We arrived in Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan in the south east of the Philippines. Everyone we met on our travels through the Philippines raved about this place so we thought it was best we come and check it out!
How removed these places are from the hell of Manila! As I keep saying as soon as you step outside of Manila it is so beautiful here. We stayed in one of the nicest guesthouses we have seen so far for 2 nights in Puerto Princesa, basing ourselves there while we took a day trip to the subterranean river.
With more information we would have actually gone out and stayed in the town of the river called Sabang, it was beautiful. And it's a 3 hour bus ride on a truck down dirt roads, so doing that twice in a day isn't the best! But it was still a good trip. Anyway this river is thought to be the longest subterranean river in the world (though they have just found one in Laos that may be longer). It is 8kms long and you start on the boat at this beautiful aqua green pool and then enter a cave in the limestone cliff. We had a very funny boat driver, his name was Jun-Jun but in the cave you only need call him Jun because there is an echo! The Philippinos are very religious so surprisingly there were many stones and stalactites/mites that were shaped like Mary, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, 3 three wise men etc! After you passed through the 'cathedral' that housed all these rocks and had a 65m high cave roof you began your journey down the 'fruit and vegetable isle' where all the rocks are shaped like fruit and veg!
It was a pretty awesome trip, defently something different.
The next day we journeyed up to the seaside town of El Nido on the northern part of the island. It was a 7 hour 'bus' ride with open windows on dirt roads! I have never been so dirty. Well Willy was much dirtier cos he had sunscreen on and all the dirt stuck to it! As soon as we arrived we went swimming in the ocean!
I keep saying it, but El Nido is so beautiful. It's in a tiny bay surrounded by limestone cliffs and islands. Kind of like Krabi in Thailand and Halong Bay in Vietnam, but not yet over run by tourists. We found a really nice little cottage on the water for AU$15.00. We basically just relaxed and sun baked while we were there, on Sunday we hired a boat and a driver who took us out for the whole day to 5 different islands to snorkel and explore which was really nice. The first place we went to was 'small lagoon'. You can't get into it by boat you have to swim through a hole in the rock so that was pretty cool. It started off really shallow and green and then gets really deep. Willy was mucking around rock-climbing and dropped his snorkel in the water. By the time he got off the wall it had sunk so he went down to get it but it was so deep. He tried a few times and couldn't get it and we ended up having to go back to the boat. We told the driver and he said he would have a go, because he could dive down to 20m no worries! So off he goes swimming, with a cigarette in his mouth.....!
We went to the 'big lagoon' too which was really nice. There were lots of other boats there but we were the only ones who had a small enough boat to go into it, so we got to cruise around. We stopped off on a nice secluded beach for a grilled fish and rice lunch, prepared by our driver and then went to another couple of islands just snorkelling. There weren't as many fish and it wasn't as nice as Borneo but it was still nice and we saw a sea snake.
We then had to make the 7 hour dusty drive back to Puerto Princesa. But I must say this was one of the most fun bus rides I have ever been on! There were 2 buses that left El Nido at 6.00am and it was bus races! Which bus could get back to PP first! Or well I think also whichever bus was last had to pick up the people on the way and here in Asia there is no such thing as bus stops, you just stand on the side of the road and flag down the bus. So if someone was getting on like 20m before you, you don't walk up there you wait for the bus to get to you and then it has to stop again! Same if you want to get off, someone might get on like 10m before you want to get off, but you don't get off there, you make the bus stop again! Anyways the buses were racing each other and one would be in front then the other would be and if anyone wanted to get on you basically had to get on while the bus was still going. There were people throwing their kids and chooks and dogs on and then chasing after the bus to get on themselves. It was good entertainment!
Anyway we made it safely back to PP (our bus won!) for our flight back to Manila then to Hong Kong where we will meet Willy's mum and she will travel with us for a month or so