Before I Found the Jewel Paradise of Boracay Island
My journey to Boracay started in October of 1993 when a good friend of mine called me up to do a trek in the Himalayas in Nepal. He asked me to go with him to trek the 5,600 metres of the Annapurna Circuit and then go to Thailand afterward for beaches and sunshine.
I liked the idea of being under the sun in Thailand, but the sound of trekking didn’t much entice me. It turned out that this would bring me the best moments of my life. Out of the seven of us, only Dave and I made it to the finish.
Then I found myself in Krabi, an endearing tourism spot at the mouth of the Krabi River. While in Thailand, I met a boat captain who asked me to be a crew for one of the biggest sailing races in Asia, the King’s Cup Regatta, which was happening in Phuket. It was a great experience given that I had never sailed before, but what I enjoyed most was the good food during stop-overs at night. It was such a luxury after losing so much weight on the trek.
From there I went to Ko Samui Island on the east coast of Thailand and bumped into two Swedish friends I knew from previous travels. I told them I was on my way to Vietnam, and when they asked to go with me, I said sure. I was relieved, in fact, because I was a little nervous going alone since the Vietnamese government just started letting tourists in during that time. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get them visas to Vietnam, so we decided to take whatever flight there is of out Thailand. We got aboard a plane heading to Manila.
When we got to Manila, Christer, one of my friends I was with on board, told me about this little paradise island called Boracay. He said he had read about it somewhere. That’s our next destination, but it proved to be difficult, for, during that time, air transport going to that little island was not yet established. For me, it didn’t matter; after the trek and all, nothing was hard for me anymore.
And that’s how I found my way to Boracay in that fateful 1993.
Falling in love with Boracay Island – 1993 to 2013
The beautiful, white sandy beaches and great lifestyle—these two qualities put Boracay very close to my heart.
After spending one night in Manila and enduring the tortuous journey back then, I landed just after Christmas on the most beautiful beach I had ever laid my eyes on. Arrival to Boracay in 1993 (and up till 2008) required motorised boats that would drop planks close enough to the shore so that passengers could cross with their luggage and backpacks.
It was a worth-it long trip arriving at Boracay White Beach. I beheld a five-kilometre stretch of silky white sand in front of me and a three-kilometre sand walking path. To this day, that is my most favourite aspect of Boracay . . . to be able to walk down the sandy path, sit in the morning over coffee, have a cold beer at sunset, or eat at the beach without the noise and air pollution caused by motorbikes and tricycles. In all my travels to various parts of the world, I have never found such an incomparably great setup that Boracay White Beach has.
In 1993, there were mainly backpackers and a few restaurants. I loved the offering of various fresh seafood, but above that, the cheap living endeared me more to the island; one could grab a cold beer for only 7 or 10 pesos, a perfect companion while watching the sunset every night from the beach. The best accommodation was native-style huts, and entertainment was provided by two nightclubs. Of course, dive shops were one of the established businesses on the island.
I spent my three weeks in Boracay going diving with Victor, the owner of Victory Diving, which is now one of the largest diving businesses there. I have been friends with him for twenty years. My initial days at this stunning beach were engrossed in swimming in the crystal-blue waters.
It was living the dream in those days, and I am so glad to experience those early times of Boracay. Now, when I gather around with local ex-pats and tourists, one of the most discussed subjects is the comparison of Boracay in 1993 and in 2013. This is a hopelessly never-ending debate where you can soliloquise about the qualities you are looking for in a paradise.
Hearing the various takes on the subject, my opinion is that the present Boracay is more preferable to me. Travelling back and forth to the island from Caticlan is so much easier now because you no longer have to walk through the water to get your feet on the shore. I also like how access to different parts of the island has improved; two decades ago, there was very little on the back beach due to the difficult access. Now, with my 135 Yamaha scooter, I can get to any point of the island in ten minutes; a drive to the White Beach only takes five minutes. The twenty-six kilometres of track I discovered around the island with my mountain bike is one of the things I enjoy after all of the transportation improvements. Some people are actually amazed about the bike route I found that is three times longer than the eight-kilometre length of the island. But they do not know that it just lies there if you travel the island in a circuit.
Present Day Boracay
There are several things to love about the present Boracay. I own a three-bedroom condo on the back end of the island, just off Bulabog Beach on Mt. Luho, and from there, I get the most fantastic views and sunrises. Now you can travel to and from White Beach faster because the short dirt road at the centre of the island is better and longer. Souvenir shops, hotels, resorts, and other commercial establishments have sprung along the beach and around the island. In addition to the smaller seafood restaurants that have remained, there are bigger ones that offer wider food choices.
And, understandably due to competition, prices of everything have increased, but it is still so affordable to live on Boracay compared to most countries I have lived in or visited in my lifetime.