Vail travel: Underground river’s a bit underwhelming |

Vail travel: Underground river’s a bit underwhelming

Luc Pols
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail Daily/Luc PolsA Philippine karabau taxi.

I went back to Manila for a couple of days, basically to go and see Corregidor , the island of World War II fame. It is not that I love Manila that much, but it’s the only way to visit this island.

The weather was up to its old tricks again and my visit was marred by constant downpours. Additionally, when I was having lunch, someone swiped my umbrella. Still, I learned a lot about MacArthur and the death march from Bataan, during which more than 20,000 POWs died in six days. Barbaric.

Once again in search of the sun, I took an early flight to Puerto Princessa on the island of Palawan. There were two reasons for visiting – the Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a few days on the beach.

I landed in Palawan in the pouring rain – not an auspicious beginning but seemingly par for the course. I found a nice hotel with a pool, which was of little use in this downpour. I really wanted to see the Underground River, but the next morning the sun was out, so I stayed at the pool. It started raining again right after lunch.

It seems there are some words and phrases missing from the Philippine vocabulary: “excuse me,” “may I,” “I’m sorry,” “please” and “thank you.” The first three I did not hear in my two months there. “Please” was very rare and “thank you” was a bit more common, but just a little.

As a matter of fact, there was exactly one hotel where the clerk at checkout said “Thank you for staying here.” I was utterly amazed and thanked him profusely for his courtesy, telling him he had been the only one.

The exception in this seeming lack of common courtesy, at least in our Western eyes, was the “you’re welcome” uttered when we Westerners said “thank you.”

The trip to Sabang was a relatively nice 2 1/2-hour ride over a road which was 70 percent complete, even though at one point we had to drive through a river. Sabang was the home of the Underground River, and the Philippine government put up this site as this country’s entry into the new Seven Wonders of the World contest.

In other words, it is one of the main tourist attractions in the country. Why then, I asked, was there only electricity in this small town from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.? As a consequence there was no hot water and no air conditioning, and the hotels – cottages only – were what is commonly referred to as “rustic.” That means they weren’t very comfortable.

The small bay on which Sabang was located was magnificent and, full of optimism, I set out along the Monkey Trail to the UNESCO site. This trail was not exactly what I expected. It was four miles long and went up and down steep hills. I was bushed when I got to the river and started rethinking my plan to walk back.

The underground River was OK – cute but nothing too spectacular. It was very hard to see anything. Even my fellow boat passengers agreed.

I got a boat ride back, but it was too late to check out of my hotel and move to the only hotel that had hot water and air conditioning – and excellent service. It was four times more expensive, but at 5 p.m., I moved myself over there. The first thing I did was take a hot shower.

I spent the next two days at the beach before returning to Puerto Princessa for two nights and a last day at the pool. However, it almost seemed that “someone” didn’t want me to become too comfortable for too long, because it started pouring again.

In any case, I took a plane back to Manila where I had time to buy a new suitcase and head back to the United States.

It was quite a trip and for my honest evaluation, see the “wrap up” article next Sunday in the Vail Daily.

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