Monday, January 5, 2015

Throwback Travels V: Priceless Palawan Trip (October 2012)

Together with my mom and my sister, I was able to set foot on one of the Nature’s Seven Wonders – the Underground River in Palawan! Last October 20-22, 2012, we explored the beautiful city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and immediately fell in love with it!

            This trip to Palawan was supposed to be my gift to nanay on her 50th birthday last May 26, 2012. I purchased three vouchers from Metrodeal that covered the airfare, airport transfers, hotel accommodations (with breakfast) for 3 days and 2 nights, and of course, the Underground River tour. However, I decided to bring her instead to Aklan, her birthplace, and celebrate her golden year in Boracay, together with our relatives. This long overdue trip has made our bond as a family stronger.

Day 1, October 20 – Puerto Princesa City Tour
                We were at the Terminal 4 of the Domestic Airport two hours before the flight. Surprisingly, I saw a good friend and officemate, Ms Nix, at the airport. She was also bound to Palawan and would board the same airplane as ours! She was with her sister and her sister’s boyfriend who were celebrating their fifth anniversary as couple! After a delayed flight, we landed at the Puerto Princesa City Airport just before lunch time.  

Me and Nanay at the Puerto Princesa Airport
                Our shuttle service was already waiting for us outside the airport. Good thing, our driver had the signboard with our names listed on it. The shuttle service brought us to Casa Fuerte, our pension house, which was only around 10 to 15-minute drive from the airport. The check in time was 2pm, and since we were early, we decided to have our lunch at Teriyaki Boy, Robinson’s Palawan, just 5 minutes away from Casa Fuerte. Wow, we had Japanese cuisine for lunch! We ordered for Tori brown rice, Yakisoba, and Ebi Tempura, all for Php 679.00. Because it was still early, we roamed around the mall and surprisingly, unlike our malls in Manila, you could not see hordes of people swarming the place, despite having a Sale (yup, up to 70% off on selected items)!
At Teriyaki Boy, Robinson's Palawan

                We returned to Casa Fuerte and waited for our room to be available. Casa Fuerte was a cozy, Balinese-inspired pension house. We immediately headed to our room as soon as the key was handed over to us! The size of the room was enough to accommodate us three. The room had floral wall paper. The beds were also floral. It was air-conditioned, and had a flatscreen cable TV mounted on the wall. The bathroom had pebbles and “logs” on the wall. However, it didn’t have towel holders, so we just made a makeshift one!
Casa Fuerte: Balinese-inspired pension house

Our comfortable beds
Our room's toilet and bath (no towel holder, though!)
               After unpacking our things, we went on a CITY TOUR! We rented a tricycle (take note of the distinct look of their tricycles, compared to the ones in Manila) for Php 600 – and yes, our tricycle driver served as our tour guide. First, we went to the Crocodile Farm where we saw several, uhm, crocodiles. And oh, they had my namesake, Makmak, a 60-year old crocodile! We paid Php 40 entrance fee per person.

Our "city tour" ride (notice the distinct look)
At the Crocodile Farm
"Croco-sis" and "Croco-mom"

   Then we went to the Butterfly Garden. It was just a small garden and there were only few butterflies. Entrance fee was Php 25 each. It was just amazing how they can turn this simple garden into a destination.
Palawan Butterfly Garden
"Come on, walk with me" - May
Lady Butterfly

     Afterwards, we visited the Mitra Ranch, which actually looked like Tagaytay! They had horses and vast greenery, and a rest house fronting a scenic view. Plus, they had a Zipline! May and I tried the zipline and we paid Php 500 each. It was my first time to try this adventure ride, and guess what, I bumped into the stopper at the end of the line (because my mind was thinking about something, so I was unable to get the instructions of the guides)! The zipline ride was really fun – and tiresome because we had to transfer from one station to another. Take note, we had to climb up and down the trees!

With the Mitra resthouse as our background
All systems go for my first Zipline ride!

    Then we went to Baker’s Hill where we saw amazing landscaped gardens! According to our tour guide (our driver), it was originally intended to be a vacation house. But  later on, upon seeing the potential of the place as a destination, they decided to open the place to the public (apologies for the “dark” photos, my phone went low batt). We also bought assorted breads and other delicacies there.

At the Baker's Hill
Sample landscaping. Apologies  for the dark photo.

Shopping for bread and delicacies!

   Our last stop was at a souvenir shop where we bought shirts and other pasalubong. For our dinner, we just asked our driver to drive us to the nearest Pares house. Haha, we had our dinner taken out and ate in one of the huts at the pension house.

Day 2, October 21 – Elephant Cave and Puerto Princesa Underground River

                We had our first breakfast courtesy of Casa Fuerte. The other day, our driver cum tour guide told us that our pension house would serve us bread, eggs, butter, and coffee; in other words, regular breakfast! And he was correct.

Casa Fuerte "free" breakfast

   After our breakfast, the shuttle service that would bring us to the famous Underground River fetched us. We also went to another pension house where we picked up other people who would join us in the tour. We were with two couples and a group of friends. While on the road, our tour guide provided some trivia about the River and Palawan in general. It was interesting to know that these people were actually being paid for just doing that! And you could imagine how many people were able to get employment because of the booming tourism of the province. It’s the River that sustains the life of the locals. Oh, have I already mentioned that Puerto Princesa is known as the “City in a Forest”? True enough, there were a lot of trees in the province, making it really more refreshing to stay there.

We stopped by this place to take some photos

We stopped by the Elephant Cave and Kurst (?) Mountain and took some photos there. Then, we had our lunch at a canteen that served eat-all-you-can meal (payment was included in the package that we availed)! After having our opulent lunch, we went to the waiting dock and waited for the motor boat that would transport us to the Underground River. The weather was fine, so we could actually go inside the cave. There were times in the past when tours inside the cave were cancelled due to inclement weather. However, while we were on the sea, the water was “unruly”. Good thing, we reached the place safe. We waited for around an hour before our turn to enter this UNESCO World Heritage Site. While waiting, we took photographs of ourselves and the wildlife! Monkeys and other creatures were roaming freely within the vicinity. One just needs to take extra precautions as monkeys grab phones and/or whatever it is that they want to snatch.

At the Elephant Cave
Eat-all-you-can buffet!

My lunch for the day
Going to the Underground River
At the Underground River signage
With the Underground River cave as our background
Monkeys were everywhere!

And our turn to enter the Underground River came at last! We were on a boat guided by a well-versed tour guide who shared information about the cave and the river. Of course, they shared the difference between the stalagmites and stalactites. Both are made from limestones. When they meet, they form columns. In time, when there would be a lot of columns, it’s possible that we could not enter the caves anymore. We did not sail the entire stretch of the “long” underground river. Inside, we were amazed by the rock formations with different themes.  For example, they had a “Market-themed” formation and “Church-themed” ones. A batcave was there as well. And when we noticed about the “vandalisms” on the wall (there were crossmarks and names of people with corresponding dates), the tour guide said that the crossmarks served as the guide of early travelers (or discoverers) so that they would not be lost inside. The names and dates were also there a long time ago, proving that prior to the Underground River being promoted, there were already those who have penetrated the cave. The local government did a great job in preserving the site and making it a world-famous site. Yes, it was a great experience indeed!

And we're ready!
It's dark inside the cave!

In the evening, May and I had our dinner at Balinsasayaw where we ordered their famous Balinsasayaw soup. Nanay wasn’t able to come with us because she was not feeling well. The soup was pricey but it’s worth it!
Balinsasayaw Restaurant

Time to eat!

Day 3, October 22 – Immaculate Conception Church, Plaza Cuartel, and Baywalk

This was our last day and since we need to go to the airport by 3pm, we decided to do a tour by ourselves to places we were not able to visit.

First, we offered our prayers of gratitude at the Immaculate Conception Church. Then, we went to Plaza Cuartel nearby. A well-maintained park, Plaza Cuartel was dedicated to the American Prisoners of War who were massacred in Palawan during the Japanese Occupation. Finally, we visited the Baywalk and took some photos.

Immaculate Conception Church
At the gates of Plaza Cuartel
Sunny morning at the Baywalk

For our lunch, we went to Kalui, which is a famous restaurant in Puerto Princesa. We needed to take of our footwears prior to entering. I would give the place five-stars for concept (native Filipino interiors, with artworks and wooden crafts) and food served.

Kalui's impressive interiors
Our sumptuous lunch!
And we're ready to eat!

          After lunch, we went back to the souvenir stores to do last-minute purchase. Then, we went back to the hotel and waited for van.
At the souvenir shop

           Being in Palawan is a memorable experience, especially when shared with your loved ones.

Flying back to Manila!

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