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