Port Barton, Philippines: Rum in the Sun
We were informed that the jeepney to Port Barton left from Puerto Princesa‘s San Jose Terminal at 9am. We ate breakfast and took a tricycle to the terminal (P60/$1.45). When we arrived, we had a couple of buses to choose from. We were excited at the prospect of taking our first jeepney, but the buses were a lot bigger and more comfortable so we took the 9:30am bus to Port Barton (P200/$4.80, about 4 hours). Before the bus pulled out of the station, a large Filipino man read some bible verses for us and prayed for our souls (and asked us for a donation for the privilege). We were off! [Cue the obligatory dance music]
Our bus raced along the winding road to Roxas — windows down, music blaring. We got to the Port Barton turn off, where the road turns into a partly paved, partly mud track that snakes through the jungle interior of Palawan, along precipitous drops, to the west coast of the island. A 22km distance that took 40 minutes. It also ranks as my number one bus trip in Southeast Asia… so far. Barreling through the dense jungle, with dance music blaring, on a multi-coloured bus was weird. It made me giddy. I found myself bursting into fits of giggles.
Finding accommodation that fulfills our budget requirements (and our basic human needs) in Palawan has proven problematic. You can either stay in a ridiculously expensive luxury resort, on your own private island, with man servants fanning you down with palm leaves; or in a completely overpriced shack that is no more than a hole in the ground with a desk fan (that may or may not work). We had planned to stay at Princesa Michaella’s (P600/$14.40) but we only ended up staying one night. The town was celebrating Barangay Fiesta from May 13-14, a celebration of the town’s patron saint. A marching band walked past our bedroom window at 3am. It was surreal. So surreal, that I convinced myself that I had dreamt it because that couldn’t possibly be true, could it? The owners sat outside our window chatting until 4am. Granted, they couldn’t sleep because a marching band kept walking by the house, but seriously. Then at 5am the roosters started. In an attempt to move further away from the festivities, we spent the morning trawling the beach looking for somewhere else to stay. We found Elsa’s Beach Cottages whose rooms were P1000, but we talked them down to P800/$19 per night. Check out our review on Trip Advisor! In Port Barton, the electricity shuts off from 2am to 6pm, so it can get quite hot at night without a fan. It was worth spending the extra P200/$4.80 to be right on the seafront to feel the cool ocean breeze, and swim whenever we wanted.
Food in Port Barton is quite expensive and after three days it can become monotonous. How many times can you eat fried chicken and steamed rice? For your information, here are some of the cheaper restaurants we found in Port Barton:
Ayette’s Bamboo House Restaurant (click here to see their menu).
“The Cheaper Restaurant” (yep, that’s kind of what it’s called) located on Bonifacio St near Ballesteros St (map) Look for a man telling you, “this is cheaper restaurant!”
Unique Restaurant located along Rizal St. (the street closest to the beach). Walk south on Rizal until you see an informal basketball court. The restaurant is right there. The family who own the place are very friendly, and the food was very cheap and delicious. Expect a brown out at least once while you eat here.
While we were eating in “the cheaper restaurant” we met a boat man who offered us an island hopping tour for P1200/$28.70 (cheaper if he found a couple more people). The problem is the only ATMs on Palawan (that take foreign cards) are in Puerto Princesa, so we had to manage our money wisely. Up next is El Nido, which is a lot more expensive than Port Barton, and we wanted to be able to afford an island hopping trip there.
If you’re looking for a cheap way to while away the lazy days, we suggest you purchase a 750mL bottle of Tanduay Rhum for P72 ($1.70) and a two litre bottle of coke, and see where the evening takes you. The best part of Port Barton is the rum… I mean the beach. The water and beach are very clean. We walked south along the coast to another small white sand cove. Just by walking for 10 minutes, we had found our own private beach. Another highlight of Port Barton is that it lies on the west coast of Palawan and you can enjoy some beautiful sunsets. Grab a couple of ice-cold San Miguels, find a quiet spot, and enjoy the show.
Next stop: El Nido, Palawan.