My expectations are high for Puerto Princesa City in Palawan. So much has been said about this big city (as the locals claim) that your anticipation has already been heightened even before setting foot on its land.
I went there to film its scenic spots for a travel show so I didn't really have the luxury of exploring it more intimately, like a laidback traveler usually do. Actually, PP is quite hard to explore if you're on a tight schedule and budget. The scenic spots are scattered sporadically that moving around may cost you a lot - both time and money. The best way to cover as many places as you can is to rent your own vehicle (like a van).
One thing that I really noticed about this city is its cleanliness. Trash cans can be seen anywhere, so there's no reason for you to throw your litters anywhere. The buildings are also noticeably low-rise. Our tour guide said that one can't build structures more than 4 or 5 storeys high because they might block an airplane's view of the runway. Hmmm... which leads to conclude that there are probably less than a hundred elevators in this city.
Anyway, if you visit Puerto Princesa, there are three things that you must experience. And these are:
A) NATURE (the beaches, underground river, etc.)
As we know, Puerto Princesa is known for its Underground River (vote for it, by the way!). So, a visit to this city is not complete without dropping by this world-famous natural wonder. I was awed with this nature's creation! I find it mysterious, actually. Once you get inside, play with your imagination as you look at the stone formations. You'll realize that Mother Nature has a sense of humor din pala!
The islands are also worth visiting (i.e. Snake Island), for some swimming or sunbathing. There are no nice beaches, though, along the shores of the city proper. If you want to experience this, you must hire a boat to bring you to its surrounding islands.
Another thing which I really the most is the Ihawig River Firefly Watching /Stargazing . Unfortunately, I was not able to get good pictures of this experience. Basically, you just take a boat that will cruise you down the Ihawig River in a pitch-black night. You will see an abundance of fireflies on the the banks of the river... and also be able to witness the densest concentration of stars (or constellations)! Trust me, this is awesome! Also, since the water is so clean (or alive with biodiversity), the planktons make it glow as you paddle! Imagine you're in the film Avatar... and as you touch the water, it glows, literally!
B) HISTORY and CULTURE
Puerto Princesa is an old city, and thus filled with history. Visit the Ihawig Prison Colony (the prison without walls, as they say) and marvel at its colonial Spanish and American architectures. I love old buildings and I love imagining them in their glories during their heydays.
The city also has a share of grim war stories. Imagine the hundreds of American soldiers who were burned to death by the Japanese in Plaza Cuartel. Include them in your prayers as you visit the Cathedral beside it.
But the city is also home to a different kind of dwellers right now. Visit the Balay Kalipay and meet the cool bunch of people who live there. They are actually urbanites from different parts of the world who chose to live a simple life in the province. There, they become more in touch with nature with their activities (yoga, gardening, etc.) and diet! Food served here is RAW (read: never cooked). I tried the corn and salad... and it's so delicious!
Yummy. Fresh. Exotic. Playful! Need I say more?
Anyway, have your lunch at Badjao Seafood Restaurant for the freshest and affordable seafood. Take your early dinner at Ka Lui's (you must reserve in advance. They don't accept walk-ins because they're simply fully booked!) for more sumptuous meals. Oh, don't forget to ask for a special and playful dessert! hahaha! And finally, grab some beers at Kinabuch's and experience their exotic dishes for pulutan. I tried the shite, slimy, worm-like kinilaw (i forgot the name) and it tasted good... woody, I suppose (these are harvested from old woods in mangroves, thus the taste).
These are just some of the places to see and things to experience in Puerto Princesa. There are still more to do -- and that entirely depends on you - your time, company and budget, most of all!