Living in the U.K. where all four seasons abound, I truly can’t help but feel so excited when I think about visiting Asia.
I grew up in Manila, the vibrant and energetic capital city of the Philippines, before eventually moving to Los Angeles. Growing up, I never truly explored the islands because of safety and security anxieties. Social media were not around then to perpetuate any wanderlust in us city kids. Our holidays were usually spent in the nearby Asian capitals such as the shopping-mecca of Asia that is Bangkok, or towards the vibrant food culture of brightly lit Hong Kong. For beach destinations, many abound the shores of Luzon. Most were on the way to Baguio – another popular destination where we spent much of our summer and winter outings. It was only lately that I was able to venture off around the other famous isles of the Philippines. One particular island was so memorable that I kept coming back.
The island I speak of is none other than Palawan, voted the best island in the world by travelers for two consecutive years in a row (2015 & 2016). I have been to Coron, which truly mesmerized me and inspired me to go back and discover other parts of the archipelago. I came back this year to explore and visit the renowned Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dress | c/o ZAFUL
Location | PALAWAN, PHILIPPINES
In a nutshell, here is a list of the 6 Unmissable Sights in Puerto Princesa, Palawan:
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the reason why I specifically wanted to go to Puerto Princesa. The Subterranean River has been famous in Asia for decades. Included in the list of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, this island’s recent popularity to the western travelers has catapulted it to global prominence. It helps that the legendary El Nido is also just a few hours away. Given that this is the longest navigable river in the world, this cave river is quite lengthy and the tour can only bring you as far as what is permitted. Additionally, geologists and environmentalists recently discovered that the underground river has a second floor filled with smaller waterfalls inside the cave. It hosts many rare creatures, plants and minerals. Cruising on a boat, you will be instructed to keep silent as to prevent the bats that reside inside from waking up. The entire experience was surreal. It was a refreshing feeling seeing the subterranean river for the first time. If I was a geologist, this would be my paradise!
A side trip on the way to the subterranean river, we were brought here by our guide where we hiked up a big rock that used to be a dwelling place for natives hundreds of years ago based on the artifacts found in one of its chambers. If you knock on one of the rock formations, it would echo a sound locally known as “ugong”. Philippine history is filled with stories of tribes, also called the indigenous people of the Philippines living in the islands. Seeing a small scene of where the tribes used to live back then was quite fascinating as it was informative. The modern-day Filipino now would most likely be a mixture of various ethnicities that swarmed the country starting from the Spaniards and ending with the Americans. I had the chance to speak with an indigenous person in Palawan during my trip to Coron and it was intriguing as it was captivating.
If you fancy a bit of snorkeling, Honda Bay is a good start. The island caters to many travelers and surely, you will find something to eat like fresh sea urchins caught by the local fishermen! It was my first time and boy do I hope it won’t be my last. I adored the taste! There were plenty of starfish that provided a fanciful accessory to the crystal-clear backdrop. Honda Bay is as Filipino of an island as one can get!
I once said that there are quite nothing like the gradient blue hues of the Philippines islands and in Lu-li Island, you will truly know and witness what I am talking about. If you fancy a fine, white sand amidst the most turquoise of clear blues you will ever see, this island is for you! Lu-li is short for “lulubog-lilitaw” which literally means “sink and appear”. This island sinks at high tide and appears on low tide exposing one of the most unadulterated seascapes that you will ever see in your lives. Jump in and you’ll see large, colorful fishes swimming alongside with you – a true tropical paradise!
An island that will cater to your every need in paradise, this gem is filled with coconut trees, bamboo huts, fresh smoothies, shakes and massage therapists that are ready to melt all your muscle stresses away. It is a destination that you would want to go to if you absolutely do not want to do anything for the day except swim, suntan and nap after a delicious home cooked meal prepared by the locals. Surely, it will melt any city-life tensions and transport you to beach nirvana. Bring a good book and a hat – you are in an island in the middle of the ocean after all!
Baker’s Hill was a lovely surprise. A homegrown bakery perched on a hill famed for its celebrated Hopia, a popular Philippine bean-filled moon cake-like pastry, Baker’s Hill evolved into a beautiful city garden worthy of exploring. In here, you will find home-grown flora and fauna that thrive in the Philippines. A picturesque site, make sure to bring your camera. Surely, you wouldn’t want to resist taking a snap or two during a charming stroll in this garden.
Venturing around the Philippines for foreigners is quite challenging due to the lack of proper accommodation options. Sometimes, you can never really tell with the photos if it is truly what it seems. Luckily, I found a new and modern hotel in Puerto Princesa located just 5 minutes away from the airport and into the heart of the city. Hotel review coming up next!
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Palawan, Philippines | UNESCO World Heritage Site | An underground river park that features a spectacular limestone karst landscape.