Sometimes all you need is a getaway that does not require planning, draining your travel budget, or learning about anything. I know that after two months of college and living in a country where I was not allowed to drink, that is exactly what I needed.
In August, I got a text from a friend saying that the tickets for the Philippines are extremely cheap and selling out quickly so we should buy them right now, Paula, right now! I am in no way a patron of an impulse buy, but it was just one of those what the hell moments. After announcing this to my Philippines-resident roommate, she blew out my ears screaming how we should spend no days in Manila, the capital, and all of them on the beach of the Boracay island instead.
No plans, no idea of anything, and there we were, stranded in the rain in front of a small Caticlan airport after a 5 a.m. flight, just then realizing how Über is nowhere to be found. Maybe a bit of pre-travel research wouldn't have been so bad after all...
A touristy place means that even if you have no idea what to do next, someone will always help you - for a price. They will say a number way too high and you should always gasp in disbelief, as if there is any other way for you to get to the hotel, like stumbling through the rainforest and swimming to your destination island. They know your only way to reach the beach, the seafood, and the famous beer is by paying for the transportation, but if you haggle they will still lower the price.
If you accidentally end up on Boracay, like me, or consciously decide on this destination, you are going to want to stay at Station One, Two, or Three, depending on your budget. Going big on a hotel will not win you much since they are all on the same beach, (you might get nicer lounge chairs though). You will want to spend your money at the inner beach line which is filled with amazing restaurants and open-air malls of tourist merchandise and sex toys.
We arrived way too early to get checked into a hotel so we practiced our negotiation skills and got massages for the price of a beer in Abu Dhabi. Philippine massage is the perfect way to relax after a flight, but if you genuinely want a massage this is possibly the only time when, for the men to be safe, they should be in a company of women. If not, you are in “danger” of getting charged a much bigger amount and leaving a lot more relaxed than you should be...
Seafood is the only thing you should be dining while on Boracay. Starting at 5 pm, the restaurants will whip out their best looking waiters and waitresses and have them lure you into the premises. Try avoiding not-so-fresh looking buffet tables and instead splurge on some prawns bathed in olive oil or oyster pasta. Wine is not a Philippino specialty, but they will still charge the Italian prices, so experiment with the cocktails and their famous Red Horse beer instead.
Day drinking (my favorite kind) is made impossible by the prohibition of alcohol and/or cigarette consumption on the beach. Nevertheless, we somehow made it through the day by sunbathing and enjoying the freshness of the blue, blue ocean. At night, though, we did our best to catch up. We joined the famous Boracay Pub Crawl one night - and got disappointed. The group visited five clubs and bars, which is exactly how many of them there are on the island. Complimentary shots were more orange juice than anything else, but the cocktails and beers were sold to us at promotional prices. And then, at 2 am, it all stops - all the bars and the pubs close and the two remaining clubs, aware that party people have nowhere else to keep partying, charge a large entrance fee.
We soon became aware that Boracay offers sex tourism as well as any other. As a sociology student interested in gender studies, I had to wonder - are these female transgender prostitutes really transgender or is it all just a marketing trick for the tourists’ fetishes? Having visited Boracay out of the season, we were denied the usual touristy insurgence of tan Americans with six packs, but we saw more prostitutes, transgender or not, before dinner than you can see anywhere else.
Maybe a better option than spending your money on sexual experiments would be spending it on beach adventures. Paragliding, sailing, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, and all the similar activities will be shoved into your face on every third step. Do your best not to get annoyed by this form of direct marketing. Travelling on a budget, we had to choose our adventures wisely. Island hopping seemed like a perfect option. For half of the day we visited three different islands, swam in caves of Crystal Cove and had the weirdest looking cocktails at Puka beach that made me way too perky. This is a great way to do a lot in little time, but each of these islands deserves a relaxing, slow day of enjoyment, not a rushed overview of their natural beauties.
Luxury Travel on a Tight Budget
Boracay island is an ideal place for getting the taste of Southeast Asia, its hassling movements of the people and the weight of heavy rain showers, while still taking it slow and getting to lay on a white sand beach. There is an atmosphere of luxury travelling - turquoise blue water, pink cocktails, and live music under the stars. But if you are smart about a few things - getting a cheap hotel at Station 3, booking an early morning flight, and catching the tricycle and the jetty boat in the middle of the night by yourself, you can have a luxury looking holiday, even on a college student's budget!