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Travel Story by Amanprit Johal

  Basking in Boracay

Out of this world

Few can argue that the tiny island in central Philippines known as Boracay is nothing less than spectacular. With a 3 kilometre long sugar white beach, some of the lowest prices in the world and perhaps best of all plenty of good ole Filipino charm and hospitality, Boracay is truly a wonder to behold. Anyone who has been there will tell you that Boracay, or 'Bora' as the locals call it, is the paradise island of the Philippines.

Georgie and I arrived at Clark not having the faintest idea what to do but after much soul searching on where to go, we settled for beautiful Boracay. But it's quite a route to take to paradise; we had to get a bus to Manila and in no time, we found ourselves booking ourselves on the next flight to Kalibo. This domestic flight was a little more expensive than our international flight from Borneo to Philippines but hey, you only live once!

Seeing that we were in Boracay on a budget, our nirvana accommodation with plush surroundings was cheap as chips and for that, you get a damp smelling room and a shower that smells of rotten eggs and cat's urine. We're not complaining though as we were always outdoors. It turns out that we were lucky as we had just missed the fierce easterly typhoon so there was balmy weather all round while we were there.

A 'must do' would be a boat trip around the island. There is something magical about taking a boat trip in an idyllic setting. It can be even more relaxing than just sitting on the beach all day. Also, you get to see a lot more and feel the breeze ripping through your body and watching the crystal-clear waters glide by. I have been fortunate enough to take boat trips to many different and picturesque places that most people would call paradise. Boracay Island in the Philippines is no different and my boat trip led to discoveries that I would never have uncovered otherwise.

We left from boat station 2 on White Beach and we were off to explore Boracay. Starting out in the scorching hot sun late in the morning it was nice to feel the motor rumble and the breeze pick up to cool us off. We started weaving in and out of the assorted atolls that surround the island and finally came to anchor at a national park preserve. This is located on the southeastern tip of the island and is supposed to provide the best snorkelling in Boracay.

As I geared up to jump into the water below, I took a moment to admire the scenery of the other side of the island that I had not yet seen. After having one of those moments of clarity where you realise just how lucky you are to be able to do this type of thing, I hopped in and took in the underwater kingdom.

The scenery was breathtaking as our boat sped across the length of the island, and as we turned the corner I saw these cavernous caves that occupy Boracay's northern tip. The caves looked as if someone had strategically placed them there for maximum effect but it was clear that they were natural features. They looked perfect when viewed above the shimmering aquamarine waters.

The caves were vast and deep and provided the perfect shade to cool our roasting bodies for a few minutes while taking in the panoramic views of distant islands that seemed to go on forever. To my surprise these caves were very clean. There was no pollution or any garbage lying around like in most caves that I have visited because of irresponsible tourists. These caves were pristine and certainly served their purpose well.

The last stop of the island hopping trip before the sunset was Puka. The first time I saw Puka beach, I felt my heart almost fly. If there is paradise on earth, this is it, I told myself. Blissfully deserted, Puka beach has fine white sand and millions of the world's famous puka shells.

Dining in Bora, you are spoilt for choice, from basic longga-burgers to haute cuisine and everything in between. Eating on the island can be challenging due only to the fact that there are dozens of places to choose from, all offering incredibly delicious foods. One example is 'True Food', an Indian restaurant with trippy mood lighting, fluid lights on the ceiling and the walls just seem to transport you to another world.

On various nights, when the drinks during 'Happy Hour' (e.g. 32p for beers, 49p for rum and coke and 1 quid for cocktails) are rolling in, the open-front club (and its adjacent beach tent area) is not overflowing with dancing, sweaty bodies. Instead, it's the place for a soothing, after-hours liberation and some R&R. The vibe pervading the club, where the laidback DJ spins recent but obscure techno, is a less throbbing rave scene and more the kind of tranquil haven that you may crave after a day in the surf and turf. Hip and serene. And of course, Boracay's buzz, there is Cocomangas on the island's main road. Wooden platforms in front of the bar provide easy access for the seriously party-minded or amateur exhibitionists. Bar girls in fluorescent bikinis shake their stuff, inviting company from the patrons. Known to attract big, lumbering Americans and other expats, it's the epitome of island melting pots, sink down into the (suspiciously dank) throw pillows on the sidelines and order a drink - they come in big old mason jars with a straw. It's a hoot! They have a 15 shot marathon drinking contest and a wall of fame for the winners, well those who survive anyway.

I have seen a crazy cockerel (rooster) fight, where the winner lives to fight another day and the loser ends up on someone's kitchen table. We've also been listening to the worst karaoke in the world (I think Simon Cowell would have a field day making a Pop Idol show here!).

After sunset, the beachfront of Boracay turns into a romantic, stylish place with dinner tables that are decorated with flowers and candles, and illuminated by Chinese lanterns in the trees. On our last night, Georgie and I jokingly toasted our mango-samba cocktails to 'our honeymoon'.

When we arrived at Panay Island to catch our internal flight to Manila, there is no formal port which means you have to get out of the boat, step into the sea and walk to the beach. There was some drama as I got out of the small boat; I lost my balance and ended up falling into the salty sea with my backpack on! Oh and I have got a nasty purple/blue bruise on my arm as I tried to cling onto the boat for dear life, but failed miserably! So I looked like a drowned rat with soaking shorts and a wet backpack. I have no option but to leave them damp so it means a whole pile of washing needs to be done. Great(!)

On our hectic journey through murky Manila to cheesy Clark, catching the buses gave me flashbacks of South America. As we had a morning flight we decided to stay near the airport only to realise that we were clearly in a red-light district! Just outside our tacky hotel, there was a line of 'clubs' with inviting and revealing women standing outside them and signs showing that V.I.P rooms weere available for rental for 3 hours. Many drunken white old men lurked about in the streets, surrounded by several stunning Filipino young girls. That reminds me, in Boracay men were lying on the beach trying not to look like they were looking for or need a wife.

Not only Boracay is a great place to meet people from all walks of life, but searching the globe for pure shores, sapphire seas, sacred sunsets and perfect line of coconut trees in an attempt to attain nirvana, I have come to the conclusion that Boracay is a gem of an island.

Click on photo to enlarge

Island hopping  Local hospitality  Sundown

Date Submitted: 02 Apr 2007

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