2017 In Review: Discovering The Known & The Unknown

In less than 2 days, 2017 will come to a close. Another great & memorable year will soon come to an end. Before we welcome 2018, let us look back how this year went. I do not consider this a major travel year because I think every year is a major travel year for me.

My solo travel adventures, which started in 2016, continued this year. I went to most places all by myself & then met amazing people whom I shared good memories with. I also had the chance to reunite & travel with good old friends.

Selfie with Broken Beach in the background 📷

In 2016, I went to places which are known to most of you (perhaps except Koh Lipe). These places gave me unforgettable experiences & different insights. 2017 was a bit different. I’ve been to known places like Coron, Taipei & Ubud, but I’ve also visited unknown places (to many Filipinos) like Port Barton, Nusa Penida & Komodo. 2017 was a year of discovering the known & the unknown.

Let us rediscover the the known & unknown places I visited for 2017.

Port Barton

Port Barton’s village beach

My first solo trip for 2017 happened in March where I spent a weekend in Port Barton. It is a small undeveloped village in the northeast coast of Palawan. It is a more basic version of El Nido.

Enjoyed the tour to untouched islands & pristine beaches 😍

Everything in the village is limited – from accommodation choices, restaurants, electricity to mobile network access. These limitations didn’t hinder me from enjoying a weekend away from the busy city life. I went on an island tour which took me to untouched islands & pristine beaches. I had my first close encounter with a turtle in German Island. I also made good memories with people I met on the tour & in the hostel.

Close encounter with a turtle in German Island 🐢

Blog: PORT BARTON: Palawan’s Secret Paradise

Coron

I had my second Palawan weekend trip for 2017 in Coron. I decided to go there during the Labor Day weekend (to save work leave credits) & booked my round-trip tickets using my GetGo (Cebu Pacific Air‘s loyalty program) points.

Met these amazing people in Coron

I walked around the town & hiked Mount Tapyas on my first day. I took the Ultimate Island Tour on my second day & the Island Escapade Tour on my third day. I flew back to Manila on the fourth day.

Coron’s crystal clear waters 😍

I prefer the escapade tour over the ultimate tour. I think Kayangan Lake, Siete Picados & Twin Lagoon were really beautiful; however, these places were super crowded. I enjoyed the relaxed & laid-back escapade tour to the jaw-dropping Malcapuya, Banana & Bulog Dos Islands.

Malcapuya Island – the highlight of this Coron trip 😍

Blog: CORON – Paradise Beyond Words

Taipei

Taipei was my first international trip for 2017. It was also my first time to use my renewed passport. I’ve been to this city in 2015 with my high school friends. This time, I went on another weekend trip with my work colleagues.

Taipei ’17 buddies – Rona & Shiela 😎

We went to the usual places like Taipei 101, Ximending, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Liberty Square, Shilin Night Market & 228 Peace Park. We also went up north to the countryside to visit Shifen & Jiufen.

Colorful vibe of Jiufen 😍

We loosened up a bit by joining TourMeAway‘s Pub Crawl Activity. It was a long fun drinking night with people from all over the world. Our pub crawl photo even made it to the activity’s Klook page. I also got my new HTC U11 during this trip – definitely worth the investment.

Got a new phone in Taipei -the HTC U11

BlogTAIPEI Revisited: 3-Day Weekend in the Heart of Asia (Less than ₱15,000 all in!!!)

Siquijor

I went on a last-minute weekend Siquijor trip with friends last July. I flew to Dumaguete with a friend & boarded the next ferry to Siquijor. We then met another friend in Siquijor & started exploring the island.

 

Reunion with Geof & JE in Siquijor

We had lunch at Larena Triad Restaurant overlooking the island, went exploring at the Guiwahon Mangrove Park, (they) had fish spa in the century old balete tree, walked around the Lazi Convent & Church, jumped off (a number of times) the famous Cambugahay Falls & enjoyed some lazy (except me who tried the cliff diving) afternoon at Salagdoong Beach.

Cambugahay Falls – the highlight of my Siquijor trip 💦

We had a short Dumaguete side trip; we stayed there for a night before our flight back to Manila. Our friend, who is based there, took us on a late night city tour (?? haha) just to see how it looks like.

BlogLast-Minute SIQUIJOR Weekend (For Less Than ₱7,000 Including Airfare)

Ubud

Explored Ubud with Mary Ann & Lyza

I spent half of my annual birthday month trip in Ubud in Bali, Indonesia. I’ve been to Ubud in 2014 but I didn’t have enough time to explore the place. I went back for 3 full days to explore different temples, hike up & down the rice terraces, eat the famous crispy duck, walk around the town, tried the luwak coffee in a coffee plantation & go to the waterfall.

World famous Tegallalang Rice Terraces 😍

I also attended a cooking class with Paon Bali. I learned to prepare local dishes & ended up eating them as well after. This Paon Bali Cooking Class was the highlight of my Ubud visit.

Local food we ate after the cooking class 😋

BlogThe Wonderful Indonesia Series: UBUD – From Temples To Rice Paddies

Nusa Penida

Instagram-famous Broken Beach 😍

The other half of my week-long birthday trip was spent in a relatively unknown off Bali called Nusa Penida. For 2 straight days, I hopped on a motorcycle & explored this untouched island.

Atuh Beach – a cove between 2 cliffs 😍

I went to ‘Instagram-famous’ places like Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach & Kelingking Secret Point. I also went to the hidden Crystal Bay for swimming & relaxation. On my 2nd & last day, I spent the whole day in Atuh Beach, another ‘Instagram-famous’ cove that is between 2 high cliffs.

Another Instagram-famous – Kelingking Secret Point 😍

I stayed in Kuta for a night before my early flight back to Manila. I’ve been to this place in 2015 but I still walked around the crowded beach & waited for the beautiful Kuta sunset.

Kuta sunset – what a beautiful view to end this week long birthday trip 🌅

BlogThe Wonderful Indonesia Series: NUSA PENIDA – Hidden Paradise Off Bali

Komodo

Kanawa Island 😍

Two months after spending a week in Indonesia, I decided to fly back & sneak out a short weekend trip to Labuan Bajo. This small village / town is the gateway for the more famous Komodo National Park (Komodo Island).

Worth the 30-minute hike up the mountain 😍

I took the shared overnight boat trip to the islands. The islands were hours away from each other by slow boat. On the first day, we went snorkeling on Kanawa Island, swam with the manta rays in Manta Point & hiked up Padar Island for some amazing views. We parked somewhere near Komodo Island & stayed there for the night. The boatmen prepared all our meals while on the boat. We slept under the stars & clear skies.

Ha, once in a lifetime photo with a Komodo dragon 🦎

The following day, we walked around in Komodo Island to spot Komodo dragons, went snorkeling & swimming in Pink Beach & spotted some wildlife on Rinca Island (more Komodo dragons lol). Our boatmen allowed us to snorkel & jump off the boat in a random snorkeling point right before going back to Labuan Bajo.

Met up for dinner with the people I was with in the overnight boat trip

Blog: To Follow

Tokyo & Kawaguchiko

Dinner in Tokyo with Laura & Leon (former HTC people) & Kristin

The week-long trip to Japan was my last trip for 2017. It was not my first time (I’ve been there in 2015 & in 2016) so I decided to explore the not-so-famous areas like Kawaguchiko. I flew to Tokyo in the morning, then I met Laura & Leon (people I met in HTC Elevate years ago) in late afternoon until evening.

Picture-perfect Mount Fuji 🗻😍

The following day, I took the bus to Kawaguchiko where I stayed for 2 full days. I met good friends in the hostel which I went around the place with. We went up to Mt. Fuji 4th Station, walked around Kawaguchiko town & we even went cycling around Lake Kawaguchiko. I saw Mt Fuji at its finest (a lot of times!!) during my short stay in this quiet town.

Cycled around Lake Kawaguchiko with these guys 🚴

Blog: To Follow

Takayama & Shirakawa-go

Takayama Old Town 🏠

After spending 2 days in Kawaguchiko, I took a 5-hour bus ride to Takayama. Takayama is a city that is located in the rural, mountainous Hida region in Gifu Prefecture. Just like any other Japanese rural centers, the city retains traditional character. This is shown in the preserved old town. I walked around the old town & the city for one whole day. I was able to visit various temples & museums along the way. I also tried the famous Hida beef in one of the restaurants near JR Takayama Station.

Hida beef for lunch 😋

I went on a half day side trip to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage site located at the foot of Mt. Haku-san. Located about an hour away from Takayama, this old village is characterized by gassho-style farmhouses. I spent 3 hours walking around the village, hopping from one house to the other.

Shirakawa-go from the view point 😍

The visits to Takayama Old Town & Shirakawa-go were the highlights of my stay in Gifu Prefecture.

Gassho-style farmhouse in Shirakawa-go 😍

Blog: To Follow


The list above doesn’t account the number of times I went to my hometown in Albay for family functions & random weekends. I plan to continue going home (every few months) to my parents in 2018. There’s definitely no place like home.

Picturesque Mayon Volcano 🌋 There’s no place like home 😍

The trips above pretty much sum up my 2017. It was a year of discovering known places like Coron, Taipei & Ubud, to not-so-known places like Siquijor & Kawaguchiko & to relatively unknown places like Port Barton, Nusa Penida, Komodo & Takayama. It was another year full of memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. I already have a few trips planned for 2018 & I look forward to exploring more of what this beautiful world has to offer.

PS. Photos were taken using my HTC Re & HTC U11

PORT BARTON: Palawan’s Secret Paradise

A few weeks ago, I went on a weekend trip to Port Barton, Palawan. This remote place is still unknown to the local tourism scene, but is starting to gain attention from foreign travelers & backpackers. Let me share with you how my 3 days & 3 nights in Port Barton went.

Disclaimer: My goal when I went to Port Barton was to relax from the busy city life. I got lazy most of the time & I didn’t go around much to explore.

Where is Port Barton?

When I first mentioned Port Barton to my friends, they were like, “In what country is that?” They don’t believe me when I told them it is located here in the Philippines. Well, yes it is.

Port Barton is a small coastal village in San Vicente, Province of Palawan. It is 23 kilometers away from the town of Roxas, about 3 hours land trip from Puerto Princesa City & about 4.5 to 5 land trip hours from El Nido. The peaceful village is characterized by simple lives of the locals, beautiful beaches & unspoiled nature.

Crystal clear waters between Maxima Island & Exotic Island 😍

How to go to Port Barton

The nearest airport to Port Barton is Puerto Princesa International Airport. From Puerto Princesa City, one needs to take a van to Port Barton. There are several van companies operating between the 2 places, with a few scheduled trips leaving every day. The first trip from PPC leaves at 7:00 in the morning & the last trip is at 5:00 in the afternoon. A cheaper option is to take the local bus from San Jose Terminal.

I did not make it to the last van trip because my flight arrived a little past 5:00. I decided to stay in the city for a night & got a bed in Sheebang Hostel. The hostel is located a little bit far from the center, but it has everything you need. There is an on site restaurant & a 24 hour bar. Yes, the bar operates 24/7. I spent hours of eating & drinking in the bar with new-found friends from some parts of the world.

The following day, the van picked me up at the hostel at 8:30 in the morning. We dropped by for a while in San Jose Terminal to pick up more passengers then headed straight to Port Barton. The first 2 hours of the trip were normal, but the last hour was through rough unpaved roads.

Sheebang Hostel’s Bar

Environmental Fee

Upon arrival in Port Barton, the van dropped us off at the tourism center. All guests are required to register & pay the ₱50 environmental fee. The local staff gave me an environmental card which is needed every island hopping or boat trip. The card is valid for 10 days.

Accommodation

Port Barton has a limited number of accommodation choices. Most of these hostels, inns & homestays are not available online & can only be secured via text message, phone call or most of the time upon arrival.

I’ve read some online reviews & blogs about possible accommodations & found out that Princesa Michaella Guesthouse is the best place to stay. The hostel is 2-minutes walk from the beach, but is centrally located. A private room with toilet costs ₱600 – ₱800 while a bed in a 4-bed dormitory room costs ₱300. Since I was on a “vacation mode,” I got myself a private room for 3 nights.

The guesthouse has a spacious communal area where you can meet & talk with the other guests. What’s nice is almost all guests know each other. People also drink almost every night (or literally every night) in the common area. I’ve met a lot of amazing people during my stay. I definitely had good times with awesome people.

My private room for 3 nights in Port Barton

The guesthouse also has free Wi-Fi, but don’t expect it to be that fast. They only rely on a broadband & the area’s mobile data network isn’t as fast as Puerto Princesa’s or El Nido’s. The staff were super nice & accommodating. I also met Mama Lucy, the super duper nice owner of Princesa Michaella Guesthouse. She makes sure that all guests have a great stay in Port Barton. She greets everyone in the morning & even shares food to everyone. I personally met her during my first day. The planned brief encounter became 3 hours of non-stop storytelling.

I definitely loved my stay in Princesa Michaella played a big part in it. I recommend everyone going to Port Barton to stay in this amazing guesthouse. Make sure to send my regards to Mama Lucy for me!

Contact details: Princesa Michaella Guesthouse – 0948 236 1099 (Mama Lucy)

What to do / where to go in Port Barton

Port Barton may be a small village, but it still offers a lot of things to do & places to visit. Here are a few things you can do or places where you can go while in Port Barton:

Village Beach

The village is located by the beach. If you are into just relaxing & sunbathing, this area is perfect for you. The beachfront isn’t that busy with very few establishments & people around.

Port Barton’s beach 😍

Island Hopping

Just like El Nido, Port Barton also offers island hopping day tours but with a cheaper rate. The boatmen offer Tours A to D visiting various beaches, islands & reefs. Mama Lucy from Princesa Michaella helped me book my island tour. It costed me ₱700; the rate includes picnic lunch & all other fees. The tour started at 9:00 am & ended at 5:00 pm. We went to the following islands & reefs:

Twin Reef

Exotic Island

Maxima Island

Forgot-the-name-of-this-island-&-reef

German Island

Luli Island

I really enjoyed the island hopping tour. The islands & reefs were beautiful! It was also my first time to swim with a turtle!~ 🐢

Sunset Watching

Port Barton sunset is something one should not miss whilst there. It is one of the most dramatic sunsets I’ve ever seen. The combination of the sky colors makes it so beautiful to watch. Make sure to stay for a few minutes after the ‘official’ sunset time to witness its full glory.

Port Barton’s amazing sunset 🌅

Jungle Bar

All roads to the Jungle Bar every Wednesday & Saturday night. It is a bar situated in a top of a hill, about 30 minutes away from the village center. Around 8:00 in the evening, you will hear van drivers looking for tourists / visitors who want to go to Jungle Bar. All you have to do is pay ₱150 (round-trip fare). What’s also good is the van driver will wait for you, up to what time you want to go back. The bar has reasonably-priced food & drinks. The live music is a plus!

I went to the Jungle Bar with a friend from the guesthouse. We met 4 French people in the van & decided to spend good times in the bar. Initial plan was to go home at 11:00 or 12:00 but we ended up going home at 3:00 am.

Long Beach Day Tour

The Long Beach is a 14.1 km undeveloped white beach in San Vicente. A day trip to Long Beach costs ₱2,500 for 3-4 people (doesn’t include food.) The trip takes about 2 hours per way. I was not able to go to this place because I couldn’t find anyone to share the boat with. I will probably go back to Palawan soon & will stay near the Long Beach before this becomes a busy tourist destination.

White Beach & Pamuayan Falls

This is the famous land trip taken by almost every visitor in Port Barton. The white beach is about 30 minutes walk from the village beach. There is an entrance fee of ₱25 when going to the White Beach. On the other hand, the falls is about 4 kilometer walk from the center. An easier way to visit these 2 places is by motorbike. Ask the people from your hostel / guesthouse for motorbike rentals.

Unfortunately, I missed our visiting these 2 places. I planned to visit this during my last day in Port Barton but the rain started to fall & I also got lazy to go there.

There are still few more beaches, falls & islands to visit if you have the luxury of time. I believe 3 or 4 full days in Port Barton would be enough.

Found Nemo somewhere near German Island 🐟

Facts about Port Barton

There are a few things about Port Barton that you need to know before going there.

⦁ Daily power supply only runs from little past 5:00 in the afternoon to around 1:00 in the morning. That is the only time where you can charge your phones, laptops & cameras. Make sure to bring power banks to help extend your gadgets’ lives during the day. Extension cords would also help charge many gadgets at the same time.

⦁ There are no ATMs or banks in the area. Make sure to withdraw enough cash in Puerto Princesa, San Vicente, Roxas or El Nido before going to Port Barton. Also, do not have high hopes of using your credit card. I haven’t heard of any establishment accepting card payments. It may be also hard to exchange foreign currency to Philippine peso so make sure to do that before going there.

⦁ There are no doctors or hospitals in the village. The nearest can be found in Roxas which is about an hour away. Be very careful in everything that you do. Bringing a small pouch of medicines would be good.

⦁ The village has access to limited internet speed. Yes, both Smart Communications & Globe Telecoms have networks, but the mobile data coverage is not that fast. For Globe subscribers, you can have fast (not like the metro speed though but bearable) internet if you are by the beach.

⦁ Restaurant choices are also limited. If you are heading out for dinner, make sure to go to Gacayan Restaurant early as it is always full. The price of a meal is really affordable but note that food orders take a while to be served. You can also check out the famous Jambalaya Cafe & the other restaurants nearby.

Couldn’t believe I was this close to the turtle! 🐢


I fell in love with Port Barton up to the point I want to go back there as soon as possible. It has one of the most relaxing beach fronts I’ve been to, one of the clearest waters I’ve seen & one of the most quiet islands I’ve visited. I suggest that you go to this place as soon as you can. I have a strong feeling this will be developed in 2-3 years time.

Do you have any questions about Port Barton? Is there anything you want to know about the place? Feel free to comment below or send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter. Suggestions for future topics are also welcome.

PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC Re.