Thursday, September 8, 2016

Puerto Princesa: GoHotels + Iwahig Firefly Watching

The timing was perfect. One of my childhood friends needed to go to Puerto Princesa to swiftly renew her passport for incoming travels (sadly, I learned that this is much easier than waiting for a slot here in Metro Manila). Without going much into details, my friend stumbled upon the right people prior our flight, so our trip ended up to be just pure vacation!

Before I knew it, the long weekend came and I was ready to fly back to paradise (sorry for the lack of better term, paradise sounds so cheesy but oh well! Haha!).

I went to Dos Palmas years ago, El Nido just last year, and then Coron just mid August. I thought that that was it for me and Palawan, but as it turns out, there is more to this island than these popular destinations. Going through photos and blog posts of these past trips, I have to fearlessly say that Palawan has got to be my favorite beach destination! Coron and El Nido are both given, but I think Puerto Princesa is underrated. It is as beautiful as my other favorite Boracay, but minus the people.

It was raining when we flew via AirAsia. But when we reached Puerto Princesa Airport, it was just cloudy. Marj was afraid there will be hassles along the way, but deep down I was super confident that we will be very lucky this weekend.

Friends since grade school!

Both busy prior this (Marj is an eye doctor), we went along with the wave. Wei Wu Wei as we put it back in high school, hehe. We asked around and decided to take the Php 150 tricycle in front of the airport to our first hotel (GoHotels). Our Kuya Tric Driver was also very proactive and asked us about our game plan. Without giving too much information, he was also able to assist us to the right travel agency before we headed to GoHotels.

In short, we were booked and paid for 1) Iwahig Firefly Tour on same night and 2) Underground River for the next day before we even saw our room! Haha! Name of the tourist agency is Kalokairi Travel and Tours. They have an office and an official receipt, so there's nothing to be anxious about. Plus, they gave us good discounts!

Our hotel for our first night. 

GoHotels is an affordable quality accommodation where you only pay for the basic things. You can pay for other services like spa, hair dryer, or your breakfast separately. They also offer a book-early, pay-less concept ... When I checked Agoda, most of the rooms are at less than Php 1000 / night! More about them HERE.

Because of our original plan with the DFA visit, we needed to stay within the capital. GoHotels is conveniently located around 15-20 minutes from the airport (with traffic na), and is just walking distance to a Robinsons Mall!

Here's our room!


It is just a basic, decent, double bed room where you can park your things for your trip. Bring your toiletries as they only provide small packs of soap and shampoo, but towels are provided. I will recommend GoHotels for its price and convenience.

After leaving our things and freshening up a little, we went down again for our Iwahig Firefly tour. We were scheduled immediately that afternoon, barely 30 minutes since we got in the hotel. No time to waste! Hehe.

While waiting for our van, I saw some of GoHotels' other amenities:

They have a spa area:

A courtyard venue and a function room (not in photo).

And a cafe / restaurant where they also serve buffet breakfast here for the separate fee (Php 220).

They have 108 all air conditioned rooms, with private bathrooms, TV, in-room phones, and free wi-fi (though it only worked in the lobby for me). They also have 24/7 CCTV and security system. I'd say GoHotels is a good option for budget travelers.

I like the quirky interiors of the restaurant:

Japanese style corner:

"Let's Get Lost, Together" #Boom #HugotTraveler

I ordered fries and chips, but then the van arrived na so I asked the waiter to just serve it when we get back!

Aside from me and Marj, we were also with a European couple, Chinese family, and fellow Pinoys from Davao. We were a random bunch, and pretty soon everyone's chatting na with each other about travel plans and past adventures!

After picking up several groups in their own hotels, were dropped off by the van to the port area. Sun was almost setting.

I had no expectations about this tour, it was just suggested to me by Paul. I guess no expectations made me appreciate every little thing.

I cannot express how our tour guide, Kuya Edison, is so so good at what he does! Sabi nga namin ni Marj, over qualified si Kuya! He made our boat ride interesting with his trivia and jokes, and you'll know immediately that he is very passionate with his job and Palawan.

Bonus: He took everyone's photos once in a while!

"Puerto Princesa" means "Princess of all Ports". As Kuya Edison said, "You are now in the safest place in the Philippines." We were surrounded by mountains, faraway from earthquake fault lines, and a place hardly hit by typhoons.

I felt more calm with these words as I watched the color-shifting night sky, and the beautiful sunset at  a distance. Too grand for words.

Usually, it's either the tour go straight to the mangroves or stop-over at the floating dinner place muna while another group go in first. We had the dinner first. 

May hugasan ng kamay:

It was buffet style, and already part of the package. I only said that I am a vegetarian once, when we booked for the tour, and I am glad they never forgot about it. They even asked if nabusog ako! That's the Filipino charm, I guess. Very maasikaso and accommodating.

After the dinner, we went back to our boat, transferred to a small motor boat, and proceeded to the mangroves. It got really dark, almost pitch black, when we reached inside - trees and waters surrounding us along with the envelope of darkness. I did not even dared lift my phone! :p Air felt damp, as if signalling the coming of a storm. Kuya went on with his cool stories as we paddled deeper, it was so good! He then asked us to dip our hands in the water, so I went to my own corner and it suddenly sparked! Planktons!

He also showed us how fireflies glow intensely with just a red flashlight (their defence to scare predators). It looks unreal and cool, like watching trees sparkle with tiny Christmas lights. Kuya Edwin told us that the existence of fireflies just means that the environment is still clean, and air is still fresh. Or else these glowing insects will not thrive.

Sayang there were no stars that night, as expected from the cloudy day. If you're lucky, imagine star gazing while the waters sparkle, and the trees glow!

I did not attempt to take photos nadin, as this is sadly proven impossible according to our tour guide. Here's a video I saw online c/o Youtuber Hearty Dave... In a way, this is a glimpse of the brightness that I saw amidst that starless night:

To be continued.

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