Boracay Island lies at the heart of the Philippine archipelago and has often been touted as possessing the world's number one tropical beach. Indeed, a tasteful green sign indicates this truth as you wade on to it from your quaintly noisy outrigger hired at the nearby main island of Panay.
World class beaches require world class daily itineraries. We shall assume that any visitor worth their salt has occupied their day with suitably worthy pursuits. Perhaps a leap of faith has been made in the decision to opt for a tan, hoping the trend will remain in place for a season or two. At lunch, ladies must carefully choose from their collection of sarongs brought with them from home, while Gentlemen may wear locally-purchased sarongs without any hint of irony; not so much post-Beckham, but Brosnan à la The Thomas Crown Affair. Perhaps a more active option has been taken in the form of some water sports. Shallow dives are more appropriate allowing for longer meditative bottom-time and avoiding the need to be involved with any depth machismo that might be encountered later in the evening.
Whether you have been drenched by the sun or the sea you will have needed a healthy siesta. You will probably have been eco-conscious enough to choose your accommodation without air-conditioning, waking instead in a locally-owned bungalow constructed from reclaimed wood. The fan above your bed will be chopping the air and, for a few seconds, you will be reminded of sweaty Graham Greene novels until you sit up and see your drinks refrigerator and neat en suite bathroom.
In preparation for the evening it is necessary to frequent yourself with the day's world events. You will have promised yourself at home not to spend a single minute online or watching television and will therefore have to do without CNN and opt instead for the BBC World Service on your digital short-wave radio bought from the duty-free shop at your airport of origin. You will reflect, whilst looking at the sea from your veranda, upon how meaningless the global business seems that can be heard through the sketchy reception. At the end of the news the World Service frequency will be switched to another band that you will never be able to find.
At this point ladies should become mindful of the time and decide what clothing will be worn for the night ahead; after showering no fragrances should be worn, relying instead on the light scent of sun and sweet air. Gentlemen will enjoy a fine trauma-free shave in the presence of humidity before changing into linens, as there is rarely a better choice. Neither he nor she should bother with footwear. On leaving your group of bungalows the guard will ask, 'Dining and dancing, Sir?' You will reply, 'Yes,' in a tone that indicates how tiring dining and dancing can actually be.
Now it is time to make the northerly evening migration up the two kilometers of Boracay's white beach. The first port of call will be Nigi Nigi Nu Noos 'e' Nu Nu Noos. Nigi's is a Tiki paradise. You will sit at the tall bar amongst elderly divers speaking Swiss German and drink your frozen margarita. Your barman will watch your progress like a hawk for it is happy hour and as you begin to finish your cocktail he will begin to blend ice made from mineral water for your second drink. Here you will listen to pleasant lounge music: Frank Sinatra; Dean Martin; perhaps some Billy Holiday if Nigi's is pursuing a slightly darker mood.
It will then be necessary to move upwards to Charls (sic) Bar, where you will sit on chairs wedged in the fine white sand with the sea lapping a meter or so away. The palm trees will be bound in fairy lights and the lanterns of late fishermen can be seen and you'll make a mental note of how it is possible to be happy with very little. Your cold beer will be complemented by listening to Santana and probably a small dose of Sade. At this point you will understand with utter totality why Sade is so good.
Northwards again to Summer's Bar. Depending on your day's activities you will meet either your fellow beautiful people lounging on the beach or perhaps your dive master. The barman will have seen you walking in and probably chalked your name up on the pool board as you will have surprised yourself at just how good you are on tables with large pockets. The music might be reminiscent of early Balearic Beats and many of those present will laugh as they remember how seriously they were once taken. You will agree to have supper with some new friends and carry on northwards.
Supper might be at Mango-Ray's. Company will be divided as to whether to stay with cold beers, wrapped in their own thermal coats, or to move on to rum and cokes where the rum costs less than the coke. Pleasant euro-conversation will ensue in several languages around the table and everyone will feel most pleased with themselves as they eat Greek salad out of conch-like shells, nestled on purposely-crafted wedges of sanded wood.
After supper many will move on to Cocomangas, the smaller sibling of the original version in Australia's Byron Bay and drink their trade-mark 'jam jars' whilst being buoyed by energizing tunes straight from Hong Kong. Before the bar shuts at midnight all will have moved on again.
The final port of call for the night will be Beachcombers. There's nowhere else still open so all mingle: you are here with the local Mr. Big, the tarts and the pimps; others dressed in linen and designer gear, some in boardies and Hawaiian shirts; tourists, dive instructors and elderly Americans who love it so much they've retired here. All drink cold beers and eat pizza that comes from a bar like Mary Poppins' carpet bag whilst listening and dancing to all manner of fun and cheesy tunes in front of the sea illuminated by a moon that seems to be full for sixteen days of the month.
Around four in the morning you?ll find yourself on the back of a speeding trike, whisked through dark roads. The driver has no lights, but he knows the pot-holes like the back of his hand. Back at the bungalow the guard will say, 'A good night, Sir?' to which you'll reply, 'Yes, thank you,' and you'll make a mental note to find out his name tomorrow. Some light might be appearing in the distant east and as you lie beneath your Graham Greene fan you?ll think luxuriously to yourself of how world class beaches really do require world class daily itineraries.
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Published on 7/16/03