Escape to the beach

Escape to the beach
PHOTO: Joy Fang

It did not look like much at first - but once I reached the end of the wobbly plank and beheld the sparkling cerulean waters that stretched as far as the eye could see, it took more than simple willpower to make the leap.

What followed was the longest five seconds of my life - first, near paralysis from a dizzying, petrifying fear, then a rush and plunge into chilly water as I broke the rippling surface of the sea from a cliff five storeys high.

The other travellers at Ariel's Point were decidedly more thrill-seeking (or foolhardy) than me and took to leaping off the edge with hoots of abandon.

But once was more than enough for me, and I was content to just spend the rest of my day kayaking and snorkelling in pristine, crystal-clear waters teeming with marine life.

Kicking back

There's something mystical about the calming effect the sun, sand and sea can have on harried, work-weary souls.

Boracay, a small island in the Philippines gives you all that, along with the creature comforts of stellar restaurants, accommodation to suit every budget, low-cost public transportation, and a slew of extreme sports like kite-surfing and parasailing for thrill seekers as well as pulsating night parties.

My first stop right after I checked into my hotel was the award-winning White Beach - a mecca for beach connoisseurs the world over.

Walking along its stretch of pearly, sugar-like sand, with the sparkling turquoise waters of the sea lapping at my feet, I felt renewed and as carefree as the Paraws (native outrigger sailboats) catching the breeze along the horizon.

A world away from looming deadlines, I could luxuriate, empty my mind and people-watch while sipping ice-cold beer. There was no rush - the only indication of time slowly slipping away was the dipping sun as the expansive azure sky turned to gold.

Seeking thrills

The only time I was ever inclined to snap out of my vacuous, beach-bum state on the island was whenever my travel partner heaved me off the recliner for some heart-stopping extreme sports.

For those who love scuba diving and feeling at one with the ocean, Boracay is the place for you. There are dive trips to suit any skill level - places for beginners all the way to "Yapak", a deep wall dive for experts with a chance of seeing stingrays and sharks.

If you want to take to the skies, a parasailing tour around the island to seek out deserted beaches and snorkelling sites is a great option. Being way up high above the rabble definitely slows things down and puts life right back into perspective.

To satisfy your need for speed, head to Bulabog beach. With strong winds and a small lagoon protected by coral reefs, it is renowned for being the best kite-surfing destination in Asia. There are at least six kite-surfing schools to check out, so you'll be doing daredevil, freestyle tricks in no time.

Indulge yourself

Should the hunger pangs kick in, great local eateries and restaurants are never too far away.

Jonah's Milkshakes at Willy's Rock is a brightly coloured shop serving thick, creamy milkshakes - the best on the sunny isle. At the Sunny Side Cafe, I stuffed myself with an immensely satisfying nutella pancake with dollops of ice cream, and ended with a cuppa with aromatic caramelised notes.

Mayas, along White Beach, serves reasonably priced Mexican and Filipino fusion fare with a spectacular view of the sea to boot. Dos Mestizos, rustically furnished in homage to its Spanish-Filipino heritage, whipped up one of the best paellas I have ever tasted in this part of the world, while top-rated gastropub Los Indios Bravos on Bulabog beach has not-to-be-missed fresh oyster platters, steak and fish mains as well as craft beer.

But the best meal I had in Boracay had nothing to do with the quality of the food. It was pre-dinner drinks and canapes on the high seas aboard a sunset cruise.

Standing at the bow of the ship as the sun retreated for the evening and dusk fell, a hushed silence came upon the guests in the boat - but only for a few seconds.

Moments later, Pinoy pop hits began blaring through the speakers as the fun-loving and affable crew invited us to dance.

And here on a yacht sailing its circuitous route around a paradise island fast igniting with song and dance, I lost all my inhibitions, laughing and bopping away to the music with the salty wind teasing my hair and sandals carelessly tossed on the deck.

Guidelines

- I flew from Singapore on SilkAir to Kalibo International Airport in Aklan province. Then, it was an 80-minute drive to Caticlan Jetty Port where I boarded an outrigger boat for a 15-minute ride to Boracay.

- Most tourist accommodations are along White Beach. Opt for places around Stations 1 or 3 if you want quieter surroundings; Station 2 can get noisy and crowded as it is the epicentre of all activity in Boracay.

- Exercise your bargaining power when booking an activity along the beach. You can knock off half the price if you are an adept negotiator.

Go to sgtravellers.com for more stories.

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