Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Things to do in Palawan

Palawan will blow your mind. We arrived from a morning flight and rented a tricycle to take us around Puerto Princesa for a city tour. I forgot the rate but it was around Php500+ I guess. There were only 3 of us and we didn't stay too long in each stop. 
Baker's Hill in Puerto Princesa is a tourist spot in its own right. It's of a quirky, whimsical sort with figurines and statues, colorful plants and theme-shaped gardens. You can have your snacks here while enjoying the unique surroundings. 
Plaza Cuartel - this is historical site in the city. There's a garden and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral across the road.
Mitra's Ranch - owned by the politician and heirs. Now open to public as park and museum.
Rancho Sta. Monica
Ugong Rock Adventures - Here you can explore some caves, do spelunking, or zipline. We stopped by this place after boating on the Underground River.
Palawan Museum - Entrance fee is around Php20 for adults
Our guide took us here, the viewing site for the Tres Marias Islands. There are various souvenir shops here. Although you can find similar items at the city for lower price, they do have some unique items not available elsewhere.
Docking on our way to the Underground River. These awesome rocks form an enclave, where boats come and unload passengers. We all have to stick to our group and follow instructions. Everyone has to register.
Free roaming komodo dragon in the area. Don't mind them, they won't bug you.
We all have to wear safety hats and vests. The guide will ask one guest to sit upfront and carry the flood light. He/she will be instructed to point it upwards, sidewards, etc. That was me during our visit. Don't know if that's still the protocol, but it was nice to shine light on whatever gets your attention. It's deep black inside, and only the lights coming from tourist boats lit the place. There are hundreds of bats on the cave ceiling and probably river monsters underneath. The cave is roughly 80km, but the tour will cover about 1km, I think, more or less. 
When you reach the highest part of the cave, it will be wonderful. It's like a super high dome. Guaranteed to take your breath away just to consider the vastness of nature's beauty, hidden from the outside. Definitely worth the trip.
Facilitators are strict with the rules. There's a quota for visitors per day, and the guide/tour agency must provide proper documents for their guests to secure a schedule. Good and organized.
Current bus fare for Puerto Princesa to El Nido for non-aircon ride is Php380, aircon Php480. We arrived at night, after a numbing 7-hour bus ride from Puerto Princesa, and explored the shoreline. Restaurants placed tables and seats on the sand, with mini candles (to ward off flies), under a blanket of perfect star-filled sky. I don't think I've ever seen the sky sparkle so vividly, and I've seen the night sky many times from different places. The El Nido coastal scene is very much unlike Boracay, but seamlessly combines humble accommodations with the promise of a grand adventure beyond the sea.
El Nido Island Hopping is a must. There were only 3 of us and we wanted some privacy, so we rented a whole boat. At that time it was around Php2500+ maybe. Now, I have no idea of the price. 
We chose Package A: Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Simizu, 7 Commandos, Secret Lagoon. We also had liberty on which islands to visit first. Our guide advised us to visit first the last one on the usual route, so there will be less people as we arrive. He was right. For half the trip, we were the only ones in the islands. Then as we come close to covering all islands, we come across fellow travellers.
Beyond beauty. It's almost surreal, cruising in the middle of these islands, like paintings in the horizon. And even more majestic as you come close. The huge rock formations, clear blue-green waters, the massive gathering of urchins in one lagoon, everything will slap you like a realization of how much we need to be hugging nature more. I always seem to prefer the modern structures, and sleek lines. But when you must detox, one can only find peace in nature.

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