Palawan is the long skinny island in the Western Philippines and just over an hour flight from Manila. It is considered one of the last remaining virgin jungles in the country and was one of our “must visit” locations during our stay. It is very undeveloped, with only coastal roads, many of which are just mud tracks and impassable at times. Jeepney’s run all over, but the going is slow. Our northerly ride from the capital of Puerta Princesa to Port Barton was about 3.5 hrs. To travel north further all the way to the Northern Tip of El Nido was more like 6 hrs. Travel in the less developed South even slower.
Getting to Palawan has been a multi-stage journey, which started actually deciding what our experience would look like. After my earlier convoluted explanation of how we came to find a rental home in Port Barton for our next great escape, we booked it for Easter, staying for a week last month, and had a fantastic time. It is considered one of the last remaining virgin jungles in the country and one of our “must visit” locations during our stay. Latham brought his friend, Rob, and Robert’s sister, Helen, joined us too, having just arrived from North Carolina just a few days earlier.
The next stage of getting there, after the plane ride, was the long ride in the air conditioned bus. Our journey was interesting though, and the time passed quickly. We stopped at our supermarket to load up with food, which we packed into the coolers the housekeeper sent down with the van. (Smart). She had put a few cold drinks in the cooler for us, to help us manage the heat (even smarter!) and we set off out of town.
The main road as far as our turn off was tarmacked as the going pretty easy. But once you make the turn onto the Port Barton road, it is dirt track all the way for the last hour. It rains so frequently and heavily that any maintenance work on the road is quickly worn away. Here’s a little taste of the rougher patches:
Port Barton was small and charming, and we had more cold drinks in the shade while we they loaded our things into the small banca that would take us to the house about 20 minutes up the coast. The muffler on the boat was broken and the engine made a horrendous sound, so they handed out ear muffs to drown the noise. The boat took us past fishing boats and tiny communities consisting of little bamboo shacks, and eventually landed on a beach with one small house, waiting for us:
The house was perfect. Located right on the beach, with a sand path leading to the door. The layout was simple, but comfortable. Each bedroom had a small fan, but the sea air was cool enough so most nights I didn’t need it on. We spent most of our relaxing time either sitting on deck chairs on the beach, or sitting on beanbags on the small gazebo nearby. At night we played board games with the boys. There was a TV, but, mercifully, no-one turned it on. We had a wonderful housekeeper, who cooked meals, washed up, and made beds.
We cooked when we wanted to, and she helped with the prep. It was so relaxing to make a marinade, or top and tail beans on the beach, and come back to the kitchen all cleaned up and ready for the next round of culinary activity, reading a chapter or two between bouts of effort.