Port Barton - JBR - Chalet View

Port Barton – Philippines – Information


 

JANUARY 2015:

 



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OVERVIEW:

Port Barton - Side Street Port Barton - Typical StreetPort Barton is another one of those ‘must see’ places in Palawan.

Many blogs say that it is ‘off the beaten track’; it is not. It is now on the beaten track, full of backpackers, and getting busier and busier every year.

I met a seasoned expat from Australia who was also here last year. He said that accommodation and food prices have ‘doubled’ since last year (and that he won’t be coming again next year because of it). The man was, obviously, disappointed so you take such things with ‘a pinch of salt’ as it can be emotional… ‘double’ may be an exaggeration… but ‘significant’ may be a lot more accurate.

This funky beach town is set near one of the countries most beautiful island chains and you can hire a boat to take you out on day trips to the surrounding islands. Excursion prices here are HALF of similar packages in El Nido.

Please Note: The tap water in the rural areas (of Palawan – and, probably, The Philippines in general) is, sometimes, not the best. I was advised by an expat (in Puerto Princesa) to use bottled water for cleaning my teeth. I would suggest that you buy big bottles of water for this and for drinking.


GETTING THERE:

I made my own way from Sabang to Port Barton by Lexxus minivan.

12Go Logo

The cost was PHP650. The trip is scheduled for 3.5 hours but the door-to-door time depends on how long you have to wait transferring from the first bus (Sabang to the North Road transfer point) to the second bus (North Road to Port Barton), and how many people ‘drop off detours’ they make on the way. My trip took 4.5 hours.

The trip was very uncomfortable. The 2nd bus was full and they had to make a space for me. I couldn’t fit my legs in the space in front of my seat nor my size 11 feet in the space on the floor. I had to travel the 2.5 hour section to Port Barton sitting cramped up facing sideways of facing backwards negotiating my feet through and over cargo.

Lessons Learnt: I STRONGLY ADVISE you to book the 1st bus of the day. Many younger travellers don’t want to get up that early in the morning… so, you have a better chance of getting a proper seat. Also, try and pre-book a specific seat… this works for direct trips (with no bus transfers) but is unlikely to work if you have to switch buses as someone else always gets to the best seat first (whether they have pre-booked it or not).


COMMUNICATIONS:

I still had my Globe SIM card that I purchased at Manila Airport when I flew in from Hanoi to Puerto Princesa.

For PHP1000, I got a SIM card with a 1 month ‘unlimited’ data package; no texts, no calls, no credits. Please Note: it is not ‘unlimited’ – your daily usage is ‘capped’ at about 800MBs. When you hit that limit, you are dropped to the slowest speed.

If you want to be able to get online in The Philippines, you need to get your own mobile data package; Wifi in The Philippines is poor and unreliable at the best of times – even on your own package.

A poor country like The Philippines finds it hard to make the sort of infrastructure investment that it needs to in order to provide decent cover across 7,000 islands.

If you rely on the Wifi in budget hotels, etc you will find that they too (usually) have the same daily ‘data limit’ which gets used up very quickly in the mornings with tourists checking their face-ache. For the rest of the day, their Wifi can be almost unusable.

The wifi in Port Barton is better, faster, and more reliable than that in Sabang.


TRANSPORT:

By Foot:

You can walk everywhere in Port Barton; there is no need for transport.

By Scooter:

You can rent a scooter if you want to go off on a day trip.


WHERE TO STAY:

I had researched online beforehand but there aren’t many GRANDPAcking budget hotels listed. As with Sabang, I decided to take a chance and just turn up in Port Barton to see what I could find walking in off the street.

When you get to Port Barton, you will find that there are many accommodation options that are not listed on the internet. However, most of these are BELOW GRANDPAcking Standard – the good ones are on the internet.

The Lexxus minivan drops you off in the middle of Port Barton; at first, it feels like they have dropped you off in the middle of no-where… but, that’s Port Barton… a small grid of 12 un-paved streets.

I arrived at 5:30pm which was much too late… dusk was approaching. If you have not booked accommodation in advance, I suggest that you ARRIVE BEFORE MIDDAY.

If you arrive before midday, you can get the rooms that are being vacated that day… by 5:30pm, they have all gone.

I walked up and down a few streets with my suitcase in hand. It was one of those rare occasions when I had to carry it because of the poor roads. This meant that I couldn’t go far.

A kindly old Filipino man asked if I was looking for accommodation. I said ‘yes’. He took me to a few Homestays and Pensions… they were all full. One place offered be a box room (big enough for a single mattress on the floor with 1 meter to the side) with a fan for PHP500 / night. I declined.

Port Barton - Mattress Room Port Barton - MattressFinally, we found somewhere at the back of town; by now it was 6:30pm. All they had was a mattress on a floor in a big open room with 3 other mattresses (one in each corner) – a dorm type arrangement – with a shared bathroom.

I had no choice but to take it at PHP300 / night. The other mattresses were not occupied, which made it acceptable for 1 night.

There was an all night Rave Party / Disco 50 metres away until 6:00am – so I didn’t get any sleep. The roosters started ‘any-cock’ll-doing’ at 4:30am which made things worse. By 7:00am, I was having breakfast. By 8:00am I was on the beach looking for beachfront accommodation.

All of the beachfront accommodation was above the GRANDPAcking price range. They were, also, all full. You could get a BELOW GRANDPAcking Standard small Duplex Room for PHP1100 (about 12sqm) or a small Chalet for PHP1500 (about 12sqm). For GRANDPAcking Standard, you had to pay a lot more.

I came back one street from the beachfront and tried again…

On this street, you were still paying PHP1000 / night for a small cottage (12sqm) BELOW GRANDPAcking Standard.

If you want GRANDPAcking Standard accommodation, you need to go 2 or 3 streets back from the beach. This is, still, only about 100-150m from the beach. A cottage will cost PHP1000 / night.

If you want to be on the beach, you need to start your online search early and find big discounts well in advance of your arrival.

In retrospect, I should have booked a below GRANDPAcking Standard room online for my first night (anything! even if it was PHP1200 / night) and searched for something better the next day. I will do this for El Nido.


Booking.com




ACCOMMODATION:

JBR TOURIST INN:

Port Barton - JBR - Chalet Port Barton - JBR - GroundsThe JBR Tourist Inn is a couple of streets back from the beach.

Port Barton - JBR - Chalet ViewIt has a courtyard setting with 5 chalets and 6 terrace rooms. All clean and modern.

Port Barton - JBR - Chalet Entry Port Barton - JBR - Room ViewThey offered me a GRANDPAcking Standard Double Bed Chalet for PHP1000 / night.

I negotiated them down to PHP900 / night for 5 nights.

Breakfast was not included.

Port Barton - JBR - Chalet Ensuite Port Barton - JBR - Room BedThe room comes with fan, a small porch with table and chairs, a wardrobe, and an ensuite with hot water shower.

It was meant to have in-room wifi, but the signal was too weak – so I used my own SIM card.

They also have a kitchen area which provides all of the equipment that you need for doing your own cooking. They provide free hot water in flasks here in the morning so that you can make your own tea / coffee.

Port Barton - Beach View


EAT:

BEACHFRONT:

You will be hard-pushed to find any meal for less than PHP200.

For the cheaper places, you have to go a couple of streets back from the beach. The best area is near and around the school.

THE MARKET:

There are a couple of cheap stalls at the market.

For a quick and cheap ‘fill up’ you can get a pancake for PHP10.

There is a rough-and-ready BBQ tall where you can get a fatty Pork Chop and Rice for PHP65 (and a San Miguel for PHP50).

PAELLA RESTAURANT:

This is one of the better value for money places.

Here you can get a breakfast for PHP120. You have a choice of 3: American, Continental, or Filipino. I tried there Filipino that came with a fried egg, fried fish, rice, a couple of slices of melon, and an instant coffee.Port Barton - Filipino Breakfast PHP120

You can also get dinner there with something like a Carbonara Pasta with Bread for PHP180.

GACAYAN:

Port Barton - Gacayan - Omelette w Coffee PHP80Port Barton - Gacayan - Chicken Curry PHP130The best value place in town is the Gacayan which is found opposite the school gates.

This place is a bit ‘rustic’ but it is very popular and, especially at night, you may have to wait for a table.

You can get a Tomato and Onion Omelette with 4 slices of toasted bread and coffee for PHP80. Sometimes, this comes with butter and jam.

Port Barton - Gacayan - MenuAmerican, Continental, and Filipino breakfasts (bigger than the Paella’s) cost PHP110-120.

They also do a PHP50 Filipino meal which includes something from their buffet pots, rice, and a free soft drink – an excellent option for lunch… especially if there are still some whole fried fish left.

Another good think about the Gacayan is the beer where you can get a San Miguel for PHP40 and a 1L Red Horse for PHP95.

OTHER:

Another place worth a try is the Del Barrio. They display pictures of different soups from PHP50-70. The soups are tasty but they don’t have much real food in them. For PHP90, you get a soup with bread. You can get a Red Stallion for PHP45.

Port Barton - del Barrion - Beef Noodle Soup PHP70


DRINK:

A San Miguel will cost you PHP40 to PHP65 depending on where you go.

BEACHFRONT:

If you go east to the end of the beach (over a wooden bridge) you will find a bar that does a Happy Hour San Miguel for PHP40 between 3pm and 6pm.

Otherwise, you are in PHP65 plus territory.

THE MARKET:

Prices here are PHP50.

GACAYAN:

A San Miguel is PHP40 and a 1L Red Horse is PHP95. This is almost the same as you pay in the local shops.

SHOPS:

Why not try a local rum (Tanduay) for PHP50 for 375ml.


THE BEACH:

Port Barton - Beach View West Port Barton - Sunset - Volleyball 2It is a nice beach but can be a bit cluttered with ‘Island Hopping Boats’ in the mornings and evenings.

When the boats are out during the day, it is good swimming.

The beach was clean and well kept in the middle but got a little bit littered to the western end.

The water is clean and clear of rubbish / debris and I saw no jellyfish whilst I was there.

The eastern and western ends of the beach are a lot quieter with more space for you to ‘swing a cat’.


YOUR SAFETY:

CRIME:

There is no reason to feel unsafe in Port Barton (IMHO).

But, as with all poor places, be sensible. Don’t flash your wealth or leave things unattended.

SANDFLIES:

There are sandflies. If you plan on spending a lot of time on or near the beach, be prepared to treat a few bites every day. Come with a suitable remedy.

HEALTH:

Port Barton’s water is serviced from an underground source. There is a lack of proper sewerage infrastructure. An expat who lives here told me that this water has started to get contaminated. Use bottled water for cleaning your teeth.

After months of healthy soups, etc in Vietnam I found that the change of diet in The Philippines left me with constipation. I went in search of a laxative… there are no pharmacies in Port Barton… you can get simple medicines from one or two of the local shops but, for something more serious, you will have to take a trip to Roxas.


WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:

ISLAND HOPPING:

You can do a 1 day Island Hopping Trip for PHP750.

Or, for PHP1550, you can do a 2 day / 1 night trip staying over on German Island.

WATERFALL:

Port Barton - Waterfall - Pool Port Barton - Waterfall - TrailYou need to be reasonably fit for this trek.

It is best to get instructions on how to get there from your hotel / resorts… it is easy to take one of many wrong turnings. My instructions were:

  1. Walk north along the beach and cross a little wooden bridge
  2. Pass the Greenviews Resort and follow the small path inland
  3. Just after you see the “LOVE THE NATURE AND THEY WILL LOVE YOU BACK” sign, take the right-hand fork
  4. Soon after, there is another fork – go left
  5. After 200m you will pass Port Barton Cemetary on your left
  6. Walk a while and go right at the next fork – the path goes slightly downhill
  7. Keep walking to the next fork where you will find a small shack
  8. Sign the register at the shack (they ask for a donation)
  9. Follow the path right keeping the rice fields on your left
  10. Cross the 1st little ‘bridge’ and continue
  11. After crossing the 2nd little ‘bridge’ there is a clearing – follow the path to the right
  12. After crossing the 3rd little ‘bridge’ – follow the path to the right
  13. Follow the trail along the river (the river should be on your left) until it ends
  14. Cross the river – you will see the path on the other side once you are half way across the river
  15. Walk another 5 minutes to the waterfall

It takes 1.5 hours to trek there without stops; and the same coming back.

You will find a decent waterfall with a plunge pool; a welcome swim after your hot and sweaty trek.

It is best to time it so that you arrive at the pool when the sun is at its highest.

You will, then, be swimming in sunshine (rather than the shade) and can get a good dry-out before returning home.

Rest a little on the way there, do the same on the way back, spend an hour or so at the waterfall… and, you have a very nice way to spend a day.

Port Barton - Waterfall - Downstream

ACOUSTIC NIGHT:

Go east along the beach to the end. Here you find an Acoustic Night that starts at 7pm 3 nights a week – including Saturday night.


MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:

ATMs:

The nearest ATM is back in Puerto Princesa.

CASH:

Cash rules.

OTHER:

Laundry: PHP100 / Kg (so get it done in Puerto Princesa before you get here for PHP25 / Kg).

Local Shops: 1L water PHP30. 2L water PHP45. 5L water PHP85. 6L water PHP100. 2g sachet of Nescafe coffee PHP3. ‘Stubby’ banana PHP1-1.50 each.


GETTING AWAY:

My next destination was El Nido.

After my experience in a minivan from Puerto Princesa to Sabang and, again, from Sabang to Port Barton I was determined to get a decent minivan with a decent seat. The drive from Port Barton to El Nido is the longest of the three (4+ hours) and I didn’t want to be uncomfortable for that long.

I asked the lady at my JBR reception which minivan was the best. She said ‘Nature…. {something}’. The price is normally PHP650 but these people charge PHP700 (because they are meant to have a bigger and better van). For PHP50 extra, I wasn’t going to quibble – as long as I got a comfortable seat.

I asked if I could book a specific seat. She said ‘yes’ and said that she would call them and book for me. She did so and booked me the front window seat next to the driver.

The minivan leaves at 8:00am and picks you up from your hotel.


CONCLUSION:

Port Barton is fast disappearing off of the GRANDPAcking radar.

Accommodation is poor value for money compared to the rest of South East Asia. To get a GRANDPAcking room or chalet on the beach, you will be paying PHP2000+; you can pay half this price for a place on a nice beach in other countries. Meals are also over-priced for what you get. The best value breakfast will cost you PHP80 each… lunch PHP50 each… and Dinner PHP130 each.

Port Barton is for young backpackers who are discovering the world for the first time; for them, Port Barton is idyllic.

But, there are no facilities for GRANDPAckers. You will not find GRANDPAcking, ‘western quality’ long-term rental accommodation here.

Port Barton is a nice place to visit short-term, but you will go ‘stir crazy’ if you stay too long. Come soon… 1 to 2 years from now, Port Barton may have priced itself out of the GRANDPAcking market (like El Nido already has).

Personally, I would go to Sabang rather than Port Barton. Sabang is what Port Barton was 2 years ago. But, in Sabang, you can live in a cottage on the beach for the same money.


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