This was our first vacation outside of Korea. We were really looking forward to having a holiday together after all the fun we had on Jeju Island that summer. It was the end of September and Catherine and I had been living in my apartment in Busan for only a couple of weeks. We purchased tickets from Seoul to Manila because we found a great deal on them. So all we had to do was take a direct, five hour bus, from Busan to Incheon airport. I know five hours seems like a long time, but when you can get from one end of the country to the other in that time, it doesn’t seem so bad! It also helps that Korea has super clean buses with big recline-able leather seats!
Here I am getting all nice and cozy on the bus ride to Incheon Airport
After our bus we boarded the plane to Manila. The flight was only 4 hours. Hahah, so if you think about it, it took us longer to get to Seoul – on a bus – than it did to fly to Manila. That’s Asia for you! We landed in Manila with only our hostel address on hand, and it was past midnight. We had some difficulty finding someone who knew where our hostel was, and the ride there seemed a little dodgy. We were slightly nervous! Fortunately, the area was nestled into a gated community, which was comforting to see at 1am, when pulling up to your hostel.
If you have never traveled before in South East Asia, let me tell you, there is something interesting and scary about pulling up to your hostel. If are on a limited schedule, or have other flights to catch, you book ahead of time and look at some photos of the place before arriving. Unfortunately, the website may only show one room (ie. the best room that they have), but you can never be sure that you will get THAT room (even if you ask for it when you make the reservation). This is especially true if you arrive at 1am and most of the rooms are already taken. Luckily the outside of our hostel was great. The rooms were not too fancy but we had cable TV and a large queen size bed.
The Green Mango Inn
We arrived so late in the evening that all we wanted to do was head straight to our room and go to bed. The next day we planned to buy a ticket to Caticlan Airport, which is where we needed to fly to get to Boracay Island. The next morning we woke up and I was able to use the computer at the hostel to book our ticket.
I was trying to book at ticket for later that same day because:
1. We were really excited to get to paradise.
2. We didn’t plan or scope out anything in Manila to do.
As I tried to book the ticket, I was informed that we weren’t allowed to book a ticket for the same day of travel, even if we went to the airport to just buy our tickets. WHAT!?!? That didn’t make sense. So Catherine and I just booked the tickets for the next day and looked at each other…
“So, We’re in Manila! What are we going to do today?”
We asked the receptionist at the hostel for some tips, and she was very helpful. Unfortunately our guest house was not near any of the sights that interested us. However, we did find out that we were not too far from the 3rd largest mall in Asia, and the 4th largest in the world.
Catherine and I love to travel like locals so we made our way out to the main street near our hostel and we jumped into a Tricycle (motorcycle with a sidecar attached). They are great for short trips. We didn’t realize how far we were from the main street because the night before it was pitch black when we arrived. The price for the tricycle was no more than 3 pesos though. From there we walked to a “bus stop”. They do have buses in Manila, but almost everyone rides Jeepneys. It’s fun to hop on and off them. When you get in the back end, you just pass your money to the front, and it is given to the driver. (It’s like buying a hotdog at a baseball game. You pass your money down through complete strangers and then they pass the hotdog down to you.)
The price to ride the Jeepney was about 4 pesos each. They usually drive on a fixed route so you just jump on similar as you would a bus. We met a lot of interesting people and faces on the Jeepney. Each person stared at us for a bit, and then they would give a big smile. This led us to believe that not many white people get on these things… hahaha!
The SM Mall of Asia
At the SM Mall of Asia we took advantage of “being in civilization”. Not that in Korea we lacked much, but we were able to do a lot of shopping for our trip. The shopping here was amazing. We were NOT able to find the these things in Korea before we had left. Catherine and I found flip-flops (plakkies), new beach clothes, sunglasses, and a new bathing suit. We had some pizza for lunch, and then explored the mall for a few hours.
Considering that we were going on a beach holiday… we really didn’t bring much. We had planned to get what we needed along the way. We were all geared up now and ready to go. We headed back to the hostel and had a nice quiet evening indoors watching TV. We had a 8am flight in the morning and we didn’t want to miss it, nor did we want to do another ride through the dodgy neighbourhood at night. We would save the adventures for the island.
During check-in at the airport, I usually try to get a seat on the exit row. I have somewhat long legs, therefore I like to get as much extra room as possible, especially on an Asian airline. Most Asians are shorter, so they don’t need as much leg space as I do. I asked the counter agent for 2 seats on the Emergency exit row. She said they had two available so I was really excited. They were also row #1. WOW! Did they upgrade us to first class!?!?
It was pretty cool to just walk out to the runway and climb up the dropdown steps into the plane. As we headed all the way to row 1 we noticed that the first row was facing towards the rear of the plane, and that even though they were in an exit row, they were also facing the row behind them. So for a little over an hour Catherine and I would have to sit backwards on the plane and have two people to stare at the whole time.
WOW, this might be awkward!!
Not to mention how sick we were both about to get from flying backwards on the plane. Catherine couldn’t handle it the whole way. She had to go to bathroom to compose herself. She kept in her breakfast, but needed a break from flying backwards. It makes you sicker than you would think!!
The view of the islands below was incredible!
There is one airport, officially named Godofredo P. Ramos Airport, but more popularly known as Caticlan Airport. Only small aircrafts are allowed to land on the 810 meter runway. The were also strict with our weight allowance at check-in, no more than 15 kgs per bag. As we were landing and exiting the plane we were so excited to be in paradise. Well, almost there!
Or so we thought…
How wrong we were!
Everyone on the plane was pretty much going to Boracay so we were able to just follow the herds. The airport was tiny, sweaty, and completely unorganised. When we walked from the runway to the “terminal”, or what was supposed to resemble a terminal, and we picked up our bags. Where? Off the ground! Yes, our bags were all in a heap on the ground. We then headed to the port. We knew that we had to take a boat from Caticlan Airport to Boracay, but we weren’t quite sure where to go from here.
We made our way to the Caticlan Jetty Port. It was only a 10 minute walk. This port is along the Strong Republic Nautical Highway, and serves as a gateway to Boracay Island and Roxas, Oriental Mindoro. We walked to the ticket booth and bought two sets of tickets. One to enter, and one to get on the boat. We moved 5 feet and then immediately had to hand over one of the tickets. I thought that was silly, but just kept walking in line to the boat that would take us to Boracay island.
We were told to board the Crab Boat and put on a orange life vest. The boat filled up and everyone crammed into this tiny thing which was rocking side-to-side.
The two love birds are so close to paradise.
The boat ride is about 45 minutes from the Caticlan Jetty Port to Boracay island.
As we pulled into the dock, everyone was really excited to get off. We were seated near the back, so we had to wait a little longer than most.
We disembarked the boat and starting walking towards some Tricycles. We were going to just tell them to take us to White Beach. We hadn’t booked accommodation yet, because we were told that since it wasn’t peak travel season we could get a good discount if we walked around and inquired about rooms.
There were several travel agents waiting to greet us and trying to offer us a hotel to stay in. When we travel and we don’t really know where we are going, we are pretty cautious to ask people for help because we don’t want to be taken advantage of. After saying no to a couple people asking to help us, there was a sweet older woman there that asked us if we knew where we were staying. We looked at each other with look of approval, and agreed to jump into a tricycle with her. She wanted to help us so we thought that we would let her try and find us a good deal.
The trip to White Beach would be about 20 minutes on the tricycle, but the smell of ocean air and the wonderful scenery around us distracted us the whole way. We loved the island-village feel before we even got near to the coastline.
Family of FOUR ~ The more you can fit on a motorcycle the better!
This is kind of the main road to get to White Beach. The Tricycles can’t access the roads that take you all the way to the accommodation so they dropped us off and we had to walk for about 15 minutes to get to the beach. Catherine and I didn’t have many preferences as to where we stayed as long as it was ON the beach! Not walking distance to the beach. Nor a room with a (distant) “sea view”. We wanted to feel the sand in-between our toes as we left our room!! That is our guide in front of me, carrying her colorful umbrella. She is not using it because it might rain at any second, but since she works in the sun everyday, she doesn’t want to become too tanned. This is amusing (and ironic) to us because that was exactly the opposite to what we wanted!! We came here to get some lots of color, but the locals try to avoid it. This is very common in Asia. Browner skin means you have worked in the fields – or outside – and therefore implies you are poor.
White skin implies that you have an office job and you are wealthy.
Well then ~ We don’t mind looking poor!
BRING ON THE SUN!!
We finally got to the beach!
IT TOOK OUR BREATHE AWAY!
We told our travel agent to give a second and let us just enjoy this moment…
The beach was everything that we had hoped and heard that it would be.
Soft sand. Crystal blue water. Palm trees.
Could this be real??
Our private bungalow facing the beach
The guesthouse that we ended up finding was called La Reserve. We arranged a great little bungalow and the privacy was amazing. Due to it being off-season, our guide was able to negotiate a deal for us. She was really helpful, and even tried to refuse our tip when she was leaving! We insisted. She had been a huge help to us.
We had our own private bathroom, cable TV, and a minifridge. What more do we need?! We didn’t plan on spending much time in the room, but it had air-conditioner so that was perfect for sleeping in on some days.
After check-in we changed into our swim suits and headed for the beach.
After five hours on a bus,
a four hour flight,
another hour flight,
a 45 minute ride on the Crab boat,
a 20 minute ride on a Tricycle,
and a 15 minute walk from the main street to our guesthouse…
we had finally arrived!!
It was worth every second it took to get there!
We left Busan on a Saturday morning and it was already Monday afternoon. We lost a couple days in Manila, but we still had over a week left in paradise. We could not wait to spend our next week soaking up this island.
This is the life!!!
More on our Boracay Vacation coming soon….