Our last two weeks in the Philippines were spent on the idyllic west: Palawan. Upon arrival at the airport in Puerto Princessa we hopped in a tricycle to look for a beach. We soon learned that Puerto Princessa is not really the place for pretty beaches. The water around the town is cloudy, and the beach looks like a muddy, sunken dune. What was interesting though, were the countless jelly fish in the water. They looked like plants,laid down upside down pumping water, and contrary to the many stings we already endured, these ones didn’t sting!
Just before we wanted to leave the slightly disappointing beach, we came across a group of tricycle drivers who were celebrating an early Christmas party. They invited us to join, and within no time we were singing karaoke on a Karaoke TV that was dragged on the beach, and drinking rum.
We’ve had these encounters quite some times during our trip: a group of people inviting us to drink with them. It usually didn’t take longer than an hour, due to the language barrier. After a while the simple questions like: “where you from?”, “how old?” and “have wife?” are answered, and trying to start a conversation with some more depth has often proven to be too difficult.
This time however, thanks to the fact that most of the people in the Philippines speak English well, (mainly thanks to the American influence on the education system), we hung out with the tricycle drivers until late in the evening. With conversation topics varying from the work as a tricycle driver, to their new president Duterte. Though, conversations about politics were often cut off, as this is a sensitive topic and one must be careful about what one says.
The following day we left for Port Barton. After a rocky ride through muddy hills with a chauffeur that fell asleep behind the steering wheel, we thankfully made it to this little town. It has the same charm as Koh Rong Sanloem in Cambodia. Dusty roads, few people and a quiet beach.
Our nights were spent in a newly opened guesthouse, where as soon as we opened our door in the morning, a thermos-flask with hot water and a sachet of coffee appeared on our table on the porch. A lovely way to start the day with the morning sun gleaming on our faces.
From Port Barton we went to the busier El Nido. Placed in between dramatic limestone cliffs and turquoise water with pristine white sand beaches, it looks like the perfect tropical getaway. It is around this place, where reality shows such as “Expeditie Robinson” and “Survivor” are recorded. For the first time since Cambodia, we had the opportunity again to rent a sailboat. Obviously, we took that opportunity with both hands, and set off for a day of sailing on the ocean.
This time the wind was much stronger, reaching up to 40 km/h. More challenging than our previous trip, with a higher risk of capsizing on a seemingly endless ocean, but also a lot more exhilarating!
In continuation of the boat tour we did in Port Barton, where we spotted some sea-turtles, we did another tour in El Nido for comparison. We expected this tour to be busier, but we didn’t expect that we would leave the harbour with about 50 other boats in the morning (in Port Barton we left with 2 boats)! Despite the crowd, it was still an interesting tour with mighty lagoons and a mouthwatering lunch on board.
Video: Port Barton & El Nido
Travel tips: Port Barton & El Nido
- For cheaper accommodation in El Nido, don’t book online in advance, but walk from the bus station to Corong Corong beach 5-10 minutes away from the touristy center in El Nido. Here you will find more budget options, a quieter beach, and the best sunsets! Trike ride to the city is 20-50 Peso.
- Do not forget to pay plenty of visits to one of the many bakeries in the Philippines, and be sure to ask for something that just came fresh from the oven.
- Tours are the main attraction in Port Barton and El Nido. With Port Barton being about a half cheaper, and ten times less crowded, we recommend doing this one. A good alternative to El Nido boat trip is renting a kayak or a sailboat and explore the area on your own!