Christmas in Wellington

Just when I thought there was absolutely no way I would be able to relate to all (basically) of the Christmas clichés that I know of, because this year I’m in New Zealand where it’s summer in December (and therefore there are no chestnuts roasted in open fires), it suddenly rains. And on the day my sister and I decide to go Christmas shopping, too. Hence, people in jackets were abundant, and we felt like going to a café for the heat. And now at home I’m in a Christmas sweater sitting by the tree having a hot chocolate.

Of course it’s nice to have a different celebration for Christmas once in a while, but I am also glad to have this moment this year. 🙂

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Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Phuket in 5

I must say, 2014 is becoming one of the nicest years for me, in terms of travel. It’s only the middle of the year and already I’ve been to so many places. For the last 5 days, I was in Phuket, Thailand. I’d been to Thailand before; 10 years ago my friend and I went to Bangkok. But we did nothing but shop all day (#NotComplaining). Well, we visited some temples and saw some elephants, too, but this was the first time that I got to go to the beach in this country. And I must say, their beaches are spectacular. 🙂

I haven’t changed my opinion of Thailand, which I formed when I first went there. To me, it’s like the “What if” country of the Philippines. Alternate history. As in, what if we weren’t colonized by Spain/America and happened to be ruled by a monarch? I think we would be just like Thailand. Or at least be very similar to it. The weather in our countries are more or less the same; the landscape, the mountains, the beaches are also very similar; we even sort of look alike with our black hair, not exactly chinky eyes and brown skin. But our religions are very different, our languages don’t have anything in common (we don’t even use the same alphabet!), and there are no elephants in the Philippines. Hence, our cultures are very different, and our food, too.

I must say that I enjoyed eating seafood in Phuket, even though I’m used to eating seafood here in my home country. I think that’s one example of what I’ve been talking about–the basic ingredient is the same, like shrimp for example, but it’s cooked very differently. Here, cooking shrimp in garlic, butter and chili is the norm. At the restaurants over there, they paired garlic with pepper and butter’s not automatically included. I guess that’s not a big difference, really, but I think you get what I mean.

Anyway, regarding the beaches that we went to, and we went to several areas (Patong beach, Kata beach, Karon beach, Phi Phi Islands), I would say that it felt like exploring some of the best of the Philippine islands, except that they were all within a few minutes (except for the Phi Phi Islands, which were a grueling hour of a boat ride away) of each other. But each area reminded me of another beach I’d been to in the Philippines. Patong beach was like stations 2&3 of Boracay, Kata beach was sort of like Bohol, and the Phi Phi Islands looked and felt so much like Coron, Palawan that I was only able to tell that I was in a different country because the people around me were speaking another language. And we were in a speedboat instead of an outrigger boat, which I have to say is one of the differences between the two countries that I’m not so crazy about. Speedboats just make you so much sicker than outrigger boats do, and for someone who suffers from motion sickness as badly as I do, this is a really important detail.

Since we went there during rainy season, the waves were strong, the wind was strong and there were times when it rained, so unfortunately we didn’t see the islands, or experience the boat ride under the best of circumstances, but I still had a good time because we still saw a lot of nice places and it was only raining half the time anyway.

The hotels we stayed at were also all pretty great in their own ways. We stayed at The Royal Paradise Hotel & Spa, Kata Beach Resort & Spa and Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort. If I find some free time, I’ll probably write a more detailed comparison of these three hotels, but for now this shortcut version will have to do: The Royal Paradise Hotel & Spa is like a city hotel but quite old but it’s the cheapest, Kata Beach Resort & Spa is where you can get the most-Phuket experience (I’ll explain this in more detail, too), but their service could be better, and Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort is the place for the ultimate beach getaway, except that it’s so ultimate you’ll feel a bit removed from civilization (this isn’t always a good thing).

I really did enjoy my 5 days in Phuket and perhaps if/when I write the other entry about the hotels I’ll talk more about our itinerary (that we only made when we were already there), but for now, these pictures will have to do.

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Summer with Friends

Labor day holiday! It was one of those rare moments when my friends and I all had holidays from work, and it happened to coincide with the homecoming of one of our friends who’s been based in Singapore for a while. And it’s the middle of summer! It was only natural for us to go to the beach. This year, we decided to go to two islands in Quezon: Puting Buhangin and Borawan Island.

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Traditionally, people would also go to Dampalitan Island, but we decided that we liked staying in one place better and we used the time we gained by going on a side trip to Lucban where we bought yema cake and other pasalubong.

We left the city via a hired van early in the morning of April 30 (before 4 a.m.) and arrived at Padre Burgos, which is where you take the boat to the islands, around 8 a.m. After a quick stop at the market to buy our food, we got on the boat and it took us to Borawan island where we set up our tents and left some of our stuff. We got on the boat again right away to go to Puting Buhangin island. We got there around 9:30 a.m. It’s one of the most beautiful islands I’ve been to, seriously. Blue and green clear waters, not-so-rough white sand, and wonderful wonderful sea breeze. 🙂 I really liked the time we spent there and wish we could’ve stayed there for a longer time. But alas, we left all our food at our campsite in Borawan so we had to go back once it was lunchtime. But I’m glad we were able to spend a good two hours there. 🙂

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My friends, swimming at Puting Buhangin Island

Back at Borawan, my friends started setting up the things we needed for lunch (charcoal, grill, etc.) and I told our boatman to pick us up at 9 a.m. the next day to go to Dampalitan island. He said okay and left, and that meant that we would now have to spend the night there. Though that’s actually what we were meaning to do.

We had pork chop and alimasag for lunch c/o my friend K, and they were delicious. K is a really really good cook. He likes to joke about how we only include him in summer outings so we’d have someone to cook for us. I’m neither going to confirm nor deny that. 😛

We set up camp near the end of the island and as soon as the people who went there on a day trip left in the afternoon, there was hardly anyone around. By the time we were eating lunch, we had the beach all to ourselves. It was amazing.

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Borawan Island, all to ourselves

I read somewhere on the Internet that there are many activities to do in this island. There’s a volleyball court and there are some kayaks that you can rent. You can even climb the rocks and get to the top where you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view. But my friends and I not being the most active people in the world, were content to just swim in the beach and sit around telling each other stories.

For dinner we had leftover pork chop and adobo. And beer. And a drinking game. A drinking game that halfway through we already knew would render us all useless in the morning, so I texted our boatman around 8 p.m. to pick us up at 10:30 in the morning instead of 9:00. Because we figured we would no longer have the energy to go to Dampalitan island.

We were right. The last of us to sleep slept around 2:30 a.m. (It was me, in case you’re wondering.) and when everyone was awake the next day, none of us felt like moving too much. 😛 Well. I have no regrets. Anyway, even though I was the last to go to sleep, I woke up earlier than everyone else so I walked around the island for a bit and was able to catch the sunrise. It was prettttyyy.

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The night sky was pretty, too. After “lights out” (around midnight), it was a small feat to see some shooting stars. And the water, I think it had a version of those bioluminescent planktons at Maldives because there were shiny shimmery twinkly dots whenever we touched it or waded in it that night. It actually felt kind of magical.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take any pictures of this because not only do I not have a really good camera, my mobile phone’s battery was almost completely gone by 9 p.m. The island has limited power, so there was no way to charge our phones, which is kind of bad but I guess kind of good, too. We all know the advantages and disadvantages of technology.

The next day, we had breakfast (eggs and leftover adobo c/o B, why yes, we have a different cook for breakfast food 😉 ) and started packing up. The boatman arrived at 9 a.m. anyway, but said it was alright for him to wait for us. We left the island around 10:30 a.m. with the following happy memories:

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See you all on the next adventure! 🙂

 

Wedding Weekend

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And a mere three and a half days after going to Boracay, I went to yet another one of the best summer destinations in the Philippines, Bohol! This year is starting out really really well. 😀

I went to Bohol for a very important reason, though. One of my sister’s best friends got married! Her family is from Bohol so they had the wedding there. I’m actually really flattered that she invited me to her wedding since it was a very intimate affair (only 50 guests!) and it’s really my sister who’s her friend. But my sister’s friends are nice enough to treat me like their little sister, too. 🙂

I left Manila early Saturday morning and got back Monday afternoon. This I think is one of the best advantages of being in the night shift. It was a 3-day 2-night trip, but I didn’t have to file any leaves for work! Lucky me. I was also able to get discounted tickets from Air Asia. And good deals re: my accommodations because my sister’s friends and my sister and her husband were kind enough to allow me to sleep on an extra bed in the rooms that they booked. 🙂

For the first night, I stayed with my sister’s friends at Dubay Panglao Beachfront Resort. It’s a simple resort with basic amenities (i.e. shampoo, soap, towel, hot/cold shower) but it’s along a beach so beautiful that the basics are really all that you need. On the second night, I stayed with my sister and her husband at Amarela Resort. This resort, on the other hand, is very pretty and classy. It has a library, a room with a view, an infinity pool and everything! Although, the beach near it is smaller and the waves are stronger in the area so it’s more difficult to swim there. I guess all resorts have their advantages and disadvantages.

The wedding itself was in another resort in the area, Panglao Island Nature Resort and Spa. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the biggest resort in Panglao island. It’s one of the nicest ones, too. The function room made for some really pretty pictures and we enjoyed the coffee and snacks that we ordered at the restaurant after the wedding. And yes, we went to the restaurant to eat again after the wedding. I don’t think that’s strange at all. 😛

Actually there was another eating event at the bride’s house the day after the wedding. And I say eating event because we really didn’t do anything else there but tell stories and eat (and, ok, drink tequila hehehe). I had lechon three times in one weekend! I guess it’s not good for me, but the lechon in Cebu/Bohol is really delicious! I don’t know why lechon places in Manila can’t make lechon that good.

It occurred to me as I was going home that this was my 4th visit to Bohol. When I went to Boracay this year, it was my 4th time there, too. There are many other places I’ve never been to, but I think these are two places that I’ll never get tired of.

And best wishes to X and U. May you guys continue to live happily ever after. 😀