Visiting Boracay, Philippines – Part 2

Boracay was so much fun. It was relaxing, exhilarating, exhausting, and above all else, a ton of fun. Our second day in Boracay, post-pubcrawl, we headed down to white sand beach and rented a paddle board for a few bucks. Nicole and I took turns riding it, then got really confident and tried our luck with both of us on it. As you can see from the Boracay video, disaster hilariously ensued.

ATVs and Mountaintop Towers

After some fun in the sun we returned the paddle board and rode ATVs up to the top of the highest point on the island. As if that wasn’t enough, someone built a tower on top of the island that takes you above the tree-line so you can see everything in all directions, literally the entire island.

Snorkeling and Cliff diving at Ariel’s Point

Ariel's Point
Ariel’s Point

Later in the week, Nicole and I visited Ariel’s point, a private beach area separate from Boracay. To get to the island we met up at a hotel in Station 1 and took a boat 30 minutes out to Ariel’s point. Boarding the boat was an adventure. It could only come in towards the beach so far so we waded out to meet it, carrying out bags and backpacks over our head. The day we went it wasn’t too crowded. The island can handle three boats of visitors, but we only had 2 boats go out the day we visited. On the island there’s a bar, catered lunch, free snorkel gear, kayaks, and several places to cliff dive from: 5m, 8m, and 15m. We spent the afternoon cliff diving, Nicole and I each did all three jumps. Nicole was actually the last person to jump off the 15m cliff before we boarded the boat back to Boracay. In addition to cliff diving, we also rented snorkels and explored the reefs surrounding Ariel’s point.

Parasailing

All suited up for parasailing
All suited up for parasailing

At Ariel’s Point we met two teachers teaching in China. One of them was from my alma mater, UF. Nicole and I ended up joining them for some parasailing along the white sand beach the following day. I’d never been parasailing before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. At the one we did, you got all hooked up in a harness and attached to the sail then they slowly let you out like a kite from the back of the boat. Aside from boarding the boat from the beach we never even got wet. I was surprised by how far the parasail went out. By the time the sail line was all the way extended, the boat was a tiny dot far below us.

Island Hopping

Crystal Cove
Crystal Cove

The following day we met up with out Chinese teacher friends and took an island hopping cruise around the coast of Boracay. This was one of my favorite days in Boracay. Our first stop was on a small island called Crystal Cove. The island’s coast is all white sand beach along one side and volcanic cliffside on the other. On the cliffside there were two coves we could climb down into and go snorkeling out through a hole in the cliff face. The first cove was reached via a bamboo spiral staircase into the Earth. The second cove you walked down into then crawled through a narrow tunnel no more than a meter in height which opened into a much larger chamber.

Crystal Cove
Crystal Cove

Crocodile Island

After Crystal Cove we went Crocodile Island, named for it’s shape, not the animals that inhabited it. The island could barely be called an island. It was no bigger than my apartment. However, the snorkeling around it was fantastic, almost as good as Bali. The current was really aggressive though so we  snorkeled near the boat and occasionally had to grab hold of one of the many safety lines to keep from being swept out to sea.

Beachside Lunch Buffet

By this point I’d worked up a hearty appetite and was grateful to break for lunch at our next stop, a small beachside cafe. The cafe served a buffet of cured meats, veggies, and rice. I had my fill and walked out to the beach in front of the restaurant to watch the waves. At this point we’d navigated halfway around the island of Boracay and were opposite Station 1, 2, and 3. This side of the island was so much quieter and more peaceful. Aside from our island hopping group, there were only a handful of locals on the beach. I watched our boat bob up and down in the water as several little boys, took turns climbing onto the outriggers and doing flips off of them into the water.

Island hopping
Island hopping

After lunch, we all boarded to boat again. The boys doing back flips climbed onto the outriggers and rode with the boat for a few minutes before jumping off and swimming back to shore. Our next stop was another snorkeling spot, this one nestled into a lagoon on the Northside of the island. The snorkeling here was the best of the whole tour. There were tons of large brain coral and other colorful varieties that I could not begin to name. Aside from great snorkeling, the Northside of the island, is also home to some truly extravagant resorts off in their own little area and not easily accessible from the rest of the beaches at Stations 1 through 3. From where we snorkeled we could see white stucco villas in stair step formation descending down the mountain to greet the sea with their own private beaches.  We looked up the prices on the hotels there and they were quite reasonable, in the neighborhood of $200/night: way more than we were paying, but on par with a hotel in a big city anywhere else in the world. With all the amenities included, such as private speedboat pickup from the port, it’s probably worth it if we ever return.

Luxury hotel on Boracay
Luxury hotel on Boracay

Puka Beach

Our last stop of the day was Puka beach on the northernmost point of Boracay. It had even fewer people than our lunch buffet beach and the few people it had were spread along its expansive shores. Our boat pulled right up to shore and we all hopped out. Greeting us right along the beach was a local Philipino selling Magnum ice creams right out of a makeshift styrofoam cooler. Man, the only thing better than an icecream on a hot day, is ice cream on a hot beach. Ice cream in hand, we found some lounge chairs to rent and spent the last hours of our afternoon enjoying the calm beach waters and tranquility of Puka beach. We tried to go back later in the trip, but alas, the weather didn’t hold up.

Dinner

After Puka beach we returned to Station 2 and had a bite to eat for dinner. All along the beach, after sundown, restaurants have fire dancers entertaining hungry patrons at their restaurants with impressive fire juggling and tricks. Nicole and I did out Boracay trip for pretty cheap. However, if we ate frugally we could have done Boracay for even less, but what’s the point in vacationing and not living it up with delicious foods from around the world. One night we had seafood pizza and tuna ceviche. Another night we had truffle mac & cheese. One night we really splurged and went to one of the best seafood buffets I’ve ever been too. There was limitless crab and lobster, steak and oysters. Throughout the night the chefs would come out and dance to pop songs. It was definitely my favorite meal of the trip.

 

Visiting Jeju Island Day 1 – Loveland, Lava, and Beaches

Seoul to Wando
Seoul to Wando

To celebrate National Foundation Day in Korea, and no work Friday, Nicole and I booked a trip to Jeju Island, Korea’s Hawaii. Jeju had been on our radar for quite some time. We were both very interested in visiting Jeju, but everyone we spoke with seemed to have just an alright time. Some people complained about having to take taxis everywhere. Some people ended up paying an arm and a leg to visit Jeju. Other people almost missed work after their trip because the ferry or flight back from Jeju sold out. So for a whole year, Nicole and I avoided Jeju, not because we didn’t want to go, but because it was such a logistical challenge to visit.

The Night Bus

However, fortune smiled upon us this National Foundation day and we found a foreign travel group offering trips to Jeju. We jumped at the opportunity and booked two spots for ourselves on the trip. The tour group was based in Seoul taking a bus Thursday night in time to catch a ferry from Wando at 6am Friday morning, in the far south of Korea. This meant that Nicole and I had to intercept the bus somewhere along its path in the middle of the night. Luckily the bus was making a stop in Gwangju at 3am. Thursday night we took a bus to Gwangju, caught up with some old friends, and then met the rest of our tour group a little after 3am at the Gwangju bus terminal. [divider_flat]

The Slow Boat to Jeju

Our ferry
Our ferry

Nicole and I slept most of the drive from Gwangju to Wando and woke up just in time for free muffins before boarding the ferry to Jeju. I had a chocolate chip muffin. Nicole had a different flavor. Our ferry boat ride took 5 hours and because we arrived late, all of the spots in the 3rd class section (yes, 3rd class) were full, so we sat outside on the deck chairs. Nicole and I discussed the outcome of the ferry sinking. Would we be safe in 3rd class? Would we be locked below while the ritzy first class passengers disembarked on nearly empty lifeboats? Would there be an Irish dance celebration below deck where we could meet other drifters and vagabonds?

Fortunately for us, the boat never sank so we never found answers to our questions. There was never an Irish dance celebration below deck either. I read a bit, watched some Brooklyn Nine Nine, and had cup noodles with Nicole to keep warm. About halfway through our voyage we made a stop at a smaller island for some people to get off. I couldn’t find it on google maps, but I swear it exists. Anyways, we took this opportunity to move from the outside of the ship to the inside where it was much warmer.

Loveland

Early in the afternoon, we arrived in Jeju. There was a bus at the ferry terminal waiting to take us to our first stop: Loveland. Loveland is a park filled with erotic statues of people in various stages of coitus. According to its website it’s “the only sexual theme park in Korea”. I found the claim somewhat dubious. It’s not really a theme park, although I suppose it could be considered one in a very literal sense. It is a park…with a theme. However, there aren’t any rides, or entertainment shows. I don’t even want to think about what they would be if they did exist.

Manjanggul Cave

After Loveland we took our tour bus another 20 minutes up the road to Manjanggul Cave, Jeju’s underground network of lava tubes. The tubes were formed between 200 and 300,000 years ago and they’re in relatively good condition. The tube system is also one of the top ten largest in the world. The caves were really cool, both literally and figuratively. There were a few lights and some walkways, but it wasn’t overly commercialized. I got a few pictures down there with Nicole and myself before it was time to hop back on the bus and visit the motel.

Yusong Motel

Our Motel
Our Motel

I remember the name because our group leader made us memorize it in case we got lost and needed to get back. I can tell you that its near Hamdeok Beach as well. I can also tell you that there isn’t a lobby, just a big messy dining room covered in all kinds of various boxes, the pillows are filled with almonds (or something), and the family that owns it sleeps under the stairs like Harry Potter. Don’t let its ordinary appearance fool you. Its an odd place. The location was nice though. We were right across from the beach and only a few minutes away from several restaurants.

After we checked into the motel, we had 30 minutes to shower and change before dinner. I unpacked, took a quick shower, and tried to relax on the bed. Although, as I mentioned before, the pillow was filled with almonds or something. I never opened it to find out, but it certainly wasn’t soft or fluffy, just very….firm.

Everybody We’re Going Streaking!

Dinner was…interesting. We walked from the hotel to a nice Korean barbecue place on the beach only a few minutes away. The meal was delicious Jeju black pig and it really was delicious. Jeju black pig has a unique taste and origin story compared with traditional Korea pork. Originally, Jeju black pigs were fed human feces in special pig sties located below outhouses. However, that practice was outlawed in the 1960s so now the pigs just eat whatever it is that pigs eat these days. Supposedly feeding the pigs anything other than human poop has adversely affected the taste. However, I felt much better eating pigs that weren’t eating my poop.

During dinner, we were all given a bottle of soju and some beer as part of our meal. Nicole and I had a bit of each but not much. It was dinner and we were coming to the end of a long day, or rather two days since we didn’t sleep much on the bus. Our group leader felt otherwise. By the time we finished dinner, he had finished several bottles of Soju and was pretty drunk. Somehow he wagered a bet between him and his Korean coleader as to who could drink a full glass of Soju faster. He won the bet but still opted to strip down and run naked out of the restaurant into the ocean. No one followed him. In fact, no one seemed to bat an eye after he left. I think he was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get much of a reaction. Most people just returned to their meal.

Since there’s no topping a performance like that, especially in front of a room full of strangers, Nicole and I decided to call it a night and walk back along the beach to our motel. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s adventures when we visit the beach, see beautiful rocks, waterfalls, wooden sailing ships, and temples.

A Day in the Life

I don’t know if anyone wonders what I get up to between weekend adventures or not, but I figured I’d post on the matter since living in Korea is not all weekend adventures and fun and games. I do have a real job and I work about 8.5 hours a day (1-9:40pm) although I do get to play during a large part of that time.

Breakfast

Most days Nicole and I get up around 9:30 and make breakfast at my apartment or hers. Lately I’ve been making us a lot of eggs in a nest (the breakfast V makes in V for Vendetta).

[toggle title_open=”Don’t Learn to Make Bird’s in a Nest” title_closed=”Learn to Make Bird’s in a Nest” hide=”yes” border=”yes” style=”default” excerpt_length=”0″ read_more_text=”Read More” read_less_text=”Read Less” include_excerpt_html=”no”][ordered_list style=”decimal”]

Cut a hole the diameter of a tennis ball in a piece of bread

Grease a pan and set the stove to low heat

Place your bread on the stove and crack an egg in the center

Let it sit for a few minutes then flip and wait a few more minutes

Enjoy

[/ordered_list] [/toggle]

Some days Nicole makes pancakes. I have a french press and one of us usually makes coffee for both of us. Nicole has to go in to work before me so she usually leaves for work and I update my blog or read the news until I have to leave for work around 12:30pm.

Walking to Work

My work is a 15-20 minute walk from my apartment. I put on a podcast or I listen to music and walk through the quiet streets to my work. The walk is nice. I walk past little marts and aparment buildings, hair salons and local restaurants. Because I start work midday, I rarely see anyone else on the street. Occasionally a group of school children will pass me and one person will shout “HELLO” and I’ll say “Hello” back to them.

Its nice. I’ve spent almost 9 months waking up naturally without an alarm. I just get up when I please, aside from the occasional weekend adventure which requires an early bus.

I arrive at work at 1pm and most days I just sit at my desk and prepare for class or grade papers. My earliest class is not until 2:50 and some days my first class is not until 5pm. This gives me more than enough time.

Coffee or Lunch

Classroom preparation takes anywhere from a few minutes per class to maybe 20 minutes on the high end if I prepare a custom worksheet or lesson. Some days I go to get coffee at a nearby coffee shop. Other days I meet Nicole during her break and we have lunch together.

Kimchi Roll
Fancy Kimbap roll

My hagwon, a Korean word for after school academy, is located in an office building. There are several coffee shops along the road: Mango Six, Tom and Tom, Starbucks, Angel-In-Us, and Holly’s. There are also various small restaurants like Pho Bay, kimbap places, Bap Burger (they sell rice burgers), Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Steff Hotdog, and Roti Boy.

After lunch or I finish planning my lessons, its usually time to start teaching. My classes are either 2:50-9:40 with a few breaks in between or they are 5-9:40 with a 5 minute break every 45 minutes.

[divider_flat]

Dinner

Piles of Kimchi
Piles of Kimchi

On my latest break, usually 4-5pm, I go upstairs to the company cafeteria on the roof. It looks like two shipping containers welded together. Inside an old Korean lady makes food for us. Every month we pay 40,000KRW or roughly $38 for a month’s worth of dinners. It ends up being a great deal. There are usually several buffet style trays with food that you can put on a plate for yourself. Everyday we have white rice, kimchi, kimchi radish, and some sort of soup. The other food options are more varied. Sometimes its more western food like fried eggs or ham. Other days the foods are more traditionally Korean like fermented raw octopus, quail eggs, mandoo, or squid in a spicy red sauce.[divider_flat]

Classes

holloween mummy

I teach both middle school and elementary school. My first 6 class time slots are elementary school, while my last 2 classes are 70 minutes and middle school. My classes are anywhere from 1 student to 15 students. My elementary classes are usually on the smaller side. I have more elementary classes that are 1-8 students. Most of my middle school classes are close to the 15 student class limit.

Aside from some low level classes like sight words or phonics, most of my classes are either writing or speaking. We spend the class learning about a particular subject like careers, sports, family members, or foods. If its speaking class we’ll practice using vocabulary or explaining our opinion using reasons and examples. If its writing class we’ll construct an essay using the vocabulary and grammar that we learned about in the lesson.

Closing Time and Second Dinner

Because I have so much planning time before classes, I usually go home shortly after my last class. I’ll either walk/bike to my apartment or I’ll take a $3 cab ride to Nicole’s apartment. The two of us will make a second, usually smaller, dinner, because the last time we both ate was probably 5 hours ago and we’re super hungry. Sometimes we’ll go downtown to eat a late dinner if we don’t feel like cooking after a long day of teaching.

Thoughts

I really enjoy my schedule. Sometimes I wish I had fewer classes, or more of a break to separate out my different classes between the day, but when I stop and look at my schedule I realize that I’m really fortunate. I get to wake up naturally and make a nice breakfast. I get to listen to music or podcasts and walk to work. I have plenty of time to prepare for my classes and get coffee or lunch. Most of my classes are pretty small and the students are much better behaved than what I remember from my middle school in the U.S.

I don’t have to deal with traffic. I don’t have giant 35+ student classes. I work at a big enough hagwon that I know the business will not disappear one day. I’m always paid on time and I don’t have to work Saturdays or Sundays.