October 16, 2008 – 3:13 pm
This is a lament!
My last visit to Boracay was in 1997 when the very first few concrete buildings were just making an appearance along the famous 7km White Beach – voted the best beach in the world countless times for its flawless, squeaky white sand. Then, 99% of all the guest houses and small hotels, bars, restaurants, shops, etc were discretely constructed from wood and bamboo and were hidden behind the palm trees. Only a couple of them had swimming pools… after all, who needs them when you have such a perfect beach and aquamarine sea to swim in?
2008 – 10 years on and what a shock! Well it would have been had I not been heavily forewarned.
To walk along the central part (Station 2) of White Beach now is like fighting your way along London’s Oxford Street! Hoards of tourists being herded into conveyor belt restaurants, touts selling everything from fake watches to sexual services, box-like concrete hotels built on corridors of land leading back to the now traffic-congested road that runs down the middle of the island, each one tightly wrapped around a swimming pool.
On the other side of the island, famed for windsurfing and kite surfing competitions, modernistic Miami-style apartment blocks scar the hillsides. This is no longer a “Robinson Crusoe” tropical island where you leave your shoes on the mainland.
There are saving graces. Fridays Resort at the northern end of the beach (Station 3) is still very nice, although bang next to it is a white shiny monstrosity called Discovery Shores or something. And the south end of the beach (Station 1) is still low key with more backpacker standard accommodations.
A gem of a find, however, was a new little resort, perched on rocks at the top end of White Beach called Boracay West Cove. Part owned by famous Filipino boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao, I would never have found it if my curiosity wasn’t roused by a small tunnel I spotted leading through the cliff face. Every room is unique and has stunning panoramic views over the sea. There are no straight lines; the walls mirror the rock face… and trees that might have been in the way during construction, were simply absorbed into the architecture and are now core features, sometimes growing right through the middle of a room or bathroom.
I visited Boracay during the rainy season when the winds swing round and blow in from the west. The usually glass-like sea along White Beach is rough at this time of year and wind breaks are constructed all along the sea front to prevent sand from blowing into all of the hotels. Come mid October they will be pulled down and the wind should start blowing from the east again… heralding the start of the kite surfing season.
Boracay is still a fun place to go, but it is a lot more commercial and main stream than a few years ago. No longer the hideaway for which it earned its reputation. Not too cheap either! A must for kite-surfers!