Boracay to BSB, Brunei, Borneo

Tl;dr – walk, minibus, boat, minibus, too many taxes, flight, wait, free bus, wait, delayed flight, super late hotel transfer

These remote islands take a while to get to and therefore a while to get out of. Also, with Manila being the main hub of the islands we were heading back to the madness to transfer to Brunei.

We had been so impressed with the transfer on the way in we figured it was well worth getting it back. When we gave our flight time we were told to be ready for 12:30. At 12:21 we were met by our first orange-shirted man. We were walked to the van and we set off. We picked up a bunch of people on the way and arrived at the jetty. The jetty had been closed the previous day due to the bad weather but the weather was glorious now.

We paid our terminal tax and had a short wait at the terminal before our boat was ready and we zoomed off across the strait.

Apart from the short walk at the start (which was in the shade) we had been air conditioned all the way until the boat but the breeze from the speed was perfect. When we stopped at the mainland we realised just how hot it was. We had to carry all our stuff round the terminal to the bus stop and Kate had overindulged on the UV rays so couldn’t carry much on her shoulders. So old Mike the Mule carried both bags in the midday sun and I felt it. But thankfully, the company’s little waiting room had loads of air conditioning! It also had a broken bench that both Kate and I sat on on separate occasions, much to the amusement of one of the eight orange-shirted men.

Our air conditioned bus rocked up after a short wait and we made the long but pleasant journey to Kalibo airport.

Once at the airport we checked in and I was informed the hand luggage allowance was 7kg and I had to pay to check my bag in. Once checked in we had to pay an extra tax to use the terminal, despite our airfare being “inclusive of all taxes and fees”. Regardless, we were through and when we picked up our own plastic child-sized chairs to sit on, we knew our airport tax was being well spent.

Our plane arrived on schedule and we got on board.

As soon as we were up at altitude we were heading back down into Manila. We had plenty of time for this transfer which helped but we were still going between terminals (this time T4 to T1) and we were pretty worried about how exactly it was going to happen.

Once off the flight and with bags collected we saw a sign for terminal transfers. We gave our flight details and waited patiently. The room was getting full until a man came through and read out a bunch of names. Everyone got up one by one until it was just us left. Then the room started filling up again. The man walked through once more and started reading out everyone elses name once more. Then “Laney, Kat” was shouted out and we assumed that was us and got on the bus to terminal 1.

We were there in no time and it was free. This whole transfer business had worked smoothly! We got some cheap microwaved food after security and headed to our gate (not quite the last one but only one off) to hear our flight was delayed due to needing a new tyre. We weren’t too bothered, after our last experience of Manila we were just happy to be there.

Our flight was with Royal Brunei as they had been the cheapest airline to get to Borneo. They are however not a budget airline and it was lovely. Big seats, all-inclusive price with a meal, even if it was served after midnight. Unfortunately due to our consistent usage of budget airlines I must’ve missed the special dietary requirements box and Kate was left without a veggie option. But aside from that, it was a very pleasant experience.

In Brunei immigration and customs took no time at all and our hotel driver was ready and waiting to take us to our hotel room so we could finally get our heads down in Bandar Seri Begawan.

The stats

12:21 walk to main road: 3 minutes

12:25 minibus to ferry terminal: 1100 PHP (as part of complete transfer deal) (£18.67), 24 minutes

12:59 boat to Caticlan: included with above but extra 200 PHP terminal tax (£3.40), 7 minutes

13:37 bus to Kalibo airport: included with above, 1 hour 36 minutes

17:02 (8 minutes early) flight to Manila: 3594.80 PHP (£61.03), 1 hour 18 minutes (5 minutes delay)

18:58 bus transfer from T4 to T1: free, 14 minutes

22:52 (57 minutes delay) flight to Bandar Seri Bangawan: $182.80 (£150.05), 2 hours 4 minutes (57 minutes delay)

01:21 private transfer to Jubilee Hotel: 10 BND (£5.88), 12 minutes

Arrived 01:33 +1 day (GMT +8)

Total time in transit: 5 hours 58 minutes

Total travel time: 13 hours 12 minutes

Total cost: £239.03 (£119.52 each)

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Bora Bora Bora Boracay

Overview

Population: 28,369

Currency: Philippine Peso (PHP)

100 PHP = £1.70 . £1 = 58.9 PHP

Time Zone: GMT +8 (7 hours ahead of UK summer time)


17th – 21st Oct

The first thing we did in Boracay was enjoy our free welcome drink at our home for the next four nights. Once gulped down it was time for bed for the epic journey we had endured had tired us out somewhat.

Our next day we ate breakfast in the hostel before heading straight to the beach. One of the many perks of staying at Frendz Resort is that they have a link with one of the beachside restaurants so you can order drinks or food to your room use their loungers. As we got to the beach we realised this place was something special!

We went for a dip and the water was perfect! Clear, not too cold, not too salty, no visible man-eating creatures. Back on the loungers we got chatting to a couple on the beach that were also staying at Frendz. We shared some beers before they went to explore the island and we went to grab a late lunch from the restaurant.

After lunch we walked the 10m back to the beach and stayed there most of the afternoon. It was so nice after our previous day to chill out. It was also nice to have some really good weather after all of our typhoons!

Once we were done with the beach we ventured along the island to a shopping district called D mall. We looked at some souvenir shops and scoped out our dinner options. We eventually settled on a place called Epic to enjoy the sunset.

We met back up with our new friends at Frendz after food. The hostel has a bar area that plays a variety of music all day and is a nice little spot to grab a drink under the wooden canope.

We chatted away, drank beer and played uno. Later on we walked up the alleyway to a little roadside shack to drink local rum and play beer pong. We then moved on towards the beach to try out a couple of bars on the beachfront to have a dance, including one with a full live band.

The next day was slow to start. We walked along the beach to get food and on our way back found our new friends sleeping on the beach loungers. We joined them before heading to the sea for another dip. The weather was beginning to get a bit windy (because we couldn’t come somewhere like this without at least one typhoon) and the waves were getting fairly big, which turned out to be an effective way of livening us up.
After all the beach fun we had a nap. It had all been too exhausting. We also needed to be fresh for the evening as every Wednesday Frendz puts on a live music and free pasta night for their guests.

We found our new friends once more and joined them to await our free pasta. The live band were one of Philippines many many cover bands and they weren’t too bad!

After our pasta we started playing “Jumbling Blocks” – a Jenga rip off with slightly uneven blocks. As we were hitting our Jumbling Blocks stride the singers swapped and we had a very enthusiastic chap called Armand TJ who sang stupidly catchy songs about his homeland. He was well into it and he jumped on the table and destroyed our Jenga, I mean Jumbling Blocks tower. Gutted…

He was good fun though. He got everone involved and made sure all countries represented at the pasta night got a shout out.

Good to see the Wales flag flying proud

As other hostel guests started to filter out to bars and pubs, all four of us called it a night after our previous nights enjoyment. But not before a beautiful group selfie.

That night the rain had come and gone and in the morning of day 4 the epic puddles were a sign of just how much water had fallen. The torrential downpours seemed to have stopped so we went out to run some errands. Boracay has one main road that runs the length of the island. This road is serviced by an almost endless supply of tricycle taxis (think motorbikes with big sidecars). We needee the post office and jumped in the first one that stopped. They’re tiny, not built for us westerners.

When we got out we walked under a giant post office sign but saw no obvious post office. We asked a local who told us it moved to the other end of the island. Back to a tricycle! We asked for the post office and the guy just pointed at the 15 foot high post office sign we were stood underneath and was about to set off but a local chirped in and told him it had moved. One epic tricycle round trip later and our errands were complete. All for the princely sum of 200 pesos.

Our next task was lunch so we just headed in the direction of the beach and the mall where there are a million and one choices. The weather was dull so rather than the beach we wondered to the other side of the island, through tiny alleyways and over waterpipes.

The east side of the island is the destination for most tours so the beach was littered with boats and nowhere near as pretty as the other side. We ventured back through some gigantic puddles, some of which were ankle deep with dark brown water and you didn’t know what you were stepping on.

With the rain persisting I decided it was time I got the old barnet trimmed. We found a hair salon/nail place and when I asked for a haircut they didn’t seem to know what that was. But the lady who was busy doing a manicure subbed another lady in and sat me down for my haircut. It cost me 200 pesos (just over £3) and I even got a head massage at the end. It was only a day or two later I discovered it was the worst haircut of my life…

After that fun it was time for tea. We had walked past a steakhouse a few times on the beach and the tricycle guy had said it was the best steak on the island so we tried it out. I had a fillet steak and it was fantastic.

We had a wonder up and down the beach before heading back to the hostel for a couple of beers. They were playing an entire Eminem album and it was not quite the ambience we wanted. I asked the hostel guy if we could have something else and he handed me his iPod and said I was the DJ and it was much better.

Our final morning had lovely weather once more which was a shame because we were leaving at midday. We paid our bill, had one last breakfast and grabbed some drinks and snacks from the market before it was time to spread our wings once more.

The hostel

Frendz has apparently been the hostel to stay at on Boracay for quite some time and it’s easy to see why. The room was fantastic (and was cleaned every day), the staff are incredible and call you by name, the bar is a cool place to hangout especially on free pasta night and it’s a 3 minute hungover stumble to the beach. They make everything so easy for you and treat you like lifelong friends (hence the name). Hands down the best hostel we’ve stayed at!

Taking A Korea Break – To The Philippines

Tl;dr – walk, metro, airport express (non-express), traditional Korean airport, completely uncomplicated nterterminal train, flight, quick transfer at Manila, Manila airport is freaking crazy, terminal transfer but no bus for 40 minutes, scam taxi through gridlock, thought we were too late but successful check-in, 2 hour flight delay, flight, transfer stickers, bus, boat, minibus, guided walk

So it was time to say goodbye to Korea and say hello to the Philippines. We got up early, grabbed a quick brekkie and headed to the metro. We tried to buy our tickets but the machine said we couldn’t change trains where we needed to. We asked a member of staff who found an English speaking staff member and said we were heading to Incheon Airport. The first guy came back and told the second guy to tell us to get the bus. He then went away, came back 30 seconds later and told the second guy to tell us to get the metro. So we did. We were assured we could transfer despite the machine telling us otherwise.

We got to Seoul station and thankfully transferred no problem. I knew the next departure was a direct express train to Incheon and we got on the first train to arrive at the station, which said it was the airport express. Another train came and went and when we left we stopped everywhere en route. Turns out the line is the Airport Express and there’s an Airport Express Express.

Despite this we made it to Incheon with plenty of time and checked in. We were flying from Seoul to Manila and Manila to Kalibo so thought we would be able to check in for both but were informed we couldn’t. We had a 1 hour 40 minute turn around in Manila and we were starting to worry we had not left enough time.

We sat down in an area of the airport that looked very out of place in a busy international airport.

It felt quite nice and would have helped us relax about our impending short flight transfer had we not started reading about our first airport destination. “It is a nightmare” read one. “Try and leave at least 3-4 hours” read another. Oh.

We got through security and had to board a shuttle train to get to the area of Incheon airport where we would find our gate. As if that wasn’t enough our gate was once more at the very far end of the terminal. It meant we got to watch the planes go by though.

Once on our flight we had a chance to sit back and relax for a few hours. We had a plan for the other end and we were determined to give this transfer our best shot. We were out of our seats as fast as we could to get off the plane and to security at the front of the queue. We breezed through quarantine, breezed through customs and were ready at either end of the carousel to get Bertha as soon as she popped out of the hatch. It wasn’t long before Kate and Big B were reunited and we were ready to go check-in to our next flight.

We landed into terminal 3 and needed to hop across to terminal 4. Unlike our five minute shuttle train in Seoul we knew this was going to be difficult. All of Manila’s four terminals are completely separate and connected by busy public roads that are prone to epic traffic jams. We asked a lady at the bag collection how best to get to terminal 4 and she informed us we could get the free shuttle bus. Brilliant, we thought. We walked around the building to a bus transfer waiting area. We had to go through a security screening and sat down in a holding area where was no information at all, anywhere. I asked a guy when the next bus was and he informed me one had just left and the next one would be showing up in 45 minutes. We couldn’t believe it. We had 40 minutes to check-in closing and just couldn’t wait that long. We were told plan b was to head back out to the front of the terminal and get a taxi.

We went back out of the bus holding area, walked back round the front and outside the terminal. We were immediately accosted by a man asking if we needed a taxi. He then asked our flight time and, after I divulged this information assuming he was an airport employee, he began to run away from the taxi stand to the public pick-up/drop-off bit beckoning us to follow saying we had no time. I knew at that point this was not going to be a regulation taxi, nor was it cheap. But with neither the time nor know-how to negotiate we figured it best to just do whatever to catch our connecting flight. He told us it was 1500 pesos and at that point we should have just left and found a proper taxi. But this was a high pressure terminal change and we weren’t thinking straight. I therefore went back into the terminal building (through my second security checkpoint) to get cash out leaving Kate behind to reserve our taxi.

After my card was spat out by 2 machines I headed for the only other one I could see, with a queue of five or six people. The guy at the front seemed to be watching a short film on the screen and after a minute or so of him not moving I left the queue and went and found another machine. This one was happy with my foreign card because it could charge me an extra 200 pesos. But time was more important than money so I accepted the charge, grabbed my cash and found Mr Scam Taxi Man who was holding Kate hostage.

We paid Mr STM who asked for even more money again. I politely declined his request and thankfully that was fine. He shut the door and our driver set off. We travelled about 20m and got stuck in an epic gridlock. We had 20 minutes till check-in closed and this was not what we needed. 20 minutes later we had barely moved. At this point I just wanted to not have to pay anymore and get to our terminal to rearrange our flight.

When we eventually turned up at terminal 4 we escaped the taxi without paying any hidden fees and walked into the terminal (through my third security checkpoint) assuming the worst. We found the check-in desk with a bloke that said nothinh to is. We asked if it was closed and he just asked for our passports. It appeared as if he was checking us in, and shortly afterwards he presented us with 2 boarding passes. We couldn’t believe it! The flight was due to leave in 20 minutes though so we grabbed our bags and rushed through my fourth and final security screening in Manila. We found an information board to look for our gate and discovered our flight was delayed by an hour. Oh.

Terminal 4 feels more like a bus station than an airport, with rows and rows of chairs and TVs playing local channels. It caters only for domestic flights so is the smallest of the four terminals (???). Seeing as we had some time until our flight we checked out our dining options. There were two doughnut shops, Papa Johns (with no veggie option) and a canteen style counter selling food and beer. I went for food and beer, Kate made do with plain rice and a cinnamon roll.

Our new flight time came and went but we boarded the plane shortly afterwards. We were sat on the plane for about 40 minutes before we moved anywhere though. Eventually we did take off and,.bar a rather steep descent and landing, the flight itself was relatively pleasant.

On the ground in Kalibo we picked up Bertha from the solo baggage carousel and headed outside. We had pre-arranged a private transfer through our hostel so we headed towards the company’s counter where a man was delighted to show us a board with “Lane Kate” on.

The reason we had organised a private transfer was due to the logistics of the transport. Boracay is a small island 70km from Kalibo airport which means you need a bus, a boat and a bus or tricycle taxi at the other end, something we would have struggled with had our flight been on time, let alone landing so late in the evening.

To identify us we were given stickers with our hostel name which delighted us because we were staying at Frendz resort and this made us look super cool.

And unlike our introduction to the Philippines’ transport network, this transfer ran like clockwork. After a relatively smooth bus journey (bar a couple of hairy overtaking manoeuvres) we arrived at Caticlan ferry port. At the port we had to pay a couple of taxes and then an army of orange t-shirted men and women escorted onto our 20 seater boat for the short crossing to Boracay. At the Boracay side we were met by a second army of orange t-shirted men to usher us onto our correct minibus. Within minutes we were off.

As we approached our resort we were escorted off the bus by our own personal orange t-shirted guide who walked us the 3 minutes down a lane, into the resort and straight to reception! We had beaten the odds and we had actually made it!

The stats

08:55 (GMT +9) walk from B&J Guesthouse to Hansung University Metro Station: 8 minutes

09:13 metro to Incheon International Airport: ₩8,700 (£6.31), 1 hour 25 minutes

12:55 flight to Ninoy Aquino (Manila): £192.16, 4 hours 20 minutes

16:40 (GMT +8) taxi from terminal 3 to terminal 4: 1500 PHP (£25.47), 35 minutes

19:23 (2 hours 3 minutes delay) flight to Kalibo: 3164.80 (£53.75), 1 hour 22 minutes (2 hours 20 minutes delay)

21:00 bus to Caticlan: 1100 PHP (as part of complete transfer deal) (£18.67), 1 hour 17 minutes

22:35 boat to Boracay: Included with above but extra 350 PHP (200 PHP terminal tax, 150 PHP environment tax) (£5.95), 7 minutes

22:45 minibus to Frendz Resort (almost): Included with above, 13 minutes

22:58 walk to Frendz Resort: 3 minutes

Arrived 23:01 (GMT +8)

Total time in transit: 9 hours 30 minutes

Total travel time: 16 hours 6 minutes

Total cost: £302.31 (£151.16 each)