My Top 10 Travel Memories of 2016: #4

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Number 4: Sailing around the islands of the Bacuit Archipalego

I love the ocean and always find the sight of it, stretching infinitely out beyond the horizon, so calming and peaceful to look at. I take comfort in its constancy and timelessness. The lives of humans come and go but the ocean remains where it always has been and always will be.

I’m not much of a swimmer but I love being out on the water. Unfortunately, since I do not have a millionaire husband with his own private yacht, it is not an opportunity that arises very often! That’s why if I’m travelling somewhere warm and it has any sort of coastline, one of the first things I’ll do is arrange some sort of sailing experience.

So, it’s safe to say that when my friend and I visited the Philippines, there was definitely going to be some sailing involved. After all, a country with over 7000 islands was practically made for living life on the sea.

The main sailing experiences we had on our holiday were in El Nido, a municipality situated in the north of the island of Palawan. As you enter the town, a sign proclaims Welcome to El Nido- A Paradise Within Paradise. El Nido has also been called the Best Beach and Island destination in the Philippines. Again, given the number of islands that make up this country, such acclaim meant that our expectations were high.

We were not disappointed.

My friend and I only had two full days in El Nido and spent both of them doing ‘island hopping’ tours. As El Nido is the gateway to the wider Bacuit Archipelago, there are 45 enchanting tropical islands which you can explore. We visited ten of them over the two days.

Our first island hopping tour was my favourite and the highlight of my entire Philippines holiday. A calm, clear ocean and the balmiest sea breeze set the scene for a perfect day of sailing. The gentle swaying of the boat was so soothing that I could’ve easily dozed off, if it wasn’t for all the rugged karst cliffs rising around me. It is awe-inspiring and humbling to see the work of eons towering over you.

The day offered many opportunities to swim and snorkel and it was such a treat to be able to do so in such magnificent natural surrounds. Striking contrasts were everywhere- ivory shores, ebony outcrops, emerald forests and crystal water. But what I loved most of all was just sitting at the front of the boat, the sun on my skin, the wind in my hair and the presence of freedom all around me.

 

 

My Top 10 Travel Memories of 2016: #5

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Number 5: Walking along White Beach while listening to Mark Ronson

At the beginning of April, my friend, Suz, and I spent two weeks holidaying in the Philippines. Considering there are over 7000 islands to choose from, it was difficult to decide which ones we wanted to see. In the end, we settled upon four islands: Bohol, Cebu, Boracay and Palawan.

We’d read mixed reviews about Boracay. In fact, the first article that popped up when we searched ‘Boracay’ on Google was It’s the worst island I’ve ever been to. While my friend and I are not big on the whole party island vibe ourselves- one of the author’s main gripes- we thought her assessment was a bit harsh and that we’d be better off making up our own minds.

After further research, we found out that White Beach, which is the main beach on the island, is divided into three ‘stations’ and if you stay in Station 1 or 3, it’s far less crowded than in central Station 2. As fate would have it, a picture of an amazing looking location called Spider House popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. It was in Station 1, at the very end of the 4km long beach. The decision was made. We were going to Boracay.

I’m glad we decided to visit Boracay because both my friend and I ended up really loving the place. Spider House was the perfect spot to stay- about a 20 minute walk to the busy part of White Beach but even there, we didn’t find it to be more touristy than any other island in South East Asia.

We did a lot of day tours over the two weeks but decided, for our three days on Boracay, we would just chill out and do nothing. It was blissful. The added advantage of our accommodation being further away was that we did a lot of walking each time we headed to or from Station 2.

Walking along the beach became my favourite thing to do. I was captivated by the tides and how they changed the colour and texture of the shoreline.A turquoise dream at high tide and an intricate web of wavy streams at low tide.

One afternoon, after having had lunch in Station 2, Suz decided to have a massage while I opted to go back and relax at Spider House. I put in my headphones, ready to pass the 30 minute walk with some tunes, and pressed play on ‘Uptown Special’, the album by Mark Ronson that I’d recently acquired. At this point, there were a couple of songs on the album which I loved and kept listening to on repeat. I soon became too wrapped up in the stunning surrounds to notice what songs were playing.

Until the twentieth second of the third minute of a song called ‘In Case of Fire’ started playing. The dreamy twangs of this short instrumental interlude jolted me and I had one of those transcendental moments where you look at the world around you and realise that, right here, right now, everything has aligned into perfect harmony- the water, the wind, the sand, the palm trees, the people, everything.

And to think I had always skipped over this song. Needless to say, I found a new song to listen to on repeat. Even though I never recaptured that same feeling of zen, I think the reason I love this memory so much is that it provided me with one of those rare times in life when you are truly living in the moment. And in that moment, I heard the soul of Boracay sing.