There are very few places in South East Asia that aren’t overpopulated by tourists taking photos of the pristine beaches and staying in luxurious resorts that crowd the shoreline. So much so that the search for a peaceful, idyllic and cultured hot spot is a laborious one that many people fail to complete before giving in to the lure of the crowds.
Port Barton, in the Filipino province of Palawan, is a saving grace in such situations and is just what any holiday maker in search of real Filipino culture is searching for.
I visited Port Barton in 2010 and arrived during low season. Everything looked closed when we arrived by mini bus from Puerto Princesa and our driver found us the cheapest room on the seafront for a couple of pounds a night. The electricity on the island runs from 6pm to midnight, so waking in a sweat after the fan and air-conditioning turns off is a regularly occurrence. About ten guest houses line the strip of beach that looks out onto a beautiful coastline with stunning sunsets. All are charming and simple with a few more exotic than the others. The strip takes 10 minutes to walk along so taking your time to wander round the accommodation is advised so you can get a good feel for the village.
Port Barton is a small fishing and farming village and a large boat would arrive by dusk every evening filled with workers returning from their daily fish. The children, who had spent their day frolicking in the sea, would run up to the boat and help unload as the fish was hauled off in nets and carried to the shore.
On my visit I spent almost every night at the local bar, Jambalaya. The bar was tiny and was run by two Filipino women who would serve you the coldest beers on the bay. Due to the lack of electricity this was a serious attraction and they weren’t wrong when they said they were cold. The balcony could fit about 5 people at a push and the stack of coffee table books would keep me and my boyfriend entertained for hours. We must have sat up there for three hours one night, without speaking, as we made our way through various book on sharks attacks, travel and shocking world events as our beers were soundlessly replaced and snacks were sporadically laid before us.
An insight into the tranquility of the island and the nature that surrounds it was forced upon me that night as I went to the toilet and noticed the house cat sitting silently in front of me. I followed his eye line and jumped out of the bathroom, screaming, with my shorts still round my ankles, as I saw the biggest spider I have ever seen in my life. The two women laughed as they told me that was nothing and continued to spend the night trying to find a bigger one seeing as they are such a regular sight around their wooden balcony.
Snorkelling and island hopping is a wonderful way to spend a day on Port Barton with fishermen being more than willing to take you out for the day at a small price. We also spent a day with the kayak we hired, paddling along the shoreline and visiting nearby bays. It was a tranquil village with, at times, very little to do, but that was where the beauty lied as I don’t think we saw even one other tourist there during our three day stay.
|Value for money|