So I think the most important and exciting thing that has happened to me in the past few weeks besides going to the Community College at Lingnan is the trip that I took to the Philippines! I went with 5 other exchange students: three from HWS, one from Germany and one from France.
We left for the Philippines on Wednesday, Oct. 31 super early in the morning. Our flight wasn’t until 9:30 a.m. or so, but we left campus around 6:00 a.m. so that we wouldn’t be late. Once we got to the airport we had a lot of time to kill. We ate a cafe and I had a bagel with cream cheese for the first time since I got here. Of course they used a Panini to toast it…but it was still amazing. If you know me, you know I love bread, and I have definitely been deprived for the last month!
Our flight to Clark only took a few hours. As soon as we got off the plane, I exchanged my Hong Kong dollars for Philippine pesos. My $700 Hong Kong Dollars turned into over $3,000 pesos (1 U.S. dollar is about 40 Pesos).
The airport opened up to the outside, and since we were all starving we were hoping for a real restaurant. Unfortunately, this was one of the smallest airports I’ve ever been to, so we had super limited options. We had to walk outside to get onto the terminal for our next flight. We had a really long layover, but had no wifi, which is the most boring thing when you have your data plan turned off. We ended up boarding the plane around the time we should have been arriving in our next location, Kalibo.
Luckily, once we got on the plane it was a really quick trip. We got out of the airport and picked a van service to drive us to Caticlan and then take a boat to Boracay, where we would be staying. By the time we got in the van, the sun was setting and it was starting to get dark. The van was packed with 12 people and it was the craziest ride I’ve ever been on. Our driver kept honking and passing everyone. The traffic was crazy. There aren’t many actual cars, but a ton of motorcycles and “jeepneys.” Jeepneys are the equivalent of cabs in the Philippines. They are motorcycles with little wagon type things attached to them. There was not a single traffic light on the whole two hour ride there.
Once we got to the jetty port, even though the ferry ticket was included in the van price, we had to pay two more “fees” before we could board. The ferry ride itself was only 10 minutes long.
We finally got off the boat and a guy from the hostel where we would be staying, Trafalgar Cottages, was there to pick us up. We took two jeepneys there. The ride was bumpy and crazy! By the time we arrived at the hostel, it was around 7:30 at night.
Our room had two twin beds and one bunk bed. We dropped off our stuff, freshened up and went out to get dinner. We stopped at the first restaurant we saw, which was open in the front, facing the ocean. The menu was amazing compared to what we were used to getting in Hong Kong. I ordered Chicken Fingers and a Mango Daiquiri. The chicken fingers weren’t great, but at least there was no bone in the chicken!
After dinner we kept walking down the beach, and saw some more restaurants, bars, and vendors. There was a lot of Halloween stuff going on, which was pretty awesome, but also weird to see. We ended up going for a night swim after everything. The water was so warm and perfectly clear—unlike the beaches with trash in the water that you sometimes get in Hong Kong.
The next morning, our first full day there—Thursday—Sven and I woke up before the others and went next door to a restaurant called Zest, which was right next to our hostel. The restaurant had amazing fruit shakes, and I ended up having a mango shake almost every day.
Later that day we went to the beach for the first time. It was like paradise. I’ve never seen anything like it. The water was SO blue. The beach is lined with locals trying to sell you various objects: sunglasses, straw hats, sailing trips, seashells, you name it. We ended up agreeing to a full-day sailing trip around the beaches of Boracay for the next day. For about 40 USD each, we were going to go snorkeling, go to several different beaches and have a beach BBQ, with all food and alcohol included.
On Friday, we went on our sailing trip and it was amazing. Our first stop was at Puka Beach. It put White Beach to shame. The water was bluer and the beach barely had anyone on it. Our guides set to work making our lunch while we all explored.
The food was absolutely amazing and I’m proud to say that I tried new things! We drank straight out of the coconuts, and the guides also brought some Filipino rum for us to try. We had grilled fish—its body still intact: we ate it using forks—grilled crabs with spices, squid on a skewer (and covered in ink), chicken, rice, pork and fresh fruit including mangos, pineapples, bananas and oranges. The only problem with our picnic was that once we started eating, we got swarmed by flies.
After eating, Siobhan, Tyler and I went to lie on the beach and go swimming again. We ended up meeting another American who was there on vacation. He was from Alabama but lives in Texas working in the oil industry. He was there with a Filipina woman, who was significantly younger than him—which is definitely the norm in the Philippines. It’s not uncommon to see older, Western men, with really really young women.
After the beach, we got back on the boat to go snorkeling somewhere else. This time the surf was so rough that we were getting smashed by waves! After about 45 minutes on the boat, getting tossed around, we finally anchored to snorkel. The water was totally rough though so it was hard to snorkel without letting go of the boat. If you let go, you would come back up and the boat would be so far away. I could see a lot of fish and a lot of coral.
Next, we went to an island that was mostly rocks. We stayed there for three or four hours, hanging out with our guides. It was two brothers and an uncle. Even though we paid for 5:30, we ended up hanging out with them until 9:30 and didn’t get back to White Beach until well after dark. It was definitely one of the best days of the trip.
Saturday we just laid on the beach all day and relaxed in typical vacation fashion.
On Sunday, Siobhan, Tyler and I explored the other side of the beach. We found a bunch of cheap bars and restaurants and ended up hanging out at this really cool place called Congas. It was made out of bamboo and other materials and had a Rastafarian theme. We laid on the beach for a few hours and then ended up making friends with the locals who worked there. We also met two Spanish guys who were on vacation in the Philippines, one who works in the travel industry. We had a really fun time and two of the people taught us how to drum. Siobhan even drummed to Gangnam Style.
On Monday, we spent the whole day traveling and had to go back to “reality,” aka Hong Kong.