[Travel] Boracay 25 Dec 2013 – 1 Jan 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI enjoyed Boracay so much when I visited earlier in 2013, that I decided I had to go back again. I love the beach, the sun the sand and the sea are just awesome and make me feel so alive and happy.

This period, however, was the peak period, so I booked my lodging months in advance. Not only is the weather supposed to be excellent during this time of the year, the trip stretched over 2 public holidays (Christmas and New Year), so I was expecting lots of local and international tourists.

I learnt many things on this trip :

– there are 2 main types of lodging there, chalets and hotels.
The chalets are mostly occupied by the locals, and the hotels can be further divided into the budget kind, and the exclusive kind.

– they have cooking services at d’talipapa and d’mall!
This means that you can bring raw food to them, and they will charge you a fee to cook it. They give you a selection of ways that you can have your food cooked.

– there aren’t that many places which open in the early morning ie. 5-6 am
But you can buy taho (sweet bean curd) from peddlers along the beach, and you can get food from some of the 24 hour places
I also stocked up on some instant noodles (the bulalo flavoured one was pretty sinful!)

– the best way to enjoy your holiday there is to SOCIALISE!
get to know the other tourists, many of them are repeat tourists, and some may have discovered other gems which are worth experiencing!
It’s also more fun when you go do cool things with more people, think cliff diving, or a boating trip.

I didn’t have a planned itinerary, I shortlisted certain things to do, and played by ear for the rest.
In general, because my sleeping times are just so weird, I was asleep around 8-10pm, and awake from 3am onwards. This meant I caught more than my fair share of sunrises.

Anyhow, let’s start with the trip there.

We took tigerairways to Kalibo. The previous time, I travelled to Caticlan from Manila, because I was already in Manila for NCCL/PGF Summer Assembly 2013.

If you’d like to read about my trip in May, click THIS.

Travelling There

Unfortunately, I can’t say I had a pleasant time travelling. After landing at Kalibo, a 2hr long slow bus ride around some hills and villages awaits you, and if you were stupid enough to have bought a package travel (bus+boat tickets in one) you’re in for a really long wait at the ferry terminal at Caticlan.
So, which airport you choose to go to really depends on your preference – would you rather have a layover in Cebu/Manila, or would like like to fly direct but take a long bus ride?

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You do get to see interesting things along the way though, like many men piled on a tuktuk, each carrying his own rooster, probably on the way to or from a cock fight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After experiencing both, I’m inclined to choose the layover in Cebu/Manila.
Also, DO NOT bother buying a 2 in 1 ticket. Just get the boat ticket from the Caticlan ferry terminal directly. You’ll have to queue to pay the environmental fee, terminal fee and register your name (so that they can track who is on the island in case of typhoons?), and also, if you get the 2 in 1, they make you wait for a really really long time before the boat goes off. This is probably because they want to get it as full as possible (save cost) before sailing off. And the boat is pretty big. So it takes quite a while before there are enough people.
I’d opt to travel the way the locals do, on wooden boats with skiffs :
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey fill up pretty quick, they leave the terminal fast, and they’re cheap.

There are unlimited numbers of tuktuk’s around for you to hail, so no worries on not being able to get to your hotel. It’s advisable, especially if your lodging isn’t one of those more famous establishments, to ensure that you have a map of the area, and the address at hand.
Our chalet was off the beaten track, and it took quite a long time to find the place. We ended up trotting in some people’s backyards along dirt paths before we finally found it.

Lodging

I paid about 300SGD/8 nights to stay at a place called Amigos 2. It’s worth noting that Amigos is under a different management from Amigos 2, and that Amigos has pretty decent reviews. Amigos 2 seemed to be less popular, and less established.

If you’re spending your whole day out at the beach, you won’t have that much to complain about the room. The bed is firm, the pillows are a little flat, there’s even a wooden wardrobe in the corner to dump your clothes. There’s a mini bar, a TV, and hot water is available at the reception from a dispenser.

What was terrible, was the toilet. There was barely enough space to sit on the loo, your knees were more or less touching the wall in front, the sink is tiny and the shower area didn’t drain properly, so all the crap from the drain pipes flowed back out when the bath floor got flooded. So, after a long day out, with sunblock on, sand and salt in my hair, feeling so grossed out everytime i went to the toilet was in the end not worth the good price I paid.

After a few days of tolerating the flooding, tiny toilet, we finally looked around and moved into another chalet-style lodging. This place seemed to be a hotspot for Russians and Europeans. It’s called Nigi Nigi Nu Noos and we had a lot of fun repeating the name aloud.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you can tell, they tried to build it in the style of their native buildings, with woven leaves and bamboo. This place was a whole lot more pleasant, simply because the toilet was larger, and drained perfectly.
There was also free wifi!!!
The only problem we had was that there were cats in heat zooming around squalling at weird times, but that was pretty tolerable.
All the chalets are named after some kind of bird, and ours was humming bird.
I liked that there was a porch to sit on! Unfortunately, if you’re there in the evening, you’re going to be a great feast for mosquitoes.
The nice thing is though, that they provide insecticide, and they clean your room daily.

Because it was the festive period, we paid 4500Php per night, without breakfast.

I quite liked the hotel we stayed in previously too, Hotel Soffia, but it’s pretty far from the beach areas, and you’ll need to take a tuktuk or the hotel shuttle to get there and back.
The best part about the 2 chalets I stayed in this trip was that they were practically on(in the case of Nigi Nigi) , or 3 minutes walk from, the beach (Amigos 2). However, keep in mind that this means you’ll have to trot out to the main road, with all your luggage, to catch a tuktuk to the ferry terminal on the last day.

FOOD

When I travel, I love trying the local food. I get excited when I spy roadside stalls selling random tit bits and snacks. I’m definitely not the kind who will only eat MacDonald’s and drink coke rather than sample the local cuisine. It does help that I very very rarely get stomach upsets.

One thing to note, is that Filipinos seem to like to use coconut oil in their cooking. I am not a fan of coconut oil, even though there are supposedly many health benefits to it, because it adds a really strong taste to the food. So, I tend to pick foods which complement the taste of the coconut oil.

So, here are the top picks for my trip:

Mang Inasal
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d2042119-Reviews-Mang_Inasal-Boracay_Visayas.html
This is the fast food version of grilled chicken and meats.
I normally eat the spicy chicken leg. Unlimited rice when you eat in too! But I normally take away.

Smoke @ D’Mall
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d1758999-Reviews-Smoke_Restaurant-Boracay_Visayas.html
My favourites include the Beef Salpicao (it comes with rice sitting under the beef). It is a super fragrant bowl of beef sauteed with garlic, onion and other delicious things. The closest I can get to describing it’s taste would be Rendang, but without the chilli. (If you like Malay food, or if you’re a Singaporean, you should know how that tastes!)

The Bulalo soup is pretty nice as well, and when you order hot tea, they serve it to you with a wedge of lemon. Perfect.

Just don’t order the kangkong, or morning glory. It’s a sinewy dried out vegetable, unlike the juicy, tender stems and silky leaves I’m accustomed to. I think its the native climate which causes it to grow that way.

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They have some kind of backpacker lodging upstairs as well, it’s a really scary narrow staircase up to it…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mica’s Kitchen @ D’Talipapa
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d1983757-Reviews-D_Talipapa-Boracay_Visayas.html
This area is actually a wet market, surrounded by cooking services. There are stalls to buy fresh seafood, poultry and meat, and vegetables.
After you purchase your meat, fish and whatever, you pick a shop and get them to cook it for you.

I visited this place quite a few times, and my personal favourite is the crab and ladies fingers.

Our first cooked meal there which costs us more than we should have paid for:
butter garlic prawns, non-spicy stir fried ladies fingers, stir fried spicy kang kong (DO NOT BUY THIS!), adobo squid and a steamed crab.
DO bargain. They will sometimes quote you up to 4 times more than they are willing to accept. And even the cooking service staff, who are not related to the market stall holders, will try to bluff you into expecting some exorbitant price for your fresh produce. It’s all a ploy to get the most out of tourists!!

As a guideline, a handsized crab (my hand size…) is about 10 SGD. So I kinda worked around that estimation for crabs.

The ladies fingers were totally delicious. They’re a tender smooth variety, and they’re cooked in finger length pieces.
I picked a live female crab, and they cost more than the male crabs. It is my opinion that FRESH seafood should be eaten lightly steamed. Grilling tends to make the flesh stick to the shell, and cooking with random sauces takes away the sweet natural flavour.
The adobo squid tasted excellent, and I tried the adobo chicken on another night, but the chicken came back kinda undercooked.
The prawns were soso. I never ate any more prawns after the first night.

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Huge variety of fresh seafood available to the customer.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAyummy yummy yummy steamed crab…

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Lemon Cafe @ D’Mall
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d804865-Reviews-Lemon_Cafe-Boracay_Visayas.html

Serving mostly western cuisine, or fusion cuisine is this little joint run by a mother daughter pair. They clean the place up very thoroughly in the morning, and the smell of bleach lingers for quite a while.
I ordered a Thai inspired beef and papaya salad, and it was kinda too wet. Otherwise, it was tasty and sour, with an additional lemon wedge. slurp.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe ordered a minute steak with herb potatoes and scrambled eggs.
The steak tasted like teriyaki, but it was quite nice to eat. The potatoes were delicious too.
Apparently, the specialities of this place are the eggs benedict and the lemon tart, so you might want to try that out if you go there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATilapia & Chips @ one street away from D’Mall
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d3160194-Reviews-Tilapia_N_Chips-Boracay_Visayas.html

I had quite a hurried lunch here, because I was rushing to catch a boat for a snorkeling/island hopping trip.
They serve a whole tilapia and fries for roughly 10SGD, which is a little pricey.
It was quite a fun munch, and I’ve seen recommendations to eat their burgers. Apparently those are great too.

The best thing about this place? Free Wifi, and they use NORMAL oil to fry their food!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Local Cuisine, further down from Tilapia& Chips, and Budget Mart

It distresses me greatly that I cannot remember the name of this restaurant. It’s further down from Tilapia and Chips, and pretty near one of the Smoke branches.
I absolutely loved everything about this place!
The first day there, I had the pork belly, which was grilled and served with chilli, lime and soya sauce. I ordered a top up of garlic rice instead of white rice.

Their tea is pretty basic, just a lipton teabag and hot water.

My travelling partner ordered their sizzling pork sisig 2 days in a row, and he enjoyed it thoroughly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
So look out for this somewhat creepy hanging feature outside the shop. It’s made up of lobster shells and stuff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother place you can try if you’re craving western food is a restaurant called I Love Backyard BBQ @ D’Mall
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d3607786-Reviews-I_Love_Backyard_BBQ-Boracay_Visayas.html

The queue is insane, and some of the food will inevitably run out of stock. You can try the ribs and the onion rings are famous.Again, the food didn’t impress me much, especially since the onion rings tasted strongly of coconut oil, and the waiter who took our order seemed like he was stoned.
Here’s a pic of the famous onion rings. It’s way too much for 2 people to eat as an appetiser, because it’s fried and really really thick.

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As mentioned we went during the festive season, and many of the larger hotels and restaurants had huge buffets, or special meals. We spotted 2 out door grills, grilling whole animals. One was a calf and the other, a pig.

We would have loved to try it out, but they were all full.

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Activities

Sadly, this time round, the weather wasn’t as nice. It was stormy and raining for half the trip. I think this is supposed to be an anomaly, because other tourists I spoke to told me their own countries were experiencing weird weather too. Or maybe it was due to Haiyan. Either way, it didn’t seem to matter to the majority of the people, they were all hanging out on the beach 24/7, whatever the weather.

Get a massage on the beach
They do tend to give you a shorter time than you are supposed to get. So if you want to be insistent, just make sure you keep track of the time that you started.

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Visit Willy’s Rock. Guilly?
There are variations on how to spell this, and I’m not sure how to spell it. Pronouncing it is all the same.

Further on from the rock is a sort of cave, and the pedestrian path goes through it. Quite interesting to take a stroll up.

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Hang out on the beach.
Enjoy the different shades and colours, depending on the time of the day and the weather.
Sink your feet into the powdery white sand, and paddle in the clear waters.

Pro tip : buy your own floats to bring to Boracay, I bought 2 awesome floats and had a magnificent time floating around in them.
You might want to invest in a proper water proof handphone carrying case as well, so that you can take underwater photos, or just be able to bring your phone out to sea without fear of it getting spoilt.

My awesome Intex River Run II. It’s as huge as a raft.
(By the way, that’s the room we had at Amigos 2)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had a smaller doughnut float which you can see in the photo of the balcony at Nigi Nigi. It’s that green thing in the right corner…

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The 2 of us on my awesome 2 man float. We’ll never float away from each other!
Photo taken with my xperia z, which is waterproof. Was blasting music from spotify while floating out on the sea.

Here’s a stormy dayOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Cloudy dayOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA6amOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sunny morning at low tideOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMid morning OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfternoon OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStormy Evening, White beach faces the sun set.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Check out the local flora and fauna

Random cockerel, I think this one escaped.
Filipinos are really interested in their cock-fighting, you’ll see numerous tethered chickens, some sitting under wire cages.
I passed by this building that looked like a school, and the field was full of these tethered roosters.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone’s future dinner, in a backyard.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone’s unfriendly pet monkey which lunged at me when I went closer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone’s pet retriever.
It’s huge, something like 40kg.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisit other beaches on the island!
Bulabog beach has beach front apartments, the they face the wind, so the waves wash up pretty close.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The wind makes for good kite surfing, something Bulabog beach is famous for.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  You can also go to Diniwid and Puka Shell beach, but having gone to both once is enough for me.

Diniwid has strong waves, so I didn’t find it suitable for lounging around on, and Puka Shell has rough sand, with little shelter from the sun. So it’s really really hot. The current there is strong too, so swimming is tiring.

Take a boat trip

I suggest hiring a boat for a few hours, and this is where socialising comes in handy! Share a boat with your new found friends, this saves on cost!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis particular boat took us snorkeling, I like the coral garden stop the most.
Remember to buy some bread to take along with you to feed the fish. They will really come swarming around you.

We took a short stop at a small community centre-like place. There didn’t seem to be much of a purpose to this place other than for the locals to gather, have picnics and…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKaraoke! (sorry, I still can’t rotate the pics!!)

It’s quite amazing that literally in the middle of NOWHERE, there is this karaoke machine and mic, sitting under some shabby looking canvas.
I’d be terrified that the equipment gets wet in a downpour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA One of our new friends, showing off his vocal prowess.

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The view from the karaoke area. A nice sheltered bay, and that’s our boat! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAriel’s Point

THIS is a MUST DO when you go to Boracay.
Every morning, Ariel’s House will open up registrations for the day and you’ll pay about 50SGD for a full day of cliff jumping, lunch and free flow drinks. There are kayaks and snorkeling gear for your use too, if you can find any left around.

And here comes another pro tip : buy your own snorkeling gear to bring along! And a go pro if you’re planning to do fancy jumps

There’s a life guard I made friends with previously, and he got me fresh sea urchin roe to eat again, for a small tip.

DSC_0026Sea Urchins at at Ariel’s Point! Taken with my Xperia Z, underwater shot.

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