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.

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St. James Church
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dakak Beach

 

Steamy Moments at Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri

We woke up early at 5am to visit Taj Mahal, the India’s most famous site which is listed in the Seven Wonders of the World. Sunrise is said to be the best time to visit for less crowd and colder temperature. We left the hotel at 5:30am and arrived at the Nature Park in less than 10 minutes. We walked on the park’s walkway leading to the entrance ticket booths. An entrance fee was paid for 1,000 rupees per adult. Included in the fee was a bottle of water and a plastic foot cover which has to be used once inside the Taj Mahal.

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Snapshot of Taj Mahal from the Great Gate

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The entrance gate was still closed. We blended ourselves in a long queue of tourists whose also availing the sunrise scene of the famous site. The gate opened at almost 6am and everyone passed through security scanners and strict individual inspection. The inspection took time especially in women’s lane because majority of them were carrying bags. Foods are totally not allowed. Even us didn’t escape because my wife brought cookies and bread for my son who we pulled out from bed few minutes before leaving. Our tour guide rescued us by giving my son chances to eat or else those hunger reliever food will destine into trash. We’re not alone on such scenario. Small children were busy chewing food beside the inspecting guards while parents took most of the portion.

The sun was already up but we’re still at the entrance gate. After we cleared from inspection, we followed the flow of the crowd up to the Great Gate. We belonged to the first wave of visitors, so the place was so crowded and humid. Sharing and having long patience must be considered by everyone to have a personal space of a dreamed backdrop of the majestic marble monument and its symmetrical garden.

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After the Entrance Gate of Taj Mahal Complex
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Tourists on Early Morning Scene
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The Majestic Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife who died on giving birth to their 14th child in the 16th century. The architectural design was the living monument of his love and grief which inspired everyone. Agra claimed as the City of Love because of it.

We wore the foot cover and stepped on the marble flooring of the mausoleum. I was amazed on the artistic carvings before my eyes. In the center of the mausoleum lies the replica of where the original tomb was situated. Photography was not allowed in that particular area. The entire marble mausoleum was uniquely carved and decorated with gems and precious stones. According to our guide, it is best to see during full moon as the gems shine on moonlight beam.

We left the site at 7:30am with a sweaty experience and took our buffet breakfast in the hotel.

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The monkey family greeted us in the park.

At 9:30am, we left the hotel going to Jaipur. We did a side trip at Fatehpur Sikri which has the biggest gate in the history. It was a former palace of Mughal Emperor Akbar before moving to Lahore and Agra Fort because of unavailability of water supply in the 15th century. The history of this landmark was important in the construction of Agra Fort and Taj Mahal. The father of Shah Jahan, named Jahangir, was predicted and born in Fatehpur Sikri. The connections of Agra’s architectural sites were rooted to the civilization which started from this great site.

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The Entrance Gate – Fatehpur Sikri

FATEHPUR SIKRI

We arrived in Fatehpur Sikri at 10:30am and met our site tour guide. The architectural form of the fort brought our curiosities. Both human and goats carefully climbed up on the inclined stairs to reach the huge gate. Yes, number of goats were present at the entrance gate.

We removed our shoes as it was required and left them at the gate for a fee. The guide explained to us the site, some part of its history, mosque, tombs, palace ruins, and the escape underground tunnel which led to fort in Agra. Aside from a mosque, the place as a whole is now a wide mausoleum.

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Watching the Modern Town Fatehpur Sikri from the Gate

DSC_0220Visiting the fort at Fatehpur Sikri has no entrance fee but it was consider unstable because of those annoying guys who sell items inside the tourist site. They were still following though I declined their offered products so many times. Every time that the site guards came, those guys pulled out and ran nowhere playing hide and seek. We didn’t know if we fell on the scam trap because the needed materials for the ritual at the Tomb of Salim Chishti was bought at the back side and hidden from authorities. The area was clear with vendor when the guards routinely rove but again they occupied it back. The ritual had done by buying first the required materials; a cloth, yarn, and red flower petals for 1,200 rupees. We went inside the white marbled mausoleum by placing the cloth on top of the tomb, scattering the petals, and tying the yarn at the wall with our individual wishes.

We left the site at 1pm for it was too hot to walk on the fort barefooted. Our guide led us to a local store where they crafted materials and exhibited their local products. The store owner convinced us to buy stuffs which we are not interested. We were irritated especially when forcing a belief and insisting that we should have it. The stuffs were overpriced! He offered an item worth 1,500 rupees and dropped to only 300 rupees when we walked away from the store. At such descended price, I will never accept it even he will give it free. A souvenir from a cheating attempt is not worth to bring. I was so upset realizing that the historical tour ended with a hot confrontation. I rather advise not to visit Fatehpur Sikri unless you’re a believer of Salim Chishti.

We left Sikri finally at 1:30pm going to Jaipur. The beautiful scenery and heavy rainfall cooled off my mind from before steamy conversation. Jaipur City is hiding from the mountain as we entered a tunnel passing through it. We arrived in the hotel, the Anuraag Villas at 4:30pm.

Meanwhile, our trip buddies in Dubai successfully complied the travel requirements and waiting for their flight to Delhi. They will directly go to Jaipur to meet and join us on the remaining tours.

( Day 2 of my customized tour to the Golden Triangle of India last August 25 to 30, 2017. )

Lantaw Marbel and the Road to Gumasa

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This is a family outing planned for two months. For this is a peak season, we are obliged to pay the full amount on room reservation at White Haven Resort in Gumasa.

We left the town of Mlang at 7am. We are expecting to pass provincial roads of North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, and Saranggani. We estimated a continuous four-hour of land travel to reach the beach capital of the south.

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On the way, we got a 15-minute stopped over and visited the highest place of Marbel, South Cotabato. The Lantaw Marbel is a park on the hills of Marbel giving us the panoramic beauty of the city. The cages of birds and fish ponds are the first attractions the park can offer to tourists for free.  The park has no entrance fee. There is also a restaurant overlooking the city but they have no customer that time.
There is on going building construction that might be offered for wedding and big events reception. It may be soon to open.

After an hour, we reached General Santos City. We stopped at RDEX Food shop to buy frozen tuna, their best seller, for our dinner. Gumasa is more than an hour away from the city according to locals. And finally, we reached White Haven Resort in Gumasa, Saranggani Province at 3pm.

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Location: Gumasa, Glan, Saranggani Provice, Philippines

Where I Stayed: White Haven Resort

Buddies: Big Family (13+)

The White Haven Resort is the first resort which lies on the Gumasa shore before Rosal Resort. We reserved the beach front Pagoda House for our entire family of 13 heads including three children. The Pagoda House has two rooms. One room can accommodate three persons and the other rooms can carry five. The place is wide, so there is no problem for having a big group. It also has open cottages with shared toilets and kitchen for day tour visitors.

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The Pagoda House is a typical one room native house with veranda and a hall which commonly used for dining. The other room is wider and separated from the main house. Only the main room has comfort room. Included in the vicinity is the grilled station with gas stove for cooking. There is also a refrigerator inside a wooden cabinet for storing foods. All these properties are inside a wooden fence, so the feeling of comfort and security is great.

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The beach has white fine sand that’s why travelers named it as “Boracay of the South”. Though on our arrival, the beach was so messy. We asked the staffs if what happened to the place. They too couldn’t answer but I saw them cleaning the entire beach front and shore line.

The beach is good for family retreat. If you’re looking for relaxation and peaceful place in Southern Mindanao, this place can be recommended. Just don’t forget to bring a lot of foods. Both raw and cooked.

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At night, we remained calm and quite as the staffs kept on reminding. This is to give other visitors the best and relaxing rest, and respects to what they talked spirits whose taking care and maintaining the beauty of the place.

I didn’t have time roaming the entire beach even the neighboring and sister resorts, Rosal and Coco which both owned by the same family.

We left the resort at 10am next day and stopped over in General Santos City for meeting long time not seen friends. We finally departed the city at 3pm.

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Best Buy. On the way back to Marbel, we stopped over in a highway (town of Polomolok) to buy pineapples. Polomolok and neigboring towns are home for sweet pineapple plantations of DOLE Philippines.

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DOLE Philippines pineapple plantation

Spying Underground River and Caving in Ugong Rock

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Our tourist guide named Ernie picked us in the hotel at 7pm. On the way, we picked us a couple, and a family with four members. All of us have the same status as explained by Ernie. Booking for Underground River tour should be done a month before of planned vacation. Our group just have booked yesterday so this local guide gave us chances to visit underground river. Anyone can justify that it is illegal but I proudly say, he gave justice to our vacation itineraries. We occupied those names who has booking but confirmed that they wouldn’t come. We’re just like an undercover agents having different identities. Me and my wife having the names of Mr. and Mrs. Narciso Lopez with matching identification card. Very clever!

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The underground river is in Sabang, two hours away from Puerto Princesa. As we traveled, we passed those roads categorized on how its name implied. The zig zag road, roller coaster road, massage road, and the rocky road. Ernie also surprised us as he is also a puppeteer. He managed to entertain us using his monkey puppet.

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UNDERGROUND RIVER. We arrived in Sabang and we enjoyed ourselves taking beautiful shots while Ernie registered us to Sabang Park, the entrance of the river. After 30 minutes, we boarded a boat going to Sabang Park where wild alligators were freely roaming. They said that there are monkeys too, but we saw nothing during that time.

We headed to the river entrance where we put on our life vests and helmets. A paddled boatman whom our underground tour guide arrived to pick us and started the tour inside the longest underground river which was now included in the Seven Wonders of Nature. I’m seated in the front seat so I’m maneuvering the spot light of the boat. I clearly saw stalagmites and stalactites in vegetation, animals, and biblical forms. Also, the entire cave is with foul smell because of bats and cave birds. The paddling tour took for 45 minutes.

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We were back to Sabang beach with the same boat which waited for us in the park. In the beach, our buffet lunch was served as part of Underground River package tour which costs P1,500 per head. The lunch was so delicious because of pork liempo and chicken adobo. Tamilok, edible sea worm, in vinegar was also served for P100.

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UGONG ROCK ADVENTURE. “The villagers here are nature destroyer…before”, nicely explained by Ernie. The money earned from every tourist visiting Ugong Rock contributes and helps the villager to do other livelihood instead of damaging the nature.
At the tourist receiving hall, they asked us if we like to do caving, spelunking, and zip line. Caving costs P200 while zip line is for P250 per head. “What is spelunking?”. It is a climbing technique during caving by pulling the body with rope. Everyone in the group agreed to do caving but nobody assured to do zip line. We put on helmet and gloves as required to avoid contact with the growing stalagmites and stalactites. The group started caving Ugong Rock which its name derived from the humming sound when knocking rocks and walls seen in this cave. Ugong Rock Adventure is merely a mountain climbing activity which the final destination is on the top of the mountain.

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At first, the caving was funny for it was just an ordinary cave. But when we went higher, the steeps, channels, and slopes were getting more exciting. We needed to enter in side ways, climb stairs, and spelunking until we reached the summit for more than 30 minutes.

After the sweaty caving, we took a rest at the shade on the top of the summit. How can we go back? The staffs gave us two options, by going back through the same channels we had passed through or by 11 seconds zip line. Even the eldest in our group preferred the zip line for he felt his knee trembling and tired. Besides, going down is more difficult than climbing up.

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I went ahead for it was my first time to do zip line. I felt nervous. My entire body was almost numb and I closed my eyes when the frictionless motion of the harness begun to slide. In the mid air, I adjusted, relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

We left the Ugong Rock with a smile for most of us were first timers. We arrived in Puerto Princesa at 4:30pm.

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Dinner at Ka Lui is the most suggested food tripping venue by locals. The restaurant don’t accept walk in costumers, so we were advised to book it early. We asked the hotel receptionist to reserve us a table in Ka Lui and we were scheduled for 6:30pm dinner. The place was with native decorations and we entered  the restaurant leaving our shoes on the rack outside.
The foods were excellent especially the Trubattaha salad. They served the food orderly from soup to desserts so our table was never full of serving plates. The best thing here was the food price was cheap though it was a well known restaurant.

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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 far and there is no direct flight from Mindanao. So I saved first enough 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.

Desert Camping in Al-Khobar

12-3-2010 267.jpgExperienced the thrills with both 4×4 ATV and car while racing in the desert. Witnessed car exhibitions and more for a one day trip.

Fun: No work. Time to do some odds. Our team decided for a picnic in a desert park. I thought there are food stalls and cottages, but I am wrong.  Two cars parked side by side in the middle of the desert. The picnic mat served as ceiling from direct sunlight.
Beverages and water are the most important things to bring. The sand was calm but it was full of surprises. It looks like flattened but it is weak when the wheels of motorbike passed it through. So many times, I lifted the motorbike’s back and turned it sideways just to remove and avoid to be stuck.
‘The whole day was so tiring and the trip ended by watching hundreds of cars racing and doing exhibitions while climbing the tip of the sandy mountain.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERASANYO DIGITAL CAMERAHighlights: One of my fellow coworker was accompanied by his wife, a 3-year old daughter and a son who is just started to walk . While the bigger guys were driving ATV and climbing those sandy hills, the young kids were playing and busy molding castle from sand. Unfortunately, desert sand was different from that in seashore so they struggled to build it.

Expenses:
ATV rental costs SR100 and SR20 for camel and horse back riding, respectively. The park has no entrance fee. I hope there should have food stalls build near that site.

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