Friday, February 8, 2013

One Valenzuela bound to Palawan: Day 1- Airplane Travel and the Underground River

One Valenzuela together with the whole group were already hitting the road at 3 o’clock in the morning so that they can check in at NAIA Terminal 3 early since the airplane seats are on a “first come, first serve” basis. One Valenzuela did not avail of the seat reservation since it will cost them Php100 per seat and Php200 for a premium one.

NAIA Terminal 3 is spacious. They took photos as they went to the check-in area. Here, their luggage were weighed. After getting their boarding pass, they went to 7-Eleven to drink some coffee and eat Tita Merdel’s delicious homemade sandwiches.
It is around 4 a.m.

Going to check in their luggage soon.

Airphil Express!

One Valenzuela’s aunt usually goes back to the Philippines and travels around Luzon. This will be their first domestic flight for a vacation. One Valenzuela and the gang took a lot of photos of their travel together. It was also One Valenzuela’s first trip via airplane. It was made more special with a great group of people and with Little One Valenzuela in tow. During their flight, they were served with some biscuits and peanuts. They were also given the choice to drink water, coffee or tea.

Once we arrived at Puerto Princesa Airport, One Valenzuela searched for the Balay Inato airport transfer. One Valenzuela saw a woman holding a signage with her name on it.

Balay Inato is just a few minutes away from the airport. It holds a very relaxed appeal to us. Unlike regular hotels where you see a never ending aisle of rooms, Balay Inato gives visitors a laid back country style environment. Since One Valenzuela's group is going to be on their Underground Tour in a few minutes, they just dropped the bags at their reception area, drank the iced tea, and wore their slipper-shorts outfit.

They were all excited when the van and tour guide came. Tagged along in their van is a Filipina and foreigner couple celebrating their anniversary. They had Kuya Bodjie (One Valenzuela's cousin also christened him Kuya Boogie, hehe) of Maple Travel and Tours (a travel agency connected with Marianne Inn) as their tour guide. He is like a walking encyclopedia of Palawan.

The road trip to the Underground River is around 2 hours, including stops at a local store to buy some snacks, getting the permit to the Underground River, stopping at the Elephant Cave sign, and the use of comfort rooms. Although it is a long and winding trip, the lush greenery all over the place filled their eyes. After arriving at the port where they will ride a boat to the Underground River, they first had their buffet lunch at Taraw Restaurant. There were so many people at the restaurant. Foreigners were also visiting the place and it is good to know that many are already at ease with the place.
Group photo at the Elephant Cave sign

Aya on a hammock on a quick stop

One Valenzuela's group also tried out tamilok, also known to many as the worm found in a particular tree in Palawan. A vendor went from table to table at Taraw Restaurant and announced that they sell tamilok for Php100. One Valenzuela has read that it is not actually a worm but a mollusk. They dipped it in vinegar like kinilaw. The verdict? It tasted like oysters. Good thing, the vendor served the group non-crawling tamilok or else One Valenzuela might back off. :)
Tamilok tastes like oysters

Kuya  Bodjie made the group go to the port at around 12:30nn. A payment of Php40.00 is needed per head for the environmental fee which is not covered by the tour package. All in orange life vests, they landed on a perfectly sandy beach after around 20 minutes.
Super fine sand!

One Valenzuela's group wandered around after registration, seeing monkeys and reptiles all over the place. They were earlier instructed not to put out any type of plastic as the monkeys think that these contain food and will definitely snatch them.
Reptiles also known as "Bayawak" 

Monkeys roam around

After waiting, they are again on a boat now on their way to the mouth of the Underground River. The whole tour takes 45 minutes. It is pitch black inside and a flashlight is given to the visitors at the front of the boat. They are in charge of lighting the stone formations inside the cave. One Valenzuela's group had a very bubbly guide and so the Underground River Tour that they had can be spelled with the use of three letters: F-U-N. They also learned a lot about how the Underground River was formed and how locals take care of it. Just a tip, talk with your tour guide so that the trip is livelier.

Ready to enter the Underground River!

By the way, One Valenzuela only had a phone camera in hand and as expected, she was not able to get great photos (Note to self: Start saving for a waterproof, shockproof, freeze proof camera).
Told you, One Valenzuela got bad shots inside.
It is better if you see the cave with your naked eye.

One Valenzuela will not discuss in detail as to what are the things that they saw inside the Underground River. Given the time and the money, each Valenzuelano should visit this wondrous place. It is a great model for sustainable tourism. Written on one of their signage there are the following information:
“Puerto Princesa Subterranean Park was established on March 26, 1971 at 3,901 hectares…It was cited as a National Geological Site on December 4, 2003. In recognition to its outstanding universal value, the park was declared a World Heritage Site, a Biosphere reserve and a Ramsar site. The Puerto Princesa Underground River was proclaimed as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature."

One Valenzuela's group was back at Balay Inato at around 5:30 in the afternoon.  The family rooms (triple sharing) look spacious and comfortable. The standard room, which is good for a couple, is located at the right side when you enter the place.

Front part of the family rooms.
This also has an area at the back where you can hang
your wet clothes.

Riding an airplane and going to Palawan are two things that have been fermenting in One Valenzuela's bucket list which she thought will take a long time before being ticked off. She will always be grateful for this free trip that her aunt has shared with them (thank you, thank you).

It was a great day. Before sleeping, One Valenzuela packed their swimwear and some sun block for their Day 2 at Honda Bay.

For the details of this trip (tips, contact numbers,etc.) and One Valenzuela's appreciation box, go to Day 3.

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