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Boracay – The island of wind, money, Russians and Koreans

white beach sign

Cheeky free photo before JM got caught!

There are two options to fly into Boracay, Caticlan airport which is the closest airport to the island and Calibo 2 hours away. The latter being 5 times cheaper when we booked the flights and therefore the route we took. We arrived later than planned. You should always expect delayed flights in the Philippines and we decided to stay in Calibo for the night. We are so glad we did.

Calibo is famous for its incredible Ati-Atihan festival at the end of January, the week after we arrived. Rehearsals were in full swing.  Different marching bands were playing music all the way around the main town square, around 6 groups in total. It was an incredible atmosphere. We really wanted to make the festival but we didn’t have time so the rehearsal was a little consolation. The noise and music they made was awesome. I even got to hold the lead flag for the band. Slightly embarrassing but fun! We even walked past workshops making the costumes and head pieces for the dancers. They were definitely working overtime. They looked exhausted. All the costumes were so embellished and the detail so intricate. Everything was handmade. They were all going to look amazing! The town had a great atmosphere and we slept for 3 euros each. It was a great stopover before Boracay.

Festival Ati-Atihan 2016 Kalibo from tool-trip on Vimeo.

The next morning we took the bus to Caticlan. We reckon it was the most rapid and empty bus we’ve taken on our travels so far. Paradise! When we arrived at the port to catch the Bangka to Boracay the craziness and pestering started.

white beach turquoise

Boracay or Disneyland made in Philippines

To get to Boracay you need to take a 10 minute boat ride to Cambas, on the south coast of Boracay. To do this you need to buy the boat ticket then move along the counter to another desk to pay the environmental fee, before moving along to the next desk and pay the terminal fee! Why not just combine it all and pay one ticket!? Bangkas go backwards and forwards nonstop all day, maybe 20-30 of them. It’s like Disneyland. When we arrived on the island we had no idea where we were going. We knew the famous, ‘most beautiful beach in the world’ White Beach was on the west coast and the kitesurfing, Bullabog Beach on the east. That was it. It was scorching hot and 1000s of people everywhere! White beach is split into 3 areas to help us tourists out. Station 1, 2 and 3. We decided to head station 3.

banana boats

Tourist hotspot

The closest to the port and there we hoped to find a cafe with Wi-Fi and get a bit organised. When we arrived I threw a bit of a tantrum. Coming from the paradise of Southern Leyte to the heat and carnage of Boracay really hit me. Sorry JM! We asked around for accommodation and people just laughed in our faces when we told them our budget. We couldn’t even find a café/bar with cheapish drinks to check out Wi-Fi. I wanted to leave the place as soon as possible and if one more person asked us if we wanted a boat trip I was going to scream!!! We ended up having an expensive drink just to connect to some Wi-Fi.

Boracay on a budget = Hard work!

We found the name of a potential cheap hostel, Trafalgar Gardens, and JM left me in the shade feeling sorry for myself with all the bags to check it out. 20 minutes later he came back with thumbs up. It was just around the corner and he had managed to negotiate taking a tiny room apparently for 1 person but we could fit two for one night. The lovely owner then reserved a standard double for the following two nights for us. Yes!!! For 10 euros a night, my spirits started to lift and I stopped acting like a spoilt brat. The room was tiny but sufficient and ideally located for both White Beach, and only a 20 minute walk to Bullabog Beach. We took our beach stuff and headed straight out for a swim to cool down and refresh.

soph white beachjm white beach

White beach really is incredible. If you can look past the 1000s of tourists and the shops and restaurants lining it you can imagine how beautiful it once was. On a positive note now, it is probably one of the best places to people watch in the world. From Koreans wearing brightly coloured lifejackets whilst stand-up paddleboarding in 1m of water, to huge Russians who have spent their lives on steroids doing press-ups on the beach in speedos,  and to westerners just on the island to party, spending the days burning like a crisp and looking like nicely boiled lobsters all the time, it’s all pretty comical!

BOOOOOOOOO!

We headed over to Bullabog beach for lunch and to check whether our forecast was unfortunately right. No wind for our 3 day stay. Pffff. Bullabog beach really was The Spot!! Jeez! An immense area of flat turquoise water! Unfortunately the forecast was right, the wind known to be constant and reliable had failed to turn up for us. 8 knots and 2 kites 18m and a 20m were the only ones in the water. A lot of kites lined the beach but there was a lot of looking, watching and waiting rather than doing.

kites bulabog

Waiting and waiting

Thank you El Niño

We spoke to a few locals and they said  was really affecting the spot this year. It had been hugely frustrating for everyone this season. Not only is the wind weak but also in a different direction. The direction expected at the end of the season in April not January. Typical!!! The forecast for the next few days showed a slight improvement and maybe we could get out but we weren’t too motivated to rent a huge kite for a few hours in light winds. A huge disappointment but hopefully we could do it somewhere else along our adventure.

bulabog beach

Please wind, please!

After an afternoon chatting with, and watching the kitesurfers we headed back across to White Beach to watch the famous sunset. Beautiful, but again everything was a little chaotic. 100s of people boarding sailing bangkas to watch the sunset out at sea, 15 parasails up in the air being towed behind powerful speed boats, restaurants and bars blaring their karaoke music and 1000s of people doing the same as us, sitting on the beach. It was quite a sight! Normally it would be annoying for us because we always complain when there are too many tourists, but we loved here. It’s was so over the top it was funny. 1000s upon 1000s of Koreans, Chinese and Russians would normally be my worst nightmare but it was great comedy for 3 days.

press ups russian

Russians alert!

The following day we walked all of White Beach up to Diniwid Beach, then we headed straight east across the island and round the east headland, ending back down in Bullabog. The walk was great. After beautiful Diniwid which is round a small headland and in a bay north of White Beach we walked through where we guessed the locals born and bred on the island lived. The locals seemed a little less happy compared to the Filipinos we had met elsewhere, but what do you expect after what’s happened to their island?

selfie white beach

The dream team!

After passing through the villages we were back to tourist land. Go karting tracks, buggy racing, zorbing, zipwires and ski lifts, golf courses and a shooting range. Crazy! We went to check out the viewpoints overlooking Bullabog Beach.

ilig iligan beach

Of course you had to pay, it’s Boracay, and so we abandoned that plan and tried to find an alternative viewpoint free for us poorpers! We stumbled across a building site, or what looked like a building site, and were told we could go up for the view. As we got the top we discovered it was a guesthouse with 3 Russians sunbathing in speedos. We immediately apologised disturbing them but they were extremely rude to us. If a Russian is rude to me and I’m not on the boat where I can’t say anything and have to show respect, I’m going to be rude back!! I think it put them back in their place and they quickly said we could take some pictures after all. Arrogant so and sos!

Boracay’s famous Sunset

After our little encounter we continued on and ended back in Bullabog as always. Still no wind! Well the smallest kite in the water was a 15m and he was struggling. Maybe tomorrow was all everyone was saying. They are very positive at this spot! We stayed again for a good few hours watching the world go by before another sunset on White Beach.

white beach people

boats white beach

On our final day in Boracay we decided to explore some more beaches up north but the far north of the island. We managed to flag down a local tricycle after half an hour of people trying to charge us 150 pesos.

balls north beach

We managed to get to Yapak village for 25 pesos each. The village was very local which we loved and was neighbouring the beautiful Puka Beach; a long stretch of white sand on the northern tip of the island. Apart from the nuisance of being asked if we wanted a sunbed every 50m it was paradise.

diniwig boats

We spent a couple of hours here walking, taking pictures and swimming. We then walked back to the village and headed in an easterly direction to Ilig Iligan Beach. A 15 minute walk later, we arrived to another beautiful, empty beach. The water was a little rougher and dirtier than others, but there were little islands to snorkel around and it had more character.

puka sign

puka boat

puka beach

Away from everyone

Two San Miguels later we were back walking to Yapak (no connecting roads at the top) and jumped onto a tricycle back to Bullabog for a late lunch. After the saltiest omelette ever and the slowest service, normal in the Philippines, we watched as the wind slowing increased to 13 knots. Still too light for us to part with our money and rent some kit.

selfie puka

San Miguel + a beach all to ourselves!

A little disappointed but more so because JM hasn’t kited in 3 months, we went to see our final Boracay sunset and splash out on a little cocktail. Fresh mango daiquiri for me, mojito Boracay style for JM. As we finished our drinks, a small but loud band walked along the beach in front of us banging out some great beats. They were brilliant and very similar to those in Calibo. Apparently Boracay has their own festival at a similar time to the Ati-Atihan festival, but on a much smaller scale.

sunset cocktail

boat sunset

Everyday sunset on Boracay. Not bad

Eating out in Boracay was never simple or straightforward either. Our meal on the last night was just that. Normally in the Philippines they’ll provide you with a menu, and when you finally manage to order because the service is so slow, they tell you they don’t have what you want. You’ll order something else and, “sorry mam, sir, we don’t have than either”. JM and I now ask straight after we are handed a menu, what do you have? It saves a little time. When you eventually get your food and you ask for a chicken dish for example, you are either served chicken bones with no meat on or just raw chicken. If you are unhappy with your food then that stumps them completely. They don’t know what to do and they shake their head and say sorry, but don’t actually do anything about it. If you are lucky they then either over charge you, or your given the wrong change at the end of the night.  It’s always fun in Boracay and a lot of other places in the Philippines!!

People watching capital of the world!

jm water

To sum up our experience, Boracay is a place we would only ever come again to to kitesurf. The spot was incredible and just needed another 10 more knots and a slight change in direction and we could stay for weeks. If you don’t like rich Koreans, Chinese and Russians don’t come, and if you want good food – don’t come. However, the beaches are beautiful, especially the overly crowded white beach. You have the option of escaping from everyone on the smaller beaches and resorts in the north and the people-watching is out of this world. It doesn’t at all represent life in the Philippines but It’s generally really good fun for a few days.

ilig iligan beach sand

Bam no one!

diniwig jm and soph

boracay sign2boracay sign1

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