Boracay: sour lemons or sweet heaven?

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February 19, 2014 by melcogger

We were so desperate for a beach holiday (forfeiting one in December because we had to work) that we opted to go to Boracay, the closest and most easily accessible beach by bicycle, an internationally famous and supposedly highly recommended destination. It clearly featured the qualities of an amazing beach getaway – white sand beaches; calm ocean as far as the eye can see; water sports; bars; restaurants and palm trees overhanging providing plentiful shade – a truly beautiful place. These features, however, were heavily corrupted by just how popular it is. There is no escaping the large resorts, franchise restaurants, touts for the host massage parlors, adventure tours and boat trips, and the invasion of tourists. Our first night was a sight to behold. Hundreds or perhaps thousands of people (mostly Japanese and Chinese tourists with the odd groups of frat boys or girls from the US) cramped along the tiny stretch of beach vanquishing every corner of solitude that I am sure Boracay once had. More akin to an island on steroids than a place for relaxation. While we found it fascinating and entertaining, staring at all the food we couldn’t afford and the photo-shoots by Russian tourists of each other on the beach, it wasn’t exactly what we had in mind.

We tried in vain to create the best of the situation and established ourselves in the shade on the quieter side of the stretch just outside the White Sands Diving Centre, where we were staying for P600 (R150) a night in a cozy reed like room on the first floor. We learned quickly that the perfect plekkie may have been an illusion as this or that distraction niggled at some good old R & R. Those that know us will attest to our territorial inclinations. In other words, we like our space and we like to be settled (strange that we should embark on a 7000km cycle trip in SE Asia with all the inherent uncertainties). Distractions nevertheless included: excessively loud or bad music, ants and flies, people making boats and the owner’s wife having a manicure right behind us while chatting loudly in Tagalog to her friends.

Fortunately, Boracay has other less commercial places to visit and we explored these for 2 of our 5 days there on our bicycles. On our first exploration, we were so desperate that we ventured down a wayward path through a small village and a construction site to a private beach. We had tried the more conventional route along the road but entrance into the exclusive resort was P500 (R125) each for a day visit. Trespassing was the fairer choice. As we encroached towards the beautiful white sand, security guards looked on in amazement but fortunately did not stop us. We quickly scurried across the beach to a small island not far from the shore to evade sight. Melissa was distracted by the prospects of being arrested while I took delight in jumping off the cliffs into the sea and exploring hidden caves. Getting back off the beach proved a harder task. The security guard, whom we had once evaded, refused to let us back the same way we entered despite our begging and whining. He said that it was too dangerous to walk through the construction site (a few piles of sand and cables), despite local children scurrying through the site to the beach. We certainly didn’t want to cough up P1000 so after our relentless pleading, we sought a route through a neighboring construction site even more dangerous than one we had come down. With Melissa’s guidance we ventured though hanging cables, loose beans and piles of sand back towards our bikes on the other side of the fence. As we made it safely back, the security guard hurried towards us but couldn’t do anything and chuckled when we took a photo of him to prove that we had twice evaded him. Bless his soul.

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We eventually found our beach plekkie on Puka Shell Beach on the north shore of the island. We spent one and a half glorious days there under a full sheet of shade. I read and Melissa improved her finger picking skills on her ukulele. In the final analysis, Boracay proved to be a success but only because we made it so by venturing out to secluded beaches and into local markets beyond the hype of the beach front in search of cheap food. Every night was finished off with a P20 (R5) red velvet ice cream and a walk down the beach. Sometimes we had ice cream more than once a day, and I could not help but walk around with two ice cream cones in hand when we found ice cream for P13(R6.50).

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