Posts Tagged ‘Boracay


a birthday in boracay

I had massive expectations about visiting Boracay.

All the pictures, videos and stories I’d heard of this island told me that despite huge redevelopment over the past decade here, the island itself was still just as postcard perfect as it was before it became ‘mainstream’ (not that mainstream in that it still takes a minimum of 3 flights and over twenty four hours to get here from the UK, but mainstream thanks to the whole of South Korea and their iPads, iPhones, iPods and iRons (sorry) – seemingly being on Boracay when not in immigration queues back in Manila) Seoul must be a ghost town….

So the super typhoon last week had maybe slightly lowered my hopes of finding a new favourite island in that perfect crystal clear sea, white sand, beach bar, friendly local cliché kind of way. After all I’ve been fortunate to spend varying amounts of time on some cracking beach isles – Gili Trawangan, Koh Samui, Antigua, Langkawi, Barbados – to name drop a few. Boracay has strong competition is what I’m trying to say.

Several days into our stay here and you could see Boracay is getting back to its postcard picturesque best. Aided by two near-perfect days of bright sunshine, warm temperatures and minimal winds, I can confirm after a sunset swim (whilst Naomi had a beach massage – tough life) that the sea waters on Diniwid Beach are now as clear as we’d hoped. They weren’t particularly ‘murky’ before, oh no. Just slightly cloudy from the debris that had blown about last week. Our hotel pool, out of action and emptied of its water on our arrival, is now clean and full again. The neon lights are back up on the palm trees, the hotel restaurant is now softly playing music again and candlelit tables and chairs are being spread back onto the beach, ready for those perfect evening meals with the sand between your toes. Even the numbers of tourists seemed to grow by the hour.

You can of course see the effects of the storm across the island. In particular the small shanty towns that are located behind the many hotels here all look slightly battered and bruised. A few days ago we had a massive rainstorm here that left little to no marks on the ever recovering hotels and beach fronts. Getting a lift to and from D’Mall (the slightly overrated, noisy, touristy main area of the island) you cannot help but notice the state of some of the locals homes, flooded again after the latest rain storm, and feel slightly guilty about the fact all we have to go without is the internet for the week and a few hours of power in the afternoon.

On the other hand we need not feel guilty. People in this part of world do seem to have a more ‘roll the sleeves up and get on with it’ kind of attitude than we do in western world. Also just by being here so soon after Yolanda, on such a small island that is driven by tourism, we are doing our bit. The friendly tricycle drivers in particular seem to be making a roaring trade shuttling people round the isle. As do the many tour boats that line the magnificent White Beach, located a short, rocky walk away from Diniwid. Life is getting back to normal very quickly for the people of this island.

In the same way it has taken Boracay a couple of extra days to get back to somewhere near its best, me and Naomi also took till Wednesday to finally acclimatise and start making the most of our precious time here. Sure we had our morning breakfasts, walks to White Beach and swims in the sea. We had a lovely first evening out at D’Mall watching a characteristically cheesy, yet strangely decent live local band on the beach. But weighed down by the jet lag driven desire to have (five hour!) power naps in the afternoon, our time here was in danger of not being hundred per cent fulfilled.

That all changed on our fourth Filipino morning as we woke on Naomi’s birthday. Within an hour of waking up we’d had the wonderfully friendly staff sing happy birthday to her (recognised thanks to the ma-hoo-sive 21 badge I’d kindly bought her to wear) and were on our way to White Beach for a half day of ‘island hoping’. Not really having any pre-conceptions about what might lay ahead, we were pleasantly surprised when we were beckoned to paddle out to sea in order to board our personal boat. I thought we’d be on a boat with maybe a dozen others, all battling for the same photo opportunities and doing nothing but getting in each others way. For the next few hours we were taken up and down the west coast of Boracay, stopping a couple of times to try some snorkelling. The first time wasn’t overly successful as we were quite far out at sea, meaning the water was pretty choppy. I managed to dive down and take a few decent up close and personal shots of the colourful tropical fish before we jumped back aboard our boat. The second time out was great fun. We managed to settle into it pretty quickly, helped by the fact the sea was calmer and we could get a bit further away from our boat. I’ve not snorkelled since I was a kid – I enjoyed the hour or so I had in the sea so much that I’ll hopefully get another chance before we leave for home. Having the fish swim literally right by your nose in such crystal clear seas was exhilarating.

We spent the first part of the evening back at Diniwid up at the fantastic Spiderhouse bar. It had been a perfectly clear day, the first since our arrival. The reason for choosing this particular venue for Naomi’s birthday sundown drinks was mainly due to the incredible panoramic view that the elevated bar gave of Boracay. The sunset was pretty epic and will stay with me for some time. It’s one of those words cannot do it justice moments so I’ll just let you look at the pictures at the bottom of this entry. Without being too soppy it was a magic moment to spend the last moments of sunlight on her 21st watching the sun go down, supping a cocktail. Memories we will naturally have forever.

Talking of making memories – the next morning I broke the bank in treating myself to eighteen holes of golf at the only course on the island, Fairways and Bluewaters. The lure of passing the resort every time we got a tricycle or shuttle to and from our hotel was simply too much – I had to play a round here. I’d packed a dozen balls, my shoes and some tees and was delighted when I smashed my first drive 200 yards down the middle on the opening par 5 hole. It nearly got better, I chipped from just off the green for par, hit the flagstick and the ball finished less than an inch from the hole. My caddie, a lovely lady who’s name I won’t attempt to spell, was in rapturous as I started bogey, par, bogey, par. Things went well, as I shot 13 over par 49 on the front 9 and ended with a score of 104 (par was 72) It should have been better but I was thrilled with my ball striking, playing as well I have all year on that front nine holes. I’ll put the slip on the back 9 down to the incredible views of the sea from the elevated tee position 😉 Mind you I did smoke that drive miles as well so perhaps we’ll just put it down to the inconsistencies of being a 20-something handicapper! The course was in good nick, especially if you consider the back 9 holes were only re-opened the morning I played due to the typhoon damage suffered. Naomi enjoyed her day, taking on the nickname of ‘Mrs Schumacher’ thanks to her skills behind the wheel of the golf buggy!

As you can tell the majority of our time on Boracay was extremely positive.

The main downside we found was D’Mall, which was a bit of a disappointment. By the sixth and last day walking down the magnificent White Beach was becoming slightly hard work due to the constant heckling from the countless hawkers selling everything from boat trips, scuba diving, sun hats, DVDs and sunglasses. Don’t get me wrong, these blokes are just trying to make a living. But when one has seen you say ‘no thanks’ to one of his mates trying to flog you sunglasses (when you already have a pair on) yet he still walks over to you and offers the same item just seconds later, it becomes tiresome. Give us a break, lads.

Also the nightlife in D’Mall was all a bit much. Perhaps we are old before our time, but quite why you need four DJs in a beachside club playing ridiculously loud music to about three customers is beyond me. More quiet beach bars please like Spiderhouse, please Boracay.

All the moaning aside I’ll take positive memories from time on Boracay. Its not made it to the top of the island charts with me but I’ll always cherish the time we had here. Whether it be chilling out on the two beaches, eating and drinking, snorkelling, golfing, celebrating a special birthday and of course enjoying the fantastic Filipino hospitality. In particular at our hotel bar, Mama’s Fish Restaurant, where the staff kindly likened me to ‘Jason’ as in actor Jason Statham (!) whilst enjoying a tequila sunrise cocktail on our last night. For an island so close to being devastated just days before our arrival, I’m thrilled that it is moving on so quickly, returning to its postcard best.

Thanks for the memories, Boracay. See you again one day!







calm after the storm

Well we have arrived in Boracay, Philippines!

In fact we have been here all of three days, and by the time you read this we would have likely have been here a week.

For all the worry about getting to this marvellous country so soon after Yolanda we need not have concerned ourselves. The only thing we have had to do without since leaving Manila after a quick Sunday night stopover in a hard to find B&B is a lack of internet access across Boracay island and a few hours electricity in the afternoon in our hotel. Other than that, life, with the aid of many generators, is moving on as ever on the isle.

Our arrival in Manila was simple enough – minus a quick tussle at immigration with what seemed like the whole of South Korea getting their passports stamped at the same time as us, our bags were located straight away and even success with Santander letting me access my own cash without having to assure them of my presence outside the UK.
That was until we stepped out into the humidity of arrivals and our Casa Joaquin B&B driver being noticeable by his absence. Never mind, a quick dive into the back of a cab and a strangely confident young cabbie called Ramon assured us he’d find our B&B, located off the beaten track in a gated community a few kilometres away.

What should have been a twenty minute ride away (as we discovered the next morning when Ramon picked us up with his missus in tow) turned into a a google map assisted, written directive, walkie talkie marathon with Ramon’s HQ that lasted a good hour and a half. Still, our hosts Tessie and Emma were brilliant at the B&B, kindly upgrading us to suite larger than my first flat. Even the noise of the low passing aircraft, next doors version of Battersea dogs home and several vocal cockerels nearby didn’t stop us getting a few hours kip after the twenty seven hour door to door trip.

Next morning we jumped aboard a flight to Boracay. It wasn’t even our scheduled flight as ours was delayed a couple of hours. I enquired when the flight would leave given the lack of departure boards in the terminal. Before I could worry about the possible implications of missing baggage, another walkie talkie loving lady was busy re-booking me and Naomi on a flight due to leave in the next fifteen minutes. Boarding passes were hand amended, our names were shouted over the walkie talkie (which I assume was a baggage handler confirming he’d located our bags) and we were soon boarding the plane with 58 (tiny plane) other excitable tourists that were mainly, you guessed it, Koreans.

After waking up on the plane to an incredible view of the passing Boracay, we were soon shovelled onto the back of a tricycle (think motorbike with large sheltered side cart) to the nearby ferry terminal. Before we knew it we were slightly frustratingly rushed through the terminal building as a bloke ran off with our bags trying to get us onto the ferry as quickly as he possibly could – despite not asking if we needed a hand naturally he hung around like a bad smell looking for a small tip. As I handed 20 pesos (33p) to get him out of our faces he looked at me in disgust and stormed off, ready to ambush the next jet-lagged, slightly caught unaware tourist. Nothing like being able to take it all in…..never mind, we were soon on a second tricycle and transferred to our hotel on the lovely Diniwid beach here on Boracay within an hour of landing so it wasn’t all bad!




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