Saturday, February 25, 2012

Palawan - The Last Frontier - Puerto Princesa and Ziplining

Palawan, a small island province in Southwest corner of the Philippines, is known as the Last Frontier, where thick jungles give way to huge limestone cliffs and hidden beaches. My first two days were spent in the capital, Puerto Princesa, where there's not much going on, and the intense heat and humidity keeps things from moving too quickly.

(Chaolong - with many Vietnamese immigrants in the area, Puerto Princesa has some good, authentic Vietnamese eateries, mostly just tiny shacks with a few benches and tables and very limited menus. This is a noodle soup with beef and a hard-boiled egg.)

(A random Filipino meal. Many small "cantinas" or other shops offer pots of various stews or curries, though I was never too sure what I was exactly getting. This one was actually more of a fast food chain version of it, hence the classy plate with dividers.)

(One of my nicer hotel rooms, including a private bathroom. Other rooms were not as big/clean/nice. I even had a fan and 24 hour electricity, which isn't always guaranteed on some parts of the island.)

(Halo-halo. Not to be confused with a German saying hello to you, it means "mix-mix", and it's basically a dessert with ice cream, ice shavings, and almost anything else ranging from rice krispies, tapioca, various types of jello, etc. hidden in the bottom.)

(The tricycles of Puerto Princesa were a little more uniform, with the blue or white covers for the sidecar. Apparently you can get up to five people in these, though I didn't test that claim.)

(The main road from the airport into the city...deciding to save $1.25, I walked the 10-15 minutes into town with my big backpack. Smart.)

(While waiting in town, I saw an ad for a new zipline, so I decided to check it out. Asia's longest zipline, you fly superman style (face-first) through the tree tops and over what is said to be the Philippines' cleanest river. I was the only one in the park (it just opened a few months earlier), so the combination of having the place to myself and feeling like I was literally flying above the treetops on the long zipline made for an amazing experience.)

(Not so amazing was the Sky Walk. The lady at the gate sold me on a combo deal, and while it was pretty, the hanging bridges over the river couldn't compete with having just come off the long zipline.)

(One of the best parts of the day was meeting David, the driver of the local bus who took me all the way into the park and waited while I did the ziplining (otherwise I would've had to have walked a long way to the park from the end of the bus line). On the way back, he told me stories about his family and the city while I helped him gather customers - basically just yelling out at people along the road to find out which way they were going. Bayan? Bayan-po?)

(A tiny vegetarian restaurant in the city held great promise, though the stir-fried tofu and green beans weren't as good as I was hoping. With only a few tables, I shared my table with a random Swedish/Swiss girl who was pregnant but sick of her friends on her trip, so she came down to Palawan while they went to a more party-oriented island.)

(Mangosteen! You break open the dark skin and staining pink part to reveal the sweet white middle, broken into pieces similar to an orange. Great tropical fruit can be found all over the Philippines.)


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