Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Wonder that is Palawan

I know. This blog is late. I've been putting this blog off for the longest time already, but I said I will be blogging about the highlights/craziness I did when I was 24 (which I never got around to doing), and this trip is high in the ranks (if it isn't up there yet). I went to Puerto Princesa, Palawan last June, and this trip is the first of many things.

It was my first trip with Yayay, and my first trip very far from my parents with only the boyfriend. I didn't know how to tell my parents until a few weeks before the trip (and we booked it 3 months in advance). I was so happy my parents didn't make such a big fuss out of it, but I was sad because it meant I was too old already I can go wherever I want to without hearing a lot from Mama and Papa.

It was also my first time to ride an airplane. Technically, because I am sick, the doctor told me that riding an airplane may not be a very good idea. The pressure in the airplane may be something my lungs won't be able to take, and so for 24 years, I didn't go anywhere. I was really antsy and scared during the last few weeks leading to the trip. I was constantly online researching on whether I would be able to take the pressure. But the flight went without any hassle at all; I fell asleep 10 minutes into the air and woke up when we're in Palawan already.

First airplane ride!

First view of Palawan

I was all giddy when we landed! The airport terminal is small which suits me just well since I can't do a lot of walking anyway. We had an itinerary the entire trip so we didn't really worry about where to go.

We spent our first afternoon in Palawan touring the city. A lot of people there went on group tours in vans, but one of Yayay's friends highly recommended Kuya Rolly, a local who owns a tricycle, so we spent the afternoon in his tricycle getting to know the city. Palawan has very nice tricycles -- really different from the cramped ones we have in Manila that also get us soaked when it rains. We were quite happy to book Kuya Rolly. He's very hospitable, just like every Palaweno, and he filled us in with all there is to expect in Palawan. He's also very handy with the camera! :) Here's the first day in pictures:

Typical Palawan tricycle.

That's Kuya Rolly for you! He kept on talking during the ride to the Crocodile Farm amidst the tricycle noise, and I'm like "Ah talaga po. Ahh." And when Yayay asks me, "Ano daw?" I answer with "Ewan ko. Di ko maintindihan. Ang ingay eh!" Hahaha.

With a baby crocodile.

With the biggest crocodile at the farm. It doesn't look too scary in the picture, but it's Godzilla-big in person.

At Mitra's ranch.

At Baker's Hill. This is where all the baked goodies are.

Gooey pizza at Baker's Hill.

Weaving at Pinagbuatan Creations.

The first day at Palawan is like a warm-up of sorts. Day 2 is when the actual fun starts with a trip to the Underground River! Imagine going to one of the finalists of the 7 New Wonders of Nature! The trip is made up of usually rough roads.. Though rough, the ride had been nice. It was a view of mountains and valleys to fall in love with. Finally, we got to Sabang after 2 hours where we have to take another 45 minute boat ride that will take us to the Subterranean River National Park. After registering, we trekked for a few more minutes before we, again, boarded a boat which will take us inside the Underground River.

Finally, Sabang after two hours!

Panoramic view of Sabang Beach.

Boat ride at Sabang.

A rock formation.

Mandatory couple pic. :D

A monkey and a monitor lizard roaming around the Subterrenean National Park. The monkeys are notorious for bag-grabbing!

All geared up for the Underground River tour!

The cave's mouth.

This is what the inside (nearest the cave's mouth) looks like. It's pitch dark inside (zero visibility) and there are a lot of bats (and bat shit!). :)

We conquered the Underground River, yo!

We had our first lunch buffet after the Underground River Tour before we went back to our hotel. We didn't have a photo of the food, but they serve great food in Palawan! Usually, food included in tours/packages are unsatisfying, but that was NEVER the case in Palawan. I'd go back for the food alone! There weren't a lot of choices but what they had were a lot and were cooked really well, too.

We went back to the hotel late in the afternoon, showered, and went around the city. I went ukay shopping near the town's market (what's a trip without a little [thrift] shopping!) and then headed off to Kinabuch's for dinner. Kinambuch is famous for the tamilok, a local worm delicacy, which Yayay was looking forward to try. I would've been coerced to eat it, but just my luck that it wasn't tamilok season! :P

Day 3 of our Palawan adventure is our trip to Honda Bay! We decided to leave my digicam at the hotel since we have the DSLR, and my cam went unused the day before. To our dismay, we found out that the digicam would've been the better camera to bring here since plastic pouches can be rented at the jump-off point so that we can take pictures underwater while we go snorkeling. That was a real disappointment, so we just promised to go back just to go to Honda Bay again and take pictures underwater. :)

First stop is at the Pambato Coral Reef where we fed the fish, and I had my first snorkeling experience! It was scary at first to have myself floating in water and not seeing the ocean floor at all, but I was able to let of our guide after a while, and Yayay and I roamed the ocean ourselves. I am still at a loss for words as to how beautiful the depths of the water is.

We then went to Snake Island for lunch and for more snorkeling! There are no snakes here, but the sandbar is shaped like a snake from an aerial view, thus, the name. Snorkeling here was easy and really fun. The snokeling spots are just 10-15 meters away from the shore!

At Snake Island.

Next stop was Pandan Island which was a bit commercialized. We snorkeled some more before we showered and went back to the hotel.

What are these two up to? ;)

The fourth day is when we went back to Manila. Our flight was at 1pm, so we roamed the city one more time for pasalubong. We went to Plaza Cuartel which kind of has an Intramuros vibe, dropped by the church, ukay-ed a bit more, and off we went for the pasalubongs.

But more than the sights, Palawan has the best people. It was Filipino hospitality at its best. We had the best van drivers and the funniest tour guides! We felt really at ease in the city, so we just hail a cab outside the hotel at night, and go around the city by ourselves. The only think lacking here is a proper mall (though a Robinson's mall was being constructed at the time of our visit), but it wasn't too much of bother, really. I guess I just really felt very far from home without a mall around. Haha.
My trip to Palawan will always be very special. It was the first major trip I paid with my hard-earned money. In a way, it's like an initiation to adulthood, and it affirmed my love for travelling. I also realized how beautiful the Philippines is. It's a wonder how people are all looking forward to go to Europe, to go to the Carribean, when the places to see are right here. I have long stopped raving about Palawan (I did talked about it non-stop for weeks, and took it upon myself to convince everyone I talked to to go to Palawan), but I loved Palawan so much I already have another Palawan trip scheduled on March. It's going to be Coron this time, baby!