Thursday, January 24, 2013

Vivere Azure Anilao

One of my favorite resorts this year is surprisingly just 2.5 hours drive from Manila. When I came to Anilao last year and rediscovered the famed diver's paradise, we drove past a resort with lots of cars parked on its street. I turned to look for the sign that Azure. It was also pleasant to see that Azure was by Vivire, a pioneer hotel in the Alabang business district.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Amarela Beach Resort: Bohol

I’ve heard of Amarela from a lot of my friends and peers in the industry. Having been opened in 2006, it is one of the most established boutique resorts family built and run in Bohol. The 25-room charming Filipino designed escape is tucked away in lush foliage of bright pink bouganvillas and verdant bushes and hanging gardens.

The Peacock Garden: Europe in Bohol?

I must admit, I had low expectations of the Peacock Garden in Bohol. It bills itself as Bohol’s premier luxury boutique resort. Those many descriptions made it look very pretentious. I was also a bit off with its European design since it was located in a tropical island. It just seemed out of place. So when I entered the imposing gates of the resort and drove across a grand and manicured driveway that led to what looked like a clubhouse from afar, I still didn’t know what to expect.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Top 10 of 2012

If I thought 2011 was my least travelled year, then 2012 was the total opposite. I was out two thirds of the year, though most are on international trips such as South Africa, Bali, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and two more destinations that I haven't blogged about - Mongolia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

So as you can see, I had a drought in local destinations this year. Some in the list are new, but most are rediscoveries. I have been to almost all provinces in the country except for Dinagat Islands and Batanes (yes, yes), so it's hard for me to find new places. And with work becoming more demanding, it's just hard to travel locally and further away from Manila.

But there was one clear winner for me this year, as I reveal the Top 10 of my Philippine experiences this 2012.

10. The Farm at San Benito

Let's begin the list with a well known resort very near the Metro. Just an hour's drive from Makati is the city of Lipa that holds one of the country's most treasured resorts - and that's not on a beach or an island - The Farm at San Benito. Known as a healing resort, one must descend here for their medical and spa treatments. Those and its gorgeous landscape, secluded setting and luxurious accommodations bring you to a relaxing utopia that the Farm promises you to experience.

9. Bacolod City

It's the first time for Bacolod to land on my list, since I just always associate it with food food and more food. But this time, I got to explore more of Bacolod, strolling down Lacson Avenue on a cool morning and even on a rainy afternoon. It also has new and notable hotels that are very affordable like the Avenue Suites. Bacolod can be the most relaxing and carefree city in the country, and that makes it one of my favorite places this year. 

8. Baguio City

It may be also relaxing but Baguio is now more cosmopolitan than ever before. With renovated buildings along Session Road that make it more European in feel, Baguio City continues to charm its visitors. There are still the heavyweights in dining experiences such as the Forest House, Cafe by the Ruins and Oh my Gulay, but new ones have also sprung out, like Eve's Garden and Ocha Asian Cuisine. There's also the new hotel Le Monet at Camp John Hay which was our choice of accommodation this year.

7. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

I've been here before, but my trip with my family last July out this place in one of my most memorable experiences this year. And for a good reason - I finally was able to stay overnight in a casa (Casa San Miguel) and spend idle time in the resort. After doing the standard historical tour, I also discovered how pleasant their beach was as well. And with more plans for expansion and development, Las Casas truly is on the rise as a unique cultural destination in the country.

6. Sta. Ana, Cagayan

It's been high up in my list in 2010, but coming back here this year presented me with more surprises. I got to stay in the most underrated resort in the country, the Cagayan Holiday and Leisure Resort which had a grand casino that rivals those in Macau (if only it was occupied). I also discovered the Avalon Beach Club which was a charming surprise as well.

5. San Juan, La Union

Finally, I got to stay in one of the most popular surfing destinations in the country. And my stay in Kahuna Beach Resort made it even more memorable. San Juan may be 5 hours away from Manila, but it is well worth the travel. It has the chill out vibe that most surfing beaches embody. I want to mention also Sunset Beach Resort in Poro Point, which was another laid back resort that surprised me.

4. Boracay Island

I don't think I've ever put Boracay as an island in my list, so since I stayed here for almost a month in intervals this year, Boracay deserves to be here. I love Boracay, especially now that I've mastered the entire island. From the beautiful Shangri-La to the allure of Bulabog Beach and of course the energy of White Beach, Boracay will always remain special to me - a destination that I am proud to say is definitely THE best beach in Asia.

3. The Calamianes Group of Island, Coron, Palawan

Who doesn't love Coron? With its islands with pristine white sand beaches, it is indeed a sun worshipper's temple. These are the islands that can rival the Maldives, if only those privately owned islands had five-star resorts. I still like the Calamianes the way it is, but I just don't like the high entrance fees to these uninhabited islands owned by the rich and greedy. I still have to explore more of the Calamianes, since I've only been to the regular spots around Malcapuya.

2. Anilao

Oh Anilao. You are now my new escape. I am not a diver, but that doesn't matter. In fact, I hate it that I am not a licensed diver, since I know Anilao has more to offer underwater. This year, Anilao becomes the runner up, and I am just so happy that I fell in love with this place once again. When I wrote about my experience last year, I knew there were more in store for me here. So, after traveling back and forth to this Batangas town, I have chosen Vivere Azure and Vista Aplaya as my top choices for accommodations. I can say that the wealth of Anilao is in its jaw dropping sunsets and relaxing atmosphere. No sandy beach here, but who cares.

1. Sipalay, Negros Occidental

The clear winner definitely. I can't stop promoting this relatively uncharted destination three hours away from Bacolod City. Facing the Sulu Sea, it is far from the Filipino tourist radar yet popular among foreign backpackers. From my favorite Punta Bulata Resort, explore the many coves, islands, mangroves and beaches of Sipalay. 

Visit Danjugan Island, a protected marine sanctuary that will satisfy your desire for natural raw adventures. Spend a day in Sugar Beach with all the backpackers and marvel at the quirky designs of Taka Tuka Beach Resort. 

Or chill out in the quieter Punta Ballo beach and drink while watching the dramatic sunset at Nataasan Beach Resort. This is a huge destination, and I have been back 3 time already this year - and I still haven't seen enough.

So again, Visayas takes the crown this year. And I really can't get over how my amazement with Sipalay. There are really SO MUCH to do here. I just hope it get a more solid spot in the tourist circuit, since it deserves to be visited with all its charm and beauty.


So another year ends, and as usual, I still have a lot of entries to complete 2012. I will be writing about them in my next posts while I begin my journeys in 2013. I am blessed to have traveled a lot in my life, and through this blog, I hope to inspire others to do the same. Travel is the ONLY luxury that can change your life. So save up and travel! Happy 2013!

Fairways and Bluewater Boracay

Everybody loves White Beach, so most prefer to stay on this side of Boracay. However, just as I learned recently, there is more to White Beach in Boracay. It started actually when I fell in love with Shangri-La, that piece of heaven that made me forget all together that I was in Boracay. And that's a big feat. Then, I got to savor sleeping in Bulabog which was a treat as well. Now, I got to stay in one of the biggest resort developments in the island, and also one of the first massive developments as well. This is Fairways and Bluewater.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gumemela Villas: Boracay

Let's take a step back for a while and fly back to one of the best beaches in the world that is found here in our country. I've spent a reasonable amount of time in Boracay this year, and what follows are the accommodations that I've stayed in for almost a period of a month. Let's start off with the lesser known side of Boracay, Bulabog beach.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Velassaru Maldives: Deluxe Bungalow

As I've said, I never left my villa till the next day for breakfast. Good things must come to an end, and as soon as I was ready, I told the reception that I will be moving to my more affordable deluxe bungalow.

The Velassaru Maldives: Water Villa

I booked a water villa for one night, since this will truly cap my Maldivian luxury experience. I mean, you go to the Maldives for these types of accommodations, which is what made the country land in every travel bucket list. So it's easy to imagine when I was upgraded to water pool villa.

The Velassaru Maldives

Welcome to my first Maldivian experience. Maldives is associated with luxury island escapes and thus, I expected that to befall me in this much anticipated trip. But what made this trip so special to me was that it was all spontaneous. I was in Sri Lanka which is just 2 hours by plane from Colombo, so NOT going to the Maldives will be a definite regret. So, as soon I had the chance, I booked for a 3 days, 2 nights trip to this famed archipelago.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Off to a New Unnamed Destination!

This is my first time to start off a series with an unnamed blog entry. I am just so excited to write about this place, especially that I have been back here twice this year. So, let the suspense build up as I begin my adventure - in this airport lounge.

Galle: The Sri Lankan Diaries

And finally, the last post on this Sri Lankan Diaries. Let me take you to a whirlwind tour of Galle, the UNESCO World Heritage fort located at the southern coast of Sri Lanka. From Amangalla, we decided to do a walking tour of the fort.


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