[Puerto Princesa] ~ Experiencing the city and KaLui

“Spontaneous takes the rainy blues away.” – 06.21.13

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It has been a tradition of my family to go out-of-town, typically twice a year.  We usually do it on March and June – during birthday months of my parents. Unfortunately though, we were not able to go on a vacation earlier this year because we failed to anticipate this year’s Holy Week which was unusually early. And with Holy Week being one of the biggest holidays here in the Philippines, one has to plan really early or else be disappointed with no available (if not very expensive) airfare and accommodation.

Luckily though, we were able to push through this June after my father’s impulsive decision to go to Palawan, primarily to see the Underground River which was recently awarded as one of Seven Wonders of Nature.

puerto smallPUERTO PRINCESA has always been one of the places in my country that I would love to visit. I started to feel curious about this as early as elementary days when a classmate who went there for a school camping shared to me how clean the city was. That stuck to me for some reason and of course, I got more curious when it was famed for the underground river.

Puerto Princesa Day 1

Let’s!

From our sleepover at a hotel in Manila, we headed to the airport and arrived around 8AM, 2 hours before our flight. Everything ran smoothly except for a brief panic moment when we were at the counter and Mother Goose (my mother) thought she forgot her wallet which had her ID. But of course, it was just there. And as is the principle with all missing things, it was the last thing she found a few minutes of ‘digging’ inside her bag.  We were early at the boarding gate and we even saw not so famous but nonetheless Filipino celebrities James Blanco and Onemig Bondoc. (Hmm that satisfied the “mahilig in artista”/celebrity sighting fan in me.). Boarding gate was crowded but I have to forgive Cebu Pacific and give a slow clap for leaving on time. (Side note: This airlines have been making some noise lately with its landing problems).

At the airport

At Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. We were so early we even had time for some photo op. o_O

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Aboard

I was seated beside my brother who was quietly reading. While I was bored to my wits.

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puerto smallRain rain, go away. Come again another day. It was an overcast day when we arrived at Puerto Princesa Airport. It was something I kind of expected as it had been raining even in Manila for the past few days, not only because of an approaching typhoon but also because this month marks beginning of rainy season in the Philippines.

What is good about the Puerto Princesa’s airport is its proximity to the city proper where most hotels and pension houses are. So though it is pretty standard for accommodation options to have free airport transfers, there should not be any problem even if you take the commute (unless of course, you have gigantic luggages). There is a tricycle lane just a short walk from the airport exit. In our case, we had no problem as we were picked up by our pension house Casitas de Az.

At PP Airport

And so we meet, Puerto Princesa! More photo op before claiming luggage.

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PP Airport

Tricycles spotted as I rode on our van.

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Upon arrival at the pension house, we freshened up and had lunch. Funny story as we have decided to ourselves what to order after checking the pension house menu we found at the room only to find out when we are about to order that they only serve food during breakfast and dinner.  We then ended up having some food delivered from Chowking. Hmm so we went to Palawan just to order meals from fastfood! But that was okay as we were expecting good dinner that day. It was not part of the itinerary because we are not a ‘seafood family’, but we tried our luck and asked help from the reception to help us reserve seats at the famous KaLui Restaurant. And again, we were fortunate that they had slots available for 6:15 or 8:30 at night.

We actually had nothing planned for that day – well, except, for my personal list of to dos in Palawan as I did my online research both for this trip and my solo trip this August. It was good that the driver who picked us up at the airport, Kuya Jun, offered van rental for a 4-hour city tour for Philippine peso (Php) 1,500. From what I know based on my online research, it is a little cheaper than the cost of a usual city tour with a travel agency costs at around Php 600 per head.

But for  brief moment there, we were torn between just going around the city on our own or renting the van.  It was a quick decision but we just decided to just do the tour. If it was just me, I could have opted do-it-ourselves but since I was with the family, I thought too that asking help from a guide would be better. I can get lost when I am alone but I never want to drag others with me.

Casitas de Az

Decided to stay at this homey place Casitas de Az Pension. Decent home away from home at an affordable price of about Php1,800 per night for a family room.

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And so it was city and Ka Lui.

Our first stop was at City BaywalkWell, we didn’t stop really at the place to take photos. It was dead at that time of day (around 2PM) but we saw some temporarily abandoned food stalls. Apparently, activity in the place starts late in the afternoon at around 5PM. I would definitely go back to see how the place is when there are people. Next to the baywalk is the port but there was nothing to see except crates. Again, we saw no people and activity except one port guard / security officer who we had to ask permission upon entry.

Very near the baywalk is Plaza Cuartel which is a historical landmark as this is where the Japanese burned to death American prisoners of war in December 14, 1944 during World War II. As this is near the sea, it was told that some escaped by jumping onto the sea. It could have been better if we should have stayed longer to feel the place more but it was getting darker and we just knew it would rain hard in a few minutes so we had to hurry. And.. we were right. Just when we were checking the interesting tunnel behind the front gate, it started to rain really hard.

Plaza Cuartel

Historic Plaza Cuartel. Photo on bottom right is the mouth of a tunnel right at the back of the front gate.

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Cuartel marker

In memory of souls who died in this place.

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It was good though that our next stop is really near, i.e. the Immaculate Conception Church which is literally beside Plaza Cuartel. We still had to ride the van of course and we were left at the church while driver-slash-guide went somewhere to get umbrellas.  I don’t think it was that old of a church (most likely because it was well-painted) but Google said it was actually built in the 1800s. Structure is of a clean sky blue and white color and I didn’t realize it while taking the photos but the inside kind of hints at that clean color too! I thought it was really nice.

And as they say, when it is your first time to set foot on a church, you are entitled to utter your wish and it will come true. Yes, I still believe in those things. Nothing wrong to believe, right?

Inside cathedral

Notice those hints of blue?

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Outside cathedral

The Cathedral from the outside. Photo on the left taken while at the van so could not get a better view.

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It was still raining when we left the Church and hopped on to a 30-minute ride to Crocodile Farm or Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center. We arrived there around 3:30PM, just right on time for the quick seminar at the lobby before heading to see the crocodiles.

There was an entrance fee to the farm at Php40 per head. There was a quick and subtly entertaining introduction at the lobby before the remains of a giant crocodile which was captured after ‘accidentally’ eating a fisherman years ago and who eventually died because of ..guess what.. STRESS. There was a semi-guided tour first in this area where the baby crocodiles are kept. I learned then that only the skin of these young ones are valuable as leather materials. The next area housed the crocodiles that were young once. They were still and seemingly dead but I could not understand my fascination with these reptiles!

Croc Farm Lobby

Not as big as the recently capture biggest and now dead Lolong, but this was also really big! We were told that he was aged 60 when he died.

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Baby Crocs

Oh those seemingly harmless baby crocodiles. Cute!

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Old Crocs

Hmm maybe not as cute as the little ones. Those teeth were starting to scare me.

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At the end of this guided tour is a picture-taking area for those who wish to hold and have their photo taken with a baby crocodile. You can have photo taken and printed by them for Php250 for a big photograph and Php175 for two smaller photos of different poses. Or you can have your photo taken using your camera for Php 50.

It was quite a chaos at first as there was just too many people there with clearly no line on who should go next. We thought it was pay first before you pose but it turned out it was the other way around. One just had to approach the photographers.

It was chaotic but we had fun people-watching. My brother and I were laughing at the idea of the baby croc’s thoughts along the lines of “if this tape on my mouth gets loose, I will eat all of you”. His mouth, by the way, was secured by a sort of transparent scotch tape.

Croc Op

Apologies for the bad quality of the photos. Was not able to change settings and just handed over camera to our driver guide.

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Should we had more time and if it was not rainy, we could have continued the tour on our town to see the other crocodiles but since we were pressed for time as we had to make it on time for the KaLui restaurant, we had to reserve the rest of the tour for our next visit. On our way back to the city, we stopped by Mitra’s Ranch that had this view of the Honda Bay. It was a quick stop as we just took photos, giddily as if we are hacienderos and hacienderas who own the place. The place had a lovely overlooking view of both land and water where some islands are. It made me wonder whether this place can be seen from one of those islands. I shall find out if I get to avail of the Honda Bay tour next time.

IMG_6596I just want to lay down some blanket and have a picnic here! Read a book, maybe.

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Love love love this area of green. Careful though as you may slip

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As if we own the ranch o_O

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A few minutes from the ranch is Baker’s Hill which I think is a place to stop by for some bake treats but it was an interesting place as well because the owner had the area landscaped to show some cutesy structures of characters and animals. Now I kind of get what online reviewers mean when they say it was like an amusement park of some sort. To me, it was also like a big bakery because you could really smell that yummy bread as you stroll in the ‘park’. It was nothing spectacular but it sure did was fun posing with the characters. Places like this always seem to evoke the child in me.

Pop at Bakers

My dad obviously had fun goofing around with the landscapes.

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Bakers Fun

And I, the daughter too! 

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We wanted to stroll more but we had to go back to the city so we can stop to buy some souvenirs before heading to Ka Lui to make it to our 6:15PM reservation.  We dropped by this souvenir shop in a complex called Mercado San Miguel (learned the name of the place after some online search). There were no extraordinary finds at first – just the usual keychains, shirts, bags, charms and jewelry until my mother and I found this necklace that lets you crack open a clam with a surprise color meant to symbolize something. All that fun in a necklace for Php 85!

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And that is peach, right? Please tell me that is peach. Hahaha.

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cupon entering but it was not uncomfortable as the wooden floor was clean, so clean even that one proud guest almost fell to his face (and entertained us, of course). Menu was limited which I think added charm to the place as that seemed to me like saying they serve few but special and expectedly yummy dishes. All were reasonably priced too, with each meal costing around Php200.

Ka Lui food

From left to right : That’s Tubbatahha Salad, tuna steak and shrimp with kangkong, seaweed and that unknown but delicious appetizer then the complimentary dessert of fruits in a buco!

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Ka Lui

Just to give you an idea of the feel of the place.

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Ka Lui Bathroom

Even the restroom is cozy.

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Say goodbye to Kalui, happy tummies!

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Pop wanted to buy some crocodile sisig take-out at nearby Kinabuchs after dinner but we decided to postpone exotic food eating to the following day because we were already full. We were back to the hotel then after dinner, looking back at the fun day that was before dozing off to a good night sleep.

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