Sunday, March 20, 2016

First Birthday Trip: Boracay

Our conversation during New Year's Eve had sparked a yearning to do things differently in Year 2016. So, overnight we had decided and booked a trip to Boracay, Philippines to "celebrate" our three birthdays which spanned from late January to early February (although none of our birthdays were during our trip dates!).

Getting there was an adventure in itself. We boarded a morning AirAsia flight and was about 2 hours into the journey when the captain announced that we were turning back to KL due to "technical problems". Everyone thought it was a joke but it wasn't. This was the first time I have had to fly from KL and transit in KL too! We heard that the reason we turned back was because strong winds were pushing the plane off course and the captain didn't want to take any chances.

We finally got onto the replacement flight at 3.15 p.m. (without any compensation for the delay from AirAsia) and reached Kalibo International Airport after 7 p.m. The immigration counter was like a soapbox, which was amusing.

small airport
Kalibo International Airport - one of two airports which we can land in to get to Boracay

After the bus to Caticlan jetty (3 hours ride), ferry and shuttle service, which we booked from Southwest Tours, we reached our hotel, Boracay Beach Club at almost 11 p.m. A tip to remember (which we learned the hard way) is that never let anyone carry your bag, even if they're from Southwest Tours, as they expect tips for the 'help' given... and it's actually stated in small print in our booking slip. T was caught in this as none of us had pesos in small change to give the porter.

Our first meal in Boracay was Andok's. I had some barbeque pork and S took some kind of pork stew with rice. It was pretty much the only choice at that time of the night but it was good.

Pork rice vinegar sauce
Andok's barbeque pork and rice

The next morning, our hotel breakfast was served across the road at the beachfront cafe. I had their local fare, which was similar to the dinner I had. I must say that I was surprised at the amount of pork dishes they had.

across road Station 1 beachfront
Boracay Beach Club breakfast served at Ariel's House

We'd read some good reviews from tripadvisor on Boracay Beach Club, which is situated in Station 1, White Beach. Our opinion: staff were really friendly and helpful but the room was a little bit old. The rooms are across the road from the beachfront and the security staff would help stop the traffic when we wanted to cross the road.

Philippines pool
Boracay Beach Club - rooms are across the road from the beachfront

With our flight delay, we were left with only 1 full day to explore Boracay. We started with a morning swim in the sea and exploring the beach, mostly around Station 1 (Boracay's White Beach has 3 sections - Stations 1, 2 and 3). The beach was beautiful - fine white sand, blue ocean, cool sea water. It's best to wake up early as the sun rises around 6 a.m. and swimming is much more pleasurable. We had to abandon our swimming pursuit by around 10 a.m. as the sun was getting too hot.

Philippines 7 am
Boracay White Beach at sunrise

White Beach Station 1
Boracay White Beach at mid morning

Station 1 Philippines island beach
Boracay White Beach at dawn with Willy's Rock in the distance

island Philippines White Beach Station 1
Statue of Mother Mary on Willy's Rock

Station 1 Philippines
White Beach Station 1 - peddlers selling hats, selfie sticks and waterproof pouches

We were told that the peak period was in March and we also noticed that most of the island visitors were local Filipinos. There were some Malaysians, China Chinese, Koreans and other Caucasians too.

Next up, we took a tricycle (the equivalent of the Thai tuk-tuk) to D'Mall for shopping and lunch. It cost us 60 pesos from Boracay Beach Club. D'Mall isn't a mall, like what we foolishly thought (don't blame us, this was an impromptu trip booked just about 2-3 weeks in advance). It's more like a collection of small shops in an open air square where there were many restaurants and souvenir shops.

travel on island

We wanted to try as many varieties of food as possible; so we ordered less and shared our meals, only choosing the restaurants which we had read about from blogs and tripadvisor. First, we went to Mang Inasal to have their chicken inasal and another glass noodle dish that had an orange shrimp sauce with crispy shrimp bits, fried shallots, hard boiled egg slices and kaffir lime. They had 3 dipping sauces on the tables - chili oil, vinegar and another one which we didn't try.

chicken bbq shrimp noodles
Mang Inasal - barbeque chicken and others

Next, we headed straight to I "Love" Backyard BBQ. It took us some detours to find the place, working up an appetite. We ordered the baby back ribs, which was good, and roasted pork, which was so-so and a bit hard.

I Love Backyard BBQ - walls filled with memorabilia and photos
baby back ribs
I Love Backyard BBQ - baby back ribs - yummy!
roasted pork
I Love Backyard BBQ - roasted pork - looks better than its taste
Another thing we read was Jonah's shakes - they have milkshakes, fruit smoothies and some food too. Each of us ordered a different shake but I think mine was really nice - chocolate peanut milkshake.

White beach
Jonah's Shakes
The only planned activity we had time for was paraw sailing. It's a sailboat ride where we sit at the netting strung unto the outriggers on both sides of the boat. We booked this with our hotel and it cost around 300 pesos per person (if I recall correctly). The ride was at 5pm and lasted for around 10 minutes - just a short ride towards the sunset and back. We saw other boats stop and wait for the sunset but ours didn't. The length of the ride and stuffing about 9 people on the pair of outriggers (as opposed to what we read of about 3 per outrigger) was a bit of a let down but the view was spectacular. And just a note of caution, get a waterproof pouch for your phone! T and I learned this the hard way - although we looked like we were a safe distance from the seawater, when the wind came we got drenched fully. The only place I could think it wouldn't be too wet was down my bra! And it still got a little wet - till my phone auto shut off.

Waiting for our paraw
Setting off on our paraw - Austin
Sail up
Sitting on the outriggers
By the time our paraw sailing session ended and we walked back to Station 1, the sun was setting really fast. 

Sunset in Boracay
Sunset with pink and orange hues

In the evenings, there are many sand castles along the beach. Most of them look alike but have slight differences. However, be warned that if you want to take a photo with these sculptures, you need to pay 20 pesos per person to the local youths who had made them. They are always nearby watching. We didn't get to take photos (and pay) because there was always a certain group of people hogging them.

One of the many sand castles
We stayed in Boracay a total of 2 days and 2 nights (cut short by the flight delays). On the final Monday morning when we were having breakfast, another drama brewed. S suddenly realised that we had booked our airport transfer a day later. So after much negotiations, we managed to secure our airport transfer but no door-to-door service was available. So we had to take a tricycle to the jetty. It turned out to be a much better ride than the one we had when we arrived.

The drama didn't stop there. After the ferry ride and bus ride to the airport, we went through security to enter the airport and thought of having something to eat inside. Only there did we find out that there was an airport tax of 700 pesos per person we had to pay and we had planned it in such a way that we wouldn't have to bring any pesos back. So after pooling our pesos, we managed to pay the tax and go into the waiting area. We were pretty hungry and there was no money changer in the airport. We couldn't pay with other currencies as well. And they only had small stalls selling instant noodles and tidbits. S had to break her currency collection to feed us. And funnily, the airport had a blackout and we couldn't continue watching the Filipino drama when the electricity came back on!

What an eventful trip and a first birthday trip for all 3 of us! 

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