Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rick Manzano Palawan Experience - Day 1



Photoblogger Rick Manzano took a 4-day PAX (Palawan Experience) tour and we'll be sharing his travel chronicle in this blog.

Pre-Travel
I’ve never been to Puerto Princesa but I’ve heard there are a lot of great things to see in the city, one of them being the famous Underground River. Also, Puerto Princesa was voted the cleanest city in the Philippines and that definitely says a lot about its people.

It’s easy to get information about Puerto Princesa. Simply google it up and there should be a lot of sites that can answer your questions. Booking shouldn’t be a problem either as there are regular flights to and fro Manila, as you’ll find in the websites of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

During the tours, be sure to observe cleanliness as Puerto Princesa has a city-wide ordinance about littering and they do take it seriously.

When you’re traveling, it’s always a rule to pack light by only bringing the essentials. Only bring the clothes and accessories you need and since it is summer, be sure to always wear sunscreen for protection.

Day 1
As soon as I got up, I slipped in my e-ticket and ID inside my hand-carry as security always ask for them before they allow you to enter the airport. Also be sure to prepare your pocket money and set aside Php200 for the terminal fee.

From Paranaque, I asked my dad to drive me to the Centennial Airport. Heavy traffic was not a problem at 6:30am so I arrived earlier than expected. As soon as my other friends arrived, we checked-in our luggage and waited until we boarded the plane.

When I finally boarded and got settled inside the plane, I tried to conserve my energy because I knew we would have a busy day ahead. It was my first time to fly via Philippine Airlines. I was happy because they were very generous with their snacks and drinks and the flight attendants were very accommodating.

Arriving at Puerto Princesa
We arrived at Puerto Princesa after about an hour. I was disappointed that the airport was old but then I was glad to know that they have plans to renovate it. As soon as we got our luggage we went outside to look for our service. Locating our driver was very easy as PAX (Palawan Experience) had a big signage which had our names in it.

I noticed a lot of local and balikbayan tourists with their families and I only saw a handful of foreigners. During our 10-minute ride to the hotel, we were reminded that littering is punishable by law. No wonder the city was very clean and organized.

Arriving at the Hotel

Upon arriving at The Legend Palawan, we were greeted by the friendly staff and were given delicious refreshments. While waiting for our keys, I was looking around the lobby and noticed the Filipiniana theme going on. It instantly felt like home, not a hotel.



As soon as we got our keys we went straight to PADS, a new hotel created for the budget conscious yuppies like me. Living up to its name, our room does look like a pad. There’s an LCD on our gray wall, funky reading lamps and very clean white bathroom. We got to rest and got settled in for about an hour before we had our lunch.



Lunch was served at Tanglaw Restaurant which was just beside the hotel lobby. The Filipiniana-themed fixtures and pieces of furniture were everywhere and I felt very comfortable that I didn’t have to act like I was in a hotel. Not that I’m rowdy and unruly, it’s just that it really felt like home. As soon as the food arrived, we started taking photos (of the food) and then enjoyed the sumptuous meal in front of us. We had Grilled Chicken, Kare-Kare and Pinakbet which were all very delicious and served by their accommodating staff.



City Tour

About an hour later, we started off with the City Tour. I knew it was going to be fun and that we would be laughing all day long because of Froi, our very friendly and enthusiastic Tour Guide.



First stop was The Crocodile Farm. It was the first time I entered a place dedicated solely to the welfare of crocodiles. Seeing the hatchery was amusing because I’ve never seen so many crocodiles in one place. Carrying one was terrifying because I was constantly paranoid with the idea that the rubber around its mouth would snap any second and that the crocodile wouldn’t think twice in chewing off my arm.



Next stop was at the Butterfly Garden. Before we entered the actual garden, we were shown a video about the life cycle of a butterfly and how it was different from moths. (It’s all about their antenna.) One fun fact I learned was that the Mariposa is a moth and not a butterfly. The garden was very inviting because the butterflies were flying around us and jumping from one flower to another. The sight was very beautiful as we had the chance to take photos of them up close as they weren’t afraid of human presence.

We headed off to Mitra’s Ranch afterwards. Apparently, the ranch is indeed owned by the family of former Senator Mitra. We weren’t able to go inside the house but we managed to make the most out of our stay by taking each other’s jump shot photos with the magnificent view of Honda Bay behind us.



It was very hot that afternoon and fortunately, our next stop was at Bakers Hill where we got to buy some refreshments and tasted their famous Hopia. There were lots of Hollywood and Disney statues around which were probably there for picture-taking purposes. We finished off our drinks and rested for a while before we went to our next destination.



The Binuatan Weaving Station is where one can see table runners and place mats being made. I got my first hand experience in weaving and now I have a new found respect for place mats. They are hand made and it takes very long to finish a piece. No wonder these are exported that even Calvin Klein orders from them and brands it as his own.



Surely, the tour would not be complete without an educational old-school trip to the Palawan Museum. This was my first trip back to a museum since high school. If you still recall your Sibika or HEKASI lessons, you’d know that Palawan is the Philippines’ cradle of civilization. I enjoyed seeing artifacts from long ago especially the ceramic bowls that dated way back in 1368 during the Ming Dynasty. Being a designer by profession, it was interesting to see that patterns and designs were already established even in those days.

Before heading back to the hotel, we dropped by Kamarikutan Kape at Galeri, where we were able to immerse ourselves in authentic local art. Kring and I were able to talk to one of artists who happened to have his works currently on the exhibit. He shared that they hold an annual arts and music festival for a few years now for fellow artists to have a venue where they can gather around and celebrate their craft.



Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos of the artworks so we just amused ourselves with the huge Kois. I have never seen a Koi that big.

Dinner at Ka Lui Restaurant
The day was exhausting after going around the city on a hot afternoon so we were all looking forward to a sumptuous dinner at Ka Lui.



Days before our trip, I researched over the internet about the famous hangout places in Puerto Princessa. I went over to ClickTheCity.com and luckily, someone wrote an article about a well-known restaurant offering a different dining experience which was Ka Lui. That article made me so ecstatic that I was constantly raving about it on our way to the restaurant.

When we arrived, we were asked to take off our footwear, to probably enjoy the coolness of the wooden floor. The place was big and packed with people. There were lots of tables and chairs around but still there were people on the front desk waiting to be seated. It’s a good thing we had a reservation. The dining experience must really be that good but I was yet to find that out for myself.

We entered what seemed to be long bahay kubo with winding halls. We arrived on our table and were pleasantly greeted by this interesting wall of leafy plant that seemed so inviting and refreshing.

As we waited for our food, they served us a little bowl of very hot minty soup. I already knew how it would taste based on its minty scent but did not realize how minty it was until I sipped a spoonful of it. I started getting teary-eyed after that.

Soon after the main course arrived the Ginataang Puso ng Saging caught my attention. I never tried that dish before and no matter how sensual I am with food, I’m not that experimental. I was very reluctant at first but the creaminess just kind of settled on my taste buds and I knew I wanted more.

Aside from the ambiance, I noticed that the food they served were very fresh, especially the seafood. I actually learned from one of the waiters that the fish they served us was caught just a few hours earlier.

Ka Lui exceeded my expectations. We all left the restaurant very happy.


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