If you happen to be in Puerto Princesa in December you should spend at least one evening at Baywalk where you can see one of the biggest Xmas trees in the country (although the frame is metal and the lights and decorations are attached to it), stroll along the bay while enjoying a cool breeze, sample the fresh seafood, enjoy a beer, all of this while Xmas music blares out at mega-decibels!!! What more do you want?
The food stalls at the end , nearest the harbour were offering San Miguel at 50 pesos, a sharp increase since i was there with another VT member in April. The fish on offer seemed expensive too, so we walked towards the Xmas tree where we found food stalls offering grilled chicken or fish for 100 pesos or less. The beers in this area were also only 40 pesos, a more reasonable price.
If you ever happen to be around when Manny Pacquioa is having a world title fight the Coliseum will be open to all. Entrance is free to watch the fight on a big screen. Also there are occasionally PBA (basketball) matches here as well as live bands, so check the schedule out (there will be posters all over town).
There is also a tourist information office inside the building as well as the Underground River Permit Office,
The fountains outside are quite pretty to watch while you sit in the small park in front of the Coliseum
We recently watched a live broadcast of the Greatest boxer the Philippines has ever produced, Manny Pacquiao, but i would advise everyone to get there early to secure a seat near the screens as they are rather small . We arrived late and from our position we really could not follow the fight too well.
While a visit to Iwahig Penal Colony is interesting, why not make a day of it, take snacks with you and go for a refreshing swim at Balsahan river inside the colony. The water is refreshingly cool as the river comes down from the nearby mountains. A selection of native bungalows dot the side of the river and can be rented cheaply, and the prisoners will serve you fresh coconuts and other treats, even help you bbq your own fish. The prisoners have dammed off the river and developed the area and the water is head high, ideal for cooling off after a hard day's sightseeing, cost of entry is 10 pesos. at the colony there is a souvenir shop, small eatery and you can interact with the friendly prisoners. At first they are in maximum security and as the years pass they are sent to work on the farm and eventually they can build their own native house where their families can come and stay.
UPDATE----We visited Balsahan today and the prices of the cottages have increased to 200 and 400 pesos (small and big). The prisoners have a fire going all the time and grilled our fish for us.
Kawayanan Resort is tucked down a side street in San Pedro, Puerto Princesa and all the tricycle drivers will know how to take you there.
We were lucky to discover this wonderful resort as they celebrated their 10th anniversary recently and had several live bands and musicians playing for the large crowd who came to celebrate.
However this is a nice place to stay with decent native rooms, a lovely swimming pool, billiard table, a beautiful garden and a restaurant. Although there was a set meal at last nights event, there is an extensive menu with very reasonable prices, and if the food is as delicious as last night you won't go far wrong by dining there. I believe that the resort is open for non-residents to swim (swim passes are available).
And we might add that the manageress, Mahal, who we have known for a few years really looks after her guests, and will be pleased to offer advice about the city and the island.
For more details see the website below.
I will also add that there are plans to have regular entertainment in the future so if you are in town why don't you check it out.
Part of the island hopping Honday bay tour, we did some snorkeling in Starfish island and enjoyed feeding the fish there with some bread. The water is so clear except do not venture out to the mangroves as you will be beaten by some little creatures on the water leaving you with itchy skin rashes.
But the views are idyllic, azure waters are so calming!
We took an island hopping Honday bay- Starfish Island and Pandan Island tour with Pinoy Heritage Tours and had a blast!
Aside from island hopping, you can also go snorkelling and then the best part is having lovely island lunch at Pandan Island. We rode motorboats with safety vests on and it was a thrill as the breeze gives us some relief from the heat.
Extremely hot most of the time but there were moments of rainy and stormy weather so be preparerd. Don't forget your sunscreen and towels, and insect repellant.
I was surprised to discover a new museum that opened up by an intersection near my house. It is called the Environmental Enforcement Museum and on show are a few items that have been confiscated from illegal loggers. In the Philippines you need a license for a chain saw and a permit to harvest trees, so one of the things on show is a tower of chain saws that have been seized from illegal loggers. an NGO outfit is responsible for constructing the tower. The boat was seized on the way to Malaysia and it was carrying the blocks of Kamagong which you can see in front of the boat.
Kamagong is only grown in the Philippines and is a dense hardwood, in fact it is a fruit tree. The fruit is rich tasting and the grained black wood is used for making furniture and can be exported with a permit but to export the timber needs special permission from the Bureaux of Forestry.
Should you wish to visit a mosque in Puerto Princesa there are 3 of them that i know of but perhaps the easiest one to find is located in De Los Reyes Street in San Pedro, just turn right after the Petron Station and you will find the mosque 500 meters down the road on the right hand side.
The Purple Bamboo is a spa and wellness center where you put your feet in the water and the fish will gently nibble your feet. It is located in Rizal Avenue and is very popular as it is the first of its kind in Puerto Princesa. At the entrance there is a menu and price list of services they offer.
see the link for photos https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.333297486766039.75261.282976671798121&type=1
Puerto Princesa was known as THE CITY IN THE FOREST but a newly erected sign stands over Rizal Avenue near the Capital Building proclaiming that it is now the CITY OF THE LIVING GOD!!!
At the moment i am not quite sure of why this sign was erected but a trike driver informed me that there are many Christian Groups living here. I myself doubt this explanation and have sent emails to a few officials for an explanation, so watch this space!!!
Forget the hairdressers back home, get a haircut here for as little as 40 pesos. There are several simple barbers shops in Burgos Street, just off of Rizal Avenue. There are many salons for ladies too, and they are also very cheap compared to your own country. Many of the people working in the ladies salons will be 'BAKLAS' , gay guys, but they are quite friendly.
I always find that visiting the local market is an ideal place for photography as many things will seem strange to the western tourist, such as the way they sell eggs, seaweed, second hand clothes and meat. Do not worry the vendors will be pleased at having their photograph taken!!
A well as seafood, meat, clothes, vegetables and fruit there is an excellent area for local handicraft souvenirs made mostly from bamboo, wood or rattan. A good souvenir to buy would be a hammock made from bamboo and if you bargain well you should be able to pick one up for a little less than 300 pesos.
Head towards Mendoza Park and turn down Valencia Street and you will reach the public market. The seafood section is great for photography (the vendors enjoy having their photo taken) with all the varieties of fish. Palawan supplies Manila with 70% of its fish and you will find that fish is cheaper here than on most of the other islands.
The seaweed looks like tiny green balls and you will find it being sold at the market. Try and buy some, don't worry you will not have to cook it as it is eaten fresh but better you wash it in the seawater first. The seaweed normally grows near the mangroves at a depth of 3-5 meters and at a temperature of 29 degrees celcius. Add diced up onion , tomato then add some salt and vinegar and it will be ready to eat. Do not leave the lato in the sunlight as it will disappear, and by the way it cannot be dried like other seaweeds.
Local people are mad about durians and occasionally you will see them for sale at the market so now is the time to try one if you have not done so already. The durian 'KING OF FRUITS' is large with a greenish thorny crust, weighing up to 3 kilos and has a real bad smell. Cut the fruit in half and it will be kind of segmented and you can eat the yellow fleshy part and discard the big seeds (although the locals cook the seeds and eat them, You can also get durian cookies, candies and ice cream. I enjoy the fruit but many people (foreigners) will find it disgusting. In Singapore the fruit is banned on the public transport system. Durian trees as high as 50 meters grow in Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia , Thailand and parts of the Philippines.
Anthony Bourdain says that your breath will smell of an odour that is as if you have been french kissing your dead grandmother!!!