Fairways and Bluewater Resort – Boracay, Philippines Review

Fairways and Blue Water Boracay Resort

I am going to open this review with an important statement.

If you are planning to stay at Fairways and Bluewaters, you need to be aware that about 90% of the resort is completely closed down and that none of this is mentioned on their website. Almost all of the attractions and amenities that are front and center promoted on the site are completely off-limits.

I personally find this to be incredibly dishonest by not noting on the site or in an email just how much of the resort is closed. I booked the resort back in August, and before I booked, I actually emailed them to ask about the situation with COVID. I was told that the resort was closed until December 16th (this wasn’t noted anywhere on the site), but the resort should be fully operational when it opened.

I proceeded to book a room, which is confusing enough. There is no resort map on the website, and they have a lot of different areas spread across the 18 hole golf course. I settled on what I thought was the most premier room (outside of a suite) they had available and booked.

Between the time of booking and arriving, there was an email sent from the resort asking me to fill in a pre-arrival form. There was no information at all about nearly all the resort being closed.

We arrived at the resort on 24th December from Hennan Crystal Sands. The resort golf course is very nice, but you can clearly see that there is a lot of work being done on many of the holes that you pass by. I would later find out they are renovating the back 9 holes. Again, nothing on the website or emails noting this.

We checked in and were upgraded to a pool room in the Montary Section of the hotel. This is a very kind gesture and of course, very welcome. I did, however, comment on how it seemed impossible to book these rooms on the website back in August.

The Montary pool rooms themselves are very nice. They are spacious and modern, and the bathroom matches the rest of the room in that regard. The pool has a beautiful view of the forested hills and across the 8th hole that golfers tee-off from and play upwards towards the pool area.

After we checked-in, we asked about the resort and asked for a map. We were told no map was available and that only two swimming pools (Kusina De Augusta and Laguna Cafe) of six are open.

We were then told that of the twelve or so bars and restaurants that only two were open and both of those have last food orders at 8:30 pm. These are little more than pool cafes with extremely limited menus with a large amount of cross-over.

In fact, partway through our stay, the management decided that people can no longer order food from one restaurant and eat it at the other. This would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that certain lunch staples, such as burgers, are only available in one restaurant and not the other. It is such an inconvenience for people as the two menus have a lot of overlap with Filipino food, but any western food is split unevenly between the menus despite the restaurants being right next to each other in the only open section of the resort. Even the Montary Café itself is only open for breakfast.

Finally, the dining areas are littered with stray cats, none of which have been spayed or neutered by the resort. I don’t mind cats, but these guys are constantly meowing and fighting for food. I like the fact that cats are around as it adds some charm, but they are not being looked after properly by the resort and can become a loud nuisance.

We had made our booking based on the promotional photos of the Kudetah district, which showed multiple bars and restaurants alongside beautiful infinity pools that overlooked the private beach. I have absolutely no qualms with resorts operating at limited capacity due to the pandemic, but in the case of Fairways, they have no information about such a high percentage of their resort being closed that it is simply dishonest, and they are obviously painfully aware that people will not book if they know how limited the resort is in its current state.

All of this is made even worse by the fact that almost every other resort on Boracay island is doing a much better job than Fairways. Both the Movenpick and the Hennan Crystal Sands that we stayed in during the same trip had nowhere near close to the issues that Fairways did.

We ended up getting a shuttle to the Movenpick for our 24th Christmas Dinner, since there was no entertainment put on at the Fairways, apparently due to the band not being able to make it, which I suspect is another excuse.

I decided to try out the golf course, which is obviously one of the main selling points of the resort. I was told that only the front 9 was playable (although you can play it twice) due to renovation on the back 9. Again, none of this is communicated at all. I played my round. As I left, I said to the caddy I’d see them tomorrow, she replied “oh sorry sir, we are shut for the next three days”. These aren’t national holidays, these are normal working days over a weekend that you would expect a golf course to be open. You may be shocked to read this, but none of this is communicated anywhere. There isn’t a single sign in the resort pointing this out.

So, let’s recap. We are staying at this resort from the 24th to the 28th over Christmas.

  • 90% of the resort is closed.
  • There is no notice nor communication that such a large portion of the resort is closed.
  • There are 2 pool bars open serving food with limited menus and both shut at 9 pm.
  • They have suddenly decided that you can no longer order food from one restaurant and eat it in the other despite them both being next to each other.
  • There is no Christmas entertainment because the band couldn’t make it despite no other resort on the island having this issue.
  • The golf course has the back 9 under repair and this is not communicated anywhere.
  • The golf course is closed for three days over the weekend, despite it not being any sort of public holiday and this is not communicated.
  • We were told we could play billiards in the basement sports bar (which is actually closed, surprise!) but we’d need to book a specific time slot.

I also bumped into another guest who was desperately trying to book another hotel last minute because he was annoyed at being deceived by what is shown on the website vs. what is available at the resort.

I will comment on two positives despite my complete and utter disappointment in this resort.

  1. Judy (I think that was her name, it is difficult to hear names with PPE on), the duty manager, was very graceful in hearing me complain about all the above to her. She tried to make amends by offering us a free shuttle service to the main Boracay beach, but I explained the very reason we booked this resort away from the beach was due to the amenities it promoted on its website. I will also note to Judy’s credit that during one of the golf-course-is-closed-days she allowed me to play, as apparently, the course wasn’t “technically” closed because there was a 4-ball VIP group playing. I do appreciate her allowing me that courtesy, but it seems a little off that the course is closed to guests yet open for VIPs.
  2. The second positive goes to Rey, who is one of the staff in the pool bar. Rey always greeted us with a smile (to be fair the entire staff did but Ray was notable). And despite our complaints about the resort, he did try in vain to paint it in a much brighter light. He was attentive and accommodating and made the disappointment of the above much more palatable.
  3. The staff in general are extremely polite and very helpful. Whilst expected in the service industry in the Philippines, I do appreciate it due to everything they must have been through and how difficult it must be to get back to normality

In closing (if you bothered to get this far). Everything about Fairways should be awesome. But with them being dishonest at best and outright deceitful at worst about the state of the resort, then it leaves a very bitter taste in one’s mouth.

There are absolutely zero reasons to choose this resort over the hundreds of others on the island when 90% of it is closed and nothing is communicated. I would possibly give the resort another try in a year or two if they can get things back to normal. But it seems to me, the owners have no intention of being forthright with their guests and are not currently in a position to fund redevelopment and staff costs.

In fact, if you look back through the lower rating reviews here on Tripadvisor, you can see people already pointing out these issues earlier this year and late last year before Covid hit.

It pains me to say the above because the resort is so beautiful and the 10% that is open is great, the staff is great, but the negatives so far outweigh the positives, it is laughable.

It wouldn’t be beyond reason to ask for a refund due to this. They have had nine months to weather the storm of Covid but ignored that time to get things up to speed, opened literally a week before Christmas, have not communicated anything about the resort closures, and have not changed the prices of their rooms enough to reflect such a drastic reduction in available facilities. It is not difficult to communicate everything above clearly on the website. But as far as I can tell, the site and the terrible booking engine that accompanies it hasn’t been updated for a number of years.

Movenpick Resort & Spa – Boracay, Philippines Review

Movenpick Resort & Spa - Boracay

Beautiful grounds, beach, and pool with superb staff.

I stayed at the Movenpick back in January of 2020 before the Covid pandemic but was unable to write a review. I have now just come back from a pleasant 8-night stay over the New Year.

One of the main reasons we have chosen the Movenpick is for the location and the grounds. The resort is located in Station 0, which is essentially a private beach shared between the Movenpick, Crimson, and the Shangri-la. This beach is not connected to the main Boracay beach, which makes it a perfect way to experience Boracay sands without all the hustle and bustle of the main beach (although you can get a shuttle/trike to the main beach should you wish).

The grounds themselves are also very nice with a huge pool at the very center of the resort. With the pool being so large, it means that there are usually plenty of sun loungers for guests. The resort has three restaurants, although two were essentially closed, and as such, the menu was much more limited than usual. You can walk freely between Movenpick, Shangri-la, and Crimson, so if you fancy a spot of lunch or dinner at one of those resorts, then it is easy enough to walk down the beach for five minutes to them.

We stayed in a Junior Suite on this occasion. Despite the room décor looking a little tired, the room was spacious and in a very nice location near the beach and Sol beach bar. The bathrooms in these types of suites are huge with two sinks and a bathtub. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the shower, which seemed to have issues with both pressure and temperature control. I did, however, find the bed very comfortable. The hotel decorated our room and provided a cake for our birthdays, which was a nice touch.

On our previous visit, we stayed in the premier room which is located in the main area of the hotel and requires a bit of a walk down to the bar and the restaurants. So if you have the cash to upgrade to the junior suite, then it is preferred.

The resort Spa was closed, which was a big shame as it was very relaxing last year when I was able to use it and slightly surprising considering health spas in Manila and elsewhere on the island are now operating. The Sol bar closes a little earlier than I would like, with last orders being around 9:30 pm. I appreciate this is also being dictated by the island curfew and the need for staff to travel home.

Shout out to Emil who was always greeting us with a smile and did everything he could to make our stay in and around the bar special. In fact, the staff was great in general, with them going out of their way to know your name as you walk around the grounds and many helping me out with an emergency purchase I needed to make as we were checking out.

The New Year’s Eve celebration was well handled, with the staff doing a great job of having to move the festivities in and out of the restaurant from the beachfront due to rain. The general manager, Franck came to each table and wished everyone a happy new year, which was a nice gesture.

In my opinion, the Movenpick is great value for money so it makes sense to stay in the rooms here, enjoy the large pool and beach, and then just head over to Crimson or Shangri-la should you wish for arguably a better menu and drinks that tend to flow much later into the night. I will certainly be coming back to the Movenpick for future breaks.

Henann Crystal Sands Resort – Boracay, Philippines Review

Henann Crystal Sands Resort, Boracay

Second stay in almost a year, still very good.

I wrote a long review last year after I stayed at Henann Crystal Sands, so I am just going to note a couple of bullet points here due to staying a few days before Christmas.

Good:

  • The hotel has done a great job of getting back up to speed and operating as well as it did before it was forced to closed during the pandemic.
  • The staff continues to be extremely polite and very helpful.
  • The hotel seems to be operating at about 70% capacity, so things aren’t super busy, and it allows you to get sun loungers and the like fairly easily.
  • The Sky Pool bar is one of the best of any hotel I have stayed at and is a great place to spend the day.
  • The hotel is in an ideal location in Station 2, Boracay.

Bad:

  • The rooms all face each other, so there is zero privacy unless you close all blinds. The issue with this is twofold: 1) The wooden blinds covering the main door to the balcony are far too heavy to stay up (You must move them upwards to close them, which doesn’t help with gravity being a thing). 2) All the other blinds completely stop any light coming in and the room lights are not exactly bright. As such, the room ends up dreary and dark.
  • They are charging 300 pesos per day to use the gym as a hotel guest. This is nothing short of a money grab and extremely poor form if you ask me.
  • The breakfast buffet continues to leave a lot to be desired.

Despite the bad points, the hotel is priced very well, and the location + the Sky Pool more than makeup for any shortcomings. I would recommend staying here.

But do note that Boracay as a whole is still very much closed with only about 40% of the establishments open for business.

The 15 Best Video Games Consoles of All Time

A friend of mine recently posted a link to this Guardian article about the best video game consoles ranked. This absolutely pile of trash disguised an article got me so outraged that it forced me to sit in front of my computer on a Saturday afternoon and write my first blog post in three years and write about the 15 best video games consoles of all time instead of helping my girlfriend paint the utility room.

Despite the fact that I have written the list in usual-listicle-reverse order ensuring there is zero suspense, here is my personal list of the greatest video consoles of all time which absolutely nobody asked for nor is interested in.

1) Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom

Simple yet elegant. It was always a joy to drop to your knees & blow into that front loader

Whilst Atari were dumping copies of ET into the Nevada desert Nintendo were readying the system which would single-handedly save the gaming industry and sell over 61.91 million consoles worldwide, whilst amassing something like a 92% market share in the USA alone. The NES cemented Mario as the most recognised mascot in the world with Mario Bros 3 (and the Wizard movie, fuck yeah) surpassing even Micky Mouse.

The NES allowed developers to not only create new types of games but entire genres and in Japan was at the forefront of technology with the Famicom Disc System and the Famicom Network System for online access. Mario, Zelda, Megaman, Tetris, Metroid, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear. All these were all essentially born, or at the very least popularized on the NES. In my opinion, if it wasn’t for the NES the gaming industry would be at least 10 years behind where it is now.

2) Nintendo Game Boy

The green screen made it hard to see anything, but we didn’t care on a dimly lit road trip

The Game Boy sold over 118 million units worldwide with the lion’s share of them being in the 90’s. This little system absolutely dominated the handheld gaming space and utterly destroyed any competition who meekly stepped into the ring with the handheld heavyweight. This green screened gem brought the world Pokemon, which is the highest-grossing entertainment media franchise of all time with $90 billion (billion! With a B!) worth of sales. Surprisingly though, the 340 million units Pokemon has sold still pales in comparison to Mario’s 623.4 million units sold, and that data is from December 2017!

3) Super Nintendo Entertainment System/Super Famicom

If you think the North American version looked better then you are wrong!

The SNES took everything its older brother did and improved upon it. The slick machine allowed developers to truly bring their ideas to life in an era where CPU power was still very limited. The system had online functionality in Japan with the Satellaview (man, living in Japan in the 90’s would have been so freaking cool) and sold a total of 49.1 million copies worldwide.

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The Mira – Kawloon, Hong Kong Review

The Mira Kawloon Hong Kong

Nice hotel, good location, can be affected by the protests.

I wrote this review after staying at The Mira back in November but have only just remembered to place it live now.

The Mira is a very nicely situated hotel in the heart of Kawloon. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the hotel from the airport by Uber or Taxi, and may be slightly more via train due to having to change stations once you get into Hong Kong.

The hotel check-in was fairly swift with no complaints. The rooms are modern in design. The room I had overlooked Nathan road, which houses a ton of shops selling every brand you can imagine.

The bathroom and shower are kept nice and clean with good pressure, albeit it is quite odd to have the sink outside the bathroom. This is only something I have experienced before in Mainland China.

The hotel facilities are top-notch. The indoor pool is beautifully designed with a nice wet room & sauna off to the side, along with a nice spa. There are multiple restaurant options with a sports bar that shows Premier League and serves decent bar food.

If you want to do a spot of shopping, then you are in one of the best places in the world. There are many markets just a stone’s throw away. You have the beautifully lit neon signs, and there are a bunch of restaurants and bars down near Heart Ave.

The only downside to this hotel is that during the protests, it is essentially ground zero. Almost every time the protests flare up, then the roads to this hotel become filled with people. And with the debris the next day, it can make getting to and from the hotel difficult. On the flip side, this has brought the price per night down considerably.

I would stay at the Mira Hotel again if I were in the Kawloon side of Hong Kong.