Around Boracay

While most of my posts about Boracay (fondly referred to by Filipinos as “Bora”) have been about Discovery Shores, Bora has SO much more to offer in terms of dining, entertainment, and other activities. It just so happened, to your misfortune, that DH and I are really lazy lankers at heart. But we did go around a few times, and here’s just a taste of what’s around Boracay.

White Beach has a little strip mall in the middle of Station 2. It’s called “D’Mall”, a typical Filipino joke playing on the word “the”.

D’Mall has a bunch of restaurants that cover a diverse array of cuisine. There’s a Greek restaurant called Cyma (very good! Complete with the “Ooopah!”), and this Italian restaurant Aria. Both these restaurants started in Boracay but did so well they opened a branch in Manila.
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Then you have a bunch of grilled seafood restaurants like this one (sorry, didn’t eat here, so can’t tell you anything about it). But fresh seafood abound in Boracay, and the simpler restaurants usually grill them over charcoal. What can go wrong? Just make sure that you’re eating REAL fresh seafood, and take special care with the shellfish (especially oysters). To be safe, eat oysters on a full stomach.IMG_2336

For REALLY fresh and cheap seafood, go to the Talipapa (known as D’Talipapa, owned by the same people as D’Mall), or the wet market. There you can buy your fish fresh, and have it cooked the way you want it (grilled, steamed, wrapped in banana leaves, etc.). As long as it’s relatively simple, they’ll be able to do it. (Again, my apologies, no pictures).

Of course, the coffee craze has also reached Boracay’s shores, so you will find coffee hangouts. IMG_2337

One of the more popular places to eat is Kasbah, which serves Mediterranean food. Again, like Cyma and Aria, it did so well in Bora that they just opened a branch in 2012 in Manila.

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Unlike their Manila counterpart, their Boracay restaurant has that distinct island feel. The whole restaurant is open-air (actually, I don’t know of any enclosed, airconditioned restaurant in Boracay).IMG_2377

The decor is quite distinctive though. They did make the effort to have some Mediterranean touches. IMG_2379 IMG_2382

They had good kebabs, curries, and tagines, all presented in earthenware.

DH and I also tried Friday’s, the resort beside Discovery Shores. Years ago, Friday’s was THE best resort on the island, by virtue of its location. Just look at the view they have!IMG_2395

While Discovery Shores has a modern design, Friday’s went native. We had breakfast here one day.IMG_2392 This is their central restaurant. IMG_2394 IMG_2396

And of course, there IS Discovery Shores. This was our lunch. A seafood platter, good for 2. Can’t really go wrong here either.IMG_2419

With 3 kinds of sauces!IMG_2418
A side from restaurants, there is a whole slew of water sports, from the technical (diving, sailing) to the just-plain-fun (ask for the Banana Boat). On the other side of the island (which isn’t far) is kite-boarding. And for the landlubbers, there is an outfit that rents out ATVs to explore the island.

As for DH and me, we were just happy basking in the sun and feeling the sand between our toes.

Dos Mestizos in Boracay, Philippines


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DH and I decided to go to a well-reputed Spanish restaurant for dinner in Boracay. Friends in Manila have told me about Dos Mestizos, and I am fortunate enough to befriend the chef-owner, Binggoy Remedios , but I have never eaten there. Aside from the glowing reviews from fellow foodies, it got a good rating from tripadvisor (#6 out of 147 restuaurants!).

Frankly, I don’t really expect much when I dine in Boracay. I come here not for the food, but for the beach experience: the fine sand, the lounging in the sun, the lazy life. Also, I do understand that fancy ingredients are hard to come by in the island. It distresses me when I eat food that tries hard to be “haute cuisine”, but falls so short because they’re trying so hard to be something they’re not. I like sticking to the best ingredients of the island: simple, fresh seafood, without any complicated sauces or preparations masking their natural sweetness.

Dos Mestizos looks like a rustic Spanish restaurant, with earthy colors and dim lights. A large window to their kitchen dominates the dining room, emphasizing the chef’s pride in his kitchen’s cleanliness and orderliness.

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Dozens of magazine articles decorate the wall: a testament to Chef Binggoy’s talents and marketability.

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This mural of a nude maja shows Binggoy’s artistic leanings. IMG_2450

Their bar is in the middle of the dining room, inviting solo diners to sit and just people watch from the best vantage point of the restaurant. We’re lucky enough to see Binggoy by the bar, and say hello.

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After we order, Binggoy takes us around, showing us his wine room, his deli, and his bake shop. He proudly says that they make their own bread. I see ciabatta, baguettes, and gorgeous whole wheat sandwich bread.

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Two tempting legs of jamon serrano hang temptingly at the deli window, and his deli showcase displays an assortment of cheese. The deli is bright and inviting, and Binggoy says that his sandwiches are quite popular. I surmise the fresh bread has something to do with it.

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But we’re here for dinner, and so Binggoy settles us in a table and gives us a complimentary carafe of sangria. Since we’re only 2, we can’t order our usual array of tapas, so we settle for two: their homemade chorizo and slices of manchego. The chorizo was excellent! Packed with flavor of the pork and paprika, they sizzle deliciously in the  traditional earthenware dishes. They’re served with pan-fried,  diced potatoes and whole garlic cloves, both cooked perfectly. The garlic was sweet and mild, and the potatoes were crisp on the outside, adding to the textures. But the best part of the chorizos? The bits of fat in the sausage! They’re large enough that you can taste the fat.

Here’s a shot of the tapas menu, just so that you have some idea of their offerings and prices. Exchange rate was 1USD = 41PHP.
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For our main course, we order their assorted seafood platter: a combination of fish and shellfish, with a light beurre-blanc sauce. We had Aklan clams (large, sweet clams), mussels (tiny ones, so they weren’t rubbery), native scallps, grilled shrimps, and salmon. Of all the seafood, only the salmon wasn’t freshly caught (salmon isn’t a local fish of the Philippines, and are brought in frozen). While the salmon was still excellently cooked (crisp skin, and medium-rare), I felt that it didn’t belong in this platter of mostly local seafood. But, all the seafood was delicious: lightly seasoned, letting the natural flavors shine.

Sorry, but we were so excited by the food that I forgot to take pictures!

For postre, or dessert, we had the warm bread pudding with natilla, or condensed milk, and liquored ice cream.

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Getting Married? Have It At Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines

IMG_2431I promise this is the last post on Discovery Shores, lest you think I’m on their payroll. 🙂

Most people dream of a destination wedding, and if you want a beach wedding, I don’t think there’s a better beach than Boracay, Philippines, and Discovery Shores is one of the best hotel/resorts to have it in. As I said in a previous post, Discovery Shores is not only a beautiful hotel, but is also located in one of the best beaches in Boracay.

While lounging on the beach, we saw a lot of activity in front of the hotel: tents, tables, a stage, a sound system, flowers….what was going on? “We have a wedding at 4pm.”, we were told. So we saw firsthand all the preparations that went into a Boracay wedding.

The engineering staff of the hotel was a flurry with activity setting up the tents in front of the hotel. Apparently the ceremony was going to be on the beach (timed with sunset. How gorgeous!!), and the reception (dinner and dancing) was going to be on the beach as well, right in front of the hotel.

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Nearby, a gazebo was being constructed. The top photo shows the finished product (with DH and I posing for our anniversary picture).IMG_2398

Simple monoblock chairs were set up facing the water. This was around 1pm, and the ceremony was set for 5pm.IMG_2399

Underneath the tents, the presidential table was being set up. Fine linens and sturdy chairs were used, so at least the monoblock look was only for the outdoor ceremony.IMG_2403

The wedding party hired a band to play, and a stage was also being set up.IMG_2404

Part of a Boracay wedding is a sandcastle made of the famous sand, with the newlyweds’ names on it. Here you see the start of the sandcastle.IMG_2401

Carefully block letters are “carved” out of firm sand.IMG_2405

And the finished product! A very personalized sandcastle.IMG_2409

Stylish buffet tables, ready to be dressed up.IMG_2411

The reception area is cordoned off to ensure no “strays” wander in.IMG_2414

Almost done!
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The wedding attendants and coordinators get ready! The sun is starting to set.

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All waiting for the bride to arrive!IMG_2439Inside the tent….the finished scene! All lit up and ready to party.

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Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines Part 4: Facilities

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Well, just in CASE you’re the type NOT to hang out on the beach, Discovery Shores does have some facilites that give you alternatives to sunbathing. Firstly, the pool and jacuzzi (shown above) is shallow enough for easy wading. PLUS it’s beside the bar, so really nice for night swimming and hanging around the bar action. There’s a small side pool just for kids.

Just as an aside, Discovery Shores really took a lot of pains in landscaping their property, and making sure that their place looked nice both during the day AND night. Just look at the different colored lights, just for different moods.

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This is their cafe/breakfast restaurant. Unfortunately I took these pictures at night, so you don’t get to see it humming with activity. Or maybe that’s a good thing.
IMG_2464 Their front desk and reception table. During the day, there’s this big jar of cookies just sitting there on top of the counter, welcoming any guest to dive in and grab some. Rest assured I made myself at home here.IMG_2463

Their convenience store and sundries shop. Just in case you forgot your swimsuit or tanning lotion. Or are need a gift to give.IMG_2462 A children’s playroom.

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A library, for the bookworm in you. Don’t forget the stack of books in your room as well.IMG_2458

And, for the traveller who JUST has do get some work done, here’s a business center. Oh, before I forget, there’s free wifi available all over the resort, even at the beachfront. So you CAN work and tan at the same time.IMG_2459

Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines Part 3: Night Life

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Discovery Shores makes sure it has something special on weekend nights.  They remove most of the lounging beds to give the resort a feeling an openness at night. Warmly-lit, and music-filled, the resort’s entrance looks very inviting.IMG_2367

 

 

Facing the beach is an expansive bar.IMG_2372

Discovery Shores serves all sorts of bar chow, like croquettas……
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…….fried spring rolls…..
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……and lamb ribs.

DH and I took advantage of their happy hour offer: buy one, take one on margaritas! We had them frozen, since it was a very warm night.

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Discovery Shores also had a full, international buffet on the beachfront. Such a lavish spread!IMG_2499

And fancy dining tables! All on the beach, so you can eat here bare-footed.IMG_2501
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Roast beef on the beach!
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And paella! IMG_2503On top of all this, there was a really entertaining band that played 3 sets, so it was a great night under the stars, live music, cold drinks and never-ending food. 



Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines Part 2: The Room

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What’s a blog about a hotel without pictures of the room? Obviously the room is of great interest!

The room of Discovery Shores was tastefully done, yet not plush or overly luxurious. The bed was wonderful though. Firm, with beautiful sheets (I’m no expert, but it felt like high thread count) and fluffy down-filled pillows. So wonderful to crawl in after a tiring day on the beach.

Discovery Shores treated us to a complimentary foot spa when we arrived. That’s DH’s hairy leg, not mine, BTW.

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The requisite light reading on the beach. We asked to change rooms (our original room was too far from the beach), and I noticed a stack of books in the first room as well. Thankfully they were different titles. I actually picked one up (LA Times). Definitely light reading.IMG_2492

An ipod/iphone dock, to play your own music. However, with the new iPhone 5 using the new charger (and I assume, the next generation of iWhatevers will folllow suit), I suppose they’ll be changing this soon.

IMG_2491Discovery Shores gave us fruits or a native sweet every day. It was a nice way of sharing some local culture with the guests. I didn’t take a picture of the food though).
IMG_2490 And 3 jars of goodies greeted us on our first day, and were refilled every day. The empty one was filled with yummy oatmeal cookies, which I demolished.IMG_2489

Of course, the BATHROOM was very important to me, and here I must admit i was a little disappointed. It was a weird set-up: the toilet and shower inside the bathroom, while the sink was outside in the bedroom. Not something I expected from a world-class hotel. Plus the bathroom was quite spartan (no picture again…..all you’d see would be a tiled wall). The fixtures were nice though.

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And they do make cute towel animals (I mentioned their towel swan in the previous post).

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Here’s a picture of the rest of the room, though the day bed isn’t seen.IMG_2483

Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines Part 1

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For our 5th anniversary, DH planned a beach getaway to Boracay, a beautiful island less than an hour away from Manila. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are all levels of hotels in Boracay. We wanted one that was on the quiet side of the island, and one that would pamper us a bit. Discovery Shores was our choice.

Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines, was rated #1 Hotel Spa in Asia by Travel and Leisure (see here), one of the Top 5 in Travel and Leisure’s List of 500 Best Hotels in the World and ranked #6 in tripadvisor. And a lot of our friends have stayed there before, so we knew that it would be a great anniversary.

Discovery Shores took care us of the minute we landed in the airport. We were met by gracious and pleasant uniformed employees of the resort, who promptly helped us with our bags, and led us to an air-conditioned van to bring us to the waiting area of the boat (approximately 10 minute ride).

At the waiting area we were given bands to identify us as Discovery Shores guests, though it wasn’t really needed at this time as there weren’t too many people.

IMG_2311But retail is in the detail, so it was a nice branding touch.

We made our way to the boat. Now, 20 years ago the boat that took me to the island was a shaky, dinky, open outrigger. It felt adventurous and exciting, being exposed to the elements, chugging along the waters. 7 years ago it was a little more civilized, with a roof, large enough for more passengers, and LIFE VESTS. Today, Discovery Shores reassures their guests with safety and technology. 
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We were greeted by an attendant who passed out cool, wet towels, a bottle of cold water, and a pack of granola bars. All for a 7 minute ride to Boracay Island. This boat had a crew of about 4 people. Passengers totalled around 10.IMG_2315

Discovery Shores sits on a prime spot on White Beach, the best beach on Boracay. Actually, with such a great address, Discovery Shores can just offer mediocre facilities and services, and they will still be fully booked. Happily, the owners decided to put a world-class hotel and train their people with a “never-say-no” attitude.IMG_2412

The hotel was decorated for Christmas!
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The view from the cafe. This is where breakfast is served. Imagine having your omelet while gazing at this! BTW, there’s a full buffet breakfast every day. It’ll be hard to keep your bathing suit figure here.IMG_2323

It was great to see Discovery Shores take care of their beachfront. A crew of sweepers clean up the beach of any trash every morning, and comb through the sand to make sure no sharp objects (like broken glass or cigarette butts) remain as a potential hazard to bare-footed beach bunnies.
IMG_2322Our favorite spot every day. Gorgeous, isn’t it?IMG_2391

As I mentioned, pampering is Discovery Shores’ strong suit. Without us asking or even lifting a finger, attendants came over to our lounging beds and brought us a carafe of iced water. Ok, so MAYBE that might be a little expected. Serving water in a beach. Ho hum.

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Then a gracious lady attendant comes over with a bowl of cold Evian spray (or something similar), and offers to spritz our faces. Whoa!! Of course we accept! It was pretty hot by this time, and we were already quite greasy from all the suntan lotion. It felt great!
IMG_2423 Then to top it all off, there’s this guy that goes around offering to clean our sunglasses from all the greasy marks and sand. He’s equipped with a felt cloth and a glass cleaner. Amazing!

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Not pictured: there was another attendant who was going around with slices of chilled cucumbers and oranges for our eyes and cheeks. I felt like a salad. And another attendant that passed around various finger food like frozen grapes, chicken quesadillas, mini pizzas, corn dogs……

Talk about service beyond the call of duty. I even read in the papers that there was an incident where a lady lost her engagement ring on the beach. Urban legend has it that the staff combed through the sand, looking for it AND FOUND IT!!! Bravo, bravo Discovery Shores.

Of course, our own UNBELIEVABLE experience in Discovery Shores is how they move the sunbrella around the lounging beds, just so that we didn’t have to move as the sun moved. We never got burned, and was comfortably under the shade all the time, even as the sun went from east to west.

Discovery Shores also tries to personalize their services. For example, they found out that it was our anniversary, and decorated our room with a banner, rose petals, and towels formed into swans, and a chocolate cake! And we weren’t even honeymooners. My friends’ experience is that the staff actually put in their room framed PHOTOS of their family taken in previous stays in Discovery Shores. Wow.

Definitely a rave.