“Rated One Of The Best Beaches In The World.”
Did I ever mention I’m not a beach person?
Did I ever tell you how I once missed a flight back from Costa Rica by three …
I usually manage to get lost, lose luggage or miss flights. I’m anally organized (read: OCD) in most areas of my life, but travel … not so much.
For this trip, I’d planned on using my travel points to pay for the flight—key word “planned,” but I messed up.
After I spent over 90 minutes on the phone with an Avion Travel Points rep, with Avion’s various fees and taxes, it turned out I would pay almost the same price as if I had just arranged and paid for my own flights—not much of a “free flight.” Hashtag: skywayrobbery! I ditched using my Avion Points and arranged my own damn flights. The only thing is that kayak.com didn’t have options starting from my little hometown—the place of origin.
Okay, fine. I’ll book that leg of the journey on my own—ha!
This is what happens when I’m left unattended to make my own travel arrangements:
I book my flight from Vancouver to sunny skies for October 1st, 2:00am. I figure I’ll sleep on the red-eye and get a jump on jetlag! That’s right, bitches, I’m a smarty pants.
Except I’m not. (And you’re not bitches—you are greatly loved blog readers, or family members, expected to keep up on my shenanigans. Thank you, all.)
Anyway, I booked my flight from small hometown to Vancouver to leave October 1st at 5:40pm, fifteen hours and forty minutes after my overseas flight crew would have been paging my ass all over the intercom. Oops.
$150 flight change charge. Check.
Seven-hour layover in the Vancouver Airport to make sure I don’t get intercommed. Check.
Nonetheless, the wait gave me time to decide to go with a seat upgrade.
My thought process (aka talking to myself [/selves?] in my mind):
Me: “Okay, if it’s not more than $500, I’ll do it.”
Me: “Right! It’s a 13-hour flight after all, and you swore the last time you travelled that anything over seven hours (six if red-eye, sleepy-time travel) deserves an upgrade.”
Me: “Exactly. I deserve this!”
Me: “Yes! Yes, you—I—WE—do.”
(Glances around to make sure “we” are only talking to ourselves in my mind.)
Cathay Clerk: “It’ll be an inside seat and $557.”
Me: “We’ll take it!”
Clerk appears confused.
Travel Rule #54: When we’re tired, we are permitted to move the goalposts for convenience and the best interest of our health and well-being. And talk to ourselves in our minds. (Sideways glance.)
But never mind because—It. Was. So. Worth. It. (The upgrade and talking myself into it.)
On Flight 889 Cathay Pacific, I decline the “free” champagne. The business economy class seats are, indeed, much more spacious, recline more than the three inches that standard econo class provide, and, well, that’s it. But that is enough! With the 80s-style headphones and built-in noggin support (and one of My Little Mom’s little blue sleeping pills), I am able to sleep at least a solid six hours of the 13-hour flight. I also watched three films, which is more than I’ve seen in the last two years combined. I’m lucky I didn’t die by blood clot from inactivity! (For real, I read about it after the flight when I Googled “swollen ankles”. Oy.)
With a short and uneventful layover in Hong Kong airport, I arrive in Manila ready for the flight to Caticlan on Boracay Island, which reportedly offers one of the most acclaimed beaches in the world where your Philippino (Filippino?) lady-boy adventures begin. (Should you opt for that. I shant.)
I’d been told to pack light, but I’ve actually overpacked (I always underpack) by weight standard. I’m permitted seven kilos on the plane to Caticlan, and I’m over by a couple kilos, probably due to all of the health supplements and what-if potions I’ve packed.
The attendant is looking at me waiting for me to return my backpack to the checked luggage dolly.
I promise I’ll leave two kilos of stuff behind or “attired on my person.”
The check-in attendant, confused by my spew of intellectual lingual intimidation, relents: Okay, Ma’am.
Since I’ve gotten away with something, I let the “ma’am” slide.
(Note to young readers and all men: Women over 35 do not like to be ma’amed. Unless, they’re in Texas. I assume. Note 2: This is the first of many ma’aming assaults I receive in Asia.)
From Caticlan Airport (in the Philippines), I’m taxied in what is locally known as a trike, an environmentally-polluting-leaded-gas-fuelled-muffler-missing motocross dirt-bike with an open-air golf-cart-contraption attached, down a seven kilometre, traffic-congested, dusty, exhaust-fume-polluted, mostly-dirt road into the heart of town officially known as Section Two—unofficially known as D-mall.
I give the driver a hundred pisos ($2.50) for the 40-minute ride. I later find out I’ve overpaid by $2. My brain is challenged to compute this information.
On the trikes and “in town,” some are wearing face masks or scarves to protect themselves from the exhaust (and cigarette smoke?), but I just smile and soak it all in. I figure the pollution will get me one way or the other and, since I’ve almost detoxed my body back to full health (more on that in another blog), then I’m free to commence re-contamination in this Third World—or should I politically correct myself by using the term “developing”—country? (I believe my readers know by now I’m good-naturedly politically incorrect, but my editor tsk-tsked me so that’s for her.)
Note: It’s over 30 degrees Celcius and I’m still in thirteen layers of Canadian wool. If sweating is a sport I’ll win the gold metal. It’s muggy, humid and hot with 100% humidity. The forecast reads “feels like 42.” My internal thermometer reads “feels like death by wet sauna.”
The humidity makes the yuck stick to me. I’m dusty and grimy and wheezing and giddy. I hope the satchel of vitamins and potions I brought and this “carefree, easy stress-less lifestyle” will make up for the toxins pummelling my body.
My buddy from back home, whom I’ve known forever and who has lived here in Boracay for eight years, arrives to pick me up on a small dirt bike. I hop on. He weaves in and out of similar traffic, and we arrive a few blocks away from my final destination.
I’m staying at the home of a friend of his, who is away for the month. His place is modest and comfortable, though lacking a patio door—as in there’s a gaping space where a door should be, which is no big deal because it backs on to a construction site and has make-shift scaffolding conveniently located within a plumber’s crack of my deck. Safety first, I say.
But no worries, there’s a 24-hour security guard (on the other side of the building).
Note to self: Hole up in bedroom at night, lock door, and jam chair under handle. Except the door opens the wrong way.
Second note to self: I’m sort of solid and stocky at the moment (compared to Philippinos), I’ll just put up a fight. Or raise my voice. (Trust me—that may work. Ask any of my exes.) As a last resort, I’ll kiss him on the mouth.
But the apartment is comfy and it is conveniently located a couple blocks from D-mall, the hub of island life with shopping, markets, services including hair waxing (which I need pronto) and massage (which offers a happy ending. I’m not that into the cultural experience. Though it has been a while … [Awkward laugh]).
I settle in and later take a wander. There is much to describe and the term “culture shock” barely covers it. (More later.) I go to bed at 9:30pm, sleep solid until 4:45am and awake refreshed with zero jetlag. With over twenty-four hours of travel and a 13-hour time difference, you may proceed to call me a lucky bitch. (I’ll release myself of that designation in my next Borocay blog installment.)
What have I (re)learned? Use a fricken travel agent, people! I recommend Christina Sumner. (Again, C.S., please leave a comment with your contact info!)
Find espresso shop with WiFi. A-sap. Check.
Get waxed. Check. (Details to follow.)