Sunday, 1 February 2015

Palawan's Three

Palawan. Has its own set of islands out of Philippines' 7107. And these 3 has brought it into the front page of social media and became one of the country tourism's frontier - Puerto Princesa, El Nido, Coron.

Top: Tricycle transport around town or walk.
Bottom: Coron's Hollywood sign version
Sitting at the northern peak, is actually part of Busuanga Island along with 50 other minor islets which are in turn grouped as the bigger Calamian Archipelago separating South China Sea and Sulu Sea. 

As far as my memory is concerned, this place is in its most raw state than the two. It's tribe community holds important rights and decision-making over its preservation and public use. And that's how it should be anywhere, in my opinion.

I've been to Coron 7 years ago. I have never heard of it before nor did enter my mind to Google so I did not have a slightest idea what it offers and how it looks.

Sea Dive Hotel
Offers intro dive at Php2k, that time
We touched down very narrow and under renovation Busuanga Aiport runway via a 17-sitter jet (the one where you can see the pilot's cockpit and their backs) on a 3-times-a-week flight. A rugged jeepney that plies exclusively airport-Coron carried us to the town. Along the road are beautiful-lush natural scenery with occasional halts due to cows-crossing. It was kind of rainy that day, road was bit slippery so we weren't moving fast. After close to an hour, we dropped off in front of Western Union establishment and took the motorized tri-cyle to our stay - Sea Dive. Very cozy hotel afloat at seaside mostly wood-made, quiet, no tv inside rooms, serving fresh and deli food at their own restaurant. Good reason why TV is not available at rooms but nights without it was too deprive-ing at least that time under the circumstances we're in. We transferred on our 2nd day i think to one close to a school just at the foot of Mt Tapyas. And speaking of Mt Tapyas, it became our daily morning jog/walk up there with a psychedelic view of the whole town and the surrounding ocean after we tested its paved step trail one afternoon. 

View on top of Mt Tapyas
In town, not much commercial establishments or food stalls, I can only recall Zagu. Only local delicacies being sold at the wet & dry market. And everytime the wind blows harder and some heavy rains, power goes out, automatically. 

So what else can be done in Coron? Hmmmm... island hopping!!! - Kayangan Lake and Siete Picados to name a few, Makinit hot spring, scuba diving into dozen sunken Japanese warships, and go bike around town. Finds for some dried seafood is aplenty to bring home but not much on souvenirs. Oh by the way, islands-for-sale were available at least at Php1.7million. Isn't that cool?

Twin Lagoon

ever-photogenic Kayangan cove

This could be one of the islands for sale at Php1.7M at least


Located in the middle of the Palawan peninsula, its popularity suddenly rose when Underground River became a contender for the New Wonders of Nature. I am proud about it but I also think it's overrated especially when it won.

Days before setting foot Puerto Prinsesa, make sure to arrange a slot for the Subterranean River visit because local tourism limits number of entries into the site. Everything else - fee, time, transportation, activities are regulated by the local government as well. These can be covered by any local legit travel operator. From the city, this new wonder of nature is roughly 3 hours away by land plus 15-30 minutes waiting, and another 20 minutes motor boat. Yes, it is located in an adjacent island from Sabtang port. While the boat ride in and out of the river cave seems quick, the boatmen try to put some humor as you cruise through the inside it. The beach and cliff at the landing area pass as wonderful photo backgrounds but not for long as boatman signals to leave. Back at the main port, there are rows of restaurants offering buffet lunch. Nothing fancy, simple Filipino food just right for the price.

the Gang at the entrance into the great Underground River.
that big mouth at the back is the main door
there are a few writings on the wall inside the cave.
the 'cruise' runs for about 15 mins

one of the hanging columns.
tour guides has ingenious names on each of them

the beach scene at Sabang port

Puerto Princesa is a highly urbanized city. Businesses are increasingly striving like malls, banks, drive-thru and nice hotels. There are a few interesting sights within the city and stones-throw away. Iwahig Penal Farm is one. With its vast area, despite being a prisoner, one will still find some sense of freedom, at least. Then there is Crocodile farm. And of course, Baker's Hill! I love that place not for the place but for the food. :)

breeding crocs at the croc  farm

Ka Lui's dangles

these mangoes are real. some more fruits displayed in Ka Lui

our favorite hill - Baker's! best hopia in town

Oh, food! Kinabuch and Ka Lui are top contenders. Early reservations are needed though especially with the latter as the resto gets full quickly everyday that walk in has very slim chance to none at all. Kinabuch on the other hand is famous for its croc menu.

For beach lover, Honday Bay is heaven. While Tubbataha Reef is diver's paradise.


steppin on helicopter island
Then finally is the ever-enchanting 6-hr-drive-away-from-Puerto Princesa, the town El Nido. Very simple just like Coron. It has a long stretch of beach where most of the inns and hotels are lined up. There is just quite a challenge with food shoppes but the island hopping make up for it, big time.

The operators broke down the island destinations into 4 - A, B, C, D according to its distance from the town, A being the closest, D the farthest. Ideally, one day is one area but if time is a constraint, 2 to 3 sets can be lumped into 1 day though it will be a dock-pose-run thing. There are roughly 4-6 spots every set. Lunch is included in the fee per head which can be customized.

snake island

secret beach

underwater passage thru the hidden beach
Famous spots are small lake, big lake, secret beach, hidden beach, Matinloc Shrine, Snake island, helicopter island. Each has its own and unique beauty and a venue to offer for a nice photo shoot, snorkel, easy swim, fish-feeding, little trekking, lunch on the beach, jump shots, or just simply enjoy the view. Very commonly, the rough uneven edges of the islands is a contrast to its calm turquoise clear waters. Comparing Halong bay which is its closest competition in the international arena, El Nido is undoubtedly the runaway winner. Simply irresistible!

For both Puerto Princesa and El Nido, they can go altogether in one travel itinerary just like what we did in 2012. Though Coron is reachable from El Nido for 6 more hours by boat, it would still better be done on a separate occasion.

eating bare hands with these while on the beach? what more could i say?

ethereal view on top of Matinloc shrine - after a few sharp-rocky ascend

So, if I'll put it into a head-to-head:

> Food - Puerto Princesa
> Accommodation - El Nido
> Value for Money - Coron
> Attractions/Activities - El Nido
> Natural-Feel - Coron
> Accessibility - Puerto Princesa
> Over-all Appeal - Coron 

Well, it's MY preference.

Certainly, these 3 Palawan gems truly embody Philippines' majestic islands, kept in its natural state, rightfully respecting its existence for humans to take care, to enjoy not destroy and to be grateful to the One who created these all.

I can only imagine the other islands that make up the 7107.

Photo credits - Vaniedosa

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About Dee

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I was born and raised attune with nature, grew up from the countryside and a strong believer in endless possibilities. I am drawn to adrenaline rush and was never a girly kind but I dig chick flix and plays some music. I started this site during a 6-month distressing/long sojourning away from the corporate world. I gathered all the travels I went and translated them into words. I am not fond of sharing details of my trip and thought looking at the photos I've effort-fully taken was enough. Yet to my amazement reading through it flashes back more wonderful memories like a gush of throwback Thursdays. This is also a good venue to practice writing and to connect. So, thank you for stumbling upon my corner. Sorry I can't update regularly but I hope you'd visit again as my journey continues, find some useful information here and most of all be inspired to go on adventures your own. See you on the road!