Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Breathtaking Bohol Part 2 of 2

Breathtaking Bohol Part 1 (click here)
Beachfront Fun
At the southwest of Bohol is the island of Panglao which is the range of beaches and fun in the sea adventure.  The Panglao beachfront has fine white sands and crystal clear water that makes it one of the better beaches in the country.  It's surrounded by a chain of hotels and restaurants and is a gateway for those who wants to go on island hopping.  This is where we spent day 2 of our Bohol escapade.
Dolphin Watching
One of the more popular early morning activity in this part of the island is dolphin watching.  You get to see hundreds of dolphins swim in the open water.  You have to catch these dolphins early in the morning as it coincides with their feeding time and unlike the dolphins we watched at shows, these dolphins are a bit shy and would just prefer to just swim freely in the ocean waters.
Balicasag Island

Balicasag Island is a small island in Bohol and one of the best dive sites in the Philippines with its rich marine life.  We went snorkeling in this site and was amazed by the variety of fishes and corals. When you go through the wall which is the area between the shallow and the deep part, it just gets better as you see bigger fishes chunk away at the bread you feed them.
Puntod Island
The activity just shifted from island hopping to bar hopping as you get introduced to a very long sand bar in the island of Puntod (now called Virgin Island).  We also got to try out eating sea urchins with vinegar and a drink fresh buko juice.  It's also a visual delight to be stepping on the sand bars while being situated in the middle of the waters.
Bohol Beach Club
Next stop was Bohol Beach Club which was an excellent place to just chill and relax along the beachfront.  I took this opportunity to run in the beach front which was a bit difficult since you tend to sink in the soft sands and an even softer shoreline but it was fun.  I also took the opportunity to sleep in the 'duyan'.  I just love these 'duyan' moments.  We also took a dip in the pool before calling it a day.
Back in the City
We were then back to Tagbilaran where we were set to wrap up our tour.  We ate at Bojol which was nearby our hotel for a sumptuous chicken inasal meal and halo halo sa buko for dessert.  We were suppose to go to Mag-aso falls but it was raining hard in the morning so we deemed it was not safe to proceed.  We instead shifted to the remaining part of the city while awaiting our flight.
Butterfly Garden
It was interesting to note that in a butterfly's life cycle, it spends more time from egg to being a cocoon than being a butterfly.  They also had a part called the butterfly effect wherein you get to have a picture with butterfly wings on your back.
Python Encounter
Then there's also the part where you can be up close with an actual python.  I'm not a fan of cold blooded creatures but it was satisfying to seat beside such a big python.  They also had monkeys, iguanas, ostriches, bear cats, leopard cat and civets in this area.
Clarin Ancestral House
The house was built in the 1800s and belong to one of the more prominent families in Bohol.  It was nice to see antique items and discover a bit about the family that lived in this house.  There's also a coffee shop inside the house and quite ironic there's Wifi in this old house.
And there goes the whole trip
We were off Manila after taking in an early lunch armed with memories of visiting the finest places in Bohol and also looking forward to the places we have missed out.  Maybe Bohol Marathon is not a bad idea after all since the beach front image is still on my mind.

Breathtaking Bohol Part 1 of 2

Breathtaking Bohol
Bohol has been famous for its chocolate hills and the cute little Tarsiers and the experience is just a little bit over an hour away from Manila by plane.  It's my second visit here in Bohol but with so many attractions, I may see a different side of Bohol this time around.  So here we go, squeeze all you can 3 days and two nights around the large island of Bohol.  Touchdown Bohol at past 10 am after our flight got delayed by an hour so we started with a tour of the city and some famous structures.
Blood Compact Site (Old and New)
In the past friendship treaties were sealed in blood and so was built the blood compact site structure in Bool, Tagbilaran to honor the blood compact between Spanish Explorer Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Datu Sikatuna in Bohol in 1565 to seal their friendship.  The original site was later on discovered to be in Hinawanan, Loay, Bohol in 2006 as there was a reference in the past that the blood compact site was made in a town between two rivers.
Baclayon Church
Bohol is the home of one of the oldest churches in the Country which is Baclayon Church and the oldest one in Bohol.  It also houses a museum of old religious artifact and has a convent just beside it.  The second oldest church in Bohol which is Loboc Church. Loboc Church was actually the first one to constructed but since Baclayon Church was nearer the construction resources, Baclayon Church was the first one to be completed.
Loboc River
Definitely a must try experience in Bohol is having a buffet lunch or dinner while cruising the rivers of Bohol at a floating restaurant.  It comes with good music and a great range of meals.  The cruise along Loboc RIver was a visual delight with the view, the singing and dancing kids at the stopovers and the Busay Falls.
Here comes those cute little Tarseirs.  It's now an endangered specie and is very shy and easily stressed by people around them so even if they are so cute to touch, it's better not to do so.   Tarsiers are nocturnal animal so they are mostly asleep during the day and they hunt at night.  They have now been centralized in a single area and have individual guides to ensure their safety.
Chocolate Hills
Talk about eating hills.  Here's several hills that sounds more like a food than an attraction.  With over a 1,ooo hills that look like chocolate kisses on dry months, chocolate hills is one of the main attraction in Bohol.  As this was not my first time to visit chocolate hills, we also tried exploring the hills via ATV vehicle.  Using an ATV, I didn't avoid any mud or watery areas which made it a lot more fun and it was nice seeing the hills from a different vantage point.
Hanging Bridge
Another city attraction is the hanging bridge. On the other end of the bridge are souvernir shops and the famous Buko King, who was made famous for peeling a buko using his teeth.  It's always a thrill crossing this bridge as you can really feel the bridge shaking at the slightest movement. Wouldn't it be exciting if they added the hanging bridge in the Bohol Marathon.
And there goes day 1
And with a packed itinerary like this (compliments to Ruth for her travel skills), I couldn't believe that this is just a day spent in Bohol.  We now proceed to the second half of the itinerary which is enjoying the beach side of Panglao and just to add a tinge of suspense, I'll make that post at another time.  Watch out for it!!!
Breathtaking Bohol Part 2 of 2 (click here)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cooling Down the Hot Way... Again

2nd Time
This is my second visit at 88 Hot Springs Spa & Resort (1st Visit) and for a resort along the Pansol area to have multiple visits, it must  be doing something right.  I've been wanting to return here for quite some time and first and foremost among the reasons is the therapeutic of volcanic hot spring waters which ranges from improving blood circulation to relieving physical pain to relaxing the muscles and removing toxins in the body. Just the perfect getaway for me after stress overload at the office and a full quarter of intense multi sport training.
Pool Unlimited
I love that they have so many pools with different features.  The biggest would be the pool by the side of the cottages which consist of pure mineral hot spring waters. They have jacuzzi pool at the upper part of the resort with water temperature ranging from 39-41 degrees which is good for relieving pain and stress.  They have a standard and mini pool with 42-45 degrees water temperature just beside the restaurant that is good for the skin.  They just recently added another standard pool with slide just beside the lake.
Fengshui Energy Pool
Then there's the Fengshui energy pool that has 8 different pool with temperature 42 to 45 degrees wherein spending 10 minutes at each pool will provide the optimal flow of energy and most benefit to your health.  This was the part I was looking forward to as my training lifestyle has made muscle wear and tear and fatigue on the accelerate mode so a little bit of warm water would fast track the recovery.  In simple terms, hot compress can loosen those tight and fatigued muscles.
Clean and the Luscious Type of Green
The place is about 10 hectares of pools, fountains, statues and lush green grasses and plants across the whole area.  An added feature is a big lake wherein you can also do fishing and boat riding. The lake does complement its backdrop which is Mount Makiling.  The whole place is well maintained and very clean.

Food... Food... Food...
They have a restaurant just above the reception area and serves mostly Korean food though they have also added several Filipino foods for local guests who prefers the Filipino variety.  They don't allow food inside so you'll have to make do with the food in the restaurant and the minibar near the pool area.  Another option is of course, eating outside of the resort but the food prices are within the price range of regular restaurants.
Accommodations ranges from a small Kubo Room for 2-4 (P2,500), a standard room for 2-3 (P3,000), a Bamboo Deluxe Room for 2-3 (P4,400), a Bamboo Suite and Villa Room for 4-6 (P4,900) and a Nipa Hut Room for 7-8 (P7,000).  They also have day tour packages at P700 for adults and P500 for kids.  The rooms are air conditioned, well maintained and spacious.  All rooms except the small Kubo room are equipped with Cable TV and its own bathroom.
Cooling Down The Hot Way
It's a different type of cooling down this summer months and going for a healthy dose of hot springs is a great alternative.  It's just about 40 miles from Manila or less than 2 hours by car especially that there's already an efficient skyway system going south.  Cooling down the hot way is definitely more fun in the Philippines.
88 Hot Springs Resort
#9601 National Highway, Bagong Kalsada, Calamba City, Laguna, Philippines.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bring Me Back To Paris

I wouldn't change a thing.  That is what we usually say when we're asked if you can change something in the past but come to think of it, there maybe something I want to change.  It's just that I would have wanted affordable and high resolution smart camera be readily available in 2003.


I had my first out of the country trip in 2003 and it was no ordinary first trip as it was in the historic and scenic Paris, France.  Leading to the audit assignment in Paris, France I felt jinxed on foreign travels as even my US trip had been aborted due to visa issues prior to this one.  It was surreal feeling being stucked in a KLM flight of to the land where the famous Eiffel Tower stands. Even if I had already set foot in Amsterdam, I still had the obscure feeling that something would go wrong like the immigration officer would somehow find a loophole to send me home. All went well and finally boarded my plane off to Charles de Gaulle airport.

It Begins

It still felt like a dream as the cab was taking us to our Hotel in Champs Elyssee passing through the world famous Eiffel Tower and the historic Arc de Thriompe.  The hotel was compact as real estate in this part of the world is quite pricey but it sits near the clients office and just a stone through in one of Paris main boulevard, Champs Elysee.  And here begins my adventure in the world's most popular tourist destination and on my first foreign trip.  It wasn't a dream and from sleepless nights prior to that catching the tax deadline in Manila, I woke up in Paris.

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe sits in the middle of Champs Elyssee and was constructed in the 1800 to honor those who fought in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.  There are sculptures around the Arc  representing impressions of the battles it honors. We went inside the Arc and also on top of it wherein you get to see a view of the famous Eiffel Tower in the night sky.  This led to our next crazy idea.

Eiffel Tower

Since the Eiffel Tower was viewable from Arc de Triomphe, we went on to walk towards the Eiffel Tower and the first time was not a charm as we got lost in the process but lucky enough to find our hotel in the process. We did get to see Eiffel Tower the day after being properly briefed on how to go there.  The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognized structures in the world and was the first structure to go past 300 meters upon its construction in 1889.  Since it stands out due to zoning restrictions in Paris, you can see the whole of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower.  There's also a view deck in Trocadero nearby wherein you can see the tower dominate the Parisian sky.

Bateaux Mouches

Bateaux Mouches takes one to a cruise around Paris via a boat ride in the Seine River.  Among the popular structures which can be seen from the cruise is the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and a replica of the Statue of Liberty.  The Statue of Liberty is a gift from France to the US and in return Americans residing in Paris constructed a replica within the Seine River.  You also get to see intricate carvings that says so much about the story of each bridge.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Completed by the 14th Century. Notre Dame is a fine example of French and Gothic infrastructure.  It's also the backdrop of the book, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  The good part of this visit was that I was able to see the actual bell that Quasimodo rang and the Gargoyles that guarded the Cathedral.  It does add to its allure being located beside the Seine River.  Just beside Notre Dame, there are shops wherein you can buy the cheapest souvenirs in Paris.


On one of our weekends in Paris, we were able to have a picnic in Versailles with out audit client.  Going back into history, it's the lavish lifestyle of the rulers of Paris that sparked the French Revolution.  Lavish is an understatement going through Versailles as every intricate detail is really worth a fortune.  There's an audio guide that helps you go over the area.  There are also Hamlets located in the area which depicts the countryside alternative in terms of scenery and ambiance.

The Louvre

The world famous museum that houses Mona Lisa and if we get to believe Da Vinci code, also houses the body of Mary Magdalene.  Those were the things I didn't know back then but was still lucky enough to visit the Louvre and take see the famous Mona Lisa Paintings. Post Louvre, it did give me a better appreciation of books that have Louvre as the center piece of their story.

Sacre Couer

Sacre Couer is a Basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and is located at Montmarte, which is the highest part of the city.  You get a higher view of the city from here and it is also beside the Artist's Village in Paris.  I was able to buy 2 sketches worth 1 Euro each of Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral, which to this day is framed at our house in Baguio.


There's also a Disneyland within the outskirts in Paris, which fortunate for us is conveniently accessible via Metro.  My trip to the happiest place on Earth in the world's most popular tourist destination.  I was able to enjoy some disney shows (though some were in french) and a raiders in the lost ark ride.  It was great to be in Disney and even if getting here almost had as taking a train to someplace else but it's just great to know the principles of the Metro as we were able to find our way back.


The best way in going around Paris is by foot.  At spring, the weather was not hot nor too cold.  The good part is that they have a well developed Metro System that can take you to even in the outskirts of Paris.  So walk all you want and when you feel you're lost just go back to the Metro and go back to the line where your hotel is located.  This is where I learned the concepts of traveling in a train system which came handy in my next travels.


We were pampered by our client with the best food Paris can offer from steaks, to pizzas, to pastas and to original Paris cuisines and others we were able to have it.  Paris is a melting pot of several cultures so there's so much varieties.  If we were on our own, we'd stuff ourselves with food on breakfast as this one was the free buffet and have McDonald's once the hunger pangs come in.  We had to conserve our minimal per diem on not only on the world's most famous tourist attraction but also the one with the highest cost of living.

And the rest of the tour

We were also able to visit Chapel of the Miraculous Medal where we got to see the undecayed state of St. Catherine Laboure's body even centuries after her death and sainthood.  We were also able to visit other Paris attraction like the Esplanade, Place Bastille among others.  We were able to go to mass in Paris and it is where you get to see many Filipinos meeting together.  Does the moonlight shine in Paris?  Well, all I can say is that during spring, there's still sunlight even at midnight.
Almost a perfect tour around Paris but this blogged could have gotten more than a thousand words had I had all those clear photos from powerful cameras.  It will be exciting to come back here once again and this time I'll be ready to take those shots of the splendid attractions in Paris.  Let the universe conspire and bring me back to the land where the moonlight don't shine.

And here's another bonus

After 17 days in Paris, we decided to take an earlier flight to the land of the windmills - Holland/Amsterdam. It's always cool in Amsterdam as this place is actually below see level with the dam blocking the Amster River (that's how it got its name).  Houses here are made of solid structures and in a funny way lean against each other as it's one of the drawback of being under sea level, the land tends to sink.  It was nice to see shoe and cheese factory and the famous red light district.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Temple Run

There's been fresh ideas for runs lately.  There's a beach run.  There's the extreme uphill runs.  There's a zombies run.  Why not have an actual Temple Run? Yes, the iPhone and iPad game that had the hero running in a temple collecting coins and jumping through obstacles in form of oversize tree roots and holes in the road and even balls of fire.  I have just the place in mind for an actual temple run.
Angkor is clusters of temple constructed in the early 12th century and located in Siem Reap in Cambodia.   Angkor Wat is the biggest and most popular temple in the area. The moat in front of it gives a breathtaking view of the temple.  Inside, you get to see the intricate details of Khmer architecture.  To add challenge to this part, there are steep climbs and paths and the rock-solid base of Angkor Wat will make a very strong impression to your strides. On the positive, you get to see ancient architecture at its finest.
Ta Phrom is the fusion of ancient infrastructure and nature.  This is situated in a forest and built in the 12th and 13th century. The century and strangler fig trees have grown intertwined with the temples.  Traversing this path is hardcore as you get to pass overgrown roots, slippery soils and narrow paths.  This is a real challenge even Tomb Raider had this obstacle to overcome.
Bayon Temple is an uphill climb as you go up in the temple to see 37 towers carved with the four faced Buddha.  This is late 12th century addition to Angkor area.  It's quite the challenge as its built like a mountain and has narrow and steep pathways.  It's also an option to enter the area with an elephant ride so maybe that could be an exciting twist.
Now with direct flights to Siem Reap, it's becomes a bit more realistic.  Because of the great sights, people might take their time in passing through the temples so might as well waive the cutoff time.  Angkor Wat is like stepping into a time machine and makes you appreciate ancient architecture.  It's just amazing how even without the wonders of modern technology, there are structures built in time that stands through time and remains a wonder to this very day. So back to where I started, why not do an actual temple run?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sporty Singapore

When you visit places frequently, you have to find ways at seeing the place in a different light and since I came here with my running buddies, this is the time to explore the sporty side of Singapore.

 Universal Studios

First stop was a visit to Universal Studios, which is my second time this year.  Nothing much new here except for a Transformers ride coming out on December and that maybe something I may visit on my trip here next year.  It's always fun going to theme parks especially if you have two friends who'd brave the cyclone.  For me, I'm probably way past scaring myself to death with roller coaster rides though I did take the Mummy ride the last time I was here. Enjoyed a 4D adventure show plus a lot of photo opportunities here.

Singapore at Night

Had dinner with a friend at in City Hall area.  I liked the Pizza & Pasta combo we had. We also had a chance to appreciate the view from Esplanade. Singapore stays vibrant at night and people here probably have longer days as it seems common to be off work at past 8 pm. It was great looking at the bay side view overlooking the Singapore Flyer to Marina Bay Sands to Merlion Park and it's a bonus that I can take panoramic shots from my Camera.  Switched to Brotzeit at Somerset for half a liter of banana flavored beer before calling it a night.


ON Running Technology 

Spent the next day shopping for running shoes and accessories.We were lucky enough to see the new ON Cloud Runner in the first shop we visited.  Trying out the Cloud Runner, it was difficult to let it go even if it was just weeks away from getting launched in the Philippines.  You would immediately feel a cushioned insole on a lightweight shoes.  I am always torn between a cushioned shoes as I have some tendency to have higher-impact strides and a lightweight race shoes to be light for speed and comfort during actual races.  So it was the best of both worlds, a cushioned and lightweight shoes.  Given that I'm going for longer distance runs, I see the Cloud Runner as a good investment and seeing that the cloud technology effectively cushions each of your stride, it provides additional protection from running injuries and additional comfort for runs.

Singapore has a lot of running stores and it was a haven for runners like me but I'm in one of my stingy spells so aside from the shoes, I just bought calves sleeve and a lock lace to match the shoes.

And for the main course, my chance to run at a competitive road race in Singapore via Yellow Ribbon Run.  It's also the first time to run a distance lower than 10K since started doing 10K races last year.  I ended up running 6K run.  It was an uphill route under the scorching hot weather. I went for a speedy run with short walking breaks to catch my breath and I ended up finishing in the top 5%, 84th out of about 1700 runners.  Not bad for my first run on international grounds.

People, Food and Places

I always say that when it comes to Singapore, if you're out of places to visit,  it's always the people you get to appreciate. I do have a lot of friends here and just seeing them again or spending time with them makes a trip complete and you also get to meet and share a laughter or two with new people that makes you look forward to your next trip. There are foods I like in this area like the S$1 Ice Cream at Orchard, the street foods at Old Chang Kee and of course, we did have a great crab meal in Geylang, which was near our place of residence in Singapore at Aston Mansions.  I was able to enjoy the pool and the company of close friends here.

And just like that another trip to Merlion City is over.  I can't wait to get back here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lovin' La Bellarocca

Bellarocca has been on my must-visit list for about a year now so when I got an available schedule and a good deal a few months ago, I immediately grabbed it even without a concrete plan. I'm coming into Bellarocca with such a high expectation and a lot of excitement. I usually plan before a trip but this one says anything goes... let them surprise me.

Just 40 minutes from Manila and another 45 minutes land travel, we got to see a lush green island with Greek Santorini-inspired white structures situated alone in a middle of a body of water. Another 5 minutes ride via speedboat and we are now transported to the breath-taking island of Bellarocca welcomed by their ever-friendly staff.

We were housed in a Terraza which is a villa with two spacious bedrooms with its own bathroom and a dining area. It's just a few steps away from the clubhouse with a view overlooking the Marina, the Aqua Sports area and just in-front of Mt. Malindig which also houses their 9-hole golf course. It also has a nice sunset and sunrise view from the veranda area of the Terraza.

After a tour of the island, the first thing I tried was wind-surfing... wind surfing... wind surfing. We'll you really get a lot of tries on this one as you tend to fall most of the time from balancing the sail from the wind and the weight of lifting the sail. I did fall a lot but was able to have brief moments of balancing the sail so I'll take that along with the liters of sea water I swallowed from falling so often. We also got a chance at a dip in the sea and the nearby infinity pool in the area.

Next up was a taste of the food in the place. At first, you'd get intimidated by the prices but when you get to taste their various dishes, you'll realize it was well worth it. We never had a meal that we didn't like, didn't appreciate and didn't finish. It had a unique taste and had a lot of variety. My hats off to the Chef. Come to think of it, the price is not really that far from the regular lunch and dinners in Makati.

After all the luscious meals, now to burn it off with a early morning 5K run. I really reserved one of my training runs for this weekend and to do it in this environment. It was nice running here with the friendly staff and crew greeting you good morning every time you pass them. The weather was still cool and a bit drizzly and the uphill terrain was really challenging. I also crossed my 1,000 kilometer of training in this area. Running is always a nice way to explore places.

First time for my Mom and Tita at Kayak and Snorkling. The Kayak around the island was a real workout and it was a good way to see the island and a a chance to appreciate the various rock structures and terrains. The snorkling in the Marina area was also impressive with so many fishes and marine life in the area. They also have staffs to assist you in kayaking and snorkling. By the way, the wind-surfing, kayaking and snorkling are complimentary for guests and I was able to try it all.

I also had a few minutes at the Gym using the treadmill and doing some situps while awaiting my trip to the Golf Course. They also have a 9-hole golf course just across the island. I'm no golfer but I still went there for a photo opportunity and it had a splendid view overlooking Bellarocca and it's easily accessible via a few minutes in a speed boat and a short drive.

It's already quite a tiring day so had doze of watching DVD and also watching time to time people trying out the different water sports and so far It seems that everybody had the same experience I had at Wind Surfing. I think all-in-all I was able to use most of the facility and was able to make the most out of this trip. I am completely satisfied but even as I checked out and settled all my dues I was still in for another surprise. We were sent off by a rainbow... no, make that two rainbows and thus concludes my first date with Bella and I say first as I definitely would want to come back here and I know that's just me catching a good deal away once again. Time and again, you need to pamper yourself and people get the impression that Bellarocca is such a pricey place to visit but there are good deals that makes it in the same price range or even cheaper as other vacation spots and on a closing note, I'm practically jumping for joy and the I'm Lovin' La Bellarocca.

More photos...