Travel Philippines – Borac-eye opener

We flew into the manic capital that is Manilla during the day arriving late in the P.M, it’s always hard to get a feel for the place when you arrive at night but first impressions that it was reminiscent of Bangkok, concrete everywhere, poverty and neon Tuk-Tuks adorning the roads. We jumped into a taxi and battled the traffic to where we were holding up for the night, as soon as we hopped out about half a dozen kids ran over holding out the palm of their hand for some form of payment…for the life of me I have no idea what service it was that they were providing that I had to hand over what little money we had left at this point so I declined there constant invoicing and got signed into the smallest and perhaps dirtiest room we had stayed in yet, but it was 4 walls and a ceiling so I was happy to be lying horizontal as opposed to the dreaded plane posture.

We choose the place because it was cheap and close to the airport so ideal when you get off a long flight, so in the morning we checked out and headed to where we were staying the following night, closer to the action….or so we thought. Manilla was every bit as ugly as Jakarta and was nothing but fast food joints everywhere you looked, finding decent sustenance was proving difficult as this point so we opted for a random Italian and came to the conclusion there wasn’t really anything worth seeing round about us, it was similar to Jakarta in the fact that it was just mall’s that were the attractions including some of the biggest in the world but all that meant was there was a bigger place for me to get dragged around.

We had decided before coming to the Philippines that we wanted some island life so booked the overnight boat to Boracay, the terminal is about a 2 hour bus trip south of Manilla at Batangas but wasn’t too bad a trip in all fairness although the bus frequently stops to allow snack vendors on. We were a bit early for our boat and there was not much around the dock so we took what I can only describe as a child’s motorcycle and side cart to the town of Batangas and got some food here before heading to get checked in.

Was a pretty seamless transition from dock to boat, as is the custom in the Philippines at the moment, they line male and females in a line (thankfully put down their guns) and released the hounds to check for contraband, was more worried about trying not to pet the dogs than anything else. Megan was feeling Pat & Mick at this point so it didn’t help that when we got on the boat we saw where we would be spending the evening….all that was missing was stripped jumpsuits and numbers along them, it was like a prison set up with bodies on bunkbeds everywhere, but what can we expect when saving £100 each as compared to flying to Boracay. We booked the Super value deluxe class or if you want you can upgrade to a 4 dorm room, but as Megan said it would probably be worse as you could end up bunking with complete weirdos in close proximity.

2GO travels 13 hour cruise provide a small meal and have a shop and bar on deck which always helps with the monotony of slow boats and we were entertained by a nice, albeit miss-educated, Texan woman whose views on the world would raise even Donald Trump’s eyebrows. Megan was struggling with the sleeping arrangements so we managed to find a huge empty room packed with bunkbeds that was closed due to refurbishments, it was pretty empty except for a couple of other people who had the same idea, so we found to beds out of sight and holed up for the night hoping not to get found and sent to the chokee.

We dock at 6am at Caticlan and have to exit the small terminal to then pay to go back through to get the fast boats over to the island. You pay for the Island tax and entry fee as well as the boat ticket and are loaded into these vessels all set to hit the Island that’s now within site (it’s very unnecessary the way the do it as you have to pay at 3 different stations). It takes about 5/10 minutes to jet over there and your finally free to roam, the island itself is only 5 miles long so we hopped on a bike and side car towards where we were staying for the week, using Air bnb means sometimes you can get lucky and check in a bit earlier…maybe not at 7am though.

We took a stroll down towards the beach…..and it did not disappoint. The sand was like talcum powder and the crystal clear water was like looking at a postcard, with nothing but catamarans and SUP boarders floating in the water, beach cafes and restaurants that seem to be built from the sand and a flat horizon that the sun sets on each night.

Megan was really struggling at this point and I did not fail to get on each and every one of her 7 Trillion nerves that the human body houses, a mix of excitement from me and salmonella for her was not a good combination so I thought I’d sit there and shut up until she was feeling better.

Our apartment was a self-contained rabbit hutch in the middle of all the locals houses equipped with kitchen and bathroom, which was pretty much the same room, but it was nice enough and after all we were not here to stay in a fancy hotel as we want to see as much as possible and we had some roosters and dogs always on hand to keep us entertained as we ventured out each day.

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants down the main strip, D’mall Boracay, where most of the tourist are and plenty of places to retreat to that are on White beach with sofas and bean bags chairs to watch the sunset each night. We hired SUP boards for 400php per hour off the locals that prowl the beach and haggled them down a bit (but unlike Kuta they do not hassle you, if you say no they just politely move on you don’t need to justify why you don’t want to do something which can really grind the old gears). The water was crystal clear and the sea was not too choppy, although me and Megan wobbling about on the boards probably caused a few more waves, once we got used to them we were floating out towards the horizon and parked up to watch Horus setting which was so peaceful….until you realise how far you’ve drifted from the beach and start frantically splashing back to the shore.

There is an abundance of water activities there, unfortunately we were both a bit too sick to take full advantage of scuba, kite surfing and diving etc but spent most our nights by the beach recovering, in the best possible way.

It’s a beautiful Island Boracay but because of the poverty and unemployment in the Philippines it still has its parts that are not so easy on the eye, although admittedly we were still envious of the people who lived here as they may not have much in a material sense, when they look around their surroundings….they are pretty loaded. Even the kids walking to and from school we noticed used to stroll along the beach trailing the rucksack, slightly different from us walking to school in the pouring rain trailing our souls.

Well worth a trip here and just walk around the island and explore, no need for taxi’s or cars just get lost in the island life, check out the views at Mount Luho, kite surf on the east side of the island, vegetate on white beach, explore the sea beds or simply relax in the beach bars.

We will hopefully be back one day to take advantage of all that’s on offer once again…..and hopefully I won’t book the wrong boat trip going home causing us to have to get a flight back up to Manilla. Luckily there was a flight that was conveniently in a couple hours’ time so we hopped on mini bus for 400php each and headed to Godofredo P. Ramos airport.