Sunday, July 20, 2014

Where to Stay in Dumaguete, Philippines: Island Leisure Boutique Hotel


Note: This is not a sponsored post. I paid my own way.

Dumaguete is a place I have waxed poetic about. This small town in Negros Oriental in the southern islands of the Philippines is laid-back and charming. The food is surprisingly good and cheap, too. And let's not get started on its proximity with beautiful islands like Siquijor.

But where to stay here? For that question, I put up for your consideration this hotel: Island Leisure Boutique Hotel.

Island Leisure Boutique Hotel, Dumaguete, Philippines
Island Leisure Boutique Hotel in Dumaguete, Philippines

Here's the gist of this hotel review: It's a nice place in terms of facilities, but its location and ambiance are some things you might want to consider more closely.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Myth, the Beauty, and the Island of Fire: Siquijor, Philippines

As soon as I stepped out of the gates of the small pier, five, six, seven men approached me.

"Where are you going?" one asked.

"Tricycle, motorbike?" another interrupted.

"Do you already have a hotel?" a man to my left spoke out.

"I'm going to Villa Marmarine. I'm booked there. Whose tricycle am I taking?" I said, smiling at the commotion every tourist coming here must cause.

I got on a tricycle and we drove past the Saint Francis of Assisi Church near the port. "Welcome to Siquijor," a big sign in front of the church said. From here, we got onto the circumferential road which snaked all around the coast of this tiny island in the Visayas.

Unsurprisingly, the road was empty, save for a truck or a motorcycle we'd meet every three minutes or so. "And this is high season?" I asked myself.

After about fifteen minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road towards the coast and into my accommodations for the night. I stepped out onto a wooden deck by the reception which served as a dining area. The deck overlooked a quiet, white pebbled beach, shaded by tall coconut trees, and then, there was the sea with varying layers of blue, turquoise, and green.

Beautiful sight, I told myself. So why aren't there more people here?

Right. I'm in Siquijor.

Siquijor, Philippines
Varying shades of blue, turquoise, and green. Siquijor, Philippines.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

There Is Something about Dumaguete

The bakery cafe was not as I remembered it. It was larger, able to fit six, seven big families, maybe. A number of servers walked around now, unlike being at the back of the counter like how it was before. The ambiance was more refined, but not pretentious, like you would expect a cafe to be in a learned (not to mention, moneyed) university town.

Dumaguete, Philippines
Dumaguete, you charming small town, you.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Photos from a Day in the Jungles and Caves of Pang Mapha

Pang Mapha is a smattering of small villages in mountainous Mae Hong Son province in Northern Thailand. It is about an hour from the very popular and touristy town of Pai, but not many people make it out here, oddly enough. Truth be told, I preferred it that way.

When I traveled to Pang Mapha, things remained quiet. And freezing cold. But mostly quiet. It was the perfect place to enjoy nature pure and simple. And enjoyed nature I did.

That day, fellow travelers and I were exploring the jungles and the many caves of Pang Mapha. After all, Pang Mapha is on the tourist map of Northern Thailand precisely because of these caves. Though I am no fan of caves, caving, or spelunking, these products of nature are something else.

The largest cave system is Tham Lod, complete with park offices and rafting tours (a river runs through some parts). That did not stop us from exploring the jungle and the other caves surrounding it, of course.

Here are some photos from that day in the jungles and caves of Pang Mapha.

Mae Hong Son, Thailand
The largest and most prominent of the cave systems of Pang Mapha: Tham Lod

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Day Trek to the Summit of Big Thumb of Pang Mapha in Mae Hong Son, Thailand

The hill side was thick with fallen dried leaves. The trail we were following up this mountain disappeared many meters behind us. At this point, we were really just winging it. Unsuccessfully, I might add. A couple of steps climbing up the hill and we slide down taking dried leaves, twigs, branches, and rocks with us. Not pleasant.

I looked back through a clearing in the tree line and see more hills, thick with the semi-temperate forests of this far Himalayan foothill. I had given up on the idea that we would be able to finish this day trek. It was getting late after all. So I just entertained myself with the thought that being so close to the Myanmar border, we might have already crossed it.

Of course, not that day. That afternoon, we were still trying to summit one of the many limestone karst hills of Pang Mapha in Mae Hong Son, Thailand. They called it Big Thumb.

Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Pang Mapha's Big Thumb sticking out like a sore, well, thumb. Views from up there, well, you'll see.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Photos from the Soppong Festival of Mae Hong Son, Thailand

The pick-up truck sped forward into the dark and narrow mountain roads. There were five of us huddled together at the back. We had to hunker down and shield our body from the wind which at that point can only be described as icy. I was so preoccupied with protecting myself from the cold that I almost missed looking up at the trees. Once in a while, the canopy cleared out, and what I saw was the clearest of the clearest night skies I had ever seen.

Mae Hong Son, Thailand
The clearest of the clearest night skies in Pang Mapha, Mae Hong Son

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Me, the Mountains, and the Mae Hong Son Sunrise

"We had to start setting up the bonfire nightly two days ago," the lady at the lodge said. A fellow traveler who had arrived a couple of days earlier confirmed it, too: the last couple of days was remarkably cold.

The dinners we ordered were being served as I and a few other travelers sat cross-legged at the low communal table of this large open-air mountain lodge. For the first time in the year, I donned my sweater plus my jacket just to cope with the 8°C weather.

Any place else I wouldn't have felt weird wearing so many layers. It was already December after all. But I was in Thailand. Nobody told me it got this cold in Thailand.

Which was why the next morning, I found it strange, almost unnatural, getting out of a warm, comfortable bed at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. (the coldest hour of the day), layering up, and heading out.

But really, how could I ever pass up a sunrise in the mountains?

Thailand: Mae Hong Son
Catching the sunrise in Mae Hong Son, Thailand