Sunday, November 18, 2012

Best One... So Far

Where do I even begin? I dread writing about our latest trip because first, it was so awesome I'm not sure if words will be able to give justice to it, and second, photos don't even match the real thing! I don't even have decent photos to match what I've seen so forgive me if I'll just blabber with words about them. And now I'm struggling to blog but what the hell, the experience is still crisp in my mind and it will stay such for a lifetime. 

So where was my recent trip you may ask? The island of Camiguin *smiling while typing it*. Aaaah.. such a beautiful place! Okay okay, I admit, Sagada, for me, is still the most beautiful place ever, but let me explain why I tagged this one as the best trip so far. 2 words -- the experience! It was one hell of an adventure. Me and my husband loved the fact that motorcycle rental is a very big thing in that island. Can you imagine... the locals there offer their motorcycles on random tourists for a very affordable fee. After paying, they'll give the keys and will let you have it for an agreed time frame. Some of them don't even have cellphones, they'll just wait for you after you used it on the agreed time and place. They are unbelievably trusting! Yes it's an island, stealing it and transporting it outside will require a huge amount of effort, but hey, there are a lot of strategic con men who can take advantage of that scenario (duh, I'm so cynical). 

But let's begin with Day 0 first. Our Manila - Lumbia (CDO) flight was scheduled 7:15pm. We arrived very early to make sure we won't miss it. Guess what, flight got delayed. That is the start of our adventure. Because of that delay, we weren't able to go out of Lumbia airport perimeters because jeepneys, which we intended to take (cabs are always not an option), are no longer available during late nights. We had a little chat with a kind local vendor and asked where to find the nearest hotel. She said her neighbor has a transient house for only 300/head. Why not, we just needed to stay for the night. So we went there and uhmm, I don't want to sound mean and maarte, but it's just not what I had in mind. Yes, I adore cheap finds, but they have to be at least decent. And this one is not quite. A dirty restroom is my number one pet peeve, I can hold my pee for several hours just to avoid them. This one is beyond averagely dirty. I think you'll disgust me if I continued to elaborate so let's move on. 

Since we weren't able to go out of Lumbia, our itinerary had to change completely. We originally planned to visit Ma. Christina and Tinago Falls on day 1, but us, still being on point zero, it's just not feasible. We have to be on the port going to Camiguin before 5pm to catch the last ferry. I have pre-booked our hotel so yeah, we can't afford to stay somewhere else and pay for another night. So instead of going to Iligan, which is miles and miles away from Cagayan de Oro, we just went to Camiguin early. 

After two jeepney rides (one of them is weirdly half-full of firewoods but we still rode it anyway), a 3-hour-butt-numbing-nonstop-ordinary bus ride (which got broken somewhere and had to transfer us to a multicab (which has a huge videoke-quality speaker blasting right above my head), and a 1 hour barge ride, we finally arrived at Camiguin. We left the transient house at 5 am and arrived at 1pm, go figure. 

Upon arrival, we had our lunch at the very first carinderia we saw. Local food is great! Someone approached my husband offering his motorcycle for rent. For a whole day, he initially priced it at 600 Php. They ended up agreeing at 400 Php, he also offered to take us to our hotel after we ate in exchange for gas (120pesos), nice deal since we will be using that gas anyway. We agreed on a schedule. He will bring the motorcycle the next day at exactly 8am and will pick it up at 5pm. 

We checked-in at GV Hotel, a very decent budget accommodation right in the heart of Camiguin's capital, Mambajao. Since I have already pre-booked it online, transaction was very quick and smooth. For only 530 Php/night, the room already had an en suite comfort room, cable TV and aircon, basic yet very needed amenities. Upon reaching our it, we didn't even laid our backs because the bed was very comfy and I didn't want us to doze off.We instantly planned our itinerary instead. The guy we contracted earlier for his motorcycle didn't have a cellphone. We thought of doing a half day tour so we asked the lobbyist if he knew someone who can lend us one. He then surprisingly gave us keys, saying his workmate has a motorcycle. We didn't even meet the owner. We just used it. People there, again, are unbelievably awesome. 

Our first stop was the famous Katibawasan Falls. It was not along the main road but reaching it without a guide was not a problem because first, we had a map. Second, locals are so helpful. Third, the road signs are very efficient. Entrance fee is 15 Pesos.

Lovely waterfalls!

It was a very serene place. The waterfalls itself was quiet and peaceful. We stayed there for a little while, soaking in all the wonders of nature. As I always say to myself, these little moments on these perfect places, will always affirm God's presence. These little moments are life's best ones.

It was nearing dusk when we left but we still have another spot to visit. Along the way, we spotted a lady selling barbecue so we stopped by and tried their version of it. It was the same as ours only that they also sell barbecued bananas (saging saba) which they brush with margarine and sugar. Two pieces of those only cost 3 Php, can you imagine a 3- Peso miryenda which is enough to fill you?

After that quick stop, we arrived at our destination - Ardent Spring. It's a resort with heated pools due to springs coming from the sides of Hibok Hibok volcano. Entrance fee is 30 Pesos, yes 30 Pesos, for a series of hot springs. How awesome is that?

Black and White Drama
I didn't have a photo of the place because it was getting dark and we can't have decent shots but trust me, it's a pretty place. It was so relaxing it calmed my tired body from the unforgiving public transport. I didn't wanna go but we had to eventually. 

We went back to our hotel and met the owner of the motorcycle. He charged us 250 for a half day rental. We explored Mambajao came night time. It was just 7:30pm but the heart of the city was almost empty of people. It was surprising. We ate at a local barbekyuhan. The owner was so warm she even told us the recipe of her home made longganisang Bisaya. I'm from Pampanga, where longganisa is our pride, but they have their own take and it's equally good.

Let me summarize our Days 0 and 1 with our waypoints and expenses (you may click the blue icons for more info):

View CDO - Camiguin in a larger map

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Family Getaway - Boracay Island

Me and my husband had some handful of impromptu travels recently. It's fun, liberating and spontaneous. Budget is the number one concern though. We travel cheap and not having an itinerary comes with downsides. There were times we suddenly have to scrimp on budget then be forced to eat cheap carinderia foods, walk some kilometers or take crazy amounts of public transportation. But it's cool, it's just the two of us anyway. We don't mind the hassle of at all.

Although it may sound exciting, I still strongly believe it pays to research, research, research. I do it every time I have a chance. Though spontaneous travels are very fun, nothing beats the joy and excitement of planning just by seeing your future travel unveil itself piece by piece even if you're still some weeks away from it. My last one was a perfect example.

It was a family vacation (with both of my parents and my brother), I had to make their convenience the priority. I booked everything online. Tickets, transfers (our flight was Clark - Kalibo) and accommodation. I scored the tickets from Air Asia airlines with an amazing total of of 3584.00 Pesos for 5 persons, all-in including online processing fee, fuel and tax. Since we live 15 minutes away from Clark airport, we brought our own car and got their park and fly service (90 Pesos per day).

I booked our transfers with Southwest Tours, Kalibo is still approx. 3 hours away from Boracay. I gotta say, I was impressed with their smooth transaction. I talked to them through email and I didnt 't even pay any reservation or downpayment fee. When we got to Kalibo airport, I was pleased to see my name on the white board held by one of their employee. We did not feel any stress at all even though we've been through a loooot of different transports (van - boat - car - walk). The van was all ours. It was new and clean. All-in fee was 1045 Pesos per head which includes 2-way transfers, terminal and environmental fees and a surcharge for our very early departure. I have to give myself a high five for it was very convenient and hassle free.

I also pre-booked our accommodation online. I chose Tan's Guest house because of its good reviews. It did not fail my expectation. I just love love love people who answers emails! It's the most convenient mode of communication for me and it impresses me when companies, especially the small ones, reply. I got to talk to Ms. Net and she quoted 2,500 Pesos/night for a big family room, with complete amenities and breakfast. Not bad for a family of 5. So it's a go! We'll be staying for 2 nights so I deposited half of the total amount on Ms. Net's bank account. Upon sending her the money, she immediately sent me a printable confirmation. Very smooth and simple. By the way, the guest house is conveniently located near the beach. It's not exactly beach front but it's just a couple of minutes walk. Really, not bad at all!

Good thing I did not book any tour in advance. When we got there, vendors immediately flocked us offering us their services and items. We entertained those who offered usual activities like helmet diving, snorkeling and the like, and waited for the lowest bidder, lol. We got Kuya Joey's services (09996537269) since he offered decent prices (though we heard cheaper offers eventually, but oh well). His rates were: 250/head for helmet diving, 700/head for parasailing, 250/snorkel set and 1000/boat for the island hopping. I have read from last year's threads and blog posts having these rates too, so not bad, no inflation yet, hahah.

Everything went out smoothly, I felt fulfilled having it all arranged in advance. Boracay is a very touristy spot. You'll be literally spending twice or thrice the real amount should you haven't known a thing about it. 

Now it's time to enjoy the island!

Lunch at 888 restaurant. Oh forgive me for gushing over a lobster. It was my first time, lol.
I did this sponge nail art inspired by Boracay's famous sunset. And yes, my nails are extremely short.
Too sad... can you spot a plastic bag of garbage over there?
The water is just oh so perfect!
I can stay here the whole day, everyday.
It was a gloomy/rainy day, but fun nevertheless! First time to parasail too, we felt like spies reversely parachuting, lol.

We also did helmet diving, snorkling and island hopping. All those water activities somehow lessened my fear of fishes. I can co-exist with them on water now. Before, when I see fishes near the shore, I run. I run like crazy while screaming in utmost panic. Well now I can already go near them, I still can't touch them though, but at least it's a major improvement. I still can't imagine having a fish spa though - that would kill me :/