Beaches, ensaymadas, and one hell of an airport

Well actually, not just one airport. They all kinda sucked.

But we’ll get there.

Mid-February marked travel time. And, as described in one of my previous posts, this trip was long-anticipated and well-planned.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Travel day! Trevor and I headed for the airport in the afternoon. We were both freezing our butts off while waiting for the bus (and also during subway transfers) – we wore the least amount of warm layers we could brave, as these would just become unwanted extra luggage for the next 10 days. By a little after 21:00, we were on our plane and headed for Manila.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

We arrived in Manila just after midnight, and joined the many other passengers who settled all over the terminal to catch some shut-eye. Our next flight was at 7:00. There was some floor napping, after which we headed to the massage suite, where we had mediocre, but relaxing massages before dozing off in the comfy lounge chairs. When it was time to check in, we realised that the domestic terminal was in a whole different part of town! So in our exhausted states, we headed outside, only to be bombarded by taxi drivers. I’m not even kidding. People say that that’s what happens, but you don’t know what to expect until suddenly they’re all fighting over you and grabbing your bags.

Anyway, without any further thought, we got into one of the taxis and set off to the next terminal. Long story short, this guy saw some suckers coming, and made bank. We spent as much on the 10 minute taxi ride as one would to take a taxi from Hongdae to Paju at midnight – more than ₩60000 (a good R500). I was completely unprepared for this and didn’t think to ask how much he was going to charge until we were moving. But such is life, and I’ll never make that mistake again.

The domestic terminal was not what I expected, but very similar to places I’ve seen on The Amazing Race. I was most amused by the sign above the check-in counter with, get this, the “estimated time of departure” for our flight to Kalibo. This was over 90 minutes later than the time on the tickets. Sigh. It was hot and sticky, there was no air-conditioning, and there were people everywhere. It was more intimidating than I’d anticipated. We were hungry, but there were only kiosks with snack-type foods available. None of our devices could pick up the wi-fi that was advertised all over the waiting room. The seats were so uncomfortable. Urgh, it was a less than ideal situation all round.

Eventually, after a delay of more than two hours, we set off for Kalibo. From the flight, we had to still take a 90 minute bus ride to the ferry terminal and board a 30 minute ferry to the island. Thankfully we pre-booked with a charter company, as the bus/ferry booking procedure seemed even more intimidating than getting the taxi.

And then the tipping started. As soon as we started moving, someone would grab our bags and carry them to wherever we had to be next (the bus, then the ferry, then the shuttle), and then these guys would hover and wait for a tip. We were handing out banknotes like it’s nobody’s business. I think we just lost track of the exchange rate and we were too tired and overwhelmed to care. Living in a first world country can spoil a kid! Thankfully, I managed to sleep through most of the busride, which made it feel much shorter.

I’m glad I’m not scared of water or being on it, as the ferry would then have prevented me from ever reaching Boracay. But we were on it, and in almost no time (y’know, compared to every other leg of the journey so far), we were on Boracay. We made it onto the shuttle and got dropped off at our accommodation.

The accommodation, sadly, was a disappointing experience. A friend of mine recommended The Lazy Dog Bed & Breakfast, and that’s where we booked. Because the smaller rooms were booked out, we even shelled out to get a family room. However, when we arrived to check in, we had been moved to a self-catering lodge across the road. This was both disappointing and endlessly frustrating, but what can you do?

Trevor and I settled in, and in the evening, we headed out to explore D’Mall, an outdoor shopping complex on the beachfront. And finally, the weekend picked up! We had burgers, arbed around the little shops and found White Beach.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

This was the only full day we’d have in Boracay, and it was an easy decision to commit to spending a lazy day on the beach.

The morning started off with some souvenir shopping, after which we grabbed our beach gear and reading material and headed for the beach.

First, we took to exploring Bulabog Beach, which was practically right where we stayed. Bulabog Beach is on the “windy” side of the island, and it is famous for windsurfing and kiteboarding. After some photo ops and oohs and aahs at the impressive abilities of the surfers, we set off for White Beach, which is the quiet, white-sand-palm-trees-perfect-for-lazing-all-day kind of beach, over on the other side of the island (like, an entire 10 minute walk away!). On the way, Trevor was really amused at being able to find bottled Coke at one of the kiosks.

At White Beach, we walked along the shoreline until we found a spot further off that was a little quieter and less bustling. Many of the beachfront lodges have reserved areas on the beach, with deck chairs and umbrellas and lots of guests. These areas were busy, and noisy, and just not “island beach”-y enough. Now, if you haven’t figured it out yet, White Beach is named after the endless stretch of white sand, which perfectly complements the crystal clear waters. Once we found a spot, Trevor settled into some reading under the palm trees, and I worked on my suntan. I had no intention of swimming, but I couldn’t exactly go to a beach, on an island, in my swimsuit… and not test the water! And it was lovely. Even though it was hot out, it was nowhere near the sticky humidity I so enjoy complaining about in Korea. The water the ideal temperature to provide relief from the sun. And yes, of course I napped under the palm trees! Would you have it any other way?

Throughout the day, I was overcome with a sense of… happiness? comfort? invisibility? at the sight of all the different cultures, ethnicities and languages represented on the island. On a superficial level, it felt good to not be stared at for not being Korean, but on another, deeper level (one that I didn’t really consciously know I possessed), it felt… right. Coming from a “rainbow nation”, I’ve evidently taken for granted just how good it feels to be a part of something bigger. For the first time in almost a year, I didn’t feel like “the foreigner”, and it was a welcome feeling.

At the end of our beach day, we hung around long enough to watch the sunset (totally worth it!) and headed back to shower and change before finding some food.

Food. Of course, a big part of this vacation was about escaping Korean cuisine, and we made good on this. We had a buffet breakfast (thankfully the B&B still made good on feeding us)  and after much deliberation decided on pizza for lunch. And I hear you saying, “but there’s plenty pizza available in Korea”. Well, we wanted the good stuff, not the sweet, corn-laden Korean version. And we weren’t disappointed. In the evening, we opted for Spanish Tapas and lamb chops. Yum! (Who knew that during my time in Korea and surrounds, I’d try more different cuisines than I ever had at home?) In the course of the day I also tried some mango from a street vendor (I’m not a fan of mango, but this was something else!), and after discovering a bakery that sold ensaymadas, I ate as many as I possibly could. You would too at something ridiculous like 5 pesos a pop! That converts to roughly 125 KRW (1,10 ZAR).

Monday, 18 February 2013

I’d like to pretend this day didn’t exist, because it was just tiring and an entire non-event. We got up, got ready, ate, packed, and waited for the shuttle to come fetch us. Shuttle to ferry to land to bus to airport to some more delays to being cashless in a tiny airport with no card facilities to booking in at the airport hotel to braving downtown Manila after dark in search of food to sleeping to waking up to some more terminal confusion to freaking out when I thought I’d lost my bank card to yet another delay to finally (FINALLY) being on our way to Singapore.

So to get back to the title. There were beaches. There were ensaymadas. And there were some sucky airports (or more accurately, airport experiences, but whatever). As a newbie traveller, I made all the mistakes, but I’m ready for a redo. Next time, I’ll know what to expect, and I’ll have only good things to say. And that’s a promise!

Click on the photo below for a collection of photos from the weekend:

Click on the pic!

Click on the pic!