Paragliding in Wai'Ao (外澳飛行傘基地)

When I first came to Taiwan I took almost any opportunity I could get to visit the East Coast - I fell in love with the natural beauty of the valleys with massive mountains to one side and the beautiful Pacific Ocean to the other. Since then, I've been up and down the coast several times through Yilan (宜蘭), Hualien (花蓮) and Taidong (台東) as well as visiting both Orchid (蘭嶼) and Green Island (綠島).

One of the reasons I love the East Coast is for the sheer amount of open space there is - the land is somewhat sandwiched between the ocean and the central mountain range, but the valley below where there are small towns is full of natural beauty and has yet to be developed in the same way that the west coast of the country (where all the major cities are) has. This means that if you want to get somewhere along the east coast, you're probably going to have to drive for quite a while to get to it, but there are always going to be a number of distractions in between as there is so much to see and do there.  

The view from the mountain

With all this love I have for the area though, if you look at my Blog Map, you'll find that I'm sorely missing posts from that part of the country. I have plans to solve this problem in the near future but there are a number of reasons for this - I did most of my exploring of the east coast years ago and while I do have a considerable amount of photos from those trips, they are sitting on an external hard drive that needs some data recovery before I can get to them. The next reason is that I have a dog now so I have to be responsible and can't leave home for a few days whenever I feel like it. I can get away for day-trips but that really limits the distance I can travel. 

I've tried doing day trips to the East Coast in the past and they've turned out to be extremely exhausting and not something that I want to do all the time. An example of this is when I posted about the Qingshui Cliffs (清水斷崖). Getting to the cliffs involved a four hour train ride to Hualien and then a one hour scooter ride to the cliffs and then the same on the way back. The result was a fourteen hour day of travelling.

Today's post is from a day-trip to Yilan that is not unlike the trip to Qingshui Cliffs, but even though it was really tiring and somewhat of a whirlwind experience, it was still fun and as always, the East Coast never ceases to amaze.

One of the places where I go to relax, meet friends and write blogs is a local craft beer bar called Hop In. I've been going to the bar since it first opened and have become good friends with the owners and the other regulars. A few weeks ago one of the guys asked if I dared to go paragliding. I thought, paragliding? There's nothing scary about that. So the next question was: So when do you want to go? 

Plans were made quite quickly and we were off to Yilan the next week to go paragliding in Wai'Ao (外澳) which is popular for its beach and its harbour. Wai'Ao also has a perfect view of the famous Turtle Island (龜山島), a few kilometres offshore and was off-limits to civilians for several decades.

After passing the beautiful beach (that was surprisingly still busy on a weekday in late October) we drove up a steep mountain and arrived at the point where we would be taking off.  

My friend getting ready to take off. 

The paragliding experience in Taiwan isn't similar to what you'd have in North America - There were no hour long safety videos or excessive lectures about what to do and what not to do. I just had to sign my name, give my ID number and provide an emergency contact number. No fuss. 

The weather on the day we went was absolutely beautiful but we had to wait a while because they were busy and because the wind wasn't that strong. I used the time waiting to enjoy the scenery and tried to get some nice shots of Wai'Ao with the island in the foreground as well as getting shots of my friends going before me.  

When it was my turn, I asked the coach if it was okay if I took my camera with me which ended up being no problem (which surprised me). We suited up, he tightened all the straps and made sure everything was safe as well as giving me a few simple instructions about what to do and what not to do. 

While gliding through the air we passed over the busy East Coast highway as well as the railroad and then quickly passed the beach and went out above the water a little bit. When we got to a certain height we shifted back towards land and the instructor told me that when we got close to the beach that I should put my feet down and get ready to standup and run so that we would have a good landing.

Overall it was a pretty fun experience although it wasn't a very long glide down to the beach. I have a friend who is a professional paraglide who works both in Hong Kong and in India and from what I've seen, paragliding with him would be a pretty awesome experience. One thing I can't compare though is the scenery. The scenery that you get to enjoy in Wai'Ao is pretty amazing and that made the trip worthwhile!  

If you're interested in paragliding while you are visiting the East Coast I'll leave the contact information below. Its best that you make a reservation at least three days in advance. Don't just show up hoping that they can squeeze you in as they're pretty busy! 

Contact Information:

Wai'Ao Paragliding (外澳飛行傘基地)
Address: #95 Shikong Road, Toucheng Village, Yilan County. (宜蘭縣頭城鎮石空路95號)

Reservation Number: 0935181191

Facebook Page:  宜蘭縣飛行運動推展協會

Boracay (長灘島)

Boracay is a paradise-like island south of the Philippines capital of Manilla and is one of the country’s most popular destinations for both foreign and domestic travellers alike. The island renowned for having one of the worlds best beaches and the community on the island is set up to cater to tourists making it an island resort paradise. 

The island is located about 315 kilometres south of the capital of Manilla in the Western Visayas region of the country and is only about 10 square kilometres in size with a population of about 12,000 people with labour imported daily from neighbouring islands

Boracay's iconic Paraw Sailboats.

Boracay's iconic Paraw sailboats.

The island was originally settled by the Ati people, one of the Philippines indigenous groups and the name "Boracay" comes from their original name for the island. These days however the island is controlled by the Philippine Tourism Authority and is designated as a special municipality within the Philippines with a tourism industry that brings in billions of pesos every year. 

Tourism on the island is only a product of the last thirty to forty years and the island has only started to really develop over the past ten. When you base your economy entirely off of tourism you can expect some positives and negatives - one of those negatives has been the marginalization of the Ati people and constant encroachment on their Ancestral lands. This marginalization has led to issues of poverty and discrimination against the native peoples as well as the destruction of their culture. I would argue that Boracay should do a better job of cultivating and promoting the Indigenous culture on the island which would help to form a cultural identity like what you see on the island of Bali in Indonesia. (For more information on the plight of the Ati people check out this article


Tourism on the island has steadily grown over the past few years. In 2011 for example the island attracted 908,174 visitors which grew to 1.2 million in 2012. The Department of Tourism has steadily increased the amount of visitors it forecasts to visit the island each year and now that it has become popular with tourists from China, those numbers are sure to rise. Due to the increase in the amount of tourists, the island is in a constant state of development and new resorts are popping up all the time drastically reducing the amount of empty land left on the small island.

The people who live on the island work primarily in the many different sectors of the tourism industry or in the many restaurants and bars that are found throughout the island. If there is ever any shortage of able bodies, it is rarely an issue considering that Caticlan, the nearest city (on the island of Panay) is only a two kilometre boat ride away. The main problem for most of these people who serve tourists (with respect and smiles) is that they are usually only paid a minimum wage and this helps to create an extremely uneven distribution of wealth on the island. 

Walking along the main stretch

DMall, the shopping area of the island.

This wasn't my first visit to Boracay (and most certainly won't be my last) and from what I observed on my most recent visit is that business is most certainly booming. The majority of the travellers are from neighbouring Asian countries like South Korea, Taiwan and China. The people working on the island thus learn to speak Korean or Mandarin as well as English to serve their guests. I was most in awe of this when I visited Starbucks (the most beautiful Starbucks location I have ever been to) and the kind lady at the counter spoke Mandarin, Korea, Arabic, Tagalog and English to the people ahead of me. With language ability like that, you have to wonder why this genius of a woman would be working at a Starbucks! 

Tourists on the beach near sunset

I arrived on Boracay at 7am (leaving Taiwan at 12:25pm) and because it was too early to check in to the hotel, I just stashed my luggage in storage at the hotel, changed into some swim shorts and decided to go for a walk with my camera so that I could relax on the rest of my vacation and not carry it around!  

The plan was to walk down the four kilometre beach from end to the other to get some shots and waste a bit of time before going back to the hotel for a shower and a nap. There was a section of the island that I hadn't gotten to on my first visit, so I was eager to see what was around the corner of a mountain-like cliff. 

When I got close enough to the cliff, the white-sand part of the beach more or less ended and there was a stone boardwalk that rounded a corner to a place where some really nice houses were built on the side of a mountain.

The Filipino elite likely had their vacation homes up there and it looked like a pretty cool place to stay - with a great view for the islands famous sunsets. I decided to hang out for a little while watching boats pass by and enjoying the weather. The area had a bit of wind and was a bit cooler than the beach. 

A young Filipino boy taking a break from swimming.

While hanging out, I noticed that there was some coral in the water below and that the water was relatively deep, so I took off my camera bag, sat it on the side of the mountain and decided to just jump in.

After jumping a few times, a Filipino man came over and gestured to a small cliff above the boardwalk. He told me to follow him and we climbed up and he looked at me and said “jump!” 

The cliff was only about 10 or so meters above the water, but cliff jumping with the guy was fun enough to spend an hour or so hanging out with swimming. Eventually he had to go and then I walked back to the hotel to check in, have a shower and take a quick nap. 

Local Boracay children Tourist watching.

A local Boracay boy.

The next few days were spent on the beach swimming, tanning, drinking copious amounts of San Miguel, taking photos of the beautiful sunsets and relaxing. While relaxing on the island, there are quite a few recreational activities that you can take part including sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, parasailing, jet skiing, riding around in a helicopter, etc. 

The selection of restaurants on the island is vast and no matter where you decide to dine, the food is amazing no matter where you go. You'll find western cuisines varying from authentic Spanish and Portuguese restaurants to Greek and Italian, American and English. There is also Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and several other Asian restaurants. With all of that selection it might be easy to miss some of the restaurants serving native Pinoy cuisine which I would say is actually really unfortunate, because Filipino food is great - especially their take on BBQ chicken and pork which are amazing! 

Until next time Boracay!

Boracay really is a travellers paradise – You can relax all day, eat great food and party all night. Of all the places I've been throughout my tour of Asia, it is my favourite spot to just go and relax, get some sun and have some great food and drink.  

I've been to the island more than once and its likely that I'll go back again sometime in the future. If I ever get married, I'd probably even consider having my wedding there like some of my co-workers and friends have done in the past!

If you haven't been to Boracay and you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. As always, comment or complain below!