“I’ll see you in Paradise”, are the song lyrics that come into my head when I think about Boracay. It seems as if a dream only last week, myself and the rest of Frendz Resort were being serenaded by a famous Filipino singer at a lively acoustic night.
Boracay is postcard perfect. Swaying palm trees shake in time to the thumping dance music being played at its many restaurants, turquoise waters glisten in the warm suns reflection and pure white sand lies far away into the distance, for all the eye can see. No wonder so many people call it paradise, and why so many visitors stop and visit Boracay. However, years of a booming tourist industry coupled with the Filipino want and desire to earn money quick means that you wont be alone in this wonderful paradise. Oh no. In fact, the ever increasing influx of tourists makes this place not as picturesque as it once was. I’d heard of its beautiful beaches and was shocked on arrival not to see small bungalow shacks on the beach, but massive billboards, a McDonalds and a Starbucks right on the pure white sandy shores of the beach. I was disappointed.
Not by its beauty, but by its popularity. But the former make the latter, so it is a losing case. Most of the locals are unhappy with what Boracay has turned into, but needing business, they cannot argue- but merely shrug their shoulders. I couldn’t help but think that this beach has the same level of over development similar to Koh Samui- filled with hotels, restaurants and massage parlours. Even the pure white beach is jammed full of sun loungers covering every inch of sand possible, trying to make a quick buck off a passing tourist.
There are a number of activities tourists can immerse themselves in, (all with a large price tag), such as: boat trips, snorkelling trips, mermaid lessons- yes that’s right, you wear a mermaid swim suit and learn how to swim with it as if like a fin- making a fool out of yourself I am sure, diving, diving with a head tank on- so you can walk underwater on the sand and pose for a numerous amount of pictures, parasailing, jet skiing, jet pack and paddle boarding- which is immensely popular with the mass amount of trendy selfie stick holding Koreans that visit here.
An activity which I tried out- apart from lying on the beach and mercilessly trying to work on my tan under the sweltering heat, is cliff jumping. For 2 thousand pesos you go on a boat trip to Magic Island, where a number of boards are at different heights- all beginning with 2 meters and ending on 15 meters, which leaves you with a nose full of sea water making you sound like a deranged alien by the way. The trip is all you can eat and even more dangerously, all you can drink. So take caution when jumping, I heard of a few injuries whilst I was there. If sunbathing on white beach is a little too manic for you- head to Puka Shell beach, the original beach which got Boracay all its fame and glory. Although a shell beach, there are far less tourists and there is actually space to put your towel down on the sand, rather than renting an expensive sun bed.
Although daytime in Boracay is merely just a passing fancy. A time for those to sleep off hangovers, dust off cobwebs and rest aching limbs. Speaking and meeting many types of people visiting Boracay, they told me the reason they came: to party. Although it has a known reputation for being the party place in the Philippines- it is quite surprising to learn that there are only a handful of clubs open late. Never fear boozers and clubbers- the constant stream of people on the beach as well as jammed bars can easily make a party and are certainly sociable, although if thinking of where to go- head to Exit Bar, the DJ is one of the best I’ve heard in Asia. There is also a Boracay Bar Crawl, which I never took part in- but I am sure, would be able to take you to all the watering holes on white beach, no problem.
But those who aren’t here to party, but rather to soak in the ambiance of the place and enjoy the suns warm rays, no stress. Watching the sunset over bustling Boracay is fantastic. You see the rolling hills on one direction, the quirky rock formations on the other, whilst the glowing pink sun explodes and vanishes behind some cotton wool clouds in front of you, reflecting onto the sparkling shimmering surface of the sea. The best view is at Spider Haus, which is situated at the end of White Beach and past the rocky enclaves. At sunset, White Beach seems to multiply in size, with throngs of people squeezing past one another to take selfies and pick seafood restaurants to dine in. Many acoustic acts begin early as well, varying in ability might I add, so there are a mismatch of sounds all along the beach. Eating here is expensive, especially as Boracay is created for tourists, not backpackers and is the most popular destination in the Philippines. It is advisable if you are a backpacker to avoid eating on the beach, ever. Head to Smokes’s restaurant in D’Mall (a large complex filled with restaurants, sports bars and souvenir shops) where you can get tasty Filipino dishes. However, if still a little too steep for you, heard near to the lake at Station 1, there are many restaurants in the middle of each side of Boracay that are reasonably priced.
I was recommended by pretty much everyone I met to stay at Frendz Resort. And as soon as I arrived, I found out why. It was incredibly social. The bar is used as a meeting point for backpackers and often hosts live music nights and gives out free pasta. Although a lively and enjoyable way to meet people, you pay a lot (500 pesos) for a 8 bed dorm in huts that are not Boracay standards. It is unclean and worn down, as well as only has 2 fans to hover between each dorm, which means at night it is unbearably hot. As Frendz Resort focuses on being social rather than accommodating, the bar starts and switches off their music at 10 am and 11pm. It is frowned upon to eat your own food or drink your drink in the bar area, meaning things turn out pretty expensive. Although a good aspect of Frendz Resort is its close proximity to the beach and how it has a partnership with Globy Restaurant, whom offers free sunbeds to Frendz Resort customers. At the time of visiting, construction was going on right next door making sleep impossible. And with the wide various options of accommodation in Boracay, I felt this place wasn’t that pleasant or backpacker friendly.
I moved to MNL Hostel situated near the lake in Station 1, where 6 bed dorms are 600 pesos (although prices range depending on how many people you share the room with), however all are air conditioned and clean. They give free towels, a lock and have shared showers and toilets which are always kept in pristine condition and have a funky feel. The rooftop offers free breakfast from 7-10 am in the shared kitchen and a roof terrace where backpackers can drink and socialise, making this hostel perfect for a broke backpacker in Boracay. So if I were you, I’d stay here.