Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Boracay Dispatches--Day 2: Muddled Middle

the blues, creams, and grays that make bora such a sight for sore eyes
It was my second day at Bora, and I wished I woke up earlier (you can read about the first day post here ). I stirred at 6:30 am, missing the opportunity to jog. Anyway, I consoled myself with the thought that there's still tomorrow.

Skipped hotel breakfast. I was placed in a room near the buffet area, and the hotel breakfast greeters were chatty while waiting for guests to come in, creating quite a cacophony. I decided to go to Real Coffee and Tea Cafe instead. 

Real Coffee is now located at the beachfront at the second floor of Sea World at Station 2. They moved last September. The staff are, as usual, low-key and solicitous. The nipa-style bar is still there. 

They tried to replicate the old look at their new setting, but I find the older one more charming, hidden away in a narrow alley.

I ordered the real coffee (brewed coffee with a shot of espresso) and Marty's omeletteI'm not a breakfast person, making it hard for me to finish the generous plate. Tip: if you're a serial coffee drinker, order the starred items in the menu--they come with brewed coffee, and you pay P50 for refill. 

Halfway through my meal the lights went out. The server did warn me about this, when she switched on the fan near my table, saying we should make the most out of it before the blackouts. Apparently power supply is below capacity, an effect of Typhoon Yolanda. 

view from the second floor of sea wind
I wanted to go out and do another resto run, but the weather was sultry (earlier there was a slight drizzle) and I felt like mellowing out. I'm feeling the island vibe.

I proceeded to Jonah's, but the avocado shake is still out of stock. I settled for the mango-banana shake, which was quite good actually. 

On my way back from Jonah's I went to Zuzuni for the Mati Choco Sin, another Bora must-try.

By this time it's nearing 11 am, and I need to duck to escape the sun. I tried buying slippers (one of the things I forgot to bring) but the cheapest were at P150 and they can go up P350 a pair at D'Mall. Oh me and my forget self. Glad I espied Kirsten's Souvenir Shop, which was just a few meters from my hotel, and bought flip-flops that were not knock-offs

I then proceeded to my hotel room and stayed there from 11 am to 2 om. I was having hives all over my shoulders, chest and stomach despite applying sunblock. Oh I should remember to reapply every often since I perspire way too much. 

At around 3 pm I decided to set of to do some blogging. I attempted writing in my hotel room but the data connection is poor. I went to Caruso Restaurant for pasta and some blogging--they offer free wifi for 2 hours. I ordered the seafood pasta but it was just okay. was expecting much from Caruso: I've been to their Reposo branch (recommended by the then Italian Ambassador himself) and the dinner I had one there was truly memorable. 

I was on my way to Jonahs for the elusive avocado shake, but I decided to try Mañana first.  Like many beachfront restos in Bora, I noticed that most foreigners prefer to sit along the street or nearer the beach, while I sought comfort in the confines of the airconed room or the shade. I had the soft tacos, which was good. Unfortunately, I could not focus on what I was eating because I found the service wanting: the waiters should be taught to treat their customers promptly and with courtesy. The waiter who served me was more solicitous to foreigners. Hello, I'm a paying customer and I'm more likely to come back. I was willing to let it go but then he ignored me when I said I'll be moving tables after smoke from their kitchen made my eyes water (they should invest in a more efficient exhaust). I was supposed to proceed to Jonah's but I returned to report the incident to the manager, who was out. I instead complained to one female staff who, to the resto's credit, was courteous and solicitous. Still not satisfied, I messaged the restaurant in their Facebook page. To this day I haven't heard from the aptly named Mañana.

As I'm mentioned in my earlier post, this early in my vacation I'm already inspired enough to consider giving my travel blog another go, having remembered why I created it in the first place--an inspiration and resource for solo introverted travelers like myself. Good thing I only wrote few to-do things for this tip, otherwise I would feel too swamped to do anything productive. I've also done some reflecting: like being grateful for the things I thought were drawbacks about myself, realizing that if people were meant to be in my life, indeed they'd stay.

Tune in for the last installment, coming out soon.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boracay Dispatches--Day 1: Auspicious Beginning

Always happy to be in Bora. I'm here at Jonah's Fruit Shake, one of the must-visit
restos for, what else, shakes, but especially avocado shake, which was 
out-of-stock, so I settled for banana-choco-peanut
Forgive me for the long absence. For a time I was uninspired--I lost track of why I created this blog in the first place, which is to chronicle my solo travels and, hopefully, inspire fellow introverts who love venturing out, alone. And so I start anew, with this piece on Boracay, where I am right now.
Before you dive in, I must warn you that this is the most unvarnished I will be. I won't hold back where things should be said. I think I owe you guys to be upfront and real. 
I've been to Bora several times, like Singapore. I can't get enough of Bora--I'm a Pisces, and perhaps it speaks to the water element in me. You can see my earlier posts on Bora here, here, and here. Funny thing is, I get hives after a long exposure under the sun, so I stay away when the sun is at its peak, or put on loads of sunscreen.

Anyway, I booked my trip to Bora late last year through Cebu Pacific, and I purposely timed my trip on Christmas Day. Tip 1: join their email list for updates on promo fares. Try also PAL--lately they're getting really competitive, even offering lower fares than CebuPac. Anyway, Cebu Pacific now allows online check-in 48 hours before the flight, and so I did, not knowing it would serve me well later.

Tip 2: booking hotels online is also a breeze, thanks to Agoda. If you're a member, they'll notify you regarding great deals, such as half-price off every Friday.

the print-out of my boarding pass after checking-in online; the Caticlan port terminal
fee stub (orange) and the environmental fee stub (Blue), the fees of which you have to 
pay before entering the port; and the boarding pass of the Southwest fast-craft, which 
formed part of my fare when I boarded the van from Kalibo
Come the day of departure NAIA Terminal 3 was swarming with people. Good thing online check-in made getting to the boarding gate a breeze. Hurdle 2: we were 2 hours delayed. Tip 3: bring food with you, like some energy bars or peanuts, especially in Cebu Pacific flights--no complimentary snacks, sorry. Luckily  I bought some apples to stave off the hunger,  and  while waiting, I did some research on where to eat at Bora. A few clicks later, I was psyched--I now have a list of places to eat. Tip 4: plan ahead, especially when traveling solo. 

Eventually we did fly, and after an hour's trip we arrived at 2:15 pm to an overcast sky, threatening rain. The airport is under construction, obviously to address the onslaught of tourists. I hope they beef up aesthetically as well, since it's the first thing visitors see when going to Bora. Our edifices should be as beautiful as our smiles.
This looks new: the van transport pay (P250)  includes access to the fast-craft. We arrived at the jetty port after 1.5 hours. Every time I alight from the van things turn chaotic. You are supposed to pay a terminal  fee of P100 and envi fee of P75.  I wish there was better visitor assistance when you arrive at Caticlan. If you are a first timer this can be bewildering. Anyway, I shrugged it off and just followed the line ahead of me. We were like cattle being herded. Just have your fast-craft boarding pass handy. Tip 5: stash important documents together: passports, boarding passes, hotel reservation, etc. At 4 pm  I was seated at the fast craft. 
Upon disembarkation, you could go direct to your hotel transfers, or take public transport. I always take the tricycle to the hotel, and thank goodness the people manning the line had an orderly system. They even quote the price before you board--solo is P100.

Arrived at La Carmela at 4:50 pm, a little disoriented from hunger. Below are pictures of what my room look like. Yes, I don't scrimp on lodgings. They have to be decent, at least.

After dropping my things i headed out. It was starting to get dark and there was a slight drizzle going on. I headed out to D'Mall for my first decent meal.

Two things I noticed: One, Bora's getting more commercialized--it now has Manila-based restaurants: Subway, Mcdo, Cinnabon, Reyes Barbecue, Army Navy. It's not really a bad thing, just as long as they don't crowd out the good homegrown ones. And two, Real Coffee has changed address; it is now right smack in the middle of Station 2.

Bite Club Grilled Burger's Burgerella: hefty and filling
I ordered Bite Club Grilled Burger's Burgerella with wasabi mayo and teriyaki sauce. The place was nondescript and it takes time for the order to come in, but it was worth it. (For my food reviews, go here and here).

Savory meal done I wanted something sweet. I espied next door Lemoni Cafe, which looked inviting (read: some tables were empty), but I wanted to try the fruit shakes of Jonah's.

Haggardo Versoza lang ang peg. I was hoping Aria's potent margarita, one of my
favorite vacation drinks,  would work wonders. It did
On my way out of the D'Mall Complex, I saw Aria and I impulsively ducked into a table. I chatted with the waitress while waiting for my order, and she said they start filling-up at 7 pm (I dropped by at 6 pm, just the the sweet spot for unhurried, uncrowded eating). Unfortunately their service, despite a wonderful meal, was wanting. I was still at my table, I haven't even finished my meal, and I was waiting for my bill, yet one waiter was so in a hurry, he placed a reserved sign on my table. The Bite Club Burger staff treat their customers way better.

To cap the night I did go to Jonah's for their avocado milkshake, but they ran out, so I settled for banana choco peanut, which was so good I can't recommend it enough.

A familiar sight at Bora: the sand-castle, Christmas edition
Bora Christmas Day was sweltering hot. I wished I had chucked off my shoes  earlier and wore a fresh shirt, but research beckons, and I realized I forgot to bring my slippers and shades. I hope being forgetful does not turn out to be a habit.
Happy to be back at Dos Mestizos, nursing my other favorite vacation drink.
Three years ago I celebrated my birthday herwe with Manila friends. And I look 
better in this pic--it's either the lighting, or the magic of alcohol
Dos Mestizos is open from 11 am to 11 pm
I was beyond full, but since Dos Mestizos is just near my hotel,  I dropped by for a mojito, which was followed shortly by a platter of chorizos. And what excellent sausages they were.

And what a day it was. Four restaurants offering good food in a span of three hours. I'm happy and content.  I set out to recharge, reflect, and be inspired, and I' can say I'm inspired this early in the vacation.

More in the next installment.