Thursday, June 30, 2011

Last day in KK (day 4)

We made an effort to wake up early on our fourth and last day in Kota Kinabalu. Our flight back to Manila via AirAsia was at 1:40pm so we had the whole morning free.

As always, I spend my last day in any trip shopping. After our breakfast, we headed to the three malls in the city center – Warisan Square, KK Plaza, and CentrePoint, to do some last minute shopping. We did some solo shopping so we could maximize our time.

Kota Kinabalu is really not a shopping destination, well except for the Vincci shoes I hoarded and the outlet stores in Warisan Square like Roxy, Charles and Keith, Vincci, Quicksilver, to name a few.

i <3 SALE!!

Anna, the happy shopper
If you happen to be in the city on a Sunday, try going to the Gaya Sunday Market where you can buy local souvenirs and have a gastronomic experience with Malaysian food. Too bad, we missed that.

At around 12pm, we went straight to the airport. We were in a hurry that when it was my turn for immigration, I realized that I lost my departure card. Dang! The immigration officer was looking for it and I wasn’t sure where I exactly placed it. So yes, I was scolded by the IO thinking that it was my first time to travel out-of-the-country. I found my departure card in the pocket of my luggage after I arrived home. So much for the hassle.

We landed in Clark around 4pm and we immediately went to the Philtranco booth to purchase our tickets going to Manila. Home sweet home :) :(

I’m glad I made this trip. Be back next year to cross one of the things in my bucket list – to finally climb Mt. Kinabalu. So yeah be ready KK!

Can't take my eyes off you :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mt Kinabalu National Park and Poring Hot Spring Tour (day 3)

Despite our bad headaches, we woke up early the next day for our Mt Kinabalu and Poring Hot Spring Tour. We arranged  the tour through a local guide. There was a bit of a mix-up though, the tour agency thought that we were 5 in the group so they gave a rate good for 5 which was actually a lot cheaper. When the guide picked us up and coordinated with his manager thru the phone, the manager was surprised to know that we were only three. He gave us a higher rate so we declined and decided to cancel the tour. The guide talked to his manager and he convinced him to give it to us at the same rate. He finally agreed. Yay! Turns out our tour guide, Amin, is a Filipino also from Mindanao. He grew up and studied in Sabah but he is Filipino by birth.

We paid around RM 130-150 (Php1900+) for the entire tour, which included transportation, entrance fees, lunch, and a guided tour.

Mt. Kinabalu Park was the first thing in our agenda. It was a 1.5 hour drive from the city with winding roads and scenic mountain views. We stopped first at a viewing deck and souvenir center to take pictures of Mt Kinabalu. It’s best to view the mountain in the morning because you can see the peaks. In the afternoon, the clouds cover portions of Mt Kinabalu.

 Mt. Kinabalu awed me at first sight
While Nino and Anna slept during most of the travel, I was wide awake enjoying the view. As soon as our van went uphill, we felt the cool mountain air. Very refreshing!

We visited the museum first where we learned about Sabah’s history. For history buffs like moi, I bet you know that Sabah was originally part of the Philippines during the early times of the sultanate of Sulu. In 1870s, an Austrian expeditionary leased Sabah from the Sultan in exchange of weapons to be used against the Spaniards. The lease continued until Malaysia gained its independence. Amin, our guide, shared that most of the people in Sabah are Filipinos from Mindanao but they don’t speak Filipino anymore. They prefer that Sabah remains part of Malaysia because the government provides them jobs. He shared that he actually goes to the Philippines through the backdoor.

Learning about Sabah's history and wildlife
After that, we went to the Timpohon Gate – the first gate to the trail going to Mt. Kinabalu. Actually, there are two trails to climb Mt. Kinabalu – Timpohon and Mesilau. Timpohon trail is recommended to newbies because it has the shortest route to aban Rata – the lodge whe you’ll be staying at. Mesilau, on the other hand, offers a more challenging route.

Timpohon Gate
At the gate, we saw mountain climbers as they prepared for their ascent to Mt. Kinabalu.

A porter registering at Timpohon Gate

Amin, pointing the trail to the summit
I’ve joined minor climbs and it was always an achievement reaching the peak of the mountain no matter how easy or challenging the climb is. I want to climb Mt Kinabalu in the near future, after all it is Southeast Asia’s highest peak. There’s really something about this mountain that captured me. It’s so majestic and mysterious. So next year, wait til I conquer Mt. Kinabalu :)

 Malay ladies :)
Sporting our best turista pose 
We drove to for an hour to visit another tourist destination in Sabah, Poring Hot Spring (PHS). Before we went inside, we had a lunch first at a nearby restaurant. The meal was already included in our package tour.

Aside from the natural hot spring, the park offers other attractions like the canopy walkway, butterfly garden, and orchid conservation center, Rafflesia flowe site. Rafflesia is the largest flower in the world. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in bloom by the time we visited Malaysia.

At Poring Hot Spring

Tiring but fun canopy walk

After the canopy walk, we soaked into the warm water with sulphuric minerals of Poring. We chose an enclosed tub for the three of us. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do since it was a hot day to begin with.

Soaking in really hot water on a scorching day

We arrived in Lavender Lodge a little past 8pm. We were in the mood again for some party but we wanted to try other bars aside from those found at the Waterfront. So we googled and learned that there is another party scene in KK – Times Plaza.

at KK Times Plaza
We tried White Room. The place is new and has a great party mood. Nino managed to get us in the VIP lounge without paying extra. He must have talked to the bouncer who was Pinoy also.

White Room

It was our last night in KK and we made most out of it. KK nights are the best :)

Dance like nobody's watching

Btw, if you’re going to KK Times Plaza through a cab, get his number or make sure you have a card of a taxi service. We got stranded there because there were no cabs at all. We had to walk to the main highway to hail a cab. It wasn’t really safe.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Beach bumming at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (day 2)

As much as we wanted to wake up early on our real first day in KK, we had a quite hard time to drag ourselves from the bed. Blame the Tiger beer for that!

Our hostel receptionist arranged a taxi for us to bring us to Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal where take a boat to the the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Our kind receptionist also gave us the card of a tour operator in Jesselton. 

Anna and I at the Jesselton Ferry Terminal

Upon arriving at the terminal, we booked our tour through Aparu Holiday Tours. We paid around RM 50 (Php700) for the terminal fee and transportation to- and from- the two islands, Mamutik and Manukan Islands. We wanted to include Sapi or Gaya Islands but since we started late that today, the travel agent said it can’t be included anymore. Awww. The two islands are really what we wanted to see because we heard that the beaches are more beautiful and there are less crowd. Oh well.

Busy day at the terminal

We boarded the speedboat with other passengers to the marine park. It took us only 10 minutes to reach our first destination, Mamutik Island. Whew, that was fast! I can’t help but compare how we do our island hopping here in the Philippines. You know what I’m talking about.

The speedboat dropped us off at Mamutik Island first. We paid RM 10 (Non-Malaysian) for the admission to the island which is good for all the islands you will visit. There was fewer crowds in the island so we found a good spot near the shore. The sand is not that fine and white but the water is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. 

quiet beach time at Mamutik Island

with travel buddies Nino and Anna

After an hour of staying the island, we proceeded to the docking station and waited for our speedboat for our parasailing. Yay!

It was my first time to try parasailing. I was both ecstatic and nervous.; I am not good in the water and I am also scared of heights. But for the excitement, I wanted to experience getting high in the sky and being submerged into the water. By the way, I paid RM 30 (Php 900) for this 20-minute activity.

Uh oh...

Anna is all smiles while I look STUPID
Getting the hang of it
Now being submerged into the water

After our parasailing, the speedboat brought us to Manukan Island which is the most famous of the entire islands comprising the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. It has a number of facilities like restaurants, convenience store, shower and changing rooms, and a lodge (Sutera Lodge) where you can spend a night. The facilities more specifically the shower rooms are not that well-maintained but that would suffice.

Manukan Island docking station
One of the Sutera lodges

As expected, there were lots of people in the island mostly Caucasians. We settled in the far-end of the beach to avoid the crowd. I can say that the sand is not 100% fine and white, if you compare it to Boracay. Pinas beachers are still the best! But what I love most in Manukan Island is the abundance of fishes near the shore and the cool bluewater. I enjoyed snorkeling to my heart’s delight. 

Beachineering at Manukan Island

Calm water

We spent our rest of our day here, just getting ourselves baked, soundtripping,drinking Tiger beer,  eating, swimming, and just enjoying the sunny Kota Kinabalu day. This is the life! 

Beer and beach

At around 5pm, we left the island and was back in Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal. We planned to go to 1Borneo, which is the largest mall in East Malaysia, for some serious shopping so we left our bags first at Lavender Lodge. There is a free shuttle bus to- and from- 1Borneo being 30 minutes away from the city center. We arrived in the mall around 730pm and ate dinner at KFC. 

Afterwards, we looked for the Vincci shop (VNC). Vincci is actually located inside Padini Concept Store. They sell not only shoes, but bags, accessories, clothes, and other ladies apparel as well.

Whew! Shoe shopping is crazy. Anna and I went gaga over their shoe collection. And what’s great is that the prices are half compared when you buy Vinnci (VNC) here in Manila. Yay for that!

Happy, obviously

We almost missed the last bus going back to the city at 10:30pm because of shopping.. hehe

Our day wasn’t over yet. As soon as we arrived at Lavender, we were in the mood for some clubbing.

We decided to parteyyy at BED since that’s where the most people are.. We orderd a pitcher of Margarita and finger foods. Drinking in KK is kinda expensive, so better share among yourselves.

After party

Party all night until we drop!

Friday, June 24, 2011

First night in KK (day 1)

As I was browsing through my old planner, I saw my torn and year-old ferry tickets to Manukan Island – which is one of the usual island destinations at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Reminiscing that particular trip, it was definitely one of the more relaxed out-of-the-country trips I’ve ever made.

Kota Kinabalu is a popular destination for mountain climbers who want to conquer Mt.  Kinabalu.  After all, it's the highest peak in Southeast Asia.  Beachcombers will find it a delight that the beach is only 20 minutes away from the city center.  Don't you just love it?  A good beach just 20 minutes away :) For history buffs,  you'll find it interesting to visit Sabah's mosques and historical sites and learn that the locals are mostly from Mindanao.  You gotta learn some history too!  And for the girls, who can say no to shoe shopping?  I got all crazy with VINCCI shoes, they're VNC in the Philippines by the way.  Malaysian food is the best too..Nasi lemak, curry, satay, mee goreng, the list goes on..

They say, if KL is like Manila, KK is more like Cebu. I can’t help but agree J Now getting more curious about KK?

Because I want to share, here’s  Day 1 of 4 of my KK trip.

Day 1

We took a late afternoon flight from Clark to Kota Kinabalu. We got our tickets from Air Asia but Cebu Pacific flies to KK too.

First time to fly with Air Asia
From Manila, we rode the Philtranco bus from Megamall to Clark or more formally known as the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA).  For those planning to take a flight from Clark, you can check the bus schedule here. Make sure to make a reservation prior to your trip. By the time of our trip, the fare was around Php250/one way.

sorry, that's the best screen capture I could get hehe
If there’s one thing I hate about travelling abroad – it would be paying the terminal fee (Php600 for NAIA and Php500 for Clark) and Philippine travel tax (Php1620). Sayang, pang-taxi pa yan di ba. Oh well.

Checking in and immigration was swift, so in less than an hour we were already in the departure area waiting for our flight. 

We had a 4pm departure and we arrived in Kota Kinabalu around 6pm. There was a long queue in the immigration but in no time we we’re finally outside the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA). We took a cab to our accommodation. Taxis in KK don’t use meters, the flag down rate is RM 10 (Php 140+).

We were on a budget trip so we booked Lavender Lodge in the city center. Yes, it was a backpacker hostel but we weren’t disappointed. The rooms are clean and cozy. I even joked to my friends that I feel like we are staying in a Manhattan apartment because of the view from our window – we can see the big glass windows of the inner rooms and the fire exits.

Besides that, the receptionist is a Pinay, Ate Ellie, who always assisted us when it comes to directions, calling cabs, and itineraries.

Our home for 4 days
After settling in, we had dinner at Seri Selera which is just across Lavender Lodge. We had so much fun eating and chatting that we forgot that it was kinda late already. We were supposed to check Warisan Square and the other malls.

Shrimp with pork floss
the culprit why we stayed late
Instead, we headed to the Waterfront where most clubs/bars and coffee shops are located.  If I would describe KK based on our first night, it’s  laid-back and fun.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father’s Day El Capitan!

When I was a little girl, I really didn’t know my dad. I know I have a father but I’ve only seen him in pictures so I didn’t have any bond with him. My father was and (still) works abroad and seldom goes home especially when we were little. I met my dad when I was about two years old according to my mom. On our first meeting, I threw a tantrum when he tried to carry me. My mom recalled that I said to my dad “Go away, I don’t know you”. To appease me, he gave me lots of chocolates which of course any kid couldn’t resist from =)

My dad and I aren’t really close which I think is because of the long years of being apart, although he gets to go home for a few months in a year. Maybe because we are both quiet persons as well – we find it a bit awkward to express our thoughts to each other. I tell you, my dad is the quiet one compared to my mom, but when he speaks you should listen. I’ve been scolded a few times because I was a bit stubborn when I was young and til now though I’m a grown-up adult I’m still being lectured about many things – saving money, numerous out-of-town trips which they were not aware of, and all sorts. But instead of finding this annoying, I appreciate the small talks I (often) get from my dad.

The love, respect, and care will always be there in every father-daughter relationship. My dad may seldom say what he thinks but he never fails to express his love for us. I remember receiving greeting cards from him where he fondly refers to me as Darling. Well now with the new technology, he gets in touch with us via a satellite phone when he’s in the middle of the ocean. Everyday, I look forward to receiving short text-like emails from seahorse.069124, which by the way is my dad’s email address at the ship.

I will be always be grateful to my dad because he let me study away from home and allowed me to have my independence at sixteen. Both of us love travelling and he supports all my travels as long as I ask permission. He even gave me a really huge pocket money for my first out-of-the-country trip in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Whenever, I’m up for another travel abroad he shares to me the must-sees places in that particular country. It would be a shame admitting this, but he sends me money sometimes for my “pang-fx” daw. hehe

Papa, wherever you are right now – may you be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or in Brisbane, as you said in your last email, we’re hoping you are sailing just fine! We love you so much and thank you for being the best father you can be!

Happy Father’s Day El Capitan!

Papa, on our Palawan trip 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

KKK Weekend

If I would describe my weekend, it’d be with these three letters – KKK.

It's the KKK
T’was Independence Day weekend and we sorta celebrated it at KKK. We learned in our Philippine history class that KKK stands for Katastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipuanan ng mga Anak ng Bayan“ which is a secret revolutionary group against the Spanish led by Andres Bonifacio. 

Well, KKK Food Revolution (the resto) actually means Kainan sa Kalye Kanluran, because their first branch is located in West Ave. in QC. Good thing we don’t have to travel that far anymore to eat good Filipino food. 

KKK is my usual favorite when it comes to restos serving Filipino dishes. They have a wide array of Filipino cuisine from all parts of the country – Pampanga, Bicol, Ilocos, Iloilo, etc. 

My personal favorite is Ilokanong Bagnet with bagoong (fish sauce). I never fail to order this whenever we eat at KKK.

Bagnet + bagoong
We also love their Pinakbet with lots of chicharon. 

You bet, pinakbet!
After dinner at KKK and dessert at Red Mango, we waited for a few more hours for our friends to arrive. It was another drinking session with Accenture 25 team from Teletech. Two of our Teletech friends, Ferdie and Rj, are tying the knot in December. Congrats guys! RJ, the soon-to-be-bride, is on frenzy with all the things they need to prepare for the wedding – church, reception, gown, photo/video coverage, entourage, and all.

For those who love Pinoy romantic flicks, I’m sure most of you have watched Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo which is translated to “Wedding, Together, Partaker” by Wikipedia and which actually makes no sense. Anyway, it’s a romantic comedy film about a couple getting married and organizing their wedding with their parents meddling and eventually ruining the wedding preparations.

some of Accenture 25
Our topic during our drinking session mostly centered on marriage and wedding preps. Time flies so fast. A few years back, whenever we had get-togethers we would often talk about our good old days at Teletech, but now we’re talking about grown-up stuff and marriage!

Congrats RJ and Ferdie!
By the way, Arc, one of our Teletech friends is part-time wedding coordinator. Of all the people, I never thought that such a funny and mischievous guy like Arc would be in the wedding coordination business. It’s a family-run business as he said. Soon-to-wed couples may want to check Kasal Kasali Kami to organize their wedding so you can leave all you worries to the coordinator and just enjoy every moment of your wedding.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Oh why hello Boracay (again)

Just got back last Monday from my 4D/3N Boracay trip with Erick and friends. It’s my third time in Boracay and it's always fun. Each trip has a different story which makes it unique from each other :)

Since it wasn't our first time in Bora (but our first time together), our trip was more relaxed. We had no itinerary at hand. We slept early/late, woke up early/late whenever we feel it.

Here are my 8 fave things in Boracay from my recent trip.

1) Ultimate beach bumming

It was a sunny Boracay during our whole stay, it was a perfect beach weather indeed!

Boracay on a high tide

Getting a tan

2) Buggy ride + Aviary farm + Boracay view from Mt. Luho

We rented a buggy car which Erick drove to go up to Mt. Luho. From the viewpoint of Mt. Luho, you can see the scenic Boracay views from north to south. We also dropped by the aviary farm where we encountered a big bat.

Ready to buggy!

Boracay view from Mt Luho

It's a bat!

3) Foodie experience

This is my favorite part, eating! If there is one thing which we find quite hard to decide in Bora, it’d be where to eat. There are so many options that you will get overwhelmed. Dining in Boracay is total convenience.

We dined at Cyma located at D’Mall. The resto is kinda small and hidden in an alley which makes it more a bit of a secret. We loved the chicken and mixed gyros. You can never go wrong ordering it. The serving looks small but it left us really full. Opa!

Cyma - Greek resto

Chicken gyros

Craving for pizza and pasta while at the island? Go and try Aria! If you’re looking for great Italian food alternative aside from the usual favorites (Yellow Cab and Shakey’s in Bora), then Aria! Aria is so easy to find, it’s right at the smack of D’Mall.

Go Italian

Everything on the menu is delicioso. Be prepared though to shell out a little more like Php500/head. We tried the Aria pizza and rigatone pasta which was best served with iced tea shake.

Aria pizza and iced tea shake on the side

 Jonah’s Fruit Shake is a regular Boracay favorite when it comes to refreshing fruit shakes. They’ve added some snacks to their menu like pasta, tacos, and sandwiches. Jonah’s is very easy to find, it fronts the Grotto in Station 1.

Try Jonah's on a really hot day.
 Hawaiian BBQ was Rex and Jonah’s recommendation. We ordered the Hawaiian BBQ platter and spam fried rice which Erick definitely loved. The meal was good enough for six if you guys don’t have big appetites.

Hawaiian Barbeque in Station 1

BBQ platter + spam fried rice = yum!

Gelato @ Don Vito’s Ristorante. Their best seller is pistachio. I also loved their cheesecake gelato. They are located in Station 2 just before you reach D’Talipapa.

I want gelato!

Isaw at Merly’s - streetfood in Boracay. It’s best eating this while walking in the shore with ice cold beer. Yeah!

Free buffet lunch at Astoria + some sales talk to buy a vacation membership. Astoria recently opened their resort in Boracay which replaced Boracay Gold Crowne in Station 1.

While Erick and I were strolling at the beach, a guy invited us for buffet lunch at Astoria for free. The catch?? We had to sit in to a 1.5 hour (which apparently lasted for more than 2 hours) sales presentation on Astoria club membership. Since we really had no plans on that afternoon, we decided to go. Yep, we enjoyed the buffet lunch but we didn’t buy the vacation membership although it was really enticing. We can afford it if we split the monthly fee between us but it’s not something practical for us right now.

4) Cocomangas (again) this time with Erick, Rex, and Jonah. Way to go to 15 shots! Let the pictures speak for themselves!

Shot, shot, shot, everybody!

3 down, 12 more to go

After 10 shots. lol. At least he got his "15 shots and still standing shirt" :p

5) Our room at La Carmela

We booked our room during the travel expo in SMX last February. It was a darn cheap deal to begin with so we weren’t expecting grand on our accommodation in La Carmela. But lo and behold, it was really a nice and cozy room. I loved the queen-size bed and the tub!

La Carmela's Executive Suite

6) Mango Outlet Store

Shopping was the last thing on my agenda for this trip. After all, I’ve bought numerous pasalubongs already from my previous Boracay trips.. keychains, shirts, earrings, ref magnets, bracelets, and more!

The big BUT came when I saw the Mango Outlet Store in E-mall. The E-mall is located at Station 3 on the main road; it’s quite near the D’Talipapa. The selection in the outlet store are quite good; they still have available XS or S sizes for petites. I bought a really pretty black dress for myself and a nice top for my mom.


Who doesn't love shopping?

7) Boracay firedancers. Because they're everywhere at night, you can't miss them..

Fire dancers

Oops, careful!

8) Boracay sunset. No explanation needed, I guess all of you will agree that Boracay has one of the best sunsets. Isn't it?

Boracay sunset 6/5/2011

It was a well-deserved vacay. Thank you Boracay for always giving me a fun beach time, we will back next year for our yearly Bora trip :)