Boracay: 16- 19 April 2016

Boracay is actually a sneaky little gem that does not get enough love from the internet. We had decided to start here because the Boracay frisbee open tournament was happening at the time we arrived, and we thought it would be an easy way to have a Korea reunion. However, with all of our research telling us to skip Boracay, we only booked for 4 nights (and only got three, because, well… Manila travels.) I would happily have stayed here for much longer! In fact, one day, I hope to come back for a month and just live and chill for a bit.

The view from Elsa's
The view from Elsa’s

The catch? You HAVE to stay at Elsa’s Place. I cannot emphasise this enough, it’s an absolute (and crazy affordable) dream. Everyone (on the internet) raves about staying at Station 1 or 2, and true, Elsa’s is at Bulabog beach (which looks really far on the map). But, it was easily walking distance to the beach, and a cheap tuktuk back (no one wants to walk back after a day on the beach). After chilling on the beach for a bit and watching the sunrise on day one, we decided we should probably head home, clean up and have a nap before meeting up with our friends and watching some frisbee. We grabbed our bags, found a tuktuk and asked him to take us to Elsa’s.

Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

Unexpected, he laughed at us and said no. Um, what now, please? Eventually, we figured out, he could take us to Bulabog beach, but that his tuktuk is not powerful enough to get up the hill to Elsa’s. Ooooookaaaay… Well, in my experience, tuktuks aren’t crazy powerful, having the engine of a bike with the aspirations of a car. But, hey, how bad can the hill be?

THE HILL
THE HILL

The Hill is the challenge when staying at Elsa’s. Just know this, if you are reading this blog and feeling that maybe it isn’t worth it? I promise you, it is. And, if you stay long enough, you will have killer legs! It is about 500m long (although it will feel like a km) and is pretty much vertical (so those with packs, be careful not to turtle). Just keep reminding yourself of the calories you are burning (and that can be made up for with all of the delicious rum smoothies you will be having), and that climbing a hill means crazy good views!

Getting to the top of THE HILL
Getting to the top of THE HILL

Elsa’s Place is pretty kitted out, and Elsa is amazing. Either her, or her assistance Dexter will check in on you pretty much daily, making sure that you have fresh water and that you have all that you need. They have multiple apartments that cater for different sized groups. We took the two bedroom one (one bedroom had a fan, and the other an aircon, but to be honest it’s not too hot in April, so we just kept the doors open and enjoyed the breeze from outside). There is a massive lounge with super comfy couches and then a deck to die for, with hammocks and more couches (seriously awesome for just relaxing). And, (possibly a highlight for me), the kitchen had a blender… thus allowing us to start our own bar Smoothie Operator, the proud makers of fruit/rum smoothies.

Elsa's Bliss
Elsa’s Bliss

Now’s probably a good time to mention the rum in the Philippines… Tanduay Rhum is the local rum in the Philippines. Not only is it delicious, but it costs a whopping $2 a bottle! So, we felt that we needed to get our money’s worth and add it to everything.

Smoothie Operator
Smoothie Operator

Ok, slight sidetrack there.. back to us arriving to Elsa’s. So, we crawled up the hill, got to the balcony and looked around. *Insert profanities that mom wouldn’t approve of*- it is beautiful! The sun is rising, there’s the sea, we’re here, there’s rum, there’s run, we need to get our bathing suits on, sleeping is cheating!! (this needs to be said an octave higher than your normal voice and at 4 times the speed) And, well, we did just that. Suited up, splashed some water on our faces and decided that we could totally have a nap on the beach if need be, but actually that the best way to get over jet lag is to not sleep for at least 48hours, until such a point that your body has no clue what time zone it is in.

Sunrise at Elsa's
Sunrise at Elsa’s

We strolled down to the beach and found our frisbee friends (ironic that I support this being that I am actually quite terrified of frisbees and their weird attraction to my head), and spent the next few hours being mermaids and chilling in the sea. Eventually, the whole combatting jet lag by not sleeping started to take effect and we went home (yes, that is how long it took for Elsa’s to become our home) for a little nap.

Mermaids
Mermaids

Better Late than Never: Returning to Asia

I need to learn how to backdate these things, because… well life. A year ago, nearly to the day, I bought a ticket to go to the Philippines!! This was all super exciting because: a) Going back to Asia after two years of being in one place (itchy feet would be an understatement). b) Reunion with some of my favourite people in the world. c) A sneaky little pop over in Hong Kong for a week to visit one of my best friends who lives there now. d) I would be visiting our office in HK- always good to know what’s out there.

Then came the loooooong countdown… the trip was mid April 2016. Well, I can tell you the wait was worth it. It has been a few months since we have returned and my heart is still in the Philippines. And so, here is my very late attempt to relive the adventure and share some tips, should you wish to travel to the Philippines (which you should!!)

The 15th of April FINALLY arrived and I was prepared for my long transit trip:

Cape Town –> Joburg, Joburg –> Hong Kong, Hong Kong –> Manila, Change Terminals,

Manila –> Kalibo, One hour bus to the port, Kalibo –> Boracay… to arrive in Boracay at around 6.30pm, enough time to drop bags, shower and find our friends on the beach. Ah, such innocent dreams.

Lesson One: Manilla airports

We were warned, but nothing can quite prepare you for travelling via Manilla airport. The first thing you need to check is your terminal. Most international flights land in T1 or T3. And, most domestic flights leave from T4. Rumour has it there are inter terminal transfer buses, but I was not fortunate enough to find them. There are two types of cabs that take you between airports: metered cabs and set rate cabs. They each have their pros and cons. Metered cabs have a cheaper per/km rate, but you can end up hiking up the cost when you get stuck in traffic. Set rate cabs, as the name says, generally aren’t keen to bargain. I landed at T3 at around 11am, and had a 2.30pm flight from T4 (I figured this out about a week before leaving and so figured I would risk it). I caught my cab with no problem and had the friendliest cab driver.

Lesson Two: Yes, they really are that nice

As I mentioned, my cab driver was amazing. He was so friendly, he started taking selfies with me (there was some traffic). The South African in me bubbled up a bit (is this how I get trafficked? Do they traffic in the Philippines??). But, honestly, people are just genuinely lovely and not yet ruined by the rudeness of some tourists. So, on we went, dancing to Shakira’s Waka Waka (once he heard I was South African), and me trying not to look at the time for my flight.

I arrived to T4 with plenty of time to spare and launched myself at Lu whom I hadn’t seen since leaving Korea. Yes, there were moments of us poking each other “Are you real?”… I had my first “surprise”- our flight was delayed by 2 hours (totally could have caught the bus). No problem though, as this meant I could freshen up and get into my summer clothes without worrying about missing our flight.

Exploring T4
It really is more fun in the Philippines

Lesson Three: Life in T4 can last longer than expected

Just to give an idea of what T4 is like, it is your classic domestic airport with no duty free, no alcohol to be seen and no comfy couches. We set up camp on the floor and had a little catch up. 4pm came and went, and there was no sign of us departing, our flight was no delayed another 2 hours. There were some interesting emotional shifts at this point, with the three of us having been so eager to depart, we were too nervous to use the loo. Then, we started questioning weather or not we would ever depart, and getting upset that we were missing out on a few hours of our holiday. Fortunately, Lu and I bounce back pretty quickly, and sometimes to the extreme. We spent the next hour or so “touring” T4 and taking as many photo’s of the “sites” that we could see. It was actually great, and had both of us laughing our asses off and just being silly.

Snacks for days
T4 Tours: Site one: Cinnabon
At least there's coffee!
T4 Tours: At least there’s coffee!
We found a beach!
T4 Tours: They even have great beaches

 

At 6,30pm, they served us a complimentary dinner. We still weren’t leaving. Another dip in emotions (now brought on by clocking the 24 hour mark of no sleep) while we trapped roaches under our coffee cups and looked around in search of a cold beer. Hopes and dreams dashed. It came to an all time low, when we decided that now would be a great time to bring joy to all and karaoke for the masses. We chose “Don’t Stop Believing” and sang our hearts out to a crowd that frankly didn’t appreciate our artistic integrity.

Karaoke Time! "Don't Stop Believing"
Karaoke Time! “Don’t Stop Believing”

8.30pm… still no sign of the plane. It would probably have been easier to cycle to Boracay. Was meant to be on the beach sipping rum at this point. Ok. Calm. There is nothing that can be done. Then, we noticed a (in my mind glowing) beer fairy. “WHERE’DYOUGETTHATBEER”??? The beer fairy showed us where to get the beer. It was as if she was a T4 local. “Have you been here before?”… Well. She had actually done the exact same flight route as I had. Only, 24 hours before me. And she was STILL waiting for her plane to arrive. Panic sets in. We need to buy all the beers, we live here now. We need to build a shelter and form an alliance, some day, they will run out of beer and we need to make sure we have stock.

At T4...
We live here now. T4, Manila

10.30pm… We are boarding!! Before beer fairy. We all offered to try and smuggle her onto the plane. It felt cruel that we were leaving and she was staying. Buuuuut, at the same time, we were leaving T4!!! A dream come true! Or, maybe they were getting sick and tired of us bitching about being stuck here (you know, the classic first world response: “I paid for my ticket, get me on the dam plane IMMEDIATELY”). This thought became more true when we just sat on the plane for a good hour, wondering if we would ever take off (this is our home now). Eventually, we took off… at around 11pm, arriving at Kalibo at around 12.30am. The good news is that by this stage, we had made friends with these two guys who had already organised a car to drive them to the dock.

FINALLY TIME TO TAKE OFF
FINALLY TIME TO TAKE OFF

3.30am: WE ARE IN BORACAY!! Now, we just needed to find Will to get the keys to our place. He had beaten us there, and so we put him in touch with other friends. We dropped our bags at our new friends’ place, and went straight to the main beach strip where we were told our friends would be. No surprises that by 4am, they were in bed (big frisbee games and all).. We partied together until our friends wanted to go to bed. Then, we grabbed our bags, dragged them onto the beach and just sat there for a bit: We had made it.

We made it
We made it…

Guys.. we are in Boracay

Lesson 4: It was worth the drama

Worth it!