Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Laid Back Langkawi

Langkawi is a laid back island in the north eastern part of Malaysia. Next to Penang, it is perhaps the most visited island in the Islamic state. It is a well-known island destination in the region, where you can find a lot of high end resorts. The Datai, one of the top resorts in the world is located exclusively on Datai Bay north of the island.

Upon arrival, we immediately hired a Proton Sedan for us to get around. We were surprised at the price we bargained for! Imagine, just 2,000 pesos for 3 days! Of course, without the gas, but that was one of the best car rental deals I have had.

The Langkawi Lagoon Resort was our home for 2 nights. It was a beautiful resort and was affordable. We stayed at the hotel part of the resort that cost us roughly P3,500 a night. It had a nice view of the ocean and the swimming pool. The room was huge and even had a kitchen facility. You can't find anything like that here in the Philippines I think.

Langkawi doesn't know time. It is such an idyllic island that it's so easy to relax and spend a real vacation here. The island is also duty free, so shopping is supposedly cheap. There are two malls in Kuah Town, the center, and a very nice port that looks like an airport as well. Food was excellent, especially the seafood. The most notable restaurants can be found along the beach road of Pantai Cenang, the most popular beach.

Pantai Cenang is a wide beach with silky white sand. There are a lot of beach resorts and seaside cafes here. The water was not as clear as those in our country and Thailand. However, it was so peaceful here, that you didn't mind if the shore wasn't the best. There are watersports available as well.

We then visited the Oriental Village, which was the location of the Cable Car as well. The Oriental Village was an Asian village, divided into clusters. There were Thai, Japanase, Balinese and of course Malaysian sections (no Filipino). Shops and restaurants formed the tourist village.

But the reason why most people go to the Oriental Village is to take the Cable Car going up the mountain to the Suspension Bridge that gives a breathtaking view of Langkawi. You could see almost the entire island from this viewpoint. It was amazing.

There is another beach that I had to go to, which is secluded and a jump off point for the Mangrove Tours in the island. The beach is called Tangung Rhu. It is supposed have to have the best sunsets in Langkawi, and is the home of the high end resorts. The beach was also wide and the sand was softer than in Cenang.

Finally, the Mangrove Tour. We bargained our way and got a boat tour for around 3 hours at P1,500. We maneuvered our speedboat through great views of the river.

We witnessed the feeding of eagles which were abound in Langkawi, making it their symbol.

After a scenic boat ride, we glanced upon sail boats and fishing boats near a small village by the river. We had a stopover in Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurant, where we were given the chance to feed stingrays!

The mangrove tour was excellent, very peaceful and inspiring. You really appreciate nature with this tour. At the end of the tour, we were treated to a nice sunset by Tangung Rhu.

Langkawi is truly an island getaway. Its natural beauty is well preserved and the tourist development is worth commending. I would go back to Langkawi just to escape and let time take a step back.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Roaming KL

Kuala Lumpur is growing on me. When I first came here two years ago, I thought it was a boring city. I just visited the KL Tower, the Petronas and Bukit Bintang. I was only there for 2 days. I came back the next year with my daughter, and still went to the same places. Recently I was there for 3 days, now on my own without any agenda. This post is not about KL but more about the snack times I had. Some famous restaurants I patronize in Malaysia are Secret Recipe (now here in Manila) and Seed (which is a cafe of the same clothing brand). I am not such a fan of Malaysian food, since it's like Singapore's. I like their Rendang though and their Fried Chicken which is just like ours. What I like about this is their rice and sidings! You can never get something this complete here, at the same price as a Fully Loaded Meal in KFC.

Anyway, there's this newly opened mall, the Pavillon, along Bukit Bintang, in front of the Marriot. The mall was huge and high end. It reminded me of the Paragon in Bangkok.

There were a lot of interesting restaurants here especially on the top floor. I was jsut checking the mall out and took pictures of the restos. Wasn't able to eat here though, but I had snacks in two venues here.

LA LOT, a Vietnamse restaurant

BOSPHORUS, Mediterranean fine dining

ANGUS HOUSE, obviously a steak place

BASKIN & ROBBINS CAFE, don't know who was first, HAGEN DAAZ or THIS. Baskin's colors are so bright and cheerful, I was really drawn towards it.

BIG APPLE DONUTS AND COFFEE, like an imitation of the popular J-CO DONUTS in Singapore, Jakarta and also in KL

So, passing by these restaurants, I made my first stop, merienda at O-Cha, a green tea cafe which served fabulous green tea cheesecake. The pictures show the great texture of the cake. The green tea was excellent too. Perfect for a 2PM snack.

Next stop, the Loaf, at the same mall. It was an upscale bakery, think sosyal Breadtalk. The bread were presented well, and each looked irresistibly delicious. When in KL, try to visit this new bread cafe, something that we can take here int he Philippines. Though it may be expensive though, but I see its concept hitting well here. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy.

I moved on to Sunway Pyramid in Subang Jaya. It is the mall where Sunway Lagoon, the waterpark, is located. Near the entrance of the newly expanded mall lies a newly opened cafe that jsut caught your eye, the Friendster Cafe. I wasn't sure if it was a franchise of the social site, so I had to visit it. And yes, it was. They had two computer stations which I used for free to surf the net. Of course, the homepage was Friendster. I ordered Marble Cheesecake and an Iced Latte. The coffee and cake were average. It had few customers, and having a full Starbucks beside it, I wonder if it would last long.

We had dinner in Sunway at this restaurant which prides itself as the original chicken buffet. I forgot their name, but it was on the lowest level in Sunway just to the right of the central stairs. The chicken buffet served 3 types of chicken, fried, roasted and grilled, along with chicken fingers, chicken curry and a whole lot of other variations. There were lots of side dishes and even soup and a salad bar. There was even soft serve ice cream for dessert. All this for just roughly 250 pesos!! Again, nothing like this in Manila.

Finally, dessert. I wanted ice cream and since there was a Hagen Daaz back along Bukit Bintang, we opted to indulge there. I haven't gotten the chance to try the HD Cafe here and sample their famous fondue, so we did in KL. All I can say is, I'M GLAD WE HAVE IT HERE. This was simply the best ice cream fondue experience, if not one of the best fondue indulgences I had. Yummy.

To just make this end quick, we also had a quick buffet dinner at the Mandarin Oriental beside Suria KLCC. I mentioned quick because we only had around 30 minutes before they would close, so we had to get all the food we wanted. I simply loved their chocolate rice aka champorado (they call it bubur something). I thought Mandarin would be a safe choice for food, but unfortunately, I wasn't impressed at all in their limited buffet.

I know it's incomplete, but this was all I could take and write about. We also had dinner in Chelsea by the Park in Suria KLCC, which I always wanted to try out ever since my first visit to KL. I was disappointed though, so I would rather not say anything about it. I am also endorsing the Equator Hostel, a very clean and friendly guesthouse for young travellers on a budget like me. A bed costs 300 pesos and it was okay. So to end, if you're passing by KL, or just want to save on hotel rooms, come here and you'll find the experience more satisfying as you meet wonderful people as well.

70 Lorong 1/77A
Off Jalan Pudu


Joey Pepperoni

I finally had lunch in Joey Pepperoni along Pioneer in Mandaluyong. The casual American-Italian restaurant is located below the RFM Bldg. I was surprised to see that their menu had more than just pizza, and that it looked more like Yellow Cab mashed up with A Venetto.

I ordered their Asparagus soup which was too watery, but at least had flavor. It tasted like instant soup. Their pizza was surprisingly good. I am a fan of their thin crust which was really deserving of a rave. It was neatly thin, burnt just right and brought out the flavors of the toppings with ease. The pizza below was the Scampi Pizza.

My friend Mai also ordered Penne pasta that had a tomato-based cream sauce. It was good, but nothing spectacular. For P160 bucks, it could feed two, so it was a good bargain.

Another friend Parx ordered the Chicken Parmigiana, which was supposedly my choice. But since I don't like ordering the same dish as someone else, nor allow anyone to order the same dish as someone else as well, I changed my mind and just got the pizza I described above. The breaded chicken was just okay but the sauce was lacking in both quantity and rich tomato flavor.

I really don't write about restaurants that are I think average, but this one proved to be slightly above primarily because of the value it gives. It does make an effort to serve authentic tasting Italian dishes, and does so at affordable prices. This makes Joey Pepperoni perfect for a barkada get together on a weekday.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Talicud Island and Samal

A trip to Davao is also a trip to the Island Garden City of Samal for me. The neighboring island province makes a Davao trip just complete and more worthwhile since I am a beach lover. When people think of Davao, people think of Pearl Farm, when it is actually in Samal. I have been to Paradise Island Resort twice, being the most accessible beach from Davao City. It's so near, you could have lunch there and go back afterwards.

This time, we had the time to explore more of Samal. We didn't make any plans, so after staying at Paradise, we went back to the city to catch a ferry to Talicud Island off Samal as our ultimate destination. It was described as a rustic island paradise, with white sandy beaches and fantastic coral life.

We took a ferry to Talicud Island from Sta. Ana Port in Davao City. The boat left at 12 noon, and arrived in Talicud an hour and a half later. We were supposed to stay at Isla Reta so we took a stupid 2 minute boat ride from the port to Isla Reta, which turned out to be just beside the port. In any case, we had our boatman wait for us as we checked out the place. Isla Reta had a very nich beach and vibe, with trees lined along its shore, giving some inviting shade. However, the place lacked good accommodations, and we weren't prepared to rough it out. No food. No beddings or towels. So we had to look for another resort.

We then went to Kaputian, the center of Samal. From there, we asked around for some resorts, but there wasn't anything that was accommodating enough. The Kaputian Beach Resort, which was their public beach was full, and we were shown a bodega like room which in no way we would sleep. It was nice to see that the public beach was very well maintained. The picture below shows the white sands of Kaputian.

Fortunately, someone overheard us looking for a resort. The guy approached us and gave us a calling card of a new nearby resort, Hof Gorei, just beside the famed Pearl Farm. I called and booked a huge room for the six of us. We initially planned to explore Talicud Island, since we had limited time. Our flight was tomorrow night, and I was worried we wouldn't be able see anything. But it was already late in the afternoon, so we decided to just head straight to the resort and explore tomorrow morning.

Hof Gorei was a blessing after feeling hopeless in finding a place to stay. We were the only ones in the resort, and it was huge and beautiful. The resort was nestled on a slope which gave the colorful cottages fabulous views of the Davao Gulf. There was a restaurant, a bar and a refreshing swimming pool.

There was even a condominium type building on the very top that had a patio that made me feel I was in the Mediterranean because of its design. The fabulous Madam Jeanne Kroelle was our most gracious host and had pampered us with royalty service (imagine clapping and an attendant comes right up to you).

The barkada room could sleep 8 people, which was perfect for us. It cost us P4,000 for a night. Other rooms cost P3,500 but could only sleep a maximum of three. There was also the Leaning Hut which was perched on a hill. The place looked high end, just right for a night of relaxation after an exhausting afternoon. The food was expensive though, and not spectacular, but tolerable. There was a beach front but not really meant for swimming.

We went up Madame Jeanne's house which was under construction at that time to see the view. It was 200 steps I think up, giving us a great vantage point. You could see Pearl Farm from a distance. It was just beside Hof Gorei that you could walk the beach going there.

We explored Talicud Island the next day, heading straight to the popular Babusanta Beach. Blogs described it having crystal clear waters perfect for snorkeling. So we made sure we brought our snorkeling gear along. We arrived at Babusanta at around 10AM. The ruins of a jetty was its most prominent landmark, which gave it a sense of character.

The beach was white though the sand was not powder fine. There were a lot of natural debris on the shore and three more boats full of tourists were present. It wasn't really the rustic paradise I had imagined, since there were makeshift houses on the other beach. There were a number of fishing boats as well. However, we moved to one end of the beach and found a spot that made us feel castaway.

We had a hearty lunch of grilled fish that we bought from the fishermen. We left around 2PM to snorkel in the reefs nearby. The water was clear indeed, but was very very disappointed when a stream of trash made its way to the reefs. Again, another wake up call to all locals and tourists. I think the trash even came from Davao City. They formed a line going with the current. The reef was fantastic though, and there was a steep cliff/wall of coral that seemed to plunge into infinity. We went back to Hof Gorei hurriedly to catch the last ferry from Kaputian back to Davao City.

All in all, Talicud Island and Samal are worth the trip from Davao. Hof Gorei gave us a memorable resort experience and we wish to come back. The ferry ride back to Davao City was one of the best I had experienced. I went up the roof and marveled at the most golden sunset I have ever seen. It was priceless.

Hof Gorei Resort
Kaputian, Island Garden City of Samal
Davao del Norte, Philippines 8120
Tel. Nos. (+6382) 2860238
Mobile +639186096966
website: www.hofgorei-resortdavao.com
email : hofgoreiresortdavao@yahoo.com

Pickup time:
8am from Sta. Ana Pier
2pm from Sta. Ana Pier
Departure from Resort
3pm from Hof Gorei


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