Wednesday, August 31, 2011

City in a Forest - Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Still going with the Pasalubong Guide, Itinerary, Budget, Tips, and Contacts part.

This was supposed to be set last May but my PM then suggested that we schedule our trip to July. So there, we had our Palawan adventure last July 7-10, 2011. A bittersweet nature trip it was.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. It is the cleanest city as well as considered to be the "last frontier" from non-sustainable urban development. It is a marvel to see such a wonderful place in the Philippines. Amazing flora and fauna. Truly breathtaking.

From Puerto Princesa airport we were picked up by our transfer and brought straight to Manny's Guesthouse - a backpacker's haven. The rate is very affordable and if you're travelling with friends and decide to get the 3 rooms on their 2nd floor, you can have the supposed-communal kitchen and bathroom all by yourselves. Mr. Manny is a very kind person (you can ask him of the good spots to eat and place to buy souvenirs).
Ka Lui's!
Suggested restaurants are the Balinsasayaw for real bird's nest soup and Ka Lui's for their good food, great interiors, and homey feel that's not overpriced. It was pouring when we started out our tour, visiting Plaza Cuartel where there were memorial markers for the American Prisoners of War. Afterwards we visited the neighboring church and while the heavens were dumping water on us, we just went to the tiangge-tiangge for first shot of buying souvenirs. Here, truckloads of cashews, magnets, keychains, and pearls can be found.
A marker for those who were starved and burned to death.
Someone's looking for pearls!
Next stop is the Binuatan Creations. Don't forget and hesitate to try out weaving. If you're such a cheapo or not in the mood to purchase bags but is feeling guilty that they let you try out the machine, you can purchase pretty 15-peso bookmarks. Yes I did, so quit snickering.
It's fun to use those machines!
Apple really wanted to see the crocodiles so she was ecstatic the moment we got to Palawan Wildlife and Rescue Center. This is also where you can buy/order nice shirts that can be personalized (put your name or whatever you like such as scientific names). Picture-taking with a baby croc costs Php 30 while they also sell crocodile sisig and sausages. Don't forget to have a photo with the fruit-loving bearcat.
Biggest croc caught. That's really big. Promise.
Long live these hung-over crocs. Don't you dare drop your cam.
Next in the list is Mitra's Farm. It has a nice view perfect for couples. Yes it ends there. Hahaha. Next would be the nearby Baker's Hill wherein you can stuff your mouth will crinkles and get a real sugar high.
Fresh air!
Afterwards, off we went towards Iwahig River for a short visit to Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (open prison!) and go Firefly Watching (an awesome display of natural Christmas lights). The mangroves and the population of the fireflies here are amazing, so are the guides. They really know their work. Here is where you have to apply 10L of insect repellent lotion because I got the worst mosquito bites of my life.
You can't get in, just stop to take a photo.
Iwahig River
We basically prayed the whole night for sun the next day and if we can, we'll blow away those cumulonimbus clouds as we're going to our Honda Bay Tour (snorkelling and island hopping). Dang it! This adds intensity to the already amazing Puerto Princesa.
This is just a parking lot for the boats. PARKING FREAKING LOT.
Three places only: Pambato Reef for the corals, Snake Island for the sandbar and the fishes, and Pandan Island for swimming and sandbathing - basically just rolling over the white fine sand of Puerto Princesa. There are other islands that can be visited for the Honda Bay Tour but those three were the ones we got for our tour.
Pambato Reef
Snake Island
Pandan Island

So what is Puerto Princesa all about? The finalist for new wonders, the Subterranean River National Park aka the underground river with basketfuls of bats. It's really so beautiful you may want to cry.
Another beautiful docking area.
Just a docking area for the underground river-bound boats.
Just passing by.
The outside of the Underground River. :)
Pretty pretty. Batman and Robin would be so proud.
Fall in love!
And then the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour wherein you can see lizards (you have to be sharp to see them so eat your carrots) and get the chance to have a close-up on those centuries-old mangroves. Those trees are hardcore I tell you, flexible but sturdy. Also, don't forget to have a taste of the local woodworm (tamilok).
Tamilok in vinegar. Just like oyster. Hum!
Planking on a log in a swamp.
Must be from Pandora [Avatar].
The last leg would be of Ugong Rock. Spelunking plus zipline equate to a perfect end of the trip.
My really thin friend Ryan on ropes. Haha.

Pasalubong Guide:
- Cashews, tons and tons of cashews in different styles/forms such as cashew butterscotch, cashew pastillas, roasted cashews, cashew tarts, cashew bag (kidding)
- Woven products ranging from wallets, bags, hats, to bookmarks (it was mentioned they supply to Kultura Filipino)

- Pearls (earrings for everyone)
- Palawan shirt!
- Croc meat available as sisig and sausage (huhuhu)
- Baker's Hill products (their crinkles are popular and I don't know why, they taste pretty average to me)

Itinerary:
- City Tour (package!)
Plaza Cuartel
Binuatan Creations
Palawan Wildlife and Rescue Center
Mitra's Farm
Baker's Hill [sugar overload]
Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm
Firefly Watching [where my legs got killed by the mosquito community]
- Honda Bay Tour
Pambato Reef [corals galore]
Snake Island [amazing snorkelling place and sandbar]
Pandan Island [swimming beach!]
- Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
- Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour
- Ugong Rock


Travel Tips:
- Palawan is a huge nature park. Don't ever make the same mistake as I did, ALWAYS bring and apply insect repellents! Those mosquitoes won't care if you're from the urban city or some passing comet. They will attack without hesitation. And be wary of dengue alerts.
- Don't miss out on your local woodworm. It's a good Fear Factor-like challenge to your friends or family.
- Although they offer waterproof casing for your camera, it is best to bring an underwater camera as I know it would take your mind off of the probability of water seeping in those cases. Hence, more brain energy would be devoted in enjoying Palawan!
- People in Puerto Princesa are really friendly and always engage you in small talk. Return the favor to them by giving tips (don't be such a tightwad) and enjoy the conversation. :)
- Go to Ka Lui's and order their Green Mango Ginger Shake that tastes weirdly amazing. Don't forget to walk around the area to see their art gallery as well.
- Experience Itoy's Coffee Haus with their in-house performers. Be warned though, their coffee is expensive (for me).
- Tricycle fares (which you may opt to ride if you just want to go somewhere in the vicinity) range from Php 8 to as high as Php 50 depending on the distance.

Budget:
- Peg the airfare at around Php 1,800 per trip so allot Php 3,800 for airfare (including the terminal fee).
- We basically spent around Php 4,600 per person for the tours (which include lunch already) plus additional Php 450 for Ugong Rock (caving and zipline).
- As usual, you'll be spending a lot for pasalubong (or is it just me?) and souvenirs.
- Manny's Guesthouse is pretty cheap. Here's their rates per night:

Family Room [2 double beds] at Php 600
Deluxe A [1 double bed] at Php 500
Deluxe B [2 twin beds] at Php 400

Contacts:
- Manny's Guesthouse (http://www.mannysguesthouse.com/)
- Pretty Planet Tours (Manny can also create your tour package as he has his own tour group)
- Prime Adventure (http://www.myprimeadventure.com)


MORAL: Once you stop and try to look around, you can see the beauty of the world. And when you have your peace, don't try to blow the place up. The future generations deserve to see this wonder.
Difficult being a star.

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