11th-13th January, 2015
We arrived at Port Barton in the early evening and my first impressions were, to be honest, not great. The beach was nice, but I was soon to discover that the accommodation was all hideously overpriced, yet somehow nearly everywhere was full. Large colourfully painted signs advertised nightly barbeques, stone-baked pizzas, grilled cheeseburgers and all kinds of western foods, all sold at very western prices. Where was the Filipino food? When Roy, my former travel buddy, had described this place to me it sounded like a secret little haven which only received a gentle trickle of travellers, but he had been here over five years ago. It seemed this place had since been ‘discovered’, and its clientele had predominantly shifted to the flashpacker party crowd.
It did feel a bit like I was in Thailand.
I eventually found a place for the four of us to stay – a nice cottage with two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and balcony with a hammock – and I even managed to haggle it down to a fairly reasonable price.
The next morning we were taken out on a boat trip to explore the archipelago of islands just offshore and we managed to avoid paying all the extra tout-tax by organising it directly with the boatman rather than an agency. The snorkelling spots we stopped at had some nice corals and so-so marine life. The islands, however, were paradise.
The first place we settled upon was a pair of twin islands which it was possible to wade between across a bar of sand beneath the shallows. Our boatman and his assistant cooked us a lunch of fresh fish and vegetables over a fire while we explored, swam, snorkelled and lazed.
In the afternoon we got back onto the boat and were taken to German Island, which had a lovely sandy beach dotted with coconut trees. We even managed to spot a turtle while snorkelling there and our guide showed us a spot where a turtle had laid its eggs in the sand.
Port Barton did grow on me – as it is a genuinely beautiful area – but at the same time the way it is now set up, with its expensive prices and all the pre-fixed tours, makes it feel a bit like you’re on a holiday rather than travelling. It is all a little bit too comfortable. A little too crowded. Locals are so used to seeing foreigners now that they are no longer interesting to them, and thus only speak to them when they want their money and that, to me, as a traveller, creates a distance and makes you feel like you are not really connecting with an area, just seeing all these pretty things from behind a glass as you are whisked around.
I think I may have come to Palawan a few years too late, but I am already here now and, like I said before, it is a beautiful place, so I am going to make the most of what it is while I am here and just hope that other parts of the Philippines, such as The Visayas and North Luzon, might be a little more adventurous and rewarding, when I get there.
Jody, James, Chloe, and I got a little bit attached to our nice little cottage by the sea, so after our boat tour we stayed in Port Barton for an extra day, to relax, soak up the sun, bathe, and read books in our hammocks.
For more photos, click here.