Friday, June 12, 2015

Adventures Across Pinas! Stop 1: Puerto Princesa, Palawan. May 11- May 14, 2015.

 Hello again everyone!

Hope you all enjoyed the last post about Eyen's birthday. The last few posts haven't so much as been about traveling, but they are more of just memories for me. I basically keep this blog, so I can remember all the things I've done while traveling. I also like to keep my mom up to date about where I'm going or where I've been!

 This blog will be about Puerto Princesa, Palawan! It is our first time coming here. If you look at the map of the Philippines below, you can see Puerto Princesa on the left side right before the bottom above Malaysia. This is a good map for you to see all the different cities of the Philippines.

When we first landed in Puerto Princesa, we dropped our stuff off at the hotel. We stayed at a really small hotel called Hibiscus Garden Inn. We loved it! It's very quaint and relaxed. Each room has its own hammock outside as well as two chairs and table to sit at. Each room also comes with a place to hang your wet clothes if you want to wash them in your room. If we ever go back here, we will stay here again! The staff was very nice. We locked our key in our room, and it was no trouble for them to open the door. There is also a restaurant at the hotel. It has good breakfast as well as entrees. Plus, this place is literally 5 minutes from the airport. All in all, the hotel was great!

After we dropped our stuff off, we wanted to take a city tour. It costs about 1,500 pesos ($34 USD) to rent an air conditioned van to take you on the tour. Instead of doing that, Eyen talked to a tricycle driver outside of our hotel. He unfortunately already had guests he was taking around, but he took us to one of his friends who could take us on the tour. It was only 200 pesos per person. (200 pesos is about $4.50 USD. For 3 people that's $13.50 USD.) It isn't air conditioned, but there's a breeze. In my opinion, even though it gets hot, I feel more like a local riding in the tricycle rather than an air conditioned van!

For the most part, every city tour is the same. They all offer the same attractions. Also, the drivers will get commission based on what restaurants they drop you at. Our tricycle driver dropped us at "Kalui" to have lunch. I must say WOW! It was SO GOOD! It is voted the number 1 restaurant in Puerto Princesa and for good reason! If you visit Puerto Princesa, you have to try it!

 We ordered their special for the day. It was a seafood entree (food for 2). It comes with soup.

Lola loves her fresh buko juice! Buko is coconut. 

Eyen before the meal!  They also had really good iced tea! It's just too bad it wasn't refillable!
Here is part of the entree! On the left we have scallop with veggies in a yellow curry sauce. On the right we have baby lobsters! They are called something else, but I can't remember the name. :( Both tasted great!

On our plate is a tuna steak. It technically only comes with 2, but the server split it into 3 for us without even asking! It was very nice of them! The meal also came with mixed vegetables in a sauce. I didn't get a picture of it. :(

This is some artwork in the restaurant. It was actually a lot bigger than we thought!

 Lola posing with the garden.


After we were done eating, our tricycle driver was ready to take us on our tour. He doesn't act as a tour guide, only a driver. We actually prefer this because we prefer to go at our own pace, rather than have to keep up with a guide or a group. 

Our first stop was the Crocodile Farm or more officially known as the Palawan Wildlife Reserve and Conservation Center. The Philippines was actually the home of the world's largest crocodile ever held in captivity. His name was Lolong, and he actually beat out the previous biggest crocodile Cassius from Australia. Unfortunately, Lolong died a few years ago. However, this Conservation Center is still home to some of the biggest crocodiles in the world!

 Here is the skeleton and skin of an actual crocodile!

 Lola with the croc.

 MAAANNN. For those of you who read my blog when I was here 2 years ago, you should recall the time I had a very special connection with one of these at a zoo! He smelled like popcorn!
 Some of the baby crocs!

 They're cute, but they were very fierce!

 Some of them were so still that they were like statues!

 A short clip of the crocs swimming around.

 Now we get to the big crocodiles! We actually got to walk on a railway above them. It was kind of scary.

 It was sleeping.

 Mac-Mac! He's 17 feet long! The largest crocodile Cassius is 17 feet 11 inches.. Mac-Mac isn't far behind!
 He gave me a smile. haha

 I really am a sucker for animals. Even crocodiles.. I get it from my mother.

 More crocs in the water.

Next stop on our tour was the Butterfly Eco Garden... I only took a picture of the sign. We didn't go in. On our last trip, we decided to take Lola to a butterfly sanctuary. We had to literally hike in the woods to get there. When we finally got there, there were literally 2 butterflies. We swore we were never going to a butterfly garden again! And we sure didn't! haha
 After the extremely short stop at the butterfly garden, we went to Baker's Hill. I was really interested in this place because I love food! lol.

There was a lot of really interesting sculptures and art pieces here. It was very beautiful! 
 A pretty garden at the front.

 Lola's favorite is Daffy Duck.
 We took a lot of selfies here. LOL

 Walking back to the garden.
 The walkway was made of different stones. It was very pretty!

 Shrek's House! You can see Fiona, the kids, Puss in Boots, Donkey, and Shrek!

 Eyen with her new BFF.

 They even had a small bird aviary. I use the term aviary lightly. It was just a few cages with different birds. I actually felt bad because some little girls were trying to stick their water bottle in the birds faces. I really thought the peacock was going to attack them. I kind of wish it would have just to teach them a lesson. Is that bad? oops.

 This is what happened with the little girls got too close to its cage.

 Snow White and the 7 dwarves.
 My nickname is Snow White, so of course I had to pose here.
 I actually tripped over a bench trying to get here to take this pic. hahaha

 As you can see, it's really pretty here!

With the Baker!

We left Baker's Hill with some hopia and some cringles. Hopia is a Filipino dessert made of yellow mung bean paste with a flaky crust. Cringles are soft cookies with a powder on the outside. THEY ARE DELICIOUS!

After Baker's Hill, we went to Immaculate Conception Cathedral. It was a very beautiful church.

Every time you enter a new church, you are allowed to make a wish. 

We like visiting the different churches in the different cities we go to. At this particular church, we encountered a very persistent, on the verge of scary, woman trying to sell us bracelets. I understand this is their only income, but once she saw me, she wouldn't let me walk by. She kept stopping right in front of me, even after I said "no, thank you." It actually scared us.

Our next stop is right across the street from the cathedral: Plaza Cuartel. This is the ruins of an old garrison where 143 American prisoners of war were burned alive by the Japanese during World War II.  I took photos of the whole story below.

This is the view of the cathedral from the Plaza Cuartel. 
 My photos read from left to right going down for those of you interested in reading it.

 This is a view of the bay from the Plaza.

A monument for those who lost their lives. 

 Enjoying the view.
 We actually encountered ANOTHER person that scared us here. She was also selling something. We noticed her trying to sell something to some people sitting on a bench. She didn't notice us at first which was good. As soon as she saw me, she ran towards us. I literally had to run away.

After the Plaza, our driver took us to the Baywalk. Here you can buy cheap food or just enjoy the sunset.

 Here's a short clip of us on the tricycle driving past the bay.

Our city tour was really fun. Like I said before, I actually prefer the tricycle for this sort of thing. Some people don't which is fine too.

 A photo of Eyen relaxing in the hammock. Plus, our supplies for the trip! We came ready!

 For dinner, we tried this place, Kinabuchs Grill and Bar. The food was ok, but not as good as what we had for lunch. It was dark, so it was hard to take photos of the food. 

For those of you who have never been to or even heard of Palawan, it actually contains one of the modern 7 wonders of the world: The Underground River. People travel from all over the world just to come here and experience it. We actually met a girl traveling solo all the way from Brasil! I will explain more about the Underground River shortly.

After doing a bit of research, I decided to book our tour with Palawan Holiday. I literally found them on google search. I'm glad I did! Our tour guide was Jasper, and he was fantastic! Not only that, but we met some awesome people that was with our group! They are more like family rather than friends!

In order to go to the Underground River, you HAVE to book through an agency of some sort because you HAVE to have a permit to be able to do it! You cannot just show up and expect to go. 

The drive to the Underground River is about an hour and a half away. Our tour group was running late, so the driver drove like a bat out of hell, and we made it in less than an hour on these super curvy roads. It was actually pretty terrifying. That would have to be our only complaint.

First, you go to a port with your group. Your tour guide will get your group a number. Then you just wait for you boat to come and take you away!

 This is what the port looks like.

 This is what they call "the sleeping giant". If you look closely, the left part looks like a nose and chin and the right is his chest or belly. This is actually the mountain we go inside of later. This is where the Underground River is!

Once you get to the other island, you can take photos with the sign.

After that, you have to walk about 10 minutes into the jungle to get to the River. Beware of the monkeys! They will take any food you have! They love shiny things, so beware of your cell phone! I witnessed a monkey snatch a bag of chips out of this girls bag while it was on her back.. It only snatched a chunk of her hair along with it.

 Before heading into the cave! Look at how beautiful the water is!! They actually put us in charge of the flashlight. I was scared I was going to mess up. haha

 The water is so blue! 

Unfortunately, you can't take many photos inside of the cave because it's dark. 

Wikipedia describes it like this... "The most famous landmark of Puerto Princesa, this subterranean river is the longest navigable underground river in the world. It features a limestone karst mountain landscape and many stalactites and stalagmites formations."

I unfortunately didn't get to take any photos of the group we were with. They were so nice! Tita Ian, Ate Elaika, and their niece Ariella and her boyfriend Lior. They treated Lola like their own grandma! For parts of the trip you actually have to step in the water. Lola didn't have water shoes, so Lior actually CARRIED her! More than once! We were so lucky to have met them. And of course they made us eat their snacks with them. :D

 Lola gave it a thumbs up! It really was a cool thing to experience.

This was the only thing we planned for that day. It was a really tiring activity for all of us. Later that night, Eyen and I got a massage and just relaxed at the hotel. Lola went to bed early.

I really liked Palawan Holidy because the owner actually texted us that night and asked us how we liked it. We told her that it was great. We told her that we loved Jasper and the group we were with. She arranged for all of us to be together the next day on our other tour as well!

The next morning we woke up refreshed and ready to go Island Hopping! The previous day, we didn't wake up in time to eat breakfast. That was a HUGE mistake!!

We made sure we woke up early this day! It was a good breakfast with fresh coffee!

We also used Palawan Holiday to book our Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour.
The first island we went to was Pandan Island. We only went to two islands during the tour. This was our favorite of the two. I actually wish we would've only came to this one.

When we first arrived to the island, we set our things inside of our beachfront hut. While you're there, people will approach with ALL KINDS of fresh seafood for you to purchase! I mean all kinds! fish, prawns, mussels, scallops, lobsters, clams, sea urchin... Then they will cook it for you however you want! And best of all, it's cheap!

Eyen's favorite! Uni or better known as sea urchin. 

She loves it!
 A view of the huts and the beach.

 She ordered 8 sea urchin for only 100 pesos! (about $2.25 USD). In the United States, it's really expensive to eat sea urchin. It will cost around $5 USD per sushi.

Our lunch was prepared by Jasper! He's wifey material. The food was fantastic!
 This is pork liempo. It's one of my favorites!
 Mango with binagoongan. (bin-a-go-o-ahn shrimp paste).
 This is salted egg.
 Here we have squid.
 This is adobo eggplant. SO GOOD!

Isda.. or more commonly.. fish.

The feast on the table!

Of course, knowing Eyen and I, we ordered extra stuff.. and when I say "extra", I mean like EXTRA!

 We ordered 2 lobster tails and 100 grams of shrimp...

Another fish that someone else ordered. 

 We ordered a red spotted crab.

 This is a giant scallop. We ordered this too.

In total, we ordered 2 lobster tails, 100 grams of shrimp, a red spotted crab, a huge scallop, 8 sea urchin, and half a kilo of clams.. all for about 1,000 pesos.That's about $22 USD. That won't even get you one lobster in America.

After lunch, we snorkeled some of the reefs. That was really fun. We were able to feed the fish bread. They will literally come up to your hands and eat the bread out of your heads. Sometimes it hurts! You can bring your own bread. I would highly recommend NOT buying extra fiber bread. The fish can be choosy. >_>

Some people on the island can take really cool photos. You see them setting these things up, and you wonder to yourself "what are they doing?"

They will take your photo with the things and make it look cool! They won't ask you to pay anything, but we always make sure we tip. This is what they do for a living. 

 They even made this with their hands! Look at how detailed it is!!

 Jump shot!

After Pandan Island, we went to Luli Island. It wasn't nearly as pretty as the other island. But we still had fun! We didn't stay here long because it was very hot.

 We enjoyed the Honda Bay Island Hopping. I wish that it could have lasted longer and included more islands. I'm so happy we were able to go with the same group, too. For some reason I can't find any of our photos! Hmmm..

After the tour, Eyen and I decided to try the Badjao Floating Restaurant

 It has a really cool entrance!

 She's so goofy.

All of the roots growing into the water. I think they told us these are actually mango trees...

 I was really interested in this tree..

Eyen ordered the frozen iced tea. It was really good! 

 Can't you tell?

The dinner was ok. We just really loved our lunch the first day. Our standards were set pretty high after that, so it was hard to top quality wise. But the experience and sunset were nice here.

 This is how Lola relaxes on the hammock. :)

Puerta Princesa was an AMAZING trip for us. We can't even begin to explain how much fun it was. It was fun to do the tours, but it was also nice to just chill and relax afterwards. We didn't overdo it. We will be coming back here in the future.

If you are planning to take a trip to Palawan, I would suggest staying at least 1 week to a week and a half. Once you land in Puerto Princesa, take a bus to El Nido. It's about 5 hours away from the airport. It is supposed to be one of the best beaches in the world. Some say it's better than Boracay beach because it's untouched. We weren't able to go this time, but we will next time! Give yourself enough time to make it back for the Underground River.

If you're an experienced diver, I would highly recommend Tubbataha reef. It is supposedly one of the most beautiful in the world. Again, I've only seen photos, but it looks great.

The only reasonable transportation around the town of Puerto Princesa is tricycle. However, if you are not from there, they will overcharge you BIG TIME. If you're local, it will only cost you about 50 pesos or less to go to Robinsons Mall. If you're foreign, it will cost you 200 pesos. You have to haggle with them! And don't settle for the high price!

After Puerto Princesa, we went straight to Cebu!
Stay tuned for the next Adventure Across Pinas!