I only booked 3 nights in Boracay (pronounced Bora-ky) because we knew it would be very touristy and expensive, but for good reason. If you picture paradise with white sand, clear warm water and palm trees, Boracay is your spot.
We checked into the MNL beach hostel which has spacious bunks and shared bathrooms on each floor. We met a great couple in our room which always makes the dorm experience a bit more palatable. The rooms were nice but the bathrooms were a little hot and gross at times. The wifi only worked in the tiny common space with no a/c and the rooftop so that was a little annoying, though very common in SE Asia.
We dropped our bags with the reception desk and went straight to a recommended healthy restaurant called Lemon Cafe. We could tell you it was good or we could just say that we ate there four more times during our time in Boracay.
After some food we walked along the crystal clear beach with the soft sand between our toes until we found the lounge chairs associated with our hostel. We hunkered down for hours oscillating from swimming to shadebathing (a more skin friendly version of sun bathing).
We each relaxed with our individual entertainment of choice. For me that was Joe Rogan and Sam Harris podcasts and for Liz, it was the book The Nightengale which she has had her nose in nonstop. This was our entire day (besides our lunch trip back to Lemon Cafe)!
We finally went back to MNL to shower and get our laundry together then headed back out for sunset, dropping our laundry off along the way. Much cheaper than Sri Lanka, at 45 pesos a kilo (it was about $4).
Boracay is a small island. The iconic White Sand Beach runs along the west coast and is sectioned into 3 stations. We were staying in Station 2, which is the heart of the action. Shops, restaurants, bars, massage parlors, and street stalls are everywhere. You can’t walk two feet without someone trying to sell you a massage, pearls, sunset cruise or a rum filled coconut. It’s annoying but comes with the territory when places become discovered. Having lived in New York, we can easily ignore the requests and pleasantly walk along.
We grabbed a quick bite on our way back to MNL so we wouldn’t miss the hostels cheap rooftop happy hour!
I was excited for Liz to experience a true hostel party and since they were advertising a happy hour at the rooftop, that was a good sign. When I had backpacked through European hostels in my early 20’s, I treasured the experience. I wanted Liz to at least get a sense of it but when we arrived about 40 minutes into the happy hour time frame, there was no one up there. A little disappointed, we ordered drinks anyways and enjoyed the cool breeze on the roof. You can’t keep New Yorkers away from a rooftop happy hour.
One man who was doing work on his laptop eventually joined us. Then two girls from Sweden showed up, then a girl from Washington, then a guy from Seattle and so on until we had a full fledged party at our table. The group swelled to about 30 people all mingling and learning about where each person had traveled to and where they were going next.
Some of the younger more energetic people went out even though we had been on the roof drinking for hours. We made a “wiser” decision for our future selves and went to sleep but not before a late night stop for chips, snickers, and water.
The next morning we ate a very sad breakfast provided by the hostel. It was inadequate so we went back to Lemon Cafe for something more substantial to absorb the drinks from the night before. Liz was not feeling great and went back to the hostel before I had finished eating. This gave me the perfect opportunity to do a little secret shopping before meeting back up with her.
Side Bar: I booked in advance a room at the Henann Lagoon Resort for our final two nights in Boracay as a surprise to Liz. I told her I was making up for the “whale shark incident” but I had a different plan in mind. A plan that had been in the works since before we even left New York.
When I made it back to the hostel where Liz was soaking up the A/C. I snuck away with her phone to the roof for my third attempt at Facetiming her parents. Considering that we are with each other all day, every day, this is no easy task without raising suspicion. Sitting on the roof of a hostel in the Philippines with a borrowed phone, the FaceTime call was answered. After quickly assuring Liz’s dad that there was no reason to be alarmed (since I was calling without Liz) I got to the reason of my call. I asked for their blessing to ask Liz to marry me. Without hesitation, they said yes. A big smile came to my face and I thought, “great, one more yes to go”.
There was still a lot of work to do if I wanted to pull it off as planned. I deleted the call off her phone and returned it to Liz. When she asked why I had it, I just said that mine needed to charge. She shrugged it off either with her mind on the serious room upgrade in our near future or she was just hungover and could care less what I was up too!
When we arrived at the hotel we had a small issue checking in. The front desk couldn’t help us because we were VIPs based on the room I booked so we were directed to the VIP lounge with free food and drinks for check in.That was a surprise, even to me.
We relaxed by the pool while they prepared our room and spent the day on the luxurious property, ordered room service for lunch and chilled until about 4pm. A clean comfy bed, a modern bathroom and a nice pool are serious luxuries when traveling for 5 months through SE Asia.
We decided to spend the evening at Puka Shell Beach away from the crowds of Station 2. It took about 25 minutes to get there on a tricycle taxi. We watched another beautiful sunset and played in the ocean before making our way back to our hotel.We felt too spoiled at our hotel to have any interest in going out for the evening.
We woke up together on the morning of April 13th, but only one of us knew what a special day it would be. I had already researched and picked out a ring before leaving for this trip but decided to keep it back in the states. I used my “secret shopping trip” the day before to pick up a less expensive look alike more appropriate for traveling. Now with Liz’s parents blessings, all of the pieces were in place. All that was left was creating the perfect day, without tipping Liz off.
The perfect day included, a great hotel buffet breakfast, a morning workout together, chill time on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, another lunch at lemon cafe, a couples massage on the beach and back to the hotel to relax at the pool bar.
The sun sets just after 6pm but it was important for my evening plans to leave the hotel by 5. I picked a romantic restaurant called Al Fresco at Station 1 so we could be a bit farther from the crowds and so we could kill the hour between 5 and 6 taking a nice stroll down the beach. We arrived at Al Frescos just as I hoped around 5:45. While I pretended to use the bathroom and look at the menu, I informed the host that I was going to propose to Liz and requested the best table right on the beach and told her we would return after sunset.
As the sun was peaking below the horizon I handed my camera to a tourist passing by with simple instructions “take a lot of photos”.
When I returned to Liz, I told her I loved her and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I grabbed her hand, pulled a box out of my pocket, got down on one knee and asked her “Will you marry me?”
While there was more shock than excitement on Liz’s face, she did say yes. The friendly German with my camera snapped away and captured the moment. As the reality of the situation sunk in, Liz began to glow. A glow that has not faded even a week later as I write this.
We quickly called our parents to share the news over a spotty wifi connection and stayed up late fueled by excitement. The next morning we left early to the island of Palawan. It was bitter sweet to leave a magical place that is now so meaningful but we were ready to start the next adventure that would take us to El Nido where we could continue to celebrate.
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