Friday, February 17, 2012

Puerto Princesa, the Port of a Princess

So many people had travelled to Puerto Princesa. I discovered that while everyone seems to be visiting the city to see the Underground River or UR to the locals, not everyone does get to see the unconventional river. I shall therefore share some tips in visiting the city. I'm not saying my way is best, I just like to play know-it-all. :)

1. It's best to schedule your trip to Puerto Princesa at least one month before.  We don't usually go for tours, but for the UR (feeling local!;p) you should definitely do so just to be sure you'll have permits which are required and limited by the tourism office for regulation. We were joined by 2 groups who didn't book in advance and therefore didn't get to see the UR. :( If there's just the two of you though, you'll be fine since every permit has a leeway for 2 more people. (Again, to be able to do this, you should have a tour guide adding you into their group.)

2. Be sure to book your Underground River tour on the first day of your visit to Puerto Princesa since the tours can be cancelled in case the waves get too big or there's a low pressure area near the province. In case it's cancelled, you can try the next day. In our case, we got cancelled on for two days and finally got to visit on our third day.

Make sure you'd be able to visit the Underground River since it really is a nice site to visit. The tour fee is Php 2,200.00 but if you have a larger group, do try to haggle!

3. In case your UR tour got derailed or if you finish early, your group can visit the Ugong Rock Adventures where you can go spelunking up the cave and rappel down or (if you're not wearing the proper attire like I was) take the zipline down. So if you're feeling rappelling make sure to wear pants and rubber shoes.

4. The city tour is cheaper in a tricycle (Php 600-700) but it's not exactly an option if there are more than 2 in a group. A city tour costs Php 1,100 per person. Again, you can haggle on this.

A city tour should include:

a. Crocodile Farm
It's not really much but it's just a mere Php 40 for the entrance fee so go anyway if only to support the foundation.

You can also have your pictures taken with a crocodile.
It's skin is surprisingly smooth to the touch.

b. Irawan Eco Park where you can try the zipline.
If you don't wish to try it, skip this part.
Unless you have two mentals like us in your group,
then you have to wait in the gazebo and enjoy the fresh air.

c. Mitra's Ranch
There's nothing really to see except the overlooking view it has of the city.
(It's worth the free entrance fee, for sure!:))

d. Baker's Hill
Afternoon's not the best time to visit since you won't be able to buy any of their products anymore. It'd be all sold out! It's nice to visit though for the nature park it was made into where you can play 'sunca', or at least the adults can. (Kids do not know this game anymore! Boo...)
We all wished there's something like this in Manila. Maybe when I'm super rich I'd have one built. :)

e. Butterfly House
You have to pay Php 50 if you're not with a tour but it's again for nature.
Like Baker's Hill, it's best to visit earlier since we went late in the afternoon and the butterflies were said to be asleep already. We did see a few though.

f. Lastly, visit the Plaza Cuartel and the Immaculate Concepcion Church.
There's nothing to see here but the story is worth hearing.

5. If you're planning to try out the crocodile meat (it's quite common in the province) you can do so in the Crocodile farm. Order before your tour starts so that the food would be ready when you come out from your tour.

6. If you're eager to try the exotic food popular in Puerto Princesa, the tamilok or woodworm which isn't a worm at all, try to do it with a non-empty stomach because it really could hurt your tummy (it did mine!) if you do eat it with a growling stomach. It's yummy like an oyster! Kinabuch's is one good place to try it.

7. If you're visiting after Christmas, do not expect to be able to try the best known restaurant which is Kalui because the staff would be somewhere else for their annual outing.

8. In return, if you visit during Christmas, you can check out the cool Paskuhan bazaar right inside the Province Capitol at night.

9. For Honda Bay, you can take the tricycle for Php 500 to the Bay and book a 15-person boat for Php 1,500. This is way better than going on a tour for Php 1,200 per person. (Negotiable but still too expensive.) Of course, if you're traveling with older people, do be considerate and travel on a van.

10. There are three islands usually visited by tourists which are:

a. Starfish Island (Php 50 entrance fee, included if on tour):

b. Snake Island (the only free island) where you can eat in cottages the food you brought, or buy grilled lunch. Also, where you can snorkel around and fatten up their fishes with the bread that you paid for.

c. Pandan Island (another Php 50 entrance fee) where you can sleep along the beach under the shade of the trees and snorkel some more.

d. It's not included in the three islands since it's not an island. The Pambato Reef is a MUST visit! The marine life is just so unique and varied. There are plenty of jellyfish but have no fear, they don't sting or whatever they do that causes itch. We all were about maximizing our time and therefore took our sweet time in Pandan Island that before we knew it, it was almost 5 pm. (the boats are all supposed to be back in the harbor by 5 pm.) I think there were just us and another group that had yet to go back. :p Anyway, we did go to Pambato Reef and it was all empty and closed. We plead with the guard and he allowed us for only 5 minutes. But.. since when did snorkeling finish in 5 minutes? He should've been insulted if we did! 

11. Another not much known tour in Puerto Princesa is the firefly tour (at night) or the Mangroves tour (during day). We went to see some fireflies and it was amazing! I always thought they light up yellow but these ones are white. Our boatman (a volunteer) Marlon, was very talkative and informative compared to the other boatmen. Lucky us! It's best to do this tour during less windy nights so that the fireflies are less threatened and therefore glows more. :) This is another tour that you have to do with an agency because the boats are limited. A group came without booking at 8 and was told to wait till 11 pm for the first boat still open. -_- 

12. Because we were left by our group one day (the day my stomach ached from either cold or really the tamilok on an empty stomach), we found out that tourists can rent a motorcycle for Php 500 for 24 hours. Because we started late, around 4 pm (only when the ache became tolerable) and only went to the baywalk (great place to visit and just bum around) and Palawan Museum (nothing much in there) then, the next day we went on tour early, we had a deal to split the 24 hours in 2 separate 12 hours which the owner of the rental easily agreed to. 

13. As much as possible, try to get a hotel in the city proper itself rather than in Sabang or else, you'd be near the Underground River but you'd be far away from everything else. :)

There are many things more to learn about Puerto Princesa. In a practical level, it's enough to visit for 3 days, and if you have more time fly to El Nido or Coron. :) It's a part of the Philippines that I really am proud of.

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