Thursday, April 05, 2007

So we just got back from our 6 day vacation to Boracay. As usual, many people don't read this blog that I write in to find out this information, making this blog ever more useless, however, I digress.

We started off going to Manila, and went to Karen's uncle Mike's, where we got the usual 1st class treatment before heading over to road 3 to see Lola and the gang there. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, the kids were finishing up school for the year. A few San Migs, (actually starting to not mind them now) and back to Mike's to sleep.

The next morning, we were off to the domestic airport, stopping in to McDonald's for "a quick bite". (the food is still the same, salty, greasy a dee-licious) The line at the airport seemed longer and the airport terminal seemed more busy than usual. We then realized that it is "holy week" in the Philippines. In the Philippines, "Holy week" means (for most) more days off work, more eating and more drinking, and often lots of traveling around. We were about to do just that.

The flight by Asian Spirit (the joke goes that you get on the plane as "people" and "land" in "spirit form') was on a 4 prop 30 seater, the ride was smooth and nice about 55 minutes..... We touched down in "Caticlan", the nearest commercial airstrip to Boracay.

Our porter for the Orchid resort we were booked in was there to take us and our belongings through the slight maze like series of procedures to get on the island, and it was nice to just have him point to the various windows and say, "100 pesos", etc. , etc. , instead of walking around in the noon hour sun sweating and trying to figure it all out while dragging your bags everywhere. We got onto the bangka (a type of modified longtail boat with a large pair of outriggers, seen in Hawaii too) and were taken to our delightful room. The place is a great value for Boracay, and the staff were very friendly. I even worked a deal for any referrals from my "flock" of students. We immediately had a few beers and lunch on the beach.

That night, we went to see Karen's Uncle Leonard, who's family practically owns half of Boracay. We had dinner with him and some beers. We learned that his daughter and law Amanda had just given birth and that Boracay is really developing. We saw evidence of that in the 4, yes, 4 Andok's Lechon on the shrot ride to his resort. (more about that gem later) and "D'Mall", what was once the city market, has now "blossomed" into a pretty nice outdoor mall with upscale vendors and restaurants. There are construction projects everywhere, even Tito Leonard's place was radically improvised, with a new pool and cabanas, as well as his former adjacent vacant lot now resided with another large hotel.

Anyway, we hit Jonah's for the best shakes in town, and took in the booming nightlife a bit before retiring.

Next morning, we were up and after breakfast decided to catch some rays (I got a few too many, Karen apparently did not get enough), get coconut oil massages and chill the heck out. We had dinner at an Indian restaurant and an apple pie crepe in the mall, walked around then back to our room.

The next day, Tito Leonard found a vacant room in his resort, so we moved to his place. The requisite shake at Jonah's, then, we went snorkeling. We got our own boat and guide and set out. Our first stop was nice, but the weather at that moment was unfortunately not cooperating and the wind created waves that made the snorkeling a bit rough. (I am a fair weather water sport kind of guy). We did see some beautiful coral and fish though). Then, we went around the other side to "Puka Beach" were the world gets its puka shells for the necklaces.

Then, we went to the other snorkeling area and had a good session there, as the weather had calmed down and you could just relax and enjoy yourself. I was smart and wore a t-shirt while snorkeling, Karen was not and suffered a rare (for her) sunburn. We were both pretty wiped out from the activity and sun all day, so we retired to our room early and polished off the left overs from our Indian food and called it a day.

The next day was interesting. Leonard had just opened his cock fighting arena and we were invited to attend the opening event.

Cock fighting is hugely popular in the Philippines, and though some may find it cruel, the connoisseurs will tell you that Filipino versions of it are more humane as the roosters are all equipped with very lethal and large blades that generally end the fight in under a minute, as opposed to other regions that employ small puncture wounds, keeping the match going for several minutes. At any rate, the venue was brand new, seating about 500 spectators and an air conditioned VIP box where we sat. By the time we got there, the festivities were under way. Money was literally flying around as match after match took place. I wasn't feeling the urge to bet, and after a couple hours and a few scotches and beers, we set out to have dinner on the beach..We went to one of the hundred or so "Eat all you can" seafood buffets for a whopping 300 pesos each. (6USD).. The mozerella and pineapple baked oysters were my favorite selection of the evening.

We were offered a dune buggy for our use, and decided to go exploring around the Island. We ended up getting flagged down by a guide to the "bat caves". We were off, and after a 10 minute hike, we weaved our way down a very large, completely black, stinky and noisy (shrieks from said bats) cave. When we got to the bottom, we were able to see tens of thousands of bats.. The cave is adjacent to the ocean, and as I put my feet in the water, the guide said, "Sir, you aren't afraid of coral snakes are you?" The smile kind of died on my face as he shone the flashlight about 2 meters away from me, and low and behold, a 3 foot long black and turquoise banded coral snake was making his way in the opposite direction. Karen pretty well freaked (as you can see by the "smile" in her picture). He claimed that these are not the poisonous types, but we didn't really want to find out either way. Further research on my part has revealed no species of the "non venomous" types that we apparently encountered. Under another rock was a rather large coral snake, and at that point, it was time to go. now.

So we did. It was CSI night, and after the sun and fun, I just picked up BBQ chicken (from Andok's), coleslaw and rice and we retired early.

We got the buggy again after our Jonah's fix and struck out again, this time equipped with our own mask and snorkels, hell bent on finding a decent spot. We pretty well struck out, and ended up on puka beach again. It was still ok, and though it wasn't the best snorkeling, we still had a fun and had a nice small lunch of garlic and honey prawns on rice that we split, because we had purchased two 1 kilo lobsters for dinner that night. We rode around and saw some of the interesting and undeveloped parts of the island before getting back and watching the sunset, got coconut oil massages and some great pictures of what Boracay looks like as the sun goes down.

We went back to our room,

cleaned up, and went back to our Cabana to eat these two magnificent bugs with rice and a couple of glasses of white wine. It was the best lobster I have had.

The next day, we got ready to leave, had one last shake and then got a shuttle to the port and ferried across to the airport. the flight was delayed and it was real busy, but we finally got our flight on a 4 engined jet and in 35 minutes we touched down in manila, where her uncle Mike was waiting for us to take us to the bus terminal. We "walked on" to a bus (the terminal was packed) rather than opting for the purchase in advance "sucker" route and in 6 short hours, we made it home.


Jesse and Yavon said...

I am extremely jealous and hope that you take us somewhere wonderful like that when we come out next year. The pictures were incredible and I'm sure they don't come close to doing it justice. I'm glad you guys are home safe and were not caught up in the tsunami. Can't wait to see you guys..

Joaquin said...

I am all over the itinerary when you guys come in next year. You can get great diving packages through here, though perhaps not the_best_diving_in_the_world, per se, it is fairly cheap and would be a hell of a fun couple of days, along with stuff like this.... I am thinking 1/2 in this region and 1/2 in Boracay. More info to follow!

Jesse and Yavon said...

I am sooo excited!!!