Boracay is a crazy place! So much fun! In fact, the title of this blog entry should read "Boracay... where sleep only occurs when the low low tide means there is no water in the bay to kite on!" Because, I'll tell you, sleep certainly doesn't happen at night or when there is wind and water during the day!
When I first arrived to Boracay I did not like it very much. I mean we have all heard the phrase "tourist trap" before, but I have never seen a place that exhibits this saying so well! I thought it gross when I first arrived. There were sooo many people, and the beach wasn't a relaxing place to get away, albeit it was quite beautiful, but it was like a mini-town on the beach. There were stores for clothes, stores for food, pharmacies, restaurants, cafe's, fast-food, dive shops galore, with beach pubs and clubs, it was all there... wall-to-wall. Look out over the ocean and you see hundreds of tiny sail boats dotting the horizon taking people for sails, jet ski's are zoomin around everywhere, speedboats with big banana looking rafts attached to the back of them carrying 10 people bouncing around at a time, day time snorkelers and ocean goers. Look behind you and all you see are the many shops. It is like a mall on the beach and finding an exit sometimes can be hard. I thought to myself, "I really don't like this place".
When I first arrived I was with four guys. Three of which were going there for a vacation for 5 days. They were Europeans studying in Taiwan. The fourth guy was from Indonesia, and since I had just come from there i was so excited to talk with him and practice my newly acquired Indonesia skills. We all met at our hostel in Manila and after touring Manila for a day, we booked our tickets to Boracay together. The following day we made the journey and landed ourselves in the hot spot of the Philippines!
Despite all the craziness around, I must say it was a beautiful island! Definitely enchanting. We enjoyed splashing around that evening and meeting Linda, my roommate in the girls dormitory. Then we basically took full advantage of the scene and partied all night. The next day I went to the other side of the island to Bulabog Beach, where the kite surfing is. Afterall, this is why I came to this crazy hectic place! It was like a whole other world over there! A surf style world of beach bum life. This was starting to look more like the place for me. As it turned out there was no wind when I arrived to Boracay, so for the first 5 days I was there I could not yet learn to kitesurf. What else was I to do but join the crew I came with and party all week? And this is pretty much what we did, after all, it was vacation. Half way through the week Linda left and Di came. During the days we usually fought a hangover and went to the beach. One day we went around the island on a boat and went to some cool snorkeling spots. Another day we rented ATV's and went for a ride around the island. We went to the butterfly park where we got to see the "flying fox", which highly resembles a bat. But apparently this animal and its well being on Boracay is quite important for the sensitive ecosystem of Boracay. All I know was that it was quite freaky to hold the animal (I do not have any pics though because the card they were on was ruined by a virus :( that goes for manila as well). The day the boys and Di left, was the day the wind came in and I took my first kiting lessons.
Let me tell you, it is harder than it looks. That being said, it wasn't that hard and the reward has been spectacular fun! My instructor was a guy from the Philippines named Kleng. He was great fun to be around and he became one of my friends for my time spent there. When you first start kiting you tend to swallow a lot of water as you get dragged through the water constantly by the kite. And this is what happens when you are doing it right! First you learn how to control the kite by having it drag you around. You also learn how to "body drag" upwind so that you can always retrieve your board when you are on the water and you have lost, which happens a lot. After you master this craft of body dragging, then they give you the board. It took me 3 hours before I was riding, and even then it was only 20 meters, down wind, at a time. The fact that it carries you downwind means you have to get off the board and walk backwards every 2 rides or so. An exhausting, not to mention boring, part to learning. Eventually though you learn how to ride upwind and the "walking back" stops. I don't think I will ever forget how excited I was the day I stopped "walking back". Soon after that I was attempting toe side, turning my body and board the opposite direction so my weight was on my toes instead of the back of my heals. It wasn't long after that that I started jumping with the help of waves. I would say it was somewhere around this point that I made my first decision to extend my stay in Boracay. I extended it by another week. I was still going to make it to Thailand for New Year's! I was determined!
But then it happened, I was walking down the sunny street one day, after having a killer session on the water, minding my own business when I ran into my friend Katherin. She couldn't believe I was still going to leave after only a month there. And with the mere suggestion from her that I should stay another month and go to Vietnam with a bunch of the other girls for a kiting competition at the end of Jan. and then travel South East Asia from there, my fate was sealed. It took me less than a minute to concede and admit that once again, I was putting off Thailand. Thailand is starting to feel like a fabled dream now. I swear I have been trying to make it there since Aug. 08. It just keeps being put off for new adventures, what can I say? A part of me thinks my fate is just waiting for my cousin Christine to finally get the vacation time off work she deserves so she can finally come with me to Thailand, the way we planned once years ago.
So hear I was now, looking for a place to live. Since I knew I would be there for more than another month I thought it was high time to move out of the hostel I had been in for the last 3 weeks. I ended up moving in with a girl named Lina who was from Lithuania. The house was a total beach house, non-stop sand everywhere on the cold concrete floors and hammocks out front, this is Lina resting in one on the left. Not much more than beds, bathroom, and a little stove and mini-fridge for a kitchen, but it was home sweet home and on the beach! This house was also the gathering place for all our friends. Even though only 2 of us technically lived there, many of our friends occupied "corners" of the house with some of their belongings. Carla (on left) had her corner(S), I had a corner which switched into an actual room at some point, then there was Kim and her corner, and Alena who came back after Christmas and New Years and took back the room I was in when I left the island. We were a busy house hold full of laughter, kites, and food. It was a great place to call home for a little while.
Right before Christmas my instructor, Kleng, invited me to his house for a real Filipino family party, his Aunt's Birthday. That was an awesome experience in which I ate a chicken foot, a pig's liver cooked in a soup whose broth came from the pig's blood. There was a huge cake and lots of music. About 15 cousins and second cousins dancing together to the same 3 or 4 songs over and over again. They had the cutest made up dances they would all do in sync. They learned them in school. And they were some crazy dances you would not expect to see little kids doing. But they were great at it and everyone laughed and carried on and had a great time. It was really amazing though, the sexy moves some of these little girls pulled off. I couldn't believe they were taught these at schools. It was like 15 8 yr olds who all thought they were on MTV together. No wonder the Filipino girls at all the bars know how to get down so well when they are grown up!
Christmas and New Year's came and went. Christmas I spent sick, but New Year's Eve was an absolute blast, white party on white beach! New Year's Day was almost even better. Is pent the day on the beach with some friends, beers in hand and outfits on from last night, dancing the day away in front of where all our other friends, the sober ones, were kiting the day away! It was beautiful fun!
The kiting continued and I learned how to 'pop', jump big using the board basically. The first time I did this, I did not land it all. But it was a huge adrenalin rush! I noticed when I got back on the board I was shaking so much, all I could do was just steer the kite. I had the biggest smile on my face! After about 20 min. I began practicing them. Now my fate was really sealed, I knew I was addicted to this sport. I am beginning to think all my travel plans just changed... But who knows? Don't hold me to anything!
By the time I left Boracay I was doing back rolls (a 360 turning backwards) on each side and landing them. I hated to leave Boracay! It is the first place I have actually cried over, and I cried a lot that first day sitting alone on a bus for 7 hours. Let me tell you, for a place I didn't like very much upon arrival, it was a terrible place to leave 2 months later! First of all let me set the scene for you about Bulabog so you can understand why I would miss this place so much. The beach looks beautiful, (all though the water is actually kind of dirty, it still looks pretty), and the sky is dotted with an array of beautiful kites. The vibe around Bulabog is like none other I have experienced. There is such a community there united by kiting. There is such a buzz around Bulabog when the wind is up. Like something truly exciting could, and usually does, come out of the day, at least for a few people on the beach by the end of the day. It could be kites in trees or perfecting a new trick, but good wind equals smiles and excitement at the possibilities!
Then, up and down Bulabog Beach there are about 10 kite schools. Most schools have a bar for lunch and substance through out the day in the back, and friendly helpful beach boys in the front, on the beach. The beach boys at the school I was at were the best (everyone is "at" some school, even if you are not taking lessons it is where you would store your equipment and have people available to you on the beach for when you need assistance or break your equipment or whatever)! I have to thank the beach boys for an amazing season. Besides helping you with your kite, inflating, launching, bringing down, etc., they also give you advice. They also taught me some Filipino phrases (mostly bad though I will admit) and would always let me barrow and try their other equipment. And because you spend all day on the beach waiting for the wind, or going in and out of the water over the course of 8 hours, these guys become the people you hang out with most during the day. They filled the days with laughter. I missed the beach boys terribly when I left, I almost cried saying good-bye.
Then the Bulabog community is filled with people who come here from all over the world to spend their vacation, 2 weeks, a month, 3 months, kiting. Some have relocated here permanently and others come back every year. Plus there are the Filipino's around who are some of the best riders out there. Some people, Filipino's and foreigners work as instructors here, some don't. But some of the best riders riding in Asia can be found here. And as great of a place it is for the pro's to perfect their tricks, the perfect conditions make it an even better place for beginners to learn. Sometimes daunting when the riders speed past you, but still an amazing place to learn. Plus, to be fair, the community is small and most people know each other and are extremely helpful and friendly on and off the water. This is another reason it is such a great place to learn. Out of the water everyone is always talking about the sport and helping each other out and offering tips, and on the water your friends help you and watch you and give advice or pick up your board for you when it seems like it is miles away. A beginner can really learn a lot in this environment. Plus, when the wind is to strong for your kite, or you can't go in the water for some reason, watching the advanced riders all day is like watching a show! A free show on Bulabog beach. They pull off some of the most amazing tricks and watching them can make the hours fly by!
Then it is night time! And more excitement begins. Boracay is a party island with tons of lights up and down White Beach on the other side of the island from Bulabog. It is where I described the "mall like atmosphere" during the day. At night it is like the main strip in any major city filled with lights and places to go out to. Most nights there are fireworks somewhere on the beach as well! And in a place where the rum is cheaper than the coke, it is easy to get drunk. Most nights we had at least a few drinks after dinner. Then there were always those unexpected nights where the vibe was just right and you would run into other groups of friends after dinner and before you k new it you had an equation for a good night out on the town. But with getting up early for kiting, there were times with little sleep. And white beach could hardly be avoided. It is usually where you went for dinner as it is where most of the cafe's and restaurants were. There were some nights where we cooked at home, but even then we would have a group of people (the usual group we had dinner with) over and be drinking wine. Most nights Serkan (Turkey) cooked for us all. One night he even made octopus. He was a really really good coke and a really good mate of mine. They were good nights we all spent together eating, drinking, and laughing.
And when there was no wind, we would go on adventures. One day we took a boat to another island and went cliff jumping off the side of it into the ocean. We had a picnic there and partied all day. Another time we did the same, only we floated down a river. Even with no wind, there were things to keep us busy!
I am so glad I stayed the extra month. Besides learning tons about the sport I am now in love with, made so many good friends! I had relationships and memories I could never forget. Boracay is a wonderful place and I want to go back! It took me half an hour to leave the island once I was at the Jetty Pier and I was fighting back the tears, unsuccessfully though.
After I left the island I caught a bus to a town named Antique. Here I visited a friend I met in Johor Bahru last Arpril, a girl named Jenny. If you remember she is the one I helped "smuggle" into Singapore with the use of my American Citizenship. I met her family and stayed the night with them. It was cool to see another place in the Philippines besides Boracay. Boracay is not what I would call representative of Filipino culture. She had prepared a big feast for me that night and the next day she, her cousins, niece, and brother and sister-in-law went to a waterfall. There the boys cooked the fish we brought on sticks over a fire they made in the rocks. We had a wonderful lunch there and we ate on banana leafs and made ourselves chopsticks to eat with from the branch of the banana trees. It was a pretty rad and great last day in the Philippines. That night I flew first to Manila where I met up with 12 others from Boracay, then we flew to Vietnam!
A few words on Manila, (it is a crazy city!), and the philippines in general. 14 million people and another 7 million people who are homeless, live in Manila. It is absolutely huge, bigger than L.A. and there is not much to do. Most bars and clubs are "men's clubs" filled with ladies to drink with and pay for the pleasure of their company. There are a few normal bars as well though. The food in the Philippines is not that good generally, but served with love. The people are a friendly as they come and most of the scenery is amazing. The Filipino's are mostly very Catholic. One thing I found absolutely amazing when I learned it was, the Filipino's actually crucifix people at Easter to celebrate. These people are taken off the cross before they die, but still as a way of showing their love for God, they act out the whole "Station's of the Cross" as Jesus and they get nailed to a cross! After the show is over they are taken down and their wombs are treated. How amazing!