Happy New Year, everyone! It’s now Week 2 of the new year and this is my first post for the year 2013.
Over the 2012 Year End / 2013 New Year, I was away in Manila and Boracay, Philippines with Hubby and some friends from around the region. This is my 4th trip to Boracay Island and my 2nd time spending New Year’s Eve there, last trip being about 4 years ago. I’m excited to get back to Boracay (recently named The World’s Best Island 2012), and to see how much of the island has changed.
Great thing about this trip is that Hubby used his air miles and redeemed Business Class tickets via Singapore Airlines. The down side though, the transit in Changi Airport in Singapore was about 5 hours long, going there and coming back.
Although the Changi Airport Business Class Lounge (Silver Kris Lounge) was much nicer than the KLIA Lounge, there were a lot of waiting around – eating free food, reading, using the free WiFi, charging devices, etc.
About Boracay Island, Philippines
Boracay is one of the many islands in Philippines. According to Wikipedia, Boracay is a part of Aklan Province is a major holiday destination for locals and tourists from around the region and worldwide. About 7-8 years ago, you’d come across a lot of Japanese and Korean tourists, nowadays, the place is swimming with Europeans (singles and families).
Boracay is a rather small island, about 7km long, with one major main road mostly occupied by motorbikes, jeepneys, tricycles and the occasional vans mostly used as taxis and tourist transportation.
The biggest pull to the island is the famous White Beach. The beach is about 3.5 km long, distinguished by different “Boat Stations”:-
- Station 1 – where the beach is nicer and has more luxury hotels
- Station 2 – the busiest part of the beach with all the restaurants, shops and where the central shopping area (D’Mall) is
- Station 3 – less crowded part where the cheaper resorts are
The busiest part of White Beach (Station 2) are occupied by loads of restaurants, bars, shops, hotels, resorts and stalls selling knick-knacks, henna tattoos, hair braiding and massage services. Other beach-y activities you can indulge in on the island, other than sun-sea-surf, includes scuba diving, kite boarding, snorkelling, windsurfing, water sports, buggy / ATV rides, and general beach relaxation.
Wikipedia noted that there are approximately 350 hotels and resorts on this island, while Trip Advisor listed over 260+ accommodation options. There are hotels and resorts for any budget and preference, from five star hotels and golf courses (eg, Shangri-la Hotel, Boracay Regency) to budget resorts and B&B (eg, chalets, huts).
The Journey to Boracay Island
The journey to Boracay Island starts from domestic flight from Manila, Philippines and takes about half a day. It’s indeed a rather long journey, but once you get there, it’s all worth it.
1. At first, you fly… (Manila to Kalibo / Caticlan Airport)
There are 2 airports in the Aklan Province to get to Boracay – Kalibo airport and Caticlan airport. The more common airlines with small planes serving these flights are Cebu Pacific, Seair, Zest Air and I even saw a domestic AirAsia counter. Flight takes about 1 hour 15 mins (to Caticlan or Kalibo).
Due to the super peak season and rates during this New Year period, the flights via Seair to Kalibo was 1/3 of the price of the flights to Caticlan. Obviously, we prefer to save the money!
2. And then, you ride the bus… (Kalibo / Caticlan Airport to Caticlan Jetty)
Upon arrival at Kalibo airport, we boarded a bus ride to the Caticlan Jetty Port, which takes about 1 hour 45 minutes. Time for a nap here.
3. You transfer to the ferry boat… (Caticlan Jetty to Boracay Jetty)
After a mid bus ride pit stop, we got to the Caticlan Jetty Port.
While waiting at the Jetty Port, I spotted a political campaign banner of the various candidates and this fellow’s mugshot caught my eyes.
What the F*** is up with this guy’s eyebrows? With the pale skin and all, he looks more like a villain than a politician!
At the jetty, we boarded a ferry to Boracay Island. This ferry ride takes about 20 minutes. It seems that there are limited boats serving at nights.
It was just getting dark when we got there and I can see all sorts of boats still in service, from big gigantic ferries, 20 foot ferry boats or small catamarans.
4. You get to your hotel… (Boracay Jetty to your hotel)
Once we reach the island of Boracay, you jump into another van which will take you to your resort – that’s about another 10 – 15 minutes or so, depending on which resort you’re staying. In our case, we were smack in the middle of White Beach’s busy area in Station 2, so it wasn’t too long a ride.
Motor vehicles can’t get on the beach. So, chances are the van will drop you off at the Main Road closest to your hotel. Here, the porters will help you unload your luggage and lead you to your hotel to check-in. A small tip is appreciated here to the guides / porter, of course.
Note : The biggest tip I learn from my local friend and also after online research, it’s best to book all these transfers either through your hotel or with a transfer tour guide. We used Southwest Tours Boracay. Nice guides (you won’t get lost with the group or your luggage).
Food, Food, Food
I love Filipino food. Jut before we started our journey to Boracay from Manila, my local friend (thanks, Jet) was nice enough to bring us to a local restaurant to eat local Filipino food.
Over the 7 days in Boracay, we had a great assortment of all types of food from local cuisine to western and Mediterranean food.
There’s a nice restaurant called Gasthof Grill, which allows you to pick or bring your own seafood and they’ll cook it for you. I will be posting a separate review of this later.
A few doors down our hotel, we could smell the gigantic steaks being grilled at Sea Breeze Cafe at one of the bigger hotels, Boracay Regency, which is somewhere in the middle of Station 2.
Hubby was drooling at the sight and smell of the grilling steaks. So, we had dinner here one night. The unfortunate thing is that they cut the steak up into bite size pieces, which sorta ruined a good steak.
Over the week, we just ate a lot. Helluva lot. Food ranging from local food (which I love), grilled seafood (which is aplenty on a beach), buffet dinners (stuff yourself silly) and other great cafes and restaurants, like Aria (a great Italian restaurant), Epic (used to be Friday’s, with cafe type food), Jammers (Hubby loves their burgers), Backyard BBQ Grill (more grilled meats) and our regular hangout at Nigi Nigi Nu Noose e Nu Nu Noose (I love the name of this resort / restaurant / bar).
The must-have drink here is their local beer, San Miguel. Either regular or (crowd favourite) San Miguel Light (better known / called “San Mig Light”).
For non-alcoholic drinks, you can’t escape from having a fruit shake in Boracay. Fruit Shake stands, stalls and bars are everywhere.
My favourite is Mango Shake. They are the best, I tell ya! Boracay / Philippines have the sweetest and best mangoes in the world! No kidding. I have at least 2-3 Mango Shakes everyday when I’m there!
Activities at White Beach, Boracay
Being it’s the super peak New Year’s period, Boracay Island is as busy as it can get. All resorts are fully booked for months. We booked ours at least 3 months ahead and a friend we met there booked her rooms 7 months ahead!
I forgot to take the mandatory Instagram shot of my feet on the beach, but I did manage to (for a split second), find the right moment to take this shot of some beach chairs and a (relatively) empty looking frame for this Instagram shot below.
You walk around a lot along the beach in Boracay. It’s nice. You take a relaxing stroll along the shops and stalls. Except it does get overly crowded during this New Year period, hence the lack of photos of things along the White Beach area.
You can get yourself a massage, of course. You can opt for the PHP 3,000 (approx RM 225) and above luxury spa experience at Mandala Spa along Boracay Main Road, or you can opt for the cheaper setups along White Beach.
You won’t miss it. There are multiple touts going “Massage, ma’m” everywhere you walk on the beach. I went for a cheap 1-hour massage from one of those “Massage Huts” along the beach. It doesn’t matter to me, really, if they’re not professionals or anything. It costs PHP 350 (approx RM 26) for an hour long full body massage, which includes a nice head massage, too.
Then, there’s diving…
I was certified as a PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water diver here in Victory Divers in Boracay many years ago in two of my trips to Boracay in the past.
It was nice to get back to the Dive Centre that started it all, although the familiar Dive Masters and Dive Instructors are no longer there, replaced by new guys. Victory Divers is owned by German bosses, and you see a lot of Germans divers here.
I only did one dive trip with Victory Divers this time round, since this was not a dive holiday.
Diving in Boracay is so-so. Lots of sandy bottoms, corals and most dive sites around the island aren’t too deep. You get some wreck dives and those are usually the deepest only at 27 metres.
New Year’s Eve celebration at Sea Wind Resort
New Year’s Eve can be celebrated anywhere on Boracay Island really. As long as you’re by the beach at the strike of midnight, you’re guaranteed to see a long and beautiful display of fireworks and happy people celebrating along the beach.
Our local friend booked us in for dinner at Sea Wind Resort at Station 1 for our New Year’s Eve celebration. Sea Wind Resort is one of the nicer luxury resorts on Station 1 side of the beach.
The buffet was lovely and the setting was celebratory for the countdown to the new year.
It was high tide that night. The tents were setup on the beach. If you can see from the photo above (and below), the ocean water was pushed ashore, into our dining area at the tent.
Other than the hotel staff fussing, the guests were quite alright with it though. We just had to take off our shoes. Haha.
Once the clock struck midnight, we were entertained with a whole hour of fireworks from up and down the beach. Yes, ONE FULL HOUR OF FIREWORKS!!!
After some excitement of watching the fireworks and cheering and blowing on horns and wearing silly hats and screaming “Happy New Year” to everyone, the fireworks display just kept going all along the beach from different resorts.
Second year celebrating New Year on Boracay and it’s exactly as I remember it. Fun. Cheerful. Lively.
It was a good holiday and a great New Year’s celebration indeed. There’s even talks about making this an annual trip.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013 from me, everyone!!!
It’s sad to have to leave Boracay, although we were lucky that it started raining on the day we left. *cheeky grin* It’s still one of my favourite holiday destinations. Especially when I’ve been there so many times. Always looking forward to the next time I’m back again – I hope in a less crowded time of the year.
How was your New Year celebration? Where were you and what did you do? If you were in Malaysia, what did I miss? Let me know…