Puerto Princesa, Philippines: Hello, Palawan (goodbye, hot water)!
We flew from Ho Chi Minh City to Manila, cleared customs with our bags, and continued on to Puerto Princesa City on the island of Palawan. We chose to spend two weeks in Palawan to relax on some white sand beaches and do some island hopping. By the time we arrived at Puerto Princesa International Airport, we hadn’t slept for 24 hours. We had booked an airport pickup and a couple of nights with Dallas Inn (P600/$14.40 double bed room with private bathroom, P300/$7.20 per person for dorm). We exited the airport and scoured the pickup drivers for our name on a board. No luck. Our flight had arrived late and we didn’t feel like waiting around for who knows how long, so we jumped on a tricycle for 50 pesos/$1.20. When we arrived at the guest house, they told us that someone had been sent to pick us up. Not really sure what happened there. Aside from the airport pickup debacle, Dallas Inn is arguably the best backpacker accommodation in Puerto Princesa (make sure you book ahead).
Needless to say, our first day in the Philippines was spent catching up on lost sleep (although we did manage to squeeze in lunch and dinner between naps). We were immediately taken aback by the amount of fast-food available (Jollibee is a point of national pride along with San Miguel Beer). The Filipinos enjoy a good fried chicken-spaghetti-pizza combo meal. They’re not afraid of cheese either. That evening we enjoyed a couple of giant bottles of Red Horse, some Boardwalk Empire, and the beginnings of a cheese hangover.
The next day, we were up and off to explore the city. We walked to the market and the hunt for the illusive unicorn fish was cut short by the smell of fetid meat. Blergh.
Puerto Princesa is one of the cleanest cities in the Philippines. This is thanks to an anti-littering law that fines P200 ($4.80) for the first offence. The third offence comes with a P1000 fine and two months imprisonment!
There isn’t much to do in Puerto Princesa, other than eat. You can enjoy some of the most affordable restaurants on the island here. We had to try delicious crispy pata (deep fried pigs leg) at Balinsasayaw Restaurant on Rizal Street.
The Philippines is a weird place. It has the feel of an island in the South Pacific with an Asian flare. The shacks and huts that constitute peoples’ houses, and the bodegas are brightly painted and have hand painted signs.
Our next stop is Port Barton, a small town on the west coast of Palawan.