Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Underground River and then some!

Early morning of our second day in Puerto Princesa City, Jojo and I were up by 5:00AM-ish, had breakfast (Duchess Pension has a variety of choices for around PHP80) and left with a tour group by 7:00AM-ish destined to see the famous underground river of Palawan.

Midway to the port where we will take a boat going to the underground river, we had a brief stop at the Buenavista View Deck.

Not sure what this place is for, perhaps it really serves as a stopping point for tourists, a breath taking view is waiting spectators visible from the top of the view deck.

Chicken Arroz Caldo - rice porridge with chicken. I can't help but to sit on one of the tables in the view deck and have a bowl of this delight (PHP25) while watching the view in front of us. A good starter for me that morning!

They were also selling a couple of live crabs and it amazed me as it endlessly and tirelessly try to get out of the box.

There was also a puppy who seem to be asking for food..

A couple of hours after we left the pension house, we arrived at Sabang Port and then boarded a boat minutes later bound for the underground river.

A mere 15-minute boat ride and then we were at the underground river park - officially called the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. It is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site since 1999. It was considered to be the longest underground river until 2007 when another river in Mexico was discovered.

From the beach shore where we alighted the boat, there was a short trail inset a lush mangrove to the other side where a river and boats going to the caves are waiting.

rules for cave tour

Tourists take turns to have their photo taken while waiting for the boats that will take them to the caves that traverses through the underground river.

We arrived early so there were only a few people in front of us. Have we arrived an hour later, there would have been a longer wait as evidenced by a long line after we came back from the cave tour. Only after a few minutes of waiting, we were asked to board the boat that will take us inside the caves. Safety helmets are required to be worn by every tourist.

me and Jojo

The boat was manually-paddled by a boatman-cum-tour guide who happily explained to us what to expect as we go inside the cave. He was very eager to point to us different "sightings" inside the cave as he paddled carefully moving the boat inward the cave cruising along the river.

It was pitch-black dark inside. Without the guiding lights, it was impossible to see anything. There were also bats in some areas inside the cave as seen on this picture. Lots of them hanging at the cave ceiling.

other pictures inside the cave:

a vandalized inscription since "3-18-37", pre-world war 2 of a certain Captain and Lieutenant

tourists on a boat

On the way, I can't help but be frozen and amazed with the wonders that we just encountered. The pictures above don't do justice to the actual experience you will have so I highly suggest to try, explore and experience the tour yourself!

We had a chance to explore for about half an hour the surroundings while waiting for the other half of the group finish their tour. The sight of the construction amidst the sign stating "Vanishing Biodiversity" definitely caught my attention and amused me.

Nearby is a ranger station and just beside it, I saw a couple of monitor lizards freely roaming around, untouched and unharmed even by eager and excited visitors.

last minute photo opportunity at the Underground River welcome signage

Rain suddenly poured on us on our way back to Sabang for lunch. It was a heavy downpour but it was a good thing that the winds were still quite calm. It was a very cold boat ride for all us as we wheeze our way back to Sabang that I thought I'm going to catch a virus at that time.

When we arrived in Sabang, we were directed to seat in a small nipa hut built for eating. While waiting for others that left later than us, we were amazed by these two cart pulleys powered by carabaos.

Minutes later, we were asked to transfer to a bigger covered area and our lunch buffet was served. It was already lunch time and we really were very hungry!

my plate - consisted of rice, chicken-pork adobo, grilled pork liempo (belly) and kangkong (water spinach) on top of a banana leaf basket

Just in time as we are finishing our lunch, the sun is up and shining brightly again, as if nothing happened! We took time to go around and take pictures while others from our group went for swimming.

It was a beautiful view! There was a beautiful white beach in front of us..

..and it was surrounded by mountains, slightly covered by clouds!

It was still early in the afternoon so as we go back to the city proper, we dropped by Viet Ville for a small afternoon snack. The village, inhabited by Vietnamese refugees who came to the city by boat decades ago after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. The place today has become a tourist attraction to city visitors.

The village houses Viet Ville Restaurant that serves ethnic Vietnamese/French dishes and delicacies.

inside the restaurant

I ordered Pho Bo Kho, which is actually a rice noodle with beef brisket served with garnishing veggies and bean sprouts.

display outside the restaurant

I took time to explore the village while waiting for others in our group to finish their meal for I was curious how the Vietnamese way of living in the Philippines look like.

There are still houses occupied in the village, similar to how Filipinos built their houses but with a touch of Vietnamese culture.

marker of Viet Ville

Surprisingly, I saw a Catholic chuch (Our Lady of Vietnam Church) inside the village, prominently blue in color.

the church

inside the church

image of Mother Mary

Moreso, I also came across a Buddhist temple inside the village.

Buddha altar



Not part of the original itinerary, our tour guide offered to bring us to other places in the city after Viet Ville which we eagerly said yes to because we have nothing else in plan for the rest of the day. We went to the Palawan Butterfly Garden first.

map of Puerto Princesa in the butterfly garden

Luscious greens and flowers situated in a covered area, the butterfly garden was basically a small place where they kept the butterflies.

And then the hunt for butterfly (and photos with them) began. Minutes later, I found a butterfly eagerly cooperating with me (and the camera) so I readily took the chance and have someone take the shot.

kiss me butterfly! :P

butterfly on my hand

It was just a brief stop at the butterfly garden and we're out again, this time back to Baker's Hill where we went to also just the day before.

This time, Jojo and I had more chance to explore the area and see the few animals on display.

Our last stop was in Plaza Cuartel, a former Japanese garrison and military fort during World War II. It was here during 1944 that Japanese soldiers burned 143 American soldiers.

marker of Plaza Cuartel

Today, Plaza Cuartel serves as a recreational park, as witnessed here where students are practicing for a dance performance.

Across the garisson is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Parish. It used to be a small church (originally built in 1872), but was expanded to become a cathedral in 1961.

inside the church

The rest of the day was spent resting in our room at the pension house, checking our emails and watching TV among others. By dinner time, we decided to walk towards another restaurant in Rizal Avenue that is well recommended to us by the locals - Balinsasayaw Grill.

inside the restaurant

We ordered a lot of items because we thought we were that hungry. Their specialty dish - balinsasayaw express, sauteed mix of squid, fish, some sort of shellfish and vegetables. I didn't dare to try it though.

crispy lechong kawali

garlic-buttered crabs

Honestly, I felt that there was nothing much special with the food we ordered. Don't get me wrong - I loved the crispy pork and buttered crabs, but I was looking for something extraordinary that only the restaurant can serve. Perhaps it's the balinsasayaw express which I didn't try so it's my fault. I was also told that a desert, which is ube served in coconut shell is good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lupit ng camera mo.
You were able to take a picture inside the caves? Our pics were very pitch black.
What I wasn't able to try in Palawan was go to Viet Ville, that Balinsasayaw and Kinabuch. Next time.... hehehe