Philippines - Day 8 (Boracay)

This is entry #10.
Link to entry #9.
Jolayne is also chronicling our trip here.

Day 8.  Saturday, April 6th.  Imagine the grandeur of going to bed without having seen the place we're visiting and then awaking shortly before sunrise to go out on the balcony and watch the landscape unfold before your eyes.  That's what Jo did early the next morning.  When we all woke up (later) and looked outside, it was just incredible.  A true tropical paradise.  This is what we saw from our room.

(our first sunrise in Boracay, without having seen anything before)

But while it was indeed beautiful, and though I did try to put my best face on, I simply wasn't over the fact that I'd lost my iPad.  It was hard.

Our hotel faced the east side of the island, and for part of the year it's the leeward side, meaning no wind.  As such, the beaches on this side were filled with seaweed and not as pretty as they would be during the windy part of the year.  But the view from our place was absolutely awesome no matter the time of year.  The hotel was perched probably 100-150 feet above the beach on a hill.

We started our day with a great breakfast at the hotel.  I'd read online that the mango pancakes were awesome.  They were.  Of course, in true form, Kristen didn't want to eat her banana pancakes.  At leaste it didn't come as any shock to us (and left me something to finish, yum).

After breakfast, I used my cellphone to make very expensive calls to Manila several times to ask about my iPad.  Nothing.  No surprise there, really.   I used up all my minutes yet again.  So I walked down the hill to find a tindahan to get another refill (and to buy additional bottled water).

Not surprisingly, the kids were excited about the pool at the hotel and immediately wanted to swim.  I elected to sit under the shade and snooze (and basically pout).  We had the pool to ourselves, and it was most relaxing and a great way to recover from our difficult day previous.

This is what Kristen thought of the pool.

After the swim, we decided to head into town and explore with the kids.  We wanted to walk to take it all in.  After getting directions from Maricel, the hotel manager, we made our way down the hill.  The hotel had a beautiful set of steps down the back side of the hill directly to the water.  It was faster than taking the road, and during the windy season a beautiful beach would have been only steps from our room.  As it was, a big stinky pile of seaweed and garbage was only steps from our room!  We stepped gingerly over the fly-ridden mess and made our way along the somewhat-less-nasty sand on the beach to head into town.  It was about a mile walk or so. The seaweed:

As I was posting this picture I realized something shocking:  I've become my father!  When I was a kid, my dad would take us on vacation and make us see all these things, walk all these places, and basically run us until we'd drop.  We saw all of London in like 2 days, Paris in 3.  That was "normal" for us.  We've kidded with my dad for years.  But now that I see this picture I realize I do the very same thing with my own kids!  Ha!


The thing that caught us about Boracay is that it was not as we had expected.  In our minds (all of us), we had been led to believe that as the premier vacation destination in this part of the world, this place would be different from the Philippines which we had just experienced.  In retrospect, that was very naive.  It wasn't.

(Don't pee here)

What it was, though, was a most interesting dichotomy.  In the same place where one could find $500/night rooms there's also shanties with rusted roofs.  Where there's spas and scuba trips there's also rutted, somewhat-impassable roads.  Where there's food flavors from every corner of the world, there's also brownouts and dirty water.  I guess I had imagined that those things would be somewhat more separated.  So as not to completely dis on Boracay, here's a couple shots that prove it is indeed a beautiful place.

We made our way to the center of town to a shopping district called D'Mall.  It was an outdoor shopping area with lots of upscale shops and touristy things.  We enjoyed the ice-cream crepes we found right away.  Then the kids got to shopping.  This time, though, they were a little more cautious and didn't ask to buy the first thing they saw.  Progress.  I had instructed them that I was only going to buy them a single small souvenir each; the trip itself was more than enough of a souvenir.  Happily, they were fine with that.

For myself, I only wanted to find a new coin purse.  As a missionary, I didn't carry a wallet.  Instead, as was the custom, we all carried coin purses and folded up our cash into little square pieces.  Then when we'd get on a trike or jeep, it was easy to pull out just what we needed without flaunting anything else.  I immediately used that old coin purse again when we'd arrived in Pampanaga, but it was old and needed to be replaced.  I had trouble finding the "right" coin purse (because I'm such an aficionado) and kept looking.

After walking around and taking in the place, we elected to have lunch at "The Hobbit House," which was staffed mostly by little people who were more than happy to have their pictures taken with you as a part of your hobbit experience.  Misha loved it.  The food was fine but we downed our waters very quickly and I didn't really want to purchase more.  It was hot.

After lunch we walked the rest of the way across the narrow island (it's about a half mile wide by 7 miles long) to the main party beach area, called White Beach.  The sand was great; super fine and white.  But the water was full of a pretty thick green algae for the first 50 feet or so going out.  The kids would have none of that and didn't even want to touch the water.  Too bad.  It was also pretty windy on that side and not really the type of place you'd just hang out for the sake of it.

So we went back to D'Mall and checked out some more stuff before stopping at a grocery store and buying more water/snacks and heading back up the hill to our place.  On the way back to the hotel (walking, again), we stopped on our leeward side of the island where the seaweed had been cleared and played in the water.  The kids wanted their swim/snorkel equipment, so I walked up the hill with the groceries and back down with the gear.  By the time I got back, they had found a jellyfish and no longer wanted to swim there.  Of course, the kids just wanted to swim in the nice clean pool instead.  So back up the hill we went.

So we swam in the pool (again), then rested a bit and finally headed back down the hill to find some dinner.

The power still goes out quite often in Boracay.  Luckily, our resort had a powerful generator which was able to handle the air conditioners.  The staff explained to me that other small resorts are slightly cheaper but don't have this feature, which we were certainly happy to use.  The power was out well into the evening and when we were walking into town most of the tindahans were lit only by candlelight.

We walked (quite a distance, my kids reminded me) through D'Mall and over to White Beach and settled on an Italian restaurant.  We ordered pizza.  Turns out the food was fine but our waiter was possessed.  Seriously.  The dude wasn't right.  He couldn't understand me in neither English nor Tagalog, and he would just stare at us when we needed something.  We were far from the only white people in this place, so it was a bit odd, for sure.  Food in Boracay is QUITE expensive compared to the rest of the country.  It's mostly western pricing (which is only more odd since they don't see to pipe any of that revenue back into the infrastructure).

After dinner we were ready to rest and I finally caved and let the fam take a trike back to the hotel instead of the mile-long walk.  Turns out that was a mistake.  I negotiated the fare down to what was reasonable and we all got in.  The trikes in Boracay were different from those in Pampanga; they had front and rear seating for about 6-7 people, which was great.  But the motorcycles weren't any more powerful (about 150cc).  Not so great.  I directed the driver to the hotel and up the hill.  Remember it's about 100-150 feet up.  The little trike couldn't make it.  As it crapped out, I became worried that we were going to wreck or even tip over backwards since it was such a steep hill.  Jo and the kids bailed out at this point, but then with the lighter weight, Mr. Trike started going again with me still in it, even as I tried to get out.  The silly thing was that he had a buddy riding along and that only made things heavier.  He obviously didn't want to lose his fare and kept going the rest of the way up the hill, with only me, to the our hotel.  Then of course he wanted full payment.  Punk.  I wanted to avoid any altercations and paid him just to be done with the mess and get inside.  Jolayne was really ticked at him, but of course she had to climb the hill on foot to come up and yell at him.  It was actually kind of funny to me since I so rarely saw Jo get upset at anyone (except our kids of course!)

Our day was done, and although we'd enjoyed ourselves, it was far from the tropical-place-of-awesomeness that I'd hoped for (and which we'd journeyed so far to see).  I decided it was time to kick things up a notch for our next day, so I planned a bit of a surprise with the help of the hotel staff.

Next: Philippines - Day 9 (Boracay)


BoracayStories said…
You hit it on the nail about the dichotomy here in Boracay. It's really sad, but Boracay is still part of the Philippines (a third-world country).

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