A day in Bangkok
Bangkok is a dazzling city which has so much to offer both day and night. So here are some snapshots of an amazing day in Bangkok.
Mambukal Resort, a perfect daytrip for the whole family
Once upon a time, a hill station was established in the area in 1923, through a provincial administrative order, to serve as a weekend getaway for the officials of the Negros Occidental provincial government and its guests. Now many years later it has became a tourist attraction mainly known for its Sulfur pools with a public sulfur pool, the Japanese-constructed rotenburo and the Ishiwata Bath. But there are also waterfalls, picnic spots, butterfly garden which attracts the visitors.
Mambukal is home to several rare bat species for example the endemic giant golden-crowned flying fox and the Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat can be seen in the area. These, along with other resident bat species, are estimated to number between 7,500 to 8,000.
From Bacolod, take the bus from Mambucal Bus Terminal 40 PHP person. The trip takes 45 to 60 minutes. The last stop is the Mambukal resort so no worries there. Entrance fee is 50 PHP per adult. There is a foodcourt with several restaurants. So no worries there either if you are hungry and thirsty. The food is fully recommendable. Some of the attractions cost additional, for example the sulfur pools. 50-100 PHP per person. You can hike to the waterfalls and swim and if you are really lucky you might see some of the mythical creatures of the forest as well. When you are done the bus is waiting for you. They are going every 10 minutes (or so, you are in the Philippines after all) back to Bacolod.
Onuk island, the last frontier of the Philippines?
If you are like me, constantly searching for the pristine, unexploited and off the beaten track, then this can be something for you. But beware, it’s a little bit tricky to find your way out to Onuk island and there is no infrastructure for tourists whatsoever. But that’s part of the adventure right?
And hey! Don’t miss to watch the video clip at end!
How about the safety?
The short answer is yes, it’s safe to go to Onuk island. But consider the long answer as well. Remember before you travel to Balabac it’s always good to listen around regarding the concerns below since things can change.
There have been Malaria outbreaks in the mountainous Mainland Balabac but for now it’s considered safe to be out in the Balabac archipelago. But bring mosquito repellants because there will be tons mosquitos hunting for your blood after sunset.
A minor concern are the saltwater crocodiles but they are only present in the Mainland Balabac. Which means out in the archipelago it’s safe from crocodiles.
The weather can be unpredictable. The dry seasons of April and May are the best times to visit the Balabac archipelago since the sea is perfectly calm on most days during these months. You may also visit Balabac during the months of December to February where it is fairly good. However, these months can the waves be particularly rough on the beaches.
But hey! Balabac islands are located in the Sulu sea. Hmm wasn’t that the place where the Philippine army battle bandits? Yes, that’s right. But that’s on the other side of the Sulu sea at Jolo. There are no bandits in the Balabac archipelago.
Facts about how to get to Onuk island
Be sure to bring your snorkeling gears and you can enjoy the crystal clear water under the surface as well. There were some coral reef surrounding the island. Sorry to say much of the coral was already dead. But beautiful sea turtles were grazing sea grass from the sea floor but ever how hard I tried I couldn’t catch up with them. There were some amazing giant clams which were easier to spot since they didn’t swim away from me.
The final thought
If you are too comfy this trip is nothing for you. But if you are more adventurous and don’t mind to put in a bit effort to experience the beauty of Mother Nature I can recommend to explore this part of Palawan. It’s totally worth it all days in the week! Other post which is related to Palawan click here
Come as guest leave as friend
Come as guest leave as friend, is Easy Diving's motto. And yes, I think so. I made some friends here. Easy Diving and Beach Resort is beautifully located on Punta Ballo Beach around 15 minutes from downtown Sipalay. Expect to pay around 200-250 PHP to the tricycle driver. The Resort has 20 air-conditioned bungalows plus 2 bungalows with fan.
The bungalow was very fresh
Since I don't like air-condition I booked my bungalow with fan instead, actually there were two fans. Everything was very fresh and clean. The bungalow had a nice little porch with two chairs and a table where you could sit in the evenings and enjoy the quietness and practice stargazing. A so called free WiFi was included as a pocket WiFi. As far as I remember you had 3 GB of load for free. When you had consumed that you had to pay extra to get an additional 3 GB load. I was told this was only temporary until they had fixed a more permanent WiFi solution. I hope they did.
The food heaven
In the restaurant they served excellent food, both Filipino and European style. The tuna steaks became quickly my favourites. Not to mention the delicious pancake with fresh mango and ice cream which was really addictive! In the evenings the atmosphere was really cozy in the restaurant. I was just sitting there inhaling the sea breeze and watched the sunset and contemplated about how good life was.
Easy Diving has lots to offer
Easy Diving offers a lot, specially for those who are divers and I was told there are some really good diving spots just near. But even snorkelling was good if you swam enough out from the shore line. All the staff, from the owner to the room service were all very friendly and helpful. My highlights were the food, the quietness and beautiful location by the sea and not to mention my stargazing moments from my porch.
The video shows a bit of what to expect from the stairs and the snorkeling near the beach.
Conclusions about Easy Diving Resort
I paid 2300 PHP per night for the bungalow with fan and breakfast included. That was competitive when I compared with other resorts in the same area at Punta Ballo Beach. The location of Easy Diving is more convenient than those resorts at the famous Sugar Beach which is only accessible by boat. But be aware of the stairs, if you can't or don't like to walk in stairs then Easy Diving might not be for you. There are many stairs to walk when moving around in the resort. Aside from that, the food, the friendliness of the staff, the cleanliness in the bungalow were excellent.
Cebu Taoist Temple and a date with the dragon
Cebu Taoist Temple is located in Beverly Hills Subdivision of Cebu City, Philippines. The temple is built by Cebu's substantial Chinese community in 1972.
Pray and make a wish
The Taoist temple is open to the worshipers and non-worshipers alike. A ritual among devotees is where one prays to the gods to grant one's wish. The ritual includes washing of hands, going inside the chapel barefoot and dropping two blocks of wood. If the blocks of wood are both face up then one could make a wish. If not then it is not yet the time for one's wish to be granted and one has to come to the temple some other time.
Amazing view from here
Unwind for a while
The Taoist temple is easy accessible from downtown Cebu. We took a taxi from Ayala center and paid around 150 PHP. The view from here is amazing and the surroundings are relaxing for a busy mind. To come here was like to unwind from the hectic and busy city life down town Cebu. I really liked the place for its quietness and beautiful view!
Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology. Chinese dragons have many animal-like forms such as turtles and fish, but are most commonly depicted as snake-like with four legs. They traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, typhoons, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it in East Asian culture.
Even if you don’t share their faith, you must always keep in mind that it’s a sacred site for Taoist worshipers and is a place originally intended for meditation and prayer.
Going back to downtown
When time to go back downtown again there are numerous options, taxi, habal habal or jeepney. But we chose to walk. Actually it's not far from Ayala center only about 30-40 min of easy walking. And... yes it's no problem, it's perfectly safe to walk here at least in day time.
A short video clip of our walk back downtown. My friend was also in a desperate need of a cigarette!
Adventure for free, well at least almost for free!
Pungtod Island or now known as “Isola de Francesco” or Virgin Island, a seventeen thousand square meter privately owned island off the coast of Panglao. It's named after Francesco Forgione, widely known as Padre Pio. The island was conceived by the owners to serve the growing number of Padre Pio devotees in Bohol and promote devotion to the Italian Capuchin monk who is the first stigmatized priest in the history of the Church. The island is also known by the locals as the “Hidden oasis”. It's easy to come here. Just take the free yellow shuttle boat near the St. Agustin Catholic Church in Panglao.
Highlights: Sand reef, fresh sea urchins and comfort room!
One of the higlights is of course the long sand reef where you can take a swim or just enjoy the white sand and the beauty of nature. You should also challenge your taste buds with fresh sea urchins directly from the sea. Season with vinegar to taste. Then maybe it's time to visit the comfort room. Don't hesitate, it's clearly one of the nicest comfort rooms I ever been to here in the Philippines. So try it out! There are also kayaks you can borrow and explore the waters around the island. Or why not just grab a regular Filipino snack near the entrance and relax in the shadow, listen to the doves... there are for some reason many doves here. I guess they have found a quiet refuge here in this peaceful environment. And yes, everything is for free here... boat ride, sea urchins, kayaks and snacks but of course small donations are always welcomed.
Note! Click on images to see slideshow and captions!
A 60 sec video clip showing the beauty of Isola de Francesco. The fruit in the video is Pandanus fruit.
Pamilacan island Philippines
Snorkeling at Pamilacan island
Alona Beach, Panglao
Where to stay in Tagbilaran, Bohol
Day trip to Isola de Francesco
Where to eat in Tagbilaran?
Find a house for rent in Panglao
Review of the Food Court in Island City Mall (Tagbilaran, Bohol, Philippines)
Bohol and Panglao Islands, Philippines
Isola de Francesco or Virgin Island, Panglao, Philippines
Review of Swiss Zurigo Restaurant (Bohol, Philippines)
Review of Bojol Grill Restaurant (Bohol, Philippines)
Review of A's Chicken Nuggets & Grill Haus (Bohol, Philippines)
The giant Arogo and the smallest primate, what do they have in common?
Review of Panglao Island Nature Resort & Spa (Panglao, Philippines)
Review of Henann Resort Alona Beach (Panglao, Philippines)
Review of Shang Palace Seafood Restaurant (Bohol, Philippines)
Review of Bo's Coffee (Bohol, Philippines)
Review of The Buzzz Café (Bohol, Philippines)
Review of Golden Cowrie (Bohol, Philippines)
Review of Staylite Park Bed and Breakfast (Bohol, Philippines)
Review of Arabelle Suites (Bohol, Philippines)
Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park
I had my two Swedish friends visiting me here in the Philippines, so I wanted to show them how beautiful the nature can be in Negros Oriental. I decided to take them to Balinsasayao Twin Lakes not far from Dumaguete. We had our own transportation so the ride from Dumaguete went smooth as silk. Every time when I drive up that mountain slope of Mt Talinis I get stunned how beautiful it is.
Behind the visitors center...
Behind the visitors centers we took some stunning pictures. There is this lake which I don't know the name of which is really beautiful. The surface of the lake was like a mirror. After registration and paying the entrance fee we saddle up again and drove for another 10 minutes before we came to Lake Balinsasayao.
Walk or rent a boat
When we arrived at the Lake Balinsasayao I presented the two main options for my friends. Walk or rent a boat. We wanted to go to the watch tower between the two lakes so either we could walk the trail along the shore or rent a boat. But since we all needed a little bit exercise they decided that we would walk the trail. The trail itself is not long, only maybe around 600-700 m to the watch tower.
The watch tower
Our walk to the watch tower went well and took about 20-30 minutes. I was amazed by the fresh air and how quiet it was. We only met a few other visitors here. We stayed for a while and just enjoyed the scenery before we started going back. If you are the sporty type of person, I recommend the trail if not go for the boat.
The video is a compilation of our walk back and forth the watch tower
Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park is a natural park surrounding Lake Balinsasayao and Lake Danao in the province of Negros Oriental, 14.5 km west of Dumaguete. Lakes Balinsasayao and Danao are two small crater lakes separated by a narrow mountain ridge. They are located on the eastern slope of the Talinis mountain range which are volcanic in origin. Lake Balinsasayao has maximum depth of around 90 metres (300 ft). The smaller Lake Danao, on the other hand, has a maximum depth of around 58 metres (190 ft).
The entrance fee to the park is P100 for foreigners and P50 for Filipinos.
A restaurant also
At the Lake Balinsasayao there is a restaurant that offers variety of dishes at an acceptable rate.
To get there:
The far most convenient way is to have your own transportation. Beware of that the road going up the mountain is very steep at some points, means slippery when it's raining. It's possible to drive your own car all the way up there but motorcycle is preferable.
With public transportation you can go by bus or jeepney to the Lalaan junction for Twin Lakes, 7.5 km from the Sibulan town or 13.5 km from Dumaguete. Around P10-15 per person. From the Lalaan junction take a habal habal up the mountain an additional 13 km until you reach the Twin Lakes. You find the drivers at the junction. Standard rate is P300 for a solo passenger and P400 for two back and forth. You will probably need to pay the entrance fee for the driver as well since after registration there is an additional distance to cover before reaching the lake. The driver will wait for you until you like to go back.
If you like to see other blogposts (including this one) related to Negros Oriental click the link above!
Breakfast before hiking
Before you go hiking you need to eat a real breakfast, right? So this morning Danica went out and bought the breakfast... I usually advised her not to buy so much food, but as usual it was more than we could finish. For just around P100 we got noodles, chicken livers, vegetables, some kind of pork meat, soup and of course the mandatory rice!
Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary
One of the starting points for the hike is the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. We had decided to make a combo, first visit the Tarsier Sanctuary and then do the hike since the hiking trail starts just behind the sanctuary. As usual we were assigned a guide who took us along some narrow trails around the sanctuary. Despite the dense vegetation I was able to spot several of the shy tarsiers and I regretted deeply that I had been lazy and hadn't brought my big camera with me. Grrr...
After tarsiers then hiking
Our main objective this day was the hiking. We easily found the beginning of the trail behind the actual sanctuary but after a couple hundred meters into the rainforest the trail wasn't that that clear to follow. We had been told it was easy to "just follow" but suddenly it didn't feel obvious. Danica was more concerned of the potential "monsters" hiding in the rainforest but I was afraid to get lost.
The rewarding view
Soaked in sweat with empty water bottles we finally came up to the viewing deck one. The view was breathtaking! We had almost a 360 degrees view over Bohol. It was worth all the blood sweat and tears to come here. A perfect spot to take photos from or having a romantic picnic or why not do both! Maybe even stay here overnight to experience the most awesome sunset and the sunrise... in that case I guess I have to convince Danica that there are no monsters hiding in the bushes beneath...
How to get to Corella
It's about 13 km going to Corella from Tagbilaran City.
Via public transport: From Sikatuna Jeepney Terminal, (This is right infront of Island City Mall) get into a jeepney bound to Sikatuna via Corella. This jeepney drops you off at Philippine Tarsier Foundation. Fare is P17.00. Tell the driver of the jeepney that you are headed to Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella. Upon arrival there is a huge signage and rough road, take it and walk for 300 meters to the research building.
Going back, just take a jeepney headed to Tagbilaran. And yes it is safe to hitch hike here. Fare is P15.00 for jeepney.
If you have your own motorcycle it's very easy to go there, just follow Google maps.
Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary and the Sikatuna Tree Park
You can start your hike either at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary or at the Sikatuna Tree Park. There are two viewing decks to visit and the hiking trail connects the Tarsier Sanctuary with the Tree Park. Just follow the signs. Viewing deck one is closer to the Tree Park and the viewing deck two is more close the the Tarsier Sanctuary. Hiking from the Tarsier Sanctuary, visiting both viewing decks and end up at the Tree Park should take around 2-4 hours depending on your fitness level.
Comfortable shoes and water
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, it can be very slippery. Bring lot's of water. Plan ahead so you will be out from the rainforest before it gets dark, unless you intend to spend the night there. When it's dark it will be very hard to negotiate the trail.
Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary is worth a visit
If you begin your hike at the Tarsier Sanctuary you should take the opportunity to visit the sanctuary itself. The entrance fee to the sanctuary is P60. If you just go for the hike, it's free of charge whether you start from the Tarsier Sanctuary or the Tree Park.
Click this link to see other posts about Bohol:
A real Filipino breakfast is never wrong!
What can be better than salty bangus (fish) fried to crispy perfection, scrambled eggs, rice together with spicy sawsawan sauce? Did I hear crispy bacon and eggs?? Well, I guess nothing excludes the other, right?
Why are mangroves so important?
Fully loaded with protein, good healthy omega 3 fats, carbohydrates and caffeine we headed for Oboob Mangrove Garden. Maybe you have heard that mangroves are important...? So why are mangrove habitats so important? Basically Shoreline protection. Mangroves protect shorelines from damaging storm and hurricane winds, waves, and floods. Mangroves also help prevent erosion by stabilizing sediments with their tangled root systems. They maintain water quality and clarity, filtering pollutants and trapping sediments originating from land.
Oboob Mangrove Garden/Eco Park
It was easy peasy for us to go there with our beloved scooter. We paid the entrance and then attended a short lecture about the Eco park. In my opinion they are doing a great job preserving this sensitive habitat. We were assigned a guide who told us more about the Eco park and of course she even helped us to take some pictures according to Danica's directives.
Tropical storm Basyang
This morning at breakfast it had been quite windy. So later when we came back to our resort we heard about the tropical storm Basyang. There were rumors that the ferry would be cancelled for going back to Cebu Island. So of course we became a little bit worried. It was not the first time we had been stranded on an island. We had already been away for two weeks and it was time to go back to Dumaguete. In the evening we clearly noticed that the wind gained strength. Me: What's the problem it's romantic to be stranded on an island, right? But Danica: I am longing for my daughter huhu...
The typhoon luckily became degraded to a tropical storm but still with hard winds and lot's of rain. The result was that the ferry going back to Cebu island was cancelled. We decided to move from the somewhat remote Bantayan Nature Park and Resort in to the more central located Adelaida Pensionne. We were lucky, we got the last room! There were many other guests with the same strategy, staying near the ferry terminal and wait for the ferry to resume.
The ferry was resumed
After a couple of days the ferry was resumed. That day we had a quick breakfast at the Boulangerie Francaise and off we went. We reached Cebu Island at lunch time and then we had roughly 300 km to travel from north to south to our second ferry over to Negros. We had our dinner break at McDonalds in Toledo. I was beginning to be stressed. Time was already 5 pm and in one hour it would be dark.
The driving went awkward
Around Barili the the driving really went awkward. The tricky road crosses the mountains and the traffic was horrendous. Big trucks and buses speeding and overtaking each others and not to mention it was pitch black! We took a short break at a little sari sari store and I swept two Coca Colas to regain some energy. We still had roughly 60 km to Alegria where we had booked a room at Lucci Pension House for the night. Slowly I realized my mistake, 60 km is very far when driving in the Philippines specially when it's dark and you are drop dead tired. Lesson learned, be sure to plan ahead so you can avoid to drive long stretches in the dark.
Back to Dumaguete
From our lunch stop at Dulot we just had a couple of hours more to go before we came to the ferry over to Negros and back home. We had been away for roughly 2 weeks. We drove 600 km back and forth and maybe at least 200 km on Bantayan Island.
Road trips are fantastic!
Making a road trip is really a fantastic way to experience the true Philippines. You see a lot and have full flexibility to go and stay wherever you want. But beware of that the traffic might be very different from what you are used to from back home. In my experience you need to adjust yourself to the Filipino way of driving otherwise it might be difficult. Always bear in mind that there are many accidents daily in the traffic so driving a scooter in the Philippines is certainly a high risk activity. Use your common sense and follow some basic guidelines and you will be less likely to get in serious trouble.
1) Be sure you rent a scooter in good condition and with all paper works in order
2) Don't drink and drive and always wear helmet
3) Don't drive fast and furious, better to be safe than sorry
3) Avoid driving in the dark. You don't want to collide with a stray dog...
4) Plan ahead, out in the province it can be far between the nice places you want to stay at
5) Don't bring too much stuff, travel light and easy is part of the freedom!
A day at the beach
Get the girls on the motor, don't forget the snorkel and the mask. Leave the bustling city and drive for 30 minutes. Once there, rent a table and buy some snacks and then enjoy the day.
Below the surface
The beach might look a little bit dull with its brownish sand. But wait until you plunge in the sea fully equipped with a mask and snorkel.
Marine Sanctuary in Dauin, is about 15-30 minutes travel from Dumaguete City. For those taking the public transport, you can find jeepneys to Dauin at the bell tower in Dumaguete City or near the Robinson's Mall. Fare is PHP 13.00. Inform the driver you are getting off at the corner leading to the Marine Sanctuary. It’s a couple of blocks away or a good 4-5 minutes brisk walk. The entrance fee for the sanctuary is PHP 150 with a table included. Without table it will be less.
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The Japanese Shrine
Apo island the pearl of the Visayas
Outing with the girls
Baslay Hot Spring in Dauin
Road trip to Sipalay
A day of exercise
The fine art of eating an ice cream
Review of GK Coffee shop in Dumaguete
Review of The Tres Bistro in Dumaguete
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Tierra Alta Residential Resort, Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, Philippines