Monday, May 21, 2012

Remembering Bangkok

Just now, I had a crazy craving for Pad Thai.  I tried cooking one at home and it was far from what ordinary Thai restaurant serves.  This makes me sad.  Then I began daydreaming of boarding the plane and heading to Pad Thai land – Bangkok, Thailand.

Not so long time ago, we visited Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or commonly known as Bangkok.  The city is just like Chinatown of Manila - hot and vibrant at day, wild and exciting at night.  Because I had undergone two surgeries in my lifetime, I have completely forgotten the name of the hotel we stayed at in Pratunam but it serves the best buffet breakfast.  That I will never forget.  It was breakfast overload.  Or was it Singapore?  Never mind.

My parents used to go here to buy stuff like flowers and jewelry, but they didn’t do the tourist-y things.  So that time, it was a first for everyone.  Going around the city is easy.  If you are not yet familiar with their transportation system, you can always count on to their tuk –tuk.  Though they would cost higher than the other public transpo, the thrill of zooming in and out of traffic jam is pretty exciting.  

 We availed of a half day tour to temples and shops in the city and contracted the guide to include in the package a trip to the floating market and the carving center.  The floating market was a bit far from the city center.   What makes the floating market really interesting is the interaction of both local and tourist buyers and sellers.  They actually do the transaction from one boat to another.  It was fun.  My sister bought this wooden toad with a stick inserted on its side.   When you slide the stick along its crooked spine, the froggy sound is produced.  At night, we visited the Phat Pong – the night market of Bangkok, well, sort of.

It was a heaven for the knock-off junkies.  Not that I promote buying pirated stuff, but they look like the real thing.  You can also buy souvenirs in this area.  A warning though, it is not a good idea to bring the kids along on this trip.  This is because, while you stroll from one stall to another buildings that surround the area is blinking with neon lights.  When I say neon lights, it means no other lights but the neon lights from the underwear of the women dancing inside the clubs.  Yes, Phat Pong is also one of the red light districts of this city.

Now back to the topic which started all this reminiscing – food.  I have been to Bangkok but I was not able to sample everything Thai.  Sad, right?  Mostly we ordered Americanized food, but with the Thai twist.  Rice orders will always have a fried egg topped it.  Or red chilli will always be present in any food.  What I love about their street food is their banana fritters or something like that.  We bought this fried banana wrapped in wonton wraps.  It looks and tastes like the turon of my country.  They like to brew tea - anytime and anywhere.  My brother even said while we are walking along one street, “they are weird they cook the vegetable and drink it.”    Hilarious.  That was tea, being brewed Thai style.

Bangkok is definitely the place you would like to come back.  If not for the food, the sights but the authentic beat of the city.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cultural Immersion

While I was checking the cinema schedule at the Abu Dhabi Week website, an ad caght my attention.  I usually close most of this advertisements as they usually are not my cup of tea.  But this one, got me checking the website and ended up reading a lot of stuff about arts and culture.  And one Thursday afternoon, my husband and I headed to Saadiyat Island to visit The Treasures of the World by the British Museum.

What pushed me to visit the place?  I am always interested in museums.  Geeky but true.  Quite sad though that I have only visited a few of those in my life but it always give me the feeling of added knowledge.  I feel like I just finished a new course. *big smile*

Back to the mummy, before we went there I emailed the Manarat Al Saadiyat to inquire about viewing hours and the cost for the entrance fee.  You'll never know.  I mean some museums are not free, particularly in my country.  Fortunately this one is free and its open daily even on Fridays, from 10:00 am to 8 pm.

It was easy getting there.  Just take the Mina Road going to Yas Island.  If you usually take this road going to either Ikea or the Ferrari World, you can locate it.  There is only one exit road going to Manarat Saadiyat.  But for those without their own vehicle two public buses pass by the museum Bus No. 404 and 405.

My husband was so excited to take loads of pictures of what is inside the museum, unfortunately, cameras are not allowed.  Anyway, we were told that an audio guide is available by the information counter.  We provided our name and phone number and got our personal audio guide.  Most displays have numbers with the headset on their pedestal.  We just press that one and we'll be informed about each artifact.

First stop is the beginning of civilization - Egypt.  right then and there you'd see their mummy coffin and the mummy itself.  Now, mummies have been interesting in televisions until you come face to face with it.  Well, it gives me the heeby-jeebies.  It was kind of creepy in an interesting way.  Even the jars with the head of animals usually placed next to the mummy.  I thought they were toys for the dead or something.  Turned out, they are containers of their insides. Urk.

The rest of the artifacts are the busts and reliefs from different countries and different time period.  Also, some paintings of famous painters.  I like the Europe part.  It feels like I am there during their rise and fall to power.

After more than an hour of art and history appreciation, I realized that talent and creativity is timeless.  No matter what time period you are and no matter what part of the country you were born at creativity blooms through different expressions.

The Exhibit will be until 17 July 2012.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dahilayan: Be One with the Clouds

Mindanao, will continue to amaze me.  Besides the white sand beaches, exotic flora and fauna, and the wild adventures that you can explore and enjoy in this southern island, there are still places that could still take your breath away. 
Who would have thought that you could be one with the clouds?  This is what we have discovered in Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich Bukidnon.

Before, we went home for our 2012 vacation, the venue for the family bonding was a big head ache.  We argued every proposed country, island and even the venue.  I’ve heard of this place in Bukidnon that is gaining popularity for adventure seekers.  Not that we are thrill addicts, but who knows what I’ll find.  Luckily I did find something – Dahilayan Garden Resort.  The price unlike the other candidate for our venue is way cheaper by 50% and we get to cook our own food or order if we don’t feel like doing anything.

I emailed the resort and received a response immediately.  Negotiations for the booking date and payment terms were done.  The thing about the resort, they are closed on Mondays.  The date we chose falls on a Monday till Wednesday (check out day) since Wednesday is already booked. I pleaded (convincingly) to make exemptions.  And again, I was lucky and they give, we could check in on Monday.

The road trip:  Since the resort is located in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, a municipality one hour drive away from the city of Cagayan de Oro, we have to leave the house as early as 7 a.m. to be able to reach the place around noon.  The check in time is 1:00 pm.  We set off around 7:00 am but grumbling tummies are hard to ignore, we have to make pit stops along the way to refuel our guts.  Unfortunately, the weather as well as the road was not cooperative.  Sporadic raining worsen the status of the road.  So we have to drive slowly.  When we reached Manolo Fortich we were already ecstatic that was around 4:30 pm. Imagine the time we have travelled since 7:00 am.  There were no signs or billboards that point to the direction of the resort. 

We stopped at a gasoline station and asked for direction.  Turned out, Dahilayan is a suburb very far from the town proper.  We took the left turn right next to a Petrol Station and drove straight.  After 15 minutes of drive, we passed a small community then what followed was an endless stretch of pineapple plantation.  But we drove forward.  Then we saw it.  Not the resort, but the road sign that Dahilayan Resort is 15km more.  We sort of got excited already.  At last we are near the resort.  Once we got out of the plantation we drove through another community/barangay and we were informed that another 10 km before the resort.  So we drove on.  We passed this trail where it appears like it is going to nowhere.  It was pretty scary.  I was beginning to get scared.  We are very far from the urbanized area already.  Anyway, after a few more kilometers, we finally reached the gate of the resort.  It was huge.  And when we saw the house we are renting, all those negative thoughts I have during the entire drive vanished.  A little bit.

We spend two glorious days in Dahilayan and both days rained especially on the second day.  So we didn’t get the chance to explore the place.  But we are perfectly cocooned in our little rest house.  The view and the weather were perfect. 
If another chance to go back there, I think and I guess the rest of my family will just have to say “pass.”

Monday, May 7, 2012

Romancing Pagudpud (page 2)

The night before, we could have had a perfect night if after a quick stroll we sat at the shore and enjoy the cool wind and the soothing sound of the waves.  Unfortunately, the beckoning the bed is much louder than the waves.  We ended sleeping early for the continuation of the last leg of our Ilocos Amazing Race.  We woke up around 7 a.m. and began packing (again!).  Despite the fact that we are only carrying backpacks, the packing and unpacking thing is the most tiring part of the traveling.

Anyway, we had breakfast by the sea and waited for Kuya Ronald for the South Tour.  He arrive around 8a.m. and started with the tour.  Our first was the boudnary signage of Pagudpud.  We had a our picture taken right at the middle of the road.  Kuya Ronald was on engaging tour guide.  He took our pictures and even recommended poses and jump shots.

Next stop is the Bangui Windmills.  I know it's not your usual tourist spot stops.  Particularly for international tourist.  But the sight of the white windmills turning to produce energy was just beautiful to look at.  We did more pictures there.  Then he took us to the viewing deck of the windmills where souvenir s are sold in the area.  a small replica of the windmill costs from Php 30.00 to 50.00.

Next stop is Cape Bojeador or the Burgos lighthouse.  Set atop a hill that overlooks the wild waters of South China Sea.  It was the oldest lighthouse in the country and it certainly have that colonial feel.

After that, Kuya Ronald helped us chase after a bus going to Laoag since we are planning to get back to Manila the same day because we have a flight on the following day.

We payed Kuya Ronald Php 600.00 plus tip because he was pretty engaging and talks a lot. we will definitely promote his TOURCYCLE venture.

Ronald Ramos
Tourcycle Pagudpud

more pictures here ...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Romancing Pagudpud (page 1)

Basking in too much culture and history can be overwhelming, good thing our last stop for our Ilocos trip was one of Philippine's honeymoon destination.  You have probably heard of Boracay, Pearl Farm, Puerto Galero and Palawan but you rarely hear about Pagudpud.

Located at the northern part of the Ilocos region, Pagudpud is blessed with so many beautiful sights to visit, especially their beaches.  Pagudpud is a 2-hour bus ride from Laoag.  The bus terminal was just a walking distance from the hotel were staying in Laoag.  We planned to leave early from Laoag to maximize our trip in Pagudpud.  The drivers committed to leave around 8:00 am, unfortunatley it left around 9:00 a.m.  By the way, the bus was a non-airconditioned one, which totally sucks since it was so hot but it only costs around Php 60.00 per head, so we have no choice but to deal with the humidity.

We arrived in Pagudpud around 11 a.m. since the bus has so many stopovers.  While we were contemplating which resort we will be staying one tricyle driver, Kuya Ronald, approached us and offered his tour services.  The price was Php 600.00 for the north tour and another Php 600.00 for the south tour.  It was reasonable enough based on the forums I have read, the price is average rate.  So we closed the deal and have him take us to the resort.

We chose Jun and Carols resort.  The driver warned us that the beach is far from the resort, so when we arrived I asked if we could check the rooms and what is the inclusion of the rate.  The room was quite small for Php 1800 with wifi, but the sad part is we have to walk some 10 minutes to splash into the cerulean blue waters.  So our driver, Kuya Ronald, drove us to Casa Victoria.  there were only 6 rooms in the resort and an additional rooms are being constructed.  We were informed that a room will be available by 2:00 pm.  We checked the place and it was realy really good.  Big and spacious plus there's wifi and the bathroom is uber clean for a price same as Jun and Carol's.  And we checked out their beach front..ohh la la la!!!  It was absolute heaven.

We had our lunch at the resort and waited for our tour to start.  Unfortunately, Kuya Ronald has to attend some sort of a meeting with tricicyle driver association something, so we will be toured around by his nephew.

Here is our North Tour pit stops:

Kabigan Falls

The walk going to the falls is, I'm sorry to say, is around 30 minutes.  So better wear hiking shoes because you'll be passing through rough roads.  The tour guide cost around Php 5.00 per head.  Each group will be guided by the locals who are wearing green shirts with their name on it.  Warning though, they will be asking for tips.  When I say tip, its not the usual Php 10-50 tip.  Manang Leonila asked for a minimum of Php 100.00.  So be ready.

Patapat Viaduct

Paraiso ni Anton

This natural spring, is just right next to the road.  What makes it really beautfiul is that you can't trace where its coming from.

Blue Lagoon

Bantay Abot Cave

Unfortunately for us, the weather was not on our side.  It rained.  Heavily.  It was a downpour. We took shelter from the waiting sheds in the area.  We went back to the resort when the rain temporarily stopped.  Luckily, no rain in the resort area.  My husband decided to test the water of Pagudpud, while I enjoyed the view and the beautiful sunset.

When the moon came up, we decided to check out the rest of the area where we could have our dinner.  We went to another resort for dinner.  There is only one resort which I think gives that romantic honeymoon dinner by the sea and that is at Evangeline's.  I didn't bring any camera so sad to say, I can't post for that moment.  Plenty of foreigners dined at the restaurant.  It was pretty romantic.  At the moment, we actually felt like we are in a vacation.  After a quick stroll by the beach after dinner, we hit the sack for the South Tour.

more pictures here ...