ROXAS OR ROXAS OR ROXAS
Some years ago i met a Brit who arrived in Palawan but originally had a ticket to Roxas, and several people on the plane asked him if he was going to Boracay. He could not understand this as he was intending to go to Roxas, Palawan until the plane landed in Roxas, Panay where Boracay is located. Last week i was in Port Barton,. Palawan where i was chatting to some travellers who were having a few days in El Nido then returning to Roxas for their flight to Manila. I informed them that there was no flight from Roxas to Palawan, but they corrected me to say they had flights with Cebu Pacific. Imagine their surprise when i told them that this flight must be from Rxas, Panay. Please search your flights carefully as many cities/towns have the same name, check the island carefully.
CURRENTS ON THE WEST COAST
There are several beaches on the west coast of the island that are extremely dangerous for swimming if there are big waves (a meter high only).
The worst two beaches are Nagtabon, pictured below and City Beach which is a few kms south of Nagtabon on the road towards Napsan. Some years ago i was carried out to sea a few hundred meters at both beaches but fortunately i knew what to do and did not panic. If the current should take you, don't fight it , just go with it, remain calm or try to swim out of it towards the left or right, then you should be able to swim back to shore once you are out of the danger area. At Nagtabon around 20 people have drowned so take this warning seriously. I, myself helped rescue two foreigners who were swept out to sea three years ago. Luckily there was a meeting of villagers on the beach so i was able to get a boat organised, but if there were no other locals around the two in distress would have certainly drowned.
PEDESTRIAN CROSSING---don't assume it is like home
In the last two years the city has painted black and white strips across the road-- yes pedestrian crossings. Do not assume that pedestrian crossings here operate in the same way as back home, namely by putting your foot on one the traffic will stop for you. Not here, i am afraid! Many of the motorbikes and vehicles will continue on their merry way without stopping even if you are half way across the road. Actually by the busy crossing near Mendoza Park there are traffic controllers with a loudspeaker informing drivers to stop and let the pedestrians cross the road, so maybe things will gradually change!!!
GREAT TO SIT ON TOP BUT DANGEROUS
Tourists often like to travel on the roof of a jeepney, whether this is due to it being crowded down below or more likely for the fresh air and views on top, but you should think twice about doing so as it can be very dangerous.
Quite a few years ago there was a Canadian tourist who decided to sit on top but during the trip she was knocked off the roof by a branch of a tree. Since the accident she has been confined to a wheelchair with paralysis. I know of several other mishaps that have occurred by sitting on top of the jeepney, so it would be best to avoid this, or certainly keep an eye on the obstacles that you may encounter on the way.
DON'T STAY NEAR SQUATTERS AREA
You will be amazed how often fires occur in the wooden shacks that the squatters live in. Since i have lived here there is usually at least one fire each year where up to 200 houses are destroyed. Usually the fire is started through faulty electrical wiring, or while someone has left something cooking on the gas range, or even dropping cigarette butts. These photos were taken yesterday after 20 houses were burnt at 2.15 am. The people lost everything they had. Usually when a fire like this occurs the city authorities relocate the people to a new site out of town where they are given some money to start their lives again, then the original site will be redeveloped.
UPDATE---2 weeks after writing this tip there was another fire destroying 80 more houses
No I'm not referring to monkey hunters, but the monkeys themselves trying to snatch plastics or small bags they recognize as food. They're not at all harmful as they are allowed to roam around the area near the underground river but its better to be cautious coz it will be a funny sight of you running after the monkeys with your belongings. (lol)
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REMEMBER THE BUCKET OF WATER
Before going to relieve yourself on Starfish Island remember to fill up the bucket with sea water as there will be no running water in the toilets. On the islands there is no fresh water and with the number of tourists visiting the area it would be a full time job for a local just to keep an adequate supply of water in the bathroom.
Going north on the national highway at around km 39 there is a very dangerous junction where several accidents have occurred (located in Salvacion). This is the junction where the road branches off to Sabang where the Underground River is located. Cars, buses, jeepneys and trucks will speed round the corner where the road branches while others park on the corner to pick up or drop off passengers. Be very careful if you are in this area on a motorbike.
CHECK YOUR HOTEL'S WATER SUPPLY
I have lived in Puerto Princesa for nearly 20 years and have never known a water shortage like this year. It is only April and water is scarce, so it is being rationed to different parts of the city at different times. The more expensive types of accommodation should be fine as they will have their own water supply or large enough tanks to provide water for their customers, but the cheaper guest houses may be relying on city water and you may find that there is only running water for a few hours in the middle of the night. One can survive without electricity for a day or two but life becomes difficult if there is no water to take a shower so when checking in don't forget to ask about the water supply........and the situation will only get worse as it is still 3 months until the rainy season begins.
Unfortunately the city has doubled in size and population over the last few years but the authorities have not been able to cope adequately with the water supply.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED--YOU MAY END UP IN THE PRISON
There has always been fines in Puerto Princesa for littering but the new administration has recently posted many signs around the city that mention the penalties for such an offence.
1st offence --- a fine only
2nd offence --- a bigger fine and possible imprisonment
3rd offense--- an even bigger fine and longer stretch in prison.
Although i have lived here for 20 years none of my foreign friends have been caught breaking the law with this respect, but i do know many locals, usually teenagers who have been nabbed for littering. Some of them have no money to pay so they have to serve time picking up litter from the street (usually a half day)
AVOID THE 3b's TRAVEL AND TOUR
QUOTE FROM THEIR WEBSITE ----
3B’s Tours and Travel is one of the unique travel adventure specialist in Palawan, this is a sophisticated travel agency with a board clientele who expect a certain level of services and it has a passion for travel, and this agency assured you the fast, friendly and efficient services.
Well, we have a friend visiting and we booked a tour of the Underground River with this agency, and we were reminded to wait at the appointed place at 7 am sharp, and after we got assurances that we still would not be waiting at 8 am we made sure that our friend waited the next morning for her pick-up.
7.33 am and no sign of their vehicle arriving and no phone call or message, even though they had the contact number. So we text them and asked if they had forgotten to pick our friend up. The reply came a minute later----Underground river trip canceled, so my wife text back asking why they never informed us , so maybe we would still have time to join another tour with a different agency, but they failed to reply, so this is why i am writing this tip.
I suggest that you avoid this unreliable company, despite what their website says. Furthermore, if you are booking through a hotel, please ask the receptionist which company will be picking you up for the tour and if it is 3b's i suggest that you book with a more reliable company.
There must have been a point in time when they knew the trip was canceled so i would have expected them to make a few calls and see if there were any places available with another company. I have booked day trips in other countries and twice i have been informed that the trip was canceled but the agency was good enough to book me with another tour. Fortunately our friend is staying a few more days so will make arrangements with a more reliable company.
DON'T FORGET YOUR I.D.
If you are going to visit Iwahig Penal Colony (or farm) do not forget to bring your I.D. as it will be checked by Ike who is a guard at the gate. One of the group will have to deposit his or her I.D. and it will be returned to you when you leave. Entrance is free.
HAVE A CONTINGENCY PLAN READY
Certain times of the year the sea at Sabang can be a little rough so have an alternative plan if you have booked for a tour of the Undergound River. Our VT guest Angiebabe wanted to take the tour on Sunday, but it was canceled due to the rough seas, same again on Monday. She again booked for Tuesday and the agency said they would phone us at 7.30 am to inform us if the coast guard is giving permission for the boats to leave Sabang. At last on the 3rd day she was able to take the trip, lucky for her as it was her last full day here. So if you are having a few days in Puerto Princesa best to try and book the tour when you arrive, just in case the sea is rough.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the tour, the shuttle van takes you to Sabang (1 1/2 hrs , 85 kms) then you take an outrigger for the 30 minute trip to the beach near the entrance of the cave.
BE AWARE THAT THERE ARE 2 DIFFERENT FIREFLY TOURS
When booking your tour to see the fireflies be sure to ask which tour you will be on, as there are two different options.
On the first tour you will be taken to Baywalk in the city, where a boat picks you up, then 5 minutes later you may be dropped off at a floating restaurant where you enjoy a buffet while half the group continues across the bay to an entrance to a river where there are many mangroves where you will see the fireflies. When the other group returns they will dine while you explore the mangroves. From pick up at your hotel until they drop you off after the tour is around 3 1/2 hours------not the best of deals in my opinion.
The second tour would be my recommendation as you are picked up at your hotel, driven around 20 kms south until you reach the Iwahig River Bridge where the original firefly tours took place. The river is 50 meters wide while the restaurant is on the banks of the river. You are then taken in small outriggers to see the fireflies upriver. The buffet is also very good here and certainly a more beautiful area to visit.
SEEK ADVICE FROM THE LIFEGUARD
When taking an island hopping trip in Honda Bay do not assume that it is safe at all times to swim, as over the years several people have been taken away by the current and drowned. Quite a few outriggers have sank, particularly late afternoon when returning to Sta Lourdes Pier, during rough seas when there was less control by the authorities. I believe with the influx of tourists there is a lifeguard on duty on each island so just check with him first about the sea conditions. Some of the islands have a swimming area which is roped off. During the afternoon if the seas begin to look a little choppy, head for home---BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
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