I woke up with a sense of motivation that I haven’t felt for a while, my clothes were ready, my backpack was packed and I was ready for yet another adventure with my life partner, best friend, and husband Fadi.
I went outside and saw Fadi waiting for me to have our morning coffee. I smiled, smelled the coffee, thanked God that I was alive and living the life of my dreams, then joined Fadi for our coffee.
After having our coffee, we were ready to hit the road and travel to the Philippines. We had 13 days off. Without our flying time, we had three nights in Puerto Princesa, three nights in El Nido, three nights in Coron and one night in Manila.
Our flight from Beirut to Abou Dhabi was easy, in Abou Dhabi we had to wait 7 hours to catch our next flight to Manila that was delayed for one hour and a half. Our wait on Abou Dhabi was made easy since we spent it at the airport lounge. By the time we reached Manila, our plane to Puerto Princesa had closed boarding gates, we had exactly 25 minutes from plane to plane, from the international airport to national airport.
So we ran and ran, ran like there was no tomorrow, crossed lines, took a taxi, paid extra and made it miraculously to our third plane sweating and exhausted. When I sat in my seat, I almost cried, it had been more than 20 hours of nonstop flying and waiting and I couldn’t believe that we made it.
We didn’t miss our plane from Manila to Puerto Princesa for four reasons:
- We had checked in online so no waiting to get our boarding passes
- We only had backpacks, so no need to wait for our bags to arrive
- We ran for our lives, we ran as if there was no tomorrow
- We believed that we will make it and made our best to get there
We didn’t feel the last flight since we were still catching our breaths and since Cebu Pacific airlines entertain guests by playing games and offering gifts in return. When reached Puerto Princesa airport, Fadi and I had already divided our tasks, he would escort me to exchange money and then I would buy a SIM card while he finds our rental car. Being such a great team, everything went as planned and we were ready to start our on-land adventure.
By the time we hit the road, we were very tired, the roads were crowded, there was traffic, people were talking to us in English since we looked different and seemed tourists in a small town and in a rented car. After half an hour of driving, we bid farewell to the busy city and were driving on a black dark road. It was a bit calm, I started dosing off and dreaming weird stuff. At some point, I screamed and scared the hell out of Fadi since I dreamed or imagined two deer jumping in front of the car! Yes, this became our internal joke throughout the trip. But I have to admit, it was the day after Christmas and Santa’s deers might have really been there!
27 hours later, three airplanes and one car ride, we finally made it to Astoria Palawan, a luxurious beach resort on the quiet side of Puerto Princesa. To our lovely surprise, we were welcomed like kings and queens, offered a complementary hand-made necklace and a mouth-watering mango-coconut juice.
After taking some time on our terrace to savor our fresh juice and start to get used to the amazing hot weather and beachy breath, we decided to have get cleaned up and have dinner.
After refreshing ourselves under the almost natural rain shower and getting refreshed and cleaned up, we headed to the Hotel’s restaurant for dinner. Before being able to decide what we were having for dinner, we ordered a cold beer and a Mai Thai. When the blood came back to our veins, we ordered a selection of Philippines famous dishes and sipped our drinks as we appreciated every bite that made its way to our mouths. We started with an appetizing salad, then indulged our senses with the Philippines most famous dishes, among them the adobo and the Kwek Kwek.
After such an appetizing dinner and after a long long journey covering more than 8000Km from home, we fell asleep like angels.
We had two full days in Puerto Princesa and wanted to see Honda Bay and the Underwater river. The hotel offered tours, yet they started very early in the morning.
For the first time during any of our travels, we decided to relax and have a laid back morning, then drive to Honda Bay and find a boat trip on our own without booking the tour through the hotel and starting the day at 7am. So we woke up at our convenience and sipped our coffee as we were mesmerized by the beautiful sunrise that was shining from the middle of the Philippines Sea. We were glad to have had our breakfast at the hotel so we could enjoy a sunrise like no other.
We followed google maps to Honda Bat and were fortunate enough to find a couple who wanted to share a boat for the day. We all had a similar interest in terms of islands to see and priorities, so it was an easy 15 minutes before we hopped on to a boat. Our tour included visiting starfish beach, Crowie beach, Luli Island, and Pambatoo Reef.
The boat drive was smooth, we were still trying to take in what the country was offering in terms of beauty and raw nature.
Throughout the day, the weather was on and off, cloudy and sunny at times. When the sun was up, the islands were shining and exhibiting their best qualities, when it was cloudy, the islands were crying, sad and veiling their best qualities. When the clouds were filling the sky above us, we felt a cool breeze caress our skin, when the clouds took shelter far from us, we could feel the heat of the sunburn our skin and turn it bit by bit darker.
We hopped from island to island, some islands had trees, while others were barren, some had a coral reef, while others were sandy. Some offered a shallow shore several meters into the sea, while others were deep. We savored each island with its hidden treasures and whenever we had time, we had some drinks as we sunk our feet in the golden sand and got lost looking at the waves as they wash away on the shore.
The highlight of our day was finding small white pebble-like soft shelled egg that had a starfish image engraved. We actually were on Starfish island at the moment and we hadn’t found any starfish while snorkeling, so we had bought some beers and were walking around the island. It didn’t take us long to notice that this part of the island was full of these eggshells, and apparently, nature had wished to engrave the starfish eggs with an image of a starfish. This would help the mother starfish know its eggs, yeh right!
This made us wonder, why didn’t chicken eggs have chicken engraved on them. Interesting isn’t it?!
At the end of our day, we went to the City Hall to book a tour to the Underground River. To our luck, the Hall was closing, yet Fadi was charming and convincing enough to have one of the employees give him a letter to one of the underground river employees who would give us two tickets. I still remember the name of this helpful lady, Joyce. This was similar to winning a lottery since finding tours during this high season period was not easy. After securing the next day, we searched for a suitable restaurant to have dinner at while ending the day in. We finally settled and had dinner at a local rock bar and restaurant.
The next day, we woke up early, had our breakfast at the hotel, then drove to the underground river. Checking in was super smooth, in an hour we were on a boat heading to the underground river. Our Tour guide was very helpful and helped make our 30-minute journey quick and smooth by sharing facts about Puerto Princesa and the Underground river that we were all so eager to see. Our boat trip ended on another island where we were offered audio devices and a kayak boat to the river.
The underwater river was majestic and breath-taking, the zillion years old rock formations of stalagmite and stalactite were astounding. As we paddled our way for the first few kilometers, we were astonished to notice the barren virgin nature that was untouched by man. It was dark inside the cave, through the headlight of our guide, we saw colonies of bats sleeping, rock formations that looked like people and places that we would see every day. For example, we saw the church, the last supper, the actress, the cathedral, etc. Even though the cave is 8km long, we were only allowed to see a few kilometers from it. At some point during our paddling tour, the guide stopped and turned off his headlight, for a couple of seconds we were in awe lightening to the stillness of the cave, the dropping of water around us that sang a symphony we all knew very well. This was my favorite moment during the day that took me to another place and time and helped me forget who I was and where I am.
As we paddled out of the underground river, I couldn’t but wonder what it felt like for the first people who discovered this UNESCO heritage and New World Wonder. Then bit by bit, I started to see the light, here we were going back to reality, back to civilization, keeping behind the stillness of the bats and the hopes of a world wonder remaining untampered by humans.
After taking the boat back, we agreed to go on the zip line crossing from the mountain to the sea. We hiked up a steep mountain for around 15 minutes, then reached the top of the mountain where a team of professionals was waiting to give us the zip line experience of a lifetime. Ready! Set! Go! We were then pushed down the hill swooshing as we let go all our fears and worries and as we welcomed all happy emotions of freedom and excitement.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped to see Cleopatra’s needle. To be honest, we were not sure which mountaintop was actually Cleopatra’s needle, yet we are sure to have captured it in our many photographs.
We were dead tired at the end of the day, so we decided to have dinner at another restaurant in the hotel where we ate what tourists would eat, yes! Burgers and sandwiches, then we tasked a Filipino dessert that was super weird and new to us. The menu mentioned dried fruits and purple yam. To us, this dessert was beans and purple yam. To be honest, it wasn’t our favorite, yet it was worth trying.
After recovering from the purple yam ice cream, we headed to the spa and had oil massage to wear off the tired muscles that build up from the beginning of our trip. At the end of our muscle-relaxing massage, as we started to take awakening breaths back to reality, to the music surrounding us and to the lovely scent of the oil that was all over our bodies, we couldn’t but crack up at the sound of a man who was snoring so high it made the whole spa laugh. Apparently, this spa was amazingly relaxing!
The third day, we woke up relaxed, had a quiet breakfast, packed our backpacks, then hit the road to El Nido.
Puerto Princesa was very magical, everything was working out smoothly for us, doors were opening easily and we were calm, happy and excited about the adventure!
Our next destination was El Nido. Read about our time in El Nido in the blog post “2 days and 3 nights in El Nido”.
Did I inspire you to travel to Puerto Princesa?
Have you ever traveled to Puerto Princesa? Did you do the same things?
Stay tuned for more of my random thought!