Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

The City in the Forest

Posted by Monica Johansen on September 21, 2009

Friday afternoon I jumped on a plane from Manila to Puerto Princesa City, which is the capital of the island Palawan, located west of the main Philippine islands. Pawalan is one of the larger islands of the Philippines, and the place can offer a diversity of landscapes and activities. You probably need at least one week to be able to explore the island, and unfortunately I didn’t have more than two days this time so it was quite limited what I had time to see and do.

Microtel Puerto Princesa at low tide

Microtel Puerto Princesa at low tide

I stayed at Microtel Puerto Princesa, which is a quite new hotel located at Emerald Beach about 7 km from Puerto Princesa Airport and the city. The hotel was very clean and neatly decorated with straw furniture and shell adornments. The lounge had three areas, and the main area was at the reception. Another lounge area was facing the beach and the large doors were opened most of the time so when you sat there it was almost as you were outside on a terrace. The third area was located in a corner between the reception and the terrace, and it had some nice armchairs where I comfortably could read my email and work on my photos. The lounge area had free internet access, and since I am addicted to the Internet I spent a lot of time in my favorite corner in the evening when it was too dark outside to run around and take photos. There was also a couple of comfortable straw hammocks on the beach, and one of them ended up being another one of my favorite spots.

Saturday morning I had a chat with the hotel tourist guide, and she managed to book me on one of the island hopping tours the same day. We were picked up at the hotel around 8 AM, and dropped off at Honda Bay where bancas were waiting for the tourists. The boat trip turned out to be a really nice experience, not only because of beautiful nature, but also because of the friendly staff and the nice people who joined, who in fact all appeared to be from the Philippines. I didn’t see many Caucasians at all on the islands, and I got the impression that Palawan is mostly a holiday destination for the locals. On the tour I was booked on, I also met a bunch of people from the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), and they invited me to have lunch with them since I was alone. I gave them my email address and they promised to send me some hot travel tips and destinations I should check out in the future.

Our island hopping boat

Our island hopping boat

It started raining on the way back to the hotel, and the rest of the afternoon and evening I was just relaxing in the hotel lounge with my laptop and some snacks while I was listening to the calming sound of the rain outside. The staff in the hotel was extremely friendly, and they were always making sure that I was happy and enjoying my stay. It was an unusually pleasant experience, and I don’t think I have felt so relaxed in a very long time.

Sunday morning I was originally planning to join the underground river tour. The underground river is one of the most famous attractions in Palawan, and it is one of the things you should see if you go there. However, it is a full day trip since the caves are located about two hours drive from Puerto Princesa City, and I had a flight in the afternoon that I couldn’t miss. The tour guide was not confident that we would make it back in time for my flight, so I decided to cancel the plans and jump on a city tour instead. I ended up on a trip with three guys and a girl from another hotel, and I had a nice day visiting different tourist attractions around Puerto Princesa City. The highlight for me was definitely the crocodile farm where I had the chance to hold a baby crocodile. They are aggressive, but absolutely gorgeous animals, and it was interesting to feel how soft and smooth the skin was. They look at bit rough, but touching them was almost like touching a snake (which is also very smooth and soft).

Baby crocodile

Me with a baby crocodile

Palawan is a paradise for nature lovers and adventurers. The province is enforcing strict penalties (fines and jail) for littering in the attempt of keeping the island clean, and the government will provide free land to people who want to be farmers and produce food to keep the area self provided. I was also surprised to discover that the local prison, the Iwahig penal colony, is a low security work farm with over a thousand prisoners living and working around a central village square. This colony has no major walls or barriers to keep prisoners in, and the small size and remoteness of the island of Palawan is the primary factor which discourages escape. A factor which encourages prisoners to stay is the living conditions, and the inmates are even welcome to bring their wives and children to share their incarceration. They also have a little tourist shop where they sell jewelry and other items made by the inmates in the prison. I ended up buying a necklace made of the horn of a goat and shaped like a crocodile tooth.

One thing that I found a little bit annoying on the trip was that everyone kept asking me who I was traveling with, and they always got very surprised when I told them that I was alone. I agree that it is a shame to be all alone in a paradise like Palawan, but for me the alternative would be not to go at all, and that would be even a bigger shame. It would of course be great to share the travel experience with someone else, but at least I get to experience the many beautiful destinations in this region, and for that I am grateful.

Today I am back in Manila, and since it is a public holiday I am just relaxing in the hotel. Tomorrow I am back at work on customer site, and I have four more days to complete before I can go home to Singapore.

By the way, pictures can be found here


4 Responses to “The City in the Forest”

  1. NinaH said

    Så godt å lese at du har fått slappet godt av Monica 🙂 Det fortjente du virkelig!

  2. Bernhard said

    I am glad to learn that you enjoyed your stay and could relax bit on this layed back place.

    What a pity that you could not bring me around in Singapore, but I believe this was surely better for you to relax than busy Singapore.

    All the best


    • Monica Johansen said

      Hi Bernhard,

      I hope you managed to enjoy Singapore without me. But next time I will make sure I am around so I can show you my home town. 🙂

      Take care for now! 🙂


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