Monday, April 26, 2010

Blu Bar at Marco Polo Cebu

Blu Bar and Grill is the rooftop dining experience in Marco Polo Cebu. At first, it may seem that the place is pretentious, but after passing some time here, I realized that it's a perfect place to chill out.
The rooftop venue gives you that outdoor feel, and the fresh cool breeze from the hills descend while you savor on great food. Marco Polo for me serves the best hotel food in Cebu, especially desserts.

As Marco Polo is already situated in the hills of Nivel, Blu provides you with the sweeping and unobstructed views of the city, especially at night.

Blu Bar is a recommended spot to go to in Cebu, where you can enjoy great food and of course, sweeping views. Its ambience sets the mood for an unforgettable dinner experience, high above a city that is brimming with energy.

TIP: Have a drink here from 5 to 7PM and get another one for free.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guess Where Next

This destination will definitely land in my yearend list. It is one of the most breathtaking landscapes I have seen. And it's here in our magnificent country.
Know this place? Let me take you there soon.

Siquijor and Back: Siquijor Series

We had a great short time in Siquijor, our 2 day stay wasn't enough. We were supposed to head to the mountain side to visit the faith healers in the morning of the third day, but we decided to just relax in Princesa Bulakna before leaving at 10AM for our 12NN ferry.

From Maria, it took us a long 45 minute multicab ride again to Siquijor town, where the port was located. And since we arrived in Siquijor late night, we weren't able to see this:

Imagine how our jaws dropped when we saw this as we were crossing over the jetty. Yes, this beach was just beside the jetty. We were looking for a nice beach in Siquijor, and we found it here, near the port.

Actually, we found another beach nearby the port as well after visiting Coco Grove that also looked like this, but we arrived past sunset already there. We passed some nice beaches in Enrique Villanueva as well, while on the road to Siquijor town.

The ferry took 1 and a half hours again, and we docked in Dumaguete. From there, we had a quick lunch, before going to the port in Sibulan, a town just after Dumaguete.

We took the Santander Express at 3PM, riding on choppy waters that made the ferry bounce up and down. We rode on top of the ferry, at the outdoor deck, which relieved us of the dizziness.

We docked at 4:30 PM at the Liloan port in Santander. Again, the port was very organized and well maintained.

We were supposed to contract a van, but we didn't find one that could bring us all the way to Cebu that time (although this can be done). So, we decided to wait for the next bus that will conveniently take us to Cebu City. (the first bus was already full).

So that ends our trip from Cebu to Dumaguete to Siquijor and back all in 3 days. I love Siquijor because it is one of the most laid back islands I have been to (another one would be Siargao). I felt very far away from the real world, which made me ponder on a lot of things. So, if they say Siquijor is an island full of witches and elementals, all I can say is, time stops here. And that's probably the greatest magic Siqiuijor can delight us with.

Coco Grove Beach Resort: Siquijor Series

Because it is the best resort in Siquijor, Coco Grove is always fully booked. When we stopped over here to look at the place, we asked about vacancies. The friendly receptionist told us they were booked for a month. When we were inquiring, foreigners arrived and asked for vacancies too. They were also turned down.

So what makes Coco Grove attractive? Well, I think it is one of the best independent resorts I have seen in the Philippines. Like Chemas by the Sea in Samal, Coco Grove is a resort built around nature. It was splendidly designed as a resort that blends with the trees and the beach.

It also had a lot of open spaces, and sometimes reminded me of Alona Tropical in Bohol (my recommended value resort in Panglao).

There were cabanas in corners, where one can dine, drink or just read a book. I didn't know if they had good food, but when we arrived, the kitchen was preparing a Filipino buffet for its guests. The buffet was sold out, so we couldn't be accommodated as well.

As we were not in house guests, we weren't able to see the interior of the cottages. I assumed they had simple luxuries, and well kept, since the entire resort is like that. There was an outdoor massage area, a spa, that looked very inviting.

There are also day beds scattered near the pool area. More outdoor dining tables also line up the bar and recreation area. The pool looked refreshing, though a bit small. I thought the pool of Bulakna was better.

The huge trees provided shade from the glistening sun. The cabanas made the entire place look very upscale, when in fact, the average rate of one night here is just P3,000. The cheapest room is P2,400 - not bad for all these facilities. They also have luxury villas between P6,000 to P8,000.

They had a wide beach front, though the sand was again coarse and coral. I don't think swimming was recommended, though I may have visited the beach during low tide.

All in all, Coco Gove Beach Resort in Siquijor was a delight. We were all so frustrated that we couldn't be accommodated. Although I realized that this was a place to relax, and mostly foreigners are billeted here. Everyone was minding their own business quietly, making the surrounding very peaceful. So, if you want to stay in Coco Grove, better start booking early.

Tubod, San Juan, Siquijor
(035) 481-5008
(035) 481-5006

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Danish Lagoon Luxury Resort

One of the resorts that could accommodate us for the night when we arrived was the Danish Lagoon Luxury Resort in San Juan. We opted not to stay there because Salagdoong was our first choice. And besides, this resort was more expensive, at P3,000 per room at average.

I really thought that the place was not worth the price they were charging. It wasn't a luxury resort for one. I think there were other cheaper resorts that looked even better and more luxurious. Although still under construction, the place was bare and uninspiring. Of course, the theme was Danish, so the rooms were themed and named after the characters of Hans Christian Andersen, the popular Danish writer.

We filled up ourselves with a heavy snack here of burgers, crepes and sandwiches. The food was quite good, though their cocktail drinks were a rip off.

All the rooms had sweeping views of the sea, and even had a lounge deck, which was very pleasant. There were a few trees, which contributed to the "bare" look of the place. There was a small coral beach below, which had the statue of the Little Mermaid (an Andersen classic) perched on a rock.
The Danish Lagoon Luxury Resort does have potential, but it should start shaping up, given the tight competition of small resorts in Siquijor. And I think they should lower their prices. Even their food relatively costs more. They could transform the place into an exclusive one, with few rooms, and better service.

+63 908 627 0975

Cambughay Falls: Siquijor Series

After having lunch in Princesa Bulakna, we drove off on our small multicab to Cambughay Falls, one of the main attractions of Siquijor. The drive didn't take long, as we were already in the town of Maria.

There was a waiting shed and a sign board that marked the entrance of the path going down the falls. The stairway was concrete, though it took us around 300 steps going down. Yes, you will take the same route going back.

We saw the turquoise blue reveal itself against the foliage as we descended carefully. There were some foreign tourists going back up, who seemed pleased with what they saw.

Finally, we saw the first level of the falls, a simple, low drop that created soothing sounds. The water was cool perfect, not too cold, not hot. We couldn't see the bottom as the water was opaque.

I moved up to find another drop, a very small one. The third level looked the same as well. The surrounding was very peaceful. There were a lot of locals diving from the top of the first level as well, which I did as well. I must advise everyone though to know where the rocks are before jumping off. Since the water is opaque, you couldn't see where you will be landing. I almost landed on a rock, so I consider myself lucky. A Korean recently died here because of landing on a rock as well, so if you're really that adventurous, just ask the locals where to land.

I like Cambughay Falls because it has kept its natural beauty in tact. There were no huts, no picnic tables, no hawkers. I commend the Siquijor government in deciding to keep the place this way, unlike other waterfall attractions in the country that look more like a swimming pool now.

Cambughay Falls may not be spectacular, but in charming and laid back Siquijor, it fits perfectly. I just wished we had our lunch here, and could stay longer, but we had to rush to find a nice beach where we could swim. So after two hours, we went back up and drove to the popular beach town of San Juan.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Prinsesa Bulakna Resort: Siquijor Series

From Salagdoong, we then moved on to our next resort, Prinsesa Bulakna, which was around 10 minutes away, still in the town of Maria. We hired the same multicab that we contracted when we arrived the night before to go to Salagdoong. We got the multicab since we planned to go around the island that day. It set us back P1,500 with gas.

At first, we thought Princesa Bulakna was deserted. It was a bit dusty going here, since it also hadn't rained for the longest time. We caught a glimpse of cottages lined up along the road, and headed downwards to the beach front where the reception was located.

Turns out that we were the only guests in Princesa Bulakna. The owner, an Italian residing in the Philippines for 15 years now, told us that they had to turn us down last night (we called them up a well) because there was no electricity in the resort. Now that they have fixed the problem, he said he was ready to accommodate us.

Princesa Bulakna reminded me of a resort I stayed in Malaysia. It was breezy, and had a very relaxing atmosphere. In fact, the resort made you feel miles away from civilization, without leaving some comfort behind.

We had lunch before checking in, since the rooms were still being arranged. The restaurant was my favorite place in the resort as it had a view overlooking the vast coastline of San Juan.

We checked in after lunch, around 12:30PM, and found the rooms adequate. We got two cottages in the beachfront area, and 2 cottages uphill. The ones uphill cost P1,200 a night for two, while the one downstairs cost more. We got a discounted rate for the rooms facing the beach. The deluxe room (the best room here) cost us P3,000 while another room, that could fit 5 pax cost us P2,500 a night. I thought it was pretty good, given that we had better amenities such as this two 3 layered infinity pool.

The pool was very inviting and huge, considering it had 3 levels. We dove from top to bottom, rolling ourselves like crazy over the edge. And since the beach here was a bit rocky, the pool was our water playground for our entire stay here.

The beach of Princesa Bulakna is a bit rocky, but still had fine white sand. It wasn't powdery though, and the sand quality in Salagdoong was better. Nevertheless, the beach here was vast and wide, and is probably around a kilometer long. There are other resorts nearby, but they all seem deserted. As I've said, the town of Maria was not a popular area for beach resorts. San Juan garnered the lion share of tourists in Siquijor.

All in all, our stay in Princesa Bulakna was pleasant. We got what we needed most: a quiet place to relax. And we owned the resort. The fact that we were the only guests made our stay better. I know that's a bad thing for the resort, but at least it can still become very exclusive. I recommend this resort if you just want to get away from it all.

Tel No: (035) 422-3787

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Salagdoong Beach: Siquijor Series

We arrived in Siquijor late night, and we had a bit of a trouble looking for a resort to accommodate all of us. We tried to call up resorts as we were on our way to Dumaguete, but most of the highly recommended ones like Coco Grove were all fully booked. So, we took a risk in finding one when we arrived. It was a bad move, but fortunately, the other recommended resort, Salagdoong Beach Resort was available.

We spent the night at this government owned resort. It was also one of the oldest resorts here, however, they had a newly built hotel building on top of its hill. The rooms of Hotel Agripino were very basic, and very cheap as well for around P800 to P1,500 a night. Everything worked well in the room and they were surprisingly clean. Our room had a problem with air conditioning though during the night.

The older ones, which were the beach cottages, were also recently renovated, but they were still not entirely finished, so we opted to stay up in the hotel. These beach cottages will set you back P1,400, which can fit up to 4 people.

Salagdoong Beach is a popular day trip excursion in Siquijor. In fact, when the morning was passing through, more and more people arrived. Last night, it seemed that we were alone in the entire resort.

Salagdoong has two beaches separated by a rock where one can get fabulous views of the sea and sand. The water was bright aquamarine, through it was too clear, probably because of the strong waves that made it a swimming playground.

There were corals visible from the top, and some of the adventurous beach dwellers even jumped off the rock, that was around 20 feet high. I wasn't able to do so.

This part of the beach was calmer, though the coral sand was also rougher. The seaside landscape was accentuated by limestone rocks jutting out from end to end of the beach.

It was pleasing to see that even though that this was a government owned and operated resort that the beach was still pristine. There are huts and cabanas inland where one can have a relaxing lunch picnic.

The resort also had a simple restaurant that served your regular "silog" fare, and even pizza (but that's more of pinoy style). It's better to bring your own food, or cook them on the spot. There is a grilling area near the cottages.

So, after enjoying a beautiful morning in Salagdoong, we packed our bags and moved to another resort. We decided to try out Prinsesa Bulakna which was nearby. Salagdoong Beach was in the town of Maria, which was 45 minutes away from the Siquijor Port and around 20 minutes from Larena. So the entire area is a bit isolated.

Siquijor is probably the size of Camiguin, so you can go around the entire island in 2 hours. But I realized that Siquijor has a lot of beach areas. I will be featuring other resorts in Siquijor in my next post, most of them in the more popular area of San Juan. For now, I leave you with Salagdoong, a definite stop in your tour in the mystical island of Siquijor.

Telephone #: (035) 344-2088, 480-9173
Hotel Agripino: (+63) 09102002552
Cottages: (+63) 0918771471

On the Road: From Cebu to Siquijor

Yes, you've guessed it. The next destination is the mystical island of Siquijor. As usual, after an event in Cebu, we found ourselves packing up and on the road for a new island wonder. We were supposed to go to Camotes, but after some deliberation, we set that aside and decided to go further South.

Getting to Siquijor from Cebu City is relatively easy, but long. From Cebu City, you can take a bus all the way to Dumaguete from the South Bus Terminal. That trip will entail a 30 minute ferry crossing to the island of Negros, and into Dumaguete. Since we were 13 people all in all, we hired a van to take us all the way to Liloan in Santander, South Cebu and took a ferry to cross to Dumaguete.

I actually think it's better to take the bus straight to Dumaguete, but I think it's the same way. The ferry crossing to Dumaguete was rather rough and dizzying, even though it only took us 30 minutes.

From Dumaguete, we took a ferry to Siquijor in the Dumaguete port. The sea was very rough then, even on a hot Summer night, and I was afraid of taking the ferry. The waves hit the seawall like a maddening train, and it took the ferry up and down. The ferry even crashed once into the sea wall. It was that serious.

Nevertheless, we still got on, praying deep down inside that the ferry wouldn't capsize. Some of the people we spoke with told us that this was normal, especially at night, so they know that it would be eventually safe once the ferry goes further away from the coastline. And fortunately, it did. The ride took 1 and a half hours, and we safely arrived in dark Siquijor at 10PM.


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