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ESCAPE FROM BORACAY… ON TO PANGLAO ISLAND

Boracay Island- PHilippines

Boracay beach crowded with people!

ESCAPE FROM BORACAY… ON TO PANGLAO ISLAND

After an excruciating four months living on ramshackle, over-developed Boracay Island and scuba diving daily on devastated coral reefs while observing divers grabbing coral, fish and marine life, I was practically ready to lose my mind. I opted for the saner option: at lonnnng last, I finally and gratefully left Boracay, the worst island I’d ever lived at, on Wednesday, Feb. 13th to Cebu City.

road and traffic on Boracay Island- PhilippinesThat 24-hour trip entailed a tricycle ride in thick clouds of exhaust and heavy traffic across Boracay to the Boracay pier, a quick ferry to the mainland, a noisy 6-hour bus trip across Panay island, an over-priced taxi to IloIlo City pier, and an overnight ferry to Cebu City. It all went smoothly, with only one experience worth mentioning: a very unusual adventure at the  ferry dock before departing.

Panay Island Ferry Port- Philippines

busy Ferry Port

Standing at the pier waiting to board the ferry, I was watching all the frenetic activity at the wharf with dock workers loading and unloading cargo by hand and with fork lifts. I started watching the fork lift whose particular job was packing up the ferry. The driver caught sight of me, waved a big hello and shouted “you want a ride?”  Hmmmm… that sure sounded tempting! In fact, I couldn’t resist.  Within minutes, I began climbing down the rod-iron workers’ ladder into the cargo hold of the boat. I walked over and jumped up onto the fork lift beside the driver. We grinned at each other, said hello, and proceeded to pick up loads of cargo from outside and stack them inside the ferry. Every time we went out for another load, a gang of dock workers were standing there gaping in disbelief and wonder as I sat grinning and waving to them from the fork lift. Ha ha ha, good fun!

The driver was a very outgoing, friendly guy named Beck Beck. We chatted away as we zoomed around inside and outside. Eventually, the novelty wore off so I bid goodbye and departed back up the service ladder.  And that concluded my brief ‘job’ as a cargo boat loader.

Cebu City- Philippines

Cebu City- Philippines- by eutrophication&hypoxia

I boarded the overnight ferry the ‘proper way’ and settled in. The next morning we arrived in Cebu City.  Fortunately, I spent only a few hours there doing errands.  Then I caught another 2-hour ferry to the nearby island of Panglao, where I had originally planned to go look for diving work upon my arrival in the Philippines way back in October. With two spare days until my flight left the Philippines from Cebu City to Singapore, I had to at least see Panglao Island before leaving the Philippines.

panglao island- philippines

panglao island- philippines- by Roberto Verzo at FLickr

I also had a lucky break: A diving friend from Thailand was currently working at a dive shop on Panglao. He gave me a great place to stay in a fantastic huge A-frame house in the countryside, just a few minutes’  bike ride from the beach and dive shops. Even better, he got me a great deal on diving for the day. We did 3 dives, for which I paid a mere $25. In exchange, I helped out loading, unloading, cleaning gear, and assisting customers. The diving was excellent: beautiful healthy corals and abundant fish life. It was far superior to diving at Boracay, that was certain.

Alona Beach- Panglao- PhilippinesAlona Beach, the main beach on Panglao, was also infinitely nicer than Boracay’s beaches. Alona is much smaller, less developed, quieter, and more natural. In fact, it was lovely.  I borrowed my pal’s bike to cycle around Panglao for a few hours. The entire island was utterly peaceful, natural, and quiet. It was exactly what I’d been missing at Boracay and just the kind of place I’d grown accustomed to living at in SE Asia.  DAG, to think I could’ve lived at Panglao for 4 months instead of horrid Boracay. I’d clearly made the wrong decision that time.

Ah well, at least I got to experience first hand one of the Philippines nicer places, if only briefly.  Otherwise, I might have left thinking the entire country was awful, like Cebu City and Boracay.  What a pity I only got to experience the nice spots for 2 days. But it reminded me, yet again, to follow my gut instincts rather than be guided by what someone else enthused over and recommended to me. Duly noted!

QUESTIONS:

Have you ever traveled to a place because of someone’s enthusiastic recommendations and then found the place to be horrible? If so, where and what was wrong with the place?

Have you ever ignored your gut instinct and ended up regretting it? Tell us about your experience!

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22 comments

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  1. xrx

    For someone who found Boracay excruciating, you spent 4 months in it. Give me a break.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Yes, it was excruciating for me to stay on Boracay for 4 months. As I mentioned, I was tempted to leave as soon as I arrived, then 2 days later again. But I tried to give it some chances. I only stayed because I was too broke to leave and needed to do some diving work there.

      Thanks for stopping by, cheers, Lash

  2. Greg

    You’re going to the wrong places, Lash. Boracay is not known for healthy, colorful corals but island night life! Divers there are common tourists who want to try the unconventional, like amateur scuba diving.

    Go to Anilao, Batangas or Palawan (anywhere but Puerto Princesa) and I think you’ll find what you’re looking for.

    Cheers!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Yes, clearly Boracay was the wrong place for me.
      I’m sure there are great places in Philippines for diving. In fact, I did find great diving at Panglao just before I left PHilippines.

      Thanks for the other suggestions.

      cheers, Lash

  3. Nicky

    Wow I was surprised by the pictures of Borocay now. I spent a week there in 1983 and it had no wharf but we caught an outrigger boat to the island and only backpackers there and no night life. Very pristine. I remember we had bungalows on the beach for $3 a night and it was the 1st time I had eaten real cooked tuna steak for $1.50 and it was divine. We caught a boat to Cebu and looked at the rice paddies somewhere near there. Hardly any tourists around then .

    Nicky

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Nicky,

      Welcome!

      Wow, I bet Boracay was stunning before tourism hit with full force. I could see that the island itself was beautiful. A real shame aabout the way it was over developed.

      SAdly, that has happened to many gorgeous islands around SE ASia in the past 2 decades.

      Thanks for stopping by with your story. I hope you – and me too – can find some pristine islands still surviving on the planet.

      cheers, Lash

  4. AnnRT

    Hi Lash,

    I started to discover your blogsite just this year when I was trying to find a guide to singapore and your blogsite did help me a lot… i usually organize trip for my family since I lack time in the things i really loved doing–travelling and discovering new things, so every travel i plan should be something special… so to make the story short, I was a bit ashamed of the city you saw and the beach or dive site that you’ve discovered and yes, greg was sooo right “you’re looking at the wrong the places… me too is looking for a natural quiet paradise place just to atleast escape from the bustle of work, so i can relate to your sentiment :)..I did wonder why you haven’t visited our country, and this post just answered my question…but well, at least you saw one side of the country to redeem the first impression I hope, i do hope that you could also visit one historical side of the country… Manila, not the nicest airport though, but you could find Roxas blvd and intramuros an ineresting place to have a city tour, cause this is where some of our history did took place…and diving site?try sipalay it is a rural area somehwere at the visayan area (bacolod)you, also try el nido and coron island at palawan, those are just some of the islands I saw, and palawan was really on top of my list… i’m telling you this, just to redeem this country of ours and i’m not happy seeing it in bad reviews, cause i love travelling and inspired by your blogs, so i hope, by the time you decide to go back for the second time, pls do try to visit those that i mentioned, i do hope by that time, i could read good reviews…thanks Lash… and hope to bump into to you sometime be happy to couch surf you and take the tour with you sometime, here in our country… ;)

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Ann,

      THanks for reading my blog! I’m glad my tips and info on Singapore were useful to you. :))

      I hope in at least one of my posts on the Philippines that I made it clear that I’m sure there are ohter places in the Philippines that are wonderful.

      I just happened to go to 2 places that I didn’t like- Cebu and Boracay.

      I’m sure I would love Palawan, northern Luzon and more pristine dive sites around the country. I do hope to go back there and find those great places one day. :))

      cheers, Lash

  5. Juan

    Hi Lash,

    You won’t believe how many times I’ve seen and ignored your website. Tonight I stayed for your Ubud page (bookmarked), and accidentally stayed longer for your PH pages.

    I felt the pain just by reading but I’m glad that you got to see Panglao before leaving PH.

    The truth is, After reading this ->(http://www.lashworldtour.com/2012/08/10-free-things-to-do-in-ubud-bali.html) I have been searching for your email address so I can email you directly and thank you for this – > “4. Hike Campuan Hill Ridge”. My wife and I will be taking this free trip tomorrow.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Juan,

      Well, thanks for finally reading through some of my travel blog.

      I’m really glad to hear that the tips for UBud are useful to you. Please let me know how you like the Campuan hike. I was amazed to discover it while stayingin Ubud last year.

      Feel free to ask any Qs or for tips & suggestions.

      how’s your trip to Bali?

      cheers, Lash

      1. Juan

        My wife and I will be heading out in a few hours. Unfortunately we had to postpone Campuan hike to next week for a yudulele hunt. Do you have any info on where to get one for a really good price? My search tells me it’s around $50, it’s still tourist price for me.

        We find Bali to be a huge island, we’re not used to it. But we’re staying in the island for 4 months so it’s all good. We love the music scene here and instantly became a fan of Lisa Soul after seeing her perform at the jazz market.

        Any other free trips you might have other than Ubud? :)

        1. Lash WorldTour

          Hi Juan,

          I’m not sure what you mean by ‘ukelele’ I’m pretty sure that’s not what they call it in Bali. If you have the Indonesian name for hte instrument, could be easier to understand. I suggest you go to one of the Gamelan or Dance Schools or banjars (community halls) in Ubud and ask them. You probably already know that Ubud offers nightly performances at several locations. They all have live orchestras performing Gamelan music. Go ask them where to buy. I agree, $50 is a tourist price!

          If yo’ure staying on Bali 4 months, that’s great! You can see A LOT. I have written over 50 posts on Bali! You can find more free things to do on this post:

          http://www.lashworldtour.com/2011/10/10-free-things-to-do-in-bali-indonesia.html

          Otherwise, just check out my BALI tab under countries.

          enjoy! cheers, Lash

          1. Juan

            Hi Lash,

            Thanks for the tip. Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to ask around ubud for the instrument, but we finally got what we wanted. We’re happier than ever now.

            We did the Campuan hike last Monday, and we really enjoyed the view. It doesn’t seem like tourists go there unless they stay in one of the houses, which is a plus. Overall, a great experience combined with the signature street, water palace, etc.

            I just realized I’m in the wrong page so if you could move this to the ubud page, I think that’s better! :) Sorry for starting the conversation here.

            Thanks again for the tips!

          2. Lash WorldTour

            Hi Juan,

            Oh great, glad you enjoyed the Campuan Hike & signature road. and glad you found the instrument you wanted.

            No worries about your comments here. All good. :))

            cheers, lash

  6. Satya

    Hi Lash,

    I just finished my a week long visit or escape from work(singapore) to Boracay yesterday. Here is my opinion about this place.

    I too share few common opinion about overhyped tourism and overcrowded beaches as you mentioned. Before visiting the place, I was going through our boracay descriptions but still was very much motivated from other sources.

    I agree, the place very much commercialized.. but undoubtedly it is just perfect for partying and nightlife. The nearby islands i visited were quite beautiful. I enjoyed live music bands performing at the beach at many places. I loved variety of food available from Greek to Spanish to Indian to Thai and many more.

    The place is overcrowded and not the ideal place for nature lovers. But perfect for one if someone is trying to relax and escape from work if you are ready to spend a lot. Its not at all cheap.

    Thanks Lash your valuable blogs. Enjoy your Himalayas visit and stay safe at India. I am hopeful for a pleasant experience of yours in India, may be I am bit selfish saying that as I am an Indian :D.

    Cheers,
    Satya.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Satya,

      thanks for taking time to come share your Boracay experience and opinions.

      sounds like we had the same response to the place.

      But, yes, you’re right – it might be a great place for people who just want to party at the beach or stay at a resort and eat at upscale restaurants from around the world.

      I always prefer to eat locally. So I dont’ especially like places that are packed with restaurants from around the world. And I dont’ understand why westerners go to Asia then eat European / AMerican food! Why not stay home if you’re going to do that? Why not try local food?

      To each his own, though.

      Thanks again for sharing your views on Boracay, Satya!

      And thanks for your well wishes on my trip through India… I’m writing now from Dharamsala – kind of India – which is a great place and perfect spot to START a trip in India. :)) happy so far!

      cheers, Lash

  7. Regina

    Hi there Lash,

    Sorry to hear about your poor experience in Boracay. That place is more a party place than a place for nature lovers.

    If you’re a diver & nature-lover like me, another dive area very similar to Panglao would be Dauin. It’s 20 mins. from Dumaguete City, which is 30 mins ferry ride from Tagbilaran city, Bohol. If you look on a map, it’s not too far from Panglao.

    North of that area is the Mactan reef on Cebu island. Cebu city is horrid, but the outskirts are great. Mind you, go to Mactan reef only if you have lots of cash, the area is pristine, but caters to divers with Money.

    West of the Visayas Region is Palawan, this area is known as the Philippine’s nature preserve. This is where I would’ve told you to go first. The dive sites in El Nido & Amanpulo are fabulous. However, I would only go to the latter if you have money, El Nido is reasonable, and nearby Puerto Princesa city is very cheap.

    The best dive area that I’ve been to on the cheap in the Philippines is Anilao, Batangas. It’s in Luzon, and 3 hours drive from the international airport. There are no sandy beaches here, and it caters mostly to divers & windsurfers. The Dive & Trek resort I stayed in had the marine preserve right in front, and you could just do a shore entry. The nearby sombrero island was a real gem for diving as well.

    Hope this short dive site list is helpful as a reference in the future!

    Cheers,
    Regina.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Regina,

      Welcome!

      Yep, I sure found out Boracay is a party place, not for nature lovers!

      Thanks heaps for all the dive site suggestions in Philippines. As I said, I’m sure there are many great places in the country. I just hit on the wrong spots for me.

      Hopefully I’ll get back to do more diving and exploring…in places that I will love. :))

      thanks for stopping by and adding your suggestions.

      cheers, Lash

  8. Eric

    I jut found your blog and thank you for the great info!!! I have been trying to figure out how I am going to see 4 different islands in the Philippines in three weeks and had determined that one of them would have to get dropped…but which one? My choices were: Boracay, Malapascua, Panglao, and Palawan. Note the common denominator is SCUBA diving! Boracay was on the weak side but sooo many people have said: “You MUST see Boracay”. Thanks to your blog I’m going to pass on it and enjoy some better diving and nature on the other three islands! Cheers!
    Eric-travelling the world, training Jiu-Jitsu

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Eric,

      Welcome!

      You are most welcome! I’m glad I could help you make some travel decisions. Great idea to skip Boracay!

      HAve a fab time in Philippines.

      cheers, Lash

  9. Paul

    Wow hi ….i am surprised a Diver of your experience had not received the info about Boracay being a party / popular tourist island ! And not so great Diving location compared to others …….however the Philippines is a little scarce in internet savy info i have noticed .Yet Divers usually have a lot to share hooking up and sharing great diving locations at least as points of reference for you .What Happend! I have just spent 10 days in Boracay and it was crowded somewhat, touristy yes but still a nice Holiday location for partyers and Families ( not experieced Divers though) Developed big time ,yet still had a very relaxed and safe feel about it and a few spots to certainly be out of the tourist rat race .the main road is atroceous for a developed island , yet that is life in a tiny island generall as i lived in Cabarete,DR ( Caribbean) and itwas the same there until just recently ! Boracay is beautiful , and kitesurfers seem quite happy …Divers apparently not so .yes pricey but that lovely white sand extending for an 1.5 hours walk along it is wonderful …. My two sents worth … I will be sure to give the heads up to any divers i meet they stay clear fo Boracay….

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Paul,

      Welcome.

      Thanks for adding your perspectives. Yes, Boracay certainly seems popular! Sooooo many people go there and most of them like it I guess.

      I think it’s just a matter of personal preference – what type of islands and beaches one likes. I prefer undeveloped, au naturale type beaches.

      As for the diving, I do get a lot of insights from other pro divers I know or meet. But I hadn’t heard anything about Boracay before. (probabaly all the dive pros were avoiding it!lol) I did read about the island itself beforehand, and could tell it probably wasn’t my kind of place. BUT I was told by everyone that it was the best place in Philippines to get dive work… thus I went.

      Anyhow, as I always say, “to each his own!”

      Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by.

      cheers, Lash

  1. ON TO BORACAY ISLAND PHILIPPINES... - LashWorldTour

    […] to see how the diving season unfolded there.Find out what finally happened in my next installment: Escape From Boracay. /* /* photos by: vanzent-travel3 & paulshaffner6 comments1 ping Waegook Tom says: 2012/05/22 […]

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