Crazy Puerta Princesa

Trip Start Feb 10, 2013
Trip End Sep 18, 2013

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Flag of Philippines  , Palawan,
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So we packed up our gear in El Nido, two tickets in an air conditioned van in hand, feeling refreshed, slightly bronzed and ready to experience the capitol city of Palawan. The only thing in our way was a five hour bus an air conditioned van. Not so bad I hear you say? Remember that everything in the Philippines in designed for Philipinos, who happen to be smaller than us Westerners, so the van was a tight fit....not for Lucy though! It seemed OK when it picked us up from our hotel, just us as pass angers....then it picked up everyone else....most of the 13 pass angers were either locals or western travellers with just a rucksack each or no luggage. So far so good, then there were the two french couples, each with a huge hard suitcase and a backpack each. For a van with NO luggage space this proved an issue! Half an hour later we were finally tetrissed (if that is a verb) into the small van (think Renault espace size) and on the way. There was for me only one position I could sit uncomfortable one with legroom designed for Lucy sized people! It was fun to say the least, especially seeing the French guy in front of me, who was the size of a rugby player, folded into the tiny fold down seat that had no back...for five hours!!! Oh how I laughed inside :-)

We arrived in the crazy city of Puerta Princesa and after a very scary tricycle ride into town found our hotel which turned out to be really lovely. A bit of a far cry from the accommodation so far as in the city the competition is higher so rooms are cheaper, but it had a TV, clean bathroom and a very comfy clean white bed. Lovely we thought, then the conference centre over the road kicked in....a wide open door at the front and what seemed to be karaoke raffle going on! Lots of bad singing and shouting over the mic, but still we were just entertained by it all. A far cry from the sleepiness of El Nido but this is why we are here, to see the whole of this country, crazy warts and all. Our manageress was lovely and helped us organise various excursions, one of which was the city tour which covered all the real sights worth seeing in and around Puerta Princesa. The city itself is on a port on the east side of Palawan and so has a bustling vibrancy about it but not a huge amount to see. Most travellers use it as a stop off to get into the rest of Palawan due to its airport. However there were some incredible things to see around it. One of which was a memorial to 143 American soldiers who were prisoners of the Japanese during the WWII occupation. Upon surrendering, the Japanese retreated, but not after one act of horrific violence where they placed all 143 soldiers in a whole, poured gasoline on them and set them on fire, alive, and left them to burn. It was quite moving to see it, and even though we know times have changed and acts of our forefathers should not shine light upon us it was still quite moving.

Other than this, we hit a crocodile farm, the incredible Immaculate Conception Cathedral (a huge blue and white Spanish structure rising out of the cities concrete carpet), bakers hill, and various souvenir shops. A great tour of the city and very interesting, however we had two more experiences to do. One was that very same evening. We had been advised by a crew member from the Tao to go and see the fireflies on the river at night, something not in any of the guidebooks, and we did and wow...just wow! Unfortunately we were unable to take any photos so I will paint the picture:

Imagine a pitch black river, quite wide and very calm, absolute silence, a full moon and not a cloud in the sky so stars to die for. Trees line the length of the river and as we were paddled down the river by our boatman, Anthony, just Lucy and I in a small bangka, the trees were lit up by millions of fireflies. Think Christmas tree lights on every other tree, millions upon millions of the little things, just beautiful. So romantic and stunning it took our breath away. Our boatman then showed us all the constellations in the sky and after 45 minutes on the river we paddled back towards the full moon absolutely speechless. We couldn't begin to describe it to do it justice but to leave both Lucy and I speechless it was pretty bloody amazing! Back to the hotel that evening we were on a real high, but we still had one more surprise in store. That previous morning we had attempted to get a permit to see the underground river but it was booked up so we had out our names down for a cancellation....

A knock on the door the next morning and we had been called so had to dash to the office to get our permits, it was the start of quite a mental day! Straight out of the office we were into a tricycle and down to the tour operators van, into the van and off. It was still only 9.30 at this point, neither Lucy nor I had showered but we were off! A rather crazy tour guide and a two hour van journey we were on the western shore of Palawan. We had to get a boat ride up the coast a little to the highly protected location of the Underground river. It was better than expected. A beautiful beach that led into a jungle full of monkeys and small komodo style dragon lizards and into a secluded mouth of a small river that disappeared into a huge limestone wall via a small cave entrance. Hop into the boat an so began our paddle along the underground waterway of Palawan. The river itself is 8km or so long but one is only allowed to journey 1.5km into it. It was a limestone tunnel full of stalagmites and stalagtites, stunning rock and salt formations and deposits and a lot of bats (with which came lots of guarno!). Just amazing to finish of our two hectic days in the capitol of what has been a truly phenomenal area of this wonderful country. Flying out the next day we were very sad to leave Palawan but knew we were on to the next exciting adventure!

Simply brilliant!!!!!!!

Day Perkins
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Sally Champ on

Dear Lucy and Henry, thank you so much for my beautiful mothers day roses. What a kind and thoughtful pair you are. Have a wonderful time. Love xx ma and pa xx

Liz Perkins on

Thank you for my Mother's Day text message. It meant so much just to hear from you xx

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