Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Cry for Help!

from google images
My heart breaks each time disaster strikes my beloved country. As resilient as we are we also need help to rebuild what was destroyed, to recover from the pain of losing loved ones and to heal from such devastation. I ask all the kind hearted souls out there to DONATE. May it be a few moments of prayer, volunteer work, cash, kind or in whatever way you can. In this festive season, as Christmas is only 6 days away, please think of the Philippines especially those from Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

SUPing AROUND THE BURJ AL ARAB

I was on the air for 14 hours, on the ground for 6 until I found myself in the water.  I have always loved the beach.  It is that one place on earth where I feel most alive and truly at peace. I could swim for hours, gaze at the horizon from dawn til dusk and lay down as the sun’s glorious rays gently caress my skin and the sea breeze playfully kiss my face. You could say that it is my element.

A day ago, my friend Eunice, a fellow beach bum invited me to pack our bikinis, head to the beach and learn how to surf. The answer was easy as breathing. As I have said, I love the beach and surfing is one activity that I really want to master.

I was coming from Sau Paulo, a world and time zones apart from Dubai. I have no time to adjust my body clock and I couldn’t care any less after all I’m headed for the beach. At the beach, time becomes a distant memory. Its only reminder is the changing hue of the heavens but other than that, time seems to fade in the background.

I awoke bright, early and fresh which is surprising since I slept only for a few hours; must be the jetlag phenomenon.  Eunice arrived and we hopped on a cab and made our way to Jumeirah Beach which is about 20 minutes away from my place. From there we will quickly pop by Surf Dubai to meet surfer dudes J No, to meet our instructors.

Just a little intro about Surf Dubai, it was established in October 2005 by Scott Chambers and according to their site, he holds a degree in BS Surfing Technology. Surf Dubai is the first and the leading surf school in the U.A.E. If you want more info please visit their site www.surfingdubai.com.

As we entered the Surf Dubai villa, we met Clint and he would be the one to show us the ropes. Unfortunately, the waves were quite flat so we can’t really go surfing.  Luckily, there is such a thing as stand up paddle surfing (SUP) which according to Clint was perfect for the kind of waves on that day.

Stand Up Paddle Surfing is an ancient form of surfing with Hawaiian origins (Hoe he'e nalu). In the 1960’s in Waikiki, SUPing is done to take pictures of tourists learning how to surf thus earning another nickname Beach Boy Surfing. SUP is now an emerging modern sport. What used to be a strategy of surf instructors to monitor their students is now a trend. One of the many reasons is that it is an excellent method for core workout. The other reason is the sport is very easy to learn especially by women. Women having a lower center of gravity make them more skilled in SUP.  

As it is super easy to learn, our instructor Clint said he didn’t even need to be in the water with us. He gave us the theory and it’s up to us to put it in practice. The first lesson of the day is to carry the board and paddle towards the beach. The villa is just a few meters away from the beach. At first it seemed easy enough but a few steps with the board and the paddle made me feel like it is a Herculean task. With each step, my load just keeps getting heavier and it was a definite sweet relief when I finally got to put it down.


We finally headed towards the water, Clint told us to guide the boards until we reach where the water is flat and calm then, get on the board on a kneeling position at the center point of the board, gauge your balance and slowly stand. Your stance should be feet apart, back and shoulders straight, look forward and balance with your hips.

Paddling properly is a wee bit tricky. Basically, we all know how to paddle but doing it the right way takes time and practice. When paddling on the right, the right hand should be in the lower part of the paddle and the left hand is on the top grip and vice versa. As you paddle, keep your arms straight and twist your torso. As Clint said, paddle with your torso as this is where the real workout begins. As for turning there are three ways which is side paddling which just means paddle on one side to turn on the opposite side. In simpler terms paddle left to turn right and the opposite. Back paddling; just drag the paddle backwards on the either side. Lastly, the Big C. Just make a big letter C on either side of the board to turn. 

Clint was absolutely right, it was easy enough. I was able to stand on the first try J and found myself SUPing. Eunice was doing great as expected. She had experience surfing in Portugal and Bali which I am so envious of! One of the many great things about SUP apart from the great workout is when you get tired you can lay down on your board, relax and just go with the flow literally! Eunice and I tried to paddle as close as we can get to the Burj Al Arab since it is both our favorite icon in Dubai. Eunice being the hardcore beach babe that she is (surfer girl and a licensed scuba diver) brought her underwater camera so that we could have a photo-shoot as we paddle surf around the Burj Al Arab.


I like the feeling of learning something new. The words “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” resonates in my head. I was just in awe; being in the middle of the sea, on a board and gazing in the horizon where the majestic Burj Al Arab stood.  Ah, life is good! J

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

#59

Ticking off Prague, Czech Republic off my list J


Prague Orloj

Walt Disney Castle

Prague is the 59th place I’ve visited in my wanderventure although it is an unfinished one. At zero degrees, this tropical itchyfeet couldn’t stand the cold and only managed to see the Orloj, the medieval Astronomical clock located at Prague’s Old City Hall and the Walt Disney Castle. 

Oh well, this just means one thing, I’ll be back Prague!! Hopefully in summer ;)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good luck to my Body Clock

5 CONTINENTS, 1 MONTH


November is a month of movement for me. It sure is going to be one of those months where I'll be so busy I'll be definitely looking for my next holiday although I just came off from one a few days ago.

First, my family will be relocating to a new home. After 23 years, South girl no more .
Next, I'm moving in with one of my best flygirls, Tricia. 
Lastly, my roster this month is all over the place or should I say all over the world literally! On the plane ride back to Dubai after my leave, I was browsing through my roster and realized that this November I'll be covering 5 out of the seven continents! Good luck to my body clock!

☑Asia
☑ Africa
☑ North America
Europe
South America
Australia
☐ Antartica

I'll be hopping from Asia on to Africa going to North America then Europe and towards South America. I don't mind flying down under either but I must not be too greedy. Antartica, well, I suppose is out of the question since that is not part of my network.

So, where exactly do I go in each of these continents? Here's my November itinerary accordingly: Singapore, Singapore  Entebbe, Uganda Houston, USA Prague, Czech Republic  Sao Paolo, Brazil .

What will I do in these places? I've been to most of these places except for Prague. I'll sum them up in a word or two and hopefully write about them (or list them as my backlogs). 

Singapore: EAT
- I will finally get to satisfy my 4 month long laksa craving and MILO dinosaur! :D
Entebbe: RELAX
Houston: SHOP
- 46 days til Christmas. Need I say more?
Prague: SIGHTSEEING
Sao Paolo: EAT (churrasaco) and SHOP (havaianas)
-I've been dying to try this Brazilian meat feast that I've heard so much about and I've got Havaianas orders from friends who heard that I'm flying to Brazil!

I end this with a note to my self: GOOD LUCK TO MY BODY CLOCK and to everyone who's on the move whether job related or pleasure trip, HAPPY TRAVELS!


Monday, October 24, 2011

OktoberPROST!

Beer, perhaps the most drank alcoholic beverage in the world. It is also considered one of the oldest man-made drink dating back as early as 5000 BC in Ancient and Egypt and parts of Mesopotamia. This drink made from different starchy products (barley, oats, rice, corn, etc) produced by a fermentation process has been well received and loved to a point of over consumption and a festival which featured beer  as its main attraction. 

Oktoberfest is equated as a beer festival and that is exactly what it is. It is held in October in most parts of the world except for its birth place. It’s easy to be deceived since it is called Oktoberfest hence the easiest deduction would be a festival in October and it lasts a whole month.WRONG!

The Oktoberfest is a 16-18 daybeer festival starting at the latter half of September and ending in the first weekend of October.  This year the festivities started on September 17 and ended on October 3rd.
Initially the celebration WAS in fact in October, October 12, 1810 to be exact. When Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig got hitched toPrincess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, it paved the way for Oktoberfest. The Münchners(people from Munich. True story)were invited for a weeklong celebration to mark the joyous occasion. The celebrations were held in Theresienwiese (Theresa’s meadow) in honor of the princess. Up to this date, the meadows are still the venue of the Oktoberfest. Locals shortened it to Wiesn.
Enough history, basically the celebration was moved to September just because of the weather. It is said that September is warmer thus allowing the celebrants to continue the merrymaking long throughout the night.
2011 is the 201stOktoberfest and I was fortunate enough to be able to have an authentic experience right at its very cradle – München, Bavaria, Germany! Quite frankly speaking, I was more intrigued of the idea of Oktoberfest. Throngs of people littered in the gardens, gigantic tents perched here and there, bar maids in their sexy dirndls carrying ginormous mugs of beers, live music, tables filled with food and of course the drunks! This is what Oktoberfest in my mind looks like. Thanks to the movies and books which illustrated what olden gatherings were like. I am set to find out if my imagination, movie depictions and portrayals of Oktoberfest is as close to the real thing.

A short subway ride in the Untergrundbahn is the gateway to Weisn. As the train stops and take more people in, I slowly start to realize how massive Oktoberfest as an event truly is. Halfway thru the train was already packed! As the doors opened to let us out in our final destination, I uttered a sigh of bewilderment. There was a flood of people in the station and more people are filling up the place by the minute. But you know what? In spite of the crowd, the people were exceptionally organized and well behaved. People were patiently waiting for their turn in line, to step on to the escalators and onto the beer grounds. You gotta love the Germans for their discipline! As for the foreigners, it would be a shame not to follow their example!

As my group and the crowd spilled onto the grounds, I took in all the sights, the sounds, the smell, the feel, the aura; everything that is Oktoberfest.The feel is so vibrant and alive that it is no hard to feel the excitement that is abuzz. I wanted to capture it all but every time I attempt to take a photo I just couldn’t! The place is just teeming with people that I just gave up. I told myself to plunge in the total experience and capture it if I get lucky. 

One of the few notions that I have about Oktoberfest is that the festivities involve largely in beer drinking so when I saw several kid and senior friendly attractions, I find it a very nice surprise. The festival reminds me of a traveling carnivals and amusement parks. There are rides, games, souvenir booths, food concessions, sweets and treats shop. I felt like a kid and a wee bit nostalgic. I look around and see the little kiddies shrieking with delight and getting all excited with just about anything while their parents look on with loving expressions. Ah, to be a kid once more and to be with family, good times! 


We were on a mission to find a table inside the tents. It was a mission alright! There are 14 large tents which can seat up to 10,000 people and about 18 small tents that can accommodate a few hundred guests. Seats have to reserved way in advance and booked with the particular tent landlord. Of course, there are non-reserved seats but they get taken in a blink of an eye! And once these tables were occupied they will never be vacated! My companions are dying for a beer and are getting desperate to get a table. FYI:Beers will only be served when you got a seat!


The tents were amazing! I love the bold colors and the decorations. It just screams festivity loud and clear. The energy of the crowd inside is the best part of being inside the tent. The energy and the uproar are undeniably enticing. The band plays catchy tunes and even encourages a prost (toast) every so often (like every 15 minutes). It was a truly a fun atmosphere and we were getting desperate to land a table and join in the fun! 


After 4 tents, 2 hours we finally managed to snag a table at HofbräuFestzelt. The venue was an extremely busy one we can only have the table for an hour. DEAL! We immediately ordered food and beers to catch up with the revelers. I am not a beer drinker but I signed up for the Oktoberfest experience and drinking a liter of beer is a requisite. Only beers brewed within the confinement of Munich is served during the festival and it must meet a certain criterion before it is deemed as an Oktoberfest bier. The alcohol and sugar content of the Oktoberfest beer is a little bit higher than the other German beers. One beer is €10 and each year the prices go up. 

We didn’t have to wait long for our beers when our beer arrived and carried by a barmaid wearing the traditional dirndl. I was in awe by the strength of her wrists and clueless how she was able to carry six gigantic mugs in one go! Each Maß is 1 liter excluding the weight of the glass mug. My friend Eileen told me that there is a tough competition to be a bar maid since one stint at the Oktoberfest and they’re set for a few years or so. Wow! J

Not long after our food arrived. I didn’t realize I was starving until I saw the food in front of me. I ordered the German version of our crispy pata. They call it shweinshaxe or pork knuckle served with this big yellow ball. I honestly don’t know what it was but it tasted like potato bread. The portion was huge and I couldn’t even finish half of it! I don’t think anyone in our table managed to finish their meal. See, the lesson here is SHARING! As full as our stomachs were the girls could not help noticing the cute brezel (pretzel) guy dressed in lederhosen. To get his attention, we had to buy this gigantic brezel! It was definitely a treat! Treat for the eyes and for the palate ;)
The Cute Brezel Guy


Our hour was up and we were promptly kicked out of our table to give way to the people that actually reserved it. Beers in tow, we head towards any space we can find to just hangout, polish off our drinks, listen to the band and just enjoy our time. 

As soon as the last drops of our beer were drunk, we then wondered what to do with the mugs. I already have a premeditated plan for it. I intentionally brought a big bag with me so I could put the mug in there soon after I finished my drink. It is the perfect Oktoberfest memento! In the end, my bag nestled 3 mugs! Two of my companions begged me to take theirs too and I couldn’t refuse them. I should have though; the mugs nearly took my arm off! I nearly backed off my plan. I was afraid of the thought of being caught and the embarrassment that it may cause. But just like all others when alcohol is in your system you get a little braver and stupider, so I took the mug home. Please don’t tell anyone! ;)

Piece of advice, if you decide to take a mug with you, go straight home or to your hotel. Usually, there are check points at the entrance of the tents and any mugs seen will be confiscated. I don’t know if there graver consequence for swiping the mugs. Good thing I never found out!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wanderventures of ItchyfeetCHA



I haven't been writing in a long while. So, to get my creative juices flowing I decided to list down all the places I have set foot on.

world atlas
from worldatlas


ASIA
1.       MANILA, PHILIPPINES
2.       SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE
3.       KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
4.       JAKARTA, INDONESIA
5.       CALCUTTA, INDIA
6.       DHAKA, BANGLADESH
7.       KANDI, SRI LANKA (road trip J)
8.       COLOMBO, SRI LANKA
9.       SHANGHAI, CHINA
10.   GUANGZHOU, CHINA
11.   BEIJING CHINA
12.   DUBAI, UAE
13.   SHARJAH, UAE (road trip J)
14.   ABU DHABI, UAE (road trip J)
15.   OSAKA, JAPAN
16.   KYOTO, JAPAN
17.   BANGKOK, THAILAND

EUROPE
18.   LONDON, UK (LGW & LHR)
19.   MANCHESTER, UK (MAN)
20.   BIRMINGHAM, UK (BHX)
21.   NEWCASTLE, UK (NCL)
22.   GLASGOW, SCOTLAND, UK (GLA)
23.   MUNICH, GERMANY (MUN)
24.   HAMBURG, GERMANY (HAM)
25.   DUSSELDORF, GERMANY (DUS)
26.   FRANKFURT, GERMANY (FRA)
27.   ROME, ITALY (FCO)
28.   MILAN, ITALY (MXP)
29.   VENICE, ITALY (VCE)
30.   MADRID, SPAIN (MAD)
31.   ZURICH, SWITZERLAND (ZRH)
32.   MOSCOW, RUSSIA (DME)
33.   VIENNA, AUSTRIA (VIE)
34.   PARIS, FRANCE (CDG)
35.   NICE, FRANCE (NCE)
36.   AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (AMS)
37.   MALTA, MALTA (MLA)
38.   COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
·         St. Petersburg, Russia (LED)
·         Dublin, Ireland (DUB)
·         Prague, Czech Republic (PRG)

AFRICA
39.   JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (JNB)
40.   DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA (DUR)
41.   ENTEBBE, UGANDA (EBB)
42.   LAGOS, NIGERIA (LOS)
43.   DAR ES SAALAM, TANZANIA (DAR)
44.   ACCRA, GHANA (ACC)
45.   CASABLANCA, MOROCCO (CMN)
46.   TUNIS, TUNISIA (TUN)
47.   MAURITIUS, MAURITIUS
·         DAKAR, SENEGAL (DKR)
·         LUANDA, ANGOLA (LAD)
·         SEYCHELLES, SEYCHELLES (SEY)
·         HARARE, ZIMBABWE (HRE)
·         LUSAKA, ZAMBIA (LUN)

AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND
48.   BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA
49.   SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
50.   MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
51.   PERTH, AUSTRALIA
52.   AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

SOUTH AMERICA
53.   SAO PAOLO, BRAZIL (GRU)
·         RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (GIG)
·         BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (EZE)

NORTH AMERICA
54.   HOUSTON, USA (IAH)
55.   LOS ANGELES, USA (LAX)
56.   SAN  DIEGO, USA (road trip J)
57.   SAN FRANCISCO, USA (SFO)
58.   NEW YORK, USA (JFK)
·         SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, USA (SEA)
·         DALLAS, TEXAS, USA (DFW)



·      I’m coming soon!!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Dubai Meets Jackie

My good friend Jackie will be embarking on a EuroTrip for three weeks. To jumpstart her adventure she's transiting from Manila to Dubai then to Prague. Coincidentally, Dubai is my hub and I was thrilled to have her over even if it's  just 12 hours.

Normally for Philippine passport holders, a visit visa is required to enter the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, if you are transiting for more than 8 hours and flying with Emirates Airlines to Dubai, they will give you a hotel accommodation til your next flight. Technically, Jackie is on a sort of transit visa and I wanted her to have a glimpse of the sandbox.

I was beating myself up for not planning anything for her but in my defense where shall I take her in the middle of the night? Not until 5 hours before her departure to Prague when we came across a 2 hour City Tour. The heavens must have heard my prayers and we readily signed up for it. The tour starts at 5am and ends at 7am. Perfect! There's even enough time for breakfast before I take her to the airport.

The tour is basically to drive around Dubai and showcase its famous landmarks, important buildings and to introduce Dubai in brief.  I thought only Jackie and I would be in the tour but two other transit passengers joined us. Mr. Jivanek from Czech Republic and Mr. Shouvik from the USA.

The 2 hour City Tour would cover several spots in Dubai. Namely, Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, Dubai Creek, Sheikh Zayed Road, Palm Jumeirah, Atlantis Dubai, Jumeirah Beach and Burj Khalifa. Actually, out of all these there are only three spots where the tour actually stops and allow the guests to take photos. The rest as our guide informed us, we will just drive past them.

Our tour guide is a young Indian guy with an accent so thick he was barely comprehensible. You had to listen extra hard to get what he was saying. I felt bad for Jackie and the two others because I felt that they deserved to get the most out of their tour. But now, they had to content themselves just looking left or right without truly understanding what they were seeing. Luckily, Jackie has me so I was the one giving her some details.

Here's a brief of the places we passed by. Maybe in my future blogs, I'll give more details. :)

Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.
A contemporary sail design in reference to the Arabian dhow. It is Dubai's version of the Sydney Opera House.

Dubai Creek
A saltwater creek that divides Dubai into two main sections, the new and old Dubai; Deira and Bur Dubai. The creek is an important element in Dubai's commercial position as it is the only port in Dubai.

E11
Famously known as Sheikh Zayed Road. It is the biggest and longest highway in the UAE. It is the link to the UAE's two major Emirates, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In Dubai, this highway is home to Dubai's famous skycrapers like the Emirates Towers  and Burj Khalifa.

Burj Khalifa
Also known as Burj Dubai. It currently holds 17 world record such as the tallest structure ever made. It stands proudly at 2,717 ft (828 m). Once on a flight back Dubai in the wee hours of the morning, as I was sitting in the cockpit, I could see its peak penetrating the clouds. That's actually the time I realized how high it was and why people are raving so much about it. But to be honest, it looks like a big needle to me. :)

Palm Jumeirah
An artificial archipelago created by land reclamation. As the name suggests, it takes the shape of a palm tree. Home to the uber rich. Littered with luxurious villas, apartments and hotels. It is a self declared as one of the 8th Wonders of the World.

Atlantis @ the Palm
A magnificent 6 star hotel inside the Palm Jumeirah that is modelled after Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas. A massive property that holds 1539 rooms, a water park called Aquaventure, conference center, mall and Dolphin Bay where guests meet and swim with the dolphins.

Jumeirah Beach
A stretch of beach located in the Jumeirah District of Dubai, hence the name. Home to hotel heavyweights (Hilton, Ritz Carlton, etc.), luxury houses and Wild Wadi Water Park. It is also in Jumeirah Beach where the 7 star hotel Burj Al Arab was built on its own articial island 920 ft away from the mainland.

H.H. Sheikh Maktoum's Palace
It is what it is. The ruler of Dubai's home. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum's crib. Obviously, one can only have a glimpse of the ruler's house and you could only go so far as it is expectedly guarded. The surprise treat is that outside the palace the Sheikh allows his pet peacocks loose! They do as they please. They strut ever so slowly showing off their beautiful trains for all the world to see.

The palace was our last stop and we are running out of time. We wanted a photo op outside the van but unfortunately we don't want to get caught during the rush hour. Dubai traffic is a drag!

As I brought Jackie to the airport for her flight to Prague, I asked her how she liked Dubai. She said she was impressed by what she had seen even if it was too short a time. She told me she'll be back and would explore Dubai on her next vist. She bid me goodbye and said see ya later Dubai!





Sunday, May 8, 2011

36 Hours Mauritian Holiday

Mauritius. Moris. Maurice. An island nation located about 2000 km off the southeast coast of Africa and lies east of Madagascar. The only known home of the now extinct dodo bird.

I was psyched to find out that I am going to Mauritius, even better yet, I'll be staying there for 36 hours! To understand my excitement, let me break it down. Normally my layovers only lasts a day thus the need to cram places to see, sites to visit and sacrifice sleep just to be able to go around. More importantly, I am a self confessed/proclaimed beach bum! To be able to visit a place as exotic and enchanting as Mauritius.. WOW! Times like this is when I have to say, I love my job. ♥

After about a 7 hour plane ride and about a twenty minute drive, Shandrani Resort and Spa is finally in sight. I seriously couldn't wait to take off my uniform, wear my bikini, run towards the beach and bask under the sun. After checking in, I was then instructed to follow some instructions to get to my room. I was actually amused. It felt like a scavenger hunt. As I walked out of the reception area, I had to pass a restaurant, gardens and villas! The resort is massive! I was actually getting tired dragging my suitcase and not to mention my uniform is starting to stick to me, thanks to the perfect tropical weather. When I finally found my room, it was on the second level of what seemed like an apartment complex. With no lifts and no guys around to ask for help, I had to lug my suitcase and my cabin bag (which is actually heavier than my suitcase) in my high heels!
When I finally got to see my room, it was worth all that walking and lifting my luggage. Relaxation mode is so ON! I immediately explored my room and I love how it was designed. The bathroom was spacious and pristine. The bed was just the right size, there's a lounge area and the best part of the room is the veranda. I quickly changed and hung in the veranda knowing I have at least half an hour before I meet everyone for lunch. As I sat there, I thought to myself, if I were to stay here at my own expense it would certainly cost me an arm and a leg.

Shandrani Resort and Spa as I soon found out is one of the premiere accommodations in Mauritius. The hotel boasts that it is the first choice of holiday makers when it comes to an all inclusive luxury hotel. Located at the Southern Coast of Mauritius, situated on a private peninsula. Their concept Serenity Plus as they say is devised to give holiday makers the best value for money from the time they checked in til checked out. A major plus for this all inclusive hotel is that there are no more bills to pay. Almost everything is already covered by what you were quoted for. Almost everything, because there are several water activities that you actually pay for like kiteboarding and scuba diving. As for food (room service and restaurant dining), drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), mini bar, activities such as wakeboarding, water skiing, snorkelling, hobbie cat sailing, island hopping and other hotel amenities are already covered. So, how much exactly does the all inclusive Shandrani Hotel and Spa go for? Prices ranges from €224-€364 per person/ per night! It will definitely cost me both my arms and legs!

I consider myself blessed that I am able to go here and enjoy this posh hotel's offerings free of charge. Of course, not being a "regular" hotel guests there is one thing that we don't have free access to. The OPEN BAR. But, the hotel was considerate enough, they gave us complimentary 4 cans of beer, 2 small bottles of red and white wine in our mini bar. Anything more than that, comes out of our pockets.

I met my crew for lunch aka the pig out session. The food is absolutely delectable with numerous dishes to choose from. I am particularly happy that they have a grill station and seafood station. For me, seafood and barbecue is a staple when I'm at the beach.


After my gluttonous way, guilt kicks in and I want to burn some of the calories. In this particular trip, I was with another Filipina, Hannah. We decided to check the entire compound out and see what we want to do from there. We then discovered that are 3 beaches in the hotel. 2 are actually meant for swimming but the other one was highly tracherous because of the rocks and unfriendly waves. The beach actually reminds me of the many beaches in the Philippines particularly the ones in Batangas. White sand but quite pebbly so it's best to walk with your flip flops or Aqua shoes rather than barefoot.

The shore is littered with sun bathers lying on the abundant sunbeds and on sarongs laid on the sand. I chose a sunbed and lay there for a while and when the sun gets too much for me, I ran straight to the water. The staff was so attentive. Knowing that under the blazing sun, guests might get dehydrated or suffer from heat exhaustion, they constantly check and offer water or drinks. They also offer ice cream! I think I had about three and infinite number of mocktails called Cinderella!





I need to get off my butt and burn the calories again. I saw a speed boat whizzing by pulling a water skier. Fun! I must do it! I tried wakeboarding and water skiing with my friends in Lago De Oro, Batangas but I never got the hang of it. I wasn't able to stand. I just got dragged by the cables. I was feeling a little scared because I don't want to embarass myself but then again I just simply have to do it. Well, what do you know, I found myself water skiing and loving every second of it.

After water skiing, Hannah and I tried almost all the water sport available: kayak, pedal boat and snorkelling. Snorkelling was a blast! We rode a glass bottom boat and the water was crystal clear we could see the fish and several corals underneath us. We got our one on one encounter with the fish when we fed them. They're so big and agressive!  I was still enjoying snorkelling when our guide called us back because the current is getting stronger. We head back to the shore and I wanted to try another activity but it's just too bad it got too windy so we never got to try Hobbie cat sailing. Next time then. After all those activites, I was ravenous again! It's still a good 2 hours before dinner time and I won't last that long. I told myself, I'm on holiday, so just enjoy and worry about the weight later. I devoured perhaps one of the most delicious beef burgers in my life. I'm still drooling!






As night time approaches, we gathered for dinner. I looked around the table to see my companions sun kissed as I am. Skin glowing, eyes bright and big smiles all around. We sat enjoying the food, a toast here and there. Here we are a bunch of strangers who met hours earlier tasked to transport passengers to this beautiful island paradise, enjoying a warm and intimate dinner as if we truly knew each other. As much as I have enjoyed Mauritius with my crew, it would have been a bliss if only my friends and loved ones were the ones with me. My strength starts to dwindle, I head back to my room. I lay in bed with a prayer of gratitude on my lips and a wish on my heart. Everything would have been perfect but just like that jaded postcard phrase, I utter, wish you were here!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sweet Serenity: Acuatico Beach Resort and Hotel

03.30-31.

  
Just a three hour of leisurely drive from Manila is the municipality of San Juan from the province of Batangas. San Juan is well known for it’s majestic coastline forming Laiya Beach.

Laiya Beach or simply Laiya is an expanse of white sandy shore with Mt. Daguldol serving as a backdrop complementing the coast to its full splendor. Laiya over the years has risen in popularity and the proof is the mushrooming resorts and hotels in the stretch and the ever growing patrons that visit the place each chance they get.
It has been almost five years since I was last in Laiya and so this trip makes me feel like I’m visiting an old friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. This trip is extra special since I’m traveling with my most favorite person in the whole world and a birthday celebration is in order. ♥

A day before we have decided to book an overnight stay in Acuatico Beach Resort and Hotel. We came across their website and I was impressed of what I saw. The presentation of the resort is absolutely impeccable! What truly caught my eye and convinced us to stay at the resort is their infinity pool. Spectacular, that’s what it is! I would also like to say kudos to the web designer because the site is too damn inviting! I just hope that the site translates to reality as well. I have been to some places where the place doesn’t look anything like the pictures posted! Check it out! http://www.acuaticoresort.com.ph/

As our drive commenced from the busy highway to the off beaten path, through cemented paths and rough roads, through the busy industrial areas and laid back provincial greeneries; the escapade begins. I can feel the stress and worries being left behind. It is now time to embrace the much needed respite. The directions to Acuatico is easy to follow not to mention there are signs along the way. As we approach the resort, I keep my fingers crossed hoping that we have indeed made the right choice in staying here.

We arrived early. 3 hours early! Nonetheless, we were welcomed warmly and offered a refreshing pandan drink. As our room is not ready yet, one of the staff toured us around the resort. Walking in, we were greeted with a magnificent view; the infinity pool! It is no doubt the main attraction of the resort. In my opinion it’s the real reason why most people actually check in here. I could honestly say that Acuatico’s pool is so far the best I have seen. Trust me, I’ve been around *wink wink hehehe. Moving on, we were then showed the restaurant, Oceano Acuatico, an al fresco dining experience with a panoramic view of the entire resort. As you are feasting on gastronomic delights, your eyes are also treated with the hull shape view of the pools that seems to merge with the sea’s placid waves and on the sides are the Neo-Balinese inspired villas. On the left side of the restaurant is the Game room equipped with table tennis, air hockey, foosball, darts and several board games. If you want a more physical sport the resort also has a basketball court. The Nautilus Bar, a floating bar right in the middle of the pools. Here guests can order an array of drinks from cocktails to mocktails, shakes and juices. We were then told that in Acuatico, coffee (Kapeng Barako ), tea and water is free flowing.  I love the fact that water is free because in most resorts they charge you, knowing that they can make a killing with the sales.


We were pointed towards the beach. The resort provides free use of the kayak, pedal boat and beach volleyball can be arranged. In here, sunbeds and umbrellas are availble for resort guests to use. Beach towels are also provided on request. It is here where we decided to lounge as we wait for our room to be ready. Drinks were ordered and the celebration is officially on!
We had about three pitchers of the bartenders special concoction (a green drink of some sort), a glass of mojito and Malibu when our room was finally ready. We were then led up the stairs behind the restaurant to our room Alta Vista room. Located at the third floor with a mountain view; the room includes 2 twin beds, a/c unit, 32 inch satellite TV, phone and iPOD docks available on request although in the more premium rooms, it is already installed. I have to admit I was a tad disappointed. I feel the space is a bit cramped. But then again, I won’t be staying in the room majority of the time anyway. The bathroom is a nice surprise. Normally, if the room is small, the bathroom is smaller. However, this time around it’s a pretty decent size with a tub and water heating system. A bidet is also installed and for me that’s plus points! Hahaha!

Being under the sun for a bit can make one a little lethargic so it was nap time for an hour before we enjoyed all of the resorts facilities. I love how the linens were crisp and smooth, the duvet smells fresh from the laundry, the mattress was in between firm and soft, just the way I like it and momentarily I drift off in peaceful slumber.

The bed was so comfortable I would have loved to just lay there and sleep to my heart’s content but nature beckons and I must go. I have to feel the the sand in my feet, I need the wind to caress my face and the blazing sun touch my skin, I want the tides to wash me over and the water to rejuvenate my tired body. To the beach!!

We were meant to go to the beach first BUT the infinity pool is simply irresistible! On a closer look, Acuatico’s pool is a combination of three pools. The first two is a kiddie pool connected to the adult pool or the infinity pool. Fun fact: you can go through all the pools without having to leave the water, all you need to do is swim under! But be careful not to hit your head! It’s a pretty low ceiling down there. There is also a jacuzzi just behind the bar but I never got to hang there. I was just too relaxed staying at the infinity pool to care. There are ledges on the sides to enhance the relaxation experience in the water. I don’t know how long I sat there staring at the sea with my eyes closed as the gentle waves lulls me to nirvana. My companion seems to feel the same sense of tranquility. Eyes closed, gazing at the horizon, a smile on the lips every now and then. Hmm.. sweet serenity.

The sun slowly sets in beautiful shades of red, orange and pink and then darkness chased away the remaining bits of day. The moon peeked and slowly a few stars appear shyly, it’s officially night time. We didn’t leave the pool, we just relocated to the sunbeds to continue our lazy ways. A few more rounds of drink to toast to todays birthday, to the past, the present and the future. A deal was made, when we leave this place, we would remember nothing but happiness and love.

From where we sat we could smell the enticing aroma, permeating the air. Dinner time. We decided to have a look on what’s on the menu to see if we would go for the buffet or a la carte. Buffet is priced at PHP 525 while an a la carte order would range from PHP 300 up. I see a decent selection of food so we opt for the buffet. There’s soup, salad bar, about 6 main entrees, deserts with some of my favorite Filipino deserts like ginataan, halo halo, pastillas and bottomless ice tea and lemonade. I’m actually surprised that they even offer balo’t penoy in the buffet. I am awashed once again, how good it feels to be in my own country again. I absolutely love Pinoy food! I would like to make a special mention that their kare kare is really really yummy! It’s one of my favorite dishes and I am very picky when it comes to it and I would say that their kare-kare is a definite must eat! I ate way too much that night that I ended up with a bad case of indigestion! No regrets though.

To rate my whole gastronomic experience in Acuatico, I would give them a 7 out of 10. I think they can and still need to improve the taste and food selection. As for service, I would give them a 9. The staff are so cordial and they really try their best to make your stay seamless as possible. They accommodate requests to the best of their abilities which I truly appreciate. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s my companions birthday. The staff planned a surprise birthday song, balloons and a special made desert. It’s very thoughtful of them really. It’s one of those little things that you remember and will make you come back plus spread the word to your friends. Just like what I’m doing now. My entire experience is a 9. Would’ve been a 10 if the food is just a bit better and if they could just lower the room rates.

Coming to Acuatico I wanted to just have a wonderfully relaxing time. The picturesque resort and its staff helped me achieve it. I literally sat back, relax and let the entire experience swallow me whole.

PS:
For the workhorses out there, Acuatico provides resortwide free wifi access so you can mix business and pleasure. But do yourself a favor and LIVE your life. Quoting my old Professor in Elbi, “Naghahanapbuhay tayo para mabuhay hindi para mamatay.”

I didn’t take a lot of pictures. We must not forget to immerse ourselves with the experience rather than documenting for memories sake. J