Port Barton, Philippines

Heaven and Hell.

Some fun Filipino facts. They love basketball! It’s everywhere. The kids don’t play football or, beat kittens to death with a stick no, they play basketball, You may be thinking, ‘are people from South East Asia short though?’. Yes, yes they are but, apparently this does not deter them from playing a sport that generally requires tall people. Then there are the flakes of Spanish sprinkled into everyday life. Their currency is called the Peso. Their most popular beer is called San Miguel. This baffled me muchly for these are words that I associate with Spain. Being a well travelled but ignorant traveller it never occurred to me that the Philippines could have been, at some point in history, been ruled by the Spanish. Shock, they were ruled by the Spanish back in the day when Europe deemed ruling tropical countries a cool thing to do.

Armed with this wealth of information it was time to hit paradise or, as the title refers, heaven. Everything about our visit to Port Barton was awesome and was full of reasons why I travel. The first great thing was the longish journey on dodgy roads. It tends to be that the longer you spend bouncing around in a minibus on dodgy roads, the more likely it is you will end up at an incredible destination. On this occasion the road got so bad it became mud. It reminded me of overloading through West Africa, only then we were in a big ass off road truck as opposed to a standard minibus with ****** road tyres. It was all down hill though, so we had little to worry about as we enjoyed some great views of the surrounding forrest. They had began to build a proper road which does worry me slightly because if Port Barton becomes easy to access then it will lose it’s isolated tranquility.

Our reception was stunning. A sandy beach lined with palm trees, crystal clear waters, our simple chalets set about 20m from the beach nestled in between some trees. A volley ball net and an open side dining area serving up simple but awesome food was the icing on the cake. Except for a couple of other guests it was just us (nine people) and it was wonderfully peaceful. River number 2 in Sierra Leone has always been my favourite tropical paradise by a country mile but Port Barton now comes in at a close second favourite. Ironically, not long after arriving we took a 15 minute boat ride to the tiny town of Port Barton itself, to indulge in some sunset cocktails, magnums and, dinner. A quirk of the Philippines was that their service was pretty rubbish! I mean this in the most sweetest of ways. Every time we were out for food or drinks there would be something wrong with the order. On this occasion my mega cocktail simply didn’t turn up. I was also still waiting for my onion rings from lunch! However, these mistakes were simply because waiting on people it would seem was a whole new industry. They were genuine mistakes born out of inexperience. There was no intent or malice behind it all. I liked it! I’ve never been one to kick up a fuss when out and about and I am certainly not about to kick up a fuss in such a beautiful corner of the world. If I want damn good service I will go to America. But, I would much rather untouched, naturally beautiful surroundings then getting my dinner on time or not having to wait for a drink. Our boat trip back to the beach was also delightful. I have no idea how the guys knew where we were going as it was pitch black but, we made it back and the stars put on a superb display along the way.

The following day I could have easily spent chilling out on the beach all day long but instead decided on another island hopping trip! It was worth it though. There were few tourists and the corral was still looking intact which is a rare thing these days. It can get quite depressing snorkelling around dead reefs. There was one moment however, when we spotted a turtle in the sea. Another couple of boats had already spotted it and so there were already about 20 people in the water following the turtle as it happily grazed on the sea bed, not giving a damn about being stalked. It was a big ass turtle by the way. I’ve been lucky enough to see them before but, this was the daddy of all turtles that I have seen. Anyway, it decided it needed a breath of fresh air and so peacefully floated to the surface when, for some bizarre reason, people decided to swim straight for it in order to grope it or give it a hug or whatever. Why people feel the need to pet every wild animal they see, I have no idea. There was also one person who felt the need to take his selfie stick under the waves and get a selfie with the turtle. F*** OFF!!! You don’t need a selfie with a turtle! Get out of the way and enjoy the moment. Take a photo by all means but no one will give a damn about you being in the picture, they just want to see the turtle.

All good things must come to an end as we departed Port Barton and flew out of Palawan back to Manila aka hell. Manila itself wasn’t to hellish but then it wasn’t too spectacular either. It’s a city choked with traffic. It’s not a particularly grotty city, just overcrowded, noisy and, uninteresting. The real hellish part was when we went to one of the big shopping malls in the evening. I have no idea why we were there because there were few good places to eat. The mall itself was absolutely rammed with christmas shoppers, it could not have been more opposite to the quiet, tiny seaside town of Port Barton. Seriously, do we actually make a conscious decision to put ourselves in these environments!? Saturday night spent in a rammed shopping mall full of expensive **** we don’t need or, lying on a hammock between two palm trees next to a sandy beach and tropical sea looking up at the milky way??? Philippines, don’t let hell take over.

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