Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kicking Off 2012 in Boracay

I ended up going to Boracay earlier this month on a whim because the New Yorker's plan of going to El Nido didn't quite work out, and I was itching to get out of Manila myself (one of many reasons). I really didn't think the New Yorker was serious when she casually mentioned she had wanted to go to Palawan or Boracay. I obviously thought wrong.

A week later, we were booking a suite at the Astoria Boracay Resort and scrounging the internet for a cheaper deal on flights to Caticlan because they were extra expensive in lieu of the upcoming Lunar New Year. I found myself at NAIA Terminal 2 on a Friday, catching a supposed earlier flight to Caticlan at 9:40am, only for the plane to arrive at our original departure time of 10:40am. Fail *face palm*.

After the usual ceremonial pomp of getting to the actual island - plane, van, ferry, and then van again - we finally arrived at the Astoria Boracay Resort off Station 1. I usually stay with their neighbor, Milflores de Boracay, which is a smaller boutique hotel that has really nice rooms for as low as P2,300 all year round. With each room comfortably fitting up to 4 people, they're always fully booked, so if you do plan on staying there, I suggest you book at least a month in advance (I've already reserved a suite for myself for the New Year, and it's only January).

We booked a De Luxe Suite for two days and were welcomed by the friendly receptionists who were ready with cool glasses of dalandan juice. I love the Santorini-inspired hotel with its white-washed walls, cerulean blue accent pieces, and the nature-inspired furniture. The focal point when you enter the hotel is the pool, with its inviting aqua blue water tempting you to take a dip, the leaf-shape lounge chairs and poolside hammocks the perfect spot to just snooze and forget about the rest of the world.

The view from the third storey was nothing much to look at, but the suite itself was so cozy we actually didn't leave the room for most of our first day there. We were also cramming to finish our respective workloads for the rest of the week so we could make time to enjoy our self-proclaimed long weekend, the scattered rain showers seeming to strengthen our resolve not to lie out on the beach that afternoon. What we didn't like about the Astoria was the flimsy Wi-Fi connection. Working remote is hard enough as it is, but working remote with the wi-fi failing every five minutes makes you want to throw your laptop out the window.

We moved to Sur Boracay Beach Resort afterwards, since the website looked promising. For paying almost the same price as the Astoria, Sur was a letdown, yet we ended up staying here for three days. On their website, Sur looked really new and clean, with a touch of boheme. What we found ourselves in was a cheap room with a hard double bed, itchy blankets, and a funny smelling bathroom. We had to get another single bed brought up (again, we got stuck on the third floor), which was even more uncomfortable than the rock-hard mattress of the double bed that was already in the room.

The New Yorker tried to move to the Two Seasons, but all they had available was the honeymoon and family suites. Mierda. The guy at the reception area eventually moved us to a bigger room when we extended our stay by another day (with two double beds this time), and realized we could've paid the same price for a bigger room from the start, it just never crossed his mind to ask if we were interested. Ugh.

I like Sur's breakfast buffets a lot better that the one at Astoria, though. It's pretty simple, but they always had piping hot soup and good quality bread (which is important for me, since I'm not a rice-ivore) with butter and an assortment of jams, as well as an omelette station. The buffet at Astoria had more variety (at least two soups, fresh fruit, taters, and a waffle station), but you could barely enjoy your brekkie with all the flies sneaking in licks at your food and buzzing around your table. They should really do something about that. Another plus for Sur is that their menu selections are quite affordable, especially when compared to their neighbors (I'm looking at you, Discovery Suites!).

We didn't do any of the tourist activities like getting henna tattoos, hair braids, or walking around the ocean floor like marine astronauts, since we had already done all of those things the last couple of times we visited White Beach. Our days were mostly spent lazing on lounge chairs and sprawled out on the sand working on our tan, people watching, and cooling off in the clear Boracay waters. I would've wanted to try my hand at kitesurfing, but the water the week we were there was just too flat to get any decent air in. We had also initially planned on going on a sunset sail our last day there, but by the time the guy we had talked to came back for us, we had already gotten lazy and opted to stay on the shore with our Jonah's shakes.

The last time I had been this dark was when I was 10-years-old, training as part of the school swim team in Dubai. After moving to the Philippines in 1997, my mestiza-ness kind of took over and I'd never really brown, no matter how hard I'd try, but instead turn lobster red for a day and that was kinda it. Thanks to the New Yorker's super secret tanning techniques, I'm now a nice shade of caramel.

The pièce de résistance of our Boracay trip were the sunsets. The sunsets in Boracay look different every day - ranging from a plesant pinkish-orange hue, to a rainbow of green, blue, pink and purple, to a fiery red and orange - it's the only time of the day where everyone stops what they're doing to simply marvel at the beauty of nature.

We didn't really party or drink during our trip. This city escape was all about relaxing, baking ourselves into a golden brown, long dinner conversations, and being at peace with the world. I heard the Boracay song being played during dinner at Fridays and haven't been able to get it out of my head since.

Starting my year off mucking around Boracay just made me realize how much I've missed the beach and how plonking around in the water gives me an incredible sense of happiness and a feeling of oneness with nature. I'm looking forward to going back later on in the year and take pictures of the last beautiful sunset of 2012 from the shores of White Beach.