Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to Do Nothing in Bantayan Island

This is day 2 of our little Sinulog weekend getaway. It's Sunday and the festivities are probably starting by now. I however, am here. It's low season, with barely a tourist in sight. Whenever I spend the night at the beach, I always wake up extra early, way before everyone else to watch the sunrise. It's the perfect time to be alone. A little habit I've formed over the years. And although it was quite cloudy, the view was still worth the effort.

So how to waste a day in Bantayan? Well, you really do not have to do much. Or spend much either. Just find yourself a cozy spot on the beach, order an ice cold beer. And do nothing. Perfect, ain't it? After brekkie, I let the Energy Ball change into her swim suit, smothered her with sun screen and we were good to go.

The BFFs and the rest of the friends were checking out that day. They bummed around, had a very fast lunch and bade us goodbye. It was just the three of us and two other resort guests remaining. So we brought out our stash of junk food (bought all the way from the city), ordered a few beers, played on the sand, had fun in the water. The best way to go Pit Senyorin', don't you think?

What family vacations are made of......
This was our last night in Bantayan so we decided to eat somewhere nice. We went to Blue Ice, which is one of the more well known restos in town. Food was not that bad. Apparently, it was the town fiesta. And we were just in time for the fireworks. The Energy Ball got really scared and cried the entire time through dinner. I ate dinner standing up, carrying her. Poor baby. Thus, no pictures for the resto here. Sorry guys.

The fireworks put her in a really bad mood. To cheer her up, we decided to get her some ice cream. After dinner, we went inside this cute ice cream house (I guess you can call it that) called Le Petite Bonheur. Unfortunately, they ran out of ice cream so we ended up ordering a chocolate shake instead. Staying true to her tantrums, she snubbed the shake and continued on sulking. Oh well. Let kids be kids, right?

She sometimes cleans her feet she she gets bored. Weird kid.
Ambiance-wise, Le Petite is a really attractive place. They have cushioned chairs, candle lit tables, bamboo fences and a lot of pretty plants. However, at nights, it can get mosquito infested. Good thing they have a lot of electric fans to service every table. The shake (100++) was not good. It tasted like cocoa powder on roughly crushed ice. We never finished it and went home. Our little highness was getting more and more fussy.

So to cap off the night, we had an outdoor movie marathon.... okay, okay, we watched a movie in the laptop at our veranda. The Energy Ball finally ended her tantrum, asked for a paper and pen and busied herself with drawing. Two movies and several scratch papers later, she started rubbing her eyes - which meant that she was getting sleepy. So Janjan and I decided to call it a night. The Energy Ball went straight to sleep. No more fussing and crying. Sweet. =)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Celebrating Sinulog 2012 without the crowd

I've always loved celebrating Sinulog . I love the crowd, the music, the street food, the electricity, the get-together's and, the drinking. But then again, I also hate the long lines in comfort rooms, the pushing, the unpredictable weather and how I always get myself separated from the group (every damn year, can you believe that?!).

So this year, we decided to celebrate the festival differently. We got on a bus and went on the opposite road, all the way to Bantayan Island. We've decided to just watch the festivities on the TV veranda, facing the beeeautiful white sand beach, with an ice cold bear. Practical, right?! 

Bantayan is an island found at the northwestern part of Cebu. This means you have to hop on a bus from the city bound for Hagnaya and ride a boat that will take you from mainland Cebu to the island. As of January 2012, bus fare from the city was 150 Pesos while the boat ride was at 160 Pesos. Travelling by bus will take around 3 hours while the boat, another one hour.

Unedited. Bantayan Island.
Jan-jan and I booked a Deluxe Room in Sta. Fe Beach Club. Although there are other cheaper options, we wanted to get the most comfortable room we could find for the Energy Ball. Click here for a more thorough review of the resort. I believe it has one of the best beach fronts at this side of the island. 

Sta. Fe Beach Club
The trip to Bantayan was quite smooth. The Energy Ball was getting used to long bus rides (which makes me very proud, yes). This might mean she's getting ready to go back packing outside the country, yes? Well, let's just see.

A few of our friends also came along. We arrived at the resort at around lunchtime. After unpacking, we hired a motorcycle to take us to a recommended resto at 20 Pesos per pax, one way. LESSON 1: the local's advice is not always the best advice.

The drivers took us to a bar/resto called HR. If you've read my other entries, food trips are always a huge part of our travel. Janjan and I like to eat around, a lot. And this was nothing short of disappointing. I'm sorry to say so. We made our orders and waited around 2 hours before everything was served. Although the chicken curry and the kinilaw were good, the rest were nothing to write about. I have never been to this resto before so I won't make a final verdict. Maybe we came at a bad day, maybe not.

After lunch, we went back to the resort for some rest. It was still too hot to  go outside anyway. Four o'clock came and the Energy Ball was ready for the beach. She loves the water, I mean really love the water. Who knows, she might want to follow her crazy mother and decide to become a marine biologist too.

Energy Ball, when you're old enough to read this, you can be anything that you want to be. Engineer, writer, policewoman, firefighter, architect, traveler, marine biologist, anything. I'd be just as proud.

Bantayan has natural white sand beaches and the waters are literally crystal clear (at the right months). There are no stunning sunset views at the resort since it is situated at the eastern side of the island. But either way, the views are just as breathtaking. I love this place. Yes, it can get very, very touristy at times. But at the right months, when there aren't too many tourists around, the place becomes so peaceful.

A good tip would be to buy and cook your own food right at the beach. Look for a resort that allows you to do so. Sta. Fe Beach Club (I think) does not allow resort guests to cook inside the resort premises. They can cook your food for you at a 100 Pesos fee - per kilo of fish, pork or any kind of meat. Restaurants around Santa Fe can be pricey, and some of the food might not even be that good. For me, I come here for the beach.

At around 6pm, we decided to have dinner. Still recuperating from the disappointing lunch we had several hours ago and dead tired to go out, we opted to have dinner at the resort's resto instead. I know, resort food are mostly overpriced and not worth your money. But the food here was surprisingly good.

The Energy Ball was so tired that she slept through dinner. Lucky us. We had the whole night to ourselves. We spent it with a little drinking and a mean game of charades with our friends. They'll be going home the next day while the three of us will be staying for another night.

Day 2 coming. Itinerary: more beach bumming and a little tour around the Sta. Fe.

Bantayan Island Accommodation: Sta. Fe Beach Club

Santa Fe Beach Club is one of the most visible resorts that you can see as you dock at the port of Santa Fe, Bantayan. It offers budget to mid-range accommodations - which I think are not bad at all. Last January 2012, we booked ourselves a room for two nights at the resort to get away from the Sinulog crowd.

We got the Clubhouse Twin room which was quoted at 1600++ in their website. However, when we tried booking by e-mail, they gave us a slightly cheaper price at 1600 flat. Pricey by our standards. But we took it anyway since the Energy Ball was with us, and wanted to get the most comfortable room we could find. The price came with free transfers to and from the port, shampoo, soap and bath towels. Breakfast however, was not included.

The room was quite big. And it had a private veranda - which I loved. At nights, we could drink a few beers "outdoors" while watching over the Energy Ball  sleep. The sheets were clean and the bed was comfortable. The room also had a dresser and a small cabinet to store your clothes. The comfort room was pretty small and old but manageable. The heater was running well. The towels, shampoo and bath soap were replaced everyday. Over-all, it was worth the price.

Another huge plus for the resort is that the beach area was kept clean, every day. Although some people do not like it's proximity the port, it was fine by me. The pier is actually not that close to the resort and the waters are still as crystal clear as the other parts of the island. On our second day, I took a little tour along the beach to visit the other resorts and found our beach front way better than the others.

Stunning sunrise, ain't it?
The resort's restaurant also serve pretty good food. Try the squid curry and the sweet and sour pork. Tender, flavorful. Worth the money. The staff are genuinely nice and welcoming. They made use feel right at home.

The resort also offers other activities like kayaking or a tour to their sister resort, Ogtong Cave resort (at a small fee). However, we opted to just to relax, soak in the sun and do nothing. Which was perfect too.

The VERDICT: we wouldn't mind booking another night at Sta. Fe Beach Club the next time we come and visit the island.

How to Book: We booked through e-mail. Some days, the staff can reply immediately to your queries but sometimes, you might need to wait a day or two for a reply. It was no fuss for us however since we booked very early.

Sta Fe Beach Club
Santa Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu
(032) 438 - 9107

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Officially ending the hiatus

The travel bug is a lifetime disease. This is what I have learned after these many months of travelling (and blogging) haitus.

But now, I'm back! These past 4-5 months, I've been either in the field, collecting my samples; at the lab cutting out tissue sections or at the front of the computer typing away the results and writing my thesis manuscript. In short, I have been busy. Dead busy.

But now, I'm a few signatures away to finishing my thesis and graduating, the travelling shall continue! After graduation, I really do not know what to do next. But I feel excited. A little worried, yes. But excited. So I hope you guys, you gracious people who still take time to read this pitiful blog (haha), stay tuned!

Clear skies ahead. Let the travelling continue =)