I don’t have a fear of flying.
I‘ve never really had one and, apart from a bit of strong turbulence every now and again, I haven’t really ever even had a single worrying experience on a plane. That being said, there is something which has always bothered me about booking flights with budget airlines. It’s the awful websites! Websites which look as though they were created at the dawn of the internet, which are plastered from head to toe in flashing advertising banners, which pop up windows containing random upsells, and having to navigating through a minefield of extra baggage, fees, and insurance automatic check boxes before finally getting your flight. There’s always something in the back of my mind which says, ‘If they put this little effort into their selling platform, how much effort do they put in the rest of their operation……like maybe, plane maintenance!’
I’m getting the same feeling as I’m sitting in a travel agency in Boracay organising a flight out to my next stop. The room itself is a little more than a wooden shack on a side street. The top hinge of the front door is broken and the small room contains a flea infested couch, a number of calendars which are sellotaped to the walls (all of which had the page displaying the previous month!), a small desk, a PC running Windows Vista, a printer, and one smiling salesman.
“So, where would you like to go?”, the smiling man behind the desk asks me.
“I’m thinking, Coron”, I reply sitting on the couch, as I slap an insect which has just bitten into my forearm.
“Exellent choice, we can fly you out tomorrow”, he says, never dropping his smile, and starts tapping the keyboard.
“Thanks, what time is the flight?”
“Yes sir. 10am….or there abouts”
“Ok, do I need to be at the airport at a cert……….”, I trail off.
“Yes sir?”, my travel agent looks puzzled as to why I stopped speaking.
“Er…..I think a rat just ran underneath your desk”
He looks down between his feet. “Ah, so it did!” he says and his smile returns. He goes back to tapping at the keyboard.
“Here’s your ticket”, he says and tears off a pre-printed slip of paper from a pad on his desk. He scribbles ‘Coron’, and the date relevant boxes and hands it to me.
“This is all I need?”
“Oh!” he takes it back and writes his signature at the bottom of the paper, “Yes, there you go!”
‘I may never leave this island!’, I’m thinking as I thank him and walk out. I’m still looking at the most basic looking plane ticket I’ve ever seen, which was apparently going to get me out off Boracay the following day.
Fortunately for me, it was all above-board, and despite a few quizzical looks at my ticket from some of the airport staff the following day, I managed to find the right people who knew the travel agent and confirmed it was all fine.
The flight took around 30 minutes in the smallest plane I have ever flew in. Me and 4 people from Holland were the passengers for the day, and we felt a bit like VIPs in our private plane……especially when we arrived at a empty airport in Coron and were greeted by a group of drummers on the runway when our flight touched down.
I share a mini-van into town with a couple of my VIP flightmates, find some accommodation and check in. I’m at the Sea dive resort which is built over the harbour on wooden stilts. There aren’t many rooms available but I get a single room with a fan for around £6, drop my bag and head out for a wander to catch my bearings. A stroll around town followed by walking through the town square and to the dockside. I managed to arrive just in time for the most stunning sunset I’ve ever seen in my life.
Coron is mostly known amongst tourists and travellers for it’s diving. Many diving schools line the small streets in the town. Apart from the scenic views and crystal clear water, there are also sunken WWII wrecks which can be viewed on diving tours!
I didn’t think I was going to be staying long enough in Coron to get involved in a diving course, so I took another available option and booked myself in on a boat for the day to do some island hopping.
Around 8 of the 12 or so people on the boat were a family from Manila who had come out here for their annual holiday. They were so nice and friendly, and even offered me one of their holiday beers about 10 minutes after we set off on the boat.
The island hopping was pretty stunning, lots of sun, snorkelling, ‘secret’ lagoons (well….I’m not sure how secret it is when around 50 boats sail there per day!), little floating huts out in the sea. Even the brief rain-shower we sailed through seemed picturesque…….and it was warm enough to dry off in 5 minutes after passing through.
On my last evening on the island, I pack my bag, brush my teeth, have a shower (well…there was no working shower – filling a bucket and pouring it over my head a few times, works surprisingly well…..and is probably super water efficient – if you don’t mind the cold water), I spray on some deet as the wooden room is not fully sealed, and as it is built over the water there are a few mosquitos around.
I’m walking back to my room and suddenly the electricity goes off. It happens like a scene in a movie where the lights in the corridor turn of go off a split second after each other in a row and you’re plunged into total darkness. I had been expecting this and was grateful that it had only happened on the last night. Coron is known for it’s regular electricity brown-outs….where parts of the island lose all power.
I feel my way along the corridor wall, back into my room, and get into bed. But I can’t sleep; the deet is burning my skin a bit and without the electricity, the fan in the room isn’t cooling my down. After 15 minutes of fidgeting I get up, put some clothes on and take a wander down into the street.
It’s pitch black, apart from a few torches and candles that the locals have out. I sit myself on a bench and watch the dimly-lit world go by for a while the slight breeze takes the edge of the deet on my sunburn. The locals are not phased at all; they see this all the time and continue talking, selling, cooking (with gas) and just getting about whatever business they usually may have at midnight in Coron.
After around 30 minutes, the street gets re-lit as the energy comes back on, no-one bats an eye and continues doing, just whatever it is they are doing, but with a momentary squint to adjust to the street light. I slowly get to my feet and make my way back to the room with my (now working) fan. Thanks Coron, it was a chilled out blast, working electricity or not!