Stormy Coron Adventures 2

The weather during our second day in Coron was kinder. The skies cleared up a bit, the sun was even peeking through the clouds a number of times.

At 10am, we were off to our island hopping tour. We availed of Nice in Paradise Travel and Tours’ “Coron Island Tour” or “Tour A”. This tour was conveniently arranged for us by our Lodge’s front desk.

The rates of island tours in Coron are pretty much standardized, so prices do not really vary between tour operators. For P850, you will get to visit six attractions: Kayangan Lake, Twin Peak Reef, Banol Beach, Twin Lagoon, CYC Beach and Balinsasayaw Floating House. However, due to a not so perfect weather condition, the tour’s itinerary was slightly modified. Instead of going to Twin Peak Reef and Banol Beach, we visited Atwayan Island and Smith Coral Garden. We were also not able to go to CYC Beach and Balinsasayaw Floating House.

First stop: Kayangan Lake

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Entrance to Kayangan Lake 

Dubbed as the cleanest lake in Asia, this 60-ft deep body of water really lived up to its reputation. Despite its depth, you can still see the rock formations within the lake. That is how clear the waters are. You don’t need a mask or goggles to enjoy the “view”.

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End of hike. Welcome to Kayangan Lake.

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Deep, clear waters of Kayangan.

Atwayan Island and Buffet Lunch

This was the only part of the tour where I was confident enough to remove my life vest. The water was friendly enough for a leisurely swim, not that deep and no strong waves. We also had our lunch here. The tour package includes a buffet lunch and an afternoon snack.

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At Atwayan, tourists take a quick dip before having lunch. 

Snorkeling at Smith Coral Garden

For me, this is the highlight of the tour. The corals were amazing! They were full of life and color. I’ll let you be the judge:

My words will never do the sights justice. It’s better for the photos to tell the tale.

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Smith Coral Garden

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Underwater beauty

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Full of life, yet so peaceful. It makes you forget about the storm brewing above the waters.

After swimming around for half an hour, we went off to our last stop for the day.

Final Stop: Twin Lagoon

It was already around four in the afternoon and the tide was already high. Our tour guides had a very ingenious way of ferrying us from our boat to the lagoon.

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This was how we went in. Not sure if we were happy, excited or scared in this photo, though. Haha

The lagoon was encased by tall karst limestone rock formations. Once inside, you get a feeling that you are inside a movie set. It was just surreal. Again the waters we were treading were deep, despite the clarity of the water, I had difficulty seeing the sea bed. It was a bit eerie, apart from the other tourists there were no other people in sight, and yet our tour guide told us that there were communities that inhabit the place. Sometimes, you get the feeling that you’re being watched, but when you look around the limestone cliffs there is really no one there, or so I think.

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Inside the lagoon. We didn’t realise that our camera lens had droplet/s of water, hence the blurred portion of this photo. Still a sight to behold.

After floating around for half an hour so. It was time to head back. It was getting late and the weather was not cooperating.

It is true that Coron’s beauty is really beyond what you see in the surface. It is a haven for divers or even those who just love to be in the water. In reality, I’m really more of a heights than depths person. However, despite not being a proficient swimmer, I was still able to enjoy the beauty of Coron’s waters.

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Lubang Island: My two-hour dip

Yup. That’s what I got during my entire stay in this beautiful island in Occidental Mindoro, Philippines – two hours of sand and sea vitamins.

My Mom, together with my aunt, was voted as this year’s Mayordoma for the annual Santacruzan festival. Nine long days full of prayer and processions, street dancing and of course, Sagalahan and closing festivities for two more days. We came late for the celebration, arriving only in time for the Sagalahan, which my sister and I were a part of.

Lots of work to do, so little time, they always say. So that’s basically the reason why I only had two hours of almost free time. But you know what, it was enough – and worth it, as always.

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Low tide at Punong Bato Resort, Lubang Island

 

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Favorite sunset

 

 

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Silhouettes never get old.

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Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance pose)

With a sunset like that, what is two two hours? Perfect.

 

 

Stormy Coron Adventures

The Philippines offers 7,107 islands to everyone who wants to experience a holiday in the tropics.  Imagine yourself…basking under the sun, sinking your feet into fine white sand and swimming in crystal clear blue waters.  One of the best islands to visit in the Philippines is Coron.  Coron is about an hour’s flight from Manila.   People from all over the world have raved about its beauty.  However, just like any other island in the country, Coron is not exempted from the wrath of the monsoon rains.Last August, we went to Coron.  Now remember, the Philippines has basically two seasons; the wet and the dry.  August falls on the wet season.

Hello, Coron. :)

Hello, Coron. 🙂

Though excited, we managed our expectations; we knew that chances are the weather will not be perfectly sunny on the duration of our stay.  When we got to Coron Eco Lodge, it started to rain.  It rained so hard, it felt like a storm was upon us.  Needless to say, all island hopping tours were cancelled that day for safety reasons.

Worry not, all was not lost.  The town of Coron offers other activities and attractions for visitors like us were stuck in the island for the day.

We did not let our afternoon go to waste.  First stop was a climb up Mt. Tapyas.  Lucky for us, the foot of Mt. Tapyas was only a stone’s throw away from where we are staying.  If your accommodation is a bit farther off or you don’t feel like walking to the base of the mountain, you can always take a tryke, fare is about P10 per person.  From the foot of Mt. Tapyas, you need to climb up 700 steps to get to the top.

Last two…HUNDRED steps! :)

Last two…HUNDRED steps! 🙂

At the top you can get a 360 degree view of the town.  It’s also a great spot to watch the sunset, but given the weather conditions during the time of our visit, there was no sunset for us.

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After taking a few moments to enjoy the view, we made our way down.  We walked back to the lodge and got ready for our next and final attraction for the day, Maquinit Hot Spring.

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A long way up…a long way down.

Cintai Corito’s Garden: Experience Bali in Batangas

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When you want a calm, peaceful environment, a sanctuary, a certain place comes to mind – Bali. But then Bali can be too far and expensive, don’t you think? I’ve never been to Bali so I don’t have any idea what it actually feels like be to there. But I’ve seen photos, mostly from friends who have stayed there for vacation and I must say that I think it should be on my list of must-visit places. With our crazy and busy lifestyle, I guess there’s this much needed quietness in any person’s life and so there’s a longing to find a space that can actually give you that. Bali could be that place for some, but for me, for now, Cintai would be enough.

When Batangas feels like Bali

Most Manileños would visit Batangas for its beaches, but there’s more to Batangas than just their waters. There are hidden gems, like unique cafes, sumptuous dishes in fine restaurants and a garden sanctuary we found in Lipa, Batangas – Cintai Corito’s Garden.

It’s Balinese-inspired architecture will make you want to take so many pictures, in every angle. The architectural details are so intricate; there will be no space left unnoticed. You’ll be surprised that even the private bathrooms and public shower area are adorned with Balinese designed furniture. Hand-carved stone walls and sculptures are all over the place. Huge doors open up to a large garden space. A multi-purpose hall is conveniently located near the villas – perfect for all kinds of events.

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Lounge by the pool

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Guarding the entertainment room

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Yes. This is the shower and changing room.

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Convenient Stay

We managed to book via DealGrocer, so it was a lot cheaper than their published rate. The offer was an overnight stay for four persons in a Terrace Villa. It also included a set breakfast for four and free use of all their facilities. We got access to three swimming pools with cabanas and an entertainment room. You might want to get that one-hour free bike rental to explore the resort.  Also, alpacas, mini horses, peacocks, ducks, spotted deer and donkey roam around the resort. As for me, I’m fine with four-legged animals. The winged ones, not really. So if you’re fond of animals, like most kids are, you’re free to pet them. 🙂

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Outdoor spa

They also have a restaurant and a bar which offer a wide selection of dishes. The popcorn with nuts and spicy honey sauce is a must-try. Now I’m hungry.

Anyway, here’s how you’ll get there (by private vehicle).

  1. Take the South Luzon Expressway, heading south, take Malvar Exit onto Southern Tagalog Aerial Road
  2. Go straight ahead and turn right to Balete Road
  3. Cintai Corito’s Garden would be on your left

Only a few hours away from Manila, Cintai managed to bring the Bali experience a little closer to us. This might be one of the most relaxing getaways you could ever have.

Happy travels!

Cintai Website: http://coritosgarden.com

Of elusive sunrises and summits

It was September 8, 2014, 1am. It was raining hard outside our cottage. Our roommates were getting ready to ascend the summit of Mt. Kinabalu, not minding the heavy rains and strong winds that kept pounding on the doors and windows. Our group, on the other hand, didn’t bother to even get up. Our guide didn’t come to fetch us for the hike. We knew it was impossible to take on the summit with that weather. After about an hour, the group that left came back. We waited until 7am and still there was no clearance to climb. No summit that day.

The elusive sunrise – and summit. I thought it was only the sunrise that usually eluded me. In Mt. Pulag, I never saw the sunrise. Climbers would usually take photos of the sea of clouds and the sun as it peaks through the vast mountain range. I never had that photo. But I will. 🙂

So yeah, I would think that summits could be escaping from me, as well.

I actually felt more sorry for the climbers that traveled halfway around the world for the climb than I felt disappointed for my group. I could go back anytime.

But even though I didn’t get to the summit, I enjoyed the entire 6-hour trek. The view was simply stunning.

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I can’t wait to go back.

Most beautiful morning blur. Laban Rata with the breathtaking Mt. Kinabalu in the background.

Most beautiful morning blur. Laban Rata with the breathtaking Mt. Kinabalu in the background.

“You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves.” –Lito Tejada-Flores

P.S.     I guess this quote was always true. A strong earthquake hit Sabah on June 05, 2015 around 7 am. It must have been terrifying for the hikers and guides alike to be there. At 7am, it was either you were starting your hike, or climbing down from the summit/ Laban Rata. Mount Kinabalu’s iconic Donkey’s Ear Peak was destroyed by the intense shaking. I will never get to see that. But still I will come back. Mount Kinabalu will never be the same, but it will remain there – striking and strong as ever.

Same same but different (Part 2)

When we were in Siem Reap, we visited around 19 temples. I know that some don’t see the sense in this, going around for days gazing at old structures that look the same. They are all the same, but no one can deny the beauty of each of these temples. The size and grandeur of these temples will leave you in awe.

When we went to this trip, we expected to feel some sort of transcendence once we  got inside each temple. Well, sadly, there was none of that. However, these temples gave us something else. We did not know where to begin. We wanted to take it all in – everything that we see. We took photos of almost everything we laid our eyes on. We wanted to have something that we could take back home that could help us relive whatever we saw there.

The temple complex was a feast for our eyes.

As much as we want to fill this post with the right words that would describe our experience, there are stories that are best told through photos. Enjoy! 🙂

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History in a frame.

Painter, painting, tourist, spectator.

Painter, painting, tourist, spectator.

Hallway to...

Hallway to…

Apsara

Apsara

Adjust.

Adjust.

Buddha(s)

Buddha(s)

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Phimeanakas

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Neak Pean

Neak Pean

Bayon

Bayon

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei

Pre Rup

Pre Rup

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Baphuon

Phnom Bakheng sunset

Phnom Bakheng sunset

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Angkor before dawn.

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Same same but different (Part 1)

This trip took almost a year of planning and saving. This was the first trip where my friend and I spent our travel fund on. And as expected, it was well worth it.

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Inside Angkor Wat

We left Manila on a Monday night. After almost three hours, we arrived at Siem Reap International Airport. A tuktuk was already waiting for us at the arrivals. Sunny, our tuktuk driver took us to Prohm Roth Guesthouse located at Wat Bo Road, Siem Reap Central Area. We knew about this place from a blog we’ve been following. This inn is a family-owned enterprise, managed by Meang, who stayed in the Philippines for sometime, and his brothers and sisters.

The streets looked so alive, with so much people, even at night. We passed by the pub street but since it was late, better that we save our energy for the next morning’s activity.

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So off we went to get a 2-day pass to enter the Angkor complex and see these magnificent temples. We didn’t bother hiring a tour guide, which we thought we wouldn’t need. But upon hearing them speak, we probably should have gotten one.

Let me tell you this, tour guides in Siem Reap are a bunch of intelligent beings. Most of them speak good English, some of them we’ve heard speak French, German, Chinese, among others – not really sure how fluent, though – but they sure know how to converse in these languages, how convenient for foreign tourists. Plus, they know the history of each temple. We’ve talked to one kid and he told us his dream is to become a tour guide someday. That’s some serious career option right there.

Temple run begins

Prasat Bayon. This ancient Khmer temple stands at the centre of Angkor Thom. Thousands of faces are carved around this grand structure and it’s impossible to be here and not be in awe of its impressive beauty.

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The architectural details, those intricate designs are what really make this place worth-visiting.

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Besides the pillars, beautifully carved stones, I was excited to see monks around so whenever I saw one, I would take out my camera  and snap a few shots of them. Below is one of my favourites.

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What excites me more is the fact that I get to see a lot without having to move around so much. That’s what this place gives you. You pick a spot and there you’ll see people, culture, history – a story unfolding before your very eyes. I knew right there that this was going to be an awesome trip.

To be continued…