Monday, February 25, 2008

Cebu ! (Tarsiers, Nulusan Island, and Tabo-an dry fish market)

I went on a vacation trip to Cebu last September 18, 2007. Cebu is a lovely city with a deep cultural and religious background. The following are some excerpts from this trip to Cebu.

We stayed at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu. After you deplane, make sure you know which hotel youa re going to. One is in Mactan Island and one is in Cebu Island. Make sure you know where you are going and instruct the taxi driver properly.
(photos: rice all you can lady, quaint plates, sizzling food!)

Golden Cowrie
(delicious, affordable chinese/filipino food with rice all you can!)

Upon arriving in Mactan Internation Airport Cebu, don't ask for a taxi. Just go out of the airport and up that flight of stairs across the street. BIG price difference. We asked manong taxi driver for suggestions on good cebu food and Golden Cowrie Restaurant came up. So, after dumping our bags at our hotel, to Golden Cowrie we went(odd name for a restaurant).

Their blue marlin panga and shellfish in black bean was delicious! Plus its rice all you can kaya sulit talaga. Pretty reasonable prices too. Cheaper than gerry's grill.
(photos: pier4 air conditioned waiting area, weesam fastcraft, 1st class seats)

Cebu Pier4 waiting area for Weesam fast craft to Tagbilaran (350pesos one way 1st class, 300 for ordinary) Our target for this Bohol day trip was first the Tarsiers, then the Loboc River Lunch Cruise, and finally the majestic Chocolate hills in the center of Bohol.

"Day-old monkey" has become a recent popular replacement for the "day-old chick", delicacy in the Philippines.

How to eat day-old monkies
1. Act like you care.............. 2. Look closely for pests............. 3. Pumili at Pitikin para mahilo

4. Then Bite!

5. and BITE!

(Joke lang: no animals were hurt in making this blog)

The tarsier reserve is truly concerned about the welfare and future of these small gently creatures. I have heard that some illegal setups have begun to pop up because of the popularity of these local fauna. The taxi drivers are in cahoots with local cafe and restaurants who illegally catch tarsiers and put them on display in their respective restaurants. The tarsiers often end up in a box either taken home by foreigners or because of death due to mishandling. To those going to Bohol, please report these establishments and help stop these shameful acts.
(photos: loboc river cruise boats, jofel seated, song and dance entertainment)

After petting the monkies, we went rode on the wooden bangka to eat lunch while we cruise the river. The fee for this buffet lunch was 250 per head and consisted of bbq, fried veggies, rice and pansit. There was a new treat that did not used to be there a few years ago. Near the end of the river run you get to be serenaded by groups of singers along the river.
There are number of groups along the river and each have a different set of singers and dancers. I guess the boats dock according to preference of the boat owners. They both sing and dance and you are encouraged to make donations. The river cruise culminates near the small falls called Tontonan Falls. The whole trip takes around 1hour.
(photos: chocolate hills bohol)

More than 1500 of these uniformly shaped mounds can be seen from on top of the view point. It is amazing to realize that there ARE NOT MANMADE as the task would be impossible and even harder than making the pyramids in Egypt. Moreover, these hills are composed of fossilized corals which means they were once submerged under the sea. Truly a breathtaking and amazing place to see.
(photos: Loboc church and museum, church front, Bohol tricycles)

First established in dedication to San Pedro Apostol. The church, however, was badly destroyed by fire sometime in 1660. But the parishioners did not lose hope. In 1670, the present church was built from the ruins of the old church, and it was completed in 1734.Inside the church, remarkable native paintings on the ceilings and walls tell fascinating stories of the past. The Spanish coat of arms can also be found in the stone wall near the entrance of the convent. Snugly nestled in the compound of the ancient building of God is Museo de Loboc where the well-preserved historical artifacts and a few old statues of saints are kept.
(photos: huge crab, crab choices, waiting for our food)

Alavar's Restaurant in Salinas Drive Cebu reopened in October 2006 after a lull of 8 long years. I knew that their signature dishes involved prawns and crabs, both of which were in abundance in cebu. The high prices of these precious commodities in Manila was probably one of the reasons they closed their Manila franchise. The current managers of Alavar's Cebu, Mr. Allan Uy and Maritess Alavar were very accomodating. They personally attended to each one of their patrons and talked to us about the history of their restaurant. They even gave us a complimentary dish of their golden crispy crablets which were crisp and it was so delicious that we ended up ordering another dish. I especially liked their Prawn Alavar and Crab in Alavar Sauce. As expected, the bill was a bit hefty since crabs are priced per 100grams so we ended up paying 8k for 6pax... ouch!
(photo: long boardwalk to island, seafood buffet!, everyone's happy)

NALUSUAN ISLAND (KR travel & tours)
On the second day we left the hotel at 8am for our island hopping tour. We were picked up by service cars arranged by KR Travel. (We got a 7hour island hopping tour + lunch for PhP1,660 pesos from KR Travel&Tours)
Be advised that the boat trip from Cebu to the coral garden is both rough and very wet. Do not wear any electronic items as you will be thoroughly drenched at the end of the 45minute ride.

The coral garden was terrific. The waves were a bit rough but there are a lot of live corals and marine life to see. I saw a small school of gigantic trumpet fish, about 40 to 50 in all.
(photos:nalusuan island boardwalk, lunch at the island, volleyball game)

After that we headed straight to Nalusuan Island for lunch. We were served a buffet of crabs, tiger prawns, bbq chicken, bbq pork and mixed fruits dessert. Everyone had fun snorkelling and playing volleyball on the island. There was also a captive sea turtle in their pond (illegally?).

GRAND MAJESTIC (chinese restaurant)
This chinese restaurant on Archbishop Reyes Avenue is where we held our final banquet. It is just a few minutes walk from Waterfront Hotel Cebu. They serve good chinese food and the price was very reasonable. Our 7 course meal for 12people costed 4000 pesos only. Drinks are additional
(photos: TABO-AN mountains and baskets of dried fish!!!)

Before going to the airport, we took some time to go to the famous TABO-AN dry fish market in downtown Tres de Abril, Cebu City. It took about 15minutes from our hotel(no traffic) and about 70pesos. This dry fish market had HUGE stockpiles of various dried fish! I have never seen anything like it before in my life. My suggestion is DON'T go there on your way to the airport as the smell of dry fish sticks to your clothes. The red fish you see in the pictures are Isdang Tocino and they taste great. The tinderas will cook samples of all the fish for you and even offer you some rice to go with your taste test - instant breakfast! sarap!

A good guide and list of establishments....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Light house, Croc Farm, and Kamarikutan coffee house in Palawan


Palawan trip. Third day (farewell palawan!)
BancaoBancao Lighthouse
(photo:stairs to the beach, lighthouse, wall, eman atop the lighthouse)

Early the next day we decided to go to the lighthouse in barangay BancaoBancao. It's about 20mins ride by tricycle and the last part passes through some rough road overgrown with chest-high weeds. Apparently this is not a popular tourist spot - ... which is great! There was even a decrepit resort with big slides and pools. I found out later that it was closed a few years ago because, apparently, a child of one of its patrons died there. The BancaoBancao light house has been inoperative for the last few years now.
(photo:lighthouse solar power collector, balay inato restaurant tables, restaurant/hotel front)

Balay Inato (chicken inasal fast food resto)
An open-air fast-food style restaurant was all we had time for. The chicken inasal served in this restaurant was half cooked. Malas yata ako sa chicken inasal because that was strike 2 na. I won't even bother talking about strike 1. This restaurant has recently constructed rooms-for-rent fronting the dining tables. Its horribly apparent that no one will enjoy staying in those rooms because of the loud blaring music emanating from loudspeakers all over the place.
(photo: crocodile pen, baby croc petting session, largest crocodile found in palawan)

Crocodile Farm
After lunch we hastily made our way to the crocodile farm which is about 45minutes away. There were not too many crocodiles around because of recent events causing high death rates. Notice the HUGE crocodile skeleton above. Just imagine being assaulted by one of these monsters! A waist high croc that's more than twice (2x) the average height!!! WOW, gives me shivers! Alas we did not have much time to go around as we had to check in the airport for our flight back to Manila.
(photo:waiting for our coffee, pond, allan relaxing)

"Kamarikutan": coffee house
After we checked in our bags, we did manage to slip out and go to this beautiful coffee house called the Kamarikutan. The name roughly translates to "Wilderness Coffee Gallery" and is open from 8AM till 11PM and serves very good coffee (starbucks price nga lang!). The natural vegetation in its large garden creates a nice "wilderness" ambiance. The art on display is probably for sale because visitors are not allowed to take any pictures of it. Kamarikutan is on Rizal Avenue and is only about 100 meters from the main entrance to the airport.

If you need a good guide/ride around palawan I recommend ours! His name is Bogs (+639194638590)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Underground River, Mitra's Ranch and Baker's Hill in Palawan


Palawan trip, Second day
St. Paul Underground River

The transport service of Topstar Travel Agency picked us up at about 7am. After a bumpy and winding but thoroughly enjoyable 3hr ride we reached the Sabang or port that is the jump off point for the underground river.
(photo: sabang where you board bangka to underground river, transport to site)

This amazing 15km long underground river is estimated to be 16 to 20 Million years old! It has been recently added to UNESCO's World Heritage site which attests to its deep natural and cultural value.
(photo:tour bangka, registration area and life vests)

Regular tourists like me are only allowed to go about 1.5 kilometers into the cave, special researchers may be granted an 8km exploration permit. However, only the few (and the wealthy?) are granted the full 15km permit. So far, only the large documentary stations like Discovery and NatGeo have been granted full access according to our guide. The St.Paul Underground River is now called the Puerto Princessa Subterranean River National Park.
(photo: underground river tour group, tip of 1.5km tour, cave fauna)

After our boat ride on the river, we headed back to Sabang to take our lunch. There are a few souvenir shops where one can get tshirts in case you got wet in the river.
(photo: sabang-walk on beach to lunch area, sabang beach, walk back to departure point)

The lunch area is a few minutes walk away from the sabang and along the beach. It was a simple meal of fresh buko, pipino, bbq and shell fish but there was plenty of it!
(photo: beautiful sabang beach, crab eating habbits, view point stop over)

On the way back don't forget to stop by the Buenavista Viewdeck (view point) where you can have a good vantage point of Ulugan Bay.
(photo: sta.monica heights main road, view from mitra's ranch, mitra's ranch house)


Our tour guide was somehow in a hurry! We arrived back in Puerto Princessa before 4pm so we still had some time to kill. I called up our tricycle driver/guide Bogs and he brought us to Sta.Monica Heights where both Mitra's Ranch and the famous Baker's Hill is located. What you should actually do is buy food in Baker's Hill FIRST and then proceed to Mitra's Ranch where you can eat on his porch overlooking honda bay. Instead we proceeded to the ranch first where we enjoyed the scenery before proceeding to Baker's hill because we feared that the ranch would close first.
(photo:baker's hill mascot, eating area, cartoon figures)

stuffed ourselves full of the local patisserie, we decided to forgo dinner and just bought some beers ,isaw and balut. I was surprised to find out that balut is more expensive here in puerto princessa than manila. 12pesos! (sampu lang sa amin eh)
(photo:eman fooling around with the statues, plaza water fountain at 6pm)

Some interesting rock formations found in the underground river are the jurassic triceratops, puso ng saging and the Peking duck.
(photo: interesting rock formations - triceratops, puso ng saging, Peking duck)