I stayed the night in Puerto Princesa and at dawn was on a local bus to Sabang. I couldn’t quite figure out why there were no air conditioned mini vans to an alleged tourist resort, yet to Brooke’s Point, not problem. And according to online forums the journey was going to be rough.
In truth I waited 1 hour for the bus to fill, and then the journey only took 2.4 hours and was anything but rough. The last stretch of 30 minutes was bumpy and dusty, it was hot, but rough. It was really confirming what I suspected, most on the online forum watch, and guide books for that matter, were a different breed of traveler. This journey was not hard in the least.
Sabang is home to the worlds largest underground river. Something I knew I should not pass up. I was worried about the price, but soon found out from the local tourist office that it would only cost 200 pesos to visit … if I walked there. Apparently you can go through a monkey trail along the way. An easy 2.5 hour walk she said, and then 2.5 back through a mango plantation. Or, I could pay 1,700 pesos for a boat to take me there. 200 vs 1700.
Accommodation in Sabang is basically along the shore. And it had me worried. I was getting prices of 2,000 a night. Then 1,000 and 800 still way above my single person budget. I local tout came up to me and offered a 600 pesos room and Mary’s cottages at the far end of the beach. I followed like a lamb and paid. For some reason I was feeling very tired. The weather was a little overcast and catch at Mary’s was a grouchy staff and expensive menu that rarely was in stock.
That said. I had a beach front cottage with en suite shower to myself. It wasn’t
until later that I found out the cottages behind mine with shared were 400 pesos. I really wasn’t firing on all cylinders for some reason.
I walked back with the tout along the main road and found out some info on who to get to the Monkey trail the next day. Apparently you can’t go after 3pm. Along the way he pointed out our neighboring cottages – 4,500 pesos per night. They did look nice, 24 hour electricity, TV, air conditions, but that would have removed half my wallets contents in one go.
I walked up to the main town road. Sat at a local cafe and ate squid adobo for 40 pesos. Another walk up and down the main road and latter beach front revealed not much else to Sabang. Which isn’t a bad thing if one is looking to live on an island in the Philippines. But, there was something missing.
I walked back and spotted what was bugging me. A giant construction site. A concrete mass of light grey and bamboo sticks. And then another, and another. I went up to the construction workers and asked about it.
“Chinese Filipino owners,” the foreman said.
I looked at the monstrosity and then looked back at another hotel resort beside it as a bunch of Korean’s were being shepherded out of a minivan into their rooms. Commercialism was on it’s way. Sabang was lacking heart. Some towns have it, even commercial ones. But for me, Sabang was almost like a purpose built commercial zone on the way.
Once it might have been a quite little beach resort, and a beautiful one at that. But one could see the writing on the wall. In truth the concrete monster turned me off the idea of trying to live there.
This is one of the reasons I believe it’s important that not only is the right country important, but so to is the place within it. Hence I was exploring all of Palawan before settling on one place. If you see a bleak future … move on.
Sabang wouldn’t be where I’d try my Living on a Island attempt, but I would still go and see the Underground river and do anything else it had to offer. Right now I felt utterly exhausted. The electicity from this point on up seemed to be rationed so it was dark and quite by the time I got back to my room. What’s more, I was feeling the heat more than usual …
How to live overseas: How to deal with getting sick when traveling
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