Last year's winter was a bitterly cold affair in Seoul, with frozen roads lined with snowy slush. In the midst of its chilling depths, we decided it would be rather pleasant to go somewhere nice for a long weekend. Somewhere warm.
A few mitigating factors hampered the immediate actualisation of our tropical escapade proposal. At the time, Baengy was not yet two years old and Heather was 6-months pregnant with Alex. I was in the final year of my PhD and our financial situation was not particularly sparkling. Call me paranoid, but I swear there was a muffled chortle whenever our bank book was handed back by our cashier.
But despite our rather 'cute' bank balance, in the end we decided we needed to do what we needed to do. We placed Baengy in the care of diplomatically-delighted halmoni and halaboji in Busan, and went away for a long weekend to Boracay in the Philippines.
It's a pleasant problem to have to untether a layered mass of cumbersome winter clothes at a foreign airport due to warm tropical weather.
It seems that when the sun has all but forsaken the Korean peninsula, Boracay is where it comes to play.
On the sandy beaches of South Australia, one can be forgiven for expecting the alluring waters to be hospitably warm. This can often be followed by a cold reality shock when dipping ones tootsies into the waters, on the other side of which are the Antarctic ice shelves.
Not so, in Boracay. The waters here receive visitors with generous servings of jovial thermodynamic gravy.
After leaving our baggage at the hotel, we promptly hopped into the warm waters with a moderate amount of childlike glee.
There exist various desktop backgrounds on office computers around the world that depict idyllic sandy locations with glimmering turquoise waters. These are the places where our daydreams take us.
But actually going to one feels a bit like visiting Disneyland, or being sucked into a Nintendo game.
The sunsets were invariably spectacular, although brief, while the sands retained a soft warmth at dusk.
Traveling with Heather is always an enjoyable experience. In my opinion, there are two types of fun travelers: those who enjoy suggesting interesting things to eat and do, and those who agree that such suggestions sound good.
I'm of the former variety, while Heather is of the latter.
We stayed at the Boracay Garden Hotel, a fairly nice place with outdoor pools and decent cooking. Rooms were spacious and cost about $120 per night.
Transport occurred from place to place in open hybrid vehicles of questionable safety, to which we held on tightly.
Common sense is the most affordable type of traveler's insurance.
In the very first restaurant we ate at, we sat with Rani and Minseon, two other Koreans in our tour group. They work at the same company in the southern city of Gyeonju, and save money to travel together every few years. They're both married, although their husbands are not fond of traveling.
We had some good conversations about life, the universe and everything, over bottles of Filipino beer and cheap fruity cocktails.
For a handful of Filipino pesos, you can rent a deck chair for a day. But the sun inconveniently moves in a wider arc across the sky the closer you are to the equator, necessitating an incessant shifting of chairs toward the elusive shade.
Oh, the humanity.
Good buffet breakfasts accompanied with strong coffee started each day off in the right direction.
"More fresh mango juice, give you sir?"
"Why yes. Yes please."
Our tour was run by a Korean company, and Boracay is very popular with Korean tourists. The benefit of joining the tour was in not having to figure out everything ourselves, from the reputations of local restaurants to the unsolicited offerings of jet ski rental from strangers. The down side of the tour was not being able to do things at our own pace, and having things explained to us as if we were from the dark side of Pluto.
"This is a snorkel. You breathe in this end. This other end is the one that sticks out of the water and brings air in. You cannot breathe if both ends are underwater."
We went for a boat tour of the surrounding islands and feasted on crabs for lunch. I don't mind the odd crab now and again, but I find their hardened exoskeleton makes them a fuss to eat.
I am more of the fish fillet persuasion.
"Many men go fishing without realising it is not fish they seek."
A quotation that came to mind, although on this particular occasion it was in fact fish we sought (and caught).
We enjoyed San Miguel and Red Horse beer on the boat, along with fresh mangoes and sliced sashimi from the fish we caught.
The ajosshi at the table was quite a character. He brought a nice stash of smuggled bottles of soju in his luggage from Korea to share with everyone at dinner times.
We also took a ride on a fast catamaran. It still amazes me how they can sail back and forth on the same route using the same breeze.
The locals we met along our well-worn travel route were cheerful and accommodating. On the final night we went to a beachside club and had a rather merry time.
All in all, it was an excellent holiday. Although we were worried whether we could afford it, in the end it felt like money well spent. The great weather, warm waters and plentiful activities made it a destination worth visiting.
Everyone needs a holiday once in a while, and Boracay is a great place to have one.