A Travellerspoint blog

"Discovering Boracay, Philippines"

"My first travel to Boracay, January 2008, Part 4"

sunny

After my wife’s hair braiding was done, we sat down on the beach and watched the Boracay sun as it slowly disappeared on the horizon. As I hold my wife’s hand, the Boracay sun first appeared bright red orange and second by second it moved slowly down on the horizon setting the entire place in a very romantic early evening darkness!

As the full darkness started to cover the Island, electric lights took the place of the bright sun and blaring music coming from the bars dominated the ambience of string of shops on Station 2. We walked farther down along Station 2 row and I led my wife to my early discovery: the cheapest restaurant that I stumbled on so far: SECS Restaurant which offers EAT-ALL-YOU-CAN BUFFET of native dishes chicken barbecue, steamed oysters, grilled pork, chopsuey, grilled tuna, adobo, menudo, chopsuey, and sweets for only 200 pesos! You pay additional 24 pesos and you will have bottomless ice tea! But we decided to have San Miguel Pale Pilsen which is BUY ONE-TAKE ONE from 6 to 8 p.m. for only 60 pesos!

After the cheapest EAT-ALL YOU-CAN DINNER in Boracay, we were so full and tired. We went back to our resort room which at a discounted rate of P1,600 per day is a big bargain compared to the rates of the resorts that along Station 2 which are priced from 1,800 - 2,000 to 5,000 to 7,000 pesos per day!

For our second day in Boracay, we woke up early and had breakfast which we decided to have in the resort where we checked in. A breakfast of tocino, egg, rice and coffee was priced at 120.00!

After breakfast, we went the beach to meet our tour guide for the island hopping trip. We walked on the beach to the waiting pump boat. For four hours, the pump boat took us half way around Boracay, anchored first off Crocodile Island for snorkelling and fish feeding for an hour, moved to Crystal Cove for a walk around the island where we entered two caves, moved back to Boracay for lunch in a picnic grove and back to Station 1. That was 1,800.00!

We spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping in the hammocks enjoying the cool wind. We had shower at 6:00 p.m., after which we took a motorcycle to D Mall for dinner. We had another EAT-ALL-YOU-CAN DINNER this time in Kalinga Restaurant. The buffet table was likewise generous with oysters, shrimps, squid, tuna, vegetables, pork, chicken and sweets. Beer was also BUY ONE-TAKE ONE at 60.00 till 8:00 p.m.

On our third day, I jogged the whole stretch of the white beach from Station 1 to Station 3 and back non-stop for 45 minutes. After my jogging, I walked further and saw several new resorts beyond our resort: there I saw the most expensive resort in Boracay – DISCOVERY SHORES with published room rates from 15,000 pesos to 28,000 pesos per day! The highest price goes with a “maid” who will be on the side of the guest for 24 hours!

The rest of the morning, I took my wife for a walk on the white beach beyond Station 1, we went inside DISCOVERY SHORES, passed by Microtel hotel, and reached NAMI. Nami is the last resort that could be reached by walking on the stretch of white beach in Station 1. We had swimming the rest of the afternoon, thanks God, it was a cloudy day, I did not get sunburned! Although I think the reason why I did not get sunburned was the large amount of sunblock that I applied on my skin before I went swimming!

As Always,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 21:02 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

"Discovering Boracay, Philippines"

"My first travel to Boracay, January 2008, Part 3"

sunny -17 °C

We were already starving at 2:00 p.m. when we reached D’ Mall. I asked the first person I met where the restaurants are. The first resto that I saw was Bacolod Manok Inasal. I ordered for grilled chicken leg and breast for me and my wife. Later the waitress told me they run out of chicken breast. So instead, we ordered grilled liempo and added a stick of barbecue, a bottle of San Mig Light and Coke in can. My God, the grilled chicken leg costs 128 pesos and the grilled liempo was 135 pesos. Our bill for our first lunch in the Island including the San Mig light and coke was 460 pesos!

After the most expensive simple lunch we had on earth, we went around D Mall. Only 10 meters away, we saw Andok’s Litson and discovered that same size of chicken leg is only 45 pesos! I really felt robbed! Value for my money, I told myself how expensive our lunch was simply because the Bacolod Manok Inasal was located near the entrance of D Mall!

My wife went around the shops where malongs, souvenir boracay shirts, hats are displayed. I reminded her of the shopping tip that my officemates told me: shop during night time, it is cheaper! As we moved around D Mall, several foreigners were also milling around in their beach wears: Asian – Japanese, Koreans, Chinese; Europeans – germans, dutch, Britons; Americans and even latin Americans.

We reached Station 2 where the majority of the beach resorts are located: Boracay Regency, Boracay Peninsula, Tirol and Tirol to name a few. Several shops offering services like henna skin tattoo printing, hair braiding, and SPA massage to name a few. There are also various stores selling beer in cans, wines, liquors and softdrinks. Various restaurants/bars offer a wide range of kinds of food from native dishes, to European and American food, to Indian food, to Japanese and Korean Food are also lined up along with the Resorts. There are specialty shops offering services like scuba diving equipment rentals, parachute skiing and sailing. There are already bank ATM kiosks (Bank of P.I.; Metrobank, and Allied Bank) where one can withdraw cash. As we walked along the pure white sand beach, local men were following us offering island hopping boat rides, sailing and all sorts of water rides. To describe the entire stretch of Station 2, I will call it as the Central Business District of Boracay! Name it, you will find it in Station 2! I remembered a friend who is a frequent Boracay guest describing Station 2 as Manila’s Ermita district! Maybe because all sorts of foreign nationalities are represented in such a small place, or maybe because of the bars that are full of drunken foreigners!

My wife decided to have her hail braided. She told me it was very cheap at 200 pesos only while she had it at 800 pesos in Bali, Indonesia. While the braiding of my wife was on-going, I walked along the shops, rest/bars that are lined up to Station 3 where I discovered several restos that offer cheaper food and shops that have lower prices of their items! After almost an hour, I returned to where my wife was.

As Always,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 20:52 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

"Discovering Boracay, Philippines"

"My first travel to Boracay, January 2008, Part 2"

sunny

Our friends – Ramil and Mary Ann Ng who are now based in Kalibo, Aklan met us at the Kalibo airport. We told them that we will go straight to Boracay first and be back in Kalibo on Friday, 18th January for the Ati-atihan. We took an aircon van from Kalibo airport which we shared with four Japanese couples and some local tourists. Before the van left Kalibo, our fares were already collected from us: 200.00 per person for the Kalibo to Caticlan ride which already includes the pump boat fare from Caticlan to Boracay. We learned later from a waitress in Boracay that we were overcharged by the van operator: as locals we were supposed to have been charged only 85 pesos!

The supposed to be one hour and thirty minute ride was delayed by almost 45 minutes because when the van reached the town of Makato, there was a parade for the celebration of their town fiesta! The traffic stood still while the parade passed on the national highway!

It was already 12:30 p.m. when we reached Caticlan Jetty port. Before we boarded the pump boat to Boracay we have to pay an ENVIRONMENTAL FEE of 20.00 per person and a TERMINAL FEE of 50.00 per person. We were made o fill up a Visitor’s Information Form (similar to the usual form filled up as part of immigration requirements in foreign flights). We boarded a pump boat that has a sitting capacity of 20 persons for a 10 minute ride to Boracay.

We boarded a motorcycle from Boracay Jetty Port to Residencia de Tirol which is located in the farthest portion of the island – Station 3. We were charged 150 pesos for the ride which was less than 5 kilometers!

After we checked-in and had secured our baggage in our room, a resort staff gave an orientation tour of the resort premises. Wow! We were staying in a resort that is located in Station 1 – classified as the exclusive row of resorts. We went to the beach where there were local tour guides. The Resort staff introduced us to one whom we closed a deal for an island hopping ride for P1,800.00 which we set for our second day.

The resort staff told us that the stretch of white beach is divided into three, the dividing category and label is based on the pump boat landing stations, thus, Station 1 is the farthest from the Jetty Port, Station 2 is in the middle and Station 3 is the nearest to the Jetty Port. Those that have visited the Island a year ago are familiar that in the past, from Caticlan pump boats may land on either of the three stations. However, today, the local authorities ordered that all boats from Caticlan will have to land only at the Boracay Jetty port.

After the short orientation, we took a motorcycle to “D Mall” which is located in Station 2. Yes, the island has a Mall! It is not your SM Mall kind of a shopping mall however. D Mall which I learned later is owned by the Elizaldes of the Manila Broadcasting Company – DZRH, is made up of clusters of one floor shops constructed using light and concrete materials.

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 20:44 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

"Discovering Boracay, Philippines"

My First Visit to Boracay, January 2008"

sunny

About fifteen years ago, my sister Dot had a Boracay vacation and narrated to me how beautiful the place was. That time however, I took her description of Boracay like a grain of salt primarily because at that time I regularly traveled to Palawan at least once a month as part of my work with the Department of Agriculture to monitor a Foreign-Assisted Project that we implemented, and Palawan was simply amazing. Secondly, I grew up in a town facing Mindanao sea and our house was only 10 meters from the shoreline. So, swimming was part of my childhood like breathing and walking, I regularly swam and played on the beach. The beach though has black sand. Nonetheless, I cherished those moments on the beach with my playmates.

Last month however, our youngest daughter gifted me and my wife a roundtrip ticket for two to Boracay. According to her, it was her gift for our 27th wedding anniversary last 17 January. So, we did not have a choice.

I went through our pre-travel activities with some hesitation not only for the two reasons I mentioned above, but because of a more important reason: I heard that everything is expensive in Boracay! Anyway, weeks before our departure, I asked for a leave from my office since my daughter booked us for January 15 to 17 which were working days. I contacted an officemate whose parents own a resort in Boracay to book for a room for the days that we will be in Boracay.

My officemate told me that I should extend my stay because the feast of Sto. Nino will fall on the 20th of January and the town of Kalibo which is where the Cebu Pacific Air plane will land for our Boracay trip will be celebrating Ati-Atihan in honor of Sr. Sto. Nino. Realizing that I have not attended Ati-Atihan ever since, I revised our vacation schedule: We will stay in Boracay from 15th January to the 18th, and move to Kalibo and join the “sadsad” of the Ati-Atihan till the 20th.

I made arrangements with Cebu Pacific for the flight changes and had to pay penalties for it. I was given a four-day leave by my office. Likewise, I did not accept any taping/shooting commitments for the period. I missed a chance to appear in GMA’s Zaido, I got a text message for an offer to play the role of an environmentalist. But, because of the planned vacation, I declined the offer.

The flight from Manila to Kalibo, Aklan was a short one, only 35 minutes by Cebu Pacific Air’s Airbus. There are alternate flights Manila to Caticlan being served by Asian Spirit and SEA Air but smaller aircrafts are used. To compete this alternative flights, Cebu Pacific Air has already scheduled opening flights form Manila to Caticlan using smaller aircrafts too. That’s how large the volume of passengers going to Boracay is.

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 20:39 Archived in Philippines Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

"Hong Kong, Several Years Afte the Hand-Over"

"Hong Kong, Revisited, Part 3"

Our second day in Hongkong was spent in Hongkong Disneyland! Using our MTR Airport Express and 3-day unlimited train ride, we likewise went to Disneyland by train! The trip was fast, only about 30 minutes and very enjoyable! The sights as the train crossed to another island was amazing as new bridges and skyways crisscrossed the Hongkong horizon!

We were among the early patrons of Disneyland that Friday and since it is a peak day, entrance fee per person was HK $ 350 or almost P2,100 pesos. But, the experience of a Hongkong Disneyland was more that P2,100 pesos worth. Since, we arrived early at 10:30 a.m. we were able to have all the rides – the most breathtaking was the Space Mountain ride which was so exciting and as my wife puts it after the ride, “akala ko mamamatay na ako!” The theatre presentations of Disneyland characters (Mickey mouse, Pluto etc…) was very impressive. Moreover, the 30-minute presentation of Lion King in another theatre was equally world-class complete with pyrotechnics effects. We were so tired as we left Disneyland at 4:00 pm.

Again, using our unlimited MTR card, we took another train to Hongkong Central station. It is worthy to note that the MTR line crossing from Kowloon side to Hongkong side was built under the sea! We then window-shopped at the ITC Mall which is beside the station. It is a high end mall that is why I emphasized that we simply window- shopped! We were dead tired as we went back to our hostel room to close the second day activities.

On our third day, we woke up early and took the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui Station where we got off and walked through Peking Road turn right to Canton Road to the harbour where we took a ferry to Macau, Mainland China! The word traffic seems not to exist anymore in today’s chinese vocabulary. In addition to the super-efficient MTR system, they have a world-class sea transport system with first-class terminals and modern ferry boats. The ferry boat fare from Hongkong to Macau ranged from HK$175 to HK$ 200 (P1,000 to 1,200) depending on the time of the ride. It is cheaper when it is not a peak hour. When we arrived in Macau, we saw another mode of transportation – helicopter rides! The heliports are just beside the Macau pier. I presumed that the clients of chopper are the gambling casino winners in Macau who would prefer to rent a chopper for security reasons!

Our Macau leg was a let down ( of course, this not Hongkong anymore!). You see, the local chinese in Macau could not speak fluent english. We intended to take a bus that we could ride from the Macau pier and move around Macau simply for sightseeing and back to the pier. However, when I asked for assistance, nobody can understand english! We just spent some two hours window shopping (again!) at Yao Han – the only Mall in Macau! All the buildings near the pier where all casino hotels and we did not intend to gamble.

We left Macau by Ferry (I wanted to take the chopper, duh!) at about 4:00 p.m. and when we reached Tsim Sha Tsui , we walked along Canton St and window- shopped at the high end shops (Versace, Cartier, Lane Crowford) on Harbour Bay.

On our fourth and last day, we met pinay friends who are now working in Hongkong. Since our Airport Express 3-day unlimited ride expired already, we moved around via the double-decker bus for only HK $ 4.50 per person. We went to Star Ferry (beside the Harbour Bay) where our friends remitted money through the Metrobank branch (there is a PNB branch too) for their relatives back home. We walked to the Hongkong Cultural Centre. Finally, we went back to our hostel, pick up our baggages and took bus route A21 to the airport which was only HK $ 33 per person. The bus ride gave us a last look at the modern infrastuctures (bridges, fly-overs, multi-lane highways) of Hongkong.

Zero traffic. Super clean environment. Absence of poverty (I saw only three beggars throughout our four-day stay), modern and efficient transport system. Super disciplined chinese. Absence of long lines in bus stops. Trains and buses are not overcrowded. As we were flying back to Manila, I could not help but pity our dear poor country. Only nine years after the Hand Over, Hongkong is totally a different country (er, autonomous region) – progressive, booming economically. Nine years ago, Hongkong was at par with Manila. But now, it has left us behind by several miles if it were a race! Samantala, ang Pilipinas – Dios mahabagin, maawa po kayo sa aming bayan!(Meanwhile, the Philippines, God - the merciful, have mercy on our country)

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 20:20 Archived in Macau Tagged transportation Comments (0)

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