Bahrain, the second time around

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Al Fateh Grand Mosque

After three years, we were back in Bahrain for an important document to be renewed from the embassy.  Visiting this small country required expats to applied re-entry visa. An amount was already spent so we decided to stay and enjoy more this open Arab country before coming back. Joining with us was our friend whose family is also here in Saudi Arabia.

We left Saudi Arabia at 10pm and arrived in the hotel in Bahrain at 1pm.

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Comfortable Bed of Ramee Palace Hotel

Location: Juffair, Bahrain

Where I Stayed: Ramee Palace Hotel

Buddies: Group (5+)

The Ramee Hotel and Palace is located in Juffair near the Al Fateh Grand Mosque. It is like a hotel apartment for each unit has a kitchen. We selected the unit with two rooms to share. The apartment was too spacious for a single family. This hotel has wide parking space. On the ground floor, there is a restaurant on the front and bars & disco pubs at the back. It should be a noisy atmosphere but we didn’t heard anything from our rooms.

At 6pm, we took our dinner at our favorite Japanese and Korean restaurant, the Arirang Edo Restaurant. We really missed the soup and the authentic taste of the menu. Though it was hard to park the car on that place, we managed to get a space. One of their staffs was outside barricading the front of the restaurant. Reserving the small space for their costumers.

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At 8:30pm, we headed to the Gulf Dolphin Resort to witness the sea lion and dolphin show for the second time. The entrance was still the same at BD4. The one-hour show was already started so we booked the next show which started at 10pm. We met again the same personalities as the animals trainers were the same. We enjoyed the show at this time because our kid interacted and appreciated it.

At 11pm, we visited our friend’s  cousin who work in The Domain, a classy hotel with a bar on the top floor. We were hesitated to enter because toddlers are with us. However, we managed to visit them at the restaurant and was introduced to their Bahraini manager. The manager was so accommodating and gladly given us complimentary cocktails to drink. We didn’t enter the bar because we were wearing short pants. A couple of alcoholic drinks satisfied our night. We were back in the hotel at 1pm.

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Next morning, we went to the embassy for our real purpose of coming in Bahrain. The transaction was so fast that we already at the hotel in less than an hour. In the afternoon, we met our friends and dined at Bahay Kubo, a Filipino restaurant serving “lechon belly”. Their pork barbecue and their desert “halo-halo” are also in demand.

Camiguin is a Paradise

Camiguin island is situated on the Northern part of Mindanao. Its geographical location might be considered as hindrance for us, from Central Mindanao. The island is not easy to reach.

The gate point going to the island is through Balingoan pier in Misamis Oriental. It was less than two hours travel when coming from Cagayan de Oro City (depending on the transportation). But in our case, from Central Mindanao, it was a continuous nine-hour land travel. However, we managed to be in the pier before 1pm. A ship was already boarding but unfortunately no more space for our vehicle. So, we waited for an hour for the next trip. We finally left the pier at 2:10pm.

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The Ro-Ro (Roll of, Roll On ships) schedule is in every two hours. There are three shipping lines operating Balingoan-Benoni route. The port entry is so congested because of passengers and vehicles whose waiting for their turns to enter. We’re in a big group with two toddlers, three kids and two senior citizens, so we have an advantage. Priority lane is sometimes practice in some ports.

We arrived in Benoni Pier, Mahinog in the island of Camiguin after two hours. As we’re not familiar with the place, our gadget with GPS did the work. But we’re sure, we will not be lost. Camiguin island is a small island and there’s only one main road surrounding the entire island.

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A dorm type room at Villa Paraiso Resort & Apartelle

Location: Mambajao, Camiguin, Philippines

Where I Stayed: Villa Paraiso Resort & Apartelle

Buddies: Group (15+)

We directly headed to our hotel in Mambajao, the capital town of the island. A 30-minute travel from the sea pier. We booked the dormitory room of Villa Paraiso Resort & Apartelle for P3,000. We spotted a good hotel which can accommodate a big family like us. The toilet is separated from the shower, so it was another advantage for a big group. They also have common toilet/shower rooms, so time management was not a problem at all.

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For it almost night, everyone insisted to relax in the water of Ardent Hot Spring. At first, it seems very far from the town but it is actually near once we started moving in Mambajao. All places are just connected and very accessible.

In Ardent Hot Spring, we soaked our tired body to gain more energy. The water temperature, which is naturally heated by vent from volcano, was so relaxing. It was the best place to gain friends and hear great stories

Struggling Flight and the Mactan Bridge

We prepared our baggage late. The typhoon Hagupit is still lashing the eastern islands of the Philippines and based on news, it will pass through the Central Visayas. Our doubt, maybe our flight will be cancelled.

I booked the Shore Time Hotel in Boracay for 3 nights and they asked to have 10% non-refundable down payment. Our flight itinerary will be Davao to Cebu and Cebu to Caticlan on the next early morning. There is no more direct flight from Davao to Kalibo. I didn’t know the reasons why airlines had ceased this comfortable route.

TRAVEL. At 7:45am, we left Kidapawan City and arrived in Davao Airport three hours early of our flight schedule. I checked the Cebu Pacific website for any changes on their travel advisories. Most of the flights going to Visayas were cancelled.

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At 12:30pm, the plane from Cebu landed in Davao confirming that the airport in Cebu was still safe. At 01:20pm, we departed from Davao and safely landed in Cebu after an hour. The clouds covering Visayas islands was so alarming, indicating the presence of a typhoon.

Yet Cebu City has a typhoon warning signal, only rain and moderate winds was experienced. “This typhoon is not as strong as Haiyan. There is no tree uprooted”, according to a local.

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Comfortable bed of Bellavista Hotel

Location: Mactan, Philippines

Where I Stayed: Bellavista Hotel

Buddies: Family

We checked-in at Bellavista Hotel for overnight because of its overlooking view of Mactan Bridge at 2,600 pesos. The free shuttle pick up from and to the airport was a plus. It has a small pool on the top of the building but we didn’t try swimming because the weather condition was not normal.

We ordered foods from the restaurant and it delivered to the room nicely. The taste was excellent and I loved their homemade pizza.

The complimentary buffet breakfast was simple Filipino meal but filled our stomach satisfactorily.

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Off Road to Bahrain

Bahrain is the closest open country from the eastern region of KSA. A weekend gateway for both Arabs and expats from Saudi Arabia who are longing for a few breezes of cultural freedom.

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At 3pm, we left Jubail going to Bahrain . We’re lucky that the queue in the immigration is not too long. Somebody told us that so many locals flock to Bahrain during weekend especially Thursday night up to Friday. The immigration is in the middle of the bridge connecting the two Arab countries.

We arrived in our hotel at 5pm which I booked in Agoda. The hotel is just at the back of the Holiday Inn in Hoora Exhibition Road.

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Comfortable Bed of Holiday Villa Hotel

Location: Manama, Bahrain

Where I Stayed: Holiday Villa Hotel

Buddies: Family

The receptionist gave us the room on the 16th floor which has a great view of sea and part of the city. Holiday Villa Hotel is a new hotel as what the local said. A little walk in front of Holiday Inn is the taxi terminal. So this is the best place if you come to Bahrain for enjoying the city life.

We directly headed to Sacred Heart Cathedral for the 5:30pm mass. The mass is already half way when we arrived. We met our friends whose working in Bahrain and gladly introduced us to this small country. We dined in Swan Lake, a known Thai and Filipino restaurant in the city proper. We ordered pork menu for we’re craving for it. A sip of coffee at New York Coffee shop continued our bonding.

The next morning, we visited the city’s known mall, City Centre. It’s huge but it still small if compared to malls in Philippines. However, we have not known that we spent our three hours walking inside this mall. It has its own attractions. Aside for being a mall, it has a hotel and a water park.

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PARK and SHOWS. A 10-minute walk from the hotel crossing the pedestrian bridge is the marina bay area which has an amusement park and a dolphin show theater. We bought a ticket for a dolphin show for BD4 per head which will start at 6:15pm. The first show is the sea lion. The biggest sea lion that I’ve seen so far doing the same tricks. Although the language used in the show is Arabic, but it seems we understand animal gestures.

The next show is the dolphin tricks. The area is too small for a big mammals. The dolphin can do more when it’s in the big pool. Since most of the audience are kids, the facilitator mostly drawn more attention from them. The show ended on a picture taking with the dolphin. At this time, the audience are dry. The dolphin jumped up and landed on the dry stage. For the sake of picture, the dolphin sacrificed.

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DINING. There are so many great restaurant near the hotel in Hoora. We’ve discovered the Arirang Edo Restaurant, a Japanese and Korean cuisine. We have a great time enjoying our Korean meal with Japanese sushi. They also gave us a special room near the  kitchen, and we have a chance to witness one of their chief while preparing sushi.

City Tour in Puerto Princesa

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Visiting Palawan was before just in a dream. This island on the western part of the Philippines is very far. There is no direct flight when coming from Mindanao. So I earned first enough money to secure an airline ticket before anything else.

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TRAVEL. Departed from Davao City at 8:45am by Cebu Pacific Air and landed in Mactan, Cebu after an hour. We took our luggage immediately and directly headed to check-in counter for Puerto Princesa. I was confused why the airline didn’t connect our onward flight considering that our flight booking was with the same airline company. We had then to rush after landing, took our baggage, transfer from arrival to departure hall, and again check-in. We made it anyhow and managed a few minutes rest in pre-departure area waiting for our flight to be called at 11am.

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Comfortable Bed of Audissie Pension Hotel

Location: Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Where I Stayed: Audissie Pension Hotel

Buddies: Partner

The plane landed at 12n in Puerto Princesa and Kiko was contacting us through my mobile. I booked Audissie Pension Hotel, owned and run by Kiko’s family. A budget but a comfortable hotel within the city for P800 per night. We did a miscommunication with Kiko. He requested a van to pick up us from the airport but we already hired a tricycle to bring us to the hotel. I personally met Kiko and I didn’t expect that I am talking to a young guy who managed a hotel business.

The people in the city are so warmth. The tricycle driver offered us for a city tour in the afternoon. We agreed for P600 for the half day tour. If the city tour was through travel agencies, it will cost P600 per head.

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PUERTO PRINCESA TOUR. The tricycle picked us from the hotel at 2pm and we headed directly to a travel agency to inquire if there was available slots for the Underground River tour by tomorrow. But it was sad to hear that it was fully book. I booked a Firefly Watching on the night for P1000 per head to cover up our disappointments. We’re on the way to Crocodile Farm when Kiko called me and informed that he found us a vacancy for an underground tour. We then asked him to book for us and we’ll pay him after our city tour.

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Back to the Crocodile Farm, we made it to the entrance which costs P20 per head and saw crocodiles before the rain falls. We visited the small nursery and the adult pond. We also toured other cages but we found those animals and birds hidden because of heavy rain.

Less than an hour, we left the farm and proceed to Mitra’s Ranch on where the provincial governor mansion situated and sighted islands of Honda bay. There were so many local tourists on that site having fun with series of zip line.

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A few minutes away from the ranch is the Baker’s Hill. We stayed there for few minutes. We toured the bakery and its park. It was my first time to see real and alive peacock! Before leaving, we bought freshly baked breads from the bakery and all tastes delicious especially the ube hopia. We need to come back in the hotel because we will have butterfly watching activity which will start at 5pm.

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NIGHT WATCHING. They picked us from the hotel and brought us to the city’s Baywalk which I noticed was just at the back of our hotel. We met Edison, our firefly watching tour guide. At 6pm, together with other groups, we boarded to a big boat and sailed to the mangrove site. The group divided into two, comprises of 10 people each group. Us, the first group will continue sailing further using the small motorized boat on the river entering the mangrove site. The other half will remain and take their dinner in the big boat.

We transferred to the small boat and sailed toward the river, deeper on the mangrove site. Edison asked us to put our hands in the water to notice that the water was luminous and glowing because of the abundance of the organism called plankton. Farther on the site, we saw mangrove trees decorated with hundreds of fireflies.  The cruise was very educational for Edison explained briefly details about fireflies and mangroves. He also answered why not all trees has fireflies.

After 30 minutes, we went back to the big boat to give way to the next group and for dinner. They put wood on the top of the seats which serve us our dining table. Everyone are tired and enjoyed the seafood meals mostly crabs and shrimps.

We’re back in the city at 9pm. We arrived in the hotel at 10pm because the driver forgot that we’re just staying at Audissie Pension House, a few minutes away from the Baywalk.

 

Splashed at Manila Ocean Park

My wife met me at the passenger’s arrival area of NAIA Terminal 1. The place was so crowded and humid. We hired a private taxi to bring us to Pinoy Pamilya Club Hotel in Pasay. I booked a premium room through the internet for three days for P1,650 per night with complimentary plated breakfast for two. The room was good enough and painted walls comforted us after a very tiring travel.

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Comfortable Bed of Pinoy Pamilya Club

Location: Manila, Philippines

Where I Stayed: Pinoy Pamilya Club Hotel

Buddies: Friends (2)

Day One. Every time my foot touches down in Manila, I always visited Mall of Asia. At this time, we watched the movie,”The Avengers”, in 3D. The best place for a coffee break was still at Starbucks and tried milk fish “sisig” for dinner in Bangus Restaurant.

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Day Two. Visited Manila Ocean Park. We headed to the park and bought park attraction tickets for three. We met our grade school friend whose staying in Taguig. She will be our tour guide in Ocean Park. We chose Penguin Delight B package worth P900 per head. The package includes entrance in Oceanarium, Sea Lion Show, All Star Bird Show, Trails to Antarctica, Jellies Exhibit, and the Musical Fountain Show.

The Oceanarium was the first attraction we entered. We passed through a scanner just like in the airport for security check. A bottled water was not allowed, so our friend forcefully drunk her water before entering. This attraction was a big aquarium with so many big and small fishes. We were like under the sea, seeing colorful and different variety of fishes, sharks and stingrays.

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After 30 minutes, we went out for the next attraction was the Trails to Antarctica. I met here the eight cute penguins walking and diving in the small pool. We tried the slide in the hardened ice with a tube and helmets. There is no snow in the Philippines! I enjoyed the ride though it only took a second. We then entered a snowing room, “A Snow Village” where the temperature was maintained up to negative 20 degrees. The staffs gave us coats to resist the cold and stayed there for 15 minutes. We stayed longer if compared to other local tourists who only stayed few minutes.
We then visited the Jellies Exhibit and amazed on how the jellies look like when reflected with colorful beam of light. Amazing!

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We then went in the amphitheater  for Sea Lion Show which started at 3pm. I saw already such show when I was in Subic, Zambales so I was not anymore surprise on sea lions tricks and abilities. After 30 minutes, the show ended and we went inside the building for snacks. We waited for the Birds Show which will start at 4:30pm. We tried the five minutes 4D shows twice and was shaken dreadfully. We never forgot the Volcanic Eruption show causing my wife threw up her recently taken snack in the comfort room after the ride.

At 4:30H, we witnessed the Birds Show that for me has common tricks. I will enjoy this much when I’m a first timer. The highlight of this show was finding the lost yellow snake which was only at our back. I appreciated the people behind the training of those animals. We left the place and back to our hotel after the Birds Show since the Musical Fountain Show will start at 7pm. We decided to have dinner in our hotel.

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Before 7pm, We already occupied the middle highest seat of the amphitheater. It was the best spot to see the entire colorful fountain show. I was very excited to see this kind of show for the first time. The musical show was composed of a rising water fountain, a funny acting characters, and an environmental message. It’s so funny watching the characters (the fat chef struggling to catch the two lobsters and fishes for meals).
In the middle of the show, I felt cold water touches my neck. It might be because of the fountain drops. But it was not…it was a heavy rain! The show still continued and some audiences went out. The strong wind brought the rain water across the seats making the audience all in standing ovation. It was really fun! The staffs started to distribute rain coats! I saluted that they are prepared for such unpredictable event. The theater flooded with water and everyone are wet. My shoes are wet too! I enjoyed the rain better than the fountain show! At the last minute of the show, only few people were left. We waved our hands saying good bye to the funny show characters and we were the audience who stepped out last from the theater.

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It was so difficult to find a taxi on this area during night. I wondering if I booked the park’s owned, H2O Hotel, how could I go out anytime at night? Since the waiting area outside was flooded, taxi fare negotiations were expensive. So, we managed to walk up to Roxas Boulevard and rode a public PUV to Baclaran.

One Night in Orchid Resort

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Comfortable Bed of Orchid Resort

Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Where I Stayed: Orchid Resort

Buddies: Solo

Booked a standard room for THB990 per night with breakfast and airport transfers. This was my second time in Bangkok. The Orchid Resort is one of the cheapest hotel in Bangkok considering its location to the airport. I arrived late, so I didn’t meet their representative at arrival gate door 3. I missed printing out the hotel voucher but when I arrived in the hotel, they have a copy. The hotel staffs were well trained. The check out time was 12 noon, so I paid additional THB300 because I will check out 3pm.

My room was on the 5th floor and the building has no elevator. The stairs were so narrow to walk for two persons. Anyway, the room boy carried my baggage. I was on a light travel. I had a good room overlooking the hotel ground and the market. I also had a good spot for the hotel’s small swimming pool. At first, I struggled connecting through their free broadband internet for the portal was not directly open from my laptop. So I went down and asked their staff’s help. Account number and password was obtained from the reception.

Another, I was confused on the sliding door at the receiving area. One time, I mishandled it. Luckily, there were children playing at the hall and used the door.
Breakfast was American style with coffee. One restaurant staff humbly offered me for a city tour (with fee of course) but I declined because I already visited some spots with my wife and we’ll visit the others and remaining spots together.

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THINKING THAILAND.
“Amazing Thailand” and I was definitely amazed. For me, living in Thailand is so easy and the people are good and honest. Accommodation here is comparatively cheaper than in Manila. Street foods are healthier and cheaper too. Tourist spots are so many and need more days to visit them all. Taxi drivers are honest but only the problem for us as tourist is language.For “tuktuk’,they asked higher and mostly expensive than a taxi. I rather say that “tuktuk” is only good for first experience but choose taxi for a comfortable ride.

BYE BANGKOK!
I don’t know when will be the next time to visit this beautiful place.  I finally left Bangkok at 6:40pm with Sri Lankan Airlines.