October 2010


This is an abridged description of a trip to Palawan in the Philippines in October 2010. The intention is to give a first hand personal experience of how we, Petra, Uli, Joy and I, did get to and through this part of the country. Again: no advanced booking except for the flights to Puerto Princesa. And only a day or same day advance inquiry of available accommodation.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the best time of the year to come here, because it was rainy season and it really rained a lot. Though, we tried to make the best out of it during our one week stay. In other words: it was not the ultimate trip.

Thus you may not gain much from the following and you may even be discouraged to visit Palawan. In order to convince you otherwise I suggest that you rather take a look at my travel report of Palawan in March 2008.

If you continue now, then don't complain that all or one of us are often standing or sitting in the way while taking the photos, since this is not only a travel report but also a personal memory album, especially this one.

How to get from Berlin (or Hamburg or Manila) to Puerto Princesa

Petra and Uli had to fly from Germany in order to get to Manila in the first place. They booked at the travel agent
Kirschner Reisen
Apostelnstraße 11
50667 Köln
Tel.: 0049 221 9201 9201
and paid 899 Euro per person for the roundtrip with Emirates from Hamburg via Dubai to Manila. Then it was just a short hop from Manila to Puerto Princesa with the Cebu Pacific Airline. I booked the trip online for all of us. The roundtrip fare per person was 2230 Peso (38 Euro). Yes, that's cheap, because it was a promo deal.

Ok, from here on I will only state the prices in Euro for simplification. I took the average exchange rate of 60 Peso to the Euro valid at the time we traveled around Palawan.

Puerto Princesa

We were supposed to leave Manila at 08:10 a.m. but unfortunately our plane had an engine problem, as we were told. So we had to wait five hours in the new NAIA 3 airport before we finally could take off. One and half hour later we safely arrived in Puerto Princesa, the provincial capital of Palawan. I had called ahead the
Badjao Inn
350 Rizal Avenue
Puerto Princesa City
Tel.: (048) 433-2761 or (048) 433-2380
to make reservation for two doubles and for a free pick-up service from the airport. The Badjao van wasn't there but after my call again (because we also were delayed) the van came right away.

We knew this hotel from our previous stay in Puerto Princesa, but only the restaurant with its good and cheap breakfast (still around 2 Euro). The rooms were not so nice as expected (we didn't inspect them before), but since we had made reservation, we accepted, because it was for one night only anyway. The price for a double was 16 Euro.

At the reception of the Badjao Inn we booked a van for the next day to bring us to El Nido all the way right away. The fare per person was 11.70 Euro, which was ok for this six hours trip. We ordered breakfast in advance for 6 a.m. in order to be ready to leave at 6:30 a.m. from the Badjao Inn. All was set now for next morning. For this evening we made reservation at the best restaurant in Puerto Princesa, the
Ka Lui Restaurant
369 Rizal Avenue
Puerto Princesa City
Tel.:(048) 433-2580
Then Joy and I showed Petra and Uli the city a little. But first of all we had to find a pharmacy to buy Malaria medicine for Petra because she had read that Palawan may be Malaria infested. I tried to talk her out of it but she insisted and really did get it.

The afternoon we finished off with cappuccinos and cakes at the Itoy's Coffee House in the Rizal Avenue. Really recommendable. And then finally at the Ka Lui we had the set three course meal again. The price had not increased that much from 2 years ago: around 10 Euro for the two of us.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Not much sight-seeing but more eating

El Nido

Next day at around 1 p.m. we arrived in El Nido. I called Rosanna's Cottages, where we stayed before, but they were full. Next I called the Makulay Lodge, which some guy had recommended, and asked for two doubles. "Yes, available", was the answer. We asked tricycle drivers to bring us there. No way. Yes, really no way to go with a tricycle to reach that place, because it was along the beach.

So we took our luggage and started to walk. Just opposite the bus station at the "highway" out of El Nido we passed by the
El Nido Beach and Garden Hotel
Quezon Street
El Nido, Palawan
Tel.: 0916-238-9308
and asked for available accommodation, but unfortunately it was also fully occupied, even with prices from 75 Euro up to 92 Euro for a double.

Then we walked to and along the beach through the sand. It was very strenuous to reach the lodge after 500m or so with all our luggage. And then there was a misunderstanding: not two doubles but only one in a house up the hill. Petra wanted to see it so she went up alone. Also this was strenuous according to her.

I looked around in the meantime and found this place also a little bit cramped and messy. So I and Joy didn't want to stay there anyway, so didn't Petra and Uli, and so we went back along the beach and stumbled into
Lally & Abet Beach Cottages
El Nido
Tel.: 0920-905-6822
Joy and I stayed here before but escaped from unfriendly Lally after a couple of days (see travel report of Palawan in March 2008, part II). But for now, we didn't want to go any further to check out other accommodations and settled down. We took a cottage facing the garden for 25 Euro (with fan only). Petra and Uli had a cottage facing the beach for 42 Euro (with aircon). It is still overpriced, though it included breakfast. Thanks God, Lally was not around.
And sleeping in the cottage at Lally and Abbet
First thing now to go to a place to book the best island hopping boat trip to the Bacuit Archipelago for the next day, the
El Nido Boutique and Artcafé
Buena Suerte
El Nido,
5313 Palawan
Tel.: 0916-628-6665
They offered three boat trips. We decided to take plan B for 13.40 Euro per person which included lunch. We started next day at 9 a.m. together with two guys from Finland. We were supposed to come back at 4 p.m. which in the course of events turned out otherwise.
The best cruise in El Nido Bay But Petra and Uli are dreaming of Halong Bay
The same kind of islands like in the Halong Bay
Much better in El Nido is one thing the crystal clear water for snorkeling
But better in Halong was one thing Bigger cave entrances for spelunking
Because we knew the inside We rather relaxed outside
And then the weather all of a sudden turned from sunshine to rain, and what a tropical rain. So we had to switch to plan B of the Plan B tour. That means landing on a different island than originally planned to have our lunch under a shelter.

We were all supplied with rain coats which also warmed us up a little. Then we had to rent a picnic cottage with a roof and a let down tarpaulin. So we had a cozy place and just waited for lunch while having some beers and sodas (to be paid for) and some fun. Our two boatmen were cooking in the meantime. Then finally lunch was ready: grilled fish and pork, rice, salad, bananas and coffee.
Getting some lotion against sunburn Not necessary. It started to rain
Everybody seemed to be happy but me
The tropical rain switched from a downpour to a drizzle so we decided to continue to our next scheduled destination: Snake Island. There are no snakes around but starfish. The name is derived from the shape of the island or better sandbank.
Finally the rain stopped a little and I laughed So we continued to Snake Island with a star
Walking on the sandy snake strip now up to the end where the mangroves grow
Uli is praying to the rain god to stop But to no avail so no more island hop
Yes, there were no more islands to visit. Not today and also not the next two following days. Not only because of the unpredictable weather. There were no boatmen available the next day because they had to join a swimming competition conducted by Artcafé.

Uli could neither swim nor do anything adventurous anyway, because he was handicapped with a strained and swollen thumb he acquired while getting back on the boat from the snorkeling dive.

So we stayed mostly on shore relaxing and walking around and enjoying coffee time with cakes and a couple of drinks or cocktails (during happy hour) while talking and looking over to the sea, reading newspapers, magazines and books, or telephoning until it was time to eat dinner and listening to the one man life performance singer.

First evening was an exception, though, when we had dinner at Squido (a French place frequented by many foreigners) in the middle of Quezon street. Joy had fish and I had the specialty: filled squid, a delicacy.

The food of Artcafé was international, including some German-Swiss dishes, because the lady owner was Swiss. Joy ordered a Thai dish which was really original hot, so hot and spicy that even I couldn't finish Joy's left over.
Better sitting in the Art Café and listening to the guitar player
Phoning Drinking

Back to Puerto Princesa

So time passed by fast without doing much. On the fifth day we took a luxury van with only four rear cushion seats back to Puerto Princesa for 84 Euro altogether. This time we stayed at the
Casa Linda Inn
Trinidad Road
Puerto Princesa City
Tel.: (048) 433 2606
The rooms were all made of natural material and not concrete walls as in the Badjao Inn. And the price for a double room was right with a little less than 15 Euro.

Not much ado in the afternoon. In the evening we went to the
Tom Tom Club
Manolo Extension
Corner Rengel Road
Puerto Princesa City
Tel.:(048) 433 3111
for dinner. It's a German restaurant but with international cuisine. It's a very recommendable place which I had already described (like many others) in my travel report of Palawan in March 2008.

Honda Bay Cruise

What to do in Puerto Princesa? I suggested the mandatory Honda Bay cruise. But should we make reservation for the guided tour for next day not knowing what the weather would be like? The answer was: No.

Next morning, what a luck, the sun was shining, a little. And it was already late morning. Will it still rain today? Shall we still go to the Honda Bay? Joy declined because she didn't feel well.

So the rest of us decided to go. We took a tricycle to get to the Honda Bay pier after the little town of Santa Lourdes. We were lucky to be able to hire a boat with two boatmen for only 25 Euro and we could leave right away and we were promised to get the opportunity to step on three islands.

If we would have booked the guided tour for around 17 Euro per person then we would have paid more than double for the three of us, another double savings if we would be six people. Ok, it would have included picnic lunch. Everything went smooth and we reached the first island: Pandamus Island.

Pandamus Island

This is the largest of the three islands we visit, or were supposed to visit. It still looked idyllic. The beach white and clean, the water blue and crystal clear. All around it's quiet and peaceful. Boats lying around like still life.
Beach on Pandamus Island Local fisherman with boat
Which boat shall we rent?
Not many tourists or visitors around here. This island has changed a little, though, since the two and a half years I was here. More locals seem to have settled down here. But actually that is not so bad except for the many dogs.
We are watching locals Dogs are watching Uli
But there is still no place to stay overnight. One building which could have been used as a guesthouse lies in shambles with falling down shingles. What a pity. It could be extra income for the locals to have some backpackers as paying guests beside fishing and harvesting seaweeds and some other subsistence existence.
Local' s house Decaying house
We strolled a little along the beach and admiring the art of nature. What a nice bizarre piece of driftwood, the right backdrop for a photo shot.
Nothing to do Let's have
our own photo session
Since we neither snorkeled nor swam we soon went back on our ship to continue our trip. Or should we already have returned now? We saw some rainy clouds over the land but believed that they will rain down the mountain before hitting the sea. What the heck, we only can get wet.
Sad to leave this island? True or was it a joke?

Snake Island

Then we set our foot on Snake Island next. We were not the only visitors around. Rows of picnic shacks filled with family clans having lunch. So the water and the beach was pretty empty as you can see.
From Pandan Island to the Snake Island
This actually was the best place for snorkeling while surrounded by a swarm of fish nibbling at your ear. But that was long time ago and I don't know whether they still appear.
Why is it named Snake Island because its winding like a snake
Still life with boat and beach background Still life with boat and mangroves background
And finally what we didn't expect but actually feared: it started to rain with gusty winds and we took shelter ourselves under the stall's roof. The rain stopped a little and we hurried to the boat and lifted anchor. And now it really did get very nasty.

No rain coats like in El Nido. We used all the life vests available and put them on and around us against the rain. No way to go to the Star Island now but heading straight back to the Honda Bay pier where we arrived safely but still soaked wet but not quite frozen to death. That trip was really quite a ride. That evening we relaxed in
The Lotus Garden
371 Rizal Avenue
Puerto Princesa City
Tel.:(048) 434 1132
where we also had a buffet dinner very cheap with soup, fish, meat, salad, fruits and ... lots of sushi. What a treat.
Having buffet dinner in the Lotus Garden

Last day in Puerto Princesa

Since our flight was in the late afternoon, we had some time now to show Petra and Uli the only historical site, which is the Plaza Cuartel from the Spanish times. It played some importance also during World War II, where 150 American POW have been killed and burned by the Japanese. Try to read the inscription of the newly erected memorial about the gruesome deed of the Japanese soldiers.
Last day visiting the Cuartel where Japanese massacred many Americans
This memorial has just been erected in 2009 Ok, that was our last sad day in Palawan
There could have been seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more all about the places we have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the Internet.

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