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Monday, October 29, 2012

Where to Stay in Samal Island: Fernandez Beach and Garden Resort

10/29/2012 02:19:00 PM 0 Comments

We were originally booked in Mahan Garden Resort (which was a huge mistake!). We were so disappointed and turned off that we decided to just give up our deposit payment and look around. Yeah, it was that worse! So, I'm warning you now - think twice before booking that resort.

We tried to look for other options in the next town. They say the beaches there are much better than those near the port. We checked a few but came back to this particular one. It was the "best" option we had at the moment.

our deluxe cottage

On the first ocular inspection we did, I was already okay with the place. The resort is nice and not too crowded which I liked. But my companions find the rate a little steep. PHP 1500 per night for an A/C room for 2. We looked for a cheaper alternative but failed. The others are just cheap. Rooms and resort ugly. So we went back to Fernandez'.

other cottages

The only thing we didn't like about the resort was the surly security officer. We already had a problem with him the first time we went in to inquire. On the second time when we were already checking-in, there he goes again making our resort experience unpleasant. All of us were already hot-headed before we were allowed entry. Gosh.

our bed

We asked for a cheaper room but it did not suit to our liking, it is very basic and located at the back corners. We settled with the much better but more expensive one. The bedding was downright. The room and toilet very tidy and has a working A/C. Nothing more we can ask for.

a little sitting area

We did not utilize it for sitting, we just put our bags and other stuff there.


The room also has a television set. We only watch news on the TV. Who needs to watch TV all day on vacation?

toilet and bath

As long as the bathroom is clean, I'm good. It also has hot shower.

swimming pool

The pool entrance is free for those who are staying at the resort. For those on day tour, they are required to pay. It is clean and well-maintained. We also enjoyed swimming here, no annoying crowd hehe.

the beach

We we weren't able to swim at the beach. It always happens that when we go there, it was low tide. It's not fun treading in shallow waters. We just hung out a bit and took photos.

We had a nice stay here but not really worth it if you're not staying at the resort the entire day like we did. We weren't able to utilize the all the amenities to the fullest. The restaurant prices were also a rip off. A bottle of beer for PHP 120? Oh c'mon. We agreed to just stay here for a night. It's too much money to waste already.

I would recommend this resort more to families, barkadas or other large group of people. The rates are better if shared by more people. It's just not practical for a solo or a couple traveler to stay here. Don't get discouraged though. The resort is nice, really.

Accomodation Information:

Fernandez Beach and Garden Resort
Address: Penaplata, Babak District, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao
Contact Nos: 0932-724-3091
Room Rates: PHP 1500 for Double Deluxe; PHP 500-700 for Budget Rooms; PHP 3500-5000  for Family/Dorm Rooms.

Accomodation Rating: ♥♥♥

This is Part 2 of my Davao travel series.

Where to Stay in Davao City: Hotel Uno

10/29/2012 12:37:00 PM 4 Comments

We learned about this hotel through the internet while searching for a place to stay in Davao City. It wasn't the cheapest option, but we found it very much worth the rate. The location is perfect. It's at the city center, very much accessible to public transport. It is along CM Recto which is one of the main veins of Davao City.

hotel exterior

There are also numerous banks nearby so if you ran out of moolah, you can easily get some. I heard it is the bank district. That explains why. This hotel is fairly new. They say it just opened a few months ago. I asked a local friend about it and she haven't heard of it yet. Even the several taxi drivers are not yet familiar with it.

hotel entrance

We validated that it is really new. Exterior and interior looks fresh. Everything looks new and spotless.

hotel lobby

We loved taking photos here at the lobby. It is very nice. :) Amazing WIFI speed can also be found in this area. So while waiting for our buddies to get ready, we check our social networking accounts and research about our next destinations.

spacious reception area

That lovely chair was one of the favorite photo spots of the guests. Not only us took photos, almost every guest had there Kodak moment there haha. ;)

hotel front desk

The front office staff were also awesome. They were very pleasant and attentive to our requests and needs. I worked for customer service for several years and I'm now working for a hotel group, so when I say awesome, it really is. ;)

hotel restaurant

They also serve food here and also do room orders. So if you feel too lazy to go out for food hunting, you may just fill your tummy at the hotel.

hotel guestroom

The room is not too big, just right. Well, if you're visiting the place for a vacation or business you won't really need space. The bed is very firm and the pillows soft. Not to mention, everything is so clean. You'll definitely have a goodnight sleep.

hotel t&b

The bathroom was clean as well. Water pressure, okay. We just had a slight problem with the hot and cold shower. Sometimes, the hot water won't work but not a big deal for us.

hotel elevator

Elevator! Yes, it has one. Believe or not, there are still hostels/guesthouses that only have stairs. It's a drag to carry you're heavy packs while climbing high stairs. It's a big plus for them to have a lift.

It is walking distance to some restaurants where you can eat. City attractions are just a short ride away. We got no noise problems even if it's along a busy street. At night, there are also grilled food vendors lined up across the street if you need a quick bite.

Kudos to the hotel staff too. Check-in and check-out were a breeze. All of our favors and requests were granted. We really appreciate how they took care of us. Will I stay again? Absolutely, yes! I would surely recommend this place to my friends who are also thinking of heading to Davao City.

Accomodation Information:

Hotel Uno
Address: CM Recto St., Davao City, Philippines 8000
Contact Nos: (63) 82 282 1111
Room Rates: PHP 850-925 for Double Aircon Rooms*; PHP 650-750 for Single Aircon Rooms*; PHP 250  for Single Fan Rooms*.

*These rates are published as Promotional Rates. It is highly probable to change in the future. If you happen to experience the rate change, please let me know so I can update this blog. Thank you! :)

Accomodation Rating: ♥♥♥♥

This is Part 1 of my Davao travel series.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Entering the Kingdom of Cambodia

10/19/2012 01:24:00 PM 0 Comments

For me, this was the highlight of this backpacking trip. I've been dying to see the Angkor Wat. It was one of those places I have in my bucket list. I was introduced to Asian History when I was in high school. We discussed all the magnificent and significant historical places in Asia. From then on, I told myself I will visit them all someday. More than a decade later, I am setting my foot on them one by one. :)

From Aranyaprathet, Thailand we get in to Poipet. It is a large town hosting the main border crossing with Thailand. Entering Cambodia was a breeze. Everything had been pleasant. We also had this nice experience in the border. While we were being wowed by the huge casinos surmounting the border town we suddenly realized we were missing one piece of luggage.

woohoo! Angkor Wat here I come! :)

Yes, casinos are making the scene in this town. We were surprised too. It turns out that gambling is illegal in Thailand. So the casinos in this part of town isn't really for the Cambodians but for the Thais. They flock here to gamble legally. I wasn't able to take photos anymore because we panicked about our missing bag.

A man approached us while we were rushing back to the immigration office where we suspect we forgot about the darn bag. He said they noticed when we left it and they tried to run after us to return the bag but they lost us from the crowd. It was quite a walk to go back there so he offered my Beau a ride on his bike to retrieve it. I was really touched by his kindness. That bag had our shoes and other travel stuff. It wouldn't matter to us big time even if we ended up losing it but still, they were so nice to run after us and try to give it back.

One of the things I very much appreciate when traveling are those random acts of kindness from strangers. Those are very heart warming. They make our world a better place to live. I considered it a good sign as we enter Cambodia. I took a mental note then that Cambodians are kind and honest.

After thanking them we proceeded to the free bus transfer available going to the terminal where we can get a ride to Siem Reap. Along with the other foreigners, we waited until there are enough people for the bus to depart. We waited there for about an hour.

Cambodian Riels

We exchanged our remaining bahts into riels. Just enough to buy something to eat and to dispose the bahts since we're not returning to Thailand. US dollars is widely accepted in Cambodia anyway and we really prepared some lose dollars for this trip.

Poipet Bus Terminal

The transport terminal is fairly new. They say we're already lucky to experience this because it was harder back then to find and negotiate your transportation to Siem Reap.

where are you going?

There are only four destinations you can choose from at the terminal. You can choose between taking the bus or a private taxi. We opted to take the bus because it's very much cheaper.

typical Cambodian countryside

It was another long ride that day. I think it took us 4 hours. I never felt tired though. I feel that way when I'm in a estranged land. I want to see as much as possible.

Siem Reap city proper

We were happy to finally see signs of the city. We were on the road from Bangkok to Siem Reap for more or less 12 hours. Whoah! By the way, the darn bus didn't take us all the way to the city center. They say it was some kind of scam so they can transfer the passengers to the overcharging drivers in the city who takes advantage of the tourists. Maybe they share the profit, I don't know. Good thing our guesthouse offers free pick-up.

The place where we were dropped-off is a bit far from the city center. We were informed that it will take 30 minutes for the driver to get to us, so we decided to try the roadside eateries across the road. We were famished from the non-stop transit. We crossed the street and saw what the local food vendors serve.

Cambodian Okoy hehe :)

They sell okoy, grilled chicken, grilled frog, etc. Beau decided to try the chicken and the shrimp. I only ate the shrimp. I couldn't take the chicken. It was just grilled. As in no marinade, no spices, no nothing. The odor  (lansa) of the grilled chicken skin and flesh really put me off. No offense. I had fun though. It was nice conversing with strangers only through smiles and sign languages and yet you understand each other. It was an amazing feeling. :)

some grilled chicken

We were still eating when our driver arrived. Pretty fast. We were easily spotted because despite of our Asian looks, we are the only customers there with big backpacks. I wonder what he was thinking seeing his guests eating in a roadside carinderia in the middle of nowhere. Haha! We were the only travelers who dared eat there. Our bus mates have all disappeared.

We arrived in the guesthouse around 7:00 pm already. We were welcomed by the one of the owners. Unfortunately, we have to stay on their relatives' guesthouse for the first night then just transfer the next day. We have no qualms about this because we were being taken care of profusely.

our spacious bedroom

They brought us to Victory Guesthouse. It is located on the other side of the road. It is being run by their relatives. The room is big and most importantly, very clean.

spotless bathroom

The toilet and bath is also large. The guestroom was a relief most especially when you've been traveling all day. We just freshened-up and then went out to take a look at the surrounding areas, check out of if there's a nearby convenience store just in case and also to hunt for comfort food.

Cambodian Halo-halo

We found these street food vendors off the highway. I was craving for a dessert then so I opted for their version of halo-halo. It was yummy. The only difference is that instead of evaporated milk, they are using coconut milk.

a nice serving of Balut :)

Beau tried their balut. I found it cute, I mean the way they served it. Here in Pinas, they'll just put it in a plastic and give you some salt and vinegar and that's it. There, aside from the plating they'll give you salt, chili and some lime. All of these combined, tastes heavenly.

water please...

When we asked for some water, they gave us this small stainless glasses with crushed ice and a straw. Unlike our typical glass of water hehe. Cute. These small cultural peculiarities amuses me.

my 1st Cambodian moonshine :)

When we had our fix, we went home to take a good rest. I was so happy to finally be in Cambodia. That night, I looked out at the window and saw the moon shining. I couldn't stop smiling because I was so excited  to see The Angkor Wat the next day... :)

This is part 1 of my Cambodia travel series.