Monday, August 24, 2009

The City in a Forest - Puerto Princesa!

Barely a week after arriving in Manila from a quick trip to Anchorage and cruise over Prince William Sound in Whittier, Alaska, I was back flying again to another destination - this time for a local trip in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Extreme as it may seem, I've just seen glaciers just a few days before and now I'm off to seeing beaches in the tropics.

August 21, 2009 - I came to the domestic wing of Terminal 2 in Manila a little over an hour before the flight time. It was a weekend and there was a long line ahead of me! I've never had sucnh an experience until then whenever I line up at the check-in counter. There was also a new system in place - all passengers go into a common line compared to the old way of lining up on specific counters based on flight destination.

Got checked-in minutes later but the flight was delayed. Later still, I was up in the air! Clear blue sky and nice weather!

approaching Puerto Princesa International Airport

Supposedly, Chester will join me on this trip. In fact, he was the one who arranged for the package that included a 4 days, 3 nights accomodations with airport transfers and different tours with meals. We later invited Jojo to join the trip who managed to commit. For some reason, Chester had to back out to accomodate a business trip so it was only me and Jojo who proceeded.
I arrived later that morning at Puerto Princesa City, was fetched at the airport and brought to home for the next few days - the Duchess Pension. Jojo was on a different flight and was supposed to arrive later than me but it turned out otherwise because my flight was delayed.

inside our room - basic yet clean and comfortable

The series of tours started after lunch. A van picked us up from the Pension house and brought us around, together with tourists staying at other accomodations within the area. First point was a brief stop in the nearby Immaculate Conception Cathedral Parish..

.. and then we proceeded to the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm. Known nationally as the "prison with no bars", the penal colony allowed prisoners under minimum security to work in different agricultural projects of the Bureau of Corrections and let the prisoners be productive and earn a living.

a statue depicting justice just outside the gate of the penal colony

The van was allowed to enter the premises and we were dropped by at the Inmates Post Exchange where a souvenir shop was. Around the area was a plaza, basketball courts and a recreation hall.

Instead of going inside the shop, Jojo and I opted to go to the recreation hall instead, which appear to be interesting among others. It is an old building, said to be built in 1904.

A grand staircase welcomes visitors to the recreation hall and the emblem of the "Commonwealth of the Philippines", a political designation of the Philippines, between 1935-1946, is well-kept.

Inside the hall, one will be awed by its past magnificence. However, it is sadenning that this building, built more than a century ago is not kept well because of lack of funds and perhaps may go into waste in the coming years if no maintenance efforts will be made to restore the building to its former glory.

From a window at the second floor of the recreation hall, one can view the hospital said to be "haunted" by the local folks. Haunted or not, it is still a nice refreshing view to see from above.

As we exit the penal colony, we passed by the vast area of agricultural lands that is kept and tilled in clusters by the inmates.

The group went next to the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, ran by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and famous among local tourists for its Crocodile Farm.

First, we were led to the entrance lobby area where an employee gave us a brief introduction about the center. Showcased in the lobby is a preserved skin of a crocodile and skeletal bones.

The group were then led to covered areas where they grow and raise crocodiles of different varieties.

baby crocodiles, looks like lizards eh?

bigger ones, hungry and ready to eat!

At the back area is a nature park where numerous flora and faunas are on display as visitors walk through a trail.

some animals at the nature park:

Before we left the park, we passed by the baby crocodiles available for touching to public. They were very smooth and slippery and happen to move a lot!

Next stop was at the Sta. Monica Ranch where the house of the late Ramon V. Mitra, Jr. stands proud.

inside the house

view from the top

rooster pens, Mitra was known for his adoration in cockfighting

Nearby Sta. Monica Ranch is the Baker's Hill. I'm not sure what the real purpose of this place is but it seems to attract a lot of local and domestic tourists. There were baked goods and then there were families setting up for picnics and there were some animals in a mini-zoo-like zone.

food stalls selling hotdogs, fishballs, rice cakes, drinks, shakes, etc.

families hanging out and enjoying the weekend

cartoon character figures

hmmm... I wonder what he's looking at? :P

Our last stop was a quick tour at the weaving factory-cum-shop of Binuatan Creations.

weaving in action

We and had our dinner at the much-acclaimed and highly-recommended KaLui Restaurant. The staff of the pension house, the tour guide and previous visitors of the city raved so much about this place located at Rizal Avenue that got us curious that made us put in our our "must-do" list. Prior reservation is recommended and the staff of Duchess Pension eagerly volunteered to secure this for us.

waiting area inside KaLui

First, we were asked to remove our shoes and walk bare-footed towards our table. Good thing we had our reservation because we saw that most tables have been reserved and just minutes after we arrived there were already people waiting outside to get seated.

We ordered the "Kalui Special of the Day", described as "Fish Steak, Prawns, Veggies of the Day, Fried Fish w/ Pineapple Sauce, rice and starters; Set a la family, pwede for two" priced for only PHP395 and these were all we got out of it:

seaweeds, also referred to as lato in some provinces

fish steak, not sure but it seems to be Gindara

sauteed water spinach (kangkong)


fried fish with pineapple sauce, cut in half, butterfly style

We also ordered half a kilo of lobster, cooked in garlic butter (PHP700). It is very rare that I get to eat this crustacean delicacy.

Fresh fruits were served when we were about to leave. Apparently it was part of the meal.

From walking in bare-footed inside a nipa hut-inspired restaurant, to the nice ambience of the place, good comfort food and value for money, the overall experience dining in KaLui was great! I personally would recommend this as a must try when in the city!

After dinner, we decided to kill time and walk from KaLui back to the pension house because there was nothing else for us to do that night. We passed by a street food vendor and my sudden usual urge for hawker stall food got me again.

I got what seemed to be deep fried fish balls and intestines. I'm not sure what it was but it sure was tasty and good, though of course not comparable to what we just had earlier.

A few meters away, along Valencia Street, the sight of deserts lined up at a display at Divine Sweets invited us to come in and have something before calling it a night. With free wifi, hot drink and delectable sweets, nothing can go wrong!

Eating a delicious and luscious strawberry cheesecake and sipping a cup of hot white chocolate while catching up on some online sites using my mobile phone capped off our night.


Euroangel said...

nice pictures of the places i wish to visit! actually already had a plane ticket for puerto princesa last december fpor going to palawan but there are just more important things to do in cebu...thanks for the visit.

Euroangel said...

what i love the most are the foods in pinas...hmmmm!

Jasper said...

@euroangel - you should come back and go to puerto princesa! i agree food is good in P.I. specially on the provinces!

Anonymous said...

You didn't take a swim at Iwahig? hehe.
Ka Lui's the best! hahaha

Chester Coronel said...

I wanna go here!

Jasper said...

@lee - no!

@chester - dapat kasi you were here..