Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015
4

Port Barton is the new El Nido! 

At least, in my personal opinion. I have been to El Nido several times, it’s my second time in Port Barton and I have figured out the differences between the two based on my personal experience and holiday preferences.

As a local resident in Palawan for a year and a half, I must say the latter overtook the former in some attributes.  It’s not that El Nido is less attractive, believe me, I found it very beautiful, especially during my first visit.  The island hopping destinations are spectacular, so many gorgeous island beaches, clear lagoons, breath-taking limestone mountains, but in my recent visits my expectations hardly surpasses the actual experience.  Maybe because I already have done all the island hopping tours.  Nothing left to surprise me. Maybe because I always prefer places that aren’t very touristy.

Perhaps, if it’s the low season and not extremely packed with reveling holidaymakers, then one would have a real feel of the paradise island, otherwise, it’s half way to becoming another Boracay.




Port Barton on the other hand is quite lagging behind in developments which is both a blessing – and a curse?  A blessing because it has retained its small town feel to it, the ambience is still of a fishermen’s village and at the same time a tranquil resort for the selected few in the know – if you know what I mean.  A curse because, one, the dusty (muddy during rainy months) road about an hour before the town, two, the lack of electricity during the day.  Even then, these deterrents can also be considered as blessings.  It prevented the surge of mass tourism and a lot of people favor that.

Most of visitors coming to Port Barton are foreign tourists who prefer the laidback atmosphere, who are avoiding the rush and madness of mass tourism, and therefore usually stay longer from couple of weeks to more than a month.  These are the people who typically have the time to relax, bask in the sun, or catch up on reading on a swaying hammock.  This place is conducive to that as it affords total relaxation.

Thanks to the popularity of El Nido, the bulk of domestic tourists are diverted to there instead of Port Barton.  Although I’m afraid when the dusty road – the last one hour to Port Barton - becomes cemented, which is anytime soon, it will turn into a holiday magnet, after all, it’s nearer to Puerto Princesa city.  

Getting to Port Barton.
Although El Nido is farther in kilometer distance than Port Barton, the former is easier to get to – five to six hours on winding but concrete roads with several airconditioned buses and vans plying the route several times a day.  Port Barton is a bit of a challenge with only one big non-airconditioned old bus a day that leaves Puerto Princesa San Jose bus terminal at 9:00am and arrives half past 1:00pm. 

9:00am bus to Port Barton at San Jose bus terminal.



But here’s the good news, starting December 15, 2014, there is a 12-seater airconditioned van that leaves twice a day from the San Jose terminal at 9:00am and 2:00pm which makes getting to Port Barton a lot comfortable.  

The only difficulty would be the last one hour before reaching the place when it becomes rough and bumpy dirt road but the first two hours or so is along a concrete road.

Airconditioned van that goes to Port Barton.


I just found out about the aircon van when I happen to inquire around the bus terminal in San Jose during our travel date and it was too late as the 9:00am schedule is already full, so we ended up taking the grueling non-aircon bus option that left the terminal at 9:15am.  The trip was bit (or a lot) exhausting, first it stopped to refuel just couple of minutes after it moved out of the terminal.  I don’t really understand why the refueling must happen after the bus moved and right before it hits the highway, and not right before it starts filling up passengers.  Will someone explain that to me please?  Though I might have a clue and it’s along the line of the country’s tourism slogan – “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” – which is further corroborated by the following stops along the way.

After an hour or so, it stopped along the highway to pick up sacks of white gravels, then a half an hour stop at the roadside restaurant for meal and bathroom use, followed by a stop to load sacks of rice at a warehouse just along the main road, then another one to load some palm leaves for hut roofing.  Just before reaching the terminal in Port Barton, it unloaded some of the stuff picked up along the way.  Tough ride, ain’t it?

I took the contact number of the aircon van at the San Jose terminal and booked (sent a text message) our seats on the way back to Puerto and it was just an absolute convenience.  They picked us up at our accommodation in Port Barton.  No long stops so we reached Puerto Princesa in about 3 hours on a comfortable journey, and we are only 3 passengers on board the 12-seater van, except for 3 others who were  dropped off mid along the way.

Summing it up, here’re some points to be considered in choosing your transport, between the non-airconditioned big bus and the aircon van -


Bus
Van
Frequency
Once a day at 9:00am, be early to get the best seats.
Twice a day, 9:00am and 2:00pm.
Terminal
San Jose Terminal , Puerto Princesa
San Jose Terminal, Puerto Princesa
Comfort
Non-aircon old bus
Aircon new vans
Seat
No headrest
With headrest
Capacity
60+ passengers and bulk commodities (livestock, vegetables, fish, crops, etc.)
12 passengers
Travel Time
4.5 hours
3 hours
Stops
Gasoline stop, half-hour stop for meal time, and several other stops (minimum of 5) to pick up passengers and to buy goods along the way ranging from 2 to 15 minutes each.
0 – 1, No restaurant stop if all passengers agreed to it.
Fare
PHP 200
PHP300 - 350

Should you decide to take the aircon van, the name of the company is Recaro, send a text message to book your seats to 09305683429 or 09461404046, stating your name, intended travel date, select your time (9:00am or 2:00pm both from Puerto Princesa City to Port Barton and vise-versa), and the number of seats. 
By the way, I’m not affiliated with the above company, I’m just providing information.

The best place to stay.
For the second time around also, I stayed at the Ausan Beachfront Cottages.  Although there are a lot of places situated along the beach line, I don’t want to take a risk, Ausan is a trusted bet, it’s the most central beachfront accommodation in town.  It has the friendliest staff, a gorgeous garden with hammocks facing the beach, and the best host – Ariel – the very affable guy who manages the place.  They did a really good job with the resort since my first visit last year.  Added a couple of lovely treehouses, the only ones I’ve seen in Port Barton, one situated right in front of the beach perched on a large tree with its own balcony facing the ocean.  It must have been cool staying couple of meters above the ground. 

Approaching Ausan on board the boat.

One of the hammocks.

 They have recently opened their restaurant, the food is impeccable, handsomely presented and flavorsome.  We tried eating out twice but we ended up having most of our meals at Ausan.  In my opinion, it hammered all other restaurants in town, the food is unpretentious and of generous portions.  Add to that the ambience -  it’s cozy and the several ceiling fans drove the  mosquitoes away.  They even have a gazebo beside the beach where we took most of our meals or just lie down with a book on hand.  A set meal costs only P170 that consist of the soup of the day, main entrée (chicken, pork or seafood), sweet desserts and drinks. 

Must-tries are – grilled stuffed squid, crab in coconut sauce, sweet and sour fish, chicken lollipops, sautéed shrimps – all comes with either rice or mashed potato.  Watch for the white board behind the counter at the restaurant for new items on their menu, it changes every day, and you can always request for anything special that you may have in mind as long as they have the ingredients in-stock.  Jeez! I was so satiated the whole time, and now I’m missing the food already, HAH!  I’ve got to be back again soon, that’s for sure.

Buttered shrimps with mashed potatoes.

Grilled stuffed squid.


Pasta in creamy sauce with bacon strips.


Great place, polite and friendly people, excellent restaurant, best place to stay. 

Peak season rates (November – May) at Ausan are as follows:
Duplex Cottage (cheapest one), en-suite bathroom, shared balcony facing the beach.
P750 for 2 persons.
Treehouse (UFO) beside the restaurant, a little set back off the beach front.
P850 for 2 persons.
Treehouse with balcony facing the beach, common bathroom few steps down at the back of the restaurant.
P1,050 for 2 persons.
Triplex Cottage, en-suite bathroom, shared balcony.
P1.250 for 2 persons.
Family Junior Suite Cottage, en-suite bathroom.
P2,850 for 3 persons.
Beach Front Duplex Superior Room, en-suite bathroom, above the restaurant with shared balcony facing the beach.
P4,950 for 3 persons.

Rates are much lower (20 – 40% off) during low season, from June to November, but it can get rainy especially during the months of June and July.  Book your stay online through their website at http://ausanbeachfront.com/  
Although things may drastically change around town after a couple of years or when the dusty road is fixed and tourists start to discover the place. Until then, Port Barton is still the paradise island that it is – it’s less touristy, peaceful and relaxing.

Things to bear in mind when coming to Port Barton:
  • Electricity is only available from 5:00pm to 12:00midnight.  Some accommodations have generators to cover some hours during the no-electricity time of the day.  Ausan Beachfront Cottages where we stayed have electricity 24 hours a day during peak season or when they have a lot of guests.
  • No banks or ATM machines to draw money from so bring enough cash (e.g. from Puerto Princesa) to cover your full stay.  Some accommodations accept credit cards with additional fees on top of your charges ranging from 5 – 7%.
  • No hospitals or pharmacies so bring any medications you need.  Some mini stores sell basic medicines for minor ailments such as headaches, fever, flu and stomach trouble.
  • Internet connection although available through wifi from most accommodations are so slow.  My Smart Bro plug-it devise did not work, Globe works faster.
  • Bring sunblocks and mosquito-off-lotions.

4 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. thanks for the blog is very useful 😊, in two weeks Im going to Philippines and I plan to spend 2 or 3 nights in Port Barton but with a doubt about the accommodation.
    Is the most complicated place to take accommodation, in booking there is no accommodation available, and everything is already booked. My dont know if maybe there will be accommodation when you go there that does not appear in booking or pages of that style. The truth is the only thing that worries me. Thanks in advance, greetings !!

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  3. THanks for sharing these beautiful foods with us.
    meet and greet parking luton

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