What if you had the opportunity to visit the most beautiful place on earth, travel in private boats, have your fresh fish prepared on the grill, sleep in romantic mosquito netting cottages, eat in gourmet restaurants, and view some of the most stunning scenery nature has to offer…all for less than $50.00 dollars a day…. would you be interested?
Wanting to be different and not burn ourselves out just by traveling, we spent many hours on the internet pre-planning our trip of a lifetime. We decided to try to see what we could do and see in a ten-day excursion and also have lots of down time–just to photograph and relax between discovering new places of interest. We noticed some travelers were so caught up in doing and seeing everything… they missed the forest for the trees and ate up most of their time traveling and getting stressed. Like anything else a little pre-planning goes a long way to ensure a great vacation.
Here is a whirlwind synopsis of how we traveled on a vacation and hope that some of these guidelines would be helpful for anyone else who wanted to avoid a lot of pitfalls of travel and maximize on the experience!
We left Cebu, Philippines and flew directly to Puerto Princesca on Cebu Pacific Airlines, which took only one and one half hours. Upon landing at the very modern airport, equipped to handle many incoming and out coming tourist, business and personal flights, we immediately hailed a motorized tricycle driver who drove us to our pre-registered hotel Casa Linda.
Casa Linda exceeded our expectations and is the perfect eco-adventure hotel located only ten minutes from the airport and within walking distance to many restaurants and shops. Casa Linda is made of native woods and set in a natural garden setting. It has its own restaurant and spacious outdoor area for reading and relaxing.
We signed in and was given the honeymoon suite which was some sort of mix-up. I said to Perla the stars must have lined up… what a great way to start out our vacation. After a few cold drinks we headed out with our new tricycle guide, who took us to the Butterfly Garden, then to the Crocodile Farm, and ended up on Bakers Hill, which had some of the most magnificent tropical plants I had ever seen. After photographing golden pheasants, vivid peacocks, and many tropical flowers and plants, we had homemade deserts and cold drinks at the bakery. Our tricyce guide was extremely knowledgable and worked very hard to ensure we had a good tour of the city while we were in Puerto Princesca. We tipped him, took his personal calling card and told him we would use him anytime we were in Puerto Princesca.
That evening as a surprise, since I read you must have reservations for the Kaluai Restaurant, which was walking distance from our hotel……. I made the reservations two days earlier from my laptop on Bantayan Island and had a confirmed email for a table at six pm on our day of arrival. I did not tell my travel-mate Perla… so she was quite amazed when the maitre d’ said: “your table for two is ready Mr. Fulton.”
Upon arriving at the Kaluai restaurant we placed our shoes in a shoebox outside of the restaurant and walked barefoot on their mahogany floors. As they are noted for seafood, we had the set seafood price which was 365 pesos for two and included grilled tuna, filet of fish steamed in coconut, large prawns, vegetable rice and a large fruit bowl for desert. At our hotel in Cebu we saw a travel tv show, which stated this was the number one restaurant in Palawan. I agree and would encourage anyone who loves fresh seafood and good atmosphere not to miss this culinary experience
From Puerto Princesca we made an arrangement to go by private van to El Cido (which means bird nest) and took the six-hour excursion, where we checked into Og’s Pension House on the second floor overlooking the sea! The following morning we contracted an island hoping adventure pumpboat for the day. We left at eight am and weaved the boat through some of the most dramatic natural sea and rock formations in the world. El Ciido is also one of the places Jacques Cousteau worked out of and made the statement: “This was one of the most beautiful places on earth!” Landing on the white beach sand we snorkel between two islands and felt as if the experience was similar to the movie “The Blue Lagoon”. Our boat captain prepared gourmet grilled fish lunch on the beach, as we wandered around with our cameras in amazement at the stark beauty of the bright blue sea and natural rock formations. It looked like a scene from National Geographic!
We went to dinner that night at a local eatery named: “The Alternative Restaurant” located on the second floor overlooking the sea. We were given a contour seat built over the sand with plush pillows. With legs stretched out from our sitting position we were so comfortable… we made the statement: “even if you were the wealthiest person on earth I don’t see how you could improve on these accommodations.”
While just hanging out and relaxing we gazed at the stars and moonlit harbor with its shadowy mountains and outlines and raised our glasses toasting each other… as if we won the lottery!They served us “spicy eggplant” and the “fresh catch of the day”! We could not believe our good luck at finding such a great restaurant and we did not want to leave, but vowed to return if ever we were in El Cido again.
We left El Nido by air-con van and proceeded to Port Barton, an idyllic beach town surrounded by many islands and abundance of nature everywhere. We hired a private pump boat to go island hopping and invited the person who rented our oceanfront cottage to go along. The following day, when she arrived, she had all sorts of tropical foods including: fresh watermelon, mangoes, papayas, local salad, fresh squid, and some local dishes I did not recognize. The captain dropped us off at a fantastic natural beach and headed to another island where he procured three large-sized grouper (lapu-lapu) and came back to grill our gourmet lunch right on the beach. After swimming and snorkeling, hanging out and just enjoying the bright turquoise waters, we then proceeded to a local waterfall, where we had fun cooling off in the fresh water tumbling down the side of the mountain.
The following morning we hired a pumpboat to take us to Sabang (which is the jump off point for the Underground River Excursion. A French couple just came from Sabang to Port Barton, which took them six and half hours in very windy and rough seas…they traveled in late afternoon and stopped to have lunch. They were drenched and claimed the trip was one of the most miserable ever. We asked a few questions and was told the seas in this area are generally calm in the early morning so we boarded our pumpboat at exactly 4:45 am and proceeded through the dark… only seeing a vague outline of the coast as we traveled. We were the only pumpboat on the river except for a handful of fisherman in the distance. It was eery and beautiful… we were amazed at how the captain knew which rock to by-pass and which island to go around as we proceeded toward Sabang. As the sun peaked in over the mountain you could see pods of dauphin chasing fish and swimming alongside as if to say: “welcome to the land of enchantment.” They splashed tails and swam off in the distant… using their high-pitched voices to say: “wish you could be free like us.”
We may have set a new pumpboat record since the trip only took two and one half hours. We bought our crew a local fish breakfast and headed off walking a few hundred meters to Dab Dab’s Resort, which I read about on the internet. We could not believe our good luck as we got the last private cottage, complete with mosquito netting and a front porch hammock! We were served a huge gourmet grouper dinner… complete with local salad and vegetable rice, which was out of this world. Tummies full, we lounged on their amazing mahogany furniture… fit for a king or a queen. We quickly fell asleep as we listened to the sounds of the jungle piped in stereo into our private cottage.
The following morning we boarded a six passenger river boat, which takes about a half hour from Sabang to
The National Underground River, where we were outfitted with bright yellow and orange hard hats and met our new paddle boat captain, who would be our guide as we entered the underground river system. As our captain guide traverses us into total darkness he gives a light to the person in the front and points out different formations which resemble: The Virgin Mary, Jesus and a cathedral (which is so tall it actually looks like a cathedral). Our guide pointed out not only is this an an amazing cavern with striking formations full of bats and swallows, but it is also one of the longest underground rivers in the world and is up for nomination for the seventh wonder of the world. He encourages everyone to vote online to allow more people to experience this Philippine National Treasure.
We left Sabang and rode a jeepney, which had plenty of people on the roof plus their gear as we traveled over mountainous roads full of virgin timbers and wildlife. We stopped at Honda Bay took a quick visual tour and then found lodging at Kim’s Hot Springs, which was included in our cottage room for a cost of 700 pesos. The friendly staff turned on the faucet to fill our natural hot spring and their we were… just like Hollywood Superstars relaxing in our hot tub in the privacy of our cottage watching the world go by!
We walked several hundred kilometers to a Vietnamese Restaurant and Village and ate the best noodles I have eaten in my life…. complete with natural herbs and a broth you could not even describe. We ended the day by taking dinner at Kim’s Hot Springs Restaurant and to toast and celebrate our great vacation, Perla ordered fresh lobster and me the fish of the day! It doesn’t get any better than this on a peso budget living like a king and a queen.
The following morning Perla called our tricyle driver who picked us up at kim’s Hot Springs and we continued to tour the city by going to the Puerto Princesca Museum, the Cathedral, the New Wharf and another tour of Bakers Hill where we had a gourmet lunch and spent quality time viewing the amazing tropical plants and landscaping.
Our last night in Puerto Princesca (voted the cleanest city in the Philippines) we stayed at The Lucky Resort near the airport. Our other hotel was booked so our tricycle driver took us to The Lucky Resort which was also fully booked! They apologized and said they were out of rooms, but decided to give us a guest house for two families for the price of a single room. We ended our vacation by having a gourmet dinner at The Lucky Garden Restaurant and reflected how lucky we were to have such a great vacation in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The following morning we jumped on the plane and flew home and cannot wait until our next travel adventure!
So there you have it a great trip. To ensure you have a good travel trip it is recommended to book your hotel on the day of arrival and the day of departure. Also have the exact address and name of the hotel and how many minutes it is from the airport so you can give exact instructions to tricycle or taxi drivers. You can then freelance the rest of your trip by checking on the internet, checking on transportation, checking on the weather and talking to fellow travelers… as well as the hotel personnel, who have a wealth of knowledge and expertise and can save you valuable time and give you travel options you may not have been aware of.
QUOTE: “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off-balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW:Palawan is one of the provinces that can be found in the Philippine archipelago and is situated in the region of MIMAROPA with Puerto Princesa City as its capital. This province is perhaps the biggest one in the whole of the Philippines if jurisdiction were to be the issue as its islands span across all the way from Mindoro towards the south west, in Borneo, and lies in the middle of the Sulu Sea in the south eastern portion of the country and the north western in the South China Sea. The approximate measurement of the land mass of the island is about four hundred fifty kilometres or two hundred eighty miles long, and fifty kilometres or thirty one miles wide.
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Travel Logs! It good to write a travel log… since you can’t remember half of the things you saw and don’t forget to burn a dvd of your digital photos… its good backup policy!
ZENTRAVELER SAYS: Its all in Zee travel!
From here to Infinity is a relatively short ride! The next leg takes eons and eons as you fly through the Barycentric Dynamical Time Zone! …and on and on and on.
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