Boracay

Trip Start Aug 31, 2008
1
46
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Trip End Apr 30, 2009


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Flag of Philippines  , Visayas,
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Our flight left on time, lasted only 60 minutes, and soon we were grabbing our bags and walking out of the Kalibo airport.  It is not a big airport by any measure and it took only around 15 minutes until we had our bags and we were heading out the front door.  Once outside we saw two options for how to get to the island of Boracay.  There were a number of minivans asking for 200 pesos and a coach bus that was asking for 350 pesos for the same trip.  These prices included the cost of the ferry to the island (which is only 25 pesos anyhow), so once we ensured that the minivan would be air-conditioned, we hopped in the first one we came across.

At first we wondered why the minivans would be so much cheaper than the coach bus but it did not take us long to figure out the answer to that question.  They really packed us in this minivan; at least 4 in every row and two people in the front seat.  This may have been reasonably comfortable for tiny Filipina women, but it did not make for a comfortable ride for Lisa or I.  The drive lasted around 90 minutes and in the middle of the ride we drove through some twisty mountain roads that provided great scenery.  Once we pulled in to the ferry terminal, everybody got out of the van as the driver went and got tickets for everybody.  We soon found out that although the ferry ticket was indeed provided, there were additional charges of 50 pesos each for an environmental fee and a terminal fee.

After everybody had paid their fees we got on a small traditional banton style boat (with outriggers on either side) and everybody put on their life jackets.  I don't know if they have lots of problems with this short ferry ride but apparently there is a law that requires everybody to wear one.  The ferry ride lasted no more than 10 minutes and covered a distance that I could probably swim.  We had made sure to ask to go to Boat Station #3, but apparently the ferries didn't actually go to the boat stations because we were let off on the other side of the island.  From here we shared a ride in a taxi (for 25 pesos each) that took was supposed to take us to Terminal #3.

We got let off of the bike at the top of a hill where there was a sign saying that no motorized vehicles were allowed any further.  Fortunately a woman on that came with us for the ride explained that it was not possible to go any further but that it was only a 10 minute walk to our hotel (Melinda's Garden).  She walked with us and made sure we found our way and I don't think it even took 10 minutes.  It was still very hot and humid out though so at this point I was glad that we decided to leave around half of our baggage at Friendly's Guesthouse in Manila (for 10 pesos a day).

Once we arrived at Melinda's Garden a woman on their staff showed us to where we stay and explained that we were getting a free upgrade because they did not have any budget cabins left as we had reserved (via hostelbookers.com).  All of the cabins in Melinda's Garden are constructed of natural materials in the traditional nipa style, except for the bathroom which is constructed of brick.  It looks and feels very rustic but because the floor of bamboo planks, there are lots of areas for mosquitoes to get in.  The walls were made of woven bamboo, which gives good privacy but the thatched roof has large open areas and the windows have no screens.  Melinda's Garden, as the name implies, has lots of plants and shady areas where mosquitoes like to hide.  It is a good thing that the bed comes with a mosquito net.

Soon after we had checked in to our rooms, we hit the showers to freshen up.  The standard huts at Melinda's did not include hot water for showers, but that was hardly a necessity since it was always very hot outside and we did not have air-conditioning.  The next thing on our itinerary was too hit the beach that we had seen on our walk to Melinda's: White Sand Beach.  It is easy to see how this beach got its name and it is safe to say that this is one of the nicest beaches in the world.  The water was also extremely clear, I figure visibility must've approached 30 meters, although there was some green seaweed that bunched up in some places near the shore.  The water was what I would consider a perfect temperature (around 25 degrees Celsius) which was cooler than I expected considering where we were.

Right aligned: White Sand Beach is a very wide and long strip of beach that has been developed with hotels, restaurants and souvenir stores along a sand road that spans the entire beach.  Melinda's Garden was around a 1 minute walk from this sand road, which made it considerably cheaper and a very quiet area.  The prices along the beach were rather expensive for Filipino standards, although beer and alcoholic drinks were still very cheap especially during happy hour specials (which lasted from 14:00 to 20:00 at most places).  San Miguel beer and San Miguel Light went for as low as 30 pesos during these happy hour specials.

Lisa and I spent 7 nights on Boracay altogether and most days were very similar in nature.  The first three days that we spent on the island were accompanied by a perfectly blue sky and a sun that forced us to spend many hours in the water to cool down.  We were not in a hurry to go on snorkeling, scuba diving, or any other sort of activities because we figured that the weather would always be hot and sunny and we could go any time.  Instead we enjoyed the cheap beer and festive atmosphere on the island and mostly just laid around in the sun and swam in the water.  Unfortunately the weather changed after this and the water was no longer as clear as when we first showed up so we ended up never making it on a snorkeling trip.

The sun was always present for awhile in the morning but in the afternoon clouds would roll in and it often rained.  One day as we were sipping on some happy hour beers and watching offshore rainstorms we even saw two tornados come down from the clouds.  They were far enough off shore that nobody felt any danger and in fact there were even clear skies over us as we watched the waterspouts several kilometers away.  That night we got mild rain, as we often did during our last four days on Boracay, but one day when we went out for lunch we got caught in one of the heaviest rains that I have ever seen.  The rain had been so light every other time it rained that we didn't bother bring our umbrella with us and we got completely soaked.  It only took around 15 seconds in this type of weather to get soaked to a point that you may as well have been submerged under water.

Meals on Boracay can be expensive for Philippine standards if you eat on the beach.  Lisa and I usually went to a restaurant that was a couple hundred meters from the beach along the main road of the area that was called Love Fastfood.  Right aligned: Every morning that we were there I got a wonderful tomato, onion and cheese omelets for 55 pesos and a mango (sometimes mixed with either banana or melon) for 40 pesos.  They also had sandwiches and burgers for around 30 to 40 pesos, although they often ran out of meat to make the burgers.  Except for Lisa and I, the patrons of Love Fastfood were all local people and they all ate traditional dishes.  These included pancit bihon (fried noodles and pork dish) and one that I tried and later found out was made from pork cheek.  They were always accompanied with rice and cost around 40 pesos together.  Although I probably wouldn't have tried the pork cheek (had I known what it was in advance), it turned out to be quite a tasty dish.  That being said, I didn't order it again once I knew what it was.

Another affordable place to eat was called Andok's and fortunately they are a chain that exists in many places around Boracay.  They offer a wide selection of Filipino dishes, but also barbecued chicken for very good prices.  It was not the best barbecued chicken that I have ever had but at 125 pesos for a half chicken, it was hard to complain and I ate around 3 entire chickens during my week on Boracay.  The best food to be had was along the beach and although it was relatively expensive, it was easy to find plenty of excellent European or Asian specialties.  Twice Lisa and I ordered a wonderful chicken schnitzel from a German/Philipino restaurant.  It cost 255 pesos, but came accompanied with a god sized salad and side dish of french fries to satisfy nearly any appetite.  More importantly it had seating right on the beach which is very convenient after having a half dozen beers through happy hour.

Another cheap place to eat, which is also a great place to shop for souvenirs, is called D'Mall near Boat Station #2 on Boracay.  The mall is really just a collection of stores and not the air-conditioned enormous single buildings that we call malls in North America.  A lot of the stores sell the same stuff at the same prices, but with a little bit of patience and some bargaining there are good deals that can be found.  Nearly every store of the area sells cheap white t-shirts with Boracay and a picture on them at a rate of 2 for 150 pesos, but the better shirts start at around twice this price.  Lisa and I ended up buying a couple cheap t-shirts and a nicer one (for 150 pesos), as well as a few nice beach bags (100, 180 and 220 pesos).  We bought a few other souvenir trinkets as well, like fridge magnets and some kids' toys, but I ended up drinking the bottle of 12 year rum that we planned to bring home originally.  Tanduay rum is very cheap in the Philippines, especially if you can appreciate bottles aged 1 to 5 years.  A 750 ml bottle of 12 year (the second highest grade they make) was only 160 pesos, but the 8 year (85 pesos) and 5 year (60 pesos) are about as cheap as I have seen rum anywhere in the world.

Overall our week in Boracay was one of the most relaxing and beautiful stops of our eight month journey.  The lack of air-conditioning made the heat a little unbearable at times and at dusk and dawn you had better be wearing air-conditioning, but aside from that it is hard to find anything not to like about the island.  It was refreshing to see that most of the people visiting seemed to be Philippine, although there were also lots of Koreans, Chinese and Japanese as well.  There were not nearly as many Europeans or North Americans as I expected, but then again it was exactly an easy place to get to.  The weather could've been nicer for our last four days there, but the sun was always out for at least a couple hours each day.  I have wanted to see a tornado my entire life, so I am sort of glad that we had some bad weather too.  Now I got to see two of them within the span of 15 minutes.

Our flight from Kalibo was scheduled to leave at 13:15 and we did not want to take any chances of missing it.  We got up early and checked out of our hotel by 8:00, not knowing how efficient the process of getting to the airport would be.  After going to the local bakery and stocking up on snacks, which were widely varied and only 5 pesos each, we jumped in a tricycle and got a ride to the dock for 50 pesos within seconds.  After paying another terminal fee of 50 pesos each and a ferry ticket for 25 pesos each, we were soon in a boat and on the island of Pasay by 8:45.  From here we quickly found a ride in a minivan for 175 pesos each and we arrived at the airport really early.  Fortunately this little airport is surrounded by restaurants that offer cheap meals and ample seating to accommodate the wait.

It was good that we ate before getting into the airport because once we were inside there was very little food or snacks to be had.  There was a little coffee stand and a booth where you could get a massage, but very little else.  The waiting room slowly filled up and eventually every seat was taken and there were lots of people standing.  Our flight got delayed by 20 minutes and still no other flights left before us.  Fortunately since Lisa and I got there quite early, we had our choice of seats and I found one where I could plug in my laptop and we watched a movie during our wait.  There was several TVs for everybody else to watch but the programming was boring and not in English.
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