Archive for the ‘Wanderlust’ Category

Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa is located in Marinduque, Philippines. The island could be accessed directly via private helicopters. There are also chartered flights and luxury yachts from Manila to Marinduque. Our group however took the cheaper route and hopped on a commercial flight to mainland Marinduque.

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From the airport, we were transferred to the town of Lipata, where Bellarocca is located. Our flight was delayed by a few hours but the guest service staff were patiently waiting with water, cold towels, and our private vans when we arrived.

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After around 40 minutes, we arrived at the marina where we got to have our first view of Bellarocca which literally translates to “Beautiful Rock”. One could immediately see the resemblance of the design to Santorini.

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We then had to board a speed boat for a brief 5-minute ride to the island. On the dock were more hotel staff waiting for our arrival. We were welcomed with a beautiful local song and leis made out of indigenous materials.

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Then we were whisked off on a golf cart to the resort’s front desk where a refreshing drink (and more cold towels) await us. A personnel gave a short briefing of the island and its amenities, and which amenities come free with our accommodation.

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After the orientation, we were led to our rooms where a personal note and fruit platter welcomed us. We were in four separate rooms and I was bunking with Anna. I loved our bed, especially the soft pillows.

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After settling down, we went to the restaurant to have our lunch. While waiting for our food to be served, we wandered around and checked out the entertainment area. We played a couple rounds of intense Foosball until our hands felt bare from all the twisting and turning. We also saw DVDs that are free for guests to borrow – I got a copy of The Beach as I actually haven’t gotten around to finishing that movie.

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Soon after, we went back to the restaurant for our lunch. Every meal at Bellarocca starts off with their bread rolls which we loved so much, but sadly I do not have a photo of. I shared the grilled seafood platter with Neri and it filled us up nicely. The food in the resort is priced higher than usual restaurants but that is to be expected in a luxury resort.

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After our lunch, we jumped back on the golf carts (no, we didn’t get to drive 😦 ) for a tour of the island and other private villas. We stopped at a villa where John Lloyd Cruz apparently stayed before. It had its own private pool with a sweeping view of the surrounding water. I especially loved the bathroom which is equipped with a jacuzzi. Fancy!

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We moved on to the seaside swimming pool where lots of water activities could be availed. We mostly just checked out what it had to offer and planned to go back the next day.

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We circled back to the hotel and decided to swim in the lap pool while having a drink and some chips. We were hoping to catch the sunset but failed terribly because the view was obstructed by the hotel LOL. The sky was pretty though.

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When it got cold and dark, we retired to our own rooms to wash up for dinner. The restaurant is beautifully lit at night. I cannot find other food photos so I do not remember exactly what we had. But I’m sure we still enjoyed the rolls haha. After dinner, we convened in one room and played charades til wee hours of the morning.

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The next day, we asked to be dropped off at the seaside pool where we lounged and swam to our hearts’ content. We also asked our lunch to be served at the seaside pavilion so we do not have to drive to the hotel restaurant and back to the pool again. After siesta and some drinks, we kayaked and snorkeled until we got all wrinkly from staying in the water for so long.

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As if that was not enough physical activity, we decided to climb up the highest point of the island. At this point, two of our friends begged off and retired to their room to rest instead.

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Our dinner was an indulgence because it was our last main meal in the island. We had a repeat of the delicious Crispy Pata which we loved during lunch and a number of other dishes (incomplete photos again).

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After dinner, we retired to the cigar room for some drinks and karaoke! There were two other groups when we got there which was quite a surprise since we barely ran into other guests during our stay. Guess everybody loves karaoke, eh?

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The next morning, we had to bid our goodbyes to the beautiful island and the very attentive hotel staff. A group of staff event sent us off with their now familiar friendly waves.

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I loved our brief stay at Bellarocca and if given the chance (and budget), I would go back to the island in an instant.

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During my last trip to Baguio, I got to try out a couple of restaurants for the first time. First on the line is Vizco’s Restaurant and Cake Shop. It is located along Session Road so upon alighting a Victory Liner bus, we simply trekked a short way from the terminal to the restaurant.

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It’s a good thing that they were open early enough for us to grab some breakfast, or else we would have ended up at one of the 24-hour operating fast food chains. All their -silog meals are served with free coffee, which is a good way to warm up in a cold Baguio morning. Their breakfast meals range between Php100-Php125, which is not too bad I think. However, they all tasted pretty average, nothing special to write about.

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While reading up some online reviews of this restaurant, almost every article raves about their Strawberry Shortcake. There are whole cakes on display along with other flavors, but to be quite honest, I only had my eyes on this beauty.

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And even though it was not even 8 in the morning, we couldn’t help but order a slice of their Strawberry Shortcake. To be fair, that’s just one slice among the three of us so I didn’t feel too guilty about having cake so early in the day.

Strawberry cake with fresh strawberry filling, icing and glazed topping – this is how it was described in the menu. It was heavenly! It was perfectly creamy, not too sweet, and the strawberries tasted fresh and juicy. And a slice is only worth Php80. Such a steal!

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If you ever find yourself along Session Road, go ahead and pay Vizco’s a visit. And never leave the restaurant without trying out their Strawberry Shortcake.

The Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Fine Arts Museum is only a few blocks away from the famous Ben Thanh Market. After our filling breakfast inside Ben Thanh Market, we lugged our bags and made our way to the museum. Towards the same direction is Le Cong Kieu Street, a whole strip of stores selling antiques. It was still too early for our visit as most of the stores were still closed. Those that are open had moody owners who shooed us away when we tried to take photos. LOL OK then. Moving on…

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The Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City is one of the largest fine arts centers of Vietnam. The building that houses the museum is a yellow-white grand colonial-era mansion that is a combination of French and Chinese styles.

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The museum covers three floors and it focuses on collecting, keeping, preserving and displaying fine artworks typical of Vietnamese people, especially of Ho Chi Minh City.

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The first floor hosts rotating exhibits of domestic and international contemporary art. The second floor is where paintings and sculptures of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese artists are displayed. The third floor holds a collection of historic art ranging from the 7th to early 20th century.

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I was quite impressed with the variety of mother-of-pearl inlaid woods on display. There were also lots of interesting woodcut paintings and wood sculptures.Below are some of my favorites.

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And for some reason, I am quite drawn to anything with faces of elder-looking men and women. Below are some carvings and sculptures with hauntingly beautiful faces.

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And then there are these heart-wrenching family themed sculptures. They’re not necessarily all sad-looking but I guess I just associate it with war and death and the separation it inevitably brings.

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And below are some of my favorite paintings and caricatures which focus on the Vietnamese resistance to various colonial rulers. I especially loved that of a woman supposedly in the middle of a battle. Girl power!

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As I mentioned above, the first floor is home to rotating galleries of various artists. During our visit, artworks of local children were on display. Isn’t the one on top just creepy? Haha. What could have inspired a little kid to draw bodies floating down a river?

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Finally, I feel like this certain image is what Vietnam is most popular of. I am now so pissed off that I did not buy a painting featuring a Vietnamese woman. Maybe when I go back *fingers crossed*

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Entrance fee to the HCMC Fine Arts Museum is only at 10,000 Vietnamese Dong (only around Php21) so it is a shame to pass up on a really cheap and entertaining side trip.

Have you been to the HCMC Fine Arts Museum? What were your favorites?

According to history, The Diplomat Hotel used to be a vacation house and a seminary way back in the 1900s. It was established by the Dominican Order hence the hill where the hotel is perched is called Dominican Hill. By the time the vacation house was constructed in 1915, it was considered as the grandest and most extravagant stone structure in Baguio where most of the houses are still made up of wood.

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During the World War II, the place witnessed gruesome deaths when it was occupied by fleeing refugees from the Japanese Army. The Japanese forces bombed the place and its surrounding area causing extensive damage but soon after the war, reconstruction started and the building was later restored.

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In 1973, Diplomat Hotels, Inc. acquired the property and turned it into a 33-room hotel. Whilst the interior was remodeled, the exterior and overall character of the building was retained.

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The hotel was under the management of Tony Agpaoa, a Baguio-based spiritual healer. Diplomat Hotel ceased its operation and was closed to the public after Agpaoa’s untimely death in 1982. The structure eventually fell into neglect and disrepair.

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Local residents claim that The Dominican Hotel is now a haunted place. People who live nearby attest to sometimes hearing banging of doors and windows, despite the fact that the hotel does not have doors nor windows anymore.

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At times in the middle of the night, voices of people screaming and sometimes laughing could be heard. In other times, headless apparitions are seen. Folks say that this could be the ghosts of nuns and priests who were beheaded during the World War II.

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On the upper façade of the building overlooking the city, there remained the 12-feet Gyronny cross of the Dominican Order sitting on a pedestal.

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These days, it has now turned to a favorite site among local photographers and tourists due to its nice location and vantage point.

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It is also flocked by ghost hunters and thrill seekers who are brave enough to go to the place at night to check if it is really haunted. I am not brave enough to go there alone but maybe it would be a fun adventure with friends (and alcohol, copious amount of alcohol LOL).

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Kind of out of topic and what looks like a fairly new addition in the area is the biggest Ten Commandments Tablet that I have ever seen in my life.

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If you ever go to Baguio (or have been to Baguio several times), a quick trip to The Diplomat Hotel could be an exciting addition to your Baguio itinerary. You wouldn’t regret it, I know I don’t.

The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival usually takes place during February of every year. Hordes of people troop all the way to Pampanga to attend an array of week-long activities. Last 2012 was the first and the last time (so far) that I was able to witness this festivity.

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Upon entering Clark Freeport Zone, you could immediately see all sorts of blown-up merchandising materials scattered all around.

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Deeper into the activity grounds are numerous stalls selling kites, balloons and lots of other souvenirs and food for the spectator’s consumption. I love how colorful the miniature balloons are, it adds so much to the festive vibe of the whole surroundings.

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Full-size air crafts are also on display. I especially loved the little plane that looked like a shark from the side. Cute! For additional impact, men in uniform roam the grounds and a lot of people (mostly girls) take advantage of the opportunity to take pictures with the men in aviators. (Is it just me or do men really look better when they’re wearing aviators? LOL)

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In a covered area, there are more military/navy items on display. This is where two men, who I assume as soldiers, offered to let me take a photo with their big-ass gun. That was cool! But man, that thing was heavy! LOL. Coincidentally, my boots just completes the look noh?

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In the main activity grounds, different exhibitions are going on round-the-clock. Seriously, it really was a weekend of everything that flies. It was quite amusing to just lay down on the grounds and stare up at the sky.

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When it begins to get dark, they pull out the big guns. And by big guns I mean big balloons. It’s exciting to witness flat sheets of colorful thingamajigs get blown up into huge balloons.

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The yellow one was HUUUUUUUGE but I liked the orange better.

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Sadly though, the weather wasn’t cooperating too well. It was quite windy and it began to drizzle just as soon as the first two balloons were blown up. It didn’t take too long for an accident to happen – the orange balloon caught on fire and that pushed them to cancel the Hot Air Balloon Exhibition. What a bummer!!! We waited whole day for nothing. 😦

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It’s such a shame that they had to cancel the main event due to the uncooperative weather. Just imagine how pretty the sky would have been if it was filled with huge, illuminating balloons. Oh well…

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This year’s Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival takes place on February 12-15 2015, and will still be in Clark Pampanga. So grab a date and plan your schedule! For a list of activities, you could refer to this link http://www.philballoonfest.net/flying-activities/

I have heard so many good things about Cafe by the Ruins from friends and other bloggers. This made me even more excited to try it out. So excited that I didn’t even care if I was going to dine there alone on my solo trip to Baguio.

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Right after getting off the bus, I immediately hailed a cab and asked to be dropped off at Cafe by the Ruins. It wasn’t too long til I was seated at a table and perusing their quite extensive menu.

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I didn’t get to roam around the restaurant because I was quite hesitant to leave my things unattended. But this is the view from where I was seated. Most of the tables near the kitchen were filled, mostly by families. While I sat quietly in the distant, forever alone. LOL!

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I was quite hungry and really cold so I wanted to have something warm and filling and their Pinikpikan seemed like the perfect choice. Pinikpikan is a chicken soup used in rituals in the Cordillera region. I think the chicken is killed in a special way where they keep tapping (pikpik) it with some hard object until it dies (this sounds so morbid LOL). I heard this is also what turns the meat of the chicken to a dark color.

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It was served with a cup of red mountain rice which was a little too wet for my liking but I still ate it all up anyway because I was really hungry. The Pinikpikikan meal comes at Php320, a little pricey but most of the dishes in Cafe by the Ruins are around this price range.

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I decided to get the Strawberry Soda at Php120 for my drinks. It’s simply soda water mixed with strawberry syrup.

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I really enjoyed my first meal at Cafe by the Ruins and I vowed to go back to try their freshly baked breads.

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I didn’t plan on making a separate entry for this restaurant but I remember how happy we felt to have found a place to eat good Thai food at a very cheap price (relative to Phuket’s prices.) Suksabai Restaurant is just a few blocks away from our hotel, Rambuttri Village Inn.  We didn’t know anything about this place before choosing to eat here so our food were all happy accidents.

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Lorraine had this spicy seafood pasta dish. We were all quite surprised to see this type of pasta because we are used to using macaroni shells on our desserts here in the Philippines. The dish packed a lot of spice, a good way to perk us up before we go out to explore Bangkok. It could have used a tad more seafood slices if you ask me, but Lorraine seemed to be content with her dish.

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Allan opted for the seafood fried rice. It was also quite tasty and really spicy. Allan didn’t even bother ordering another dish because this was rice + viand in one, they were quite generous with the shrimp and fish pieces. 

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I on the other hand, being the soup addict that I am, had to get something with well… soup. LOL. It was very hot that day but I just couldn’t help myself. I don’t even understand this addiction haha. My food was also quite good! The soup was hearty, the chicken slices were tender and the veggies tasted fresh. I loved it!

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Suksabai Restaurant is a nice place to hang out and people watch since it is just right on the side of the road. The atmosphere was really nice and I heard they have live music in the evening. Sounds like fun!

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