Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Date: April 27th 2011

Today, I didn’t have to wake up that early. My Cebu Pacific flight to Palawan was at 11am, so I took it fairly easy after yesterday’s tiring tour of Bohol. Once I got ready, I checked out of Sugbutel and the staff hailed a taxi for me to go to Cebu airport (cost ₱183).

Though there was a bit of traffic (being office hours), I got to the airport by 9am and checked in. My flight was on time and I got a window seat again.

Cebu to Palawan flight aerial view
Goodbye Cebu

Cebu to Palawan islands aerial view

Palawan island aerial view Philippines
Hello largest island in the Philippines
Puerto Princesa airport Palawan Philippines
The flight landed past noon
Puerto Princesa airport Cebu Pacific flight Palawan
Palawan looked beautiful already

Even though I didn’t have a reservation anywhere, I did make a list of a few good hostels or budget accommodation, referred to as ‘pension inns’ here in the Philippines. I hired a tricycle taxi and asked him to take me to Duchess Pension first – one of the most recommended budget hotels in Puerto Princesa.

When I got to Duchess Pension, it was full. So yeah, it’s popularity is true. I then asked the driver to take me to my second choice, Banwa Arthouse, which wasn’t too far from Duchess. When I got to Banwa, fortunately, a bunk bed was available.

I paid the trike driver ₱50 (because that’s how much he charged) and I checked in.

Banwa Arthouse dorm bunk bed Puerto Princesa Palawan
A bed in the mixed dorm cost me ₱350 ($8/€5) per night
Banwa Arthouse dorm toilet Puerto Princesa Palawan
The toilet is attached to the dorm and was clean
Banwa Arthouse interiors Puerto Princesa Palawan
The one reason why I shortlisted Banwa Arthouse was because of how it looks
Banwa Arthouse restaurant cafe Puerto Princesa Palawan
This is the cafe and where you can access the wi-fi
Banwa Arthouse lobby Puerto Princesa Palawan
The basement has more shower rooms, but otherwise it's where the staff and family stay
Banwa Arthouse garden entrance Puerto Princesa Palawan
The sit-out area
Banwa Arthouse Puerto Princesa Philippines
Banwa Arthouse from outside
Puerto Princesa town houses Philippines
I decided to go for a stroll

Puerto Princesa small road Palawan

Puerto Princesa children Palawan Philippines
If you are wondering if I was staying in some village, no, I wasn't.
Felix Pension Inn Puerto Princesa Palawan Philippines
There are other 'pension' inns around
Balayong Pension Puerto Princesa Palawan
This place looked new
Iglesia ni Christo Puerto Princesa Philippines
No, I wasn't going to spend time seeing another church
Way to Baybay Puerto Princesa Philippines
I headed towards the sea
Baybay Puerto Princesa Philippines
Though I was aware there was no beach in Puerto Princesa (seriously) I hoped to at least touch the water. But Baybay is a corniche, so you can only sit by the ledge and stare at the sea.

Tonight at the Baybay, there was going to be an event with stage performances, food stalls and such. I guess I knew where to come for dinner.

Jollibee sign Puerto Princesa Palawan Philippines
I decided to get lunch for now (not Jollibee of course)
Unitop shopping mall Puerto Princesa Palawan
But given how hot it was, I stepped in here to cool off a bit and to get some water

Puerto Princesa public market PalawanMarket Puerto Princesa Palawan

Puerto Princesa capital Palawan Philippines
I walked all the way to the city centre where I hoped to find a good seafood restaurant
Bench Bruno's deli restaurant Puerto Princesa Palawan
I crossed the road
Road Puerto Princesa Palawan
There were more budget accommodation available here
Circon business inn Divine sweets Puerto Princesa Palawan
But aside from a bakery, there were no seafood restaurants
Puerto Princesa city hall Palawan
I moved on
Skylight Hotel lobby Puerto Princesa Palawan
I stepped into this hotel presuming since hotel looked nice, the restaurant maybe good too
Skylight hotel restaurant policy Puerto Princesa Philippines
Errr...

I glanced at the menu and despite the restaurant’s appearance, there was nothing out of the ordinary available. Even the seafood options were limited. It was nearing 3pm, I didn’t feel like walking anymore.  So I ordered just a seafood pasta and a beer.

Terrible seafood pasta Skylight Hotel Palawan
How was the pasta?

Bad! In fact, it was the worst I’ve ever eaten! Not to a point where it was sickening, but just plain bad for the ₱130 they charged for this. The sauce was straight out of a can, the bread didn’t have a hint of garlic or wasn’t even toasted – it was just plain sliced bread! The prawns were surely packaged, frozen ones and I could barely identify the other seafood used in the dish. Ugh, I still ate it as I was hungry and I didn’t want to pay double for this rubbish!

If this is the quality of food served at this restaurant, then it’s no wonder patrons leave leftovers on their plate! Avoid, avoid, avoid!

Jollibee Dunkin Donuts Puerto Princesa Palawan
Sigh, I should have just gone to a Jollibee!
Balinsasayaw chicken grill restaurant Puerto Princesa Palawan
Walked towards the airport because I did remember seeing more restaurants there
Tiki restobar Puerto Princesa Palawan Philippines
Manny Pacquiao's next match was being hyped well in advance by just about everybody
Airport wharf Puerto Princesa sign Palawan
I walked towards the airport road
Palawan provincial capital building Puerto Princesa
I was bored, so I sat near these fountains for a while
Airport road Puerto Princesa Palawan Philippines
This road leads to the airport
Banana tree Puerto Princesa Philippines
Banana?
Puerto Princesa airport road Palawan Philippines
I walked a bit up the road and just felt so uninspired to walk any further. So I hailed a trike and decided to go back.

It looked like Puerto Princesa had very little to offer within its city limits. I asked the driver if there was anything remotely interesting and he said “church”. Sigh.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral church Puerto Princesa Philippines
Immaculate Conception Cathedral

Immaculate Conception Cathedral Puerto Princesa Philippines Immaculate conception church hall Puerto Princesa Philippines

Philippines Port Authority Puerto Princesa Philippines
I left the church and walked a bit further down. It was the port, I couldn't enter. I walked back.

That was it. I was officially bored.

I walked back to Banwa Arthouse, and went to the cafe to do some research. It was so hot even though there was a fan on. Well, on and off. Electricity kept going and coming, along with the internet.

My original plan was never to stay in Puerto Princesa. My hope was to land in Puerto Princesa and head straight to El Nido, which is at the northern end of Palawan. Unfortunately I had just missed the last private van going to El Nido as its a 5-6 hour journey by road. Another place on the agenda was the region of Sambang, famous for its Underground River.

As I sat at my table, a Polish guy came over and we began talking. Turned out, he too was planning to head to El Nido but had to be back in Puerto Princesa the day after to catch his flight in the evening. We decided we’d go to El Nido together and share expenses for accommodation.

“Great!” I thought, but two Swedish girls across from us joined in on our conversations and told us they had just gotten back from spending a few days in El Nido. They showed us their photos, we shared our plans and my intention of going to Sambang, and after hearing our experiences, the Polish guy and I decided it was best we go our separate ways. I decided to go to Sambang first thing in the morning and after doing the underground river tour, spend the night on the beach. Wake up the next day and then head to El Nido from Sambang, since Sambang is before El Nido.

But when I went to inform the staff that I would be checking out tomorrow morning because of my intention to head to Sambang, he told me my plan may not go as smoothly as I hope. He told me it’s because there’s a crucial junction along the way from where one has to take a left to go to Sambang. From that junction, Sambang beach is still a fair distance. Problem is, if I need to get to El Nido, I have to head back to very that junction to catch a bus going to El Nido. He also warned me saying that the buses are not that frequent given the distance. (Palawan is big island, but it’s sparsely populated)

All of this was confusing and at the same time, I didn’t want to risk – or waste time – in case I didn’t get the bus from that junction. The staff advised it’s easier to just do the Underground River tour from Puerto Princesa itself. He may have pushed for it so that I stay another night and book a tour through him, but alas, I couldn’t afford to take any chances.

So book a Sambang tour for tomorrow I did.

By the time I decided what to do, the Swedes, the Polish guy and a Palawan native who was staying at the Banwa Arthouse asked if I wanted to join them for dinner. The local said he knew of a good restaurant and assured me their seafood was good. So in two tricycle taxis, off we went to a place called Kalui.

Kalui restaurant dinner Puerto Princesa Philippines
The place looked quite nice and was moderately priced
Vegetarian food Kalui Puerto Princesa Philippines
The Swede beside me ordered vegetarian and her dish looked, interesting
Seafood sisig Palawan Philippines
I on the other hand ordered a seafood sisig (cost ₱250/$5/€4). It was alright, but I would have preferred it without the mayo.

Dinner was pleasant, and we each spoke about where all we had traveled and our stories. It’s moments like this why I especially love backpacking — meeting other travellers and sharing our experiences!

Kalui restaurant Puerto Princesa Palawan
Nice place for a gathering

Once back in the hostel, it was another early good night from me and another early wake up tomorrow!

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Last post)

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