Sunday, August 28, 2011

Splendid Guimaras

Guimaras is one place I never thought I'd be interested in visiting if not for the Iloilo trip. There were not too many tourists here, especially foreigners, as the beauty of Guimaras remains to be underrated.  Let me take you there, and marvel not just at its infamous sweet mangoes, but at its  true, unspoiled beauty.


How to get to Guimaras from Iloilo?

We arrived at Iloilo Airport around 10AM, and took a van to Ortiz Port.  There were many vans outside the airport waiting for passengers.  The fare was Php 50 per head. The vans were just supposed to drop passengers off at certain stops, port not included, and we originally planned to get off at SM Iloilo and just take a jeep perhaps from there to the port.  But the van driver offered to bring us to  the port directly, we just added Php 100.  So we paid PHP 250 total (for the 3 of us) to get to Ortiz Port.


From Ortiz Port, we took a ferry that cost PHP 30 each to Jordan Port, Guimaras.   It was an hour of sea travel.  From Jordan Port we rode a tricycle to get to the resort.  It was a 2-hour ride on that tricycle with wind and dust making the ugliest of you.  We paid the tricycle driver Php 250.




The Resorts we stayed at

We chose to stay at Villa Igang as it has the better comments and reviews I have seen online.  It was a nice place yes, very few people, very quiet and relaxing.  It's surrounded by a lake, and has nature research facilities within the area.  This resort is very close to nature.  You can contact this resort at 0917 311 0260.



The downside? The room was not so pleasant considering that this resort was more expensive compared to the others I have seen on the net. Our room cost PHP 2,000 per night, and it only has 2 beds, and very simple.  The rooms were far from each other and are located on a hill and there were just 3 of us - all girls.  Come night time and you can barely see anything.  There were no ample lighting within the resort.  Good thing we explored the area before it became too dark, and we found this other resort nearby.  It's called Raymen's and it was completely different from Villa Igang.  It was very busy.  There were buildings for the rooms which were located right next to each other.  There were cottages for rent for day-tourists.  It's like the typical resorts in White Beach, Puerto Galera.  Rooms were bigger though compared to Igang's, and looks newer.  Room rates are a bit cheaper as well.  Raymen's also has a restaurant with lots of food choices, as opposed to Igang where they will only cook if you  order, and are expensive.  I know Villa Igang seems to be a better choice due to its soothing nature and ambiance, but we were concerned about our safety at night.  Both resorts are located in Alubihod.

So we decided to move to Raymen the next day.  We returned to Villa Igang after having dinner at Raymen, and told the person in-charge that we will move out in the morning.  Our plan of drinking by the beach did not push through as it's too dark.  So we stayed inside our room, quite nervous, and just had very few shots before going to sleep.

When we arrived Raymen the next day, we were relieved and felt safe with all the tourists and staffs surrounding us.  We took this room for 3 that cost us PHP1,800.  With all the worries gone, we immediately checked in, and prepared ourselves for a day of exploring this underrated island.

We hired a boat at the resort for PHP 1,150 to take us to Guimaras' islands. 




Let's explore!

SEAFDEC

First stop was at SEAFDEC.  It is a research facility for marine animals where they have big nets to keep the fishes.  They also have rooms to accommodate scientists, local and foreign, who come here to do their research.




It's my first time to see a lapu-lapu so big, it's like 1.5 meters long.  There were also many other interesting marine creatures introduced to us by the manong in-charge.  I have also learned that fishes do not mate physically, of course, their eggs just do.  Manong also told us that some fishes (I forgot what kind) have gender cycle.  Yes, they change gender every certain number of years.






LAWI MARINE TURTLE RESCUE CENTER

Next, we visited the turtle sanctuary where they keep rescued turtles.  However, these poor on-duty turtles were being disturbed every time a tourist wants to take a photo.



This one is soooo cute. It spits water out and quivers. I was scared to hold it at first.

We also passed by this beach where the sand is comparable to Boracay's and Bohol's.  I forgot the name of the island.




BARAS CAVE

Next stop was Baras Cave.  And yes we did disembark our boat, and entered the cave.  


Inside the cave can be found rock formations, of course, and sort of a lagoon formed from the ocean water.  Caves, especially with water, never fail to amaze me.  It's quiet, detached from the reality.  We even took a dip.












SNORKELING AT SOLY LUNA

After the cave, we went to Baras Beach to order lunch so it's already being cooked while we were floating and watching the underwater wonders of Soly Luna.






Don't expect much though.  What you can find in other snorkeling and dive sites, you can't find here.  There are not much to marvel at on this part.  Perhaps on other sites there are more corals and creatures.


LUNCH AT BARAS BEACH

After snorkeling, we're just in time for lunch.  We headed back to Baras Beach Resort we're we found our food already served on the table.  We had lunch by the beach, it was wonderful.




And here ends our Guimaras island tour.  There were still islands we were not able to explore due to time constraint, and the weather wasn't that awesome during that day as this trip took place on November.  So we went back to Raymen to take a shower and rest.


GUISI LIGHTHOUSE

Around 4PM we took a tricycle to Guisi to visit the old lighthouse.  The tryk ride cost us Php 150 back and forth.  The driver waited for us.

Unfortunately, the lighthouse area was closed and the key keeper was not there.  The tryk driver and one man who lives there helped us cross over the fence to get in.  My first time to do such feat!



I think it says, don't enter or climb the lighthouse as it would be dangerous.




Lucky us we're able to catch the sunset from here. :)
There was also this old house behind the old lighthouse that was already taken down years ago.   And there's a well, like Sadako's. :p  Our experience got creepier and creepier from that moment on.

That's the new lighthouse, very modern.





We were busy taking photos when we suddenly realized the tricycle driver was nowhere in sight. So we called for him. No answer. There was no one around.  It gets creepier as it quickly gets darker, and a realization seeps in: no way out except walk the deserted, unlighted path, beside what seems to be a forest, back to where the road is.  And I suddenly remembered the really creepy house we passed by that has crosses and huge rosaries hanging on the door. I would like to take a photo, but something stopped me from doing so, fear.  The feel of the house is really different.  I just did not mind it.

We called and called and called out for the driver, and walked a bit. No one was there.  We were really nervous at that time.  We felt like we're in a movie scene of Blair Witch Project. As we passed by the creepy house, we were almost running.   Until we spotted him chatting merrily with the guy who helped us get in.  We were so relieved.

Do you think I watch too much movies?

We went back to the resort to have dinner and to rest.  Kharla and Ayn went out at the beach front to drink a few bottles, while I was already dozing it off inside our room.  It was our last night on this island.

Our room at Raymen. But that's not me!

TRAPPIST MONASTERY

The next morning the tricycle driver who brought us here, picked us up for the port.
We passed by Trappist Monastery and bought some pasalubong.




And then off we go to Jordan Port to catch a ferry going back to Ortiz Port of Iloilo.  But not if I don't get to buy few pieces of mangoes, reasonable to carry, to bring back home a piece of Guimaras' sweetness to my ever busy hometown Manila.

What I'll miss the most?  This super creamy mango shake from Raymen.


Guimaras is indeed a haven!  It was tranquil, calm, soothing.  Most of all, people were very very nice. They were helpful, polite, friendly.  This island is obviously not as famous as Boracay or Palawan or Bohol, and not as developed as well in terms of accepting and accommodating tourists, but I'm glad I was here to appreciate its underrated beauty.


Here's the summary of the Guimaras part of our Iloilo-Guimaras trip itinerary:

Day 1 - Nov 27 (Sat)
9:50 AM –  Arrival at Iloilo Domestic Airport
                    Transport from Iloilo Airport to Ortiz Port via van (Php 250 for the 3 of us)
                    From Ortiz Port take a boat to Jordan Port, Guimaras
                    (Travel time: 45 minutes -1 hour)
12:45 PM - Arrival Jordan Port, Guimaras
                     Take a tricycle to Villa Igang (Php 250 per tryk)
1:30 PM -   Arrival at Villa Igang
                    Lunch at the resort
                    Rest
5:00 PM -   Dinner at Raymen Resort (nearby resort)

Day 2 – Nov 28 (Sun)
8:00 AM -  Move to Raymen Resort, check-in 
                   Breakfast
9:00 AM -  Island hopping (Php 1,150)
                   -SEAFDEC
                   -Lawi Marine Turtle Rescue Center
                   -Snorkeling at Soly Luna
                   -Lunch at Baras Beach
4:00 PM -  Guisi Lighthouse (Tricycle to Guisi Php 150)

Day 3 – Nov 29 (Mon)
9:00 AM -   Drop by Trappist Monastery for pasalubong  (Tricycle to port Php 250)
10:30 AM - Arrival at Jordan Port, then take a ferry back to Ortiz Port of Iloilo City........
...To be continued at the Iloilo post, click here.  To Iloilo we go!  ♥

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Friday, August 26, 2011

A Thousand and One Steps to Mala Yuanyang Hot Pot

It was our last day in Taipei, and still got enough money, that we planned a gastronomical trip to this restaurant called Mala Yuanyang Hot Pot.  Since Day1 we have been eagerly talking about and anticipating this restaurant trip.  What got us? Haagen-Dazs all-you-can for dessert! That's it. That's all you need to tell us to get us scampering to try your restaurant!  

And so there we were, after seeing what our time can afford in Taipei, looked for this restaurant in Ximen, a district that gave me a de ja vu of my Mongkok stay in Hong Kong.  The vibrant and busy feel of the districts were very much alike.

This one's for you Ayn!
It was already 2PM, we were starving, our feet hurting badly due to long walks, and still we could not find the restaurant!  Ayn forgot to get the Chinese name of it.  Lesson learned, all the places you wish to visit, get the Chinese names and addresses!  That way it would be easy to ask around.

I was close to getting in a severely bad mood as we found out that we have been walking past the restaurant for quite a distance already.  So we went back, trailing the length of the street hoping to find that pot of gold.  I was no longer happy and striding lazily behind the my two travel companions when they suddenly turned right and went straight up the stairs.  I saw the sign, could not see any word relating to Mala Yuanyang, only Chinese words, but there was a small Haagen-Dazs logo.  So this must be it! (What could have happened if they missed that logo??)


As we entered the restaurant, it was in its full capacity, meaning no more tables!  Proof that it should be worth the wait, and so the manager asked us to wait for one hour!  I was about to give this restaurant up when we saw a couch and realized we would give anything just to be able to sit down and rest our dying legs and feet.  After 45 minutes, give or take, we were called and given a table.  This was already 3 in the afternoon.


As we were seated, all of our exhaustion seemed to evaporate away, and all smiles there were! We were just so excited with the food!


We were given a menu and asked to choose the ff:
2 soup base -  we chose Vegetable and Sze Chuan (this is really spicy!)
5 meat trays - I chose all beef! There were seafood choices too.




The vegetable soup base was the one we mostly used.  It's similar to the soup base of Healthy Shabu-Shabu which has branches in the Philippines.  The Sze Chuan? We barely touched as it's really spicy for a soup.  It choked me.



On the shelf were several kinds of vegetables, seafoods, meat balls, and other ingredients you could imagine to make up your delicious hot pot lunch.  Eat all you can.



There was also a drinks station with choices of milk tea, sodas,  juices, etc.  There's a tea station.  And what we have been craving for, the dessert station with unlimited Haagen-Dazs and Movenpick ice cream of so many irresistible  flavors!





I took 2 flavors at a time, and then go back again to try the other flavors until I have tried every flavor there is on the freezer.  Yes, I can do that.


They only allow customers to stay for a maximum of 3 hours in the restaurant, which we were able to fully take advantage of.  We started at 3, and a waitress approached us at 5 to remind us that our time's up.


This experience cost us NT$ 549 per head. All in. Not bad at all. Mala Yuanyang Hot Pot  (馬辣鴛鴦火鍋) is located at 86, Dingzhou Rd Sec 3, Taipei (台北市汀州路三段86號).  (Better print out the Chinese details!)  It is open daily from 11:30 AM to 5:00 AM.  This is highly recommended to vegans too as there are a wide variety of veggies and seafoods to choose from.


This is Taipei (click here to view Taipei trip blog post), don't ever leave without going hot pot!  This is a healthy way to be a glutton.  Thanks to Ayn for putting this one in our strategically planned itinerary. ;)


Till the next gastronomical trip! (Most probably in India.)  ♥


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