Port Barton: The only tourist.
After spending a week in El Nido where the amount of tourists outnumbered locals, we were ready for a change of pace. I had read good things about Port Barton on the same island of Palawan in the Philippines.
Getting to Port Barton is not as easy as you would hope. I think though, that is what keeps Port Barton less busy and charming. There is no direct transportation from El Nido to Port Barton (during high season there may be opportunities to rent private vans). We took a bus to Roxas and then a jeepney to Port Barton. Port Barton is not very far kilometre wise but do not confuse that with the amount of time it will take. Our journey began like most filipino transportation routes, making many stops to fill the jeepney with rice, chickens, and locals.
After doing a few circles and an half an hour later we were on our way. The road to Port Barton is unpaved and after it rains, very very muddy. We had lucked out with the weather in El Nido with sunshine everyday but had been warned that the Philippines has two seasons, the rainy season and the very rainy season. It began to rain and the road quickly turned into thick clay mud. After a few splashes of mud through the open sides of the jeep, a passenger loosing their glasses in the mud, getting stuck, and having to remove large boulders from the road we arrived in Port Barton.
We avoided the few fisherman looking for commission to take us to a guest house and wandered down the beach in the rain. We walked into quite a few beach bungalows to enquire about the price and were a bit shocked how expensive they were considering we saw no one around. We decided on Summer Homes cottages and bargained down to acceptable shoulder season prices (600php per night).
Walking around the beach later that night looking for the ideal place to eat a good vegan dinner we realized that aside from the many dogs, we might be one of the only tourists here. A few people came and went during our 6 nights in Port Barton but on most days we did not encounter another traveller. It took a few days to adjust to the emptiness before I truly felt the joy of solitude here. The town is small, the people are friendly, and most importantly its undeniably authentic. Port Barton is a fishing town and every morning the boats go out, and return early afternoon. The people are friendly to tourists but do not try and exploit you or sell you anything.
The beach itself is full of beautiful golden sand lined with palm trees and dotted with beach bungalows, their restaurants, many crabs, and friendly animals.
We easily fell into a routine, breakfast at Paella was bananaque (deep fried caramelized banana with brown sugar) for Colin and steamed local vegetables for me. Next we would walk the beach a few times, relax in the sun or blog in the rain. Lunch and dinner we often ate at the same small local restaurant Gacayan which has set dishes every day and always had pumpkin and eggplant in a coconut milk and ginger curry. I cant even say how many times we ate this same dish here without getting embarrassed but the value and taste are amazing. For just 50php ($1.20) you get 1 bowl of coconut milk veggies, a large serving of rice, a drink (cola, beer, or I recommend sweet local lemon juice), and fruit. Compared to the prices in El Nido (often 150-800php) we were relieved to find great veg food for a good price.
I read an article recently that labelled Port Barton as ‘the town that tourism missed’. This sleepy beach town is exactly that, a slice of honest paradise without all the sparkle and shine. I’m not sure how long it will last without development but for now, make sure you give Port Barton a visit.