24 hours after leaving Indonesia and 3 flights later, it was wheels-down at Puerta Princesa, capital of Palawan in the Western Philippines. In-flight entertainment had been limited to an ongoing spat between two feisty female Filipinos over whose hand luggage went into which overhead locker. The shouting match managed to delay take-off for 30 minutes as they ignored the meek, submissive cabin crew and only took their seats when the pilot stormed down the aisle and intervened. It’s the kind of thing which would probably have resulted in armed police and arrests in the UK, but here they just deal with it and move on…
I was now hot on the trail of my travel buddy Karen, who I’d finally catch up with the following day, so Puerta Princesa was low-hassle, low-friction travel – dumbly following a trail of text messages and facebook posts filled with perfect hotel and transport tips.
Thus, advance-booked at the lovely Puerta Pension on Karen’s say so meant another hassle free airport pick-up, along with a giggly threesome of Manila call-centre operatives on a long weekend away from the smoggy city. Apparently British customers aren’t the most annoying to deal with, which I found surprising, but will leave you to guess which nation came top of that chart…
Palawan’s Governor has high-value eco-tourism plans for the province and Puerta Princesa is the island’s self-declared eco-capital, with strict anti-littering laws our jeepney driver was keen to share – “first offence, 500 peso fine; second offence, 1000 peso fine; third offence, one month’s free accommodation”. Eco-capital or not, the city still has a thousand or so fume-belching trikes criss-crossing the streets between jeepneys, buses, trucks and cars. It’s chaotic and exciting, but on a very small scale – the perfect intro to a new country and new language.
PP had everything I needed for an afternoon of preparing to leave urban life behind for a few days in the remoter parts of Palawan – there are AirPhil and Cebu Pacific airline offices and a couple of reliable ATMs, the last of which I’d see for a while. Only in town one night, but had some great mid-market eats. Fresh Cafe (NOT where the 2009 LP says it is) is fab – Lumpiang Shanghai spring rolls to die for and their own, mercifully lean, take on the Filipino speciality Pork Adobo. Plus, most importantly, 13 pesos in the cool little mall bought me a local power adaptor – a marginal price drop from the 2000 peso one on offer at Manila airport.
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