The Pink City and the Gayest Structures of Jaipur

While waiting for the pre-ordered complimentary breakfast at the hotel’s garden, an Indian guy wearing a turban showed up. My observant eye focused on him because he didn’t look like one of the staffs. He was heading to the portable music bass amplifier positioned in the middle of the garden. He slowly switched it on and sat beside the bushes. He took out his musical instrument, a flute and started playing. I was expecting of a frightening snake show. His music seems taming a wild beast from the forest but my perception was wrong! He was serenading all guests which was normally an ordinary morning show in the hotel.

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The Pink City

Location: Jaipur City, Rajasthan, India

Where I Stayed: Anuraag Villa

Buddies: Group (3+)

Our tour in Jaipur started at 9:30am exploring first the city center. A joyride to the old walled town of Jaipur which was called the Pink City. “It’s an Indian pink”, as explained by our new local guide. The vibrant color has different shade when comparing it with the bright pigment of commercially bought pink crayon. The stores, offices, flats, temples, and all the buildings inside the city were painted with the same color.

We passed by at Hawa Mahal, a distinctive landmark inside the Pink City. It’s a five-storied high wall with windows designed for conservative women of the royal family. It looks weird especially if obsessed to things which has so many holes. Parking was not allowed so we didn’t have time to drop by.

We entered the City Palace which was the residence of the emperors in the 17th century. For a fee of INR500 each, we explored the domain of the complex. The complex is home for old palaces with halls and alleys. Some was converted into museums and I personally saw galleries of old and antique personal belongings owned by previous leaders of Jaipur. Some old collections of textiles, armories and jars were also on displays. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed so the great collections were up to memory keeping only.

Beside the City Palace, we visited the Jantar Mantar. It is like a village with invisible houses and the stairs are remnants for the naked eye. It is actually an observatory and an open physics laboratory which has huge instrument for studying stars and constellations. There is also an instrument which provide accurate timing using the sun shadow. An entrance fee of INR200 per head gave us access to the old but proven technology of the 18th century.

After the city, our guide brought us to the Shopping Paradise to see locally made handicrafts. One guy met us at the entrance and voluntarily demonstrated on how they put dyes and design their own made textiles. We didn’t stay long time in the store for our stomachs were shouting because of hunger.

At 2pm, we moved out from Jaipur City and visited the Amber Palace and Fort with a fee of INR500 per person. The palace is magnificent as it was situated on the hilltop with a lake that nourishes its beauty. A rain poured heavily when we reached the rear entrance gate. The rain paused all the movements of tourists and stacked us at the gate. But when the nimbus cloud cleared out the sky, everyone advanced to explore the grandeur palace. The site has with magnificent view of the Amer town and spectacular surrounding walls on the mountain which securing the entire palace. It is haven for a dreamed like royalty living. The most impressive building for me was the Mirror Palace where walls and ceiling is ornamented with mirrors.

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We wanted to see and ride an elephant so we headed to EleJungle for the elephant activity.  We availed a 30 minutes elephant ride within the village which costs INR1,100 for two persons. The elephants were scary big and domesticated animals but its slow swaying movement massaged my son to sleep while I felt boredom. The simple living of the villagers was seen as the route of the elephant ride covered it.

Before going back to our hotel at 4:30pm, we stopped by at the lake side park sighting Jal Mahal. A small palace in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. The shining palace was under renovation and by looking at it from the distance left my thought uncovered. I didn’t have personal evidence if the palace is really floating or just surrounded by water. Our local guide said that there is no natural bodies of water in Jaipur and lakes were man-made.

At 7:30pm, we were invited by our buddy for a dinner at Raddisson Hotel. A sumptuous Indian cuisines were attempted to love and enjoy. We felt special as the head chef visited our table to check the served menu. The foods offered on our table were prepared distinctively as they adjusted spices to suit our sensitive tongues. Though majority of the menus were served spicy, our rendezvous on the restaurant with unusual food on my plate was remarkably astounding!

We’re back to the hotel at 10pm and prepared for moving to Delhi in the morning.

We checked out from Anuraag Villa at 9:30am. Our two buddies were already left the hotel earlier and on their way to Agra for a day tour.

I took a last glance at the Pink City and visited Madhavendra Bhawan Central Museum or famously known as Albert Hall.  Unfortunately, it was closed for maintenance which was scheduled on every Monday. The architectural beauty of the building was furnished with noticeable numbers of pigeons which dominating the picturesque hall. Such assemblage of feathered friends was visually romantic to the camera but undeniably unhygienic to the actual scene.

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Pigeons Hall or Albert Hall

Before leaving the city, we dropped by at Blue Pottery and discovered the displays of handmade porcelains on sale. The travel to Delhi took us five hours because the road was consistently lane for slower big trucks. Industrial site is along Jaipur-Delhi route. We arrived in Delhi at 4:30pm and we checked-in at Hotel Clarks Inn.

( Day 3 and 4 of my customized tour to the Golden Triangle of India last August 25 to 30, 2017. )

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

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.

Temples, Palace, Cruise, and a Lotus

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At first look – a typical water lily

We woke up early for our Thai breakfast at 7am. The dish was like a porridge with so many spices. The taste was very flavorful.

We then prepared to Taling Chan Floating Market which was just 20 minutes from the hotel according to the google map. Unfortunately, the taxi only brought us at Taling Chan town and not in the floating market. They advised us for a motorcycle ride for 60 baht to reach the floating market in time.

SONY DSCSONY DSCThe floating market was not so big but we saw bulk of tourist visitors. Like us, we’re here with a common reason. To experience the market venue in a floating platform. The good thing was its free and has no entrance fee.

We saw those women paddling the boat and selling their products. The water was not clear, chocolate in color but those big fishes (catfish?) were smartly living there. One Thai student fed the fishes with bread and offered some bait with us. We enjoyed the life in the floating market and the restaurants as well. The first menu was the delicious and fresh vegetable salad. We also tried  the tasty bowl of noodle soup while seated in a shortened chair with matching table. Our stomach were full when we left the market. There were so many Thai foods and agricultural products on sale.

DSC01647.JPGWe decided to walk up to the temples that we had seen along the way. We didn’t usually know the names of them. After the temples, we hired a taxi going back to the hotel to prepare for our next tourist site. I checked through internet that entering the Grand Palace requires descent clothing. Wearing short skirts and pants were discouraged.

SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCWe arrived at the Grand Palace at 3pm. We were late but we still secured an entrance gate pass for 400 baht each. We were amazed on the preservation of the place and the temples of Emerald Buddha. The stones and the architecture were very impressive and unique. We even entered the temples removing our shoes. Touring and visiting Grand Palace needed more time to explore. And we failed! We didn’t gave such ample time. We lastly visited the Emerald Buddha museum before it closes at 4:30pm.

We followed the flow of visitors exiting the palace. It was directed to the nearest market along Chao Praya river. A cold refreshing smoothies after a tiring walk inside the palace was the best reward.  The foods in Thailand were very cheap and healthy.
We didn’t eat much for we’re preparing for our cruise dinner. For it still early, we walked from the market up to the pier allocated for boats going to Temples of the Dawn. We just glimpsed the temples because we didn’t have time to transfer on the other side of the river.

DSC01742.JPGThe Wan Fah Dinner Cruise was booked through site Bangkok Cruise for 1,300 baht. The starting point was at the River City. Thinking that we’re just along the river, I’m expecting that we’re near the River City pier. I asked a “tuk-tuk” but the driver charged us 300 baht. We didn’t agreed because for me it was overpriced. We dealt with 200 baht. But on the way, I realized that it was really far and the traffic jammed us. The cleverness of the driver escaped us from the crowded traffic. When we arrived at River City Mall after Sheraton Hotel, we handed him 300 baht as silent apology.

At the pier, back of the River City Mall, we couldn’t see the staffs of Wan Fah Cruise. We went inside the mall and saw their booth. We approached the staffs and confirmed our arrival. They pinned us corsages with a number and led us to the waiting old wooden boat at the pier.

SONY DSCSONY DSCOur dinner cruise along Chao Praya River started at 7pm. Prior for our boarding, a lady wearing a thai traditional costume held us for a picture taking. She then led us to our table number corresponding the number on our corsages. The boat started to move and the dinner was prepared starting with a spicy soup and vegetable spring rolls. After a few minutes, the Thai and Seafood set baskets were served. While the people were busy popping their heavy meals, the tour guide was explaining the tourist sites we had passed like the Temples of the Dawn, Grand Palace, famous hospital, and the beautiful Rama VIII bridge of Bangkok. When the guide is off air, thai traditional music was on the playlist.

On the way back, Thai traditional dances were performed. They also asked some tourist to dance together with them. Unfortunately, my camera was down because the battery degraded. I have no souvenir from those cute dancers. Three different dances were performed but with same dance steps. For me, only costumes and the music were changed but the steps were not. The bill was then given to each table. The drinks were not free except for water. Each delicious drink costs 150 baht. Then the photo shopped picture which was taken before boarding was in frame and costs 200 baht.
The river cruising took two hours and the experience was great. Touring Bangkok will never complete without experiencing river dinner cruise.

DSC01750.JPGFor the River City is very far, we chartered a taxi in going back to our hotel. Our hotel was not that famous because the first driver didn’t know it. So, we rode a taxi to the famous Phayathai train station and from there another taxi to Resort Bangphlat.

Pearl Farm Paradise of Samal

Settling in the southern part of Davao City lies a hidden paradise which is less than an hour boat travel from the city wharf.

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Comfortable Bed of Pearl Farm Resort

Location: Samal Island, Davao, Philippines

Where I Stayed: Pearl Farm Beach Resort

Buddy: Friends (3+)

Pearl Farm is a private resort for relaxation. I admit that it’s quietly expensive but my stay there for two days was worth for the price. Pearl Farm has its own private Marina wharf in the city where we boarded a boat going to the resort. A cold and refreshing “pina colada” was given to us as welcome drink while their friendly staff gave us briefing about the resort and its facilities.

We preferred to stay on hilltop “balay”accommodation as the cheapest option and its various natural views. A breath taking scenarios of beach, Parola bar, Malipano island, and famous Mount Apo greeted us in the morning. Next time, when there’s a chance to come back, I’ll try the Samal House built on top of the water. The room is with native and tribal decors with a personal refrigerator full of chocolates, chips, and beverages. Wow! but they have prices, it was not compliments.

DSC00114DSC00150DSC00144The Resort’s Aqua Sports Center offered us island hopping and snorkeling for three hours. Included in the rental are towels, speed boat, guide, and snorkeling equipments. We enjoyed the island hopping especially to Malipano Island and sight seeing of marine life by snorkeling. However, the sea that time was slightly itchy because of jellies so we didn’t stay longer in the water.

Starting at 6pm, cocktails in Parola Bar was 50% off, so it was the time for a little talk while watching the sea on sunset. There was an excellent buffet food on all meals with variety of seafood especially during dinner. There was also a native group performance at night starting 7pm that will last for almost two hours. I loved the traditional dance “Singkil”, which was performed during our stay.

DSC00176.JPGTips. It is a luxurious and rated 5 star resort so a bit expensive for a normal local tourist.  I availed Bed and Breakfast which price varies on their site www.pearlfarmresort.com.
There is a Free WIFI in the resort.
Payment can be settled with cash or credit card.