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Boracay Unplugged

This is the third article in Tanja’s four-part series entitled “The Quest for an Island Paradise.” The first two articles were Buying Sea Shells on the Philippine Sea Shore and Bank Robbers and Hunter Girls in Puerto Galera.

When we head abroad, most of us attempt to squeeze in as much action as we can. Daytrips, sightseeing, museums, art galleries, and other ‘must-see’ places. We then buy the t-shirt and take the photo (as proof of having been there) and in the end the whole experience turns into a bunch of snapshots that end up in a slide show.

Honestly? I’d rather read about the ‘must sees’ in a book. The trip in itself (getting from A to B) can be exhausting enough. Once you’ve saved your hard earned pennies and counted down the days, the last thing you’ll want to do is play tourist for any extended period of time.

Admittedly, I’m not that much of an adventure seeker, preferring low-key exploits like learning about the culture, spying on the locals and tasting the atmosphere. Some days I don’t feel like doing much at all. When staring into space, the sun or the sea is all that’s required.

Fabrice, my husband, often looks half asleep, like a fish drifting downstream. When I ask him what’s going on upstairs, there’s usually not much. Not that he’s vague or vacant, just that he’s always been good at being like that, preferring to take things in his stride. He doesn’t get caught up in the details and he doesn’t plan too far ahead. I think there’s a lesson there somewhere. Ok, I’m getting to the point here. The point is Boracay – a one-size-fits-all island, perfect for partying, detoxing from life and/or recovering from a seemingly endless flu.

Boracay is one of those places you can’t help but fall in love with. Clear, azure waters, wide stretches of powdery white sand, shady palms, lazy afternoons and sunsets that make everything fall into place. The butterfly-shaped, picture postcard isle, sits at the northern tip of Panay Island in the Philippines and despite the tourist amenities along the beach, the place reads like romantic fiction.

Surrounded by tropical flora, fauna, numerous fish species (including a rare French species called Fabrice), large caves and coral reefs, the 7km x 1km Island is ideal if you’re looking for the best of both worlds. Relax and soak up the sun or enjoy more energetic pursuits such as windsurfing, diving, snorkeling, water skiing and jet skiing (if you must).

The beaches of Boracay are what lure most travelers to this remote paradise. Renowned as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the popular ‘White Beach’ is the archetype of tropical splendour and though tourists overrun it, it doesn’t disappoint.

If you’re after a slower pace, there are plenty of other fine beaches at the deserted north and south end of the island where you can swim and snorkel to your hearts content in total isolation. Here’s a sample:

Bulagog Beach – Quiet and protected by a coral reef andjust a short walk from white beach. It’s on the other side of the island and popular with windsurfing and kite boarding enthusiasts.

Panoly Beach – Sail there and take a picnic. There’s only one hotel (and unfortunately another in the planning) on this gorgeous stretch, which is why prices are outrageous, so make sure to bring your own treats.

Barazula Beach – Tiny hideaway on south end of island and great for snorkeling. No facilities and nothing to buy. Bring all your own stuff and don’t forget to take your rubbish with you when you leave.

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Baling Hai Beach – Sail to this secluded, private beach for the day or stay at the Resort where you’ll feel as though you’ve unearthed an exclusive paradise that’s peaceful as well as cheap.

Of course, it goes without saying that I sniffed out some extra-special addresses for you. Good thing is, I have no affiliations with any of them. For this reason, I’m free as a bird when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of recommendations. That being so, I’m also poor. Hence, if we ever meet, just buy me a cocktail and we’ll call it evens.

Best Local Stress Buster

Being a fair judge of a good massage, I feel compelled to mention the following: Do not waste your time and money on the nice ladies on the beach (roaming freelance masseuses).How do I know this? The second I got off the boat, I got stuck with one who used some good old coconut oil (as opposed to mineral oil pore blockers) but neglected to wipe the sand off her hands before doing so, which meant my massage became a sort of simultaneous skin scrub, which in turn became highly annoying and far from being the relaxing experience I was desperate for. On the day, I didn’t have the heart or the energy for assertiveness and so endured the entire hour, which was beginning to feel like a self-inflicted torture session.

If you’re looking for a decent massage, be it Swedish, Acupressure or Shiatsu, you need to visit Abe (pronounced Abby), a blind masseur who operates outside Cocoloco restaurant in Angol (south of boat station 3). At only P300 per hour (less than US$7) you’ll reemerge a new person. Better still, at those prices, see him every day and add years to your life.

To learn Tanja’s recommendations for dining, lodging, and her “Second-Best Local Stress Buster,” click here to continue reading Part 2 of Boracay Unplugged.

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