Friday, August 26, 2016

Project Visayas - Day 2 (Boracay)

For those who might not be familiar with Boracay, it is an island situated in the Central Visayas and it is actually one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines. Boracay is a small island of the Philippines located approximately 315 km (196 mi) south of Manila and 2 km off the northwest tip of Panay Island in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. Boracay Island and its beaches have received awards for their world-class attractiveness to visitors. OK, enough of Geography lesson for now. Here's how the real part of our trip breathed into life. 

Our day started in Manila as early as 3.30am as we have a flight to catch to Boracay at 5.30am. Since the hostel owner had advised us on the traffic condition which can be terrible even in the early morning, we decided to leave 2 hours earlier. And yes, at that time, i swore i really had wished that we actually left earlier instead. The traffic was extremely bad, i have no idea, when actually do Filipinos sleep?. According to the taxi driver, it was due to the previous night's celebration (i forgot what did they celebrate, a festival here and there with stages everywhere, karaoke competition, people parading on the streets.) and it happened at that time in the morning, they're having a run (marathon event). So a few roads were closed which contributed to the traffic congestion. We arrived at 5.00am and straight away checked in the luggage and board on the Cebu Pacific flight without further ado.

As usual, as soon as I got seated and made myself comfortable, I fell asleep (its always like that). When i woke up afterwards, I saw Boracay with its welcoming hands waving at us. (fine... i was on drugs, island doesnt have hands). We touched down in Caticlan airport after 1-hour flight. It was a very small airport and has nothing much. The building was just like a big bungalow. From the airport, we need to get to the ferry terminal. Outside the airport, there were a lot of trikes waiting to transport us to the ferry terminal for 25p per head. This was my 1st trike ride ever, so I was quite excited. We got into the back together with the backpack and vrooom!! It was obviously not a comfy ride, i did get properly seated and grabbed any part of the back carrier of the trike so that i can balance. There was no door that i have to really grab tight so that my luggage and I dont fall out of it.

It turned out that my joy ride lasted only for 5 minutes. The ferry terminal was actually quite near, an extreme (or damn stingy, hihi) backpacker can easily take the 15-20 easy walk to get there. Arriving at the ferry terminal, I spotted the ticket counter outside, the terminal fee counter on the left, and another counter for environmental bla bla bla stuff. Its a norm in the Philippines to find the first 2 counters located side by side at almost any bus/ferry terminals. The terminal fee and ticket needs to be payed separately. Thus, you need to have a lot of small changes as the terminal fee is usually not that expensive. If you do not pay the terminal fee, you cant get through to the boarding hall. After we passed through the luggage check, we boarded on the 'banka' (boat in Philippines) to Boracay. The banka can accommodate around 30 people at a time. There is no specific banka that you should take with the ticket, any one will do, once fully occupied, it will leave the jetty. It took around 20 minutes to get to Boracay jetty.

Important note:
There are 2 airports that serve as the gateway to Boracay, Caticlan Airport and Kalibo Airport. It is very important to note that both airports are not located on the island but on the mainland (in the Aklan province), so a transfer by 'banka' is necessary in order to get to Boracay (unless you are damn rich you can afford to rent a private boat of your own, but i think nobody that rich would come to Boracay though, they must prefer go to the Carribean or Mauritius instead haha.) Caticlan Airport is situated just nearby the ferry terminal, while from Kalibo Airport, you need to get on either a bus/jeepney/van to get to Caticlan. The trip by bus would take around 1.5 hours. So please be very careful with the arrangement (esp. for the return flight). You sure wanna stay longer in Boracay but to accidentally miss a flight back home is not much of a pleasing reason for it to happen, unless you do it on purpose. :)

From Boracay jetty, we, as usual were greeted by a bunch of trike-rs, offering to send us to the places we want to go. We took a trike together with another 2 passengers and headed to Bulabog beach where we will stay for the whole duration in Boracay, Surfer's Home. Situated on Bulabog beach, the surrounding here is different than the White beach that is situated on the opposite site of the island. I can say that the Bulabog beach is a bit of a hard-core version of a beach can be, with the not so clean beach (not with rubbish but with debris, coconut leaves, drifted woods, algae, sea weed etc). It is also quite windy sometimes you have to shout to be heard. It is obviously not the perfect beach that we can simply go for sunbathing, picnicking or even bathing but it is famous for the kite-surfing activities due to the strong wind. Bulabog beach is a heaven for those Kite-Surfers, there are even a few resorts that offers rental and even surfing lessons to the visitors.

We had our breakfast on the house with a complementary welcome juice. We managed to get some useful information from the girl who prepared our meals. After settling down with the room, we decided to go to the White Beach on the other side of island (it is actually just 1km away, the island is quite 'skinny' i can say, hihihi). We walked to the White Beach and the beach view was stunning under the scorching sun. The sand is white as the name and the sea water is very clear, greenish blue. We took a stroll along the beach just to find a lot of eateries, souvenir shop which most of it still not operated for the day as it was 11.30am, which is still early. There are a pizzeria, a lot of seafood eateries and a Starbucks! All in all, it's a beach, and its hot at noon. So not many people dared to get themselves burnt. After that afternoon stroll, we decided to get back to our room to have our lunch and prayer. 

Around 12pm (since 5pm is dusk, so 12pm is around 2pm in Malaysia). We walked to Puka Beach on foot, it was not actually planned to be like that. We were actually looking for a place to rent ATV to get there. So we walked towards Puka Beach with the hope to find a place to rent an ATV but eventually we did not so we ended up walking for about 7km to the beach. Crazy huh?! Since we're traveling light n fast, we managed to get there in 1 1/2 hours. We did enjoy the scenery of the local village through the 'Barangay' ( means something like small district), the lifestyle of the local residents of Boracay and had a nice chat with a local grocer who we stopped by her shop to have a couple of sips of buko (coconut) drinks. We encountered a few ATVs passing by (hurmm I wonder where are they got the ATV from) and a lot of trikes offering us a ride but with a willed heart of steel, we continued our pace towards the desired destination. Hey! its just a 7km walk anyway. Teehee.*sweat*

Arriving at Puka Beach, at the entrance, we saw a line of shops selling a lot of cute, beautiful and cheap souvenirs. There were bangles, beads, necklaces, seashells, keychain, fridge magnet, purse, t-shirts and the list goes on. Most of it can be found in any beach's souvenir shop but there is one thing that is unique to Puka Beach, the Puka shells. Usually made into Puka bangles, it is said tha the Puka shells are rare and hard to be found in the Philippines itself. The beach itself does not really cover a large area, the strong blowing wind at that time hindered some water activities to take place. We bought some souvenirs and took some photos there before we took a trike in order to get to Mount Luho, the highest point in Boracay.  By the way, in order to get to Puka Beach, it is economical to take a trike, but if you are willing to spend more money and have more adventure and fun, you can rent ATV to tour around the island. Boracay is small enough you can go round with an ATV in 1-2 hours. If your feet are gentle and fragile, please do not walk, it is just another beach, not heaven nor anything close to it that you wished to enjoy every single steps to get there, so trike would be the best pick.

Mt. Luho, Boracay's highest peak, is a small mountain where a viewing tower and walkway was built.  From here you have a fanstatic view of Bolabog Beach, the Fairways and Bluewaters Golf Course and the ocean.  It is possible to walk up here from Bolabog Beach (north end), but the road is steep so good body condition and legs are needed.  By mountain bike, its nice to ride up from the back side.  Follow the main road up to where the golf course starts, there is a little sign painted on the first wall of the golf course.  Do not hesitate to ask people around there.  From d'Mall and up to Mt. Luho, it is about 30 min with mountain bike. It is possible to rent a trike to go there, but be aware that they will ask you for about 150p  to go up there, because its a bit hard for their motors. From Puka beach, we took a ride on a trike for about 20 minutes. Then we need to climb up the hill a bit to get to the view tower where we can actually see the whole island. 
It was breezy and sunny and the view was very nice but there's nothing much to do up there apart from enjoying the scenery and photo-shoot sessions. There were also a mini zoo which is not very entertaining due to lack of care and hygiene. A small amount of entrance fee is charged to the visitor in order to go up. Since there is nothing to be done while waiting downstairs, it is better to go up and enjoy the scenic view of Boracay from the top. After finished, we asked the trike to send us back to Bulabog which is just 10 minutes away (seriously we had no idea).

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