March 18, 2012

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the Green Water of Boracay Philippines

Lady Hiva and I have  both been homesick for the beach—yes, we drive past the ocean everyday as we leave our house, but we wanted BEACH—a warm, sandy, clean, swimmable beach. We decided to go to Boracay, one of the most famous beach destinations in the Philippines.

We left work Friday afternoon and went straight to the airport. A short flight to Kalibo city on Panay island (now our most traveled to island in the Philippines next to Luzon Thanks to this trip and our trip to Iloilo a week ago). We caught a van and for an hour, we held on for dear lives as we wound our way to Caticlan—Lady said it was like the whiplash Dinosaur ride at Universal Studios. I had to laugh in agreement. Here we were, packed into a vehicle and holding onto the seat in front of us trying not to topple! There were a few turns I honestly did not think we were going to make it without rolling.

But we did make it and the next section of the trip was a 6 minute ride from Caticlan to Boracay on a ferry boat. All of us sat in silence for the duration of the ride. I could not decide if it was because we were all exhausted travelers ready for bed (it was only 7pm) Or if it was the fact we were crammed into a small wooden boat with life vests hanging from the rafters and one small light that was flickering on and off at random. In between flickering lights I caught a glimpse of the lady directly across from me that before the light flicked off again and plunged us into darkness, she was crossing herself in prayer as we traveled. I guess it must be scary to be in a boat when you cannot swim.

the "Whiplash-Dinosaur" ride

The boat ride coming home...not as many people praying during the day

Our next journey was by tricycle—a motorbike with an attached pedicab. Again we crammed several of us into a small space. OK, being 5’10” I am an average height for a guy, but that means I must be a giant in these vehicles designed for smaller people. For the entire ride I had my head awkwardly cocked to the side so I could fit into the tricycle cabin. Needless to say, after the whiplash Dino ride and now the tuktuk, my neck and butt were both SO ready to be at our hotel!

We wanted to stay at a resort right ON the beach. NOT NEAR the beach, or A SHORT distance to the beach etc, we wanted to be ON the beach. The place we settled on was Two Seasons—yes two not four. I am not sure what they consider the two seasons to be, Warm Season and Hot Season? Either way, the place was great. The staff met us as we walked up from the beach with iced towels “to refresh” and mango passion fruit smoothies. We were on the bottom floor and therefore literally a few feet from the pool one direction and a few feet from the beach in the other. It is also located at Station 1 (Boracay is separated into 3 boat stations) Station two is where all the clubs, restaurants, music and activities are. Station 1 was more our style: less people, clean beach, quiet and relaxing. Yet, we were close enough that we could walk to Station 2 for food and shopping.

Outside our door

We ate at a cute little breakfast restaurant called Zuzuni under the coconut trees and the breeze. We finished our night drinking a much recommended Jonas smoothie while watching people walk to and from various activities.
There were sandcastles all over, little kids make them then charge people to take photos of it

The large night crowds at Station 2. We were glad we were not sleeping here, you would never have quiet

The restaurant at our Hotel

Jonas Fruitshakes

The next day we woke up early because we did not want to lose any precious time on the beach. I had watched the weather forecast all week and it said it was supposed to rain—I wanted to get all the sun time I could get before then. We ate breakfast on the beach then set out for activities. There are hawkers all over the beach trying to get you to go with them for activities…we asked around and eventually found one that gave a ‘discount’ from what the other people were offering. They day was gorgeous. I had to buy sunglasses because the soft, fine white sand was hurting my eyes it was so bright. The only thing we did not like about our whole trip is the algae in the water. I guess it is seasonal (March - May); the winds die down so a lack of waves leave the water stagnant and a line of algae along the beach. Once you get out past the algae, it is not bad, but it still looks gross and I found myself wanting to pour bleach in to kill it all (yeah the environment would love that!) Once the tide goes out it leaves a mat of thick furry algae on the beach—it looked to me like someone had shaved the Grinch and left it out on the beach for us all to see!

Out of our hotel room

The Algae

One of the many "hawkers" some sold hats, some sold glasses, some sold adventures...

We first went parasailing. It was amazing how beautiful and peaceful it was up in the sky. You could see everything! We laughed, we talked, we tried to spot sharks in the water (could not see any), then we were ready to come down. As we were lowered they dropped us in the water—to cool us off I guess.

We then went Helmet Diving. You wear this 50 kg (~110lbs)  astronaut looking helmet and they pump in oxygen to you as you walk along the sea floor and feed fish. It was actually quite fun. We watched as they sent people down in the water. There is only one chord keeping them from drowning. I could not help but think how scary it would be if the generator pumping the air quit! YIKES! But they all came back up alive so it could not be too bad!
The helmets. Too bad they are not blue, we could have been Smurfs!

The breathing tubes

We fed the fish and they took photos of us. The camera was not working right so the guy filming took forever. We were just standing there waiting…I got bored and started to walk off and then realized another guy was holding our helmets so we could not leave until the photos were done. NOT COOL! I don’t mind waiting for the camera, but go hold someone else stationary. Lay off my HELMET!! Lol! Towards the end I started to jump as hard as I could then come down slowly—it almost felt like no gravity.

The next activity was our FAVORITE!! Fly Fish! They put you on this large inflated raft and pull you in the boat. The raft is designed to jump and bounce like fly bait when fly fishing. The raft is made to hold 6 people—but there was just the two of us, so we went out with just two! It was a blast!  Because it was just two of us, the raft lifted higher than normal, sometimes almost vertical! All we could do is laugh/scream and hold on for dear life! At one point Lady Hiva got thrown off and was just flopping around with one arm still latching onto the raft and the other up in triumph like a rodeo bull rider and I was laughing so hard I could not breath. I fell off several times as it got vertical and because I weigh more than Lady my back was bouncing across the water. As I would come up I would see Hiva flying through the air and the weightless raft dancing wildly behind the boat.

Hand-painting cups, keychains or anything else--they made it look so easy

Lady Hiva's Dessert

We were so sore the rest of the day. Our forearms were exhausted and we laughed about how much effort it took to do simple things like brush our teeth. The rest of our time in Boracay was spent relaxing. We were eithersitting out on the beach reading, watching the various people from around the world, or eating something. The trip was amazing! The only bad part about it was the algae—if we ever go back will make sure to go back during winter time!

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