(NOTE: Don't hit the refresh button. I had buried this in a continuation post and I'm bumping it up.
I'll have a new post (which is already half done) tomorrow.)
Here is a little post on my trip to Boracay that I promised a couple of weeks ago.
Lady Yangban practices for the Olympic coconut throwing competition.
For folks who don't already know, Boracay is a small island in the Phillipines. Because of flight schedules, Lady Yangban and I had to spend one night in Manila before we could make the final flight to Caticlan. A woman from the hotel we were staying at (Paradise Bay) meet us at the Caticlan airport and took us down to the beach where a boat was waiting to take us to Boracay.
As we got on the boat, a group of kids who were swimming nearby came up and started pushing it out to sea. They came up to help again when our boats engine won't start and we drifted into another boat that was anchored at the beach.
Once the engine started, we made our way through the clear waters to our hotel on the 'back' side of the island. There we were met by the owner, Maxie. He is a German who owns the hotel with his wife and, I presume, a Filipino parter (more on that later). He was laid back enough with the guests but, as they say, 'you can take the man out of Prussia but you can't take Prussia out of the man." He ran a pretty tight operation and I overheard him several times yelling at his workers for one reason or another while we were staying there.
We had gotten that hotel because the travel agencies had already reserved most of the larger hotels on the White Beach side of the island. It turns out that there were vacancies at most of the places on White Beach (summer being the off season) and we could have saved some money by just getting a hotel after we arrived there. On the other hand, our hotel was only a 15-minute-walk from White Beach and we could enjoy quiet evenings by ourselves.
We also had the pool to ourselves most of the time, which is good because Lady Yangban is a swimming freak. I think she spent 2-3 hours a day in the pool during our stay.
The White Beach
We spent about half of our waking hours across the island at White Beach.
To get there, we had to negotiate a small footpath and then walk along a dirty road for about ten minutes. That was a good thing because we were able to see how folks live there. A couple of notes:
-The local elementary school has its own fields in which the students (in their uniforms) work. I don't know if the crops they grow are for sale or their own consumption.
-The main form of transportation on the island are 'tricycles;' motorcycles with large side cars. I had a picture of Lady Yangban in one but she didn't like the way she looked in it and told me that I couldn't post it. I'm nothing if not obedient.
-Also, I didn't see any docks on the island. The boats just get as close to the shore as they can and people wade out to them. If you don't want to get wet, the guys will carry you.
The rainy season winds kept the surf up and there were screens erected in front of most of the businesses to keep sand from blowing inside. The beach itself was as pretty as advertised and we enjoyed just walking along it.
When we wanted to swim in the surf, we realized the biggest disadvantage of staying on the other side of the island. We had to leave our stuff, including that day's food and shopping money, on the beach while we were in the water. It was a bit of a pain in the butt to have to keep an eye on our stuff while we swam.
Stuff to do: Diving
I don't like being under water, as Lady Yangban discovered when she played the 'dunk Andy's head' game. But she loves water and I decided to give a diving class a try. Maxie hooked us up with German diver (note: we probably could have saved some money by arranging things ourselves).
Things started smoothly enough. We watched an instructional video and our Dutch guide (the thin dude in the picture) taught us how to use the equipment in the Paradise Bay pool. We then went out on their boat to a reef near the island. Once the boat was anchored, we went down with the Dutch Dude while the German Guy stayed with the boat.
That is when things started to fall apart.
We followed the anchor line down and got a couple of pictures taken (sorry, analog camera). Then we started to explore the reef. My problem was that, despite wearing seven lead weights, I was still too buoyant and I started floating to the surface. It didn't help matters that I kept my legs under me so I pushed up every time I moved my legs.
After I broke the surface I swam over to the boat and got another weight from the German Guy. I then started back down along the anchor line to try to find Lady Yangban and the Dutch Dude. But I started kicking myself back to the service again. Then I got the bright idea of pulling myself down the anchor line. I gave the line a good tug... and dislodged the achor. The German Guy had to take his boat out of the area (he could not throw it down again with folks down there).
I finally figured out how to orient myself properly and got down to where I thought they would be. Alas, they were not there. I decided to surface again in the hopes that they would go up to meet me. I popped my head out of the water and looked around. I didn't see them but I did see a boat heading right at me! Luckily, they saw me and slowed down enough for me to swim out of their way.
I then went down for the third time. I swam along the edge of the reef and took a picture of a fish. After a few minutes down there by myself, I started to freak out (I am not muey macho) and went back up. This time Lady Yangban and the Dutch Dude where in the boat waiting for me. It seems that my wandering off had cut down their time under the surface.
I felt bad about shortening her diving time and she was pretty angry while we were waiting at the beach for our ride back to the hotel. But she really liked the diving and plans to get certified as soon as she can.
Stuff to do: Sailing
One thing I highly recommend is renting one of the sailing boats that are parked at White Beach for a cruise. It's cheap and fun.
We rented a boat for a one-hour round trip to another beach at far end of the island. We sat or laid down on netting on either side of the boat while the captain, aided by his nephew/apprentice, worked the boat against the wind. Watching them work the rigging was almost as interesting to me as seeing the sea and the island.
We hung out on the small beach for about 15 minutes, enjoying ourselves in relative seclusion. Then made a dash (with the wind this time) back to White Beach in plenty of time to enjoy the sunset. It was one of the most pleasant parts of the trip. A word of warning; if you ride on one those boats, you will get wet. Luckily, both of us were already in our swimming gear.
The economics of Beach Resorts and Filipina Wives
Being a poli-sci dork, I couldn't help but ask the captain/owner of the sailing boat about the economic system on Boracay.
He told me that most of the major businesses on Boracay where owned by foreigners. Apparently, foreigners can not owner property in the Philippines. So, how do they get to own most of the businesses in Boracay? They keep the property in the names of their Filipina wives. That was confirmed later in a conversation with one of the German guests at our hotel who told me that all of the farmland he has in the Philippines has to be kept in the name of his Filipina wife.
That is a very interesting phenomenon which might be worth studying if someone had the time to spend researching it.
It also is a microcosm of the dilemmas facing developing countries in deciding whether or not to take a lot of foreign investment. The locals on Boracay had neither the capital nor the business experience to start their own businesses and the Filipina-wife-owned businesses employ a lot of people and create secondary business opportunities for people like the captain of our boat. On the other hand, the profits from those businesses goes into the pockets of the foreign businessmen rather than the locals and at least some of that money is sent out of the Philippines to the businessmens' homelands.
Food and Nightlife
Being on an island, we ate seafood for lunch and dinner almost everyday. Since our time on Boracay was short (only four days), we made a point of goint to different places in order to sample as much of what the island has to offer as we could.
One item that is 'required eating' is lapu lapu (pictured), a local variety of grouper. It is named after the chieftain whose warriors killed Ferdinand Magellan at the Battle of Mactan. I enjoyed it but I thought that the grilled swordfish I had the day before was a little better.
The prices were reasonable. Meals were about 30% cheaper than comparable meals in Korea. We rarely paid more than the equivalent of 8,000 won ($7.00) for the both of us.
Nightlife? Frankly, we didn't get out that much in the late evening. There were many bars and at least one night club that we could have gone to but our evening activities pretty much consisted of walks along the beach. We also went out to a patio a couple of times to see the night sky.
There were some other things which I really enjoyed on the trip, including:
-Having dinner with some laid-back Filipinos who were on Boracay on a diving trip.
-Slicing and munching on fresh guava while looking out on the cove behind the hotel.
-Sitting back under the stars and watching bats go to town on the mosquitoes. They must have done a good job because I was bitten less on Boracay that I usually am on evenings in Korea.
-Watching Lady Yangban really, really enjoy her evening swim.
My only major problem with Boracay is that my time there was too short.
Lady Yangban enjoying an evening swim. NOTE: I have been told to inform my readers that she is not swimming in the nude.