Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pukka Beach

Towards the tail end of our stay in Boracay we finally ventured off to the other side of the island. We kept saving it for a sunny day until we realized we weren't ever going to get a full one. To get to Pukka Beach, we just had to hop on the back of one of the many trikes driving around the island. A trike is a motorcyle with a little buggy attached to the side fitting anywhere from 1 to maybe 6 people in it. We paid the equivalent of about $2 for maybe a 10 or 15 minute ride. Destination: Pukka Beach. White Beach, on the main drag of the island was beautiful. The sand was like walking in baby powder it was so soft. Pukka Beach was a nice contrast to this. The whole beach was made up of worn down shells and corals. It was a shell collectors haven. I could have sat on the beach inspecting all the different shapes and sizes and colours for days on end. Pukka Beach was also almost completely deserted. Our first visit there we walked off to one end of the beach, and sat there totally undisturbed for the rest of the day. The water was warm and it was a little more sheltered from the winds, so it seemed a little calmer, though with a heavy under current.

Day one on Pukka Beach brought some unexpected sunshine and a lot of lazing about. We swam and sun tanned and just soaked up the beautiful sights. Garry and I spent as much time frolicking in the water as possible, it was so beautiful. On day two, there were 3 local fisherman who had our attention for ages. At first we watched from afar, but it seemed a LOT of work for very little results so we went in to investigate. The 3 men arrived on a small  boat with a net and they would unravel it on land, cast part of it out to sea, and then boat the other end of it out a little further. One guy would dive down with his mask and then slowly they would pull it to shore, sometimes catching a small fish but mostly just collecting coral and rocks. I chatted a bit with them and was brought over to their boat and in a secret compartment, proud as punch, one of the 3 showed me the afternoons' catch. Two little fish. But he seemed pleased with himselfso I was happy for them. We ended up calling it a day before they did so I have no idea how long they went at it for, but those were some patient and dedicated fishermen.

Here are some of the pictures from Pukka Beach.

In the back of a trike. 

So unsafe but the drivers daughter was adorable. 

Drivers co-pilot.

Smoothed out and softened shells and corals.

Three patient fishermen.

Catch of the day after hours of work.

Team work.

Our secret haven for the day, undisturbed.

Happy me.

Happy us.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Honeymooning in Boracay, Our Accomodation

No, I did not elope and spend my honeymoon in the Philippines without telling anyone (you can breath a sigh of relief now, Mom). But somehow we managed to reap the benefits of the honeymooners I guess we looked like.

I had reserved us dirt cheap accomodation online (I cannot STRESS how dirt cheap it was), just for our arrival on the island. I knew once we got there, it'd be easier to suss out where we wanted to be and what the going rates were. Upon arrival though, there wasn't a chance in hell I was laying my head where we were booked in. It wasn't that  horrific, I mean through my travels, I have done way worse! But for our first vacation together with Garry and I, arriving in Paradise, it just wasnt how I had pictured it. After a quick stroll on the beach we checked a few places out and found our first place to call home, Pito Huts.

Pito Huts

Pito Huts was decently priced, right on the beach and it looked the part of Paradise. We had a nice big hut, made of dark wood with everything inside outfitted in white (sheets, curtains, towels, lanterns). It was perfect. We were also directly on the beach strip where all the bars and restaurants were, so it was pretty convenient.

After a few days in Pito Huts we went in search of a place with a bit more space for us to chill in. This was when the weather started changing and we needed somewhere to take cover and possibly spend some rainy afternoons. Enter the Boracay Cottages. We had to reserve a cottage a few days ahead of time cause I guess they were a hot spot, and on the day of our reservation there was a problem. The one we booked had other occupants so, and here is where our luck began. We were upgraded to their honeymoon suite, free of charge. Now the honeymoon suites here were not really comparable to our western standards BUT for us, it was great. Two huge double beds (which a girlfriend DID point out it was odd to have 2 beds in a honeymoon suite), private shower room, separate bathroom, lots of space and of course, the piece de resistance, flourescent blue lights. Hahaha, the blue lights were a really nice touch, especially because they lit up the tacky blue palm tree mural on the wall nicely. We weren't complaining though. We had a huge balcony, fridge, coffee and tea, it suited it's purpose beautifully. After the first night in the homeymoon suite, the nice guy at the front desk said they didn't want to inconvenience us with switching rooms so we might as well just stay in the honeymoon suite. Um, okay, if we have to.

Next stop, the ASTORIA BORACAY. We stumbled across this place on one of our evening strolls, way at the end of the main drag. It was a small boutique style hotel, with less than 35 rooms and a beautiful property. There were staff milling about everywhere and bending over backwards to smile or help us out. We just wandered around to take a peak and then decided we HAD to stay there at least for a night on our anniversary. We spoke to an adorabley young and fresh kid with blue braces and really bad skin at the front desk. Again, he was bending over backwards, killing us with kindness. So back we came a few days later.

Astoria Boracay

When we checked in for our one night at the Astoria, Mike our front desk little friend was pleased to say their basic rooms (what we had reserved) were actually booked. So he took the liberty to upgrade us to a luxury suite. Um, okay! Things just kept getting better. The luxury suite was fantastic. The decor was bright and beautiful and it was fully stocked with anything we may need. We had a small kitchenette, enough space for a whole family, tropical welcome drinks served to us on arrival and the best part, we each got a complimentary pair of white flip flops. When you are a flip flop queen like me, this is a just like the cherry on top! Our suite opened up right onto the pool deck and we made ourselves very comfortable.

Welcome drinks

Basically within minutes of settling in I had made a decision that one night was definitely not going to cut it here. I called our sweet friend Mike and inquired on availability of the room for the next night. Ok, it was booked but he said he could squeeze us into a regular room no problem. Slight disappointment but honestly this place was so great that even the 'regular' rooms were heavenly. So we booked in.

Luxury Suite upgrade.

After about 24 hours of lapping up the luxury of the Boracay Astoria, we got a phonecall saying our next room was ready for us to move into. All packed up, I told Garry to wait and I ran to the front desk just to switch keys and get a new room number. Drum roll pleassssssssssssssse!

Didn't Mike have just the coyest little smile as I approached the front desk and when he saw me he lit up and proceeded to lead me up to the 3rd floor (all the while apologizing for making me climb up 3 whole flights of stairs, haha). He explained to me since it was my anniversary (I ever so conveniently slipped that into our conversation the day before while thanking him for the luxury room upgrade), he was upgrading us to the freaking Honeymoon Suite. And this was no Boracay Cottages ghetto honeymoon suite. This was the real deal. I almost peed my pants with excitement, honestly. Things like this really do bring me ridiculous joy and I was relishing in it! I ran down to tell Garry and within minutes there we were left to our own devices to spend the next 24 hours as honeymooners. Again.

The bed alone was almost bigger than our Korean apartment.

Amazing balcony, great view.

Without going into too much boring details, just check out the pictures. It was such a great hotel and the service was amazing. The best part was this kid Mike. He didn't know us from Harry, but he went totally out of his way to make sure we had a great stay. I loved it. It made me think of my brother Tom, who excelled in the hospitality industry and really took pride in his work. You could tell this guy just enjoyed what he was doing, and he was doing it for no other reason. I can't recommend this place enough. To anyone who is in the nieghbourhood of the Philippines, it is worth the trip to the Astoria. (I included a link at the bottom if anyone wants to check it out).

So that is the story of our accomodation in Boracay. If the day ever comes when Garry and I are off on our honeymoon, it'll be easy peasy, cause we've done it all before!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bits of Boracay

Welcome to White Beach

 To sum up 15 days of vacationing in Boracay would take me pages and pages and pages. I don't even know how to break it up into smaller posts. I guess I can start with just a quick overview. The island of Boracay is beautiful. It was much bigger than I expected and had lots to see and do on it. Most of my past island hopping in Asia has left me on smaller more remote islands like Koh Tao, Thailand, or Gili Trawangan, just off Bali in Indonesia. Boracay was similar but different. It had a small island feel to it but lots of selection in accommodation, restaurants and things to keep you busy. Usually I am content on a beach with just a book, my bikini and the odd drink. Unfortunately this was not so on this vacay. In Boracay, there were typhoons, and cyclones and tropical storms while we were there. It rained heavily and daily. Welcome to the rainy season in Asia.

The first few days we got there the temperatures were really hot, in the mid 30's and beautiful. World renown White Beach was calm and the waters were sparkling baby blue. Once the weather hit, the waves got bigger and bigger and spat up lots of gross things on the beach. There were days where the weather was so bad, there was no beach, the tide just stayed high. Luckily the temperatures were always high and the water always warm so the beaches were still littered with people. When we could, we hit the beach, but with the weather as it was we spent a lot of time trying to amuse ourselves. Drinks, food, music, cards and books, in no particular order were how we spent our time.

Food was a big one. We spoiled ourselves with the food there. After 10 months in Korea, I was pretty much ready for a change to ANY kind of cuisine just to shake it up a bit. I was interested in Phillipino cuisine and what it had to offer, but to be honest we indulged in all the authentic and delicious international food that was there on offer. It was so unlike Korea. Korea does Korean food and the occasional knock off Italian restaurant or Mexican place. On this tiny little island, we had everything! We enjoyed Mongolian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Hawaiian and Italian food (ooooh, the Italian food was amazing- homemade pasta and thin crusted pizza made in a wood burning stove!). Breakfasts get a whole category of their own because, again, this is something Korea does not understand. A greasy breakfast with eggs and homefries, bacon or sausage and toast is only attainable in my own kitchen in Korea and even then it's tough cause the supplies aren't always there. In Boracay we had every manner of breakfast you could dream of! It wasn't great for the bikini body but breakfast is one of my favorite meals so it was a welcome addition to the menu!

Another food indulgence was our own little set up of wine and cheese and salami. More things NOT readily available in Korea. We would buy mammoth avocados, a chunk of cheese and salami sliced for us at the local delicatessen, some wine, and off we went. Heavenly. Garry and I were both used to this being a staple in our diet and social lives at home and I can't begin to explain how much I miss it!

Ok, one last food bit. Mango shakes. Korea is not big on importing food stuff. If they don't grow it, it's usually not available (without a ridiculous price tag attached to it anyway). So the fresh tropical fruit there was amazing. Fruit salads took on a whole new dimension, as they do in the tropics. Mango shakes were definitely a highlight! No more food talk as I sit at my desk at 4pm after a lunch of kimchi, soup and rice. Just to clarify I really do enjoy most of the Korean foods here, they are just very repetitive and I miss all the other foods that used to make up my diet.

Scuba Diving. A bonus about diving is that even when the surface weather is rough, as soon as you submerge under water a few meters, things drastically calm down. Garry went on his first dive in Boracay and although the site wasn't as thrilling as I hoped it would be, he did get to experience the whole underwater world, and loved it. I did a small handful of dives and I was initially disappointed because the Philippines is known for good diving, but my last dive of the vacation made up for it. I went on a dive with just myself and the Dive Master and we dove a site called Camilla Wreck. It was a huge shipwreck and just off to the side, on the sandy bottom, we got to watch a gigantic marble sting ray. It was about 4 meters wide and I probably couldn't have wrapped my 2 hands around the diamter of its tail where it met it's body. It was huge. We watched until it eventually shot off and for a creature its size, it was out of eye sight within seconds. Truly amazing to witness. Then to the total opposite scale, nestled in fan coral, after 10 minutes of searching, we spotted 2 miniscule pygmy seahorse, a first for me. Not only was the wreck a beautiful dive filled with different types of fish, but we also spotted some pretty rare creatures. I was impressed.

Towards the end of our vacation we discovered a new beach on the other side of the island called Pukka Beach, but I am saving that for its very own blog entry. Like in most Asian vacation places the island was teaming with people offering massages and hair braiding and henna tattoos. Most of these are nothing but an annoyance but I am sucker for a massage, and when they're that cheap its hard not to concede. One more highlight was the sunset sails. Because of the clouds the sunset was usually hard to spot but being out on the catamarans, for less than 10 bucks an hour was a great way to kill time.

All in all the vacation was a hit. It was a beautiful island, and even with the so-so weather, we had a blast. Another fun part and actually a highlight was where we stayed but again, I'm saving that for another blog, so read on for more...

For now a sample of some photos of the things we saw, the places we went, the food we ate and people we met.

On our merry way to Boracay

Beach Bumming. I was made for this life.

Philippino Sunsets

Garry meets the underworld.

Drinks, music and cards.

Kicking his butt in crazy eights :)

Beautiful White Beach

Happy Feet

Wine & cheese = Happiness

Yum Yum Pop

Tropical Fruit Salad