Puerto Princesa and the Underground river, Philippines

Last island we visited was Palawan. Palawan is amazing - breathtaking unspoilt and undeveloped landscape, jungle forests, all sorts of flora and fauna, majestic caves, surreal limestone rocks, perfect white beaches, perfect emerald waters, nice people, awesome fish and fruits. 

Palawan's capital is Puerto Princesa - a very sleepy and peacesful town that was ranked the cleanest city in the Philippines. It's actually the only city where you can get fined for littering on the street (about $30, but still :)) You can go anywhere in the city in a tuk-tuk for about $0.3-2 and it will take you about 15 minutes to reach next village/town. This is not a very tourist oriented city - not so many touristy food places, not many souvenir shops, the services are painfully slow, disorganized and sometimes hilarious. The immigration department in Puerto Princesa for example is a shabby 2nd floor office with chickens and a motorcycle repair stand on the back. And I already told the story of my visit to Puerto Princesa post office here.

Puerto Princesa has an awesome market though - anything you want you can buy there, the fish is so fresh it's jumping and wiggling on the tables. I used to pig out on papayas, mangos, watermelons, pineapples, mini bananas, grapefruits, avocados every day. One other thing you can try in the market is salted egg and the Balut - embrio of a duck, tastes like an egg yolk AND chicken. Also, most places where you'd eat have garlic rice - steamed rice, lightly fried with A LOT of garlic, a bit of chillies and soy sauce, there's nothing simpler than garlic rice, but it's really really tasty the way they make it in Palawan. 

We stayed right next to the Puerto Princesa Bay. This area on the water is literally covered with small chubby huts on stilts where local villagers and fisherman live. The streets here are wooden boards built on stilts over the water connecting numerous houses. Naturally villages like this look poor, but it's interesting to spot that almost all houses have satellite TV, laptops, even washing machines (I'm surprised how this shabby construction can hold washing maschines) People as in any small village were really nice and friendly. Here are couple of shots from the village.

Very close to Puerto Princesa is the Underground River - one of the candidates for world wanders. It's a huge river tunnel under a mountain that connects numerous caves full of stalactites and rock formations. You can go on a small paddle boat inside the caves and tour around for about 30 minutes. The Underground River itself is spectacular, but we didn't enjoy the experience as much because this whole tour thing was meant for very cheesey tourists, to the point that the guy who paddled/tour guide treated everyone accordingly - every 30 seconds there was at least one cheesey joke about the shape of the stalactites and rocks - "look, there's a penis! look, there's a Virgin Mary,..." etc. Felt like you're part of a circus.

We did sneak away from our group to explore the rocks nearby, went all the way up until 2 unfriendly monkeys stopped us. In case you're wondering - wild monkeys in most cases are not exactly furry cutie pies, they're sneaky aggressive bastards with rabbies who will try to steal your bag, camera, glasses, bracelets, bag of chips, etc. even if you hold your belongings tight.

The beach next to the Underground River was quite nice though - perfect if you remove all cheesey tourists around :)

Next - best place for us in the Philippines - El Nido, Palawan.