Thursday, December 2, 2010

Boracay Island, Philippines.

I love Cebu Pacific Air, the Philippines’ budget airline which offers both domestic and international flights. Because of budget airlines like Cebu Pacific Air and AirAsia, the other budget airline based out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, you can fly anywhere in Southeast Asia without leaving a hole in your wallet. And when promos are available? Forget about it. You’re practically flying for free. Not joking. I once purchased a one-way ticket to Thailand from Indonesia for $17 USD – and that was after taxes. I wish AirAsia or Cebu Pacific had flights to and from the United States. That would be amazing. That said, AirAsia provides routes to London and, most recently, to Paris. And the other day when I performed a price check, I found a promo to Paris from Kuala Lumpur for $200 USD. Insane.

I love Southeast Asia.

Since Sheila works during the week, we’ve been traveling predominately on the weekends. And when I have a budget airline like Cebu Pacific Air at my disposal, I can travel anywhere domestically on a whim and still manage to keep within my weekly budget. So when we decided to fly to Boracay, arguably the most well known and popular beach in the Philippines, we were still able to do it on the cheap.

Boracay Island is located off the northernmost tip of Panay Island in the western Visayas region. I had heard many things about this well renowned island of the Philippines, and was anxious to see it for myself. I had seen relatively few tourists during my travels in the Philippines thus far; however, I knew this would change once we arrived in Boracay as every tourist who travels to the Philippines inevitably visits this island – or does so for the sole purpose to have a vacation in Boracay.

Before we left, the weather in Manila was terrible. However, three of Sheila’s friends who were already in Boracay, sent Sheila a text message saying not to worry as the weather on the island was great. Phew! The good news enabled us to relax a bit before our flight.

Instead of flying to Caticlan which is closer to Boracay Island, we chose to fly to Kalibo as it was cheaper. And to make things easier – and believe me, it made things much easier – we arranged for our hotel to pick us up from the airport and shuttle us to our hotel, ferry included. This was a stress-free way to commute to the island as it would have been much more difficult to do it on our own, and we didn’t want to risk the possible chance of being ripped off. We reserved a room on the island’s main and most touristy beach, White Beach. Accommodation along this beach is broken into three stations: Station 1 being the most expensive to Station 3 being the least. We chose Station 2.

Once we arrived and checked into our hotel, we went out with Sheila's friends: Paula, Will (Paula's husband), and CJ. I know that I said it was going to be touristy, but dang, I didn't think it was going to be THAT touristy! I hadn't seen so many white people since . . . well, probably Khao San Rd, the backpacker ghetto located in Bangkok, Thailand. But these Caucasians weren't backpackers, they were more high-end type of travelers.

I should note that I tend to label anyone who spends more than $15 USD a day a high-end traveler.

And they weren't all Caucasians, either. There were heaps of Koreans, too. My Lord, they were everywhere - Chinese as well. And because of the influx of tourists, everything costs more compared to the rest of the country. The island of Boracay has definitely become a tourist based economy. There's a plethora of hotels, boutique shops, beach bars, restaurants, and nightlife that stretch the entire length of the 4km beach.

We woke up early the following morning so we could enjoy the beach in relative solitude. But ultimately it was the free breakfast provided by our hotel that prompted me to get up that early. The power of food.

After breakfast we immediately walked to the beach and found a shaded area to relax.

I'm here to report that Boracay is beautiful. There's no way of getting around it. It ranks up there as one of the most beautiful beaches that I've seen during my travels in Southeast Asia. Its crystal clear blue waters, clean and soft sand, its blue skies, and the absence of flies made out for an enjoyable and invigorating day as I relaxed under the shade of palm trees.



The pleasant sound of coconuts hitting the sand could often be heard as the locals frequently climbed the trees to retrieve the fruits from which it beared.

With tourists come touts.

The absence of flies on the island was quickly forgotten with the presence of touts. Everywhere you walk, they're buzzing around your ears.

"My friend, sunglasses?"

"My friend, want a watch?"

"My friend, want to go island hopping?"

My friend, my friend, my friend. Ah! If you go to Boracay you're instantly the most popular guy in town - along with every other foreigner. The island definitely doesn't have a lack of touts, that's for sure. But it wasn't nearly as bad as some of the other places that I've traveled in Southeast Asia. It had just been a long time since I'd been approached by so many of them. The rest of the Philippines is not like Boracay.

There's something else the island doesn't lack: beautiful sunsets. Why are spectacular sunsets endemic to the tropics? In any case, the sunset in Boracay was simply stunning. It definitely ranked up there as one of the most beautiful sunsets that I've seen during my travels, as well.

For dinner, we went to a buffet. As expensive as everything was on the island, we surprising paid only $5 USD for an all-you-can-eat meal. I took full advantage of this.

The next morning, Sheila and I said our goodbyes to White Beach before commuting back to Kalibo Airport . . .

. . . and, ultimately, back to Manila.


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