Showing posts with label Puerto Princesa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Puerto Princesa. Show all posts

Monday, July 19, 2010

Palawan: La Terrasse is Puerto Princesa's next big restaurant

It all started with a search for this secluded French restaurant called Ditchay's Bistro. I was told about this really cozy restaurant which serves French cuisine in an area near Rene's Saigon Restaurant. It was not even along the main road and you had to go further inside to get to it. When I finally got there, there was a sign that Ditchay's was closed for the time being. And it invited guests to try out a new restaurant called La Terrasse along Rizal Avenue.

La Terrasse is also managed by Ditchay Roxas, who is married to a Frenchman. She was at La Terrasse when we got there and introduced her new concept to us. La Terrasse is a representation of Puerto Princesa's international vibe, owing to the fact that the city has a large expat community. It offers a mix of international cuisine fused with local flavors, in what she calls a balance of Asia and Europe. She also mentions her effort to make some local Filipino delicacies palatable to the foreign tongue such as dilis which she tastefully mixes into fried rice.

We got to try the sumptuous and sinful Adobo Overload which is chicken and pork adobo twice fried served with a generous portion of rice fried in adobo oil and topped with adobo flakes and chicharon. We also ordered Crackling Belly which is her version of bagnet. The menu is still a work in progress though since it's still on soft opening. They expect to launch the restaurant in August.

Also in the works is a deli where they plan to sell locally-sourced products such as breads and locally-processed meats such as bacon and ham from Ernie Lim, sausages from a German national based here, and a Spaniard who makes chorizo. Also available will be locally-made cheeses such as Davao's blue goat cheese, carabao cheese from Nueva Ecija, blush blue and pink and margarita cheese.

While the quality of some popular restaurants in Puerto Princesa are going down as they continue to sit on their laurels (I hope certain by-reservation only restaurants realize that word is going around that the quality of their food and service is decreasing), La Terrasse provides a breath of fresh air, offering a new choice to Puerto Princesa's locals and visitors. Owing to the success of Ditchay's Bistro, I can foresee that La Terrasse will be Puerto Princesa's next big restaurant.

To the fans of Ditchay's Bistro, the restaurant will remain closed until the operations of La Terrasse will normalize. Hopefully, when I do return to Palawan, I can eat at both!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Palawan: Chaolong & Vietnamese food in Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa has a lot of Vietnamese restaurants owing to the fact that it was once host to many refugees from Vietnam. Locally, these restaurants are known as chaolongan because they serve a noodle dish called chaolong. I wonder though why they call it chaolong when the noodle dish is more aptly called pho (phở). Chao long is congee (rice porridge) with pork innards.

The best of these Vietnamese restaurants is Rene's Saigon Restaurant. Unlike other restaurants which serve the local chaolong, Rene bakes his own Vietnamese baguette or bánh mì. Plus he's half Vietnamese and his wife is Vietnamese. The other chaolong restaurants are owned by locals who inherited the restaurants from the Vietnamese after they migrated to the U.S.

At the same time, Rene's Saigon Restaurant has more choices when it comes to Vietnamese food including fresh rolls or gỏi cuốn and fried spring rolls chả giò and authentic bánh mì sandwiches among others. In the menu, you will see the sandwiches under the heading French Bread.

We ordered fresh rolls (Php100) and fried rolls (Php85) for starters. Both are not in the menu but are served upon request. The fresh rolls are wrapped in rice paper and have pork, shrimp, bún or rice vermicelli, herbs, and other ingredients inside.

For the chaolong (again the right term for this is pho), we got Beef Stew with Noodles and Beef with Noodles (Php60 each). And for French Bread, we got French Bread with Pork Barbecue wich is a very popular bánh mì filling in Vietnam.

Among the Vietnamese restaurants in Puerto Princesa, Rene's Saigon Restaurant is on the higher end and rightly so because it serves the most authentic Vietnamese food of all the chaolongan. But even then, it's still very affordable.

The masa version of chaolong is served at Bona's Chaolong House and Restaurant. This is very popular among the locals because prices are very cheap. I ordered the Beef Stew with Noodles Special (Php45) and French Bread with Chicken (Php25). I even took home one of their fusion sandwiches, French Bread with Longganisa (Php28). While it is cheap and good, they're also very generous with the MSG. Not good news for the health conscious.

There are several more chaolong restaurants in Puerto Princesa which are also worth the visit. So if you have more time, you might want to visit them too. Tricycles know how to get to most of these chaolong restaurants.

You can also get authentic Vietnamese food at Viet Ville which is on the way to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Palawan: Weekend in Microtel Puerto Princesa

I just needed a break last weekend. So off I went to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Having been to Puerto Princesa previously, I decided to forgo the tours: Puerto Princesa city tour, Puerto Princesa Underground River tour and Honda Bay island hopping, and decided to use my time instead to relax at Microtel Puerto Princesa. Although there are two tours I have not tried: Dos Palmas and dolphin watching which is seasonal, which I will reserve for another trip.

Microtel Puerto Princesa just opened last year. Its beach front location is quite secluded and very cozy. But the downside of being secluded is that the hotel is a bit far from the city proper. But they have scheduled lunch and dinner shuttle services to and from the city proper as well as the airport. I took both their lunch and dinner shuttles to the city proper to try out the different restaurants in the city. Unfortunately, if you want to venture out on your own, tricycles charge between Php150 to 200 one-way to get to and from Microtel.

But no need to worry about the tours I mentioned above since Microtel can book all these tours for you and the tour vans pick you up right at the hotel. So it's very convenient.

Those who who want a quiet place with a beach front to relax in Puerto Princesa will enjoy a stay at Microtel. The view is picturesque. And I must admit I spent some time just sitting in the lounge chairs or the hammock for a quiet afternoon nap. The only downside is that the water is too shallow for a swim. So most of the swimming is done in the pool conveniently located beside the beach.

I always look forward to stays in Microtel because of their chiropractic-approved beds which are exclusively made for the hotel chain worldwide. So any Microtel will have the same kind of bed and pillows.

There's free WiFi Internet in the lobby and paid WiFi/LAN connections in the rooms. Ask them for ongoing promos. Right now, they have a Php5,860 per person 3D 2N package (based on quadruple sharing) which includes daily breakfast, the city tour, Honda Bay and Underground River tours, and a one-hour massage. It's almost all-in except for the two dinners. But given that three tours are included, that's a total bargain!

Microtel Puerto Princesa
(02) 8997171 / 8700100 / 8971039
(048) 7320977

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Top vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines

The top 10 vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines were named by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Four of the restaurants in the list are in Metro Manila, two in Baguio, and one each in Batangas, Boracay, and Palawan. Vegetarian food and restaurants will be another series in my blog. So watch out for it. Anyway, here's the list:

Corner Tree Café
150 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air Village, Makati
(02) 8970295 / (0917) 8481004

Greens Café and Restaurant
92 Scout Castor St., Quezon City
(02) 4154796 / 3762781

Daily Veggie N' Café
540 Banawe Street, Quezon City
(02) 7118209 / 7113214

Bodhi (also known as Evegreen)
SM Cubao, SM North EDSA, SM Megamall
SM South Mall, SM City Manila, SM Makati

Outside Metro Manila

Bliss Café
Hotel Elizabeth, Gibraltar Street corner J Felipe, Baguio City
(074) 6190367 / 09178464729

Azotea Greens
Second Floor, La Azotea Building, Session R, Baguio City

Hapilife Healthy Food Corner
8 Corpuz St., West Tapinac, Olongapo City
(0921) 8720258 / (047) 6110249

Ima's Gulay Bar
46 Fernandez Street, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
(0920) 5333210

Mandala Spa
Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan
(036) 2885858

The Farm
119 Barangay Tipakan, San Benito, Batangas
(02) 696-3795

Related entries
Corner Tree Cafe, best vegetarian restaurant in Makati

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Palawan: Underground river and more from Puerto Princesa

It’s been quite a while since the Philippines has had a new UNESCO World Heritage Site. The latest was still way back in 1999, with the inscription of two sites, Vigan and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park known as the Underground River.

Batanes has tried several times to get in the list but never seems to make it because of human error I was told. Besides, some experts say Batanes is not ready for inscription. Aside from being culturally significant and well-preserved, the host community has to be ready for it. That means that the ordinary man on the street should know about the UNESCO inscription, how it will affect them, as well as the duties and responsibilities that accompany such an inscription. The Underground River is a prime example of how a local government, with the right political will and proper guidance from experts, can push proper conservation policies that could lead to inscription.

The park is the only one that is managed by a local government unit in fact. It was under the care of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) before. But illegal logging was rampant. Newly-elected Puerto Princesa mayor, Edward Hagedorn brought then DENR Secretary Angel Alcala to the park to show him the illegal logging activities of the DENR personnel. This resulted in a memorandum that turned the whole area over to the city government.

Lucky day 07-07-07 was spent at the Underground River today via another group tour I booked from my hotel. According to UNESCO, “The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park features a spectacular limestone karst landscape with its underground river. A distinguishing feature of the river is that it flows directly into the sea, and the lower portion of the river is subject to tidal influences. The area also represents a significant habitat for biodiversity conservation. The site contains a full mountain to the sea ecosystem and protects forests, which are among the most significant in Asia.” This was the reason justification for its inscription in the prestigious list.

The ride to Sabang Beach, the jump-off point for the Underground River, is about two hours from the city center, with two stopovers: one as you leave the National Highway, and another at the Buenavista View Deck where you could savor a panoramic view of Ulugan Bay.

At Sabang Beach, you had to visit the park office to get a permit to visit the Underground River and book your boat to the river entrance. You could also opt to hike 2.1 kilometers up and down a mountain trail from Sabang to the river entrance. The group tours are really convenient since they took care of all the logistics. The PHP1300 I paid includes hotel pick-up, land travel to and from Sabang Beach, boat transfers from Sabang to the river entrance, all entrance fees, and lunch.

On the boat on the way to the river entrance, we were afforded stunning views of the limestone karst landscape that characterizes the park. The boat passed by a beach which I remember from my trip in 1997. Swimming is not allowed in the river entrance area which is why you had to hike up and down the Monkey Trail to get to that beach to swim.

At the river entrance, you had to sign their register, wear life jackets and protective helmets, and wait in line to board small boats with outriggers that would take you into the cave. Each boat had a battery-powered lamp in front which I would later find out while exploring the area, were charged with solar energy. Our boat guide was Toting, who is the most popular of the guides for his humor. In fact, he is sought after by visitors and is the one who appears when the Underground River is featured on television.

Indeed, he was hilarious, cracking jokes every now and then, breaking the silence inside the cave. It was a different world we entered, one covered in complete darkness, pierced by the solitary spotlight we had on board. Looking up, you would see different species of bats hanging from the ceiling, fast asleep. Their presence was obvious due to the pungent odor of guano, or bat dung, close to the mouth of the cave.

Flying around were cave swiflets (not bats as others mistake them for) that are most known for the nests they create from their saliva that become the main ingredient of nido soup. The formations inside the cave are spectacular. The speleothems (the cave formations or secondary mineral deposits) formed by thousands of years of mineral accumulation, were very interesting.

The Underground River in Puerto Princesa is the longest explored underground river in the world. A total of 8.2 kilometers have been discovered; 4.3 kilometers are navigable; but access to tourists is limited to 1.5 kilometers. You’ll have to get a special permit to explore the rest of the river.

Anyway, the tour inside the cave lasted about 45 minutes. In the picnic area, lunch was served by the guides. Just a warning though, watch out for the long-tailed macaque monkeys. If you let down your guard even just for a while, you might lose your lunch to them. Monitor lizards or bayawak also walk freely in the area.

After lunch, our group made its way back to Sabang Beach, and then the city center. But we made a brief stopover at Viet Ville to have more Vietnamese food. This time, I ordered chicken salad and beef ball soup.

Back in the city proper, I took a quick nap before heading to Balinsasayaw Restaurant where our group decided to have dinner. It was a full menu of nido soup, grilled meat and sea foods, and garlic crabs for us. Thanks to Oliver Banzon, Em’s friend, for treating us to a sumptuous dinner. The night wasn’t over since Rolly and Gigi Padilla treated us to drinks at Itoy’s Coffee just across the street. It was our last night and I was taking the Cebu Pacific flight back to Manila the next day. Although Rolly and Gigi were still staying another day for a Dos Palmas tour which completes any Puerto Princesa holiday. More photos in Multiply.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Palawan: Island-hopping in Honda Bay

Today I went island-hopping in Honda Bay, which consists of several islets that have become popular swimming, snorkeling and diving destinations among visitors. Visiting the different beaches was a great way to celebrate my 28th. Located in Sta. Lourdes, Puerto Princesa City about 12 kilometers east of the town proper. In the wharf, pump boats could be hired to the different islands. Some islands require entrance fees. And there are others which are privately owned. So you have to ask for permission to visit. The package tour (PHP1000) is inclusive of hotel pick-up, pump boat to the different islands, entrance fees and donations, and lunch.

Our first stop was Pandan Island. There are several huts and cottages on the island which visitors could use. You could also ask caretakers to get some coconuts to quench your thirst. Snorkeling was great around Pandan Island. And it was fun feeding the fish since they all swam towards you as you hold a piece of bread.

After an hour or two, we moved to Snake Island which was a two-kilometer sandbar shaped like a snake. It would have been fun to walk up to the end of the sandbar, but half way there, we started to get hungry. And high tide was setting in with parts of the sandbar starting to get submerged under water. So we decided to walk back to the huts where our tour operators served lunch.

Our last stop was Starfish Island. We got there just in time since it started to rain really hard and the winds started bring in strong waves. Starfish is known for its fine white sand and clear water that teems with starfish. The island had a sandbar encircling a lagoon which was a good thing since we were able to enjoy the warm water sans the strong waves.

Other islets in Honda include Cannon (Cowrie) Island, Bat Island, Lu-Ii Island (from "lulubog-lilitaw"), Meara Marina, and Senorita Island (the breeding site of lapu-lapu fish).

For dinner, we ate at Rene's Saigon Restaurant for some great Vietnamese food. It was a distance from the city center, past the airport in fact. But people frequented it despite its distance. When you take a tricycle, tell them you want to go to the chawlungan since they are not familiar with the restaurant name. I had my favorite bánh mì sandwiches and braised beef noodle soup. Thanks again to Rolly and Gigi for treating us out to dinner.

After dinner, we trooped to Legend Hotel where Rolly and Gigi were staying. We stayed at the lobby to chat and have some snacks when Mayor Hagedorn passed by. Anyway, we have another trip tomorrow and have to get up early. More photos in Multiply.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Palawan: Around Puerto Princesa City, Palawan

This trip had been in the works since I purchased my Cebu Pacific PHP1 tickets. It's day 1 of my birthday trip to Palawan. The last time I was in Puerto Princesa was in 1997, exactly ten years ago. At the Manila Domestic Airport Terminal (I hope they replace this ageing airport soon), the line for the flight to Puerto Princesa was quite long already. Then I noticed an Express Counter for passengers without check-in luggage. I usually travel with my backpack only and it was just now that I noticed that counter. Anyway, there was no line so I got my boarding pass easily.

When I arrived in Puerto Princesa, I was picked up at the airport by the staff of Puerto Pension. I had asked the help of the DOT Regional Office to help me find a decent budget hotel. And from the list they sent me, I decided to stay there since they were the cheapest on the list, had airport transfers, free breakfast, and accepted credit cards. When I arrived in the hotel, I found out they also booked tours for you. So I decided to join the City Tour (PHP600) in the afternoon, the Honda Bay Island-hopping Tour (PHP1000) the next day, and the Underground River Tour (PHP1300) on Saturday. Lunch was included in the last two tours.

The van passed by for me at 1:30 p.m. The group first passed by the Plaza Cuartel and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral before proceeding to the Palawan Museum. The exhibits were what one would expect from a provincial government museum. I hope they get rid of these boring ways of presenting important artifacts by investing in world-class exhibits such as that of the National Museum in Manila. From there, we proceeded to the Butterfly Garden, a great place to view butterflies up close.

After a short walk inside, we were off to the Crocodile Farming Institute, now the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center since the place not only conserved crocodile species. Displayed in the main lobby of the center is the skeleton of the longest crocodile ever caught in Palawan, about six meters, although a nine-meter croc had been spotted after it fed on a child but was not caught. When this croc died, they opened up its stomach and found the remains of a person inside confirming what had previously been known. We also walked around tanks of baby crocs which the center breeds for leather production. At the back is a mini-zoo which features some species endemic to Palawan.

Next on the list was the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, the only prison in the country without walls, where inmates are rehabilitated through productive and money-making activities such as farming and handicraft-making.

Opened in 1904, this was among the first major projects of the American colonizers in the island of Palawan. They had been looking for a place to exile “unwanted” persons that included prisoners and lepers. And both groups were sent to Palawan, the latter being sent to the Culion Leper Colony.

We made a brief stopover at Mitra Ranch, the home of former Speaker Ramon Mitra, Jr. which has been opened to visitors, before making our way back to the downtown area. But we stopped by this place called Baker’s Hill which is known for its breads and hopia.

In the town proper, I bought some souvenirs in the market. Then it was dinner with my tour group in the highly-recommended, by-reservation only Ka Lui Restaurant. In fact, we could not get a booking earlier than 8:30 p.m. You can ask your hotel to book for you.

Our city tour group clicked especially since we found out we had booked the same tours for the next two days. Thanks to Rolly & Gigi Padilla from San Francisco, CA for the dinner. It was a coincidence that Linda is an avid reader of my blog. So she insisted that she treat me out. Thanks again! And to the rest of the gang, Em de Guzman, Rommel Cruz, and Richard & Agnes Cordero, thanks for the company!

Back to Ka Lui, I did not expect what I saw. It was a very cozy place, full of paintings, décor and other artsy stuff. The whole place was almost made of bamboo. Customers had to take off their shoes at the entrance and walked barefoot in the restaurant. It was an all-seafood menu which included shrimps halabos, seafood sisig, kilawin, and crabs, eel or sting ray in coco cream among many others. Among their cool shakes are CocoBanana and Mango Pomelo. Although I’m a meat person, I enjoyed the seafood sisig and stuffed squid.

We enjoyed the place so much, we stayed until it closed at 11 p.m. There are more photos in my Multiply.

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