Tag Archives: ocean

My New View

My New View

This view, from the kitchen of my parents’ home, is helping me deal with the sadness I’m feeling over no longer in Korea. That’s Angel Island out in the distance. The hills covered in houses is Sausalito. The view changes every morning thanks to the heavy fog and bright sun rising over the bay.

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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.

-Taft

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Second Temple Stop

This is the one I’ve been waiting to show you!  It was my favorite stop of the whole trip.  As usual, I had no idea what was going on when we arrived.  The bus pulled into the parking lot of a small flea market that was an odd mix of fish and the normal cheap crap that you find at flea markets.

My assumption was that we were there to check out the flea market and take a quick restroom break.  I walked into one of the shops and started to look around.  When I looked back up, the whole group was walking through the parking lot.  By the time I caught up, I realized they were heading toward a small trail head.

As we snaked our way up a large hill beside the parking lot, one of the teachers told me that we were going to a Buddhist temple that overlooks the East Sea (aka Sea of Japan).  I don’t know exactly what I expected to find when we crested the hill; all I know is that I was totally surprised.  It was a lot more than a temple – it was a whole village of beautiful Buddhist buildings.  I think the photos speak for themselves.

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Until next time.

-Taft

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Haeundae Beach Trip

This is Busan:

I decided at the last minute to take a trip there this weekend.  Seth and I caught the KTX (awesome!) at 3:57pm, and we were on the beach before 6pm.  Living in a country the size of Kentucky can have some major advantages.

The KTX

I can’t say enough good things about the KTX.  It’s fast, easy, and relatively cheap.  We showed up at Dong-Daegu Station a at 3:15, and we were speeding toward Busan less than an hour later.  Unlike the subway, KTX economy cars are fitted with comfortable seats and are quite relaxing.  The train was so smooth that I didn’t even realize that we were moving until a shadow swept across my window as we passed a building.

We made a brief stop in Ulsan, and we were on our way again.  The entire trip, including the stop in Ulsan, took about 50 minutes.  Like in Daegu, the KTX station in Busan was very nice – clean and open with high ceilings.  We walked out the main exit and found ourselves in a small park where we found hundreds of people enjoying the weather.

Haeundae Beach

From the KTX station, we caught a cab to the beach.  We knew immediately that Busan was different from Daegu – the cab driver spoke to us and made an effort to understand what we were trying to communicate.  Hell, he even took us where we wanted to go.  The trip took about 25 minutes, so we had to split a whopping $16 cab fare.  We stepped out of the taxi and walked directly onto the beach.

For the first time in months, I didn’t feel like I was in Asia.  Between the masses of foreigners on the beach, and the hillsides covered in buildings, it felt a bit like we were transported onto a Mediterranean beach.

FYI: I don’t know this girl, but she was kind enough to pose for my picture anyway. It’s like when you think someone is waving at you, and so you wave back, only to find out their friend is standing behind you…but this time it’s captured on film.

After spending a few minutes on the beach, Seth and I checked into hostels and got cleaned up.  Seth got the last bed at the hostel in which all of our friends stayed, so I walked across the street and checked into a different one.  Fortunately, Indy House had plenty of room.  It was also quite nice.  Indy (the proprietor) keeps the place very clean.  It felt more like a ritzy summer camp than a hostel.

We all went out to dinner at a nearby beach called 광안리 (Gwangalli).  Dinner was aggressively mediocre (buffet), but the view from our table overlooking the beach made it all worthwhile.  After dinner, we walked back out onto the beach and enjoyed the weather and the full moon.

We spent the rest of the night bar-hopping.  I had to cut out early as I was incredibly tired.  I jumped in a cab before 1am.  I found out that next morning that I missed out on a lot more fun.  But that was OK, because I was awake and alive the next morning to enjoy the beach one last time before heading home to Daegu.

Until next time.

-Taft

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