Saturday, November 14, 2009

Our Palawan Anniversary Honeymoon

We woke up 6am and had the driver bring us to Valle. Although its a Saturday, Caitlin had make-up class due to the long holidays brought about by Typhoon Ondoy. Dad's driver drove us to the airport so our driver can go back to LGV and bring Caitlin to school. This is my second surprise trip to Cols, and by far, the longest-kept secret. I booked this trip back two months ago and have kept her in suspense. Up to this morning, she doesn't know where exactly we're going!

We got off at NAIA Terminal 3. Senator Kiko Pangilinan (Sharon Cuneta's husband) entered the terminal same time we did. Some of the airport personnel took photos with him. We went straight to the PAL Express counter. There were 2 open counters at that time -- one to Busuanga and the other to Surigao. I was teasing Cols that we're going to Surigao then shifted to the Busuanga lane much to her surprise since she has never heard of the place Busuanga before.

We noticed at the airport terminal that most people headed off to Busuanga are foreigners. As always, foreigners seem to know how to go to exotic places, whereas locals tend to frequent the more popular off-the-mill destinations. Since the PAL Express plane was small, we had to take a transit bus to get to the plane. Inside the bus, I felt that we were the tourist in our own country since almost everyone else was Caucasian.

We took the 8:45am flight and arrived Busuanga 9:50am. The plane was propeller-based and had a seat configuration of two seats on each side of the aisle. Busuanga is not that far from Manila but I guess the propeller-based planes still took an hour because they're slower compared to jet. I mean, jet planes can take you to Visayas in an hour and that's actually farther.

Busuanga is located at the northernmost tip of Palawan, and is not too far from Mindoro already. Its part of a group of islands called the Calamian Group of Islands, which is geologically detached from the rest of the Palawan land mass. Busuanga is the biggest of the islands and is considered the gateway to Coron, the province that is getting popular for tourists looking for something off-the-beaten-track. This area is especially popular to divers as there are several World War II sunken shipwrecks under its waters.

The rugged mountainous terrain of Busuanga is awesome to behold. The airplane landed in an airstrip surrounded by really tall mountains. The airport of Gen San is also nestled between mountains, but not as striking as this one. As soon as the passengers/tourists disembarked from the plane, everyone started taking pictures of the plane, the airport and its surroundings.

The airport is nothing fancy. Very simple; no airconditioning; clean (except for the toilets which elicited some negative remarks from the foreigners). We were giving arrival cards to fill-up -- that's something new for a local airport! I brought my 2 phones, however, I could not get any signal on my Globe Handyphone whereas my Smart picked up a strong 3G signal.

As we got out of the terminal, we were greeted by the hotel staff. Together with 3 other groups, we boarded a jeepney to take us to the boat. The 15-min jeepney ride was a very bumpy and dusty one. The tourists seem to be enjoying their "first jeepney ride". The color of the soil/dust is reddish and not your typical brown dust.
We arrived at a small pier where a white boat was waiting for us. The ship crew served sandwiches and juices to the guests as the boat waded through a very calm river bordered on both sides by mangroves. The scenery was gorgeous and this must be what its like to ride a boat through the Amazon river. I was waiting for a giant anaconda to bring out from one of the mangroves just like in the movies!
The boat ride took about 45 min. We passed by a small fishing village along the way. We had a stopover at El Rio y Mar, a sister resort of Club Paradise to pickup/drop-off some passengers; drove further to open waters, and finally arrived at Club Paradise by around noon just in time for lunch.
Club Paradise is in Dimakya Island, or rather, Club Paradise IS Dimakya Island. The German owners, leased the entire island and built Club Paradise on it. As our boat approached its shores, the dark blue waters turned into a verdant turquoise color. The beach was powdery white and can go head-to-head with the sands of Boracay. The place is a whole lot more peaceful though as it does not have the typical party crowd of Boracay or Puerto Gallera.

The in-house band greeted us with their Club Paradise jingle while the resort staff provided us with cold towels and welcome drinks. We dropped off our things at our beachfront cottage #3 and went for buffet lunch. Club Paradise stay packages all include meals on board. After all, there's really no place else to eat unless you take the boat off the island.
We rested a bit after lunch then went snorkeling at house reef. All snorkeling gears -- masks, fins, life vests, etc. can be borrowed for free. We tested our Dicapac underwater camera casing and got some shots. It was pretty difficult to use but at least we were able to take some underwater shots with our Canon EOS DSLR. The house reef did not have that much marine life though so the shots were not really fantastic.
After snorkeling, we lazily lounged around the swimming pool area. The pool's water was very hot so it wasn't really refreshing. I also realized that I lost our room key. It most likely got washed off at the beach when we went snorkeling. So I had to request for a key to be duplicated and paid the fee. I tried to go online using the Globe Tattoo USB modem but the connection was really spotty. I can only get a GPRS signal, and not 3G. Smart's signal in Busuanga is definitely much better than Globe's.

Dinner was buffet again at the main dining hall. There's not much activities at night on the island. So after dinner we headed back to our cottage. I also don't know why but it wasn't windy at all in our cottage. I suspect the wind must be on the eastern side of the island. We're at the western side facing the sunset. So it was quite hot to stay out on our porch even at night.


Des said...

Interesting place to go!

Sir Dick believe ako saiyo hahaha I did not have the courage to agree with Joel to get an underwater for our dslr. Fortunately, we were able to buy a simple Canon A620 which was packaged with an underwater casing na :)

Dick Chiang said...

The Dicapac underwater DSLR casing is very difficult to use. I can't figure out how to completely take out all the air from inside after you seal it. As long as there is air kasi inside, its very buoyant. It keeps floating back to the surface making it impossible to "sisid" with it!