My son and I woke up 12:00 a.m. to get ready for the trip. We picked up my wife at 1:00 a.m. and we proceeded to the airport. The plane ride went well, except that the altitude change caused some degree of discomfort in the form of mild sinusitis. I was expecting things to go well until we landed at Puerto Princesa Airport.
The tour operator’s (La Attraccion de Turismo) driver picked us up, and I was expecting that he would then immediately drive us off to our accommodations. It did not happen. We had to wait for three other groups to show up. It didn’t help realizing that the van’s seats were built for ectomorphs only. The driver then drove us to the Puerto Princesa Coliseum to get permits for two other groups to get permits for the subterranean river tour. Rather than getting us settled and refreshed from our flight, the tour operator thought best to immediately send us to the underground river tour. It was the start of what seems to be one of the worst vacation experiences I was about to have.
On our way to the subterranean/underground tour, we stopped by a roadside souvenir shop. I got some snacks and chose to ignore the usual touristy stuff. It was an opportunity to stretch. We then moved on.
Upon landing at the port where we were supposed to take a boat ride to the underground river system, we had our buffet lunch. It was okay. My wife found it to be substandard. I liked the kilawing tangigue (mackarel ceviche) plus fried breaded assorted veggies. I also had the opportunity to have fresh tamilok (shipworm) served with lime juice, onions and chilies. It tasted like oysters with a hint of wood pulp. These clams are dubbed the termites of the sea in other countries. In Palawan, it’s finger food. So, if you want to get rid of your sea termites, hire a Filipino, more specifically a coastal Palaweno.
The underground river tour is perhaps the best thing that has happened today. It was a wonderful, majestic, and pristine looking place. The river was so clean and clear that fish were abundant, even in its shallowest portions. This must be probably due to the place being a protected area by the government. It also helps that the place has been dubbed one of the new seven wonders of the world via an online poll.
Our river tour boatman was wonderful. He functioned as the boatman, the tour guide of the underground river and cave system, and stand-up comedian. His jokes based on the cave’s structures and wildlife were spot on. Some of the other folks who were in the boat with us were half-wits, having questionable intellectual capacities. Anyway, I found the experience very fulfilling.
We drove back to Puerto Princesa for *sigh* another opportunity to buy souvenirs. Snacks were of higher importance to me, and so I chose to buy those, something that my wife did as well. Afterwards, we met another driver who then drove us off into our accommodations at El Nido. The five-hour drive was less than desirable.
Finally, we got into our room. It had automatic air conditioning beyond our control, had no power outlets for our gadgets, and no hot water. At least it was a place good enough to sleep in. Although this first day seems to be lacking in some spots here and there, I’m still thankful for this trip. It’s a privilege to be able to go and do so. I do hope tomorrow would be better.