Hotel California

As most of you know, I went to the Philippines a few weeks ago.  I stayed on a small island called Boracay.  I didn’t love Boracay.  Actually, that’s an understatement.  I hated Boracay.  The beach was absolutely beautiful, but the rest of the island was awful.  I was so ready to leave by the middle of my trip that I paid over $400 to leave early.

Luckily, I didn’t come home empty-handed.  I picked up some amazing stories and the horrible stomach bug that I mentioned in a previous post.  There is way too much for one post, so I’ll split it up.  I’ll begin by telling you all about Boracay.

The Good

Though I was sick of the place by the time I left, there were definitely some redeeming qualities worth mentioning.  The first was the Turtle Inn, where I stayed with several of my teacher friends.  This little gem is tucked away in the corner of an absolute slum about 400 yards from the beach.  I expected the worst as I walked up to the entrance for the first time, but was delightfully surprised to find that this family-owned inn is clean and has excellent service.

The owners are an American man and a Philippine woman.  I never met the husband – the wife ran the place.  She and the staff provided excellent service the whole time.  Best of all, the food and drinks were pretty cheap, so the small restaurant below my room was a perfect place for a cheap beer.

The beach was stunning.  White beach, the stretch on which we stayed, reminded me of a Caribbean island with brilliant sand and crystal clear water.  Best of all, there were some waves, so it was fun to play in the surf.  Almost all of my time at the beach was spent in the water.

The Bad

As soon as you step off the beach, everything in Boracay is third-world.  Although many resort destinations are located in poverty-stricken places, it is rarely as in-your-face as in Boracay.  On more than one occasion, locals (often young children) would walk into a restaurant and interrupt our conversation to ask for money.  Many of the people lived in abandoned buildings, like the one beside my favorite happy-hour bar on the beach.  They spent their days blocking the walkways and begging for money.

Although the begging was frustrating at times, it was not as infuriating as the throng of locals trying to sell things everywhere you go.  There is a single walkway that stretches the entire length of White Beach.  All of the tourists must use this boardwalk to get anywhere, so salespeople are always there.  They seemed to avoid the Asians, probably because of the language barrier, so they were free to concentrate on the white people (we made up about 10% of tourists).  It was difficult to have a conversation walking to and from the local businesses.  We were constantly followed by people trying to sell everything from massages to necklaces to jet-ski rides.  The fact that every one of us wore a pair of sunglasses didn’t stop the dozens of men carrying large racks of knock-off Ray Bans from following us down the boardwalk begging us to buy more.  Near the end of the trip, I was ready to strangle the next person who yelled, “sirrrrr, massage?” at me.

But the absolute worst thing in Boracay was the hyper-aggressive prostitutes roaming the boardwalk and the beach.  Hordes of nocturnal sex zombies, on the prowl as soon as the sun sets.  Unlike most prostitution markets, this one was not organized, each person occupying a specific area.  It was populated by a bunch of freelancing weirdos that specialize in the sexual ambush.  They would wait for us to pass, jump out into the walkway, and follow us everywhere.  We were easy to spot, since the majority of the people out at night were either locals or Asians.  These hookers had no qualms about grabbing us to get our attention.  One night, one of the hookers was so aggressive that she grabbed my pants and I had to push her away so that I could keep walking.

The worst part about the hookers was that there was a sizable group of ladyboys sprinkled in the mix.  I heard about ladyboys before I arrived, but I was not prepared for the weirdness.  Most of the stood out like sore thumbs.  They looked less like women than skinny men in drag.  Unfortunately for one of my friends, alcohol can blur the line between a mannish woman and a discount drag queen (more on that soon!).

After four days, Boracay started to feel like Hotel California.  I thought I might never leave.  I was so sick of salespeople and hookers that I avoided walking anywhere that wasn’t close to Turtle Inn.  Every time I walked home at night, I was legitimately concerned about being stabbed or kidnapped by ladyboys.

Luckily I’m home now.  School has started back, and I’m falling right into my old routine.  I expect to have some good new school stories for you soon.  In the meantime, stay tuned for more stories from Boracay.  Trust me, they are worth the wait!

Until next time.


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6 thoughts on “Hotel California

  1. Mary Katherine Love Walker says:

    I am glad all is well.John and I enjoy reading your updates. Hang in there , that beautiful sandy white beach is waiting for you.:) xoxoxo

  2. Wow, Taft! When talked to you at Drew and Nat’s party, I had no idea this was the ‘adventure’ that you had just returned from! Glad you are well now. Welcome back to the grind. 🙂 Can’t wait to hear more about your wacky school.

  3. Debbie Teague says:

    Hi Taft, still reading your blogs. This one actually made me sad to think that people have to live that way and make a living the way they do. Some of these countries are so poor that it makes ME feel rich and I clean houses for a living!! Thanks for helping me see how fortunate I truly am.

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