Room with a View
The island of Palawan is the least visited and most 'raw' and rugged of the major islands of the Philippines. Its also the least travelled due to the poor infrastructure and remote location. I decided to go to Palawan immediately after my plane arrived in Manila at 6:30am. Had to catch a jeepney to the domestic terminal and huirry to change money, buy my ticket, get thru security checks and grab a Mr Donut. Phew... Just made the flight. Once I arrived in Palawan's Capital of Puerto Princessa, I realized just how undeveloped this island was. You can walk from the airport to 'downtown' in about 10 minutes.
Tree Lizard in Mangrove
After my first day and night in Puerto, I wasn't quite sure why I came to the Philippines. It was raining, muggy and the culture was, well, totally Americanized. Everyone's glued to their cell phone 24 hours a day. In fact, Filippinos send more text messages than any other country in the world. But I had to give it a chance, because you can't judge a book by its cover. Experience has shown me that some of the best discoveries lie beneath the surface. You just have to work a little harder to find them. So off I went to the small village of Sabang
Sabang is best known for its main attraction; The underground river. Its reportedly 7 kms, making it the world's longest.
Most travelers, I mean tourists, take a 3 hour bus ride, go on the river tour for 45 minutes, eat lunch, then take another 3 hour bus back to Puerto. Travelers will find Sabang a charming village that can pull you in, with lots more to do than first meets the eye. Its a natural wonderland, where the jungle meets the beach. Its still largely untouched by mass tourism. For example, the electicity only runs from 6-10pm. But all that could change in the next year or 2 when the rumor is that Puerto Princessa airport will become International and they will actually seal one of the highways.
On my first day, I met Rene, a Swiss guy with knowledge on seemingly everything under the sun (you need to quiz him sometimes to make sure he's not just bullshitting you).
But we got along quite well and he brought me to the Blue Bamboo resort, where he had been in his previous travels. There's a great waterfall just a 20 minute walk down the rocky coastline which we enjoyed the first day. Then, the main attraction is the 2 hour jungle trek to the underground river. We took the monkey trail back (you actually do see monkeys on the trail). We spent another day on a small boat checking out the mangrove. Absolutely fantastic wildlife: monkeys, mangrove snakes, tree lizards, herons and other tropical birds could all be seen on just a short paddle down the river. Back at the Blue Bamboo, the third member of our escapades arrived, George, the Headboiler from Sweeden. What's a headboiler you ask? Someone who hunts things and boils the heads I suppose.
Since George had recently broken his shoulder, his medication of choice was Tanduay Rum. Suffice it to say he was medicated much of the time. On his first day, he asked if we wanted to buy a 4.5kg fish called Tangigue (almost 10 lbs for my fellow Americans). Its something like baracuda. So we bought it and proceeded to overtake the kitchen and prepared this fish every way you could imagine. Incredibly, I was able to find wasabi and soy sauce, so we had Japanese restaruant quality sashimi. Amazingly good. Then, I made a ceviche, with lime, onions and garlic. (The impurities are cooked out by citrus rather than by heat. Most commonly prepared in Central and South America). Later the headboiler, being Sweedish and all, built a smoker from an old cooking oil container, and was able to smoke the fish with lemongrass and other spices.
Storm Watch from my Nipa Hut
The next day, we had the fish prepared in a curry, and finally we had grilled fillets. This fish fed the 3 of us for 5 meals. For those of you that know how much I love food, and especially fresh seafood, this was like finding heaven on earth.
The final day in Sabang we decided to take a hike about 6-7km in land to find the 'lion caves'. After trudging thru the swampy conditions in bare feet, we found the cave. Nothing all that special, but on the way back is where the fun began. We stopped at a local home that had animals running around outside. We asked them for some local food, and they natually prepared for us baby fish and rice. But George, being as carniverous as the lion we didn't see in the cave, had his fill of fish and wanted meat.
And he wanted fresh pork. So he convinced the shop owner to sell him a baby pig for about 20 dollars. He put the little squealer in an old rice sack and carried him back to the village (since I needed a workout, I agreed to do most of the carrying). Upon arrival, the pig was sacrificed, completely butchered by the fine professional that Rene is, put on a spit and slow roasted for hours (that night I had grilled fish - HA HA).
I had only planned on spending a night or 2 in Sabang. 5 days later I thought I should probably be getting on my way. So back to Puerto I went to extend my visa before taking off with Rene to Port Barton...