” P425, consists of steamed shrimp, grilled pusit, baked tahong, grilled tuna, liempo, together with grilled eggplant & bagoong, salted egg & tomato, and achara on the side. Just typing those foods right at this moment made my mouth water. It was a great meal fit for 3 (yeah, for three, we hated requesting food ‘to go’ but there was not enough room in our stomach), my personal favorite is grilled pusit.

We booked for Underground River tour (P1,200 per pax) upon returning to the Inn.

Day 2: Underground River, Ulugan Bay, Vietnamese Village

It was my birthday!

Underground River
Nature tripping would never be completed without visiting Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park or commonly known as The Underground River –longest in the world.

Ulugan Bay Viewpoint

We first stopped in Ulugan Bay Viewpoint on our way to Sabang which took two and half hours. Someone may wanted to sleep as they approached Sabang, but not for me. I never wanted to miss the beauty of the forest. how everyone describe it. It's inspiring how locals preserve their rich forest though there are hundreds of travelers visiting the site each year.

Underground River Entrance

We finally reached Sabang Beach, from there we used a pump boat which transferred us to the shore going to the river's entrance. However, we still walked for 2 minutes going to the main entrance of the park. We spotted approximately 80 people waiting in line for the paddle boat tour. We immediately listed our names in the log sheet for registration. While waiting, we took pictures an enjoyed the wonderful scenery.

The place is cool and calming, it is sorrounded by tall trees which make the atmosphere even more relaxing plus a sight of abundant fishes swimming in the crystalline water awaken our senses.

Underground River Tour

Our names were called together with other four guests. Helmets and life vests are required to wear. Excitement is what we felt when we entered the river. It was dark as expected, we only have a huge flashlight so we can widen our eyes to see stalactite and stalagmite formations similarly looked like the holy family, half face of Jesus, a mushroom, a corn, a sexy body, etc.

It's amazing how this natural wonder created a two way road so that people can easily enter inside.

The boatman served as our guide. He spokes clearly as he tells something about the river. He managed to crack jokes too which was okay yet entertaining. According to him, the river is 8 kilometers long but the tour covers 1.5 kilometers only. We have to ask permission ahead of time if we wish to continue the remaining kms. Why? because the tour takes 4 hours. Well, we do not want to go that far.

The tour took 30 minutes round trip. It was so fulfilling that every Palawan tourists should not miss. The travel distance may be a bit far but once you get to the place, you will be amazed and can tell yourself “it's worthy”.

We went back where the pump boat was situated. Again, we took pictures of the rock formations seen along the shore. After then,we made our way to Sabang beach. There we had our lunch and spent 2 hours relaxing. Buffet lunch is included in the package. They served Binakol soup, grilled liempo, tuna, chicken adobo, ginisang kangkong topped with roasted garlic (love it!), and buko juice as refreshment. We got off at 1:30.

Sabang Beach

Viet Ville
We stopped in Vietnamese Village, it's just 20 more minutes away from the city.

The Village

Here, there are around 8 families living in. They used to be hundreds but most of them migrated to US way back December 2006. The village is quite small. Their shops are also closed that certain Sunday.

We aimed dining in their famous restaurant, ordered tasty beef Chao Long (noodles- P95) and their yummy French Bread stuffed with roasted pork (P38). Myke and I shared on the food because we were still full from the lunch eaten in Sabang. Satisfied, we walked out the village and drove back to the Inn to rest.

Crunchy French Bread and Chao Long

City Walk
We stroll towards NCCC mall passing by Mendoza Park and some Ukay – ukay stores. After 15 minutes, we reached NCCC mall, unfortunately the mall closes at 7pm. We have forgotten for a while that we were in the province, most of the shops close earlier compare to shops in Manila.

We instead took a ride to visit Badjao Inn, we were planning to change our accommodation for the sake of trying their service and to have a different ambience…. sad to say that Badjao Inn was fully booked that time. We returned to the Inn perhaps to sleep and end the day but we decided to go night out and celebrate my birthday. . We ended up hanging out in Kinabuch Bar and Grill which is situated beside Badjao Inn. Kinabuch is a lovely place to drink, have conversation with your friends or to simply kill time. They have big space and pop music is pleasing to the ears. Kinabuch has a truly party atmosphere. Myke ordered beer while I had Kinabuch Float, so called because it has a floating vanilla ice cream in vodka mix (P75), Our pulutan were Chicharon Bulaklak (P115), Grilled Pusit(P85), and (believe it or not) a Blueberry Cheesecake(P85). I was not impressed of their float because it tasted so bitter (my opinion). I liked their Chicharon and Cheesecake, though.

Kinabuch Grill and Bar

Day 3: Roxas

Today’s journey is the main purpose why we are here in Palawan - to visit their beach property located in Roxas. We rented a van costs only P3,500 for the whole day.

We woke up at 6:30am, had bacon and eggs breakfast in Lola Itang’s. Kuya Robert (of Topstar–) our driver, arrived at 7:15 but we departed at 9:30 because of some delay occurred from our personal guide’s part.

We arrived at Roxas Municipal Hall at 11:00, we were staving to death so we first ate at 5 Bee’s Restaurant (Sinigang na Tanigue is a must try). We finally reached Taradungan after a 20-minute pretty rough ride.

The property is not develop yet but I’m sure that it will be a wonderful beach resort once it has been established. The water was calm at that time, we have noticed 3 islands in front of the property, one of those islands is the Coco Loco Beach Resort. We immediately left the place after taking videos and pictures then we dropped by in the city proper and bought some delicious cashews.

Myke and I were so tired and hungry when we arrived in Puerto Princesa. That feeling didn’t stop us from proceeding with our plan to dine in the city’s famous restaurant named Ka Lui. We asked help from Lola Itang’s staffs in reserving seats right away. It is highly recommended to reserve because the establishment is jam packed all the time. Lucky enough, we got a vacant table when we phoned them so we immediately took a tryke ride going there.

We tried their specials for P385.00
(seashell soup, vegetable crisps, grilled tuna, 3 pcs shrimp, grilled pusit, and 2 cups of rice.) Myke cannot resist his appetite so he added Zizzling Squid (P150), I suggest you try it too, the meat is so tender and it really tastes awesome! We enjoyed our sumptuous supper, our best pick are grilled tuna, shrimp, and zizzling squid.

Day 4: Honda Bay Island Hopping

Honday Bay tour was only an option, as you can read, we haven’t have City tour yet. We carefully planned and decided to have the City tour by tomorrow. Our flight is at 11 am so we have to manage our time. We were glad that we did not ignore Honda Bay tour, this is the best Palawan experience we ever had!

The tour cost P1,200 per person. We were picked up at 8 going to Sta. Lourdes Wharf with Elvie as our guide. Our main mode of transportation was a motor boat.

Sta. Lourdes Wharf

Our first hop was Pandan Island, so called because the island has plenty of Pandan trees.

Arriving at Pandan Island

Activities there are swimming and snorkeling. Our snorkeling guide brought us to the deeper part of the ocean using our snorkel gadgets only(no boat or anything). We saw various kinds of corals and colorful fishes.....

For our lunch..Elvie personally prepared our Filipino style food includes Hilabos na Hipon,Grilled Liempo, Grilled Tuna, Eggplant ( sautéed with soysauce, vinegar, roasted garlic - I do not know how it was called, she said that the recipe was adapted from her Thailander friend), Salted Egg and Tomato. The food was simply cooked but I was so satisfied that it became the biggest meal ever had while staying in Palawan, not only me who did have big appetite but also 4 other young company.

Snake Island

Next hop was Snake Island, so called for its 7 kilometers long and narrow beach area surrounded by mangrove trees. We wandered around and I snorkel again. The snorkeling area is separated by a net, then a sudden (water) deep gave me a freight! Just imagine water level from first meter was 3 feet deep, next to it is a 15 meter deep. I could have drowned if I don’t have snorkeling gadget due to that surprise. I stop thinking of that experience and just enjoyed myself feeding fishes. Fishes are abundant in here, I have seen big fishes such as Talakitok and some other kinds.

Sad part on this island stop was an American guy was bitten thrice by a big breed dog owned a by a resident on the tip of the island. Elvie already warned him but he still insisted. Lesson? Wag pasaway!

We moved to third and last stop – Starfish Island. It is not good as the previous 2 islands. They said that there are many starfish here but found nothing even if the boatman helped me in searching for it, he even swam but found nothing still.

Starfish Island

Island hopping was over. We passed by mysterious Luli (Lulubog, Lilitaw) Island upon approaching Sta. Lourdes wharf. The island is now privately owned and currently under construction for building a new resort.

Luli Island

We reached the wharf by 5 in the afternoon. We kindly asked the driver to drop us by in the market. We bought kilos of Dried Pusit, and Dangit for our pasalubong. Although our accommodation is pretty close to the market, we still took a tricycle ride so we can visit NCCC mall at last. We took a shower first and then immediately went to NCCC, we bought souvenir shirts and fridge magnets. For our dinner, Elvie suggested eating at Haim Chicken Inato. The restaurant is bigger that I thought it was. We shared an order of Sinigang na Lapu Lapu (P150) and Spicy Chicken Inato (P69). Food is absolutely great but the service we experienced was too slow. Staffs are lack of training.

We made our way back to the Inn and started packing things out. We also called Robert of Topstar and hired a van for the City Tour tomorrow.

Day 5: City Tour, Butterfly Garden, Iwahig, Crocodile Farm, Baker's Hill

City Tour
The tour is supposed to be 500 per person, half day, inclusive of lunch, entrances, and with company of 6. We no longer have enough time so we had the tour taken for less than 3 hours only.

Butterfly Garden was our first destination. Entrance costs P20.00. We watched a 5 minute presentation then we entered the small garden. Few butterflies were flying because it was too early right then. I loved buying the dried butterflies portrait but it is too costly.


Iwahig Penal Colony - a prison without walls
Robert roved us around the area. We spotted prisoners wearing different shirt color which corresponds to different (prisoner) status.
Prisoners there are living like a normal farmers and laborers, they are planting rice, some were making souvenir items and they even get salary from doing those things.

Crocodile Farm
Also called Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center. Lots of crocs (yeah, right!) and other creatures, they also have 2 hectares forest wherein most endangered species are living freely.

Baker’s Hill
So called because it is situated on a hill, the place also has a restaurant, playground, some parts are still on going renovation. The area is colorful and they have funny statues around, children will surely enjoy here.

In the bakeshop we bought ensaymada, hopia, I also loved (and craving until now)this soft ube-stuffed bread topped with sliced almond. Baker’s Hill has variety of delicious breads and cakes to choose from at very affordable price.

No more time for Mitra’s Ranch so we bid goodbye and checked in at the airport at 10.

Our experience
Palawan trip is an experience Myke and I will forever cherish. I had been to places abroad but touring around the Philippines especially Palawan created an overwhelming feeling.

So much to do yet limited time to explore
There are still more places to visit such as Estrella Falls, Coron Diving Site, Tabon Cave, etc. Maybe you have to stay 2 weeks or more to explore it all. Bring also lots of money because most tour’s distance are far which make tour cost expensive. Package tour is best avail by less than 3 people.

Palawan offers fresh and delighfully great tasting food. All of the resto we dined into are all good. If you are looking for fresh, delicious, and inexpensive seafoods, Puerto Princesa City is the best pick.

Tips to drivers and tour guides are not required but very much appreciated because they only earn very little. Be generous enough...lalo na if you are satisfied with their service.

We visited on a supposed to be rainy season, fortunately, God provided us sunny days. We definitely enjoyed and can't wait to go back there soon :)