I’m currently writing this as I leave Puerto Princesa and head over to El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. I’m on the bumpiest, most windy bus ride I’ve ever been on – but more about that later.
We landed in Puerto Princesa, Palawan on 719/16 and took a tricycle from the airport to our hostel, which was Alvin and Josh’s first time taking the Philippine’s infamous mode of transportation. During the ride, something compelled me to look back, and I saw that my backpack was LITERALLY about to fly off the tricycle! I managed to catch my backpack mid-fall whilst the tricycle was still moving. Even the tricycles and cars in the back of us saw it falling and started to slow down traffic in case it did fall.
We checked into Sheebang hostel and were quickly greeted by other foreign travelers who were drunk and playing ping-pong in the middle of the day. After we got settled in, we went downstairs to grab a bite at the restaurant/bar downstairs. I coincidentally ended up sitting next to a very drunk older man, whom Josh and I agreed was very drunk and was probably drinking all day. The night continued with a concoction of EDM and Hispanic dance music in the bartenders’ playlist.
We started the next morning waking up around 4-5AM to the sound of about 30 roosters all chanting loudly. We found a spot in front of Sheebang to do yoga, and quickly got sweaty doing about 15 sun salutations. I hope every morning of the rest of this trip starts out this way. We were the last to get picked up by our tour van that arrived about 35 minutes early at 7:25AM. We quickly got ready and were eager to start our day.
During the first 10 minutes of our ride, our tour guide gave us the history of Puerto Princesa and Palawan. We learned stuff like how the Vietnamese use to have a village with a few thousand families living by where the airport currently is, and why and who named the nearby bays and landmarks. The car ride to the Underground River was about 1-2 hours. We passed through the lush mountains, and passed beautiful limestone formations. We then took a 15-minute banka (boat) ride to the island where the Undregrond River was. That in itself was beautiful enough for this entire trip to be worth it.
Elephant Cave & “We out here” pt. I.
Banka ride on the way to the cave.
With our orange helmets and life jackets, we were ready to start being construction workers. Just kidding.- but we really did look like construction workers. We were given an ear piece for the tour since talking is supposed to be kept at a minimum during the tour. Upon entering the cave, we were greeted by hundreds of bats flying at us and nearly hitting us. We learned that these bats heavily rely on echo navigation to get around the cave, so we definitely don’t want to disrupt that.
It took me a while to comprehend that this cave or underground river was actually real. The tour guide said that some people view the tour a a “holy experience”. I honestly didn’t believe it until I saw rock formations in the cave that literally looked like Jesus and the Last Supper. It was almost unreal knowing that this cave formed organically on it own for the past couple thousand years. It made me super appreciative of that geology class I took in college years ago. The tour is about 45-minutes long and doesn’t go through the entire cave because a permit to go deeper in hasn’t been granted yet. But when it does, I’m definitely going to be back to discover what more the cave has in store.
We finished up our day visiting local palengkes for some light shopping, and eating at Kalui restaurant with our new friend Jake. There was by far the best sisig I’ve ever had, and I even got to try Kalawi which they called Filipino ceviche. I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture, so I’ll leave that up to your imagination.
And that leads me back to this bus ride I’m still currently on. We picked up breakfast before we left and Josh learned that if I you ask for egg and rice to-go from a street vendor at the palengke, I means that they will give it to you in a plastic bag. 20-minutes into the ride I was car sick from all the bumps and turns and getting thrown into the air. This is by far the most uncomfortable ride I have ever taken, but I’m sure our destination in El Nido will be more than worth it. Now excuse me while I try to hold my breakfast in for the next two hours.