Representing Travel and Beyond, Mable Tan writes about her experience on SilkAir’s inaugural flight to Kalibo, Philippines – the gateway to paradise.
If you’re anything like me, having crossed off the bucket list of major cities like London and Rome, I feel like it’s time to discover something a little more ‘in the backyard’ and that will allow me to take a quick escape from reality.
SilkAir was my best bet for my next ‘off the beaten track’ adventure. With 350 flights a week to 48 destinations in 12 countries, I am a mere hop and a skip away from somewhere exotic and unexplored. The airline is constantly expanding their routes – the latest being Kalibo, Philippines, which is a little more than an hour away from the white sandy beach of Boracay Island.
Being of a certain age group, flying budget and stomping around with a backpack is rather unappealing. Comfort is pretty high on my list and SilkAir being a full serviced carrier made my three hours and forty-five minutes journey to Kalibo a very pleasant one. It’s also good to know that there’s no need to pack light when you have 30 kg baggage allowances for Economy and 40 kg for Business class. Parents of young children will be happy to know that there is a further 10 kg baggage allowance for infants. Want to clock in more frequent flyer points? You can, when you’re a KrisFlyer member.
Spacious sits, a varied supply of reading materials and friendly service at SilkAir’s Business Class
All I had to do was to sit back and relax and let the little things be taken care of. In Business class the tables are ‘dressed’ and meals are freshly plated; your personal stewardess addresses you by name, and regularly checks in on you to see if you need anything without making you feel uncomfortable or harassed – which I personally think is an art. Everything in the flight had a nice balance of grace and warmth.
Meals on Business class includes an appetizer, choice of bread rolls, main course, with dessert and drinks
While boarding, I overheard a fellow passenger’s dismay when they made a quick assumption about the lack of inflight entertainment. “Now, that would be quite a first-world problem,” I thought. As I fiddled with my iPhone, I noticed a SilkAir Wi-Fi signal and much to my surprised, the inflight entertainment appeared. I read later that SilkAir had recently launched a wireless entertainment system which allows passengers to download movies, short features, and music albums on your own smart devices. You could even scroll through the inflight duty free products on your phone. Pretty nifty no?
Business class passengers are provided tablets for their convenience
Economy class customers on SilkAir also has it pretty good Generally, the seats on SilkAir flights are more spacious; moist towels are handed out at the start of the flight; mixed nuts, snacks, and a full bar service are provided; and souvenirs (like deck of cards and puzzles) are available on demand. This reminds me of a time before bad economies and budget airlines. Comfort, service and attention to details on flights actually mattered. It’s good to see some things are still in practice on SilkAir.
Strikingly beautiful dance costumes and lively welcome at Kalibo airport
Since I flew on SilkAir’s inaugural flight from Singapore to Kalibo, a welcoming committee greeted us as we left the airport. The airport is small but it is larger than Caticlan airport and allows bigger aircrafts like Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s to land.
Kalibo International Airport is approximately 80 – 90 minutes away from Caticlan’s port. There are options to travel by minivans and busses and while it is reasonably cheap to travel to the port, prices can fluctuate between off-season and peak season. At the Caticlan port, there is a one-time environmental tax of ₱100 for non-residents and ₱75 for jetty fee to the island. The 20 minutes boat ride to Boracay on bancas (outrigger boats) is invigorating and stirs excitement in me. It feels good to be outdoors. Is it me or does the air feel different in the Aklan?
From Kalibo Airport to Caticlan Jetty port, you can choose to travel by minivan and then take a 10 minute boat ride to Boracay Island
Depending on the season, travellers will arrive at one of two Boracay ports – Cagban Port in the high season (October – May) and Tambisaan Port in the low season (June – September). If you’re arriving at Tambisaan Port, you’re likely to get your feet wet. I may be preaching to the choir when I say this, but leave your heels, pants and heavy luggage behind (unless you decide to hire a porter).
If you arrive in Boracay in the peak season like I did, you may be in for some banca traffic. I was slightly unnerved having to cross from one boat unto another on slim makeshift planks. Unfortunately, I’m a land creature accustomed to solid ground, and the prospect of awkwardly diving into the crystal clear waters (no matter how inviting) in front of an audience, just didn’t seem like a good start to the holiday.
Upon stepping off the banca (without dramas) at Cagban Port, there was a long line of motortrikes (motorized tricycles) all ready to deploy to White Beach. It is generally about ₱100 for the 15 minutes journey, but could cost more if you’re a foreigner so it’s best to haggle and agree on a price before proceeding.
Trikes and all forms of transportation are not allowed to travel on White Beach so we stopped at the main road. Worry not, all paths lead to White Beach. A short walk found me stumbling onto paradise. Breathtakingly beautiful, and surprisingly busy, White Beach adheres to strict rules against littering, smoking, dogs and of course, trikes.
Photo Courtesy: The District Boracay
Photo Courtesy: The District Boracay
The District Boracay is ranked third of people’s choice and awarded the 2014 Travellers’ Choice Award on Trip Advisor
The District Boracay is conveniently located three-minutes away from the main road, 120 metres from D’Mall, just 5 kilometers from Caticlan Jetty Port, but more importantly, the beach is literally right at your doorstep. During the day, beach chairs with tangerine umbrellas are neatly lined up at the beach for a lazy lie down under the swaying coconut trees. By sunset, the chairs are replaced with restaurant settings so guests can dine on delicious pizzas made at The Districts’s Italian restaurant, Caruso Ristorante. All this taking place on the same powder-soft sandy spot.
The District Boracay contemporary-chic boutique rooms are suitable for couples, families and corporate events
My room was a luxurious deluxe room equipped with not one, but two very comfortable queen beds, a LED flat screen TV, private balcony that overlooked the pool, mini-bar (complete with complimentary bottled water), in-room safe, coffee and tea-making facility, free Wi-Fi access, and eco-friendly bathroom amenities (brownie points). I took a leisurely shower to wash off the humidity of the day and stroll up to the roof deck for dinner at the Star Lounge. I watched the night life quickly take over the day’s activities. Peddlers selling flying blue-lit toys, pubs pumping up reggae-techno beats, fire-dancers drawing in crowds, restaurants enticing tourists with fresh seafood – Station 2 is definitely party central.
When you think the view doesn’t get any better, it does
White Beach is divided into three sections – Station 1, Station 2 and Station 3. I like to think them as sisters. Station 1 is your posh, up-market and most beautiful, Station 2 is your wild party child and Station 3 is quieter, homely and more down-to-earth of the three. After dinner, I walked along the beach and felt pretty safe as single female traveller to wander around at night. Guards patrol regularly and peddlers generally leave you alone when you politely say no. But as a rule of thumb, I never walk too far from the crowd and always stay on my alert. I decided to retire early for the night in anticipation of a busy day.
SilkAir flights to Kalibo will be operated on a thrice weekly basis, departing Singapore on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. The flights will be operated by Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft, featuring both Business and Economy Class cabins. As the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, SilkAir operates the Singapore Airlines Group’s narrowbody fleet and extends the Group network by seeding and developing new, exciting destinations in Asia Pacific. Visit their official website for more details.
Click here to read about adventure travel in Boracay!
**Travel and Beyond was hosted by SilkAir and Tourism Philippines. All opinions are our own. Text and photos by guest writer Mable Tan**