Palawan and Underground River

Well this retirement in paradise is a tough life so it is time for a vacation. Melane says we are going to Palawan. Which is cool with me because it is on my ever-growing list of places to go. Apparently flying is too expensive so we take the boat. I questioned the wisdom of a 30 hour boat ride vs a 1 hour plane ride but got out voted. Ok… we take the boat. I am retired it is not like I have anything else to do with my time, right? You know, when they said air conditioned room I was not expecting ONE room. It looked like an Indian train. And the air conditioner only worked if you were within 3 feet of it. But I am an old sailor so I finally just relaxed and started to enjoy it. As soon as I did that Melane got seasick! Turns out she also got seasick last time she went to Palawan. I suggested that maybe she should consider an alternative form of transportation. She said we are flying back to Iloilo. Sounds good to me. But the boat ride was a fun experience. And don’t worry they brought dozens of roosters so I did not have to get a peaceful night’s sleep. God forbid we have a night without roosters in the Philippines! But there were no stray dogs onboard ha ha

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We stayed in a cute little rent house for the week, just outside Puerto Princesa city. Cheaper than a hotel, they say. I did not check any prices and had no part in planning this trip – let’s see how it goes. The house was really cute and setup as a hotel like room, so it had no living room. Outside was a cute patio with tables, chairs, and a stove. Inside was one room with three beds (a single and a bunk bed). The kitchen, and another small room with a set of bunk beds. We only had the three of us but the room sleeps 6 easily – more if you share nicely. The cr (bathroom) had a sit down toilet with bidet, a stand up shower, and the ever present bucket for the squat shower, should you so choose. The kitchen was stocked with dishes and utensils, even a rice cooker. But there was no range inside, and no refrigerator. So you could do some basic cooking, but not much else. We plan on running around so much I don’t think we would be here for too many meals other than breakfast anyway. It has a lot more kitchen than most hotel rooms. There are Jollibee’s and Chow King’s everywhere – we won’t starve.

Next day we take a van to the other side of the island for the underground river. We stay at the Taraw Vista beach resort for one night. Nice little cottages right on the beach. The room comes with a fan but they keep the power turned off to the rooms until 6 PM. And then turn it back off in the middle of the night. So even though they serve the best curry chicken I have ever had I cannot in good conscience recommend this place to you. Everyone was friendly and the service was pretty good but the no electricity bit is too primitive for me. Come on man, at least a fan for the hot afternoon? (not to mention trying to go to the cr at 3 am, in the dark) The menu was quite varied but a bit like the Monty Python “cheese shop” skit. Yeah… they would not tell you what they had… just keep saying “Oh so sorry, fresh out of that” with your first half dozen choices. But they do have the best chicken curry I have ever had. Did I mention that yet? Well it is that good.

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You have to take a small pump boat to the underground river, and the cove where all the hotels are is gorgeous! I enjoyed our afternoon on the beach much more than the river. The underground river is truly awesome but the tour does not show you much of it. Well how can they with 1,000 visitors a day? The cove and beach is truly beautiful. We had a great time playing in the surf. They have signs warning about the dangerous under current after 6 pm, and swimming is discouraged after that. When the tide started coming in around 4 pm you could already feel it starting. It did not get too bad while we were playing but it was getting stronger and I bet those warning signs are there for a good reason!

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When we boarded the pump boat to go to the river I was worried we were going to ride it for the tour. These are small diesel boats that are LOUD! Stupid me. The boat dropped us off at a very small cove where you walk in a little ways to the river. Don’t worry it is a short walk, you will be fine. But a word of warning: to get on and off the boat you do wade into the water so plan your footwear accordingly. I am glad I saw that the day before or I would have probably done something stupid like shoes and socks. I don’t think they would allow that in the US. We would make them tie the boat off, have a boarding ramp, and it would take hours longer ha ha! The tour is in a canoe that holds like 10 people. The guide is in back with the oar and whoever sits in the front seat gets to shine the light. I must be jaded because I think I was the only one not blown away by the place. I mean, it was cool but I would rather scuba dive it! There were some cool rock formations, an area where the stalactites and stalagmites had met (that takes a long time!), and the cathedral is a giant open area under the peak of the largest mountain in the region. So yeah it was pretty cool, I guess I am jaded. Maybe it need a roller coaster? sorry…

Anyway back to Puerto Princesa city. and our rent house. Next we go on a city tour. First we go to the crocodile farm. I was expecting the croc farms I saw in Australia where they put on a show and wrestle crocs, and sell all kinds of souvenirs. Instead it is more of a research center, but I get the impression it used to be more like the Aussie joints I’ve been to. The guided tour was brief but enough. They take you through a few areas with crocs of various ages and finish off right where you can get your picture taken holding a baby croc. How convenient. So here we are holding a baby croc. It is safe – they taped his mouth shut with Scotch tape!

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After that we went to a place with horse rides, and a zip line. You know these tours right – they bus you around to some touristy money making joints. We did not stay long here since no one wanted to ride the horses or zip line. The butterfly house was closed for renovation so we did not go there and had time to go to a small museum at the government center. The highlight of the trip was Bakers Hill. Definitely just a tourist trap but a nice one. And the best pizza I have had in the PI’s. It was a few houses, some restaurants, snack bars, and tons of beautiful gardening! We spent quite a bit of time here and took tons of pictures. Funny that none of them are in this post but wordpress is not very user friendly for picture hosting – sorry.

We did not have time for any island hopping, unfortunately. They say the best beaches are scattered around on other islands. Palawan seems to be the central hub. We spent the last couple days hanging out in town, going to the baywalk (shops and shows along the bay), and the mall. The last night I was jonesing for some real food – you know a waiter, cloth napkins, no giant bee for a mascot… Anyway I find the Gypsy Art House (or something like that). Tripadvisor has it ranked as the #2 restaurant in Puerto Princesa and #3 in all of Palawan. And it says it is Southwestern food so I am looking forward to it. I have tried telling Melane what a tortilla is with no luck. She says “like a papadam?” I’m like – no… not at all. So I order cheese quesadillas for appetizers. Now she knows what a tortilla is. After she took off the grass (lettuce) she said it was pretty good. Turns out she is not a cow and does not eat grass. Who knew? (Yes, she is also amused that I put lettuce on a hamburger.) She was kind of scared of the menu because she did not know what anything was. I tried to explain it as best as I could but I never got her to understand a tortilla until I was able to show her one here. They ordered a chicken curry and I ordered lasagna. I was torn between lasagna and the burrito. So after she stole my lasagna from me I ordered the burrito. I think the waiter though I did not like the lasagna? Oh well it was really a pretty good lasagna – just a little heavy on the meat. The burrito was good but a bit dry. They used whole pinto beans instead of refried and they had a light pico instead of any salsa. But it was all very good. I liked their chicken curry too (but not as good as Taraw’s). Well I was excited about some real western food. Sometimes it is fun to see what they come with when they try to imitate western food but I was in the mood for real American food and pretty much they got it right. Now if I could just find a German chocolate cake…

The next morning we got to go take Melane’s and Rogena’s first airplane ride! And just to make it interesting I woke up with a bad fever and after we got to the airport started having one of my bad headaches with tremors. We were lucky they let me on the plane. I saw a picture later and I did not realize how f*ed up I looked.
Well Palawan was fun. But next trip I plan it and I am sure it will be cheaper. We had too many family discounts! I spent as much in 6 days here as I do in 6 days at Disneyworld. No shit man, seriously. But it is a nice place and if you plan it right you can have a good time and not break the bank.

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