Tuesday, March 11, 2008

puerto princesa day 2: the subterranean river park

our second day in puerto princesa was devoted to the subterranean river park. we got up at 6am so we could have breakfast at the asturias hotel's restaurant. they served pretty average breakfast food--longganisa, omelette, fried rice, cereal, arroz caldo.

a little before 730am, we were worrying about the status of our underground river trip. everything was done verbally, and we didn't have any contact information of the tour operator. i asked around for the driver that booked us the trip, and he was on leave for that day. thankfully, he remembered to leave word with the driver on duty, and he told us that the van will be coming along any minute.

about ten minutes past 730, a white van drove up to the hotel driveway. we were ushered into the van by len, our tour guide. inside were a couple, and the van proceeded to pick up two more couples before heading off to the underground river.

we stopped a little bit at the ulugan bay viewdeck. i didn't quite know why there was a viewdeck, because the view wasn't so special. maybe that's just me, though. we got to the dock where we were to ride boats to go to where the underground river was located. i was amazed at the gigantic rock formations found on the sea. we couldn't take pictures when we docked, though, as len was telling us to hurry.

we had to wait about fifteen minutes before we could get on our boat. there were a lot of tour groups with us that day. all visitors of the subterranean river park are required to wear a hard hat and a lifejacket, as the water inside the cave is about 27 feet deep. all of the boatmen are also trained to be your tour guides in the cave, and claustrophobics will be happy to know that these boatmen's hilarious commentary will take your mind off the dark, narrow cave.

one of the first things the boatman will tell you is, "look up at the seeleng (ceiling). do you see the brown things?" after you reply with a "yes," he will then say, "do you know what those are? those are the bat shyets (shit)! so keep your mouth closed when you look up." we were laughing so hard the whole time, it was kind of hard to take photos.

the whole trip takes about 15 to 20 minutes. even with the two-hour drive and the 15-minute boat ride, i think it's worth seeing. there are interesting stalactite and stalagmite formations, not to mention legions of bats that stare at you the whole time. it's pretty surreal.

after that, we were taken back to the dock, where we were given a blah lunch. len, our tour guide, said we could enjoy some time on the beach. we just took photos and sat on the sand until it was time to back to the city.

more photos of the puerto princesa subterranean river park.

honda bay tour and a whole lot of eating

our adventures in puerto princesa wouldn't have been complete without our trusty trike driver, raymond, giving us some tips. he was waiting outside the asturias hotel, and we asked him for a good place to have lunch in.

he took us to badjao seafront restaurant, probably a good 15 minutes away from the hotel. there was a wooden bridge leading to the door of the restaurant, with mangroves flanking the side of the bridge. we ordered shrimp cooked with butter and garlic, blue marlin steak, and chicken adobo with gata. it was a great feast, and the start of our eating escapade in puerto princesa.

after our heavy meal, raymond then drove us over to the sta. lourdes port, where one can rent out boats to tour honda bay. if you recall, the hotel was charging us P4,500.00 for the honda bay tour. when we got to the port, boats are rented out at a mere P1,200.00 for the entire day. add P300 for raymond's fee, and that's P1,500.00 divided by 2 persons. such a far cry from P4,500, right?

we were surprised to find that every island charges an entrance fee per person, except for snake island, which is government property. so every time you choose to explore an island, you have to pay a certain amount. the fees are as follows:

we were only able to explore starfish and snake islands, as we had come pretty late in the afternoon. what struck me most about these islands is that they all have huts on them already, complete with a sari-sari store hut where you can buy your refreshments. i wasn't too happy with that idea, as i have become so used to "landing" in uninhabited islands. susie, on the other hand, was tickled pink at the idea.

we returned to sta. lourdes after 3 hours or so, and raymond drove us back to our hotel to freshen up before our dinner at ka lui's. i was so amused to see our trike drive up to the hotel's driveway. that has to be one of the best things about puerto princesa. cabs are non-existent, and tricycles are king.

unfortunately, ka lui's was packed that night, even with raymond's connections. he gave us the name of the maitre'd, chris, and we asked to have a table reserved for us for the next evening. raymond then drove us to kinabuchs instead, and urged me to try their tamilok, or woodworms. i was pretty excited to do that, but the waiter told us they ran out of tamilok for the week.

to make up for the lack of tamilok, susie and i ordered a feast. we didn't know that kinabuchs served large portions of their dishes, so we just kept ordering! for starters, we asked for tuna sashimi and crispy shrimps. i think there were about 12 slices in the tuna sashimi, and the crispy shrimps formed a small mound in the platter they were served in.

we ordered their fried rice, grilled tahong, and a plate of red eggs for me. there were 3 whole red eggs, about 20 grilled tahongs, and a lot of rice. being the pigs that we are, we were able to finish almost everything. probably left only half a red egg and half a cup of rice. and the entire feast only cost a little over P800!

with bulging bellies, we boarded a tricycle (not raymond's. he had to go home already) and collapsed on the bed at 10pm. needless to say, our meals at badjao and kinabuchs really made our first day in puerto princesa.

arriving in puerto princesa

a couple of months back, susie and i decided to book tickets to somewhere for his birthday. we took advantage of the piso fares of cebu pacific, and after some discussion, we opted to go to puerto princesa, a place that we've both never been to.

as mentioned previously in this blog, cebu pacific cancelled our 4pm flight from puerto princesa to manila, and rebooked us to their 1015am flight instead. because of this, susie and i made sure that we were at the airport early for our 815am flight. we arrived at around 630am, in case cebu pacific pulls another surprise and we end up flightless for the day.

thankfully, no such thing happened, so we ended up entertaining ourselves for an hour and a half. we even bought a postcard of puerto princesa to send to a friend who collects stamps. we kept walking around the airport and playing silly games until our boarding call.

the flight went smoothly, but the landing was one of the roughest ones i've had. the puerto princesa airport sure could use a facelift, and a new conveyor belt. the one it has now doesn't work, and takes up the entire floor space of the airport. because of this, it's every man for himself when the bags arrive. i had to climb up on the conveyor belt to fight for my luggage, because no one was giving proper assistance to the passengers. you have to pay to get assistance. good thing susie and i only had one bag each.

when we got out of the airport, we were greeted by the staff of hotel asturias. we were the first ones on the asturias van, and the driver didn't waste any time. he offered us an underground river tour the next day for P1,200.00, P100 less than what the hotel will offer us. it seemed a good enough rate, so we agreed to it.

after herding all the passengers, the driver drove off to asturias, which was just 10 minutes away from the airport. we were given welcome drinks of buko pandan, and checked in to our rooms, to our delight. we were expecting to get our room keys after lunch, when some of the guests have already checked out, so that was a pleasant surprise.

the room in the asturias, however, was not. for one thing, it was too dark, there wasn't enough light. the paint beside the full-length mirror was flaking off, and there was a hole in the ceiling. the towels they provided looked really filthy. the tv wasn't working, and the bed they gave us were two twin beds pushed together.

rather than dwelling on the bad stuff, we decided to just enjoy the rest of the day. we didn't have much time in the city, after all. we asked the front desk about their tours to honda bay. they only had trips good for 5, and if we were to book that tour, we have to pay P4,500.00 for it. horrific, eh?

so we exited the hotel and approached a tricycle driver. as it turns out, this driver, called raymond, knows a lot about puerto princesa, and gave us a lot of great advice during our stay.

read the next entry to find out about our adventures in puerto princesa, thanks to raymond.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

cebu pacific offers P888 to international destinations

as i've written in a previous post, it's really going to be hard to ignore cebu pacific and their seat sales despite the bad quality of their service.

so here i am, letting you know of their latest seat sale: P888 seats for international destinations. i booked for a flight to bangkok for november, and it came out to about P6,400 for a roundtrip ticket. singapore f1 weekend is out of P888 tickets, but a roundtrip ticket costs P7,500. still not bad, eh?

just log on to the cebu pacific website if you want to book tickets even with the horror stories.