Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An introduction to Paradise

Despite our delay, Loudine and I made it safely out of Cebu and on to the wonderful island of Palawan, first stop the Bamboo Nest. I found Jonathan and his awesome house on Couchsurfing and couldn't pass up the opportunity to stay with him, not only did he sound like an amazing guy but his house set-up was intriguing.  He gave us great directions from the airport including two tricycles (both of whom tried to overcharge us, of course) and a short walk leading to the 'back gate of his property'.  I'm sure, had it been light out when we arrived this all would have been a bit easier, but as Loudine and I wandered down a dark dirt road we weren't exactly sure what we had gotten ourselves into.  Despite a few moment of doubt we arrived safely and were greeted by Jonathan and his warm, welcoming smile. Our room was in the second story of the [hand-made] bamboo nest, which was awesome, I felt like I was sleeping in a tree house.  We later found out that the reason for the sketchy 'back-door' entrance is that Jonathan lives on the Navy compound and can't have random foreigners walking in and out the front gate, fair enough.  After settling ourselves Jonathan invited us to join him for dinner in town at Imas vegetarian restaurant where we enjoyed great food and good conversation.  
Path to Jonathans, much better in daylight 

The bamboo nest                          Kitchen area 

Our room

Living room/ lounge area                                                       Front entrance 

The next morning we were up early, you don't really have a choice when you share a neighborhood with numerous roosters, in order to get ready for our day at the Underground river.  Jonathan took care of booking our tour for us so all we had to do was wait at his house for the van to pick us up, talk about great service. They arrived shortly after 9am and we were the last to pack into a full van of 10 people, time to get cozy for our 2 hour journey.  I shared a bit of small talk with some of the passengers but overall the ride was pretty uneventful, I guess it was still early.  Upon arriving in Sabang we were ushered over to quickly eat our lunch before getting in the boats that would take us to the river.  Our guide explained that due to rough waters they were closing the river around 12pm so we had to hurry if we wanted to make it out. Lunch was delicious although a bit rushed, but I would rather had swallowed my chicken whole than to sit around and miss out on going to the river.  Once we boarded our boats we were told that we'd actually be the last boat out of the day, talk about good timing. 

Underground River, one of the New 7 wonders

Seemingly shy boatman

First of many boat rides in the Philippines 

After the thirty minute boat ride  you must get out and take a 10 minute walk through the jungle before arriving at the entrance to the Underground river. Here, there are smaller boats which will take you into the river itself, along with your mandatory hard hat and life jacket, did I mention orange is not my color? Hands down some of my favorite people in the Philippines were all of the boat men that we interacted with, and we couldn't have started with a better one.  Visitors are allowed about halfway through the 8.2km river and along the way your boat guide provides you with plenty of information and even a few jokes.  The river is filled with bats and sparrows and of course some impressive stalagmites and stalactites, formed from the presence of 11 different minerals.  The river also houses one of the largest 'cave rooms' in the world, with a volume of approximately 2.5 million sq meters, yeah this place was pretty impressive.  

mmm, so sexy

Hopefully all the people won't destroy this beauty

Entering the river 

T-Rex coming down from above

         Mother Mary in the 'Cathedral'                                            Lions face in the shadows

The three wise men 

Quick taste for what the river was like 

The tour inside the river takes about 45minutes but seems to go a lot faster as you stare at everything in awe, just make sure not to stare in awe upwards - unless you want a mouthful of bat poop.  Due to strong winds and choppy waves we didn't have much time to hang out in the area so we made our way back to Sabang, stopped for a few pictures and then were ushered back into our van to return to Puerto Princesa. 

Kids are cute, everywhere

Simplicity of childhood

Hard to believe but the van ride back was even less eventful than the one there, I guess it was time for an afternoon nap.  Back at Jonathan's we took some time to rest, shower and even do some yoga (with the dogs and roosters) before getting ready for the evening.  Being New Years eve we decided to splurge on a bottle of local rum, a whole 85php (~$2) and start our night early with some cocktails.  Nico, from France, had no plans for the night so we invited him to venture into town with us and see what we could find.  We had heard that the place to be was the Baywalk downtown, so after 'hitchhiking' our way out of the Navy compound we caught a tricycle and soon found ourselves amongst the locals. 

Fallen angel                                    with my rooster friend 

Puppy kisses while in forearm balance

Welcome to the Bay walk

Starting his career early

Nico was telling us about an awesome seafood restaurant but upon arriving we told they were out of food so instead we had dinner at one of the street stalls and also indulged in one of their massive beer towers. After a while I was getting bored of sitting so I took a few laps around the area before meeting some local Pilipino boys, shy and friendly, just like the Koreans :)  The five of us spent the rest of the evening together listening to the live bands, drinking and enjoying the NYE fireworks.  Later in the night we decided to move on to a bar downtown for a few last drinks before calling it a night, and what a fun night it was.

New friend, Ronnie^^

NYE Fireworks! 

That's kind of how the night went 

Nico and Loudine - and some stylish goggles 

We finally got home somewhere around 5am, slept for a few hours and then rose to start yet another day of fun.  We were in no hurry to get anywhere, believe me we planned it that way, so we had a relaxed breakfast and spent some time talking to Jonathan.  Eventually, we got ourselves ready and started towards town, planning to get a ride to Honda bay and find a beach.  After walking for 10-15 minutes we were scooped up by a tricycle and found ourselves in the company of Jeors, our  new favorite trike driver. He agreed to take us out to Honda bay and come back to pick us up later that evening, roundtrip 400php which seemed like a great deal.  Along the way he did his share for tourism offering us stops to book boats, snorkel gear, souvenirs and t-shirts, great effort on his part!  At Honda bay we hired a boat to take us over to Cowrie island where we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the beach, swimming and eating halo-halo (close backup to patbingsu).

Weird half sunken ship just chillen' 

Cowrie island and our captain

Sun, sand, and sea ~~ happy as can be

mmm perfection 

I'm never leaving 

Joers was back, as promised, to pick us up around 5pm and drive us back to town.  Along the way we asked him about a good place to eat dinner and of course he was FULL of recommendations, one of which being Badjao floating restaurant.  We agreed that this sounded like a cool place to check out and he was more than happy to drive us there. We had a bit of a scare when the sign said CLOSED as we pulled up but found out that they opened at 6pm; seeing as we had no where to be and nothing but time we chose to wait.  

A little windy 

Mangroves surrounding the restaurant 

Fancy pants 

Sunset while we wait? Don't mind if I do!

Living the life

The restaurant was definitely a bit pricier than we were planning for dinner but we did awesome work of finding probably the most economical item on the menu.  We decided to share the seafood paella which was plenty of food for the two of us and at a great price.  Of course when we were finished Joers was there waiting for us, ready for our next destination.  He tried talking up the Tiki bar in town but we were dead tired after the previous nights entertainment so we opted for a stop at the ATM and return back home.  When we asked what we owed for our chauffeur services that day he told us it was 'up to us' which was an awesome gesture from him but made me a bit nervous as we didn't really have a grip for trike fares yet.  Being the great businessman he is ,Joers made sure to inquire about our plans the next day and assured us he would be back at 7am to pick us up for our journey to the bus terminal. Seriously if you find yourself in Puerto and in need of a ride give him a call - 09486447308, he'll be more than helpful. 

Early morning with Joers and his trike

Although Joers tried talking us into booking a van for our journey to El Nido we held firm to our plans and opted for the, much cheaper, Roro bus.  We arrived in plenty of time to catch the 8am bus, buy some snacks and secure comfortable seats before departing.  Tickets are bought once you board the bus so as we rolled out of town we were presented with one more surprise for the day as tickets were only 294php, almost 100 less than what everyone had been telling us, score! The 6 hour journey was actually quite pleasant, well not for half the bus that was experiencing motion sickness and utilizing plastic bags, but I was comfortable.  We arrived in El Nido later that afternoon with no problems and were on to the next leg of our journey.

Roro bus to El Nido

Ice cream: 15php (~0.30)
yes please

1 comment:

  1. What an incredible time you had - the pictures are ALL so beautiful. Sounds like a perfect place to travel.