Sunday, August 3, 2008

Day 5: The Best Laid Plans....Thwarted! (Wed, 7/30)

The Manila part of my Philippine vacation, as you have no doubt noticed, was amazing, fantastic, magical, and beyond what I imagined it would be. This was not quite the case for the Boracay half...

My decision to go to Boracay was similar to President Lincoln's decision to see the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater - it seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, at eight-thirty in the morning, I went to the airport to catch my ten-thirty flight aboard Asian Spirit to Boracay. I was armed with my passport and the receipt from my online ticket purchase - what could possibly go wrong? Plenty!

For close to thirty minutes I stood idly by while they "attempted" to check me in (the woman checking me in was clearing doing her best - she found time to glance at the computer every few minutes in between flirting and chatting with two co-workers). I saw no need to rush her, so I just pretended not to be annoyed. Then the bombshell dropped. The woman at the counter informed me that even though I had a receipt, my payment had somehow not gone through. Since I reserved my flight over two months ago, I was a bit ticked that they never bothered to inform me of this, but I didn't want to take it out on an innocent employee, so I went out to the Asian Spirit office to buy another ticket.

Lo and behold, my flight was sold out. They couldn't get me out until that evening. Rather than wait around Manila, I told them I would rather do business with a different airline. So, I walked over to the Southeast Asian Airlines office, having never heard of that airline, and was able to book flights for the exact times of my Asian Spirit tickets. I got checked in, went to the gate, and found out that I had to pay to leave the island of Luzon. This posed a problem, since I had brought travelor's checks instead of cash to change over to Philippine currency (thinking it would be safer). When my initial Philippine currency ran out (I only changed a little bit of money at first, since I didn't plan to spend much money on Manila and didn't want to carry lots of cash), I couldn't find anywhere that would change my travelor's checks. So, by the time I left Manila, I barely had any cash left.

Our plane was the tiniest puddle-jumper I have ever flown on, and it was leaking water on me from just above my window (it was raining that day). As we lurched and bounced our way off the runway, I murmured a lot of silent prayers. Once in the air, the tiny plane bobbed about like a toy in a swimming pool full of kindergartners. I almost got airsick, which never happens! When we finally landed on Cataclan (a small island), all of the passengers made audible sounds of relief.

For some reason, I temporarily lost most of my hearing during the landing (I was chewing gum, so I should have been okay). This made it hard to focus on where to go next, but somehow I made it all right to the shuttle, which took me to the jetty port. From there, I boarded an outrigger that did not appear sea-worthy, and was transported to Boracay.

The crossing to Boracay was lovely, although the boat was creaky and leaky. I'm at home on the water, so I didn't really worry too much. I was more concerned with trying to get a photgraph of the paradise I was headed toward (or so I thought).

To get to my hotel (Microtel Inn and Suites), I had to use the local method of transportation - a tricycle. These critters are basically the equivalent of a motorcycle with a sidecar, driven at rapid speeds, with no seatbelts. My mother would never have been able to handle it. I found it rather fun, especially since the last part of the way was unpaved, so we got to do some off-roading on very bumpy terrain.

When I checked into my hotel, I was delighted with the room. Unlike my hotel in Manila, this one was new and quite nice. I still can't believe the low rate I got!

After unpacking, I headed out to explore the private beach, which I found to be quite satisfactory. Aside from my dangerously low cash and the fact that I hadn't eaten an actual meal since dinner at the theater on Tuesday evening (partly due to oversight, partly due to a need to conserve my money until I could get more), things were looking up. Then Thursday came...

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"