Up at just after 5am Amelia and I took a tricycle to the main road in Moalboal town. We then boarded a bus to 'Tangil' ferry port, to take the ferry across to 'Guihulngan, Negros'. After the ferry crossing we hopped on a bus to 'San Carlos', transferring to another bus before making it to 'Bacalod City'. A jeepney, and then a tricycle, took us to the port in Bacalod. We took a 'fast' craft to 'Iloilo City, Panay'. By which time it was time to get some rest, but not before taking two jeepneys and a long walk to find possibly the worst place we've stayed in called 'Family Pension House'. It was obvious that the room hadn't been cleaned for a long time, dust everywhere, bird poop, and stale smelling sheets, but being exhausted we couldn't care less.
The following day we caught a jeepney to a bus terminal, then a four hour minibus ride to 'Caticlan', and finally a pump boat (a small banca with an engine) before we set foot on the crisp white beaches of 'Boracay'....
The renowned Boracay, was on and off our rough itinerary so many times we lost count. The reason being, most of the people we'd spoken to along the way said it's way too busy and commercialised. But the opportunity to go arose when we passed through a ferry terminal literally just ten minutes from Boracay. Having time to spare, we thought it would be a shame not to spend at least a day there to judge it for ourselves.
The main beach, the famous 'White Beach' that is often featured in many travel guides and magazines as one of the top ten beaches in the world, was a thirty minute walk from where the pump boat drops you. Most visitors use the private tricycles, but they're generally holiday makers. The majority of which are foreign, but quite a few are wealthy Filipinos too. Amelia and I on the other hand like to save the pennies and get some exercise, so donned our backpacks and hiked there.
Arriving sweaty and out of breath is possibly not the conventional way of arriving at the luxurious White Beach. But we saved some money and with a just little searching on our way, we found a half decent place to sleep, just fifty metres back from the beach front. It was a little more than what we normally spend, but only by a couple of hundred pesos. The accommodation was in 'boat station 3', the modest part of White Beach, close to where many of the locals live. There are three boat stations on White Beach, these 'boat stations' are no longer in use as such, but the names stuck and are now used as a guide to locate restaurants, bars, hotels etc. Boat station 2 is the central section where all the parties go on until the early hours of the morning. Boat station 1 is the upper class area, with all the posh hotels and villas.
After an inexpensive late lunch of calamari and rice, we took a nice refreshing swim in the crystal clear waters off White Beach.
Whilst we were spending some time relaxing on the beach, I noticed a lone Filipino man taking pictures of dogs. Assuming he had an admiration for dogs, I got speaking with him. He revealed that he was actually a K9 trainer for the Filipino bomb squad. We found out he was on holiday in Boracay with his girlfriend (who were back in the barracks).
After speaking with Jing for an hour or so, he asked us if we wanted to join him for a beer back at the barracks, never one to refuse an invite when beer is involved we followed him.
The barracks was located on the beach front, just fifty metres from our guesthouse. I'm sure it wouldn't happen back home, but we literally strolled straight in and sat down at a table waiting for Jing to get the beers in.
Jing returned with no beers, but a very generous portion of rice, pork and fish. Not something we'd asked for, but nevertheless it was much appreciated. Whilst eating, Jing introduced his girlfriend and other friends. As usual they were all very friendly, hospitable and typically unreserved at asking any personal questions. After the 'grilling' and very filling dinner, we all went out to sit on the beach and have the much needed beer, or two. Once the Red Horse was finished we were offered some familiar brandy, Emperador. Then after the brandy we all took a late night dip in the sea before calling it a night. It was a very unexpected but welcoming end to our first day on Boracay.
Surprising as it may sound, Amelia and I haven't often drunk to excess over the last five months, so waking up with a hangover felt somewhat unfamiliar! But after some much needed food and a revitalising swim in the sea we felt 'cured' of our hangover.
It was a very hot morning, even with a strong sea breeze, but we decided to take a stroll down the 4km beach with the sea lapping at our ankles. Manny Pacquio (the famous Filipino boxer) owns a resort on Boracay, so during our exploration of White Beach I asked a few people for directions. Eventually, after a few hours of walking we found a hidden entrance to the resort (located in the next cove). But, at 300 pesos (£5) each to enter, and not even be allowed into the hotel, we soon turned our backs on Mr Pacquio! Paying the entrance fee would only permit us a view from the outside.
After a mismatch lunch of Turkish shawarma, corn on the cob and even a 'Subway' sandwich in boat station 2, we decided it was time to complete one of our 'requirements' we have for each country. We hunted for the best possible deal, which turned out to be close to our accommodation. It was a one hour oil massage costing the same price as the entrance fee at Manny Pacquio's resort. Much better value for money.
Later that afternoon, after the very relaxing massage, we took another stroll down the beach. This time looking at the sand art and many minor variations of the 'Boracay Sandcastle'. Most of the sandcastles are sculpted by young teenagers looking for some pocket money. They charge tourists to take pictures, costs vary depending on the popularity and quality of the sculpture.
For dinner we decided to treat ourselves to a delicious fresh seafood buffet. At a fraction of the cost of a back home, we enjoyed - huge green-lipped mussels, clams, oysters, prawns, crabs and tuna. It was a feast! I personally returned for at least three plate fills, which also included some tasty spring rolls, vegetables and of course rice. I'm pleased to say I managed to encourage Amelia to try some mussels and oysters. The latter she wasn't too keen on, but she loved the mussels. By the end, our table was quite literally buried in empty shells!
Strolling back toward boat station 3, Amelia and I got ourselves a tattoo each. Not a permanent one though. Amelia has been toying with the idea of a tattoo for a while, so for her it's a practice run. For me, more spontaneity.
The next morning we decided to cough up for a tricycle to take us to the boat terminal and onto a pump boat back to Caticlan...