Port Barton, like Anda (Bohol), captures many of the features of a true B-Side gem. It is beautiful yet with a low-key kind of vibe, where you get to interact with almost every traveler who’s around on the same days you are.
Yes- you’re bound to meet them at some point: at the breakfast joint, doing the inescapable travel hopping experience and, if all else fails, at one of the bars.
Port Barton has a provincial feel compared to El Nido. For starters, there’s limited electrical power available – only 4.30 pm to midnight. After that time, bars quiet down their music and run on generator power, making for an unexpected cosy, intimate feeling. And the locals, far from chasing you to sell you souvenirs and boat tours, mind their own business.
But don’t get me wrong. Port Barton’s not just a chill place to unwind after more hectic destinations. Its sights are absolutely stunning. There’s the myriad of beaches and islands on the island hopping tours, a couple of waterfalls offering wonderful dips and, perhaps best of all, the serene beauty of White Beach, accessible only via a (at that time) muddy dirt road. Beautiful places, memorable imagery.
Port Barton was, for me, a plethora of images, topped, not insignificantly, by a soundtrack of reggae music played by a bunch of young kids at a quiet beachside bar. Kids who looked stern and devoted, and who sounded like angels even if, granted, I was under the influence of Red Horse love and grilled chicken intestines when listening to them.
Yes – the kids played seriously and with passion, not minding whether the crowd was two hundred or twenty. They successfully covered Tagalog classics, Bob Marley, and even dared play Manu Chao’s “Clandestino”, with its lyrics in broken Spanish.
And I owe them rediscovering two songs that stuck to my mind and which I had to listen to compulsively when I regained access to Spotify: Matisyahu’s anthem, “One Day” and “Roots Reggae Music” by Rebelution. I am listening to them as I write this entry.
Music is weird. It doesn’t speak to you, and then it does. That’s reggae for me. It slowly colonized my heart and brain as I learnt to enjoy the heat and humidity in Thailand – a bit like I learnt to enjoy rice porridge at 7 am or noodle soup at 11 am under a scorching sun. (But who can resist singing to Dirty Heads’ Cabin by the Sea while on Railay Beach, Krabi?)
Then, soon enough I was catching myself singing about getting high when I can’t care less about any drug save alcohol. But, somehow, reggae just seems to blend in with the landscapes, the food and even the light in South East Asia.
So that, in a nutshell, is Port Barton to me. Chill, beauty and reggae music in the evening. It will be different for you, yet no less enticing. Just make sure you don’t miss this wonderful B-side.
And, as they say in the Facebook groups and the blogs, make it there before it changes!