The final stretch - Borocay, Manila and Hong Kong (Day 219 - 229 by Chris)


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Asia » Philippines » Boracay
May 1st 2016
Published: July 3rd 2016
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after almost 2 months of being home, we finally got round to posting the final blog. Enjoy!

Friday 22nd April 2016

Today we are leaving Pangloa and the man with a van, and I actually mean a green van (think Sooty’s van) arrived to collect us at 8am to drive us to the port. We were expecting a taxi, but considering it was only a 30 minute drive it was fine with us. When we arrived at the port we were told that the next boat only had seats on the roof available and with a 2 hour boat journey ahead we didn’t really fancy sitting on the roof. We decided to book a couple of seats on the 11:40am boat and this gave us time to pop over to a café for some breakfast.

When we boarded the boat we found our seats and slept until we arrived in Cebu port. We then shared a taxi with 2 Swiss girls to the airport. We’d arrived at the airport with plenty of time before our flight. Arriving at 13:30 we had time to relax and get some food before our 17:25 flight. It was only at 17:45 that we were told the flight had been delayed and was still yet to take off from its previous destination. We therefore had no choice but to wait until we finally took off at 8:45pm and after only 45 minutes we landed at Kalibo airport with a thump. Luckily for us, we decided to pre-book a hotel in Kalibo with the intent of heading to Boracay the following morning, which is a 2 hour drive away. We headed straight to our hotel which was surprisingly comfortable given the small amount we paid and relaxed before our departure the next morning.

Saturday 23rd April 2016

The lady on reception told us that there was a minibus that did shuttle runs to Caticlan ferry terminal where we catch a boat to Boracay which leaves from just around the corner of the hotel. We were led there by her son and paid only 100 pesos each (£1.50) and once the van had filled up the driver set off. After only 1.5 hours we had arrived at Caticlan port and were literally ushered through to the boat and having paid for our tickets and after 10 minutes we’d arrived on the island of Borocay.

Borocay is a holiday destination which turns out is very popular with South Koreans, Chinese and local Filipinas. There are also a handful of Europeans, but mainly popular with asian tourists. We had decided to stay here to treat this as a holiday before we head back home for our real lives. We arrived at the hotel which was cheap by Boracay standards at £31 per night and we really didn’t know what to expect given some negative reviews online. When we arrived though we were very happy, which either says that the hotel really wasn’t that bad, or we have very low standards.

As we’d arrived at 11am we had the whole day ahead of us to explore. We decided to take a walk along the beach front to explore some of the other stations. Borocay is split into station 1, 2 and 3. We were located at station 3 which is said to be a more relaxing spot and station 1 being in the heart of the bars and restaurants with station 2 being something in-between. We walked for more than an hour to reach station 1 which gave us a good feel for the island and saw a lot of chain restaurants, which previously would’ve put a bit of a dampener on things but as we were on ‘holiday’ this meant that Borocay could possibly offer anything we wanted.

Today Borocay was hosting a Dragon boat race and there was a buzz of excitement and activity on the beach. There were teams from Dubai and Singapore to name a few and we’d arrived on the day of the finals. We stood on the beach and watched a few of the races before heading back towards our hotel. By the time we’d arrived back the sun was setting so we got changed and headed out for some food and a few drinks before calling it a night.

Sunday 24th April 2016 – Thursday 28th April 2016

The next few days don’t really make for interesting reading, which goes to show how little we did during this time. As we were now counting down in days, rather than weeks until we catch our flight to London, we really took our foot off the gas and relaxed. The days started with breakfast in the guesthouse and then we walked the 20 metres to the beach where each day we grabbed a couple of sun loungers and spent a few hours relaxing, reading, swimming in the cool white waters and eating lunch at the adjacent restaurant. When the sun went down we would head to station 2 where we’d found a lovely Italian restaurant which served some of the best pasta we’ve had whilst being away. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine and the odd beer, but were back in the hotel no later than 10pm each night. I had a job interview over skype during this time too using the business centre at a nearby resort and we also skyped some friends, but other than that we just enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and fell into a holiday mode in preparation for our trip home.

We found Borocay to be a little pricier that other parts of the Philippines, but that was to be expected as its their main holiday destination. We found that majority of tourists here were either Chinese or South Koreans with the odd scattering of Europeans. Borocay is stunning and they have done very well to maintain the beach and water as some places we’ve visited on our travels have neglected this and as a result some places began to look a little shabby, but not Borocay. Their beaches are covered in white sand and the sea, despite some algae, is crystal clear. It is a good holiday destination as there are ample restaurants and bars to choose from, but there is no chance of getting off the beaten track, but that was fine with us as we’ve done plenty of that already. We were happy that we’d chosen to spend our last few beach days here.

Friday 29th April 2016

Today we have to leave Borocay and make our way to Hong Kong where we plan to spend our last 2 days to visit Mel whom we’d last seen in November. We had a flight booked from Kalibo – Manila which left at 17:50 so we had plenty of time and decided to take it easy. We checked out of the hotel at 11am and made our way over to the port where we were ushered onto a boat and 10 minutes later made it across the water to Caticlan port. Here we got the next available mini bus which only took 1.5 hours to arrive at the airport. We’d expected the journey to be a little more disruptive so to our shock we arrived at the airport almost 4 hours early. We were so early and the airport so small that we were not allowed to enter until 2 hours before departure. We therefore headed to a café across the road before returning to the airport at around 4pm. We checked in and made our way to departures which was heaving with people, most of which seemed up in arms with the Cebu Pacific and Air Asia staff because of delayed flights. It seemed that all flights were headed to Manila and of the 4 that were due to leave as we arrived, all 4 had been delayed. It came as no surprise when we were informed that our flight was delayed by approx 1 hour. After such a boring 6 hours in the smallest departure area, we finally boarded the plane at 10pm, 4 hours after we were meant to take off. Again, the airline announced that all delays were ‘due to the limited capability of Manila ground staff’, which seems to be their excuse for all delays. Nevertheless, we arrived at Manila airport at just gone 11pm and then had to take a taxi to our hotel. As we were flying the next day to Hong Kong, we had decided to book a hotel close to the airport. We arrived at the taxi stand and after 1.5 hours of waiting finally got into a taxi which from 3km to our hotel. We finally got into bed at just after 1am for what seemed like our longest day of travel so far. For only 3.5 hours of actual travel time we had waited around for almost 10 hours. Travel in the Philippines needs to be taken with the view that you will never get to where you want to be on time. Needless to say we fell straight to sleep.

Saturday 30th April 2016

Our flight to Hong Kong wasn’t leaving until 14:50 so we managed to catch some extra sleep and didn’t check out of the hotel until just before 12 noon. We took at taxi to the airport and to our complete shock we were on our Air Asia flight on time. Even as we were taxi-ing to the run way we half expected to be waiting there for a few hours, but at 14:50 the plane took off and we were on our way to Hong Kong which was a short 1.5 hour flight.

This brings our time in the Philippines to a close and actually completes our 12th country in what is just over 7 months. We found the Philippines to be a really fun place to be. Granted, the travel in-between places has been a little longer than we would’ve liked due to flight delays, but when we arrived at our destinations we have been blown away by the natural beauty of the places. The Philippines being a collection of over 7000 islands, you’d obviously expect most of the sights to be beach related and that’s certainly what we focused on and here we found the most beautiful beaches ever. El Nido was out of this world gorgeous and Port Barton was a laid back haven which we wished to have spent more time in. Bohol was a tree covered island full of amazing creatures and stunning views and Borocay was a holiday destination to get absorbed into. We really had a great time here and the people were much more friendly than we were expecting. We’d heard stories of tourists being robbed at knife point in Manila but we really didn’t feel in danger at all, anywhere. In fact, we felt so comfortable that if we asked anyone for help, they would go out of their way to assist. This is a country that offers an abundance of things to see and do. As mentioned, there are over 7000 islands and we only visited 4. That gives us 6996 reasons to return again in the future.

HONG KONG

Our flight touched down in Hong Kong just before 5pm and once we’d collected or luggage and grabbed some food at the airport, it was after 6pm that we began our journey into central HK. As we were seriously low on money and HK is one of the most expensive cities in the world, we had to seek out the cheapest route into central. The Express train was too much so we decided to take a combination of bus and then MRT (tube) to reach HK island the area we were staying in, Causeway Bay. We finally arrived at our hostel ‘Pandora after 80s’ (weird name) at 9pm and checked into our 8 bed dorm. We had agreed when we were last in HK, which was back in November that when we return, seeing as it would mark the end of our trip, we would treat ourselves to a plush hotel. Now we find ourselves in some of the most cramped conditions so far. Luckily though, we only planned on sleeping here and wasted no time getting changed and heading out to meet Mel.

We made our way to a restaurant called the Brickhouse where Mel was having dinner with some friends. We sat with them and was treated to a celebratory cocktail to mark our engagement, which was over 4 months ago now, but Mel is the first person we’ve seen since. We then headed out to a rooftop bar which was really cool as to enter you had to know a door code to a building which from the outside looked like a run down apartment block. Thankfully some other people arrived knowing the code and we tailgated in after them. When we arrived at the roof we were greeted with a small, dimly lit but very swanky looking bar. We stood around chatting for a few hours drinking Gin and Tonics catching up since we last saw Mel. It was really good fun and we also began chatting to some strangers, 2 of which were also on their travels but were at the start and had just left Japan and Korea. They wanted to chat to us some more an pick our brains as they were next heading to south east asia, but we around 1am to head to bed.

Sunday 1st May 2016

I had quite a good sleep, but Gemma woke up tired telling me how the other people in the dorm had come in at 4am shouting and arguing with each other. I’d clearly slept through this and was feeling quite fresh, so after a slow start to the morning we headed out around midday to get some food and see some more of Hong Kong. The last time we were in HK we tried to find the jade market in Kowloon but somehow mistook temple street market for it instead. Not to be outdone this time, we headed via the MRT to Jordan statinon and made our way there. After only a couple of minutes inside we decided to leave. We weren't really looking to buy anything and felt quite overwhelmed by the amount of jade. We then wandered around the streets of Kowloon for a while before making our way back to HK island and taking a look in some of the shops before heading back to the hostel to get some rest.

We met Mel again in the evening when she took us out to a Mexican restaurant which was down a very quiet street. This seemed in stark contrast to the previous night when everywhere you looked there were people partying and throwing up in the streets. It was a Sunday night I suppose, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to see empty streets. It was a good evening of catching up over dinner and having a few drinks. After the meal we struggled to find anywhere to continue with the drinking as most bars were closing, so after being thrown out of one particular bar at closing time we decided to call it a night and headed back to our wonderful dorm to sleep.

Monday 2nd May 2016

We knew this day would finally come, but it always felt so far off that we didn’t really think about it. Today is our final day in Asia before we head back to sunny England. We started the day by packing our backpacks for the final time and making the most of the bin in the room. We had so many items of clothing and toiletries that were not coming back with us and for the first time in 8 months our backpacks felt so light we could swing it over our shoulder without any problems.

Once we checked out of the hostel we jumped into a taxi and made our way over to the express airport train station. Here they have check in counters which are actually open 12 hours before your flight departs so we were able to check in and drop off our backpacks for our 11pm flight. We planned to meet Mel again and spend the day with her so just after 12pm and having had a coffee, we made our way over to her golf club where we intended to do nothing but relax by the pool. As we arrived the heavens opened so we took shelter under an awning and spent the remainder of the day eating, drinking and chatting. It was a nice and relaxing way to spend our final day in Asia, and put us in a good and relaxing mood ready for our 12-hour flight home.

At about 8pm Mel flagged down a taxi for us and we said our goodbyes to our wonderful host and made our way over to the airport express train station. After only 24 minutes, we were at HK international airport and having already checked in and dropped off our bags we made our way through to departures and sat around waiting for the flight. It was a different feeling waiting for this flight as we knew it was the long haul back home. Every other airport we’ve been in during this trip has been to take us to the next exciting destination. That being said though, we were both excited about returning home, although Gemma had a hard time admitting it. After boarding our BA Airbus A380, which was the largest plane we’ve ever seen and were concerned how it would ever get off the ground, we found our seats and settled in to what would be a 12-hour flight, but surprisingly comfortable. After some sleep and a very smooth flight we touched down at a very chilly Heathrow at 4:30am GMT and were met at arrivals by Gemma’s mum and dad who very kindly offered to pick us up. Just as well too as the thought of taking the train across London at that particular time would’ve killed us. We had finally made it home.

It’s fair to say that we have had an unforgettable 8 months of travelling. We left with the aim of making the trip as varied as possible and we can confidently say that we were successful in that task. During our 8 months away we have visited some huge cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. We saw some brilliantly beautiful beaches in Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines and walked through some prehistoric jungle in Malaysia and Borneo. We split the trip up between partying and making new friends, with spending time together and just chilling out. We ate some of the tastiest food, but likewise we ate some disgusting “get this out of my face” stuff, which we were always better off for not knowing exactly what it was. In just under 8 months we managed to visit 12 countries, taking 28 flights, 38 coaches, 20 boat journeys, 17 trains and countless metros, tuk-tuks, taxis and local bus and boat journeys. We drank 26 different types of beer and saw some amazing animals including Pandas, Elephants, Black Bears, Tapir's, Geckos, Orangutans, Proboscis Monkeys, Silver Macaque, bearded pigs and sea turtles. Some truly brilliant experiences that we'll struggle to forget

We are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel for as long as we did. Many people tell us that we are very lucky and we know that. We have not taken this opportunity for granted and knew when we left home, that its very unlikely that we’d have the chance to travel like this again, and for that reason we ensured we made the most of every day. Between September and May, there hasn’t been a day where we haven’t had fun, even on those days when we did nothing but travel, whether it be on delayed planes, or uncomfortable buses. Taking something from each day and documenting it in this blog will allow us to look back and remember all the fun we had. Not to mention the 20,000 plus photos Gemma managed to take. That will take some serious sorting out!

We hope you enjoyed reading this blog and felt that you were able to enjoy the trip as much as we did (ok, well perhaps not as much) and until next time. Fairwell!!

Chris & Gemma.

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