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Published: February 27th 2013
When telling fellow travellers who we have met along the way in recent weeks that we were going to the Philippines, most ilicited the same response, 'You have to go to Boracay', and so many times we have looked at pictures and thought 'we really must go there, it looks amazing' etc, yet it was with mixed feelings that we made the long journey to our final destination of this Philippines sojourn. Why mixed feelings when we had heard so many positive things about the place? Well, if our time here has taught us anything, it's that we love to find secluded beaches and our own little paradises, we enjoy undeveloped places and peace and quiet, we like to mingle with locals, eat authentic food, not get ripped off by tuk-tuk drivers and not actually see that many other tourists, and for the most part that's exactly what we have done. But we knew Boracay for all it's beauty wouldn't be like this and it was something we were apprehensive about, yet at the same time we were looking forward to a bit of commercialism in its own way and staying up until past 10pm! Plus, we knew we had to
see it and decide for ourseves if we would like it. So it was never an option of not going, just how long for. Three weeks is just not enough time in this country to see and do everything we want, so we ended up with only 3 days to spend on Boracay instead of the 5 we had originally set aside for it, but this would end up working out just fine...
As mentioned above, the journey to Boracay was LONG, the longest we have had in the Philippines and maybe one of the longest on this entire trip (train journey's in China excluded!), and went something like this - boat, bus, tricycle, boat, taxi, bus, boat, tuk-tuk - and took over 14 hours, meaning we left Sugar Beach at 8am and didn't arrive on Boracay until nearly 11pm. The journey was more straight forward than it sounds though and we had the company of two really friendly Swedish people (Emma and Gustov) who were also headed here so it wasn't that bad. We didn't know if we would actually make it to Boracay in one day as the last boat from Caticlan is at 10pm, but luckily
we got there by 9.50pm so we made it just as the terminal was turning off all the lights and closing for the night.
The first thing that struck us was when we went to buy the boat tickets for the 15 minute ride over to Boracay from Caticlan - the boat itself is very cheap at 30 Peso's pp (50p) but then we had to pay a 'terminal fee' (to walk through the tiny terminal presumably?) of 100 Peso's each (£1.50) plus an 'environment fee' of 75 Peso's each (£1.20) - noting that none of the local tourists had to do this, only the foreign tourists. Of course locals who work and commute between the two places don't need to pay and that's completely right, but when you have hoards of Filipino tourists going there for a vacation, just like us and other Westerners, and they just pay the boat fee it's kind of annoying. This made the journey over 7 times what it should have cost, and relatively speaking it's not a fortune, but to pay all these additional fee's for a short hop over the water is just frustrating. Sadly that's what tourism does to a
place I guess, especially one as popular as Boracay. The next thing we encountered was greedy tricycle drivers at the pier - surprise surprise, we hadn't faced this in any of the other (less visited) places we had been in the country so far, but the four of us had no option at this time of night and paid to get a trip into Station 3, the south part of White Beach where we heard there was some budget accomodation. Then, when we arrived, the realisation set in that most accomodation was booked out, and the options which were left were overpriced and underwhelming - Scott and Gustov spent the best part of an hour searching for rooms but came up empty. Thankfully we met a local who made a few calls and found us two rooms at a nearby guesthouse so we went to check it out and it was fine so we negotioated the price and managed to get a decent room at a decent price - something unheard of here it seemed. By this point we were all shattered from travelling all day so after a quick walk to get some food we all headed straight to
bed. I know this sounds like a negative start to Boracay but I just don't think we had expected it to be like this, from the increase in prices for everything to the change in the people (they seem less friendly here) compared to everywhere else we have been in the last few weeks in the Philippines, but we both agreed we would make the most of our time here so went to bed looking forward to seeing the picture-postcard beach the next day.
In the morning we were up early as we had arranged to meet up with our friend Cynthia who we originally met in China in November. It was so lovely to see her again, especially as we didn't expect to be able to meet up on this trip, so we spent some time with her on the beach catching up with the last few months which was really nice. We had been anticipating blue skies and sunshine and we couldn't wait to see the famous White Beach, but sadly it was a bit overcast and grey although the sun did pop out for an hour or two at least. It was also incredibly busy, with
more people than we had seen in ages, and a mix of nationalities but by far the Korean's outnumbered everyone else by about 50-1! You can tell the Korean's a mile off (bless them) either by the his and hers matchy-matchy clothes that they wear, the fact that they cover up from the sun to the extreme (condom inspired wetsuits anyone?) or that they don full snorkelling gear and life jackets to go 3 metres out into sea when the water is not even up to their knee's and there is nothing to see...we had a few giggles over this during our time here. Although the weather wasn't on our side and we weren't as amazed by the beach we expected we still enjoyed relaxing for a good few hours until it was time to head back, wondering why we were so hungry when we realised we had missed lunch due to chatting all day!
That evening Scott went for a run and despite the cloudy weather earlier in the day he saw a great sunset and said the beach at the other end (White Beach North) was incredible, so we agreed to go there and check it out
tomorrow. Then the two of us, Cynthia, Emma and Gustov met up and went out for dinner. There are so many resturants here the choice is vast and while most of them are at the pricey end there is enough to suit all budgets. As we were so hungry from not eating all day we chose to go for one of the buffets and it was amazing - a stir fry station, pasta, Filipino dishes, fish, vegetarian options, deserts, the list goes on, and needless to say we stuffed ourselves! It was really nice though and a good option in a group as there was something for everyone. We had bought some rum so topped up our fruit shakes then went to a beach bar and played cards and had a few more drinks, something we haven't done with other people for ages so we really enjoyed being sociable again. Later in the evening we walked all the way down to Station 1 which is about 3km away and although it was dark the sand felt so incredibly silky soft under our toes on the beach - it honestly felt like velvet - we couldn't wait to see it during
the day and prayed for sunshine tomorrow. We all had a few more drinks outside another beach bar and made our way back in the early hours after a really fun evening.
The weather God's clearly weren't listening to us as the weather was even worse than the day before, with thick cloud and a bit of a breeze, but determined to see this paradise which had been described to us we made the march down to Station 1, via a Filipino sizzling place for breakfast - eggs and rice on a sizzling hot plate with ham/bacon really works for breakfast! We reached the part of the beach where we were the night before and the sand was still really soft and the water clear, but it just didn't have that picture-postcard look to it as the sun wasn't out, even though we were convinced it might come through later in the day. No sooner had we laid out our towels and put suncream on than we felt a few drops of rain though, and even though it wasn't heavy it's not nice to sit on a beach in the rain, so we went for a big walk and
had some food before the heaven's really opened and we had to run for cover. There is a shopping mall in the centre of White Beach but it is open air, so while we tried to shelter in there for a while it was no good and by the time we made it back to our guesthouse we were soaked through, wishing (not for the first time) that we had a hot shower. The rain didn't stop all evening and when we all met up for dinner later on it was still pouring down. Still we had a nice meal and ended up in a bar/pub called The Hobbit, where all the staff were dwarves or midgets - we should have guessed by the name really! It was another good evening but the rain was still coming when we left to go back to bed and as we couldnt't get a fair priced tricycle we were again soaked by the time we got in. We were leaving the next day as we had an evening flight from Kalibo - Clark (before flying out to Bangkok the day after) and were really hoping for a few hours of sunshine but it
was not to be...
Again we woke up to grey clouds and drizzle - such bad luck as it meant we hadn't seen Boracay in all it's glory plus the end of our time in the Philippines was a wash out. At least the weather had been great up until we came here, as it would have been a totally different experience to have had this much rain while we have been island hopping. It was still a shame that we didn't get to make the most of our Boracay time, and even though it was busy and expensive, there was something about it which makes us want to go back one day if we can and hopefully enjoy the beaches a bit more if we are ever over this way again. Anyway, we had a bit of lunch and a final catch up with Cynthia before it was time for us to leave, then made our way back to Caticlan and onto Kalibo airport 2 hours away. We got to the airport really early and it was tiny so the time dragged a bit, plus our flight was delayed, but we eventually boarded the plane for our 1
hour flight to Clark where we had booked a small hotel for the night - lucky as we didn't arrive until 11pm and Clark isn't really the kind of place you want to show up to at night without a room booked. We had a few hours the next morning to kill before our flight out so caught a jeepney to one of the Mall's, where I got Scott a few presents for his upcoming birthday, then it was time to leave after a fantastic few weeks in this amazing country - Philippines, we will be back! S&V's Travel Info & Tips: General Info: Approx 65 Peso's to £1. Transportation: From Sugar Beach on Negros, we took a boat back to Sipilay then a bus for 5 hours north to Bacalod. From here, it was a one hour boat ride over to Iloilo, then another 5 hour bus journey to Caticlan - the last bus leaves Iloilo at 4pm. Boats run regularly from Caticlan - Boracay (15 minutes) until 10pm. On the way out you have to pay the boat fee, the terminal fee and the environment fee. On your return, it's just
the boat and terminal fee's. From Caticlan on the way back we took a bus for 2 hours to Kalibo airport (100 Peso's each). Food: Loads of options in Boracay, mainly Western (we had a great burger at Burger Bite Club in D'Mall, good burrito's at Army & Navy near Station 1 and a nice pizza at Cowboy Cuchina at Station 3), but Hakuna Matata did great sizzling Filipino rice plates and the buffets along the beach at night can be good value if you pick well. Accomodation: Somehow we managed to get a good room for just 800 Peso's a night, practically unheard of in Boracay. We are not sure of the name, but it was located at Station 3/Angol near Treehouse, just behind the Blue Peter Guesthouse down a little lane and had clean rooms run by a nice man with cold showers. Would stay here again.
Other observations: x) Aggressive and greedy tricycle drivers at both Bacalod and Iloilo piers, something we had not encountered in the Philippines. xx) At Kalibo airport we had to pay a small fee to leave as we were on a domestic flight - international
flights had to pay 500 Peso's When leaving Clark airport on an international flight, you also have to pay 450 Peso's once you have checked in.
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