It is an overcast day in Kuwait, and I returned to my apartment early this morning to find a thin layer of dust caked to my countertops. As I proceeded to remove the dust built up from a sandstorm and a rainstorm all while I was gone, the black dirt that came off of the countertop and onto my paper towel was a true testament to the fact that it had been a week since I left, and I was indeed, back.
I have neglected blogging about my travel experiences for a while now, but for some reason, one week on an island in the Philippines has inspired me to write, which brings me back to meggsandtoast today.
I recently read a line from a friend’s blog that has stuck with me, due to the truth behind it which is: “sometimes I research a lot before a trip, and sometimes I research very little”. I researched very little about the Philippines. In full honesty, I had originally booked the ticket because it was a direct and very cheap flight from Kuwait. The only research I really did was Google: “best beaches in Philippines” which then led Kelsey (my travel parter in crime) and me to make our next decision – one week in Boracay. March is the Everest month of teaching, and we were both feeling it. A one week beach vacation for Spring Break sounded perfect, and so we made our decision with relative ease (although now knowing how many different cool things you can do throughout the Philippines I’m already mentally planning a trip back!).
We left late Thursday night/ Friday morning, on a 8 1/2 hour red eye to Manila. We arrived on time, exchanged money, bought SIM cards, and transferred to the terminal where we would fly out to the next island. Because Boracay is so small (it has an area of 10.32 square kilometers), our next flight was out of Manila and into Caticlan. Then we boarded a ferry that took us from Caticlan to Boracay, and then got bussed to the hotel. It was a ‘planes, trains, and automobiles’ kind of day.
When we arrived on the island, needless to say, we were exhausted. However, when you live in Kuwait, and you arrive to a country that sells alcohol, you must find the beverages, immediately. We dropped our bags in our hotel room, and walked out to the beach front to grab a drink. After a few drinks and some food later, we headed to bed, ready for day one on the island.
Our first official day on the island allowed us to get a better picture of what Boracay looked like. At night, while the entertainment and food areas are well lit, it is difficult to see the ocean. Today, we got our first view of the Boracay beaches, and it did not disappoint. It is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to. Ever.
The water was a combination of stunning blue – cyan at first and then sapphire as the sea expands. The water was so clear, that these colours remained sharp and unwavering through any kind of weather. Eventually, the ocean was interrupted by rich green mountainous area, lush with wildlife and vegetation. I tried to commit these colours to memory each time I went out in the water.
The first three days on the island went in a similar manner. Wake up around 11am, beach, dinner, nap, party. Repeat. However, the sun can really kick your butt, and so around the half-way point, we took it a bit easier.
Boracay is pretty famous for its party scene. This I did research for (clearly my priorities are in the right place), and by research I mean Google, to see what nightlife options were available. Nothing says being 24 by researching the nightclubs that you’re going to later. At the end of our first three days, did the research pay off? Not really. We ended up going to the same club three times! (hey – it was fun!). But we really did try to broaden our horizons in this regard, and even walked to the popular hostel on the island, but it had a very methamphetamine kind of vibe so we walked in, and then walked right out.
My favourite parts about the nightlife scene are as follows:
- Since Kuwait does not have any bars, just going out to grab a drink is something I have missed the past two years. Just the mere existence of a bar made me happy in Boracay!
- There was a McDonald’s placed at the halfway point between the club and the hotel. There are probably a lot more satisfying things in life than eating McDonald’s, but when you forget about those golden arches and then suddenly see them from across the distance on your way home from the bar, I can tell you that in that moment, there most definitely is not.
- Meeting fun people! Kelsey and I made friends with two girls who are also moving to Dubai next year. What are the odds!
Like I mentioned above, in the second half of our week we took the opportunity to relax a bit more. As you walk throughout the island, there are many different vendors trying to sell different ‘adventure’ packages: snorkelling, helmet diving, fishing, parasailing, etc. Kelsey and I both were interested in island hopping, and so we booked a half-day island hopping tour that would take us out on the water to see the island from a different vantage point.
The island hopping was my favourite activity we did on the trip (besides all the eating, which I’ll get to later). I am a happy camper if I’m out on the water, and with a five-hour boat trip ahead of us, I was happy as a clam!
We sailed on small, wooden, pontoon-like boat that was run by two older Filipino men. Getting off of Boracay allowed us to see the island from a different vantage point, and get sights of other surrounding islands. And ohhhhhh boy, was it ever beautiful.
While the pictures don’t quite show it, we were sailing on a very windy day. In fact, there was so much wind that the ocean was realllllllly choppy. Our initial, light-hearted sailing endeavour quickly turned into Kelsey and me getting drenched by the waves that would come aboard, and our boat captain trying restart the motor as it kicked out.
Eventually we made it to the snorkelling area, where we got the chance to see the ocean wildlife. Because the water was so choppy, we decided to just use our snorkelling masks, without the breathing piece. This was the better decision, but my lung capacity sucks so it meant coming up for air a lot. With the choppiness of the water, it was often hard to catch a quick breath without another wave coming down on you. I gulped down several mouthfuls of sea water that day (yuck).
The silver lining to this was how amazing the snorkelling was. As soon as you dunk your head underwater, there were fish everywhere. The sea floor was adorned with coral, algae, various marine plans, and other microorganism; it was vibrant with life! However, you can only tread water and drink sea water for so long before you get tired, and so we eventually ended our snorkelling, and climbed back on board the boat.
The last few days of our trip, Kelsey and I really made an effort to try the food on the island. With the help of Google, we looked at some of the top rated food options on the island and ventured to these places for dinner.
Our first venture led us to a restaurant called Nonie’s. Nonie’s is a restaurant that takes Filipino classics, and adapts them with a health focus in mind. There are several vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, and the restaurant was developed with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients.
While I love my chained-brand restaurants as much as the next person (hello McDonald’s!), I have a strong appreciation for people who create projects that stem from a passion, and channel that creativity into making purposeful decisions on behalf of that passion. In Nonie’s, their priorities of being a health driven and locally sourced restaurant were present in every decision made throughout the restaurant. Whether this was through the ingredients of the food, the restaurant ambiance which featured a vine-leave wall on one end of the room, or through stainless steel straws – the restaurant existed with a sense of purpose. But let’s move onto the food. Oh. my. God. The food.
While I don’t quite remember the name of this dish, I do remember how it felt to eat it, and ohmygod was it ever delicious. The pork fell right off the bone, the sweet potato mash was heavenly, and the salad was light and tasty. Kelsey and I were so full, we couldn’t even find room for dessert (and for those who know me, that’s saying something!)
The next day, we at at a place called The Sunny Side Cafe, and this restaurant was so good that we ate here twice.
The Sunny Side Cafe serves contemporary Western and Filipino dishes, and is the only cafe on the island that serves specialty coffee.
On our first dinner at the cafe, I ordered their famous bacon and mango grilled cheese sandwich, with a glass of (red) wine on the side. There are no words to describe what this tasted like. All dishes are made from scratch – including their bacon! I nearly died and saw the gates of heaven.
But like all good things, this vacation came to end (really quickly). Soon, it was Friday, and our last day on the island, with our return flight departing at around 5pm. We took a bus, a boat, a bus, a plane, a bus, a plane, and a taxi, and finally we were back in Kuwait. It was a great week in the sun, and a fantastic combination of fun and relaxation – just what was needed as we came to the end of March.
And so I am back in Kuwait now, which is really bitter sweet in itself. There are only 8 more weeks of the school year left. When I think about that, I immediately am sad, and then happy, almost like those sad/happy masks from the Greek theatre. However, these emotions can wait while I soak up the remainder of my Saturday, and brace myself for the official end of Spring Break 2018.
P.S. About Closing Boracay
The news about Boracay closing down for 6 months has made some popular newspapers across the globe. The island will officially close to tourists on April 26th (so we made it in just the nick of time.
The word “cesspool” has been used a lot in headlines, as I suppose it creates quite the image in mind. At surface level, the island appears as beautiful as ever, but the cesspool appears underground, in direct reference to sewage and waste disposal. Essentially, the island has been over capacity for too long, with outdated infrastructure that is unable to handle the influx of tourists each year.
The island will be closed for 6 months, leaving thousands of people who work in the tourism sector without jobs. The fix is necessary, but it is a decision that affects many systems (economic, social, etc.). I am hopeful the island will have great improvements, and be just as popular upon reopening, as it was during its closure.