Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Instantly Bali: Day 1 at Amertha Villas

After arriving at the Airport, we were immediately met by our driver who led us to a 20-or-so-seater bus to take us to Pemuteran. The driver was expecting 10 people in arrival, one of which was a VIP from the Philippine government. Instead, he got us. He looked pretty confused but carried on with loading our bags into the bus instead. haha. We still had a 3-4 hour bus ride ahead of us, so we slept most of the way - in various positions (think creative).

Pemuteran is a little fishing village found at the north western side of Bali. It's just starting to become popular among tourists so you won't find the usual suffocating crowd you'd see in Kuta. Something I really liked. This little unassuming village is also home to one of the largest Biorock Projects in the world (I'll be elaborating more on this on a separate post).

We booked a two-night stay at a beautiful resort called Amertha Villas. Since half of the group cancelled on the trip, we were left to having the 2 villas to ourselves. We got Villas 7 and 8 which were each a two-bedroom Villa with it's own outdoor kitchen, swimming pool, garden and terrace. By then, I was starting to forget all about the lost camera. Nice resorts have that effect on you. Especially of you're there for free. haha.

Villa 8
I was housed together with the 2 boys. They got the bigger room while I got the smaller one. Both rooms were connected but had separate openings to the pool. Each room also had a separate air-conditioning system so you can control the temperature to your liking, a cute four-poster bed and a separate bath and toilet. Privacy. Wonderful.

The boy's room
My room
My toilet

What I loved about Amertha Villas is the space. The resort was sprawling with very private villas that open up to large lawns and a private pool. But in spite of the huge area, their WiFi signal was still okay. So happy me. There were no two-story buildings here which made the views of the mountains and the sea unobstructed - just as they should be.

I woke the boys up extra early so we'd have time to roam around the resort before the bosses wake up. God, I can't believe I'm here. Everything looked so intricate and beautiful. Even the bamboo trash cans were an eye-catcher.

We had brekkie right at the beach. It was a complimentary breakfast with fresh fruits, Bali coffee and a choice of continental or Indonesian breakfast. We all got the Indonesian breakfast - of course.The weather was sunny with a slight breeze blowing from the sea, the coffee was hot and splendid and the company was great. God, that was a good day.

After brekkie, we were to meet Dr. Tom Goreau, one of the founders of the Bio Rock technology. This was one of the highlights of my trip to Indonesia. You can read more about it in the next post. =)

Amertha Bali Villas Beachfront Resort and Spa

Instantly Bali: In Transit

I usually spend months, sometimes, even up to almost a year planning for trips abroad. But this trip, I planned only for a month. Why? It was work-related and therefore, FREE. (well, watdya know?!!!) My boss actually mentioned it to me several months before and it was one of those "I-know-it's-never-going-to-happen-so-stop-dreaming" plans.

But lo-and behold, a month before the trip, the big guy told me to finalize the itinerary. I was freaked out, yes. My passport was expiring. I had to get some pocket money and get the needed travel documents (government scholars are required to get one whenever they travel abroad). Make the itinerary. Book the flights. Book the hotel. Plan for the transportation. And most importantly, I had to make arrangements for the Energy Ball.

It was a tough month, bouncing between the field and the office for the preparations. A gazillion changes and re-bookings later, it was finally October and I was packing my bags for the 7-day trip. The plan was to spend one day in transit to Bali. Spend 3 days there to meet a coral restoration expert. Fly to Singapore  and spend another three days there to meet two other coral experts before flying directly back to Cebu.

This was my first time in Indonesia so yes, I freaking excited. It was a grueling 24-hour trip (Cebu-Manila-Singapore-Bali). After touching down in Bali, we had to go on a 2-3 hour road trip to a fishing village called Pemuteran.

As I mentioned before, this was a business trip so accommodations were pretty comfortable. We were fetched by a 20-seated bus at the Kuta Airport and there were only 5 of us (2 professors and 2 of my old college classmates-turned-workmates).

Now for the last leg of the trip, a 3 hour bus ride to Pemuteran
My first impression of Bali? Well, I arrived at midnight, after more than 18 hours of either being on a plane or waiting for our flight in an airport. So it wasn't really that much. Plus, I lost my camera during our stop-over at Singapore so I wasn't really feeling so high by the time we touched down on Indonesian soil. Oh well. Maybe tomorrow will bring me something to be excited about.

A little teaser: Yes, I did forget all about the lost camera the following day. =)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On Writer's Blocks and Heartaches

It's been a while. I mean really been a while. These past 3 months have been one of the toughest times of my life. I experienced heartaches in ways I never thought possible. A lot of things have happened, most of which are too personal to be written here. Some very important things ended. And it left me scared in a way. For myself and for the people that are very important to me. Hence, I chose to stop writing. And at some point in time, I thought I may stop the travelling as well.

But on the other hand, these times have been some of the most blissful of my life. I found things that I thought I would never find in my lifetime. I found hope in places and in people I least expected. Life broke my heart and replaced it with one filled with gratitude and a new appreciation for what I have right here, right now. It challenged me to become better -  a better mother, a better friend, hell, even a better cook (I once got burnt badly in the face while cooking a freakin' egg. I had to endure being called Doctor Evil for a month).

So life must go on. I intend to live life the way it's supposed to be lived. I involuntarily show my tonsils and sometimes, cry when I laugh. I eat healthy. I eat unhealthy. I dress up, even when the occasion does not call for it. I speak my mind (which gets me into trouble, sometimes). I can do so many things at once. I love alcohol and when the occasion is right, I let myself get tipsy. I walk fast. I do great under pressure. I've made, fulfilled and broken promises. I sing in the shower. I smile at strangers. I daydream, a lot.

And I write. I write with my heart. I write with my soul. So the writing must go on. And perhaps, the travelling shall too....

Camotes Revisited: A Day in San Fran

My previos trip to Camotes Island with Dodong's bar(tenders =D) was not completely documented. The reliable IXUS cam broke down just as we reached the first stop of the tour. But if you've read my previous post, I vowed to come back and get you guys the pictures you needed.

This was also a special trip because this was my semi-gift to the Nanay. "Semi" meant I only paid for half of the trip (I could not afford to pay for an overnight stay for 9 people). She paid the other half of it, of course. Semi-parasitic me.

We booked an overnight stay at Mangodlong Paradise Resort, right after Typhoon Gener left Visayas. The waters were still a bit choppy and I was genuinely concerned because we had a 3 month old baby in tow. But well, you can never be too young to travel, ei?

The resort observes a strict check-in/check-out time (at 2pm and 12 pm, respectively). We arrived around 12pm and opted to have lunch first while we wait. It's a good thing I came here before cause by then, I knew exactly what and what not to get. I got a good estimate of the amount of food to order as well (yes, I can be freaky-compulsive like that sometimes).

Right after checking in, we immediately went on a day tour around San Fran. Now, I did this once before but I wanted the balikbayan Nanay and the brother to experience it. We booked the tour package offered by the resort. There were 9 of us, which made it real cheap at P1500. That's 167 Pesos per person. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

First stop: Lake Danao. Lake Danao is known to be the largest lake in Cebu or if I'm not mistaken, in the Visayas. There are kayaks and boats for rent. There are also picnic stations and food stalls if you plan on spending the whole day at the lake. We however, just took a handful of pictures and moved on.

Second stop: Timubo Cave. Timubo Cave is a freshwater cave in Camotes Island and a popular tourist destination. Visitors need to pay 15 PhP for an entrance fee. The way down can be pretty slippery and stiff but there's a cool freshwater pool waiting for you below, which makes up for everything. The water is cool and crystal clear. The little brother had a blast.

Third stop: Esperanza Beach. Esperanza Beach is actually a public beach with a long stretch of white sand. Although the typhoon has gone way past the Visayas, the waters at that time was still quite rough so we (Energy Ball, to be exact) were left taking photos instead.

Last stop: San Francisco Baywalk. There's nothing much to see here. We came to town to buy (rather, smuggle) some alcohol into the resort (which was supposed to be prohibited, by the way. lol. spare us, gin is much, much cheaper in town).

The deserted Baywalk
We returned to the resort at around 5pm. The pool suckers wasted no time and went straight to the pool.   I on the other hand, was busy ordering food for dinner and mixing the smuggled gin with lime. I wanted to make it perfect for the Nanay and for the brother. =)

Dinner was good. The Energy Ball slept the entire time which meant we could eat without interruptions. haha. After that, we rested for about 5 minutes before heading out to the darker part of the beach. It was time to consume the prohibited alcohol.

THE Hangover
The Energy Ball was safely sleeping with the Nanay. The first few hours of drinking was pretty fun. After that, I could not remember a single damn thing. In short, I got real drunk with my brothers on the beach. It's a first, actually. =) I woke up the following morning with sand on the bed, on my hair, in my pockets and everywhere. Top that with a head-splitting headache. God I love family outings.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Coral Reef Restoration Project: Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte

I have never travelled as much as I did, these past three months. The 6-hour boat ride and the 2 hour bus ride I take every Mondays and Fridays have become a routine. And although I keep coming back to one single destination, this is one spot I will never get tired of: Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte.

I've blogged about this before. But I'd like to tell you a little about what exactly I have been doing here. I come here for work. I plant corals for a living. And this time, I got real lucky because I was assigned right at this very spot. I could have been thrown to Boracay, or Batangas, or Panglao or hell, even to Tawi-tawi. But no, Sogod Bay was meant for me. And it was perfect. Away from the city. Good people. Breath taking sunsets. I could not ask for more.

So what does a regular work day look like. It usually starts out with breakfast, of course. With the volunteers around, breakfasts are usually rowdy and crowded and noisy. And in most times, there won't be enough plates around. So we eat in shifts. They come (or invade the site) every Wednesday. Aside from the extra hand, these people turn exhausting work into play. So Wednesdays have become my official favorite workday because they are around. =)

The project in a nutshell: we plant corals to rehabilitate one of the town's marine sanctuaries through asexual reproduction. We cut the corals into plantable sizes, and plant them in Coral Nursery Units.  It's pretty simple, yes. The challenge here now is that we need to plant 30 freakin' thousand of them. But then again, work is extremely fun so I don't mind the number at all. Divers start out by collecting broken coral fragments - which we use to plant in our coral nursery units. We get our corals from damaged coral fragments alone and leave the healthy colonies to grow undisturbed.

Project 7's Supermen underwater

Planters tie them to the coral nursery units on board a bamboo raft. These people can work in any kind of weather (yes, even in the middle of Typhoon Gener). So if you happen to pass by Padre Burgos and see a rowdy, noisy, sometimes violent-looking crowd on a bamboo raft floating right in the middle of Sogod Bay, that's us. =)

After this, we deploy the units to a designated nursery site. We grow these babies for 2 months before transferring them to a permanent rehabilitation site. I hope I do not sound too technical.

The job is tiring, but it's fun. And I have a lot of very good people around, which is always a huge plus. So I do not mind the 16 hour trip I make to the site and back every week. Waking up to this sight every morning for 5 days in a week is rewarding enough. So over all, I'm a pretty lucky girl. =)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mangodlong PARADISE Resort

Mangodlong Paradise Resort is one of the newest resorts in the island located in Himensulan, San Francisco, Camotes. This is situated right next to Mangodlong ROCK Resort which is the more well-known and older establishment. The property is not sprawling - with only 18 rooms to cater to guests. The resort's design however, made it feel very private and uncrowded and intimate.

Mangodlong Paradise has 5 types of accommodations - standard, deluxe, suite, beach front and the cabanas, with prices ranging from 2,500 PhP to 6,000 PhP. The room prices come with free toiletries, complimentary coffee & water, breakfast and port transfers.

Cabanas facing everything - the garden, the pool and the beach

Deluxe rooms on the far end of the resort
The Beachfront Room @ 3000 PhP
Jan-jan, the Energy Ball and I were given ("given" = FREE ) the standard room. This is the most affordable room in the resort but it was still very, very comfortable. The room is small but it offers more than the basic amenities: a flat screen TV, a small ref, a safe deposit box and a dresser and a small cabinet to hold your clothes. All very tastefully designed.

Cute. =)
The resort is a treat in itself. It has a huge infinity pool that I was not able to swim. It was my time of the month (bummer, yes). But Jan-jan and the Energy Ball loved it. They swam in the evening, in the morning and even an hour before we checked out. Haha.

If you bring along kids like we did, the resort has a small playground to keep them busy (aside from the infinity pool of course). The Energy Ball had a blast with these too.

THE BEACHFRONT. Paradise's beach front is not as wide. But the water is great and the sand is powdery and white. I can't really say anything about what's underwater. I was not able to swim here either. More reason to come back. =)

It's very relaxing here. There are hammocks scattered at the right portion of the resort, just under the coconut trees. Not to worry. They prim the coconuts every now and then to avoid any falling debris.

There's also a pool table, a chess table and a dart board if you're feeling a bit bored. All of these are located right beside the bar and the playground. Convenient (especially for parents).

Mangodlong Paradise also has its own restaurant. The food is not really that extraordinary but there were some dishes that stood out. Try their sizzling squid with mushroom and beef with broccoli. The clubhouse was good too. We were 7 in a group and each meal would usually cost us 1200-1400 PhP.

This plus the drinks and the service charge cost us 1250 PhP. Good enough for 5 hungry guys, 2 women on a diet and the Energy Ball.
Breakfast was simple. Garlic or plain rice, a choice of chorizo, longganisa, bangus or tocino, a choice of juice or coffee and a slice of fruit. This comes free with the room rate. If you have an extra guest in the room however, they charge breakfast sets at 160 PhP per person.

We decided to have breakfast in the bar overlooking the beach. If you have your breakfast here, make sure that you do it early in the morning so it won't be too hot. There's this beautiful chair that I fell in love with. I'll get myself one of these when I have my own house. Itaga mo yan sa bato. haha.

Once in a while, I turn into a girl. =)
Guests of the hotel also get free shuttle service to and from Consuelo Port. This is where the boat from Danao City docks so it's much, much convenient if you hop on a boat from there.

THE VERDICT: We were so satisfied with the service, we decided to be back next month with the balikbayan Nanay and the not-so-little brother. Looking forward to that. =)

HOW TO BOOK: We were walk-in guests. We got lucky because it was low season. I highly recommend that you make a reservation. They will require you to pay the full amount for the reservation to be confirmed via bank deposit. Remember, it's an 18-room resort so better be sure than sorry.

Mangodlong Paradise also offers tour services in selected destinations @ 1500 PhP. That's a group price. The more people in the group, the less you'll have to pay. Their service can accomodate up to 12-13 pax. We took the tour. You can read all about that here.

You can visit their website for more details. You'll see a lot of contact numbers on their site. The number I posted below however, is the only one that worked. =)

Mangodlong Paradise Beach Resort
Heminsulan, San Francisco, Camotes
(032) 328-0050

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cebu Food Stops: Mochiko

One of the things that I love and miss most about Cebu (when I'm away) is the food. The city is dotted with a lot of hole-in-the-wall food stops and good restaurants that has kept a lot of foodies happy for many, many years. For example, me. =)

I have just recently stumbled across a delightful dessert stop somewhere in Ayala, Active Zone called Mochiko. It's sticky-slightly sweet mochi, filled with rich, creamy ice cream sold at 70 pesos per pop. They come in familiar, feel-good flavors like vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. If you are the adventurous type, they have a few interesting flavors to scintillate you palate too - such as black sesame, cookie dough and green tea.

I had cookie dough - vanilla ice cream with a real, chewy cookie on the inside. The verdict: this is one of those expensive things that you'd like to splurge on after a bad day. Believe me, you'll end up smiling silly after the first bite. 

Cookie dough. Sorry for the crappy photo guys. This was real good, believe me. =)
Where to find Mochiko: The stall is located at the 3rd floor of Ayala Active Zone, just right beside Tablea. It has cute, pink stalls and wooden tables. You won't miss it. Happy eating traveller! =)