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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Isla Verde: Batangas City's Hidden Gem

7/29/2018 09:40:00 PM 0 Comments
We were sad about the closing of Burot Beach to the public. Calatagan used to be our go-to place whenever we needed a quick getaway from the city. Beau tried to look for a new place we can go to for our spontaneous beach escapade. We initially thought about going to Masasa in Tingloy but with all the hype it's getting lately, I don't think it's a good choice. I don't like crowded beaches. He told me there's this island called Isla Verde. I honestly haven't heard of it before so I think it is not under many people's radar yet. I was sold.

raw beauty

Isla Verde is located within the vicinity of Batangas City. It lies along the Verde Island Passage, a strait that separates mainland Luzon and Mindoro. It is a very busy sea lane as it is the main shipping route from Manila to Visayas and Mindanao in the South.


farm life feels :)

There are several resorts in Isla Verde but considering our travel style and budget, we opted to stay in Isla Verde Tropical Friendly Resort. We also read some good reviews in Facebook so we gave it a shot.


our yummy baon :)

The first time I saw it, my impression was - yaiikss it's so rocky. Saan ka magswi-swimming dito? But then, I just took that thought off my mind and proceeded to the resort to check-in. We were already hungry by the time we reached the resort so we decided to eat lunch first.


our camp site

After filling up our tummies, that's the time we started pitching our tent. They gave us an option on where we can camp. They have a paved camp site at the back surrounded by tall trees. Knowing that there are not too many people during our visit and that there is no electricity provided at night, we opted to camp in the front area. I think it'll be scary at night if we are the only people there.


moments like this :)

The resort has a relaxing atmosphere. I mentioned about the rocky beach front, right? It's not only that but the waves are also strong in this side of the island. So there aren't many things you can do here but just to chill and watch the world go by. I don't know about you, but for me it is absolutely fine. I can just read a book or take long naps and I'll be happy.


the rocky shores 

I appreciate the resort creating this man-made salt water pool. Since you can't swim at the beach, it serves as an excellent place to unwind and still enjoy the sea. It gets filled during high tide. :)


my favorite part of the resort

Don't worry about the resort not having a sandy shore. You can just hike to the other side of the island going to Mahabang Buhangin for a swimmable beach. They actually offer guides for that but we always do things DIY and our goal is always to save money. As an adventurous duo, we just hiked on our own.


the island's verdant hills, hence the name isla verde

Tada! We found it! We didn't get lost. Mahabang Buhangin still isn't a perfect beach. No fine sands but mostly pebbles. But the water here is so calm and crystal clear.


floating without a care in the world

There are still rocks at the deeper parts but very safe for swimming. This area is even great for snorkeling.


pebbly but lovely :)

We spent majority of our second day in this beach. We never get to explore the other parts of the island anymore but I heard the Sawang part is also beautiful.


♥ happy times

No matter which island we visit, we always always look for freshly caught fish to buy. We were lucky to be able to get some, yay! We feasted on fried and sarciadong fish that night.


weeee! from the sea to our tummy :)

We stayed there for 2 days and 2 nights. Why not 3 days? Because the boat going back to the city leaves at 4:00 AM! We were technically just there for 2 whole days. Sad. Waking up very early while on vacation is just ugh.

It was a very fun vacation until it ends. Isla Verde has a rough beauty. You won't love it at first sight. You have to explore it and enjoy what it has to offer before you can appreciate it. We can see ourselves returning to this island.


How we made it to Isla Verde:
  1. Ceres Bus from Buendia/Taft bound to Batangas City.
  2. Alighted in Batangas Grand Terminal and took jeepney going to Bayan (city center).
  3. We were informed that the boat doesn't leave from Tabangao that day, so we took a tricycle to SM Batangas City Terminal for the alternate route.
  4. At the SM Terminal, we rode a jeep going to Dela Paz Port. 
  5. From Dela Paz Port, we took the boat going to Isla Verde and got off in Sampalukan.

*Under normal circumstances, the port being used by the boat going to Isla Verde is Tabangao. But during our visit, locals said the waves are strong that day so the boat was stationed in Dela Paz.


Reminders:
  • There is only one boat servicing the island every day. Arrive early or else you will have to wait for the next day!
    • Tabangao to Isla Verde: Departs at 9:00 AM
    • Isla Verde to Tabangao: Departs at 4:00 AM
  • Travel time from Manila to Batangas City is 1.5-2 hours. Ideal time to leave Manila would be between 4:00-5:00 AM.

Transpo and Resort Expenses per person:

Php 344.00 - Bus, Pasay to Batangas City RT (172 one-way)
         24.00 - Jeep from Batangas Grand Terminal RT (12 one-way)
         15.00 - Tricycle going to SM (one-way only)
         45.00 - Jeep from SM Batangas City to Dela Paz Port (one-way only)
       240.00 - Boat, Batangas City Port to Island Verde RT (120 one-way)
       250.00 - Camping/Tent Pitching Fee (Camping fee 100/pax, 150 tent pitching fee/night)
         50.00 - Mineral Water (100 for 5L)


that melodramatic sunset

What I Liked About It:
  • The beach and the water is clean.
  • Budget-friendly. Rates are very affordable.
  • It is not too far from Manila and very accessible to public transportation.
  • It is not crowded (when we went there), it made our stay very relaxing.
  • Clean bathrooms and toilets.
  • The resort people are very kind, cool and accommodating. All our requests had been met.

What I Didn't Like About It:
  • The beach in front of the resort is very rocky, not suitable for swimming. So you have to explore the other side of the island for a good swimming spot. I'm not sure about the other resorts though.
  • The schedule of the boat going back to the city. It's too damn early. :)


Isla Verde Tropical Friendly Resort 
Sampalukan, Brgy. San Agustin Kanluran, Isla Verde, Batangas City
Contact Person: Tita Jo
Contact #s: +63 2 7825833; +63 916 440 8647
Email: islaverderesort@gmail.com
Website: https://islaverderesort.com


Life is like the ocean. It can be calm or still, and rough or rigid, but in the end, it is always beautiful.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thunderbird Resort - Poro Point: Santorini Feels in La Union

7/26/2018 11:10:00 PM 0 Comments
Our family had been to resorts near Manila too many times already, so we thought of going somewhere far this time. If it's going to be a long drive, then we must stay in a somewhat luxurious resort. It should be in the North too because we were always in the South. That's when Thunderbird Resort came in to the picture. And who wouldn't be intrigued by those blue domes, white painted, Santorini-like architecture?

time to relax :)

Thunderbird Poro Point is located in San Fernando, La Union - in a cliff facing the West Philippine Sea, overlooking San Fernando Bay. It took us 6 hours from Manila. We passed through NLEX, SCTEX and TPLEX then finally made it here. We arrived just right on time. Check-in took a bit longer due to a lot of guests checking-out but the process was very smooth.


loved the ceiling art at the lobby

Right after we checked-in, we were assisted to our rooms by one of their staff. We are a family of 6 so we got 2 Premier Deluxe Rooms. We considered getting a villa but the 2-bedroom villa is just good for 4 persons. The 3-bedroom villa is good for 6 but it's Php 40,000+ per night. We don't want to waste that much money for just a night.


the key to our staycation haven

There are complimentary water and some pastries upon arrival.


welcome pastries

We were very satisfied with our rooms. They are very spacious and has ocean view. The bathroom is huge too which we also liked.


our room

Our parents really liked their room and their bed so much that they hardly leave. They did not explore the resort that much.


our balcony
Our room has a balcony with a fantastic view of the sea. Just looking out from there is already relaxing.

blue and white

Thunderbird Poro Point is also known for their Santorini-inspired structures. I think this is their best selling point. One can feel like they are vacationing somewhere in Greece. :)


Deluxe Building

They have 35 premier deluxe rooms, 29 deluxe rooms in Ocean Wing, 4 luxury suites and 60 villas. Yup, it is a huge resort covering 65 hectares.


sweeping views

Ang ganda ng lugar mga besh! Ang daming photo opportunities haha! :) We spent that afternoon just roaming around and taking good pictures.


feeling blue

We booked their Best Available Rate with Breakfast. We heard that their buffet breakfast is good. They serve it at the Olives Restaurant.


my breakfast plate :)

I came here for the unlimited bacon! :)


when bacon is life :)

They have a great selection of breakfast options. After feasting on the savory stuff, we tried the sweet pastries!


they had me with the heart waffle :)

The breakfast spread is superb. I highly recommend getting the room package with breakfast! It's worth it!


swimming time!

After starting the day with heavy breakfast, it's finally time to swim! We were there in the pool area quite early so there were just a few people around. Awesome!


loungin' under the sun
It was nice to just chill at the poolside for a while before going for a swim.


bar turned photo background

What do you do when there are no people around? Take a lot of photos! :)


to the sea!

When you had enough of the pool, you can go to the beach. I was a little disappointed actually. For a resort this big, there's just this small patch of seashore. It's not even that good for swimming as there are very rocky parts. Imagine the chaos if the resort is fully booked and everyone goes for a swim.

nevertheless, rock it!

We made the most of our stay. We're a very laid-back family, so we didn't even bother to check the other recreational facilities. As long as we enjoy the bed, the pool and the food - we're good. The only minus point for me is just the tiny beach.


sunsets are always beautiful everywhere

If you're looking for a resort with plenty of activities, this is not what you're looking for. This is more of a relaxation destination. They also have a casino, so if you're into that, this is also good for you.

I recommend this for those who want to unwind and take some time off from the city. Also, if you can't go to Santorini just yet, this is your best bet. :)



Thunderbird Resort - Poro Point

Address: Poro Point Freeport Zone, San Fernando City, La Union
Phone #: +63 72 888-7777 
Email: pororeservations@thunderbird-asia.com; sales@thunderbird-asia.com
Website: https://thunderbird-asia.com/poro-point/

Rate per Night  Php 10,500 for Premier Deluxe Rooms (good for 2 pax)
Extra person charge: Php 1,500 per person per night

*Rate posted is based on the room that we booked. Check their website for the other room types. We booked through their website directly.


Accommodation Rating: ♥♥♥♥


Enjoying life in the moment is the real luxury in life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Seoul Food Trip: What and Where to Eat When in Seoul

7/17/2018 01:33:00 AM 0 Comments
It's amazing how you can easily find food everywhere in Seoul. Just like us Filipinos, they also love their street foods. But if there's one place I would highly recommend where in you can sample many different Korean delicacies, it would be Gwangjang Market. I already mentioned this on my Day 1 post.

Some of the foods that we tried were inspired by what we saw in Korean TV shows. Please note that I only included here the local and traditional foods. For me, that's how you get to know more about the country. So, here we go!


Tteokbokki (Stir-Fried Rice Cake)

This is one of Korea's most popular food and also one of my favorites!

plain tteokbokki

This is usually seasoned with chili paste (gochujang) and sometimes being served with fish cakes or boiled eggs. I love it when the rice cake is so soft and chewy.


Bukkumi

It is a half-moon shaped pan-fried rice cake with sweet red bean filling. We had no idea what it is before we come to Korea. We just noticed a very long line of people waiting to buy this, so we thought we must try it.
yummy bukkumi
It is delish but at the same time heavy since the rice cake is made from glutinous rice. We just had our bibimbap that time so, we had a hard time finishing it. It is best eaten while it's hot!


Gyeran-ppang

This is also called the Korean Egg Bread. It's an oblong-shaped cake with a whole egg cracked on top of it.

it's like french toast and egg in one!
It is fluffy, sweet and savory. This is perfect as a snack or for breakfast.


Bungeo-ppang

This one I'm already familiar with because I've seen it so many times in variety shows and Kdramas. This is a super popular Korean snack.

i like snacking on this on the street :)
This is a fish-shaped pastry stuffed with sweetened red bean paste. This is like a smaller version of Japan's taiyaki.


Bibimbap

It literally means "mixed rice". Bibimbap is one of the most well-known Korean dishes to many people.

veggie bibimbap
This is served as a bowl of hot white rice topped with veggies, soy sauce, chili paste (gochujang) and fermented soy bean paste (doenjang). Slices of meat and egg are sometimes added to make it more special.


Ogyeopsal

I'm always looking forward to night time in Seoul. There are so many good eating places to choose from. At night, we always make sure to treat ourselves with their famous Korean barbecue!


eyes on the meat! handsome oppas are so distracting hahaha! ;)

Most of us are already familiar with samgyeopsal (three-layered pork), so let me introduce you to ogyeopsal. It means five-layered pork. Yes, five! The fifth layer is actually the pork skin. I also noticed that ogyeopsal has thicker slices than samgyeopsal.


wrap it up!
It's always a fun dining experience. The grilling, the wrapping, the multiple side dishes and the soju shots over stories. Those are happy memories.


Restaurant Recommendations:

Being a foodie traveler, I researched some must-try restaurants that we should visit while in Seoul. I actually do this in every country I visit. I don't mind giving recommendations when I really liked the food and the place. I'm not being paid to do this. I just want to share good stuff to other people. :)


Tosokchon

We came here for samgyetang. I always hear about this dish in Kdramas and it sounded like it's a delicious and a comforting dish. So I looked for the most famous restaurant where we can try this and they say Tosokchon is the place.

the best place for samgyetang!

Tosokchon is just walking distance from Gyeongbokgung so after touring the palace, this was where we had our lunch. It was a cold spring day, so having a warm soup is perfect. I actually find it weird that Koreans prefer to eat this during summer. Keep in mind though that this is a popular resto, so be prepared to queue.

samgyetang
Samgyetang is also known as the Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup. It has a whole chicken stuffed with rice, ginseng, jujube, chestnut and garlic. The broth is very light but pleasant. It's already a complete meal! They also serve kimchi-all-you-can and a shot of soju along with it. Don't miss this when in Seoul!

Address: 5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 10:00 AM-10:00 PM
Price: KRW 15,000/person


Yoogane

We were shopping around Myeongdong and we didn't know where to eat. I remembered seeing this when I was researching so we used Google Maps to find it - and we found it!
 
dak galbi

Yoogane is famous for dak galbi or spicy stir-fried chicken. This is made of gochujang marinated diced chicken with rice cake, cabbage, sweet potatoes and scallions. After you order, the server will cook your food right in front of you, so you don't have to worry on how to do it. They also have a self service station where you can get unlimited kimchi and other side dishes.


tired of shopping? eat!

It is a popular choice for friends who want to get together to eat. Yes, I've seen this in dramas too haha. They are also cheaper compared to the other restaurants that we visited, so thumbs-up for that!

Note: They have 2 branches in Myeongdong. We visited the first one (the one further from the station).

Address: 3-1 Myeong-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 10:45 AM-12:00 AM
Price: KRW 8,500/person


Palsaik

I'm totally saving the best for last. You guessed it, now it's time for samgyeopsal! Yes, this was my most favorite dining experience in Seoul. Palsaik now have branches in 6 other countries. We visited their main branch in Seoul which is said to be the best.


Palsaik Sinchon

We know this will be way more expensive than our usual food budget but we didn't give a damn about that. I mean, what's going to Korea without feasting on a high quality samgyeopsal? Right? With that said, we ordered the most expensive set.


Seafood Doenjang Soup
Palsaik Samgyeopsal Set comes with a complimentary huge pan of soup or stew (depends on your choice). We went for the seafood soup. 

4/8 flavors
What's so special about this place? Palsaik actually means 8 colors. They serve fresh local pork belly meat seasoned in 8 flavors. If you want to know what those 8 flavors are, they are Original, Wine, Ginseng, Garlic, Herb, Curry, Miso Paste and Hot.
 
can't wait to eat it!
With all of this you are also getting unlimited salad, kimchi, fresh greens and sauces.

what a feast!
   
Everything on this table was sooo good. From the soup to the meat to the sides. Quantity and quality are both superb! It was the best samgyeopsal I've ever had up to this day.
 
very happy tummies :)

I don't know how we managed to finish all that haha. This is definitely one of the best meals I had during my travels. I highly recommend this restaurant!

Address: 121-100 Mihwa Building B1F, 18 Baekbeom-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 11:00 AM-12:00 AM
Price: KRW 43,000 (good for 3-4 persons)


I hope this gives you an idea on what to eat when in Seoul. There are still so many foods that we weren't able to try like sundae (blood sausage) and jokbal (braised pork trotters). But it's okay, so I'll have more reasons to go back to Seoul. If you've also been to Korea and have additional suggestions, feel free to leave comments below. :)



The only thing I like better than talking about food is eating.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Korea Day 3: A Perfect Day Trip from Seoul

7/15/2018 03:27:00 PM 0 Comments
I was super looking forward to this day because we get to go out of Seoul. On our 3rd day, we visited the Gapyeong county located in the province of Gyeonggi. This area is known for its natural beauty and mountainous landscapes.

It'll take us about 2 hours to our first destination, so we woke up at around 7:00AM. Note: It's really a struggle to get out of bed on a cold spring morning! We planned our day trip itinerary the day before. So when we got up in the morning, we already know where we're heading and what transportation to take. This is all DIY.

spring blossoms

Our Gapyeong Day Tour Itinerary:

  1. The Garden of Morning Calm
  2. Petite France
  3. Nami Island

Here's how we went to Gapyeong by subway train. Our starting point in Seoul was in Hongdae.

  1. Hongik University Station (Line 2) to Wangsimni
  2. Transferred to Jungang Line then alighted in Mangu
  3. Transferred to Gyeongchun Line then got off in Cheongpyeong

It was multiple transfers but all their subways are interconnected and super efficient so it wasn't really a problem.

Cheongpyeong Station: jump-off point of our day tour

On our way to Cheongpyeong, we noticed that this is a quite popular route for the locals too. In the train, we were riding with so many oldies geared up for hiking. Some rowdy ajummas are even shoving past us. But it's cool to find out that old Korean people loves to hike and stay fit. Those things that we saw in KDramas are real!

Cheongpyeong Bus Stop: probinsya feels... mabundok tas walang tao!
Just walk out of the subway station and find the bus stop where you can take the bus going to The Garden of Morning Calm.

We availed the Gapyeong City Tour Bus ticket for KRW 6,000. With this ticket, you can already visit the major attractions in the area without having to worry about your transportation.

marked in red is our customized route

Most people starts with Gapyeong then end their tour in Cheongpyeong. We did it the other way around because we all feel that we would want to spend longer time in The Garden of Morning Calm hence we started in Cheongpyeong.

We waited for quite a while because the bus leaves somewhere between every 45 minutes to an hour. There is a tour bus timetable posted in the bus stop so you will know what time the next bus is coming.


The Garden of Morning Calm

We made it here at around 11:30 AM. The bus from Cheongpyeong Station took about 25 minutes. The weather was very pleasant. It wasn't very sunny so it was perfect for a walk.

ahh... so pretty!

The moment we walked down, we were already greeted by beautiful trees in different spring colors. We got really excited! Feel na feel mong nasa ibang bansa ka, kase wala namang ganito sa'tin haha!



Indian Poet, Rabindranath Tagore called Korea as The Land of the Morning Calm. This is what inspired the garden's name. It is considered as the oldest private garden in Korea.

a relaxing hike

The garden is 30,000 sqm so no matter how many people are there, you will always find a quiet spot for yourself. It has comely manicured gardens, scenic pathways and dainty flower beds. I super duper love this place!

flowers in bloom

It has 20 different themed gardens that houses approximately 5,000 kinds of plants. One of my favorite areas is the Moonlight Garden which is full of tulips of different colors.

lovely tulips

Below is another favorite of mine. The Pond Garden seems to be the perfect setting for your imaginary period drama romantic scene with your oppa haha! :)


The Pond Garden

I think we spent 2 to 2.5 hours here. As expected, we enjoyed the place a lot. I think we came during the best season to visit the garden. Spring blossoms were so enchanting!


Operating Hours: 8:30 AM-7:00 PM
Admission Fee: KRW 9,500


Petite France

Our second stop that day was Petite France. The first time I saw this place was in Kdrama, My Love from the Stars. But it wasn't the only reason why I wanted to see this place. I truly loved Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry's The Little Prince.

spot the prince!

This small village was built in 2008. This is said to be based on a French rural village and The Little Prince.

colour everywhere
You can find The Little Prince in different parts of the park. Most of them were depicting scenes from the novel.

me with Le Petit Prince

The village has 16 French-style buildings. Some of the attractions you can find are the European Doll House, Saint Exupery Memorial Hall, Antique Exhibition Hall and the Orgel House.

Frenchie feels

I don't know but I didn't enjoy the indoor attractions. I just like admiring the village from the outside. It's just the atmosphere that I like here. It is a small village so, it won't take you that long to see everything here.

Operating Hours: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM
Admission Fee: KRW 10,000


Nami Island

It took us around 45 mins from Petite France to the port going to Nami. Then we rode the ferry which only took around 10 mins to the island.

on board ferry going to Namiseom

Upon arriving, I already see the paths where Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo were biking in Winter Sonata. It instantly played in my mind haha! I won't forget that drama. It was one of the first Kdramas I watched that made me hook into watching more.

camouflaging :)

Back then, this tiny leaf-shaped island is only becoming an island during seasonal rains. But when the Cheongpyeong dam was constructed, it became an island all year long. It got its name from General Nami who is said to be buried there.

The Metasequoia Lane

The island has an area of 460,000 sqm formed with pebbles and sand. There are chestnut and poplar trees all throughout. There are 6 walking paths which offers different views for every season. I think this island is beautiful in any season. We actually didn't have enough time here. We probably just went around for an hour because we arrived quite late already. I will surely revisit this island in the future.

who can forget about this? :)

By the way, this place is very popular with tourists. It's really hard to take good photos because people are everywhere especially in the Metasequioa Lane. We have to wait for a long time, be quick  and get the right timing in order for us to get the shots that we want. You know those people who takes a hundred shots before they leave and give chance to others? Ugh! It made the experience a little less enjoyable.


Operating Hours: 7:30 AM-9:40 PM (ferry schedule)
Admission Fee: KRW 10,000 (inclusive of round trip ferry fare)

Gapyeong Station: the end point of our tour

Upon coming back from Nami, we rode the bus going to Gapyeong Station. Along with Cheongpyeong, Gapyeong is also in Gyeongchun Line. You just have to trace back the same subway route you took from Seoul.

It was a long and tiring day but it was fun. We were able to see stunning places outside of Seoul and we got to experience how wonderful spring season is. If I can redo this day trip, I would probably wake up much earlier so we can have more time in Nami Island. :)



Let your joy burst forth like flowers in the spring...