One of my dreams is to visit Puerto Princesa City. That is why I never hesitated to book a flight when Cebu Pacific had their seat sale in January, 2015. My travel dates for Puerto Princesa City is from 19th of September, 2015 to 23rd of September, 2015. I have planned my trip ahead of time because I wanted make sure that every penny I will spend is worth it.
I tried looking for travelers with the same dates as mine in www.CouchSurfing.com but unfortunately most of them have booked their tours with travel agencies. I got to know Noel Murad, Josh Carlos and Jerson Belir through that website. Josh and Jerson are locals in Puerto Princesa City. I initially contacted Jerson if he can show me around the city and provide me with tips backpacking the city. Jerson was more than willing to do that for me.
I arrived in Puerto Princesa City airport on September 19, 2015 at around 7:00PM. I know that hiring a taxi or tricycle in the airport will cost higher than the usual charge so I decided to walk toward the main road and a little farther until I reached Kalui Restaurant. From there, I hired a tricycle going to Duchess Pension– one of the cheapest accommodation that you can get in Puerto Princesa City. Since it was about 8:00PM when I reached the pension house and I really feel sleepy because I have not had sleep after my shift at work that day, I decided to call it a night.
I keep Jerson updated during my travel to Puerto Princesa City. We decided to meet up at the City Coliseum at around lunch time. Prior to that, I went for a City Tour visiting the Iglesia ni Cristo chapel, Baybay (Baywalk Park), Catholic Cathedral church, Plaza Eulalia, New Plaza Cuartel, Palawan Museum (but was closed) and Mendoza Park (under renovation).
From Mendoza Park, I rode a multicab (any multicab) going to City Coliseum. This is where the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park booking office is located. You need to secure a permit prior to your trip to the underground river. Although it is possible to obtain a permit in the tourism office located in the Sabang Boat Terminal, securing your permit here will save you time from lining up specially during peak season.
I invited Jerson to take a lunch and I told him I wanted to try the Vietnamese noodles. He brought me to the Bona’s Chaolong House. We ordered special chaolong noodles in beefstew and bottled water. He said that his friend Joshua, also a couch surfer will meet another visitor and suggested to tour around with them. Few minutes later, Joshua arrived and offered him a lunch in Bona’s but refused (out of shyness, a typical Filipino trait when being offered of something–smiles). Then they suggested to try halo-halo in Noki Nocs Savory House. Since I wanted to try as many local foods as much as possible, I agreed to try it. We ordered halo-halo for each of us and Joshua had his lunch there as well. I must say, this is a must-try halo-halo. It is the creamiest halo-halo I have ever tasted. I am kapampangan and I thought that the halo-halo in Susie’s Canteen is the best halo-halo I will have in my life but wait until you taste it. The sweetness is just right and the ice is the finest ice I have seen in a halo-halo.
Alright, enough with Noki Nocs’ halo-halo–haha! We proceeded to crocodile farm located in Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center. I have never thought that it was fun seeing the some politicians in Palawan– just kidding! We then went to Palawan Eco-Butterfly Garden and Tribal Village for (of course) butterfly meet and greet. Aside from butterflies, there is a mini zoo in the area, a fish spa experience and you will get a chance to interact with scorpion, stick insects and a photo opportunity with a python around your neck and shoulders.
We also went to Baker’s Hill. Since we are still full, we just ordered kwek kwek and pizza. We had some photo opportunities in the place. We also met Nina, a solo traveler and a couch surfer as well, in Baker’s Hill but she needed to leave to meet her host. We told her that we will go to Baybay and if she is free, she can join us there. She agreed.
Since Jerson needed to go home, Joshua and I are the only ones who went to Baybay. Joshua asked me if I want to try crocodile meat– I said yes. We ordered crocodile sisig and lato (a variety of seaweed). While waiting for our order to be served, Nina joined us. I did not find any much difference between crocodile meat and pork. Maybe because it was cooked as sisig and it happened that I am a big eater of sisig. As with the lato, I find it amusing eating it. It is like you are eating salty-tiny-grapes without the sweetness. Few minutes later, Joshua and I had to call it night because we I really feel sleepy and my body cannot stand the tiredness any longer. On the other hand, Joshua needed to go home. We leave Nina in Baybay to wait for her host to pick her up.
I went to Honda Bay the next day. It turns out that the main road (Mendoza Park) from Duchess Pension is just 15 minute walk. Though very seldom, there are multicabs that ply directly to Honda Bay. This is your best option if you are backpacking Puerto Princesa City.
Upon arrival in jump-off point of Honday Bay, I chanced upon a family of 3 members. I asked “ate” (which means sister and “kuya” for male. It is often used to address a stranger in a polite manner.) if I could share the boat with them as I am alone and it would slash a lot on my travel fund. I also told her that I am trying to find ways on how to travel cheap. She agreed but she said that they need to be back at 2:00PM at most as they need to catch their flight back to Manila.
As I have not took my breakfast yet, I bought myself a liter of bottled water and a pack of bread. I was able to use some bread to feed fishes during snorkeling. This, I would say, my first time snorkeling. Though I had the chance doing it Oslob, Cebu but this is the first time that snorkeling one of my activities in a trip. This is also the time that I realized that you need goggles in order to see clearly underwater–laughs!
We went to 4 islands in total. They are Luli Island, Starfish Island, Isla Pandan and Crowrie Island. We took our lunch in Crowrie Island as an eat-all-you-can buffet lunch is being offered here for a minimal amount. After taking our lunch, we stayed in the island for about 30 minutes. I took photos and selfies and enjoyed the sea breeze in one of the cottages in the island.
We head back to the jump-off point of Honda Bay and I was invited by “ate” to hop in with the tricycle they chartered. Of course, I cheerfully took the offer. The good part is, their accommodation is located just in front of Robinson’s Place in Palawan. I killed time in Palawan Cafe located inside the mall. I also bought myself a sandal that I can use at beach or when I do trekking. The sole of the sandal is really tough, it can protect you from stepping on some sea creatures at shallow-stony waters in the beach.
I went back to Duchess Pension to change and met with Joshua and Jerson again that night. Joshua was with his classmate, named Jian. Jian is a nice person and it was a pleasure of meeting her. We took our dinner in Kalui Restaurant. A bit pricey but the ambiance and the food is great. With Php500.00 per head, I think it is worth it. After dinner, we walked our way to Mendoza Park where we part our ways.
The next morning, I headed to Sabang for Underground River tour. I again rode a jeep at the main road near the Mendoza Park going to San Jose New Market where Lexus Shuttle Services is located. I was feeling dizzy that day with a stomach upset. I took my breakfast at the terminal but since I do not have the appetite, I just ate a little. I also took a medicine to relieve my stomach upset. It was a success as I gain back my energy for the whole underground river tour but feel sick again after.
The travel time is approximately 2 hours. When we reached the jump-off point of Underground River, the driver said that we should just join together and share the boat. Of course, this made my day knowing that I can save for the tour. I asked fellow passengers who are willing to share boat. I met 2 couples and a Spanish solo traveler. In total, we are 6 in the group. We paid fees at the tourism office located near the Sabang Boat Terminal and paid the boat near the docking station. Before we rode the boat, I went to the reservation office of Sabang X Zipline to book a slot for the zipline.
After about 20 minutes, we reached the beach near the Underground River. We took selfies and groupies of course. Then we headed to the Underground River loading / unloading area. There are limited number of paddle boats that can enter the Underground River at a time so we waited for our turn. There are only few tourists that day but it took us around 15 minutes before we could finally ride a boat for the tour.
I have read in a blog that if you want to enjoy the Underground River tour, you must volunteer to carry the spot light to focus at the attractions while the boatman gives information on that particular part of the cave. That is what I did and I enjoyed the rest of the tour. Though just before we leave the care, I began to feel dizzy. I feel like vomiting and with less energy. I bought myself a bottled water and a chocolate biscuit. It made me feel a little better. When we reached the Sabang Boat Terminal, the group decided to take their lunch at a nearby restaurant offering an eat-all-you-can buffet. I told them that I do not have the appetite to eat a lot so I opted to take my lunch at the eatery or carinderia few meters away.
I stayed on that eatery for about an hour before I proceed to the reservation office of Sabang X Zipline. The attendants were very friendly and we had chatted for few minutes before a jeep took me to the jump-off point for the zipline. Another employee of the Sabang X Zipline guide me to the beach where another one assisted me to the platform of the zipline located at the top of a mountain. I told the guide that I am not feeling well and asked him to take our time to reach the platform. Few more minutes and I was there at the platform–finally!
It was my first time to do a zipline and I must say that the experience is amazing. I could not believe that I was actually there. I ensured that my action camera is all setup and running. I took a video of myself while riding the zipline. Just about I reach the other end, an employee took a photo of me. Since it is something that you treasure and reminisce in the future, I took a copy of my photo.
Another treat of doing the Sabang X Zipline was the chance of seeing a squirrel in the woods. To be honest, I did not know that the Philippines has its own squirrel and they are locally called bising in Palawan. Doing a Google search, it turns out that bising is not the only species of squirrel in the Philippines.
Right after my zipline experience, I was offered to take a Mangrove Paddle Boat tour. Since there are very few tourists that day, I was convinced to take the tour. It was a lovely tour where I learned more about mangroves. I also saw snakes resting on tree branches, monitor lizards, birds, colorful tiny crabs and many more.
After my Mangrove Paddle Boat tour, I went back to the Sabang Boat Terminal. The jeep of Sabang X Line has waited for me and did not charge extra for the wait time. It was raining then but I still have more than enough time to visit the waterfalls, which is facing the sea. I walked towards my way and asked directions from the locals. I walk about 500 meters until I reached the resort where you register and give a donation of any amount for entering a private property. I also asked a boy to be my guide on my way to the waterfalls. The waterfalls is about 5.5 kilometers of trek from the Sabang Boat Terminal. Be ready to trek on rocks of different sizes. It is not easy especially when it is raining. You must have a good trekking shoes or sandals with non-slippery soles as one can get easily injured with just a wrong step.
I had some dips on the waterfalls and because it is raining, it made the water colder. I decided to go back as I am chilling a lot– I guess that is a sign of aging (laughs!). My guide and I reached the resort where I registered going to the waterfalls. I stayed in one of their cottages for an hour to dry myself up before going back to the Sabang Boat Terminal. I bought myself a stick of bananacue and a cup coffee before proceeding to the terminal of Lexus Shuttle Services. It is important to reserve a seat as soon as you arrive there– just before beginning your Underground River tour.
Back in Puerto Princesa City proper, I met Joshua, Jerson, Noel and Sed. Noel is also a couch surfer while Sed is his friend. Before meeting them, they had their dinner at Kalui Restaurant while I went directly to my accommodation to change. I invited them to try bird’s nest soup and tamilok at Balinsasayaw Restaurant. Unfortunately, tamilok is not available that time so we order balinsasayaw shake instead. The bird’s nest soup tasted like Knorr Nido Oriental Soup. I was hoping that they have their own recipe for the bird’s nest soup. The shake tasted like a regular share with bird’s nest on it. After all, I do not think bird’s nest has a distinct taste when eaten raw. We stayed at the Balinsasaya Restaurant for about an hour before we call it a night. We wanted to go somewhere but our bodies limit us to do so because of the activities we had during the day.
I woke up early the next morning to prepare for my departure at 10:05AM for Manila. I took my breakfast at the Belly Buster. I had danggit lamayo, egg, fried rice and brewed coffee. I walked towards the provincial capitol and took some photos. I then rode a tricycle going to the airport. I met Ate Mary Jane and Kuya Jaylord in the airport. This is one of the couples I have met in my Underground River tour.
It was also my first time to experience a flight delay with Cebu Pacific Air. Apparently, this is a frequent scenario in Puerto Princesa City airport according to my friend. Well, I have set my mind that these things will happen so I really do not mind considering the huge savings I got from their seat sale. I really do not mind at all.
I wanted to share how beautiful and amazing my first snorkeling experience was in Isla Pandan, Honda Bay Islands. It was a lovely experience to see “Nemo” in person.