Monday, November 19, 2012

Travel Photography #5: Portulano Dive Resort

Portulano Resort

A dive resort located in Anilao, Bauan Batangas, Philippines. The resort is only accessible by boat. The outrigger boat in the photo ferries guests and can also be rented for SCUBA and snorkeling trips. Gear can be rented at the resort. The Anilao and Verde Island passages are regarded as the center of the Philippines marine biodiversity.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Travel Photography #4: Cagsawa Ruins, Philippines

Cagsawa Ruins
Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga Albay, Bicol Philippines.

With Mayon volcano in the background.

When Mayon volcano erupted in 1814, this small town church in Daraga Albay was buried in lava and volcanic debris together with the majority of the townspeople who sought refuge in the church. Only the church's bell tower is visible above ground. Now a popular (and eerie I might add if you think about the remains of the townspeople buried under your feet) tourist destination.

Mayon volcano was a bit shy the day we went there, refusing to get out of the clouds.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review #2: Casa del Rio Melaka Hotel, Melaka Malaysia

Central Fountain Area, Casa del Rio Melaka Hotel
Comfortable bed
One of the best hotels I have ever been to. And I’m not exaggerating. From the moment we went in the reception area, we were greeted by courteous staff that instead of sitting in front of the desk to check-in, we were asked to follow him to the lounge/gazebo areas beside the fountain and were asked to please sit and relax and be comfortable while eating sorbet and drinking cool drinks. Now that is the way hotel guests should be treated. Considering the price compared to neighboring hotels however, I think this type of service does come with a premium but I think it is well worth it.

Our booking was for Deluxe Lago with Breakfast.

The Room:
We were 3 people in total so they added a small cot besides the big comfortable bed. There is a balcony overlooking the fountain area where you can relax and enjoy the view. The room was very spacious even with the extra cot. I think the Wi-Fi was free not entirely sure though since I have an unlimited data on my Smartphone. The bathroom was very nice featuring a separate glass enclosed shower stall and a bathtub. The bathroom can be opened in such a way that the person in the bathtub can see the room (and the television I suppose) which is fine for couples but for our case, I had to repeatedly check the doors and windows are closed before taking  a bath. There is a walk in closet which serves as another entrance to the bathroom. The usual mini ref, tea/coffee services are present and there is quite a number of English channels in the cable TV (also local if you prefer that). The bed and pillows were very comfortable. I couldn’t say anything about the cot however since I haven’t slept there.

One of the things we enjoyed was discovering small notes all over the room like explaining what a small notebook is for those younger generations who might not know what it is used for (tongue in cheek humor) or about the weather forecast for the next day and the hotel activities that the guests might be interested in.

Bathroom with separate shower and bathtub
One of the main selling point of this hotel is the proximity to the historical sites and other attractions such as museums and the ferry tour. The view is also very nice since it is located by the riverside. Driving to the hotel can be confusing since you need to know which bridge you should cross in order to go to the other side of the river (do not let this discourage you however since I am admittedly very bad when it comes to driving directions even with a GPS navigator!). It is right beside Jonker Street which has the famous night market although we learned that the street is only closed to cars during the weekends so we did not see the usual hustle and bustle of tourists trying to browse through the different items the stalls has to offer. Jonker Street is also the place where you will find the famous Chicken Rice Balls restaurant.

Breakfast was very good but as a friend told me, Melaka is known also for their local cuisine so if you want to truly experience what the local food shops have to offer then it might be best to eat your breakfast someplace else. Our reservations came with breakfast so we took advantage of it during our stay. Breakfast is served at the main restaurant at the ground floor of the hotel. They asked us to pick a main dish of our choice and we could also get anything from the buffet. The food was very well presented and tasted quite good. The buffet offered a few interesting items that I was curious enough to try but the selection is not that extensive compared to some hotels I have been to.

During our stay we also tried eating at their café by the riverside. I just had a burger and my companions shared a noodle dish between themselves. The food was just OK (I enjoyed the burger) but I think the service is very good.

Pool Area
Parking is waived for hotel guests. You surrender your parking ticket to the staff and your hotel card will act as a proximity card to open the parking gates. At check out they will provide a special access ticket that will open the gate.

Pool Area
The pool area is quite nice and when I visited at night after a very tiring day of walking, it was deserted. It is located at the rooftop of the hotel and it is quite interesting since the edge of the pool seems to go over the edge of the building – sort of like an infinity design with one side of the pool at the very edge of the building. There is also an open space in the rooftop which  I believe could serve as a venue for a function.

Overall Impression:
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I really did enjoy staying at this hotel. The service was top notch,  the facilities were outstanding and the location is the best among the hotels in the area. The price may be a little steep though so it is recommended to watch out for promotions. I rate this hotel as highly recommended.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Travel Photography #3: Sabtang Lighthouse, Sabtang Batanes Philippines

Lighthouse in Sabtang Island of the Batanes group of islands in Northern Philippines
One of the most beautiful places I have visited. Batanes in general is just full of picturesque places. Watch out for my full article about Batanes as a holiday destination.

Travel Photography #2: Statue on a bridge in Paris

Listening for the sea

Review #1: Adeline's Villa - Gopeng, Perak Malaysia

Bird's eye view of the main dining area

Located in Gopeng, Perak Malaysia,  Adeline's Villa is a cozy resort compound in the midst of lush trees and vegetation and picturesque mountains. The roads leading to the resort are narrow and treacherous that vehicles need to continuously sound their horn to warn other motorists that may be coming from the opposing direction of the one lane mountain road. Durian trees can be seen on the roadside and I did not mind riding at the back of a pickup truck since it offered an unobstructed view of the mountainside. On arrival, we were greeted with friendly people and one of them was Adeline herself.

Wash your own dishes please!
The food is great and is served buffet style. I especially liked the barbecue with a nice selection of Satay and grilled lamb and the seafood dishes cooked in the local way. They ring a bell to announce that the food is ready and if your tired and hungry from Jungle trekking, white water rafting, cave exploring or whatever, you would look forward to hearing that pleasant sound. Interestingly, you are expected to wash your own dishes. I was surprised about that at first but it is just one of those things that contribute to the whole experience of being there.

Dormitory style accommodations 
Accommodations are basic but clean and orderly. You can rent a small hut good for 2 or a big villa that can house 10. The one we stayed at (the big villa for 10) was air-conditioned but I'm not sure if all of the accommodations are (you may inquire directly using the contact numbers in their website).

Surroundings are great for relaxation

At night you will hear nocturnal animals and insects doing their nightly orchestra so if you are not used to hearing that it might be disconcerting especially with all of the lights are out.

Overall, I was quite pleased with my stay in this resort and would definitely recommend this place to others.