Thursday, February 16, 2017

PUERTO PRINCESA: CITY IN A FOREST



Are you the type of traveler that wants to get a healthy mix of the urban and rural lifestyle while on vacation.  The type who wants to experience the beauty of forests, beaches, caves... and to immerse yourself with city-like nightlife and restaurant hopping as well as the convenience of shopping in a mall.  Then you should visit Puerto Princesa Palawan... the city in a forest!

The flight from Manila to the capital of Palawan took about 1 hour 20 minutes.

My family stayed in Puerto Princesa for 5days and 4 nights. 



On the first day of our Puerto Princesa exploration, we decided to do the CITY TOUR after a quick check in at Marianne Home Inn.  We also got the city and sea tour packages from them. These are the popular tourist attractions that we visited:


PLAZA CUARTEL.  Just across the Puerto Princesa Cathedral is the famed Plaza Cuartel.  It looks like a serene city park with its tall trees and benches, but the ruins of an old garrison and tunnels were proof of its dark past.  It is where the Palawan Massacre happened.  150 American prisoners of war were kept in the tunnels, and on December 14, 1944 the Japanese decided to kill them all by burning them alive.  Luckily, 11 of them escaped by swimming to the sea, going to Iwahig.













PUERTO PRINCESA CATHEDRAL.  This blue colored century old church stands proud in Barangay Liwanag.  It used to be a small church in the Spanish era, but in 1961 it was reconstructed and turned into a cathedral.  It was in 1872 when the first mass was celebrated here.  








PALAWAN WILDLIFE RESCUE AND CONSERVATION CENTER.  This destination is not just a tourist attraction but also a research center for conservation of Palawan’s endangered species.  You can find here crocodiles, birds, reptiles and other animals.






Aside from crocodiles, there are different species of birds and wild animals.















MITRA’S RANCH.  Also in Sta. Monica Heights, you can get a breath taking view of Puerto Princesa City in Mitra’s Ranch. There’s a view deck on top of the hill to do this.  The ranch is owned by the late Senator Ramon Mitra. This was such a relaxing place... I swear I can live on this ranch forever hehehe  :)  





BAKER’S HILL.  If you want instagram worthy pictures, then you should visit Baker’s Hill.  It is actually a spacious theme park in Sta. Monica heights where life size statues, landscaped gardens, colorful flowers, lush greeneries and cute houses were to be enjoyed.  And true to its name, freshly baked goodies to take home were on sale.  My family’s favorite – the hopia!




DELISH HOPIA THAT WE CARRIED WHILE DOING PHOTO OPS :) :)







We also passed by Binuatan Creations, to let the kids experience some weaving!  The store has been weaving mats, bags and other stuff for the last 13 years.  They pride themselves in creating masterpieces using locally available “tikog” and “amumuting” grass.  These grasses are harvested in nearby communities, dried and dyed depending on the color preference.





SIDE STORY:   While we were in baker's Hill, we befriended a family, tourists like us and agreed to meet later to go FireFly Watching.  It will be more expensive if we rent a van, with just the four of us.

That's about it as far as the City Tour is concerned.  It's dinner time, so we went to Baywalk for some grilled goodies that super budget friendly!








Later in the evening we went on a very much anticipated Firefly Watching.  We rode a small boat, ushered in into the forest, and after a few minutes, it was a surreal experience when we witnessed thousands and thousands of fireflies.  And because it was a clear night, we also enjoyed stargazing while riding the boat. It was MAGICAL!  We also saw planktons! And yes they released their luciferins that made them glow!  It was awesome!

For a couple of minutes, I did not talk, I just stared at the stars, at the fireflies, I wanted to capture the moment in my memory.  Because... I did not have pictures of this experience *sob*




The next day... we were all eager for our 2nd day in Puerto Princesa.  This time, we are off to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.  It is located in Sabang, approximate one and a half hours away from Puerto Princesa City.

Before we reached Sabang... we passed by Elephant Cave!



KARST FORMATION LOOKED LIKE ELEPHANT LEGS
SIDE STORY:  We arrived on time at Sabang Port, but.... we waited for 30 minutes before finally rode our boat.  Why???  We observed that the man issuing tickets was prioritizing the foreign tourist.  UGH!  So unfair!  He could have followed the simple rule of: first come first served  :(



BORED "LOCAL" TOURIST
WHEN BORED.... TAKE PICTURES!
FINALLY ON OUR WAY TO THE UNDERGROUND RIVER

The river is 8.2km long and flows underground through natural rock formations such as caves stalactites and stalagmites.  Only 4.3 km are easily traveled by tourists.  To explore the remaining 3.9 km, tourists must secure a special permit.

JURASSIC PARK???  JOKE  :)
monkeys are known to mingle with tourists

Again... there was another 30 minutes waiting time. There are lots of tourists by the time we reach the entrance of the Underground river.  Photo ops again to forget my boredom!











SA WAKAS NAKASAKAY DIN!!!

Most interesting, some of the rock formations look like objects and images such as a cacao fruit, mushroom and the holy family.  Geologists and environmentalists discovered a 2nd floor to the river in 2010 that led them to believe that there are waterfalls inside the cave.







I did my research on Puerto Princesa prior to our trip, so on our way back, I knew we will pass by Ugong Rock.  I talked to the driver if we can do a side trip.  Luckily the 2 other tourists with us on the van, wanted some adventure too! But my bff Gretel... wasn't too eager for the trek and zipline and opted to just have coffee hahaha  :)


Ugong Rock is a 75 foot karst limestone that stands like a guardian of the rice fields.





The adventure started with a one hour spelunking. We were fascinated with the   limestone formation, the steep ascent and descent of some of the terrain.  But overall, it was just like walking through a man-made tunnel. 














When you get to the top, you will appreciate the view.  But to go down, you will
either have to rappel or zipline.  We chose the latter.  Ugong Rock zipline is 1.3 km long, a palpitating 20 seconds ride.  It is the first zipline in Palawan. And what’s interesting about it, it is not a straight line.  You literally will fall down on the side of the cliff, before the zipline propels you to the other end.




After an adrealine-filled second day, we had dinner at Kinabuch!




And there... lo and behold, we had our very first taste of TAMILOK... 



Tamilok is a wood worm that thrives well in the Palawan rotting mangroves.  It looks like a worm, but its really a mollusk, that tasted like an oyster.  And yes, we ate it raw, we just dipped it into vinegar and straight to our mouths.






Day 3 of our family adventure... consisted of the sun, sand and sea.  



First in the itinerary is Pambato Reef.  It is a floating platform in the middle of Honda Bay, called locally as “Dalubkaragatan” which means “school in the sea”.  The platform is made by bamboo bridges supported by empty plastic container to make it afloat.  The tour interpretation focuses on the importance of marine ecosystem and in relation to the conservation of nearby ecosystems.  But disappointed that they did not let us stay for as long as we wanted.  In Coron we can swim with the fishes as much as we wanted  :(




Next stop, Cowrie Island... one of the islands in Honda Bay.  It is named after the small to large sea snail called cowrie.  The island has a number of cabanas, a pavillion and nipa huts, all overlooking the blue sea.





Dinner was extra special... because finally we had a chance to dine at Ka Lui's!






A must visit restaurant in Palawan.  Before entering the place, you have to take off your shoes, the restaurant’s floor is made of wood, well polished and very clean.  







INCORPORATING NATURE IN THE INTERIOR
ARTWORKS AROUND TO APPRECIATE

KaLui offers a wide variety of menu which depends of the fresh catch of the day.  Everything on the menu are seafoods and vegetables which includes sashimi, tempura, shellfish soup, sinigang, baked mussel and more.  I am extremely happy because they also serve lots of seaweed or lato.



TUNA STEAK SERVED WITH VEGGIES AND KAMOTE FRIES
BLUE MARLIN IN COCO CREAM

SOMEONE'S VERY HAPPY WITH HIS MANGO SHAKE :)

Even the comfort room is instagram worthy.. wow!




Day 4 is a free day for the family. We just wanted to explore more the city, buy “pasalubong”, and maybe feast on some more Palawan specialties.  We felt that the other beaches we wanted to go to are quite far, so we settled on what the city has to offer.





We started the day by visiting the Special Battalion World War II Memorial Museum, which was just 10 minutes away from the airport.  The museum was opened by the family of local hero Dr. Higinio Mendoza Sr., who was killed in 1944 at Canigaran beach.


Some of the museum pieces that are interesting to see are:  typewriter and stenography machine, which was used by Gen. Douglas McArthur in Manila, old vehicles used during WWII, rusting guns and ammunition, uniforms of American soldiers who fought with the guerillas, miniature war planes and old paper denominations used during the war.







After our museum visit, we had lunch in McCoys where we enjoyed the biggest serving of pizza.  Then we scouted for the best halo halo in the city.  And we found it at Noki Noc’s.   These two places are very near the museum and the airport.






We visited the wet market to take home some crabs... my favorite! What I am really happy about, the Palawenos knew how to put what you bought in boxes that you could easily bring home.  I swear, I reached Manila and the crabs that I bought were still alive.




THE PROOF:  2 DAYS AFTER PALAWAN, THE CRAB IS STILL ALIVE.  ACTUALLY,
IT FLED AND WE HAD TO LOOK FOR IT IN THE GARDEN  :)  :)

There is more to see in Puerto Princesa City.  Given more time, we would have explored more of its pristine beaches in the outskirts.  Or do some more spelunking adventures.  It only goes to show that Palawan is truly a haven for the adventurous soul.  

throwback travel post:  June 2013