The Manila Domestic Airport was busy when we arrived, but it seemed tourists (anyone that was not Filipino) was getting pushed through a little bit faster than everyone else. Security well… lets just say you don’t need to fret about it. As we were waiting for our plane to arrive we met another couple in their 60’s from Canada. We chatted with them about work and his wife showed us pictures of her dogs, they were on the way to Palawan as well. A tip for the Manila Domestic Airport, pay attention to the gates because if it is busy you will not hear the call for boarding. Our flight was short and non-eventful flying over Manila really shows the complexity of the shanty towns and how intricate they are when surrounded by new condo’s and malls.
When we landed, the airport was busy and incredibly small, the air was cleaner and our excitement was oozing good vibes. Ya, we were excited to see Puerto Princesa. The Marianne Home Inn picked us up with one of their shuttle vans straight from the airport, this is not needed as their are many trikes around but if your accommodation provider offers it to you then go for it. After being asked constantly if we needed a ride, we noticed a simple “no thank you” was sufficient. A complete 180 from being in Manila as we were followed down the street as though suddenly we would be to tired to walk.
The Marianne Home Inn is located in Puerto Princesa town proper with a wide variety of restaurants and shops nearby. The service was adequate but ordering food takes forever, so best to just go out and eat. Beside the hotel is a basketball court and I spent quite a bit of time on the roof of the inn watching locals play and bet with each other. Oh and the view from the rooftop is awesome!
Our first day we walked around the boardwalk and went to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. The grounds needed some upkeep but overall if you are in Puertro Princesa you can just head down Rizal Avenue and find it. We then went to the Plaza Cuartel which is right next to the church. We went around noon and there were two small schoolboys running around in the gardens and around the memorial for the Filipino and American soldiers burned alive by the Japanese during the war. We chatted with them for a bit, and then as we were leaving he asked in the most casual way: “Hey! You wanna get stabbed”. He had a small little knife and he thought it was hilarious, it certainly was.
We attempted to go on the underground river tour three times, and because of the poor weather we were experiencing the site was closed. Although we heard from other people that they were somehow able to get there and go. Either way we needed something to do and exploring every inch of Puerto Princesa was the goal. It was raining but we decided to head to the local market which was quite the makeshift building. There are hundreds of stores in there were you can get everything you would need for daily life. We enjoyed some fresh fruit and and had some of the best fresh bread we have had.
The market reminded me of the weekly market day in Tongjin, but this place was on a whole other level. My mind began to wander and I could picture myself living there. There was a vibe that I just had not experienced in Manila, or anywhere for that matter. People were friendly and easy going, the streets were crowded but people did their best to not bump into each other. I was not missing Korea, that is for sure. Culture shock had set in, We went from living in a society glued to their phones 24 hours a day to not seeing a single person on their cellphone. And smiling! Wow what a site that was. The island vibe was rubbing off on Sara and I.
On day three we hoped on a boat to do an island hopping tour. We were willing to do anything at that point after accepting that we would have to come back one day to see this cave. Now we went on two tours during or trip and I would only recommend them if you are not the most adventurous person or enjoys a lot of structure, I for one do not and like to just go with the flow. We rented gear and headed out to a few islands were we went snorkeling on some reefs that are slowly being destroyed by panicked tourists jumping on the coral while they swim. People relax and just float, or wear a life jacket. We were the last ones on the boat each time the tour coordinator called us over, but we soon realized that the people in our tour party were not even getting off of the boat. The coordinator said that some people are scared of the water. So why would you go on a boat tour? It was frustrating to say the least as we both wanted to make the most of our time on our trip and the islands we were exploring.
The final island we went to a lunch buffet and a lot of booze, well that sure got everyone off the boat. I immediately searched for where the reef was and scarfed down my food. We swam on the reef for a bit and headed back to town. Once we returned we went out and had vegan dinner at a very small restaurant called Ima’s Gulay Bar. If you are visiting Palawan get used to the slow service, the island pace of doing things suddenly takes over.