Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One love, One heart

From January 29th - February 7th George and I were on vacation.
Our destination: Boracay, Philippines!

The journey there was torture: 4:20pm caught airport shuttle near our apartment; 7:30pm flight to Hong Kong; overnight in Hong Kong airport; 8am flight to Manilla; transfer terminals and wait; 2pm flight to Kalibo; 1.5 hour bus ride to Caticlan; 10 minute boat trip to Boracay. Total travel time = 26hours.

The time spent in Boracay was amazing. We met up with George's high school friend Nick, and his girlfrined Lianna. It was so nice to vacation with people, as opposed to by ourselves. Not that we don't enjoy each others company, but it was nice to have a larger group, especially with what Boracay had to offer.

The weather was near perfect, only 1 rainy afternoon, and only for a brief time.

The food was spectacular. Keep in mind that after 10 months of Korean food I'd find any decent western food great, but regardless, the options in Boracay are amazing. Our dinners included Indian food, Greek food, Pizza, Pasta, Italian and Fish and Chips. Lunch was at the Heidiland deli. Every. single. day. And it was amazing! Korea does not do good sandwiches, so being able to choose bread, meat and cheese from a nicely stocked deli was incredible. My #1 Boracay food recommendation for sure.

Beer in Boracay was cheap, cheap, cheap. Cheaper than water, in fact! Needless to say we drank quite a few. We had 3 nights out ... involving San Miguel, sitting on the beach, listening to awesome live music, and making our own music at a Karaoke bar!

We've already covered the good company, weather and food ... but the best part of Boracay is the beach.
White Beach has made many lists of top beaches in the world, and it was not hard to understand why. The sand is clean, fine and sparkling white. The water is clear, blue, and just cool enough to be perfectly refreshing. Although there were many people on the beach, its huge, so everyone is spread out and there are always umbrellas and beach chairs to be had, and enough space to not feel crowded.
I also managed to be motivated enough to run most mornings, and white beach was the perfect place to do so!

Although we spent the majority of our time on the beach, we also explored the island a bit. We walked the 10 minutes across the island to Bulabog Beach, a famous kiteboarding and windsurfing destination. Since we only wanted to sunbathe, swim and "mask" (snorkelling without a snorkel ... duhhh), we didn't stay long on this beach.

We also made a trip to Puka Beach at the northern end of Boracay. It's famous for its coarse sand and sea shells. The day we went to Puka beach was the only overcast day of our trip. The beach was near deserted, which was pretty cool, but a storm started to blow in so we left after about an hour.

Another afternoon was spent on a sailing trip around the island. We stopped at the southern end for some snorkelling, which was amazing, but after seeing some jellyfish, and recieving a weird tingling sensation from being in the water, we made a hasty retreat to our boat. Half of our sailing trip was on the windy side of the island and it was WILD! We were caught completely by surprise, as all we'd ever seen was the calm and serene water off of white beach. 50% of the trip involved being soaked by waves and clinging onto the netting that was our seats, afraid that we'd be washed overboard. Overall, an exhilarating afternoon!

The people of Boracay were also extremely friendly. Our hotel staff, restaurant staff, really everyone we met. Even the men who constantly harassed tourist to buy sunglasses, boat trips and atv rides were polite and didn't go too far. I felt much less harassed and less uncomforable than I did in Thailand.

The only downside of the trip was my extreme allergic reaction to Boracay's mosquitoes. I've never had a problem in Canada, and the bugs in Korea and Thailand do cause me to have bigger than normal bumps after being bitten, but I've never experienced anything like I did in Boracay. My lower legs were covered in swollen, painful and agonizingly itchy, puss-filling bites. I was even limping for about a day. After antihistamines and after-bite failed to help, I went to the medical clinic on Boracay. After a steroid shot, and prescriptions for antihistamines, cream, and something to fight the infection I was on my way to recovery. After 24 hours the bites had stopped being freakish and disgusting - thank god!
Now I just need to figure out how to avoid this next time I head out on vacation, because I wore bug spray but still got eaten alive.

On the way home, George and I had an even longer journey. We left Boracay around 3pm, took the ferry to Caticlan, and then a terrifying van ride to Kalibo. We boarded a 7:30pm flight to Manilla. We decided to go to a hostel instead of sleeping in the Manilla airport, but I'm not sure how good of a decision that was. The lonely planet- recommended hostel was full, so we were taken to another nearby hostel but a tricycle-taxi. Not sure what made us agree to that, but we failed to realize that this open aired trike that was moving slowly against traffic in a somewhat more dangerous city than we're used to wasn't the smartest option - until we were in motion. We laughed it off and arrived a the hostel in one piece. However, it was the grossest, smelliest, most disgusting place I have ever seen. We were both so tired, and wanted to shower and sleep before our 5am wake-up, so we stayed there anyways. The next morning we flew Manilla-Hong Kong, and then Hong-Kong-Busan. Finally, 30-ish hours after leaving the beach we were home.
The travel was such a hassle, but Boracay was definitely worth it!

So that was my Boracay vacation ... it was an amazing time, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone. Since there was so much western food, and everyone spoke English, it was an easy and relaxing week. It's not one of the great "cultural" destinations of Southeast Asia, but it is a superb beach destination!

(pictures to come soon!)

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