Showing posts with label beaches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beaches. Show all posts

Friday, April 27, 2012

Backpacking To Bolinao

The Plan
It all started with an impulsive idea a few days before holy week.  I decided we were going on a backpacking adventure to Bolinao with the kids after an acquaintance mentioned she was from that province and that it wasn’t  difficult  nor costly to go there.   So we packed our bags, threw caution to the wind, and left two days after the idea entered my head. I figured how difficult could it be, since we traveled often to Baguio along the same route and which is even farther.  So I had it all planned out to travel at midnight, get some zzzzs in the bus and arrive there by early dawn and start the day in the beach.  Spend a few days, enjoying the water and sand, reading a book, writing a bit, take some nice shots, spend some quality bonding time with the kids. That was the plan in my mind.

The Reality
Now here is what actually happened. So we packed our bags, hailed a taxi to bring us to the 5-Star bus station an hour before the midnight trip so we don’t have to rush.  When we got there, the bus --- the final trip for the day---was already full and was about to leave.  The next trip was at 5am the next day.  So we took the trip sitting by the aisle in plastic chairs for the next 3 hours, trying to focus on the movie being shown instead of whining and grumbling.  There was a kind man who gave up his seat for the younger kids  with us.  At least that cheered me up a bit.  And three hours wasn’t too bad or long a wait.  When we got to Pangasinan, people started getting off.  So we were able to transfer to better seats at least an hour before reaching our destination.

When we reached Bolinao, the farthest of  part of Pangasinan,  at 4am we waited at the bus station for our contact to arrive. I discovered that the Victory bus station and 5-Star bus station were almost beside each other, so either bus service could be used for Bolinao, Pangasinan destination.  Two hours have passed and she wasn’t around yet so we decided to continue without her. It wasn’t mind-boggling to get around as there was a  huge map in the bus station that indicated resorts, their locations and contact numbers if you want to ask about rental rates. Thanks to the friendly canteen owner in the bus station who recommended we go to Cabrera Cottages  18 km away, we were able to decide where to go and how to get there. She helped us hire a tricycle for P200 to bring us to Patar. 

It was a refreshing morning as we took the trike trip. Upon seeing the beach, my mood got better. So we settled in a cottage fronting the beach for the next two days. The bamboo cottage offered minimal comforts with a mattress, a light bulb, and a fan which barely reached everyone.  That was tolerable. But what was a negative was the common bathroom area that was somewhat clean but you would prefer to rush out as soon as you are done. And the late night sing-alongs at full volumes  that went on  through the night.  I don’t know how we managed to sleep eventually.

The Good and the not so Good
The mornings made up for the warm nights as the breeze and the water were cool and refreshing to the skin.  The view was uplifting and the rhythmic waves were soothing to the mind and soul.  The soft sand and clear waters in the day made up for the not-too-comfortable nights.  I would walk and sit around the beach at night for an hour or so by myself,   saying a short prayer and appreciating the sight of the star-filled night sky along with the music of the waves before I went to sleep.

My kids easily made friends with the other vacationers. Our friendly cook named Nandy served us specially cooked dishes of rice and veggies for lunch and dinner and hot water for our cocoa and my coffee 3-in-1 packs for the morning.  It was a budget trip so I passed the market to get some supplies before we headed for the beach which was quite a distance from the town.  We came at the right time because  when we were about to leave, two days after, which was a Maundy Thursday, the crowd started coming in.  The empty space was filled with parked cars and the place was buzzing with people by the afternoon. Some people could not be accommodated anymore.

Happily Ever After
People were kind and considerate, unbelievably trusting compared to the attitudes in Manila, when it comes to cash.  I made the mistake of assuming that there would be easy access to ATMs  should I need more money.  Horrors, there was only one bank in town that had an ATM where I could get cash from after 5pm and it was not working.  The next one was an hour’s bus trip away at Alaminos, the more popular area because of  the Hundred Islands tourist site.  So my mind was racing: . . .what are my options now?  At first, I  intended to wait  for the only ATM in the area to go online for as long as it took.   When it was not yet working after over an hour, I made a deal with the bus conductor. I asked if he could advance me some cash until we reach Alaminos on our way home where I can get cash from an ATM to pay him back.  To cut the long story short, I was able to pay my dues to the trike driver, my cook, and the bus fare due to the kindness, trust and patience of the people of Bolinao.  So aside from the beautiful beach, it was the warm welcome of the people that made me decide to come back more often in the future.  Now I know how to prepare for the next visit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

BORACAY: A Feast for the Eyes (Circa 2004)

“I shall return” was what I said to myself as my boat pulled away from the shore of the beach famed for its white, powdery sand. My fourth trip to Boracay was no less fascinating than my three previous visits in March 1994, October 1998 and May 2001. Any normal beach lover like myself would fall in love instantly at the sight of this dream-like beach. It’s like your screensaver or post card coming to life. If I had my way, I would go to Boracay every three months because I just can’t get enough of the place. Unfortunately, I have neither the luxury of time nor money to do so.

My adventure began with the friendly exchange of greetings with the airline employees as I checked in my black, compact luggage (which contained only the basic essentials such as bathing suit, shorts, shirts, sunblock and mojos). As usual, I would request for a window seat to savor the majestic view of the land and body of water below from a bird’s eye view. As I stepped into the plane, I felt sheepish when I realized that most of the seats in this 19-seater aircraft were located near the window; and the middle seats had easy access to both window views. After I buckled my seatbelt, I said a short prayer --- a standard procedure of mine before a flight (especially when riding a small plane).

The weather cooperated without a grumble so there wasn’t much turbulence to and from Boracay unlike the stormy week before. I prayed that that the storm would end before my trip the following week as I booked my tickets and accommodation. I guess Somebody up there really cares that I have a great time as the sun shone on my weekend, well most of the time anyway. After alighting from the plane and going through the inspection line, the guests proceeded to a waiting bus that took us from the airport to the pier. From here, we took a short, exhilarating boat ride to our destination. I was surprised to find that I was the only guest in my resort this weekend so I had the boat trip to myself. My rare VIP-feeling moment . . . and it took more than 15 minutes too.

Land Ho!
Land ho! Thank goodness I was in the appropriate Boracay attire of shorts, t-shirt and mojos aware that I would be getting wet until mid-thighs on reaching ashore. My past experience of soaked jeans and rubbershoes, which were practically useless during my stay, has prepared me to dress and pack right. I felt the excitement rise inside me as I set foot on Boracay’s powdery shores. The view of the horizon with sails floating on the deep blue water and the high-noon sun making the colors so vivid was truly a mesmerizing sight. After I hurriedly unpacked and changed to my swimsuit, I went straight to the lounge chairs, just to take in the visual treat before me. These were the times I felt so thankful to be alive and enjoy God’s blessings.

Boracay Trademark
Time and again, visitors to this lovely paradise have written about its awesome allure which is not at all an exaggeration. The descriptive phrase of “crystal clear water and powdery soft beach sand” instantly brings images of Boracay to mind. It is a Boracay trademark, an apt description of the beach and not mere ad copy. Unfortunately, after experiencing Boracay, all other beaches fall short of expectation for me.
I can’t imaging anyone not ever experiencing Boracay . . . it is simply a must. What makes Boracay more special than the others for me? Well, aside from the glorious sunset and sunrise, its quaint village-like setting makes me feel safe and comfortable even if I decide to travel alone. Boracay’s incomparable edge, in my opinion, is its unique combination of: natural beauty, beach and shops accessibility through walking, interactive environment, and reasonable rates. It is one big party place where you will bump into all kinds of people, unlike exclusive resorts that encourage only a certain crowd and discourages friendly interaction with other guests.

The Boracay Character
I have observed major changes since my last visit, such as infrastructure improvements. Some resorts now have as high as four-story buildings as more and more travelers are expected. I don’t believe that it has marred the beauty of Boracay one bit. The entry of internet and computer technology even encourages a longer stay as you can do some work while enjoying the beach. The more adventurous souls can enjoy the many activities offered at Boracay such as boating, snorkeling, sailing, rock climbing, trekking, parasailing, horseback riding and more. It would not be fair to compare Boracay with the serenity and privacy of other beach resorts because Boracay has a character of its own. Take it or leave it.

You’ll love the Nightlife
The Boracay nightlife is another story. After sunset, the romantic hues from the candle lit dining tables and the jazzy lights from the row of bars along the shore brings the night to life. The display of colors amidst the starry night and the latin and reggae music against the rhythmic sounds from the ocean is an experience that can’t be described with words alone. I wish I had more guts to sit in a bar and have a drink by myself but I guess I’m not the type.

I prefer the laid back activities than the adventurous ones like parasailing, scuba diving or riding the banana boat. Strolling by the beach under a starry night or watching the sunset while having a fruitshake with a friend may be the pinnacle of cornyness but these are my favorite activities in Boracay. Enjoying the morning coffee while watching the sunrise, having a quiet massage right before sunset . . . what can I say? I guess I’m really corny at heart. Where can you get a combination of reflexology-shiatsu massage infront of the beach minus the exhorbitant spa rates for only P25O (about $5 only). Only in Boracay.

Towards the end of my 3-days/2-nights vacation package that breezed by so fast, I was tempted to extend my stay like I did before. But I had to use my head over my heart so I decided against it because of my appointments scheduled the next few days which I couldn’t miss. I hated the feeling when it was time to go, because the truth is: I couldn’t get enough of the place. I will keep coming back for more . . .the place is simply addictive.


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