Saturday, June 16, 2012

Puerto Princesa in 50 Hours: Part II

*Sorry for the VERY LATE post. I had to rewrite this post three times. Blogger on iPhone sucks.
For those who haven't read part 1, click here to read it. :)

Day 2
We decided to take the tour package of the Underground River (P1500/person) since according to the front desk officer the first trip of the jeep to Sabang is at 7am. We needed to be at the wharf by 8am since our permit is valid for the 8:30 am tour and travel time from Puerto Princesa was two hours. Plus, boat rental was P3000 - too expensive for just two passengers.

We were ready by 5:30 but the van picked us up at 6am. And we had to pick up other people from four different hotels. They were all late! We had to wait at least 10 minutes in each hotel. It was annoying since we were up super early. (Old habits die hard)

We got our permits a couple of days before our flight. Actually, when I called the hotel, the Underground River tour was already fully booked. My dad was able to pull some strings and we ended up with the permit being delivered to the hotel.

The thing about the Underground River permit is it's very difficult to get. I needed my dad's help; one couple from our tour group stood in line for more than four hours (Just found out that you can still get permits at the ticketing office if you got time to spare, but really, it's a waste of time); and another couple used fake IDs to use the cancelled slots from the agency (which I think is very wrong and is a bad practice, maybe the Palawan Tourism office should do something about this one).

Upon arriving at Sabang, we had to wait for our turn to board the boat. And contrary to what the hotel said, boat rental only costs P700 (good for 6 people) and P900 (good for 8 people). Plus, the travel agency had to ask for P40/head for the environmental fee. I think the P1500 package price was a bit misleading. They should make it inclusive of the environmental fee, or if not, they should make it P1540. It's not really about the price, it's just that instances like these are a major turn-off despite what the place has to offer.

Anyway, we took a short ride to one island where there were bayawaks (scary creatures). We then took a short trek (according to the guides, there were monkeys on the island [but we didn't see one] so we should not bring plastic bags since they tend to snatch the plastic from people). Once again, we had to wait for almost an hour before we were able to ride the boat which will lead us inside the Underground River.

The bayawak
Alas, it's our turn to go inside the Underground River. The place was a beauty, especially what they called the cathedral. It was pitch dark inside and we just had one lamp (we were the one holding it since we were in front). Plus, the boatman was funny. Although it was not as spectacular as I expected it to be, it was definitely worth the trip.

All set

Ready for the subterranean river tour!

Look how tiny the boat is

The 45-minute tour in darkness with only one lamp

We then had lunch at this restaurant by the beach (a couple of meters away from the impressive Sheridan Hotel).

The sand here was finer than the ones at the Honda Bay tour
By 3:00 in the afternoon we were back in Puerto Princesa City and we spent the rest of the afternoon resting.

And since my uncle did not want to waste time by doing nothing, he arranged a Firefly watching in the evening.  We got Zaldy to take us to Iwahig river for only P600 instead of the normal rate of P700. The firefly watching was great! In fact, I'll write a separate post about it. Mark Gomez, our boatman, was really impressive - great diction, lots of fun facts, great guide.

Ended the tour with a few minutes at the plaza and we checked out the church which was already closed since it was already late. We then had dinner at Kinabuch. Great ambience, delicious food and affordable prices. This is definitely the place to dine!

Total expenses for the day
Underground River Tour P3000
Environmental Fee P80
Tricycle P600
Iwahig River boat P600
Dinner P800
Total P5080

Day 3
Since we had an early flight, that meant that I had to go to the fish market super early. I was up by 5am and I took the trike to the market for P9.

Upon entering the market, I was not really sure how to proceed. It's my first time to step inside a market alone and I didn't know how to bargain that much. I bought 5 kilos of crabs, 2 kilos of tanigue, 1 kilo of squid and 1 kilo of blue marlin. I was not able to make tawad that much but I was fairly satisifed with the price I got. They had a section in the market where they will pack your purchases. One box costs P150 and with all the seafood I got, I went home with two 5 kilo boxes.

Total expenses for the day
Tricycle to and from the market P49
Market P1160
Tricycle to airport P20
Total P1229

Day 1 P7654
Day 2 P5080
Day 3 P1229
Airfare P9932.80

GRAND TOTAL P23,895 (for two people)

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