Friday, May 18, 2012

Puerto Princesa in 50 Hours

The challenge was to make the most out of this trip with very limited time. So far, we (my ninong and I) managed to visit all the must-see tourist attractions here.

Day 1
We took the first flight to Puerto Princesa at 5:40, Friday morning. A bit delayed, we touched down at Puerto Princesa by 7:10.

The Palawan Village hotel is about a minute or two away from the airport. We hired a tricycle (there are no taxis) outside the airport since airport tricycle costs P50. Hired trike outside is only P20 and the walk to the main road is very short. Since there's no room available that early, we just left our bags at the front office.

Palawan Village Hotel

Honda Bay
We asked if Zaldy, the tricycle driver, to Sta. Lourdes so we can go island hopping at the Honda Bay. Agreed price was P500 back and forth. It was a bit steep for me but I guess that's the usual rate (in fact, his initial rate  was P600).

We decided to do the Honda Bay on our own since there's a chance that we might get left behind if our flight is delayed.

We got to Sta. Lourdes about 8:00 and we waited for about an hour for others who will share our boat. One boat costs P1500 and it can carry up to six persons. A bit pricey if you will rent one with only two passengers. In the end, we shared the boat with two girls (so it's like P375 per passenger, not bad especially since we don't want to wait anymore).

We made friends with our "boatmates". Their names were Jek and Harriet. I found out that we're all from the same school and that that they were fresh grads. It was nice getting to know new people.

Pandan Island was a white sand beach (not as white and as fine as Boracay's though) with a couple of stores where you can buy seafood and the staff will cook it for you. Entrance fee was P100 per person and the table we rented was P300. We had crabs and spent about P400 for it, P50 for rice and P25 per fresh buko (which was really big by the way). There were leftovers so we just gave them to the boatmen.

Pandan Island
The beach was ok, nothing spectacular. There were lots of grass-like plants in the water and there were a couple of fish that can be seen if you go snorkeling. It can be a good practice if it's you're first time to snorkel and don't know how to swim as the water was very shallow. The sky was overcast and it drizzled a bit. Thank goodness the water was warm but the air was frigid cold. Brrrr!

By the way, the boatmen offered to do a lot of camera tricks. Check out our photos.

Is the starfish heavy?
Help me finish the coke!
Next stop was the starfish island. Don't get the idea that there are lots of starfish there. We only saw two or three of them. What's nice about this place was the sandbar and there were lots of mangroves a couple of meters away from the sandbar. It's a great place to take pictures but other than that, there's nothing else you can do but swim. We only stayed there 30-45 minutes. Entrance fee was P50 per person and the cottage was P50.

Next and final stop was the Pambato reef. I found the swim around it very short, about 30 minutes only. I did not enjoy it that much since I had a problem with my snorkel. Yes, there were lots of fish but I think I enjoyed Coron more. Like the Starfish Island, entrance fee was P50 per person.

We were not able to visit the Snake Island since according to Jek, it was bought by someone and there are ongoing improvements.

Overall, the Honda Bay was so-so. If I go back to Puerto Princesa, I probably wouldn't do this again.

Total expenses for the Honda Bay tour (for two)
Tricycle P500
Boat P750
Environmental fee P80
Terminal fee P19
Pandan Island P350
Food P500
Starfish Island P125
Pambato Reef P100
Total of P2,424

Reasonable enough price considering we had control over our time and Jek and Harriet were good company. Had we joined the tour package, we would have spent P1,300 per person.

We were back at the wharf by 2:30 (we could have stayed longer at the island had we wanted to) and Zaldy was there waiting for us. He offered to give us the city tour for another P500. We settled with P400.

City Tour
Again, this was cheaper against the P600 per person city tour package. Of course, we did this by trike instead of in a van.

First stop was the crocodile farm. Entrance fee was P40 per head and there's a tour every 30 minutes. There's a 17-foot croc skeleton and skin on the lobby and we opted to wait for the end of the tour before having our picture taken. People were just so rude and can't wait for their turn even if we were there first.

Imagine, how many persons can fit in this crocodile's tummy?!

There were baby crocs in one area. They were so scary even if they are only about a foot or two long. Their piercing gaze looks like they want to eat you. Cameras were not allowed since they can get agitated and jump at you.

We went to see the big crocs next. One was as big as the skeleton, 17 feet. Corny. They were barely moving. Should have come on a Monday or a Thursday. According to the guide, that's their feeding schedule. That would have been exciting!

The big croc
There's more of them!
There's a tiny zoo at the back of the crocodile farm. There were hornbills, a bearded pig, bearcats, pheasants, a porcupine and several more birds.

Next stop was the Butterfly Garden. Entrance fee was P50 per person and it was nothing spectacular. I wouldn't really recommend going there. The butterflies were very few and there were just a couple of insects, including roaches (eww!). And by the way, there's also a very tired bearcat. We thought it was dead since it was not moving but it opened its eyes every few minutes and glare at you. According to the lady, we cannot touch it since it gets agitated and may bite when it's exhausted.

The overworked bearcat. I remembered Shakti when I saw this. So tamad!
Second to the last stop was the Mitra house. It's the house, a ranch actually, of a late politician. The view is magnificent and the visit was free.

Mitra Ranch
Mitra's house

Final destination for the city tour was Baker's Hill. Just walking inside the compound made me really hungry as the smell of freshly baked bread permeated the air. There were also several statues of cartoon characters, pirates, dinosaurs and animals inside (I did not take photos anymore). There were also restaurants and a vast garden.

One of the restaurants on Baker's Hill. Can you see the sign? Seafood buffet!! But on a different day. :(

Oh, the last stop was the tiangge. I went gaga over pearl shopping! Cultured pearls and mother of pearl at very low prices. I also bought south sea pearls even if they are a bit expensive for such tiny things (but cheaper than jewelry stores in Manila. I plan to have mine appraised when I get extra money).

Total expenses for the city tour (for two; excluding shopping expenses)
Tricycle P400
Crocodile farm P80
Butterfly farm P100

Total P580

We went back to the hotel and took a shower since we were so sticky because of the salt water. Zaldy waited for us while we got ready for dinner.

Zaldy brought us to Arirang since according to him, they serve good seafood there. It was a Korean restaurant about 20-30 minutes away from the city proper. It was the worst restaurant ever. For one lobster and one lapu-lapu (not even a big one), our bill reached P2800 (they were initially charging us P3300). Of course, we understand that our meal is going to be a bit pricey because of the lobster but we did not expect it to soar that high. Prior to ordering, the staff told us that the lobster was P300/100g (alright, expensive in the first place). However, when we got the bill, we were charged P400/100g. Plus I don't think that the lapu-lapu even weighed half a kilo. After arguments and an extremely upset uncle, we paid the P2800 and left.

We headed straight back to the hotel and rested, hoping that tomorrow will be a better day.

A short review of the hotel: The hotel had a homey feel, the room was cramped and the beds and pillows were a bit tough. It's understandable since room rate per night is only P1,150. So if you're on a budget, this may be enough for you. After all, I was out both nights so it does not really matter to me if the beds were comfortable.

As for the staff, some were really helpful and some were, I think, cashing in on tourists. They gave different instructions on how to get to certain tourist spots so we ended up taking the Underground River tour package (will delve into this on my next post.)

Total for the day

Honda Bay tour P2424
City Tour P580
Dinner P1150
Shopping P3500
Total P7654

Click here for Part II.

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