Puerto Princesa

Jackky & I arrive in Puerto Princessa late in the evening after a flight from Bangkok via Manila. After settling into our hotel room, we head out to explore the quieting port city.

The Philippines are due east of Thailand. The island of Palawan shares a similar tropical stickiness to our Bangkok home. Puerto Princesa is a beach town and fishing port on the southern island of Palawan, and at 8pm most shops have already closed. We walk along roads lined with thick jungle, and Jackky moves cautiously towards the center of the pavement. “Watch for snakes.” he mutters. “This is where snakes live.”

Shopping & Touring

The next morning we go out to tour the city and do some shopping. We hire a trike, the local variation of Thailand’s tuktuk’s. Here they’ve evolved into a motorcycle with a crab-like shell. Two passengers barely fit inside beside the driver. Each trike has a unique name, and our trike for the day is Marvin.

We head to the SM Mall (AKA ‘the only mall’.) Jackky buys a couple of swim suits. The sales staff immediately starts chatting with Jackky in rapid Tagalog, until he explains to them that he is from Thailand. They are incredulous. (Every local that we meet assumes that Jackky is Filipino.)

Our next stop is Baywalk Park, a promenade overlooking the harbor. The water is clear and local bangka (outrigger boats) sit at anchor along the shore.

The ‘Squatter Village’

I ask our trike driver about a village I can see at the end of the bay. “Oh,” he says, “that is the squatter village.” It seems to be built out over the water, much like the ‘sea gypsy’ communities in Thailand. The driver tells us that it would be okay to go visit. After driving to the end of the bay, we walk across narrow wooden walkways leading into the village. The entire village seems to be built of discarded wood and advertising signage. The architecture can best be described as ‘Communally Functional Ramshackle’.

Soon after we arrive in the village, a bunch of kids swarm around us, laughing and teasing. (“Are you pregnant?” one boy asks me repeatedly. “No, just fat!” I answer, and the kids laugh. Then I give them a hearty “Ho ho ho!” and a meaningful look. The kids’ eyes widen. 😏)

Laughing kids, gossiping ladies, men posing as they erect a new basketball hoop. You’ll find wonderful people like this everywhere. Living, laughing, working, and telling their stories.

And no matter how far I travel, I rarely get homesick.

Because the people I meet along the way rarely fail to make me feel at home.

Other Places to See in Puerto Princesa

One of the most famous attractions in Puerto Princesa is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. The cave was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The Cabayugan River flows through the cave for 8.2 km before flowing into the sea, and is navigable by boat for 4.3 km. The journey sounds wonderful, but sadly we didn’t have time to enjoy the cave. (We were told that visiting the cave was a full-day experience.)

If you wish to visit, ask your lodging in Puerto Princesa for travel options to get to Sabang. Depending on which you choose, it should take 2-3 hours each way. From Sabang there are many bangkas (kayaks) to take you on a tour of the cave.

If you want to enjoy another adventure in Sabang or caves aren’t your thing there is the Sabang Zipline.

Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park (UNESCO listing)

2 thoughts on “Puerto Princesa

  1. Loved it, hope I go there some day, I have some friends in Philipines they keep asking me to visit, and btw by and large all the Pinoy people I met in Dubai too were larger then life and always cheerful, I guess it’s a Pinoy thing 🙂

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