With its great beaches, Boracay
in the Philippines
is hard to beat, and the Ambassador
In Paradise is the resort of choice.
BORACAY in the Philippines seems perpetually to be in one list or another of the best beaches in the world. Well, the accolades are certainly well-deserved, for its white sandy beaches are exceptional.
Boracay also has the reputation for being â€œparty centralâ€? â€“ everyone here seems to be partying from 6pm to noon. Itâ€™s the Ibiza of Asia, so to speak.
I was there during the tail-end
of the crazy summer holidays so there was a swarm of college- and university-going Filipinos about. You could say this vacation was something I had been looking forward to for a long time, it being my first time there.
Unfortunately, the airline I had booked for the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Clark Terminal, and then onwards to Boracay almost soured the experience. To cut a long story short, I ended up spending eight hours at the airport in Clark, one of the worst airports to be stuck in.
If I was lucky enough to get a boat to Boracay from Caticlan after my connecting flight, I might be able to check into my resort hotel, the Ambassador In Paradise, past midnight after my 10am flight from KL!
Thank goodness, the resort (recommended by the trusty Agoda.com) managed to make pickup arrangements for me. From Kalibo airport, the resort driver got me to Caticlan within ONE hour instead of the customary two â€“ all while being a safe driver as he braved terrible road conditions and the dark of night. Impressive!
I managed to catch the last â€œofficialâ€? scheduled boat and arrived at the resort at 10.30pm, where I promptly crashed for the night, having been up for close to 21 hours. But before that I was floored by my Premier Ocean View room. It was huge, and had a king-sized bed and two divans.
But it was the bathroom that had me gawping â€“ it was big enough to accomodate a beach party. Later on, I found out that the extra space was utilised in higher-grade rooms for an en-suite Jacuzzi!
They have four other types of rooms and a presidential suite. Their two-floor family suites can cater to seven.
Next morning, I found the view from my bed to be astonishing. From the balcony windows (I was on the ground floor), I could see the five-star resortâ€™s only restaurant. On the right was the amazing beach with the requisite swaying palm trees and the blue ocean beyond. And on my left was the resort swimming pool.
Breakfast was the first thing on my to-do list. They keep it simple here with a choice of five â€“ American, Continental, Filipino, plus Spanish Omelette and Dutch Omelette.
I opted for the last, which was fried eggs with smoked ham, sliced cheese and crispy bacon bits. Nice. If youâ€™re wondering about this option, the owner is Dutch and has two other hotel properties in Haarlem, the Netherlands.
I had the Filipino set the next day, which was basically garlic rice, beef tapa (diced), pickled papaya, pork sausages and superb crunchy anchovies. Itâ€™s like the Filipino version of nasi lemak. It was so good that I had it again the next day.
For lunch, I had their set meal, which commenced with a cream of roasted prawn saffron â€“ flavourful but a tad heavy on the saffron. The appetiser of salmon gravlax bruschetta was very good, while the mains of oven-baked tanguigue fish in lemon garlic sauce was not too bad. And to wash it all down was the delicious dalandan (sweet orange drink).
Dinner at the resort did not disappoint either. The cream of pumpkin was divine, the pork adobo was out of this world as the chef had tweaked it to be spicy and even thrown in some eggplant; desserts were limited but tasty (including the local leche flan â€“ creme caramel basically); and the cocktails hit the spot.
The food is good, but the service needs to be improved. Surely one doesnâ€™t need to remind staff about cutlery, condiments and such? But it helps that despite the shortcomings, they do their jobs with a smile.
Now whatâ€™s a beach vacation without a massage?
You can opt to have it in your room or by the beachside. I had mine in the room, and it was pure bliss. A combination of shiatsu and Swedish techniques kneaded away my aches and stress.
The resort is at Station 1 of the famous White Beach, with Stations 2 and 3 to the left of the resort. Despite a bum foot and doctorâ€™s orders to rest it and not get the wound wet, I couldnâ€™t resist taking a walk on the beach.
Station 1 is not as crowded as Station 2 where most of the night life is concentrated. AXN was having a party that evening (open to anyone above 21), and it started at 6pm. And there was yet another party the next evening organised by some other group.
All kinds of water activities were on offer (the resort can arrange them for you, too). These included banana boating, paraw boating and parasailing. What I found unique here was the way the locals use surfing boards for paddling on â€“ with an oar in hand while standing on the board!
Besides White Beach, there are other beaches like the relatively uncrowded Puka Beach. For a scenic view of the island, youâ€™ll want to head on up to Mt Luho, the islandâ€™s highest point.
Off the beach, one can opt for ATV rides, buggy rides and bicycling.
The best way to get around Bora (as the locals call the place) is via the many electric tricycles that run till late. Hop on and off one for 20 to 60 pesos (RM1.50 to RM4.50).
If youâ€™re into shopping, then the place to go is DMall â€“ itâ€™s a one-stop centre for souvenirs, fresh produce and restaurants. There are loads of boutiques and shops to browse to your heartâ€™s content. And while Filipino food is no great shakes, there are many other options on offer.
If thereâ€™s one thing I couldnâ€™t understand about the resort, it was the imposition of corkage on guests. If guests wanted to bring outside food, liquor or soft drinks into the hotel, a fee was imposed. They made an exception for water and snacks.
Never in all my years of staying in hotels and resorts have I seen corkage being imposed. Perhaps they should reconsider this, as itâ€™s not very endearing to guests.
But one thingâ€™s for sure, I will go back to beautiful Bora.
AMBASSADOR IN PARADISE
Station 1, Sitio Pinaongon,
Boracay Island Malay Aklan
Tel: +63 36 288-1541