July 18, 2014

Surigao del Sur's Tourist Destination: Britania Group of Islands

Surigao del Sur is slowly gaining popularity in the tourism industry lately. I say, it's about time. Have you heard about Enchanted River? How about Tinuy-an Falls, the little Niagara Falls of the Philippines? Or Cagwait White Beach, the mini Boracay? All of these and some more are in Surigao del Sur, my home province :)

For this year's home vacation, I invited my siblings to go with us on a tour around Surigao del Sur's tourist destinations because sadly, we haven't been to any of our province's treasures.

From Bohol, we went to Cebu for our flight going to Tandag City. My brother and his family who were coming from Manila were already in Mactan Airport when we arrived.

When we arrived in Tandag, my two siblings were already waiting for us. Both of them are currently based in Surigao, one in Madrid and one in another town.

Our tour's first stop was Britania Group of Islands in San Agustin. Britania Group of Islands has 24 island/islets scattered around Lianga Bay. It's well known for its immaculate clear blue/green waters and fine sand.

After lunch at Tandag, we started our 2-day tour around Surigao del Sur.

San Agustin is about 60-75 minutes away from Tandag. Thankfully, the road is completely cemented making our travel smooth. But from the highway of San Agustin going inside Britania Group of Islands, it's still rough road. I hope they'll fix this soon.

It was past 4pm when we arrived and it was drizzling. Even if we wanted to check out some more inns/places to stay, we only got to check out two: La Entrada and Mac Arthur's.  Of the two, we chose to stay at Mac Arthur's. It's ocean front and the rooms were bigger. We got three rooms for our group. For P1,200/ night, you get an A/C room with three single beds, a toilet and shower, a TV and free breakfast. Sounds like a good deal, just don't expect high on the cleanliness though.

Early the next morning after being served our free breakfast of danggit, hotdog, egg and rice we rode the boat that will take us to four different small islands. The boat with two boatmen costs P1,200 for about 4 hours of island hopping.

{The whole gang from L-R: SIL, niece Sam, brother, moi, EJ, hubby, sister, niece Yufee, brother}

We left at about 8am. Our first island was called Naked Island. It's called Naked Island because there's nothing on it. It's basically a sandbank. It appears and disappears depending on the tide. 

{EJ found the sound of the motorboat too loud}

{This is the closest island called Buslon. This was our last stop.}

{The Naked Island!}

{Happy to be all here!}

{I like this part of the sandbank where the waves meet. The sand was fine but not as fine as Boracay.}

{The rock that looked like a Seal!}

{Kids and a kid at heart having fun!}

We stayed at Naked Island for about an hour. If the kids had their say, we would have stayed there the whole day. They loved the idea of having the islet all to ourselves. 

The next island we visited was called Hagonoy. It's about 5 times bigger than Naked Island and it had some trees and a nipa hut minus the nipa roof. Haha!

{Hagonoy Island}

Hagonoy had a part where the water was still, no waves at all. The kids enjoyed swimming there but they stil preferred the Naked Island. 

{Nice place for a photo. We all had a go here.}

{Hubby thought the coconut leaf can carry his weight. He though wrong. LOL!}

We also stayed here for about an hour. We did a bit of snorkelling and the kids were busy looking for purple shells.

Our third stop was called Hiyor-hiyoran. It was a big island complete with full vegetation. We only stopped here for about 5 minutes because we saw some broken glasses on the sand.

{Hiyor Hiyoran Island}

{At Hiyor Hiyoran}

Our last stop was called Buslon, the closest island from the mainland.

{Part of Britania Group of Islands}

{Buslon Island}

{Buslon Island}

This is the only island we went to with some locals selling some souvenir wood items. We stayed here for only 30 minutes swimming with the kids while some of the adults explored some parts of the island. Buslon had the finest sand among the islands we've visited. 

At 11:30am, we headed back to our inn because we were travelling to the next destination, Enchanted River. The kids wanted to stay longer. They even wanted to go back to Naked Island. Haha! The Naked Island had endeared the kids.

Hubby said he likes to go back to Britania Group of Islands. I do too. But next time we visit, I hope the road is fixed and there will be better choices for accommodation.  

July 16, 2014

Bohol Tour in One Day

Bohol has always been in my "must" visit place in the Philippines: I have always wanted to see the Chocolate Hills in Bohol ever since I read about it when I was in grade school; I've also been curious to meet the Philippine Tarsier; been wanting to visit my maternal grandparent's birthplace, etc, etc.

This year I made the trip to Bohol happen.

Since Bohol is also famous for its beaches, I booked our accommodation in a resort. We stayed at South Palms Beach Resort in Panglao. I wanted to stay by the beach and at the same time be able to visit the nearby beautiful places easily.

I knew hotels/resorts offer different tours so I did not book any tours in advance. In South Palms, there were several tours to choose from. I chose the one day Bohol tour which covers most of the places we wanted to visit.

The tour costs P2,900/adult (child is free). It includes: private transportation, tour guide, lunch at the Loboc River cruise and entrance fees.

Our guide, Anna, was the perfect tour guide. She knows her stuff, she was patient and she knows when to be quiet :)

~@~

We left the resort at exactly 9am. Our first stop was the Philippine Tarsier at the Tarsier Conservation Center. It was about 30 minutes drive from the resort.

{Tarsiers are so cute!}

Did you know that Tarsiers commit suicide when they are stressed? They don't live long when they are kept in captivity because enclosed space, noise, camera flashes, among others, stress them out.

Tarsiers are nocturnal creatures so they are naturally asleep during day time. But hubby got a lucky shot when one of the eight Tarsiers inside the Conservation Center opened its eyes for a second.

~@~

Our second stop was at Simply Butterfly Conservation Center. It was only 10 minutes aways from the Tarsier Conservation Center.


In my opinion, you can opt to skip this part if you're not really into butterflies. But since EJ is interested about the butterflies' metamorphosis, we went inside. EJ enjoyed seeing the caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies but was scared to touch any of them.

Trivia: Beautiful/colorful caterpillars and chrysalis turn out to be plain butterflies while plain-looking caterpillars and chrysalis turn out to be the most colorful/beautiful butterflies.

~@~

Our next stop was the famous Chocolate Hills!


There are 1,776 hills scattered around in 5 towns of Bohol but the most concentration of hills is located in the town of Carmen. It was just so amazing to finally see those hills in person. 

~@~

Next was our late lunch while cruising along Loboc River.


The cruise took about an hour, more or less. The food was buffet style with Filipino cuisine like seaweed salad, pork bbq, bam-i (fried noodles), grilled fish, etc. We had a live performer on board serenading us the whole time with classics like "it might be you". We also stopped for a Filipino show in the middle of the cruise. EJ got to see the Tinikling and was impressed.

~@~

After our relaxing lunch, we headed to Baclayon Church.


Baclayon Church is one of the oldest stone churches in the Philippines. It was declared a National Historic Treasure because it has been preserved well. Unfortunately, the church has been damaged during last year's earthquake and is now undergoing restoration. There are no masses held at the time being but visitors can still go inside.

After Baclayon Church, we were supposed to go see a python but we did not see the point in going, so we went to a souvenir shop instead. On hindsight, I should have suggested another church visit. We passed by several beautiful churches on the way back to our resort. Our tour ended just before 4pm.

June 4, 2014

High Tea at Sofitel Phnom Penh

When I saw the High Tea at Sofitel brochure, I already blocked off one of our Saturday afternoon. Haha! What can I say? I love high tea (or actually the mini cakes and sandwiches)!

{The boys, looking so handsome.}

{The stand of "gastronomic delights" includes chocolates!}

{Top layer - scones and cupcake}

{Mid layer - cakes and tarts}

{Bottom layer - mini sandwiches}

{White and dark chocolates}

We only ordered 1 high tea set because I knew we wouldn't be able to eat all the food.  We just ordered additional 1 coffee for hubby and 1 apple juice for EJ. Then the waiter told us, the coffee and the apple juice come with free cakes as well. Talk about sweets feast! But we did not mind. Hahaha!

Suffice it to say, we had a gluttonous lovely afternoon just before we headed for church :)

High Tea at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra
$15+ per person
includes coffee, tea, and a stand of gastronomic delights

$25+ per person
includes coffee, tea, a stand of gastronomic delights
and free flow of Sparkling Wine

June 2, 2014

Restaurant in Phnom Penh: Sushi Honda

Hi! I'm back blogging. Or at least I hope so. Haha!

Today is another one of the many holidays here in Phnom Penh. The actual holiday was yesterday, the International Children's Day, but since it fell on a weekend, they moved it to Monday. How lucky for us!

After running some errands and checking some apartments (we're moving out of our current apartment), hubby and I had lunch at Sushi Honda, a new Japanese restaurant in BKK 1.

{We love Japanese food}

{It's a Mondate!}

{Oyako Don for moi}

{Gyudon for the hubs}

The Oyakodon and Gyudon were small but they were good, the sushi as well. I like the free cold tea and the free fruits/coffee after the meal.

We will definitely come back here again.

Sushi Honda
No. 24 Street 57
BKK1, Phnom Penh

May 31, 2014

Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt New York

For our New York trip, I booked two hotels. Why? Because it was cheaper that way. Seriously.

For four nights we stayed at Sheraton New York Times Square and the remaining three nights at Grand Hyatt New York.

I like both hotels. Sheraton, in my opinion, has an advantage over Grand Hyatt location wise. But room size and service wise, Grand Hyatt is way better than Sheraton.

Location - 4.5/5
It's in Midtown (109E 42nd St.) Manhattan and just beside Grand Central Terminal, making it very accessible. It's close by New York Public Library and Bryant Park. It's also a short walking distance to the Empire Estate Building. The other attractions like Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Hall are a little bit far but still walking distance, that is if you like walking.

{Grand Hyatt New York Lobby} 

{Grand One King Room}

Room - 5.0/5.0
The room was huge and what I loved about our room is that it smelled nice the whole time we stayed there.  The bed was big and very comfortable. I was hesitant at first to book this hotel because I read reviews that it's noisy at night time due to sirens from fire department (or police department, I am not sure anymore). Fortunately, it wasn't noisy and we had peaceful sleeps all throughout our stay. 

Service - 5.0/5.0
Check-in and check-out were fast. The front office staff were very nice and very efficient. The housekeeping was not obtrusive and everytime we come back to our room, the room was already made up smelling fresh and nice. 

My Rating:
They get 4.8 out of 5 from me. That's how pleasant and enjoyable our stay was in this hotel!