Day 1. I lay inside my $4/night nipa room with nothing but cricket sounds breaking the silence here in Sabang, Puerto Princesa. Everything around me seems to be giving me a provincial welcome, as it is just my second day of being back in the Philippines. A year ago in May, I published a journal about my dream to wander in Palawan for a month. A year later, I’m trying to compose how the first day of realizing that dream went. I’m staying half a month only though because I decided to stay in Vietnam 2 weeks longer.
With my 11-kg backpack that is evidently bigger than my body, I boarded a plane bound to Puerto Princesa at 8am of June 16. I have no definite plans aside from 4D 3N in Port Barton where I already booked accommodations. However, I’m more thrilled for the rest of my 2 weeks here where I’m not sure where I will lay my head at night. I’m prepared to camp though, with my hammock and sleeping bag, which contribute 30% of my load.
Upon arriving at the airport, I headed to the city hall where I processed permits to visit the UNESCO world heritage of Puerto Princesa Underground River. I chose to take the 20-minute walk with my bag, soaking in the “backpacking” feels, instead of buying the tricycle drivers’ offers of $1.
At the bus going to Sabang, a fellow backpacker named Chris caught my attention. We had a conversation and I was so happy to provide assistance to the English man who was staying in Palawan for 10 days. I helped him by communicating to locals for him, booking tickets and sharing some good cookies I was intending to save (we ended up finishing the cookies though!). I guess being a foreigner in Vietnam where I experienced the difference of having the help of locals (or the lack thereof) had entirely changed my perspective when I see foreigners in my own land… The feeling of being in a foreign land and having someone to help you is really a treasure!
Upon reaching Sabang, Chris and I parted. He headed for Sabang waterfalls while I looked for a homestay to drop my bag before heading to the falls. I found a good deal in Cafe Sabang which rents beds in dorms and private rooms. I left my bag and in no time, rushed to the falls. It was already around 3:30 pm and there seems to be no one at the registration booth, so I just entered without having to pay anything (well actually I’m not sure if there was really a fee, there was no signage. After 1.8km of walk along the rocky shoreline west of Sabang beach, I found Sabang Waterfalls standing tall and proud facing the sea. I immediately rushed into its splashing waters and had my back massaged by its pressure. It has also started to rain, but there were covered cottages to cover my stuff. I stayed there for an hour, just basking on the sound of the falls and the waves as they crash the rocks. What a treat for my first day in Palawan!
Sunset in Sabang Beach
I headed back to Sabang center and walked to as far as my feet can reach to find a good spot for when the golden hour comes. The moist sand was so soft and with each step, my feet were as if sinking. The golden hour found me on the far end of the beach, among the sharp ultramafic rocks that protrudes from the ground. Although the edges of Mt. Bloomfield eventually hid the lowering sun, I was still able to catch nice shots of the sun with its reflections on the sea.
Cafe Sabang Review
When I was looking for a place to drop by backpack before going to the falls, it was a challenge to find a hostel accommodation. My goal is to spend 250 at most per night, because I’m on a tight budget! I had to ask around the beach front but they all offer just rooms pricier than my budget. However, I stumbled upn Cafe Sabang, which I have already been reading about online. When I got there, a tiny old woman named Ate Mary, whom I later found out to be the owner, entertained me. However her beds were booked (150 per night), so she just offered me a room with nothing but a clean bed and windows for 250. There was no outlet to plug in, no electric fan, no toolet, but there was a mosquito net. I bargained for 200 as I would stay for 2 nights, and she agreed. Bless you Nay Mary! It was surprisingly cold and windy at night and I had the best sleep within the past week!
Sabang as a town has no electricity and people here only use either generators or solar panels to charge batteries. In Cafe Sabang, there’s 24/7 lights, and there’s a charging station where you can power up your devices. During my stay, I didnt find any wifi SSID. Indeed, it has a very strong “countryside” or “province” feels which I really appreciate a lot.There’s also a couple of decent shared toilets and shower rooms. Ate Mary was very hospitable, speaks good English, has worked and lived in France for 10 years and very helpful. She even invited me for a dinner with her humble staff. Boiled okra and eggplant, wit crab for the win! 🙂 My jam-packed yet chilled first day ended with a sweet sleep in my tiny room in Sabang.