Last week was another public holiday (dragon boat festival) here in China, so decided to get out of Shanghai for a few days. We chose Boracay, Philippines as the destination for this short four day trip. Having done Thailand, Indonesia, and others the past couple times, and never having been to the Philippines before, I decided to give it a try. My only requirements were sun, beach, crystal clear water, within 3-5 hours flying from PVG
, and a nice hotel. This is how I came to choose Fridays Resort Boracay for my 4 day trip.
2009.05.27 (originally 2009.05.26)
Flight 5J 679
The trip started off with a slight glitch. I usually don’t opt flying low cost carriers but Cebu Pacific (5J) had such great fares, I decided to give them a go. Big mistake…. 9 hours prior to departure I receive a call that my PVG
flight had been canceled. Only possibility was to book me on the next flight out, 24 hours later. Pretty big disappointment to the start of my trip. Having tried my luck with the Cebu Pacific call center a couple weeks prior, I decided not to call and try get something out of it, and instead left that for after the trip.
Finally made it out the next day, got to PVG
terminal two, checked-in for the 3 hour, early morning flight (00.30-04.00). Got the pre-booked seats in row 1 (was afraid these would be gone as I only had them for the canceled flight. The flight was pretty uneventful, no food/beverages, but arrival 15 minutes early. Arrived at the low cost terminal 3 at Manila Int’l Airport, got my luggage and proceeded to level three to check in for my domestic leg to Caticlan airport.
2009.05.27 (originally 2009.05.26)
Flight 5J 891
Luggage limits were only 10 kg, but we knew this already and had packed light. Check-in was smooth, they had to weigh each person with their carry-on luggage due to balance issues for the ATR-72. Unfortunately my pre-booked seats for this flight were gone, and had to settle for somewhere in the middle of the plane. After check-in, paid the 200 pesos airport fee and headed over to the gates. Terminal 3 is pretty boring with very little restaurant and shopping activity. Boarding occurred at 5.15 and walked over to the parked plane.
The flight was only 40 minutes, and we had some great views of the Philippine islands below. Had the first glimpse of the crystal clear waters that were awaiting me!!! Couldn’t wait!!
Landing was, simply put, awesome!! Had read about it before, the very short runway and abrupt stop at the end and then the U-turn back to the terminal. Would have loved to be sitting in seat 1C/1D facing backwards to feel the force of the brakes.
At the airport we were greeted by a Fridays staff member, who took our luggage to the waiting van. I quickly changed into some shorts as we’d have to get on the boat via the beach and we’d be getting wet. The weather and water were amazing. We had our private boat transfer to the main island of Boracay where we were met by another van that would take us to the hotel.
The Fridays hotel was pretty nice. After having read several reviews online I had expected more, but was still satisfied. The service in the Philippines tops that of any other Asian country I’ve been to (China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.), and was very impressed. The rooms at Fridays are nice, don’t expect 5 star, I’d put it at 4 star room quality/design. Very traditional Philippine bamboo rooms/villas. The rooms were a 30 second walk from the beach and restaurant.
Boxer Manny Pacquiao's Hotel:
Everyday was spent lounging on the beach. We did a 3 hour snorkeling trip out to crocodile island (no crocodiles, just fish and coral) and Puka Beach (beautiful sand and water). Most of the breakfasts and lunches were done in and around the hotel and dinners we usually did near boat station 2 and 3. Definitely go to D’Talipapa if you’re ever there. It’s a small wet-market selling all sorts of seafood. Very cheap and the surrounding restaurants will prepare the food you buy right there for a small fee. Had lots of lobster, prawns, crab, and even fresh oysters. Very tasty!
Fire dancer show and live music:
Boat station 2 and 3 is really where all the nightlife is. After dinner we usually walked along the beach there, hopping from bar to bar. Lots of live music and activities going on.
I had mixed feelings leaving. The resort was nice, but had expected a little better for the price. The service made up for everything though. Had tried to extend the trip by a day, and the hotel staff were very helpful in trying to get this done, but Cebu Pacific just wouldn’t budge. So after 4 days of rest and relaxation, we headed back to the Caticlan airport. Just as we were leaving, the skies opened up and a torrential downpour happened that lasted about 2 hours. Our flight was delayed due to this, as all radio activity was down in the area. No flights were able to land. When everything finally came back to normal, we boarded and headed back to Manila.
Flight 5J 906
We had seats 1C and 1D (rear facing). The power of the small ATR is immense and can really feel it during takeoff. We were pushed forward as the plane sped down the runway and the sight looking down to the back of the plane during climb was something new. We arrived in wet Manila a little late, after being in the air for just over an hour.
Flight 5J 678
Proceeded to collect luggage and headed back up to level three for check-in for the international flight back to PVG
. Again go the pre-booked seats up front and headed for immigration. WOW, is all I can say about immigration at Manila airport. Very slow, and havn’t had to wait this long since my time in Beijing in the mid 90’s. Was in line for almost 1.5 hours. The immigration lady would take phone calls every couple minutes, leave and then come back, and take a very long time on certain people. Ridiculous!! When it was our turn she was done within 2 minutes.
Grabbed some dinner and the last mango shake of the holiday (I think I had over 20 mango shakes in 4 days) and then headed for the gate. Boarding was again smooth, took my seat up front, and we were off in no time. 3 hours later we arrived at PVG
. Due to H1N1, and confirmed cases in both Philippines and Shanghai, our flight was checked, though I believe most flights are being checked now. Everyone had to remain seated while 5 guys in Hazmat suits boarded the plane and took everyone’s temperature. Everyone on our flight was fine but they said they had one case of a high fever individual earlier in the day.
At immigration our temperatures were taken again, and we had to fill in forms with our contact information. Within 10 minutes I was out the door and headed for my comfy own bed!
Overall a nice 4 day break. Was at the Hilton (Conrad) Rangali Island in the Maldives 10 years ago and would still rate that my favorite Paradise on earth. Nonetheless, Boracay is a great option for a short few days break.....
Would I fly Cebu Pacific again?….probably not. Would I stay at Fridays Boracay again?.....maybe……
Next up…….Seattle or Bali……still deciding……..