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Boracay beguiles with pristine White Beach

THE tiny Philippine island of Boracay is famous for its 4-kilometer-long White Beach and there Zhang Qian met a Shanghai couple who packed it in, bought a yacht and moved to the tropical paradise.

If long, unspoiled tropical beaches are your thing, the tiny Philippines island of Boracay is a tempting destination with its 4-kilometer-long White Beach.

Boracay, around an hour's flight from Manila, is world famous for its beach, which rivals popular stretches in the Caribbean, Thailand and Malaysia.

Boracay is only 7 kilometers long and shaped like a dumbbell, the widest part being 4 kilometers wide.

The best vacation season is from November to April when the White Beach side is calm and the water is perfect for swimming; the other side of the island enjoys strong winds and waves perfect for surfing and wind surfing. The situation is reversed in the rainy season from June to October. The heavy weather may include typhoons, and sand invades the hotels and bars. Still, some visitors love this season and for years they religiously come to Boracay in what others call bad weather.

"We have the best sand beach in the world," says Tony Deng, a Chinese guide in Boracay. The sand on the best part of the beach is fine and white, just like milk powder, so it is sometimes called milk powder sand.

The sand is very, very white, and the sky intensely blue. The view from an airplane is striking.

Many people walk everywhere barefoot.

The long beach is divided into three sections with three boat stations. The widest area at Station 1 is where the prime hotels and resorts are located. There actually is no dock - the beach is considered a treasure, so dock building is not allowed.

Thus, anyone who wants to get into a boat must wade into the shallow water, maybe 30 to 40 meters from the shore, and climb aboard. The water only reaches mid-thigh. Skippers are happy to pull visitors onboard and give tours.

Boating is one of the best ways to have a general look around the island and most guides recommend it.

Paraws, the local outrigger sailboats, are the most common water transport. The hull is the principal axis and outrigger beams extend on each side. Visitors in life vests can sit on the beams and keep their belongings in the boat, and visitors balance the boat on both sides.

Bancas, bigger boats with motors and more than 12 seats, are used for longer sailing. They too have outriggers, so it looks like a giant crab.

Tourist can rent sailboats. Now they can sail aboard a yacht owned by American Steve and Shanghainese girl Lilyan. The two, both successful in media and public relation, have been trying to get away from crowded and hectic cities and made their first visit to Boracay in July last year when they were working in Shanghai. After a few more visits they bought their love boat Mahal and left the rat race behind.

"Stepping on the fine sand beach, watching the fairy tale-like sail boats in the blue sea, and chatting with the simple and friendly residents here, I told myself and Steve that I would like to stay," says Lilyan.

The couple offers five-hour day sails and two-hour sunset sails; advance booking is required.

Water sports such as wind surfing and jet skiing are popular. Boats can be rented for sea fishing and for diving and snorkeling; beginners should find a professional diving coach if they're interested in scuba.

Small hotels with charming rooms are just a minute's walk from the beach and are very popular, especially with couples, Many hotels have no more than 40 rooms.

Beach-front hotels have their own stretch of beach and provide lounge chairs and umbrellas. Upscale hotels have all the luxuries and visitors can sit in a bath and enjoy the seaside scenery.

Vendors approach visitors on the beach, trying to sell shell jewelry, fruit shakes, ice cream, sunglasses, massage and other things.

For a big shop, there's D*Mall at Station 2.

Mango shakes are extremely popular as the Philippines claims to have the best mangoes in the world. Getting a coconut oil massage as you lie on the beach under a palm tree and watch the water is a great experience.

The Boracay nightlife is lively and gets going at sunset. Lounge chairs are replaced by barbecues, buffets, bars and small stages for entertainment.

If you go:

Direct flights from Shanghai to Kalibo International Airport near Boracay were resumed in July. The flight is just three hours. There are two direct flights from Shanghai on Monday and Thursday, departing around 10pm from Pudong International Airport.

A shuttle bus from the airport takes 90 minutes to reach the jetty port in Caticlan, the port of entry for Boracay. Outrigger boats or "bancas" shove off every few minutes for Boracay.


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