Blog Two In The Boracay Beach, Philippines / Himalayas, Nepal AJ Travels Series.
My plan was to come to Boracay to get in shape for my hike in Nepal next month—did I forget to mention that part? Yes? Well, we’ll get to that, just you wait. Where was I? Oh, right—get fit for hike.
My buddy—we’ll call him Blue Eyes—who lives here in Boracay, has done a bunch of hikes in Nepal including the Mount Everest Base Camp hike and the Annapurna Circuit.
A few weeks ago, I impulsively decide I need to go somewhere “spiritual” for my Canadian snowbird getaway from winter. Bhutan is at the top of my bucket list, but Nepal is at the top of my budget limit.
I email Blue Eyes: I’m thinking of doing the Everest Base Camp hike. (Traverses to 18,000 feet above sea level.)
He replies: Boring! You’ll hate it.
Me: I want to do a hike with a lot of up and down. I need to work my glutes!
He suggests the Annapurna Circuit.
I Google it.
Well, of cooouuurse it’s the right hike for me. My damn name is even in it!
Never mind that the last (and one and only) moderate hike I’ve ever done was five years ago when I actually was in the best shape of my life and before I gained twenty pounds along with a bunch of health issues (see various other blog posts). The very reason I need to do a spiritual (read: get-my-ass-and-rest-of-me-back-in-shape) hike is to get over my damn ass already!
Never mind that I’m still on chelation drugs for all those health issues that put me in a mildly depressive, lazy, comatose, constant-napping state for the last few years (and helped add those extra pounds, though I must claim assistance in that area as I also over-indulged in bacon before/during/after the napping stage. Yes, bacon—prescribed by an eccentric Russian Ojai naturopath. My bad.)
Never mind that the hike is “100 to 150 miles in length depending on the route taken.”
At 10,000 to 17,700 foot altitudes.
Never mind that I had serious altitude sickness on the other moderate hike (in Peru) at only 10,000 feet.
Never mind that I rewrote my Last Will and Testament the week before I left Canada. Just in case.
Headline: Local Ex-Star Realtor Hikes Himalayas, Gets Trampled By Yaks.
Anyway, I’m here on Boracay Island and so far my fitness plan has consisted of fish & chips, MSG (or similar facsimile) and sweating. I’m pretty sure I’m breaking even on the MSG/sweating bit. You’d think that in this tropical climate—that “feels like 44 degrees (Celcius)” according to the weather app on my iPad mini—I might lose a bit of my appetite. Not so much.
After I get settled in, I wander over to the beach via D’mall, only a few stinky blocks—pollution, raw meat, fish, sewage, garbage—from where I’m staying.
D’mall is an outdoor mall (damn creative naming) with fine sand pathways leading through a veritable smorgasbord of shops and restaurants. The north end is more ‘local’ market fare with the ‘fresh’ food vendors and open-air butcher shops interspersed with mini convenience stores selling individually packaged dried mango slices and every manner of candied anything. (I’ve noticed in my travels that the poorer the country [class?], the more they enjoy their over-packaged sweets. Interesting.)
Smoke Resto is located in this area. It’s is an affordable favourite for locals, ex-pats and the budget-friendly tourists probably because it’s surrounded by foul-smelling raw fowl. Nonetheless, it’s worth it. A bowl of beef hock soup (with generous chunks of beef and bok choy) is 180 pisos or roughly 45 cents—Canadian. (It’s got to be organic, free-range because they can’t afford hormones, antibiotics or contemporary closed holding facilities). The veggie chop suey is also delish at 230 pisos/60 cents. The server tells me there is no Magic Serap (aka MSG, which is an unfamiliar word to most of the locals) because it would be way too salty and swelly-causing. Lord knows that beach attire and swelly-belly do not bode well together. Not that I’ll be donning a bathing suit anytime soon.
—We interrupt this blog to Note. To. Self: I got my decimal wrong! It’s not 45 cents, it’s $4.50! No soup for me! No wonder I keep running out of money so fast. Damn it. See? Not so good with travel stuff. Okay, carry on.—
Also—re: bathing suit comment—remember that my memoir subtitle is “From Vanity Insanity To Self-Acceptance. Sort Of.”
Maybe I’ll drop my ego in the Himalayas, after which I won’t mind dropping the towel, but right now I’m 20 pounds over my healthy weight, people! Refer to cellulite/skinny bitch blog on ej. Yes, I’m aware I’m not selling myself here as potential wife/girlfriend material, but guess what, I don’t f’n care. (That’s a fib. I do care. Single men, please stop reading now before I do further damage to my rapidly declining marketability.)
Shit, where was I? Oh, yeah, tropical beach …
I want to take photos of everything, but some things can’t be captured by images: the smells of garbage, cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, rotting mystery meat; the sounds of mufflerless motorbikes honking honking honking, a thousand dogs barking and cocks crowing, obnoxious Top 40 tunes and nostalgic 70s tracks slapping my ears from every shop, trike and make-shift-no-code dwelling, all with excessive decibels and on different stations; the feeling of my clammy clam, the grime that sits on … everything and sticks to sunscreened and Deeted flesh, the tickle of bugs crawling all over me—flies, teeny tiny ants, mos.qui.tos!; the taste of a fresh mango yogurt milkshake and plastic-tasting water from leaching bottles because there are no other options (except poorly selected import wines).
I don’t mean to be a meanie. Lord knows I abhor Negative Nellies (irony noted), so I will come up with some pluses, I promise.
I wander down the sand boardwalk/”upper beach” area that is cordoned off from the “lower beach” area with twenty-foot-high walls of bamboo supported opaque plastic (as defence against typhoons). This barrier protects the string of hotels, restaurants and bars that span a couple miles just off the beach and that run from the southern end (Station 3: high end, ritzy) to the northern end (Station 1: locals, cheapskates—err, budget-conscious) and to an area known as Angol, which is not cordoned off and which sports sailboats, catamarans and other sea vessels in a cove facing a new high end (and near empty) resort. The “Strip” feels like a cross between the Venice Boardwalk, an Ibiza nightclub and a Mexican market.
As I meander along, the locals leer at me, both men and women. The women don’t like competition (I’ve been told) and the men, well, they’re ‘friendly’ (that’s just obvious). I want to be friendly, but any display of amiability results in harassment. Amiability translates to less than a tentative smile. Amiability is eye contact, even a furtive glance. I learn to avoid eye contact. I tire of saying, No, thank you to offers of hats, sunglasses, sailing excursions, massages and restaurant promos. By the end of the first day, I’m used to hearing the singsong lyric ending with a drawn out, up-octave yes, ma’aaaam?
You want hat—? You want sunglasses—? You want eat good foods—? Massage—? yes ma’aaaam?
I’m forced to re-evaluate my dislike of “ma’am” when I’m passed by a grinning Chachie on a motocross who singsongs, Hey, babyyyy.
I yell back at him: Don’t call me baby. I don’t like it.
From a distance I hear, Yes, ma’aaaam.
I’m surrounded by people and yet feel completely disconnected.
I decide to walk the beach where solicitors aren’t permitted. With its icing sugar sand and azure waves, it truly lives up to “Top 20 Beaches in the World” (Top 2 in Asia). It is a stunning miles-long cove of tropical paradise.
I arrive at Nigi Nigi Nu Noos ‘e’ Nu Nu Noos, a local hangout for ex-pats and “white” tourists. (You so know what I mean. And how is that politically incorrect? Everything is f’n politically incorrect here!) Blue Eyes is here at Nigis (“every day at 5pm”) with a bunch of accent-strong Europeans. It’s not yet sunset and everyone is half in the tank—except the Norwegian. He’s fully long gone, as in wasted, as in three sheets to the wind, as in “honest occiffer I’m serfectly pober”—as in drunk. This is so not my scene. I’m a glass-of-Pinot-pass-the-truffle-noir-cheese-please-let’s-watch-Breakfast-At-Tiffany’s-or-any-Bardot-movie kind of gal. (I know, I know, why am I here, again??)
I take my leave, but it’s too early to go home and I’m hungry. (Always, damn it.)
I soon discover one of the silver linings (for me) of Boracay Beach: it’s a foodie haven! Scrumptious and authentic nummies from nearly every country one can think of. French and Italian espresso shops and bakeries! (And they’re not half bad!)
I relent to my fate of self-sabotage and stop for grub at an Indian restaurant that is nearly empty save for one tall German gentleman awkwardly sitting on the floor surrounded by plump, canary yellow silk pillows.
I need greens. Did I mention travelling constipates me? (My Little Mom has Crohn’s disease, the apple didn’t fall far—everything constipates me. TMI? Too bad. I’m the one suffering here, people!)
I go for the tabouli salad, totally forgetting about the only-eat-what’s-been-boiled-peeled-or-fried and-don’t-drink-the-water rule.
Headline: Naive Ex-Modest-Producing-Realtor Shits Self To Death.
Silver lining 2?: If I do manage to get traveller’s diarrhea, perhaps I’ll lose a few pounds! (No such luck.)
I end up sharing a meal with Za German …he’s a nice fellow. Men ought never aim to be remembered as “the nice fellow” if they hope to “get some.” But he is nice, although not completely familiar with Canadian slang.
We halt the conversation several times so he can Google phrases—
Juzt un moment, letz me look zat up. Logger ya?
I smile affirmation.
A-ha, ya ya!
Later, another one: Midz live crizez …
And finalzy: Oh! Holz on— (clicking away on his iPhone, laughs)—Wingzwoman! Hahaha!
He’z a nize man, but I don’t gevz him my contact info, ya, ya. Um, no.
And zis is zee enz of day two.
Headline: Managing a Midlife Crisis—Why It’s Safer to Choose the Red Car.
What have I (re)learned? The surest way to a true, deep connection (if holiday temporary) is to get each other’s sense of humour. Without Googling it.
Homework: Google “where white trash politically incorrect semi-redneck logger’s daughter who likes classy shit can find like-minded folk vacationing.” Ya ya. Eh!