The Unexptected Journey – A ferry ride to Puerto Princesa

Plan A was to take a boat directly from Coron to El Nido, then take a flight from El Nido to Manila.

Plan B was to take a boat directly to El Nido, then take a bus to Puerto Princesa and fly back to Manila from there.

I didn’t really have a plan C, until all the boats going to El Nido were cancelled due to the weather, so I decided to take the Ferry to Puerto Princesa.  I’m glad I had the experience, but this was not my favorite part of the trip.

The Ferry

I took a Trisikal to the port sales office first thing Saturday morning to buy my ticket.  The boat was supposed to leave at 10:00.  When I got there they said it had been delayed until 2:00 and were very insistent that I be at the terminal by 12:00.  So I got to the terminal a little before 12:00.  Hardly anybody was there and it took like 2 minutes to get through the processing area.   The waiting area started filling up a little before 2:00, but the boat didn’t arrive until after 5:00.  It was a long, boring wait.  They were showing Arnold Schwarzenegger films but you couldn’t hear the audio and I couldn’t see the close captioning.  I stepped out a few times to watch some guys play basketball.  I chatted with one couple who were in the same situation as me, settling on the ferry since they couldn’t get to El Nido.

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I finally boarded the ferry for Puerto Princesa around 6:30.  I didn’t know what to expect.  It was interesting, but not the most enjoyable ride, except for the interesting people I met in route.  The first thing I did upon boarding was find my “bed”.  I had sleeping quarters that were pretty much a shelf in a compartment with maybe 100 or more other shelves.  Those were the deluxe accommodations.  The other sleeping compartment was on the deck above – bunk beds on an open deck, with tarps pulled down to protect those on the outside from the elements.  The upper deck was small, but there were seats, tables, and a canteen with cold beer.  Around 9:00 they had entertainment – a couple of female singers in tutus and black stockings.  One of the girls had a nice voice but it was hard to enjoy because the speakers were so loud the sound was distorted.  I thought about going below to watch a movie, but the AC was cranked up to arctic level, so I just went to bed. When we arrived the next morning,  people pitched coins into the water as boys in a small boat dove for them.

I wasn’t crazy about the ferry, particularly since a similar vessel had capsized a week before.  It was still great to have the experience.  I met a few tourists from Europe, Australia, and other parts of the Philippines, but a lot of the people I talked to were traveling for work or visiting family.  It’s a very inexpensive mode of travel.

Puerto Princesa

One of the passengers on the ferry who has his own travel company is from Puerto Princesa.  He told me there was nothing there and advised me to go straight to El Nido.  I was apprehensive about staying but I had already booked a room and was a day late.  My lodging was the Puerto Beachside guesthouse, and it was very quaint.  The owner was incredibly kind.  I really didn’t find much of interest in Puerto Princesa, but it was relaxing, and I did enjoy my trip to the underground river the next day.

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I enjoyed my trip to the Underground River, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I met Katarina, from Germany, was also traveling alone.  Josh, a hilarious Filipino, told me he is an accountant for his mother’s business, and he has to make money for her so he can travel.  There were couples from Holland, Spain, and the Phillipines, and two other solo travelers, one from Spain and one from Germany.  I got to know the Spanish couple, Abel and Selene better on another leg of my trip.  Our guide tried to entertain us with jokes along the way.  They were so bad that just his effort to make them fly was funny. We had a nice lunch beside the water when we arrived.  Then we took boats to the island where the underground river flows.  There we say monkeys and a giant monitor lizard, which actually took off chasing one of the monkeys.  I volunteered to be the lantern keeper at the front of the boat when we went into the caves.  I couldn’t understand a thing the guy was saying, neither could Josh, who was sitting right beside me and is Filipino.  The guide didn’t seem to be giving me directions at first, so we looked at whatever I wanted to look at.  When he finally started addressing me, I had already tuned him out, so it took a while to get focused and do my job. There cave is huge – we only saw a small portion of it.  Through out the trip in and out you can see many rock formations that resemble other things – anything from an ear of corn to the Last Supper.  Topped off our trip with a zipline from one island to another, and an extremely bumpy jeep ride back to where we started.

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