Let's talk about Sabang. Sabang is a place that most people don't stay. When the last Lexus vans go back to Puerto Princessa (at 5 I think), you're suddenly left with an empty white sand beach all to yourself.
Most people don't deign to stay there because there's not really that much to do there, except see the underground river. Actually, the underground river is the reason that we decided to do the trip to Palawan in the first place.
Read more about where to stay and what to do in the sleepy town of Sabang
So Sabang. Sabang is a small little town, with a slew of 4 star fancy pants resorts. The beach closest to where the Lexus vans drop people off is all resorts. The cheapest run about 150 dollars a night for a room. If you go the other direction, you will get to a little town with the sheet metal, make-shift houses that are common on the island. Continue walking past the basketball court and you'll get to the Blue Bamboo resort. I have mentioned it in another blog post and it's awesome.
Against all travel advice I had read, I got a two night stay in Sabang. It was about 25 dollars a night (or a little less with the exchange rate) for the three of us to stay in a traditional bamboo cottage. There wasn't hot water; instead, we showered in rain water that was kept on the premises. In Palawan (at least in El Nido and Sabang and outlying towns) the power isn't very reliable. Generally, everything runs on generators so most places turn of at about 10. Make sure you check with the place you're staying about hot shower times (if they offer them) and power times.
Anyhow, we stayed in this pretty awesome little place with a hammock on the porch and enjoyed the ocean views and the afternoon rain. The owner had her two nephews staying with her for the summer and they were very welcoming and we had dinner with them one night and had the "teach me some mongolian, teach me filipino" chat that you always get with people from different countries.
After the rain died down, we walked along the resort side of the beach.
My friend wanted to get a henna tattoo so we were investigating some little stands that offered them. This was the end of the trip so we were on a pretty limited budget. In fact, I was borrowing money from one of my companions who had budgeted a bit better than me.
Eventually, we settled on this one henna tattoo artist who seemed really nice. While we were waiting for her to finish her tattoo, I played chess with a local guy named the chef. I won. hahah. I never win when I play chess, so it was a crazy fluke. But, this crazy fluke really impressed all the guys watching us play. Via this chess match, we made friends with the henna guys (another very cool artist was there) and Chef.
When all the tourists had taken the Lexus vans home and the beach was ours, the henna guys actually gave us a couple of free tattoos and we actually did become friends. They even helped us to snag a local snack, balot. Balot, for those who don't know, is an egg where the chicken has already began to grow. Essentially, it's a chick in a shell.
Not bad. A little crunchy though.
One of the best vacation memories I have is going with one of our new friends to get a bottle or rum, then sitting on the beach in the moonlight with our new friends and enjoying a drink and little old school cellphone music and feeling alright about life.
We were leaving the next day, so they offered to show us their favorite swimming place and guide us to the zipline before they had to work. Both were awesome. Seriously, these were the nicest guys ever. The swimming hole they showed us was this little alcove where the ocean waves were blocked just enough that you could swim in this little pool without worrying about getting dashed on the rocks. The zipline was stretched over the open ocean and completely beautiful (if not really very adrenaliney).
In the end, before our van, the Chef offered to cook for us. The only downside is that we hadn't expected the price to be that high, and we were seriously strapped for cash. But it was a gourmet meal and he was a gourmet chef at the hotel.
By the time we got to the airport, we had no money. I mean literally like 40 pesos ( a dollar). Before we flew, our trike driver in Puerto Princessa took us to the place where all of the islands souvenirs originated. Insanely cheap. Earrings for 10 pesos. The same ones that people had wanted 50 or more for at other places on the island. Well, we spent all our money; we had saved the 400 pesos to get out of the country from Manila, but that was it.
Unfortunately, Puerto Princessa also has an airport fee that we didn't know about. It's a 100 pesos p.s. We had about 40 pesos left and no way to get 100. No atms around. Nothing. My friend tried to exchange a couple of pairs of earrings with the security guard to let us through.
Miracle of miracles, I found 100 pesos in my backpack. Lesson to you all, hide money from yourself. I do it all the time and it's always a pleasant surprise when I find it. (the fee has increased to 150 pesos now).
Bottom Line: find some time to spend in Sabang,
stay local, stay cheap and make friends