New Year’s Day 2014
It’s midday, Oh never again! The empty bottles of wine and rhum (Philippine spelling) stand testament to our excess. What is about New Year?
It dawns upon us that a conspiracy of the time of year and our negligence has seen us with no onward route booked out of Palawan. The plan is to drop down to Sabang lower down the coast for a couple of days then take a flight from Puerto Princesa to Cebu shortly after. Flights at this time of year are quickly booked so we may have erred.
There are many travel centres in El NIdo the best being the Art Café so we head down there to attempt a booking. It’s a holiday, it’s closed and so is everywhere else. Oops. When faced with such a mini crisis with a hangover there is nothing else to do but go to the Alternative and have lunch and chill out.
For my own interest I want to wander up to the eastern end of the beach and have a wander around the Lally & Abet Cottages where we stayed the last time.
At the time this was then the end of the “tourist” part of EN. From here there was a concrete wall beyond which was a shanty style Barangay with numerous squawking cockerels that would start to out crow each-other at around three in the morning. Now beyond the wall is a posh hotel and a couple bar/restaurants despite the beach petering out at the Lally & Abet wall. We wander along beyond what was the EN limit and have a “freshly brewed” coffee with a distinctly weird taste. As I said, good coffee is rare in the Philippines.
We have been hearing bad things about Sabang among the outstanding highlights of my previous trip to Palawan. It was a sleepy little beach town some way down the coast from EN but quite a long way by road. Sabang contains one of the prime tourist draws in Palawan, an underground river that a guide in a small canoe paddles you 1.5 km into while illustrating various stalagmites and tites. According to other travellers we talk to Sabang is now accessible to daytrippers from Puerto Princesa and hundreds of them descend in the day before the village recovers it’s composure in the evening. Looking at the changes in EN we decide on the walk back to town to change our plans and head for Port Barton to break our journey to Puerto Princesa and out of Palawan.
Another big change between 9 years ago and now is the ubiquity of the internet. Before everyone simply had a copy of the rough guide or Lonely Planet That has not changed but now in all of the bars and restaurants everyone has their noses superglued to their tablet’s screen. Wifi is absolutely everywhere in EN however with thousands of users using hundreds of routers with a fixed bandwidth the web speed in is glacially slow. As the best advice to us is to book our flight out of Palawan online I am faced with a 10 minute wait just for the homepage to load. We decide to give up on the web and take our chances. Besides there’s another bottle of that delicious French red wine that has “Drink me Mike & Chris” written all over it waiting for us in the bottle shop. It would be rude to let it down.
Fast forward a couple of hours and we decide to make more than a cursory visit to the Abdulla Street food court. It’s a whole street devoted to barbecue stalls with the meat or fish displayed by the side of the charcoal BBQ. You stop at a stall select the fish or meat you want and the BBQ alpha male will tell you how much it will be with rice and salad. After wandering up all of the street we rather over order 2 grilled chicken supremes and a fabulous stingray wing. You then sit at plastic tables behind the BBQ have a beer and wait for your food to be cooked and served. All of this cost us 390 pesos that’s a little over 5 pounds
Time to go home and pack as tomorrow we have an early start on our journey to Port Barton.