Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pearl Farm Resort

After twenty minutes of smooth sailing, our almost silent boat (a novelty in The Philippines) docked upon the shore of this sublime island paradise. Recently swallowed up by the ever-increasing city limits of Metro Davao, Samal is the perfect island for escape.

My first impressions of Pearl Farm are nothing but awe and wonder. It's perhaps no surprise to me, that this resort was designed by an artist and not an architect, which adds to its already abundant postcard persona. The theme is Asian tropical, with Balinese style high ceilings, bamboo structures and thatched roofs.

Once home to an abundance of pink, white and gold pearls, the resort covers 14 hectares and was once home to thousands of white lipped oysters. Unlike other resorts in the area, the buildings don't impose on the tranquil settings. Instead they were built around the contours of the island. 

Before I even get a chance to step inside my room, I'm dwarfed by the size of it all. This may be considered basic accommodation by the elite, but these lodgings are bigger than my house. This really is how the other half live, with the price tag reading 'splurge only.'  The moment you step off the boat, the staff are there to welcome you with warm smiles and open hearts. You don't just feel like a VIP here, you are one.

Something as simple as bathroom towels, become origami creations, with each day presenting a new animal. I can scarcely believe my eyes, as I spy an elephant sitting on my bed, made from about 3 bath towels and a boatload of patience. The following day, my elephant friend is gone only to be replaced by an elegant swan.

The sandy coves are a blinding shade of white with the midday sun, and the surrounding turquoise waters fluctuate between green and blue throughout the day. I sprawl myself out on a lounge chair to read a book, and notice the change of colors between chapters. Yes, it really does happen that fast.

Breakfast and dinner is a buffet affair, with world class cuisine and both Filipino and Western food available. Maranao Restaurant serves a varied mixture of cuisine, with many different palates catered for to suit a complex list of clientele.

I opt not to wait the required thirty minutes before swimming, as the twinkling ocean rises and falls before my eyes, teasing me. The water is just right for a dip, making swimming a superb activity of choice anytime of day. The warm waters are akin to a jet-stream jacuzzi. The snorkeling is also good with supreme visibility and calm currents.

For those snorkelers who consider themselves a little more adventurous, the bigger fish lay waiting under the resort jetty. It's here you will find tuna and snapper, as well as barracuda if you're lucky. For scuba divers with an itch for exploration, there are two sunken WW2 battleships less than 60m from the resort.

Aqua Sports Activity Centre is home to many activities, both above and below the water's surface. Speed boats and outriggers can be rented out for a sunset cruise, perfect for honeymooners and hopeless romantics. Although banana boats, kayaks and wind surfing is all on offer, I can't refuse a jet ski.

Jet skis are available on a per use basis, and feeling like something new, I decide to give it a go. It's like mixing the 'walk on water' abilities of Jesus Christ, with the rebellious nature of 'Easy Rider.' It's bliss. As I roar across the water to a not too distant mountain, all the worries of the world are blown away. The huts on the shoreline quickly come into focus, and the ripple of waves left by my wake, provides a nice rocking action to my machine.

Home to more than just indulgence and water sports, visitors are also able to learn about the Mandaya people, a tribe native to the area of Eastern Mindanao. Adjacent to the tennis courts, I watched the intricate process of transforming a local cloth known as Dagmay, into everything from handbags to household ornaments. In the process, I was lucky enough to learn a little about their tribal folklore and spiritual beliefs, something I don't think they offer at Club Med.


By Plane - From Metro Manila, three major airlines fly daily to Davao and the flight is a breeze at only 1 hour and 45 minutes.

By Boat - Two shipping lines (SuperFerry & Sulpicio) have regular trips to Davao from various locations, scattered throughout the country, including; Manila, Iloilo City & Cebu. Travel time from Manila can reach two days.


Prices range from somewhat affordable to downright expensive. The Hilltop Room is the most affordable at $150 USD per night, while those wanting to splurge on a Malipano Villa can expect to pay $680 USD each night for the privilege.

Roundtrip transfers from the airport will set you back $20 USD, while the roundtrip boat transfers will cost another $25 USD.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cafeteria Verde

CAFETERIA VERDE - Robinsons Galleria (3rd floor)

With simple yet sufficient settings, this small restaurant is more like a food stall but it makes good use of bamboo fencing, something that brings out the eco-warrior in all vegetarians. Cafeteria Verde offers shoppers 'the better option,' meaning healthy lifestyle choices but perhaps most importantly - an affordable price

A diverse selection of vegetarian and vegan friendly choices. For starters, enjoy deep-fried and battered cauliflower florets, served on a bed of lettuce with curry dipping sauce. The best bet in the appetizer section though, are the bean and cheese taquitos - comprised of spicy beans and sharp cheddar cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla. Served with homemade salsa or aoli (get the salsa), the jalapeno tang and sharp cheddar bite will leave even carnivores frothing at the mouth.

As well as sandwiches and a better-than-average veggie burger made of tofu and mushroom, this small restaurant also serves complete meals. A variant of spaghetti bolognese is on offer, and with a delicate yet rich sauce of garlic, fresh basil leaves, ripened cherry tomatoes and olive oil - you won't miss the beef.

The Mongolian style fried rice is indeed delectable, topped with long strips of fried egg (or tofu) and crushed peanuts. In true Mongolian style, the dish isn't overly spiced or sauced, which lets the fresh vegetables and subtle flavors speak for themselves.

The health craze doesn't stop with the food either, as you'll find no soft-drinks or beer on tap here. All drinks are healthy fruit or vegetable (or both) shakes, made freshly on the premises before your very eyes.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mt. Iglit National Park

This jungle reserve is well worth a visit for all nature lovers. The journey there takes a little over an hour on a motorbike from San Jose, but the bumps on the 'bitumen' will make it feel twice as long. It's best to hire a guide once you get there, as townships turn to jungle before your very eyes, quickly too. It's also a great way to experience the way of life of Mindoro's indigenous Mangyan people.

Our guide is named Paulo, and upon meeting him, he introduces us to his wife and eight children, who giggle and gawk at me, smiling their adorable smiles. We are invited to a banquet meal before our arduous bout of jungle bashing, where only local ingredients are used. The small fish are caught from a nearby mountain stream, the rice is freshly harvested from a neighboring paddy field and all the vegetables are grown within the homestead. All eyes are on me as I chow down on a delicious plate of rice and veggies, as Paulo informs me that his children have never seen a white man before. His youngest son illustrates this point, by pulling the hair on my leg and barking at me like a dog.

After finishing our meal, we say thanks and bid farewell to our gracious hosts. Paulo warns me that the length of our proposed hike is four hours up and four hours down. Surrounded by such pristine beauty, I think only of the wonders that lay ahead, and not the turmoil it will cause for my body.

Our journey starts on a well trodden path, wide enough for two people to walk abreast. The weather is hot and clammy, the air humid and heavy, so when it starts to rain - it's with great relief on my part. I embrace is with arms outstretched, Jesus Christ style. My guide chooses instead to wait it out beneath a makeshift shelter of banana leafs, looking at me meekly from time to time, between puffs on his menthol cigarette, all the while shaking his head in disbelief.

The rain ceases momentarily and we trudge on, slipping and sliding in the mud that has engulfed our trail. The pathway has been reduced to the width of a bicycle tyre, and the constant battle through sharp bushes makes me reconsider my choice of short pants. Paulo runs ahead, undaunted by any obstacle we cross.
"I am here everyday, for hunting purposes," he says. "I am chasing the wild pigs, deer as well."
The national park is also home to the tamaraw, a subspecies of Buffalo endemic to Mindoro.

Alas, Paulo finally stops ahead of us and disappears into the jungle. Thinking perhaps he has gone to relieve himself, he returns instead clutching bananas in one hand and a jackfruit (lanca) in the other. The bananas are different to others I have tried, with a floury texture and slightly bitter aftertaste. The jackfruit on the other hand, is perfectly sweet and delectable - if a little alien-like. Prizing it open with a few swift motions of his machete, we feast on the sticky fruit, which tastes like a cross between mango and banana. The texture is strange, both chewy and soft at the same time.

When we finally do reach the peak of Mt. Iglit, we have only a few moments to catch our breath and stand in awe of our surroundings. It has taken us close to four hours to scale the summit, but nightfall is soon approaching and we must beat it down to the bottom of the mountain. Prior to descent, I spot the rice fields in the distance and fondly gaze at that psychedelic shade of green. A pulsating spectacle, found only beneath an Asian sun.

Due to a mudslide earlier in the day, our downward path is even more difficult than anticipated. I fall so many times that my once blue t-shirt, is now the color of the Earth. I decide a swim in the muddy banks isn't entirely out of the question. The river is fed by a mountain stream and thankfully, is refreshingly cold. I shed away six hours of jungle sweating by situating myself between rocks, letting the constant slap of water cascade on my back.

Nearing the end of our journey, we pass a water hose used for the surrounding rice paddies. Without so much as a second thought, I drop to my knees and direct the stream of water inward. It is muddy in color, and grainy in texture, but I don't give a damn. Overcome with elation, I soak myself from head to toe for the second time that day. It's only then, laying sprawled on my back, that I comprehend the magnitude of what has just happened.

I'm by no means a mountaineer, and before Mt. Iglit, I hadn't so much as scaled a small hill. I didn't find the elusive Tamaraw, but I found the utmost respect for the Mangyan people who call this place home. Walking away from Paulo's house and to our awaiting motorbike, my legs have been transformed into two strands of overcooked spaghetti. Paulo however appears not to have even broken a sweat. Clamoring up and around these peaks on a daily basis surely has benefits.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Corner Tree Cafe


Vegetarians rejoice!

Finally there is somewhere we can go to enjoy a meat-free menu in Manila =)

This simple and understated cafe in Makati, has a definite European vibe. The waiting lounge for takeaway orders, highlights the laid-back charm of the place, with comfy couches and magazines making you feel like you're at a friend's house. The clientele is a 50/50 mix of Filipinos and Westerners, but most importantly - the food is delicious. Everything is vegetarian or vegan, from the salads which are more than an afterthought, to the downright decadent desserts on offer.

The cuisine is Mediterranean inspired, with more than a little Middle Eastern Fusion. It's all prepared fresh, and the ingredients are only pure vegetables, with no mock meat. The best sellers are the Baked Tofu Walnut Burger, and the oozing cheesy goodness of the Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna.

I opt to start out with a Sicilian Tomato Soup, which is quite possibly the best I have ever tasted. Whole wheat bread is added to the soup, which adds texture and depth of flavor. The vegan option contains no cream, but I go for the vegetarian choice and the result is fantastic. For a main course, I just can't help myself. I go with a classic kid's choice and pick the Grilled Cheese. The sourdough rye is both flaky and crusty, and perfectly complimented by olive oil. The juicy roma tomatoes mix well with the basil leaves, and the overall result leaves me more than satisfied.

Athan, staff member, had a few thoughts on what makes Corner Tree Cafe stand out.
"We use only vegetables. We don't use old recipes with meat-free substitutions - that's boring," he says.

It works too. This hidden gem of a restaurant, does steady business in a meat lover's environment, winning awards along the way. In 2010, it was nominated for 'Best Specialty Restaurant' in Manila, and was added to the Miele Guide, which lists Asia's finest restaurants. In PETA's list of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country, Corner Tree Cafe ranked 3rd.

Open for two years now and going strong, manager Chiqui Mabanta, has thoughts of expansion for the future, with plans for a branch in Quezon City to be opened within the next two years. Open everyday except for Mondays, you should check it out now before it becomes a household name.

Address: 150 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air Village, Makati
Phone: (0917) 848-1004

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Crucifixion Carnival

A modern day crucifixion?

Surely not something at the top of any traveler's to-do list. Alas, it was something I wanted to witness first-hand. Real nails, real hammers, but worst of all - real hands and feet! A thousand times owch.

The crazy thing is, people are volunteering for this. I must constantly remind myself that nobody is being punished, but rather, something they look forward to each year. I spoke with Ruben Enaje, shortly after coming down from the cross for the twenty-fifth time in as many years.

"Why put yourself through all this pain?" I ask, unable to stifle my most obvious question.
"Why take a bath at the end of each day?" he retorts quickly, grimacing each time he touches his heavily hobbled hands.
"Do you want to see?" he suggests, catching me looking at his bloodied bandages.
"No, that's OK" I try to say, but it's of no use. He thrusts forward his battle scars, and I find myself looking at a gaping wound in his left palm. There is little blood, but a bouquet of bone and muscle on display. He catches my look of terror and laughs proudly.

Once the volunteers come off the cross, they are treated like rock stars. Everyone wants their picture taken with these brave souls, but shaking hands is strictly frowned upon.

Close by to the crucifixions, a man walks blindly, with a black sheet over his head and a crown of thorns upon his brow. His back is bare, dripping with blood that spurts and splatters with each crack of his whip. A passerby, riding in a pedi-cab, curses herself for wearing white as he stomps past her.

The man's pants have begun the day as the color white. Hours of searing heat, dust and constant whipping have created a backlash of blood. The sweat pants are now blood-red, and their owner winces with each step he takes.

Suddenly, I find myself in a meditative trance. The whip-slap soundtrack provided by the masked madman, combined with the intense heat and humidity has taken me to an astral realm. All of a sudden though, reality shifts back into focus with a loud bang. Everyone begins to rush in the same direction - there is to be one more crucifixion for the day!

As I reach the mound where the crosses are stationed, I look around at my surroundings and notice the similarities to the real deal, two-thousand odd years ago. The weather is steamy, but with desert like temperatures to boot! The landscape is somewhat baron and ultimately, it is rural. There's a viewing platform, and vendors selling everything from San Miguel Pilsen to Buko juice.

The final volunteer has the look of unease in his eyes, eyes which bulge with fear as several coils of rope fasten him to the cross. His hands are washed with alcohol, with just one step left in the process.

A soft thud from the hammer, is all it takes to force out a blood-curdling scream as his body writhes in agony. His body is writhing, like a snake being skinned, and his howls of pain could wake the dead. A similar result occurs when the right palm is nailed to the cross, and he's sobbing as they stand the cross up straight. He's not out of the woods just yet though, as each foot must be nailed in place too.

Perhaps only in The Philippines would a vendor of helium-inflated animal balloon animals stand just meters away from a man being crucified. He looks on with interest as the nails disappear in flesh, before looking around the crowd to see if anyone needs a refreshment.

There's a long list of events that fall under the category of 'only in the Philippines...' - but for me, this stands out!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Walk to Antipolo

"There are more people on the roads than cars!" I think to myself. There's music and marching madness all around and the air is fever-pitch. One thing's for certain, the excitement is contagious. It's not long before I'm swept up in the encompassing enthusiasm and brush up on my marching skills.

If it weren't for the tens of thousands of other people ascending past me, I'd think to ask a few questions. I'd want to know where exactly everyone was heading to, but with this many people bustling past - it was inevitably something worth seeing.

Along the busy stretch of Ortigas Avenue, we hear the steady beat of marching drums and murmured prayer. The jeepneys and tricycles that jostle for position with the swarm of pilgrims, are careful not to honk their horns and upset the religious reverence that's ever present. For once it is us pedestrians who aren't the minority, rejoice!

Starting in Pasig City, we leave the hustle and bustle of Manila after about two hours. It is then that we begin to scale the mountains of Antipolo. Once you begin the winding path up the hills, all fourteen stations of the cross must be crossed before reaching the famous church. At each station, there are a collection of stalls selling food and beverages. There's also musical performers and dramatic re-enactments of the final hours of Jesus Christ.

Post midnight, the atmosphere is akin to that of a carnival, and rather than complain about a long night of walking, families are roaring with laughter and people are dancing in the streets, all the while chanting prayers directed at the heavens above.

We had been walking for more than four hours, and feeling worse for wear, began to see how those around us were holding up.
"Since Taguig," says Anne, a student from Taguig City University. "We are now walking for our seventh hour. We started at 9pm, it is now 3am. I'm so very tired."

After such a tiring walk, many people opt to sleep outside the church, on nothing more than newspapers. Understandably so for some, who have walked as far as 50 kilometers! Spread out upon their favorite tabloid, many people sit down with friends for a late-night picnic of beer and snacks.

Antipolo is roughly 25 kilometers from Metro Manila, and is home to the most stunning and sweeping views of the seventeen cities that make up our world-class city. The view at sunrise is awe-inspiring, and well worth the trek. Watch as it basks in gentle orange ambiance of early morning sunshine that knows not yet of traffic.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dumaguete City

To many people, Dumaguete is nothing more than a ferry-point to the nearby islands of Cebu and Bohol. To those who dig a little deeper, it's a charming seaside city with a lot to offer visitors. Known as the 'city of gentle people,' it's an easy place to make friends, all while soaking up the sun in this laid-back town.

The capital of Negros Oriental prides itself on a relaxed vibe and friendly outlook. As you watch the palm trees swaying to and fro with the evening breeze, you might just find yourself doing the same. This is the kind of place where alarm clocks seem foreign, so leave yours at home!

The centuries old Dumaguete Belfry, adjacent to the city plaza, offers visitors with a fascinating glimpse into local history. Back in the day (1760's), it was used to warn the townspeople of incoming pirates. Legends of buried gold circulate the town, so you never know your luck!

As it's located right next to the cathedral, the exterior of the bell tower is adorned with religious sculptures like the virgin mary. The dome a top the building is lit up at night, as if to warn any would-be pirates, centuries later.

Rizal Boulevard, also known as 'the boardwalk,' is lined with clusters of coconut trees - the calling card of the tropics. A lot of bars and restaurants can be found along this strip, while cuisines as far-flung as Indian and Indonesian can be found and feasted on. Live bands play most nights in open-air venues that surround the boardwalk. Like elsewhere in The Philippines, the bands are usually full of energy, and delight in entertaining the crowds.

WHERE TO STAY - Hotel Nicanor is your best bet as for where to bunker down while in town. The building is kept immaculately clean, and right from the moment you step through the doors - the staff make you feel right at home. Situated right in the heart of the provincial capital, you're within walking distance of all the city sights. With rates starting at just 850 PHP, it really can't be beat.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bacolod City

They call it the 'city of smiles,' and with good reason too. Wherever you wander in town, you're sure to be greeted with a grin. Market vendors and taxi drivers alike will engage you in conversation, no idle chit-chat either, with topics involving anything from the crisis in Libya to your marital status.

The city itself is laid out much in the manner of those in Latin America, with a town plaza and public parks galore. The streets are full of Spanish-era buildings, and some of the churches date back as far as the 1800's. Many visitors opt to soak up the atmosphere inside, which you're more than welcome to do at mass time. I decided I would put my agnosticism aside and have a peek. I had barely taken a step into San Sebastian Cathedral, when I heard a madman condemning contraceptives, labeling them as part of a 'cycle of death.'

Shaking off the madness, I decided it was time for a beer. Preferably San Miguel. Lacson Street, is home to the largest amount of bars and restaurants in the city, with Korean and Japanese being the most sought after cuisine. Golden Fields is the entertainment district, with karaoke bars and acoustic bands galore, not to mention more than a few go-go bars.

Bacolod City is a highly urbanized one, and HQ of the sugar bowl (Negros) with 500,000 residents. Visits can be arranged to nearby sugar mills, where you can witness the process of transforming sugar cane into the granulated form used daily around the world.

"It's the Filipino equivalent of the deep south in the USA," says Imelda, local resident. "It's very laid-back, church and family play the biggest role in our daily lives." The relaxed atmosphere makes for a perfect escape from the stresses of Manila. The Provincial Lagoon is the Bacolod equivalent of NYC's central park, with a man-made lake, statues and green growth abundant. It acts as a mecca for jogging and fitness enthusiasts in the early hours of the morning, with musical groups practicing in the afternoon.

The Ruins are as the name suggests, the remnants of a Spanish-era mansion. About 10 kms outside of town, it appears on the horizon out of absolutely nowhere. The building was torched by Filipino guerrilla fighters during WW2, to avoid the Japanese using it as their headquarters. The surrounding farmland of sugar cane plantations has been unchanged for centuries.What's left of a once great mansion, now plays host to a charming restaurant, with a mini-golf course to keep the kids entertained.


SPLURGE - L'Fisher Hotel is the perfect place to lap up a little luxury, with 180 rooms and right in the middle of Lacson street. Go on, opt for the royal treatment. All rooms come with air-con and a private bathroom, and the hotel is home to not one, but three separate restaurants. Try the wood-fired pizzas from Chalet Rooftop Bar, they're the best in Bacolod! Room rates start at 3,500 PHP, while the Royal Suite will set you back a whopping 12,200 PHP.

BUDGET - Sea Breeze Hotel (San Juan street) has to be one of the nicest budget hotels I have come across in the whole country. Room rates start at 850 PHP, and all come equipped with air-con, cable television and a private bathroom. The hotel is said to be one of the oldest in the entire city, and the building itself is very grand and a throwback to the Spanish era.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nagarao Island

Situated just fifteen minutes off the coast of Guimaras, coincidentally home of the world's sweetest mangoes (stock up, they're served in Buckingham Palace!), this ten hectare island is a pristine paradise. A postcard-perfect tropical island - all to yourself? Imagine that! Escape the mundane, escape the everyday - on Nagarao you can do both. It's a temple of isolation, not desolation, and well worth a visit for anyone in the area.

The fragrant scent of frangipani welcomes visitors to the island, and the resort staff all follow suit. Due to the small size of the resort, meals feel a lot more like dinner at a friend's house. Expect the cook to greet you by name and suggest activities for you during the day. The food is fantastic, and can be suited to fit any diet, even vegetarian (thankfully). Just be sure to let them know when you make your booking.

You can go for a jungle walk and try your hand at living off the land a la Bear Grylls, with coconuts and papayas readily available for harvest - providing you can scale a skinny tree. This little patch of perfection is the definition of serenity. The only sounds you'll hear at night are the crescendo of waves crashing down upon the shore, itself a soothing tonic to the stress of city life. The air is sweetly scented, and as there are no motorized forms of transport on the island - remarkably fresh.


After dark and armed with nothing but a flashlight, I explore the coastline on the lookout for nocturnal life. Hermit crabs of varying sizes shamble awkwardly on the sand. I pick one up and it instantly retreats into its shell. After taking a couple of steps though, it makes an abrupt exit from home. Looking more like a prawn than a crab, it quickly scuttles into another abandoned shell. I reflect how handy it would be to hide in your own shell, whenever someone you didn't like approached you. These hermit crabs have it easy.

Activities during the day include; swimming, sunbathing, sailing and snorkeling, although the latter is somewhat restricted by weather. If Mother Nature decides to smile upon you though - you're in for a treat. Nagarao Island is surrounded by a coral reef, and with that comes a multitude of marine life. Fishing trips can be arranged, as can island hopping but it's important to remember not to overfill your schedule. You're here to relax after all =)

The island is also a haven for birdwatchers the world over, with many species calling it home. The surrounding waters are home to some truly strange creatures too, like squirting sea cucumbers, and skinny-armed starfish, not to mention small crabs that are either translucent or camouflaged (it's impossible to tell). 

Scattered along the coastline, there are sixteen individual bungalows. Rustic, yet romantic, they each come with a private bathroom and a choice of air-con or electric fan (for bookings and info, check out

If swimming in the sea is not your cup of tea, a swimming pool is provided. If you'd rather stay active during your stay than slumped on the beach, there's also a tennis court. Don't worry though - it's not mandatory ;)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Boracay Island

First impressions are rarely anything to set your watch to, and Boracay is no exception. The streets are overflowing with tourists, and pushy vendors selling everything from scuba diving too sunglasses are in abundance. The beautiful beach is swamped with bars and restaurants, but luckily the soothing ocean breeze comes at no cost to the visitor.

There's a plethora of activities to keep you busy during the day, with a wide range of water sports including; sailing, paragliding, jet-skis, snorkeling and glass-bottom boat tours. For something a little different, give helmet diving a go. Think scuba-diving without all the complicated equipment and tiresome tutorials. It's a strange sensation to be breathing naturally, several leagues beneath the sea.

Boracay offers activities above sea level too, such as go-karting. With the smell of burning rubber, the constant whur of engines at full capacity and the murmurs of spectators - close your eyes and you could be forgiven for thinking you were at an F1 track. A tricycle ride to Boracay Gokart should cost no more than 50 PHP.

With pedal to the metal, I zoom around the 1km track, opting not to hit the brakes at corners but drift and swerve instead. For 30 mins on the track, and just as many laps, I'm more than content to relive childhood memories - this time without fear.

For early risers, 'True Food Indian Cuisine' holds daily yoga classes at 9am. While the rest of Boracay is busy sleeping off hangovers, experience island tranquility and serenity before the masses awake from dreary slumber and converge on White Beach.

Other areas of Boracay offer visitors a glimpse at what life was like before the hordes of tourists. The northern tip of the island has areas better suited for snorkeling, so rent a motorbike, hire a marsk and fins - have some fun! Puka Beach is perfect for a fruit picnic, with sweet mangoes and pineapples available from many beach vendors. At certain times of the day, you may just find you have the beach all to yourself.

As a prime tourist destination, there are many restaurants to choose from, with cuisines the world over represented. Although the prices are somewhat inflated, you should have no problem finding food that suits your palate. Everything from vegetarian to Texas BBQ is on offer, with even Mongolian thrown in for good measure.

Olé can be found in D*Mall, and is the perfect place to escape exorbitant prices. A fine mix of Spanish/Mexican/Cuban/Filipino fare, it is open 24 hours a day and the food is excellent. Open for five years and going strong, include it in your itinerary.

After dark leaves White Beach pulsating with energy. The pounding disco beats last until around 4am, with drunken party goers perfecting their dancefloor shuffles on the powdery white sand with unabashed enthusiasm. Live bands can also be found, themselves a welcome respite for those a little techno weary.

WHERE TO STAY - Hey Jude Resort is the best of both worlds. Just a 3 minute stroll to the stretch of shore that made this island famous, this hotel comes complete with a quiet courtyard and is surrounded by coconut trees on all sides - a perfect sound buffer against the noisy nightclubs on White Beach. Each of the rooms are well appointed with air-con and cable television, and breakfast is included daily.