Pristine Beach

A visit to a deserted resort at a secluded beach on the Philippines’ Palawan Island.

Today I was finally able to walk over to the east shore of the peninsula at Puerto Princesa. The area was quite different from my more urban surroundings – a less developed, more natural area that’s still seeing some gentrification creeping in – quite a number of newish, cute and well-built houses on one side of the road with the grass huts and squats (and at least one plantation, picture below) still hidden away in the jungle on the other side. There’s also a smattering of little resort hotels but when I walked down to the nearby beach area, it was a lively and bustling locals-only market, kids playing games in the large, dirt square as locals hawked fish from low, dark stalls. It wasn’t an appropriate place to take a picture – I was very obviously an interloper as it was – but I wish I could have.

The main destination was a place called Pristine Beach, which I was told was the only decent beach in the immediate Puerto Princesa area. I walked down a long dirt road fronted on each side by spooky mangrove forest to emerge at a virtually deserted beach area, spotted with bamboo huts and chairs that I’ve seen at so many similar resort areas in Indonesia and Vietnam except there was not a soul in them. I stood at the ticket gate and eventually a young man wandered up, but he merely waved me in without taking any money.

Pristine Beach was fairly pollution-free and despite the muddy tidal flat that leads up to the water was very picturesque. The low mountains that rose up on the far side of the bay framed the scene beautifully and it actually reminded me a little of a lake in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. There was nobody to be seen except a couple out in a boat and a fisherman wading near the coastline who consented to have his picture taken. (Trip Advisor suggests the beach is crammed with locals on the weekends)

Besides the two dogs that were relaxing on the mud flat, the sandy surface was alive with tiny crabs that ran away from me and when I approached, hid their presence by crumpling into little balls that looked a little like chestnuts and laying still. I did manage to get a (not very clear) picture of a few of them before they pulled this little stunt.

Puerto Princesa bears various signs of having once attempted to be a tourist destination but having given up the fight at some point – there are actual tourist police here, though most of their substation has been abandoned, and today I was puzzled by a substantial-looking abandoned building in the middle of town. A sign revealed it to have been the Office of the President – Telecommunications Division. Ruined buildings are not uncommon in southeast Asia and one of them made a particularly picturesque addition to this portfolio. Enjoy your trip with me to Pristine Beach and its surroundings, a largely unknown and hidden spot on the island of Palawan.

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