Thoughts on Guimaras Island

Featured

Tags

, , , ,

When a beach trip becomes as stressful as commuting in Metro Manila, we’re out. The goal this time was to avoid throngs of people, persistent touts and overrated touristy spots.

Don’t get me wrong, we love chaos (the good kind, that is) but work has been taking a toll on our nerves and we just wanted to get away, please!

And Guimaras came calling.

Guimaras is a little island in the western Visayas region, less than 20 minutes away from Iloilo by motorized boat. It is primarily known for its heavenly mangoes and pristine beaches. While its sandy shores may not be as powdery white as that of Boracay’s, its serenity and unique waterscape (and mangoes) are worth the trip.

I didn’t want to take any chances so I did my research and booked the quietest, most remote resort that I could find – La Puerta Al Paraizo.

La Puerta Al Paraizo is located at Nueva Valencia, approximately an hour away from Jordan wharf. The road to the resort was a bit bumpy, good thing we arranged for a round trip transfer. The resort driver promptly met us at the wharf and gave a brief orientation of Guimaras.

Guimaras-11

I requested for a stopover to buy some mangoes.

The moment we entered the winding path to our resort, I knew it was going to be the vacation we longed for.

La Puerta Al Paraizo - our serene and beautiful resort

La Puerta Al Paraizo – our serene and beautiful resort

The place was peaceful, all we could hear was the sound of nature at its best. The staff who greeted us were warm and very accommodating, I immediately felt right at home.  We were the only guests that day, so we practically had the whole beach to ourselves. Yay!

This piece of paradise is all ours for a day

This piece of paradise is all ours for a day

What I loved most about La Puerta Al Paraizo, and Guimaras in general, was its
unpretentious and raw beauty. You don’t need to be in a luxurious place just to
experience this kind of heaven. Traipsing along the beach without a care in the world, no people to mind, no gadgets to check (because there’s no signal) – it’s the perfect escape.

No signal, no problem!

No signal, no problem!

We consciously avoided the usual tourist trail as we just wanted to laze around but the resort owner, David, encouraged us to go island-hopping so we could see some secret beaches nearby. He offered to personally take us and even became our boatman. It was definitely a smart choice to take his offer.

A patch of beach in one of the islands

A patch of beach in one of the islands

Taklong Island - this was deserted so we stopped by and took a dip

Taklong Island – this was deserted so we stopped by and took a dip

Guimaras is beautiful without trying too hard, take it or leave it. I love how the
locals do their best to promote tourism but at the same time preserve the island’s natural resources. Maybe it has become a bit underrated lately but this small island has a lot to offer: secluded beaches, private and public resorts, mangrove parks, picturesque rock formations, friendly locals and sweet sweet mangoes.

Aerial view of Taklong Island Marine Sanctuary

Aerial view of Taklong Island Marine Sanctuary

Mangrove Park

Mangrove Park

Our resort's beach front

Our resort’s beach front

How to go to Guimaras:
From Iloilo, go to Ortiz wharf and take a boat to Jordan port. Boats leave
every 15-20 minutes. Trip is more or less 20 minutes.

La Puerta Al Paraizo Beach Resort
Barangay San Roque, Nueva Valencia,
Guimaras
Facebook page link
Contact Number: 09275079024

How To Have An Epic El Nido Getaway? Let Me Count The Ways

Featured

Tags

, , , , ,

So four beach babies went to El Nido for the first time and they only had a day and a half to make the most of their well-deserved vacation.

With so many island-hopping options and secret/remote/virgin beaches to choose from (and not so unlimited budget), let me count the ways to have an epic El Nido getaway with your best buddies.

1. On your first night, hang out at Habibi Restaurant and Shisha Cafe.  This is a charming beach side bar with an interesting mix of people.  It is a good place to pick up that laid-back island vibe plus they serve yummy drinks.

A toast to the oldies who chose coffee over cocktails

A toast to the oldies who chose coffee over cocktails

2. Early to bed and totally sober, get up the next day and eat a heavy breakfast.  Head to your designated boat and prepare for some island hopping.

Since it was our first time, we opted for Tour A which was a pretty good initiation to a lifetime love affair with El Nido.

Tour A: Shimizu Island, Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Seven Commandos Beach.

The limestone cliffs were so breathtaking, I couldn’t decide whether to bring out my camera and click away or just take everything in and bask in the glorious view.

elnido-2

As you go further into the ocean, prepare to get more transfixed.

Serene Small Lagoon

Serene Small Lagoon

3. Bring your snorkeling gear so you can play with the fishes

elnido-3

Snorkeling at Shimizu Island

4. Don’t forget to get silly with your friends as the boat docks at the Secret Lagoon and Mr. Boatman prepares your picnic lunch.

Everyone doing their own thing at the Secret Lagoon

Everyone doing their own thing at the Secret Lagoon (Panorama view)

5. After an amazing and tiring day in the ocean, explore the town center and reward yourself with a great dinner.  I highly recommend Squidos, affordable and delicious.  And teeming with loud but cute tourists. Heee.

Since we only had a half day left in El Nido the next day, it won’t be logical to book another tour since almost all packages require one full day to finish so…

6. Look for a willing tricycle driver to take you to the snug hideaway known as Nacpan and Calitang Twin Beaches (this is normally part of Tour E).  Negotiate and you might get a deal for half the tour price. Also, don’t forget to give him a decent tip.

The next morning, he fetched us from our resort and we endured a bumpy hour-long ride to this “secret” beach.  Our jaws literally dropped when this greeted us…

elnido-11A gorgeous, deserted beach with powdery white sand and calm clear waters.  Most blogs recommend climbing up a certain hill to get the full view of the twin beaches.  Breathtaking that may be, we simply didn’t have the time and energy so we did what any normal crazy group of friends would actually do…

BEACH YOGA!

BEACH YOGA!

And gossip, swim, laugh for an hour or so…

elnido-8

Not bad for a first time in El Nido.

 

Saigon, You Have My Heart

Tags

, , ,

I am so enamored of Saigon’s beauty, it inspired me to write again. And no, it’s not just the city’s facade and great food, it’s the resilient and unpretentious people, with their fascinating culture and history that captivated this wanderer’s heart. While many places have caught my eye, only a few have made a lasting impact on my soul (I’m dramatic like that). I’m grateful to have experienced this kind of high. Traveling over material things, always.

Ho Cho Minh City, formerly called Saigon, is one of the most interesting cities I’ve been to.  Despite being a progressive city, the people are still deeply rooted to their heritage.  I am so fascinated with their culture, I opted to immerse myself in their everyday routine instead of going to the usual touristy spots.  OK, I did a bit of the touristy thing but just because those worth-seeing places are not far from each other.

And the food…don’t get me started with the food! Everything is just so good, from the street food to the restaurant dishes.  No wonder Anthony Bourdain keeps coming back to Vietnam.

We started our day with an early morning walk and a lot of death-defying street crossing towards Ben Thanh market.

hcm-1

It was in a little stall (out of a thousand stalls) where we tasted the best pho in the world. And after a dozen or so restaurants, even pricey ones, nothing can still beat this winning bowl of spicy seafood pho.

hcm-5

After breakfast, we wandered into the colorful alleys of the market.  I could stay in Ben Thanh market the whole day.

Vietnam's famous lacquerware

Vietnam’s famous lacquerware

Did I mention that their coffee is out of this world?

hcm-20

We promised to go back to the market before flying home as we wanted to explore the city on our first day.  We gamely walked the streets, occasionally stopping to buy a cup of coffee (and banh mi) from interesting local shops. No Starbucks please!

hcm-14

I also noticed that the Vietnamese people love art.  There were a lot of shops selling paintings, reproduced art pieces with varying themes from landscapes to heroism.

hcm-65

Deeper downtown, we stopped by the War Remnants Museum.  It was an experience that I could not forget because everything in it was so heartbreaking.  But it was also here that I began to understand the history and culture of Vietnam. And I truly admire the resilience of its people considering that the Vietnam War only happened in recent history.

Moving on to the brighter side of things, we did the obligatory stopovers to famous Ho Chi Minh City landmarks – Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral, Reunification Palace, Saigon Central Post Office, People’s Committee Hall, The Opera House and even the old Rex Hotel.

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

People's Committee Hall

People’s Committee Hall

It was fun and all but what happened in between those stopovers were far more interesting.

Like seeing these newlyweds running in the middle of a downpour…

hcm-30

Chitchatting with the friendly coconut guy…

hcm-3And having to wear raincoats instead of using an umbrella amidst the heavy rain.  Umbrellas are for the fainthearted.

hcm-41

These unexpected moments truly endeared the city to me, something that can never be written into any itinerary.  Thank you, Saigon.  I’ll be back soon.