Philippines | White Beach, Tourist Nightmare

Arrival at White Beach, like anything else in the Philippines, is quite the ordeal, and not entirely glamourous. For us, it involved another tricycle, hours on a jeepney to Batangas, and another tricycle to the harbor. Then, a two hour boat ride, which is continually referred to as passage by ferry, but is, in no way, shape, or form, an actual ferry of any kind. In fact, it is more of a large outrigger canoe, which sways violently with the waves, moves at snail’s pace, and does not leave anywhere until it is packed to the brim with people and cargo. Sadly, White Beach is not worth it.

Though it could have real potential by way of its strategic positioning and beautiful landscape, it has become the cultured traveler’s nightmare. The beach is lined with bars and lights, modern American music blares from every direction, and it is clearly an oasis for white beach tourists. Not to mention, it is drastically overpriced. At night, this beach strip turns into the tiniest of Vegases, with fire twirling drag queens and horrifying beach cocktail concoctions. Luckily, our hotel is on the west side of the beach, which seems to offer some kind of escape from the chaotic center. Our room, though not clean, spills into a sand garden, complete with benches and hammocks to lounge in. If you wander through the gate, you are at the beach, and the water is pretty lovely here, offering calm waves and less jellyfish than we have become used to. We like eating at a little place called Coco Aroma, which offers outdoor seating, nice staff, great (read: classic and quiet) music, and delicious food for excellent prices (for White Beach). The service on the entire island is hilariously slow, with lunch regularly taking nearly two hours from start to finish. However, Coco is worth it. The chicken satay is particularly amazing, and they make a mean fruit crepe in the morning.

On the other bright side (and it is important to be optimistic when trapped anywhere), White Beach does offer a few perks. Firstly, the stars are unlike anything I have ever seen. You can even see the Milky Way pretty clearly. We could lay and watch them for hours. Secondly, the diving is pretty good. We booked at Sea Divers, which is furthest west on the beach and owned by two nice Aussis (father and son). We even moved in above the shop, where they offer clean little rooms with A/C and oceanic views far away from the main drag. Our dive was nice, but we got caught in the currrent, which our guide said has only been as strong three times in the last year. Just our luck. We got separated under water and had to surface to find each other, then resubmerge to try and outswim the current. It took us an hour to get out of it; eventually, we ended up kicking madly at the surface, well after Josh inhaled a lungfull of seawater and we both practically broke our ankles. Additionally, there is the chance to escape the tourist cocoon at White Beach, but you really have to look. On the eastern side of the beach, if you find a little passage between two buildings, then follow it through the zigzags, past the internet café, you will find a road leading to the real village. When people look surprised to see you wandering about, that’s when you’ve struck gold. Granted, it is a bit of a shantytown like all of the others, but a nice escape nonetheless. Finally, we are obsessed with the fried banana man and banana-peanut shakes, which, in addition to Coco Aroma’s kitchen, keep us alive daily.

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