The Historical Sites and the Pride of Dapitan

Dapitan is known as the place where the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, was on exile during Spanish colonization. We arrived in this city to connect on how the books precisely narrated the Philippine history and his heroic deeds which changes my personal views on revolutionary movement.

Location: Dapitan City, Zamboange del Norte

Where I Stayed: Dakak Beach Resort

Buddies: Family (4+)

There were three sites we visited which was significantly related to each other based on preservation and the era they were built.

DSC_0176
St. James Church
DSC_0170
Splendid Interior

We reflected at St. James Church which was originally constructed in 1871 in honor of St. James the Great as its saint patron. The church stands as the living monument of the local’s faithful dedication to the Catholic Church which was renovated several times. I was amazed on the ceiling interior as it drawn my attention while I sneaked from the door. In front of the church is the park which has a huge relief map of Mindanao island. Studying the geography of the island might be familiarized pretty well on the site. Jose Rizal was found attending mass in this church every Sunday during his exile according to historians.

DSC_0184

Not far from the church is a village with several old houses. The most familiar is the Aniano Adasa Ancestral House which is now housing the local tourism office of Dapitan. On the wall was seen an old framed portrait of Rizal symbolizing that it has attachment to the national hero. It is a heritage house built in 1901 which is the symbol of combined American-Spanish-Japanese structure. We met the family whose taking care of the heritage house. They have a 22-year old son named Junrey,  the world’s shortest living man recognized by the World’s Guinness of Book Records in 2011. Knowing and meeting Junrey and his family was a great honor and a bonus to our visit.

Our last stop was the main historical landmark of Dapitan, the Rizal Shrine. It is a beautiful landscape where Dr. Jose Rizal spent his years from 1893 to 1896. His small house, school, clinics and kitchen are well preserved by the locals and became a tourist site. Rizal’s life and works was summarized in simplicity and his talents in medicine, farming, teaching, arts and literature was witnessed by the community. His contributions and thoughts was well preserved and always remembered by Filipinos proving that “pen is mightier than the sword”.

Dakak – The Pride of Dapitan

It was almost sunset when we left the shrine. We headed to Dakak Beach Park and Resort for our overnight accommodation. We availed their promotion package which requiring us to pay P1,000 per head for an overnight stay. Included in the promo was a complimentary plated breakfast and a free entrance ticket to Gloria Fantasyland. The most affordable promo deal especially when traveling in a big group.

Dakak Resort
Comfortable Bed of Dakak Beach Park and  Resort

Amusement Park. At 6:30pm, we returned back to the city and took our dinner at one of the restaurants inside the complex of the fantasy land. The Gloria’s Fantasyland is an amusement and themed park with packs of rides such as Ferris wheels, galleon ship, roller coasters, and a lot more. The 5-D cinema is also among its famous attractions. There were few guests as waiting time for each ride was fast. In fact, we were only three guys riding on the bumpy roller coaster.

The most awaited part on the park’s program was its closing show which I was entertained by numbers of jaw dropping performances titled “Joie de Vivre”, fiery movements of fire dancers, funny mascots, colorful parade of lights, and stunning fireworks.

The Gloria’s Fantasyland is comparatively small and rides are limited and less intense than Enchanted Kingdom and Star City.  However, its existence in a small city like Dapitan is something big to be proud of.

DSC00382

We left the amusement park at 11pm and the night had comfortably ended relaxing at Dakak Resort’s bungalow with native designs and decors.  The room was big and the terrace was the best spot to unload the negative vibes from exhausted body. It was the good time to be with the nature as the resort has no wifi.

DSC_0232

Beach. When the sun scattered its morning rays, the resort revealed its natural hidden beauty. The clean white sand and clear water at the beach reflected the resort’s continues drive on maintaining its facilities. I personally enjoyed the water at the beach and at the pool.

We only had limited time in the resort so we didn’t try other activities they were offering such as aqua sports, zip line, horse back riding, and others.

We left the resort at noon and started our long journey back to Central Mindanao.

DSC_0256

DSC00416.JPG
Dakak Beach

 

Exploring Dubai

Dubai is the most famous city in the Middle East. It’s known for its unique landmarks and attractive building structures. Booked via Flydubai which has daily flight from Saudi Arabia, we visited Dubai of United Arab Emirates for the first time.

DSC_0154I contacted a Dubai based travel agent to work for our guided tour and visa. The agent replied to us and offered us a family tour package. Included in this package are accommodations for three nights, Dubai dhow cruise, entry in Burj Khalifa and Ski Dubai with free transfers. I agreed to a 50% deposit for the visa processing and the hotel as per him was requiring a down payment. The balance will be paid upon arrival in Dubai. In just three days, the electronic tourist visa was granted and was emailed to me.

DSC_0001.JPGWe departed from Dammam airport at 8:55am and landed in Dubai after an hour. Our travel agent was already outside of Terminal 2 and waiting for us. After immigration and baggage collection, we stepped out of the airport and met him. He headed us to the Royal Ascot Hotel in Bur Dubai for our accommodation. We waited for half an hour since the checked-in time of the hotel started at 2pm.

Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Where I Stayed: Royal Ascot Hotel

Buddies: Group (4+)

Royal Ascot Hotel is a 4 star rating hotel according to our travel agent. Its location is excellent in term of its distance to the airport. The metro station and shopping malls are just a few minutes by walk. It also a few minutes drive to the most visited places in Dubai. The superior deluxe room which is situated on the 6th floor is so spacious. The biggest room was given to us. We’re so very thankful to our travel agent. It looks like he has a good business relation to the marketing manager of the hotel.

At 4pm, we started discovering the best creations of Dubai. We visited the famous Miracle Garden with an entrance fee of 30 dirhams per head. The place was so amazing with colorful and bunches of flowers in a beautifully landscaped garden. Some of them are so familiar with me and named them specifically. The place was so great for picture taking but be watchful for touching those displays all the time. My wife received two whistle blows from the garden’s staff. One time when she was holding the bicycle with full of flowers and another when she seated on one of the fence. We’re all laughing! For the sake of photo for remembrance, we were behaving badly.

DSC_0100There were so many talents displayed inside the Miracle Garden. The animals and human structures, the houses, the giant clock, and more. Obviously, all of those are with floral touch. The garden lay-out was so wonderful.

At 7pm, we left the garden and took our buffet dinner at Lamesa restaurant in Aseana Hotel. We have seats reserved for it was always full. At 100 dirhams per head, our craving for pork “lechon belly” had been satisfied.

DAY TWO

At noon,  we visited the Ski Dubai which was inside the Emirates Mall. They provided us winter clothes to be used inside the frozen world. We didn’t stayed so long inside the artificial snow world but we enjoyed walking and tube slide on the ice.

DSC_0148At 3pm, we left Emirates Mall going to Dubai Mall, the entrance to the famous and world’s tallest building. We took our late lunch at the mall’s food court to feed our protesting parasites. At around 5pm, we joined those bulk of tourists entering Burj Khalifa. The security was so strict because foods and big bags were not allowed. However, they provided a bag counter to where guests can leave their bags safely.

I was amazed on how the building was constructed. This is how technology works. The city can be seen at all angles. Our visit was considered a peak hours so we added 50 dirhams per head from the normal entrance fee to our travel agent. But we were satisfied because we witnessed the sunset and water fountain show from the bird’s eye of view.

DSC_0171After the sunset, we went down and nailed our time in a water dancing fountain which approximately starts in every 30 minutes. We left the mall at 8pm and took our dinner at Ryu Korean Restaurant in Bur Dubai before going back to our hotel.

Last Day

We took our breakfast at the hotel and prepared our baggage. At 9:30am, we left the hotel and have a quick side tour on the remaining famous tourist spots in Dubai like Burj Al Arab and Atlantis, the Palm. At 12n, we enjoyed the outdoor water park Wild Wadi. We left the park at 3pm and back to the hotel for the final arrangement. Our flight back to Saudi Arabia was at 6:25pm.

DSC_0551DSC_0591DSC_0611

The Faded Pink Sand of Sta. Cruz Island

At 6:30am, we found ourselves back at the Paseo del Mar for the berthing point to Sta. Cruz island or locally known as Las Islas de Sta. Cruz. This island claimed to have pink sand. We registered and paid P25 per person which includes the entrance and terminal fees. The boat rental was P1000.

There is a limit to the number of visitors to the island. Visitors will be entertained on first come, first serve basis. Besides, it is an environmentally protected island. In every group which will go to the island will be accompanied by a tourism police. It is for the security purpose. There was a history of bandit attack on the island. Thus, overnight staying is not allowed.

DSC_0148DSC_0088DSC_0133

We left the berthing point at 7:20am and we arrived at the island after 15 minutes. The traditional vinta colored sail greeted our eyes from the shore. The “vinta” boat is the trademark of Zamboanga. The beach was not pinkish as seen on blogs and websites but there was a little pink particle found on the white sand. We rented a small open cottage and ordered our food. There were locals selling crabs, shells, and fishes. They will also cook and deliver it to the cottage at a very cheap amount.

The place is so quite and peaceful. We asked the island’s tourism staff, who also work for the government, for the special heritage place in the island. He guided us to the preserved Badjao majority tribe cemetery. There were also other tribes laid peacefully on that place. The Badjao, known in the history books as the dwellers of the sea, is one among tribes of Filipino Muslims in Mindanao. He explained the tribal ways and beliefs of burying dead. He also explained that the pink color of the island is also seasonal. There is a special specie of corals which naturally contributed to the pinkish color of the sand and their reproduction take times. However, we saw that the waves left the shore with the pink sand.

DSC_0096

The island is protected by the government. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is leading on funding its preservation. A group of environmentalists and nature lovers were sighted on their scuba suits monitoring the newly planted corals.

We enjoyed the serenity and the water on the beach. However, extra precaution was needed for kids and non-swimmers because of the sudden depth of the seabed. We left the island at 11:30am to give way to other tourist who wishes to visit the island. Bringing back of all the garbage that we brought was our contribution to preserve the island and its environment.

DSC00325

DSC00346
Environmentalist planting corals

Bye Maldives Paradise

We woke up with the same daily routine. Added to our morning rituals was fixing and packing of our things. All in to our trolleys were the items as remembrance of our stay in Maldives. We enjoyed the hospitality of the resort’s staffs and the privacy they gave to each of the guest.

DSC_0239.JPG

Surely, I have one thing I missed to do! The time never give me a chance to snorkel the diving site. I asked the reception to join the daily scheduled snorkeling tour. It was twice cancelled because it requires of at least four guests. How unfortunate I am! However, I enjoyed the water, fishes, and sharks in the resort’s snorkeling site. For that, I still have a reason to come back!

DSC_0273

We left the resort at noon for our 4:40pm flight by Oman Air. The next boat transfer from the resort was at 4pm. It was better to stay longer in the airport than to miss our flight. The flight screen at the airport entrance was posting an announcement that we can only check in starting at 1:30pm. The airport was small so they limit the number of passengers staying inside. We took our lunch at the airport’s restaurant and entered the terminal at almost 2pm for check-in. We headed directly to the pre-departure area and we were surprised that the Oman Air started boarding passengers too early at 3:20pm. Only 22 passengers were counted and we noticed that the newly landed airplane was still full of passengers. As announced by the stewardess after final flight inspection at 3:40pm, the flight we were in was departing to Colombo. All the new passengers were surprised. The plane had a short stop over in Colombo before heading to Muscat.

DSC_0300

We arrived in Muscat at 8pm, one hour late from our booking details. We looked for a good place to stay for those five hours transit. I approached the Plaza Premium Lounge as walk in costumer and paid 10 Omani riyals per head for a lounge pass. We went out from the lounge when our flight to Dammam called for boarding.

Bonding in Paradise Resort

The ringing telephone hidden under our bed put my little kid on alert. We are normally hiding the telephone once we are in the hotel because the toddler loved to play with it. The hotel receptionist informed us that our check out time would be 10am. We were advised to meet our travel agent who booked our next resort accommodation in Maldives before 11am.

The booking was made by Island Voyage, the travel agent we knew online by chatting while surfing Maldives resorts. At first, it was uncomfortable conversation. If we should believe on these people or not. We’re thinking the possibilities of an online fraud who victimized travelers. However, we decided to try. The agent only request a 50% down-payment. The remaining would be paid upon arrival in Maldives. As they are sending vouchers and receipt with a legitimate company address, we determined that the agent was recognized and legal.

DSC_0263

At 10:30am, we left the hotel going to the airport. The hotel driver assured that we will meet the agent. He led us to the booths area where the agent was waiting for us. We paid the additional 50% payment, and he gave us the hotel accommodation check in voucher. He then transferred us to another booth to prepare the speedboat transfer going to the resort.

The speedboat departed from the airport at 11:20am. Together with us were the group of Chinese family.

DSC_0100

Location: Lankanfinolhu Island, Maldives

Where I Stayed: Paradise Island Resort & Spa

Buddies: Family

After 20 minutes, we arrived at the resort’s jetty. A staff greeted and guided us to the reception which was a few minutes by walk. At the reception, they gave each of us forms to fill in information and a welcome drink. After a short introduction, the bellboy guided us to our beach front bungalow room. We actually preferred water villas but it’s not safe for kids. Anyway, beach bungalow was wide and spacious. The toilet was so spacious and there was an outdoor shower.

DSC_0040.JPG

Paradise Island Resort and Spa gave us the most relaxing days in Maldives. Our daily routine for three days was so luxurious. We started the day with snorkeling at the jetty, buffet breakfast in restaurant, relax inside the room, and beach bathing in the afternoon. Our night ended sitting at the jetty walkway watching the group of stingrays and sharks after a buffet dinner.

DSC_0178

DSC00128

The snorkeling sites on this resort are at the jetty side and in water villas. The beach at the water villas was the safest ground for small children. The water was shallow and also not busy from water sport activities.

The best thing we did at  the night was watching for sharks and stingrays during feeding time. It was my first time to meet small sharks while swimming. They said, they don’t bite and will ignore human.

DSC_0010

Recommendation

This was only based on my personal experience. Don’t stay in the resort for longer than three days if you are a food critic. I observed that the menu was repeatedly served on the third day. The drinks on the night are not free. A bottle of water is not free too.  Some resort, like Paradise, doesn’t offer free wifi. Only US dollars and credit cards payment are accepted.

DSC_0069

Re-routed to Plantation Bay

I received a call from Cebu Pacific that they cancelled our early morning flight to Caticlan because of typhoon. They gave us options on how to deal with our flight. It’s either in form of full refund or re-booking without fees. I asked the staff if possible to join the flight on the next day but he told that it was already full. Besides, the typhoon was still in the region and flights might be also cancelled.

I decided to change our plan or else all our efforts and time will be wasted. I booked Plantation Bay Spa and Resort through their website, www.plantationbay.com for two nights.

DSC_0031

DSC_0065
Comfortable bed of Plantation Bay Resort and Spa

Location: Mactan, Philippines

Where I Stayed: Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, Mactan

Buddies: Family

The resort check in time started at 3pm. They can give room to early arrival if available. We arrived in the resort at 12:30n, and they immediately gave us Windward Room for the resort is not fully book and its non peak season.

The Plantation Bay Resort and Spa is an 11 hectares land developed and having man-made lagoons with fresh and salt water. It also has small beach to cater for those beach lovers. However, the sand is not so white and only covering the beach portion. The sea shore is black as seen during low tide.

DSC_0041

The area was so wide but we managed to walk and have access to all amenities. There was a routine resort cab transporting guests to any part of the resort. The pathway in the middle of lagoons in the center was also a short cut to the beach and restaurant.

The resort is the favorite destination of Korean honeymooners as proof for most of the guests are from there. I also spotted a Korean couple having their wedding pre-nuptial.

The resort also offering indoor/outdoor games, water sports, island hopping, massages, and spa. I tried the kayak and the stand paddle raft.

DSC_0001

FOOD. Aside of having four restaurants to choose from, the resort also has a food buffet every night and with different theme. On our first night, the theme was Spanish, so the food and the graceful performers were also related to Spanish culture. On our second night was From Middle East. So beautiful belly dancers, hot fire dancers and Arab cuisines were expected.

DSC_0253

The buffets and the performances could be experienced by calling the reservation desk and paying 1,250 pesos exclusive of drinks. However, the food for me was considered average in the fact that it was rated five star. I sorted it below my expectation because I worked in an Arab country and tasted most of the Arab foods. On the other hand, the Kilimanjaro Kafe, served the best breakfast buffet in the resort. The Filipino and Mexican breakfast during our stay were both memorable. We really enjoyed it and the foods were all tasty.

DSC_0134

SAFETY. The resort pool has a life guard from 8am to 8pm. Beyond that time, guests using the pool will take their own risks especially those having kids. Rooms also has direct path to water, so guest having small children should understand well all safety precautions.

CONCLUSIONS. The resort was so amazing with traditional and modern twists of culture. All ages will be entertained here because of so many activities they are offering.

DSC_0028

The no tipping policy was unusual but this resort is continuously practicing it. The staffs always greeted us every time we meet. We are also thankful to the nurse on duty when we called her early in the morning to check our son who was suffering from fever.

The rate was expensive for an ordinary local tourist. However, they have a day tour which costs 3,000 pesos per head. These will include a buffet lunch and free use of resort’s amenities.

 

Enjoying Novotel and Bahrain Museum

We checked out from Holiday Villa Bahrain Hotel and transferred to Novotel Resort to enjoy more the freedom we have in Bahrain.

DSC_0218
Comfortable bed of Novotel Al Dana Resort Hotel

Location: Manama, Bahrain

Where I Stayed: Novotel al Dana Resort Hotel

Buddies: Family

The reception area is part of my dream house. I booked on this hotel a month ago through their website, so we availed a promo of free breakfast. I was shocked on its normal price as seen in the room price brochure. I paid half of the price. They gave us the room overlooking the sea and the Bahrain museum.

Novotel al Dana Resort Hotel is on the right side of Hamad Causeway when going to the airport after the Bahrain Museum. The hotel has its own pool and beach. The room is so spacious with an old style design. We’re surprised for a music playing when we entered our room.

A 15-minute walk from the hotel entrance is the Bahrain Museum. From the room’s window, the museum is just a few meters but when we walked, it took us for more than half an hour. The museum is open up to 8pm.

DSC_0295.JPG

We entered the museum at 6pm with an entrance fee of one dinar. The museum is the short way if you want to know the history, cultures, and traditions of  Bahrain. The museum offered a lot of knowledge about this country. From the wedding rituals up to burying of dead. The museum is nice but there was no guide offering assistance to enlighten us. What we needed was fast and good reading comprehension to understand all descriptions written on every display . We stayed in the museum for an hour and went back to the hotel for our dinner.

DSC_0348

The hotel offered buffet style of breakfast, lunch and dinner. The price varies. On dinner, the buffet costs BD11 per head and lunch is BD7. Breakfast mostly are free.

Conclusion. Bahrain is the smallest country in the Middle East. However, it has something big to offer to tourists like us and with family. It’s not cheap considering taxes paid in hotel reservations.

The taxi is available and cheap looking because of low numbers read in the meter. The taxi flag rate varies from BD1 to BD1.2 depending on the location you’re coming from. The currency conversion confused and surprised us that we have no longer money in hands. The highest bill note I have during this travel is only BD1. Saudi Riyals is widely used here, so it’s not necessary for us, staying in Saudi, to change money.

Bahrain is open for other cultures. Despite of being a Muslim country, there are other religions too. The stores are open during Salah time. However, the Shariah law is still strictly implemented.

Bahrain is a great country with hospitable locals. There are still more attractions I missed to visit.