At this point, I would have to admit that I’m a sucker for airfare deals. Perhaps any opportunity that would allow me to discover and appreciate new cultures, new communities, I would most likely grab it.
While Coron was on top of my list, I had to opt for a safer trip since rainy season has just started.
Being the capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa definitely did not disappoint. A large part of my trip was made possible because of the wonderful hotel shuttle service of Microtel Palawan.
Microtel Palawan, I must say, despite having intermittent wifi connection, was still capable of providing pleasant customer experience. I must admit that at the onset, my relationship with them as a guest started off a bit rough. The lunch I ordered for room service came 2 hours late. The situation was immediately rectified though, as it was the restaurant manager himself who brought the lunch I ordered to my room and sincerely (at least that’s what I felt) apologized for the oversight.
By the time I had my fill and rested, I was ready to explore what Puerto Princesa had to offer. The hotel staff took care of my reservation and shuttle service going to Ka Lui as early as 5pm. I was told that Ka Lui was always jam-packed, so they took the initiative of making the dinner arrangements ahead of time.
Palawan is known for its fresh seafood, so I wasn’t surprised to once again experience that “sweet” taste in seafood that easily spell F-R-E-S-H at first bite.
Even Ka Lui’s famous Tubbataha salad did not disappoint. It was composed beautifully with fruits in season – mine came with mango, avocado and pomelo – topped with medium-sized shrimps with “lato” on the side, and finally drizzled with their signature homemade Palawan dressing.
Day 2 of my Palawan was reserved for lunch at another famous Palawan restaurant, the Badjao Seafront.
Located along Abueg Road in Puerto Princesa, Badjao Seafront is known for its floating restaurant. Perhaps the only one of its kind in the area. And perhaps the perfect place to order the freshest seafood while enjoying the breathtaking view.
I was fortunate enough to arrive early for lunch, that I felt I had the restaurant along with its perks all to myself.
The structure of Badjao Seafront restaurant stands on stilts on top of the crystal clear waters of Honda Bay. Its native, rustic ambience combined with the breeze that flows through its open windows – not to mention the relaxing view of the waters that surround the resto – serve as a delight to customers.
I had my Blue Marlin on a sizzling plate. It was simply to die for – really fresh and just melts in your mouth. Just like a love story, it had me at hello. Of course the crispy kare-kare was another story. It was a cardiac delight that gave mixed emotions. While they say that the highlight of the dish lies in the bagoong, this nominated the crispiness of the pork belly as the climax. It simply did not disappoint.
You’ll make no mistake when you order whatever type of seafood on the menu. They’ll always be served to you fresh, however they’re cooked.
Day 3 was reserved for lunch at Balinsasayaw Restaurant.
The restaurant was named after the bird species, “balinsasayaw,” which was predominant in the province. I wasn’t able to order their famous and authentic bird’s nest soup as they only serve it in a big bowl which was good for 4 people. I have read though that it’s the real deal and a must-try when dining at Balinsasayaw.
Aside from the bird’s nest soup, another must-try is their Balinsasayaw express. It’s a culmination of different seafood – Palawan’s local pusit (squid), shrimp, tahong (mussels) and tuna- flavors that just burst in your mouth. Sauteed in bell pepper and other spices and their special sauce (my guess is tomato though for some reason they’re not confirming it – must be a recipe secret), this dish could be mistaken for a sweet-and-sour dish but it’s far from being one, but it does have that hint of sweetness and sour taste and a little kick of that hot flavor.
I had a craving for ensaladang talong, and boy did I get lucky. All I can say is, you can never go wrong when ordering a vegetable-based dish when the area is known for its fresh produce. Love the sweetness of the eggplant. It simply tells you that it’s fresh.
The next day, I was informed by the hotel staff that the Underground River tour had to be cancelled due to the inclement weather.
I took the Honda Bay tour instead and it was scheduled the following day. Thank God, the sun finally decided to peek out of the clouds.
At around 7:30am, we, together with the other hotel guests, were off to the tour. The hotel’s shuttle service brought us to the station to meet the boatman and tour guide assigned to bring us to the island hopping tour. There were islands we saw along the way but did not make a stop to it, and there were islands we did make a stop over to, and one of the was the so-called “Lu-li” island. It was called as such as it only came in sight, depending if it was high tide or low tide, so do the math.
Next stop: Pambato Reef
I’m no swimmer but I thought as long as I’m able to float on water I’ll survive snorkeling. As there was no protective cover that could fit my DSLR that would allow me to take pictures under water, I had to leave my camera with our tour guide. She was actually the one who took this picture.
At this point, I would have to commend the Palawan locals especially our boatman. As I could only bring my snorkeling gear when I went into the water, I had no choice but to leave my wallet in the boat. Microtel’s rooms, I guess being a budget hotel, wasn’t equipped with safes, so I had to bring along my cash with me. Now all I can say after this experience is I would go back to Palawan in a heartbeat. Like Singapore, this is the another place where I felt I was safe.
The snorkeling experience was another one for the books. Words were just enough to describe all the beauty I saw underwater.
Next stop: Pandan Island
Activity: Exploring the island, fish feeding, and eating!
We stayed longer in Pandan Island than the other ones we’ve visited. Pandan Island or “Isla Pandan” was named as such because it was abundant with pandan trees.
The cottages could be rented if you plan to stay for awhile. Ours was already paid for when we paid for the tour, so it was just our tour guide who took care of the coordination with the island’s resort.
Snorkeling was also one of the activities in Isla Pandan, as well as kayaking, but after snorkeling at the Pambato Reef, I opted for a more ful-FILLING activity: eating.
These crabs were another sweet treat. And I say SWEET because these are all fresh and only costs P200/kilo. Something you can’t enjoy everyday in Manila, eh!
The island has a “paluto” service. Once you buy the seafood of your choice, you can just tell them how you want it cooked, and they’ll do it for you.
My takeaways from this trip:
- Like I said, I would go back to Palawan in a heartbeat. Not only because of the place but also because of its people. I dub thee my home away from home, and I could stay in Palawan for months, even years.
- Aside from being the capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa is known to be the melting pot of various cultures. But despite the mix, one thing remained consistent, they’re all extra warm, accomodating and hospitable – from the hotel staff, to our tour guide, to the locals.
- While Palawan as a whole is a tropical paradise, Puerto Princesa City has the best of both worlds: being a paradise and a highly urbanized city.
- The next time I go back, I’d like to check out the Batak Cultural Village. It’s an hour away from the city proper, but was told it would be worth it. I’m all about cultural immersion, so planning for the trip would surely be worth it.