Puerto Galera: Boracay near Manila

I was going through some pictures and I found these – three years and 25 pounds ago, we went to Puerto Galera. Puerto Galera is this small town in the island of Mindoro, Philippines. It is known for its dive sites and beaches. Puerto Galera, to me, is somewhat the mini Boracay near Manila. I’ve been here a few times, but this is the only trip I could remember. So I thought I’d write about it.

Puerto Galera is this small town in the island of Mindoro, Philippines. It is known for its dive sites and beaches. Puerto Galera, to me, is somewhat the mini Boracay near Manila. If you’ve heard or been to Boracay, you know how nice it is – white sand beach, hotels, parties all night – it’s the same thing. The only difference is, it’s near Manila and the sand is not as fine as Boracay. I love Puerto Galera! It’s easy to get to, and you can just take a day trip if you want.

First things first! Getting to Puerto Galera from Manila is really easy. It takes three hours, tops!

  1. From Manila, you can ride a bus to Batangas Pier. We always take the bus from JAC Liner terminal in Gil Puyat, Pasay, because it’s easier to get to. The Gil Puyat LRT station is right there, and buses pass by there too. From Manila to Batangas Port, it would take you 2 hours tops, with moderate traffic. The bus ticket cost around PHP 200 ($4) per trip.
  2. When you get to Batangas Port, you can get a ticket for the boat. If you’re going to White Beach, you can take the boat to Balatero. If you’re going to Sabang Beach, you can take the boat going to Muelle. You can choose to get one way ticket or roundtrip, but it’s always cheaper to get the roundtrip ticket – it cost around PHP 550.00. The boat ride is 30-45 minutes. The first trip from Manila is at 6am, and the last trip from Puerto Galera is around 3pm. If you’re as crazy as me and this is a day trip for you, then you should ask the boat people as soon as you dock, what time is their last trip and what is the boarding time.
  3. The boat will take you directly to the beaches. When you get there, you need to pay some fees such as environmental fees, terminal fees, etc. It’s been a long time so I don’t really remember how much those are. But it’s around PHP 25 – 125 ($0.50 – $2.50). Most of the Philippines Islands have these fees, especially if it’s a tourist area.

We stayed at Gina’s Hideaway, a place we found on AirBnB. The place had two bedrooms, it comes with Wi-Fi, and it’s a good size. There were four of us that time, so split into four, the price was not that bad per night. They kept the place really clean too, and the host, ate Gina, was really nice and approachable. She really made sure that we did not get lost getting to her place.

Maybe my only concern about this place was, it was a little too far from White Beach, where the happenings are. But ate Gina was kind enough to reserve her tricycle for us. We pay them around PHP 50-80 (it was 20 minutes away) per trip, and they are on-call, if we ever want to get picked up anywhere in the island, they will be there. We have our own Uber-trike! LOL. Also, that time, the signal for the Wi-Fi wasn’t that good inside the house. But we didn’t mind chillin’ by the porch at night – fresh air, quiet night, not gonna complain.

On our first day, we just had lunch by the beach and took some photos. We also did some groceries because it was quite hard to get to the airbnb. I mean, we’re already at the beach, so let’s just make the most of it!

On our second day, we did a little island hopping. Almost every [tourist] beach in the Philippines has island hopping activities. Aside from, of course, island hopping, they usually include snorkeling or diving, and sometimes cave excursions. This had snorkeling and cave excursions. For Island Hopping, they usually cost PHP 1,500 – 2500. This one is the same amount. Normally, PHP 1500 is mainly for renting the boat exclusively for your group. Sometimes they add PHP 100 per person, for the snorkeling gears.

I am not really into snorkeling, but Raine paid for it so I had to do it! Normally, the boat would just stop in the middle of the water for 30 minutes and let you swim around. But then our boat men told us to hold on to the boat handles (?) and they drove around the area. It was way more easier than swimming by yourself. This time I actually enjoyed snorkeling.

After snorkeling, they took us to a cave.

Last stop is at a small island nearby the cave. Of course, more photoshoots happened!

After a long day of touring, we had dinner by the beach. There’s a strip of restaurants and bars by the White Beach. We opted to do some barbecue and fresh fruit shake take outs and eat them by the picnic tables.

After dinner we tried the famous Mindoro Sling! It’s Mindoro’s signature drink. It has Tanduay Rum as its alcohol base, and then some juices. It wasn’t that amazing for me, but it was definitely strong! There are also some night performances happening such as fire dances. If you walk by the shore, you can also have some massages.

This trip happened three years and 25 pounds ago, when I was regularly going to the gym with these ladies. They’ve been my inspiration and also health compass when I was going through a lot that year. I badly miss the Philippines, and I do hope I get to visit these places again. Or maybe find somewhere like this.

Upstate New York Adventure: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is a city (apparently lol) in Niagara County, New York State. Niagara Falls State Park was recognized as the oldest state park in the United States. For the second part of our mini honeymoon, we drove up to Niagara Falls! 🙂

Can I just say — I googled Niagara Falls and these are new knowledge for me. LOL, let me share with you: Niagara Falls is a city (apparently lol) in Niagara County, New York State. Niagara Falls State Park was recognized as the oldest state park in the United States. The falls are shared with Canada. You can literally see Canada on the other side of the river. Niagara Falls has 3 waterfalls – the Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls, and a portion of Horseshoe falls.

Following our Green Lakes Park trip, we went further up to see the famous Niagara Falls! It is 7 hours away from New York City and around 4 hours away from Syracuse. After we checked out from the hotel at Syracuse, we drove up and arrived at Niagara Falls around 2pm. We decided to book a room at the Sheraton Niagara Falls. Going back a week before we left home, I was browsing through Groupon travel promos and I found a good deal for $70/night at Sheraton Niagara Falls. But then, Gerald saw a certain room that he liked so we decided to book that instead. We also had a special rate from Marriot Bonvoy, Marriot’s loyalty program, since we registered for it.

So we parked our car at the hotel’s parking lot. It cost around $20 per day. And since we were too early for the 4pm check-in time, we decided to take a stroll around Niagara Falls State Park. It was a ten-minute walk from the hotel.

We explored the park for two hours, did the trails and saw some views. Gerald wanted to take me down the river but we were worried that all the attractions might not be open during that time — but luckily, the boats’ operations went back on three days before we arrived! You have no idea how happy I was! I thought it would be a waste to travel seven hours and not see everything. So anyway — We immediately bought our tickets for Maid of the Mist Boat Tour for the next day. They have trips from 9:00am to 5:00pm. It was easy getting the tickets too! You just log on to their site and purchase the tickets.

the two hour stroll made us really hungry, exhausted and thirsty. We walked to find a place to eat and sit. We found this Chinese Restaurant called Royal Dragon by Rainbow Boulevard. It was the best Chinese food I have ever tasted. We had the Chicken Fried Rice – it was tasty, not too oily, a really good amount of serving for I think $12, we wished we just shared the meal. Also, the service was really good and they served the food really fast. Up until today, Gerald cannot forget about that place. I really hope they open a branch in the city.

Anyway, it was already 4:30pm and the hotel haven’t called us yet. The check in was supposed to be 4:00pm. We didn’t really mind since they said they are thoroughly sanitizing the place. We headed back anyway, and we were just in time! We were just happy to finally be able to lay down and rest — oh and by the way, we booked the Spa Suite so we were excited to see that too. To our surprise, our room was absolutely… just wow! —

I really thought it was expensive to be paying almost $200 per night, but Gerald was okay with it. He said it’s cheap to have a room like this. It’s just sad that I cannot have my breakfast buffet or room service, still! Originally, when you book this room, you’ll have access to the exclusive Club Lounge, daily breakfast and happy hour, as well as HydroSpa with VIP treatment for personalized experience. We just enjoyed the night together watching episodes of #90DayFiance with wine! It was the perfect first day in Niagara Falls.

As soon as we woke up, at 11am, we prepared for Niagara Falls! The hotel restaurant was closed, so we just went to Starbucks, which was down at the lobby connected to the hotel, and had coffee and some bacon and eggs sandwich. Oh, so if you want to go down the river and closer to the falls, please remember the following

1.You will be wet. The falls’ mist will get you wet, like it’s a shower. We didn’t really know what to wear, if there is anything proper to wear. So we just opted to wear shorts, shirt and sneakers. Maid of the Mist will give you disposal raincoats anyway, so you’ll be fine.

2. Wear your mask, and observe protocols. For the pandemic, at least. It was quite hard to wear masks and have them wet when we are on the boat. Take them out to take photos, then breathe. It was a little bit challenging, and I was super scared to drop my mask. LOL. Avoid staying on the edge and always watch your step. It gets a little bit slippery and the boat rails are safe enough to keep you on the boat, but it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful.

3. Maybe a good tip to stay at the back of the boat so see the Horseshoe falls fully. People are going to crowd in all sides of the boat but if there are two of you, stand your ground. The boat is going to turn around going back anyway, so you’ll see everything twice. As for me, I was just speechless and mesmerized, so I didn’t get to take really good pictures. I did take good videos though.

4. Stay for the viewing deck. After the tour, you will be led to the viewing deck to get a better view of the falls and the whole park. We had to stay for another 5 minutes because it was just so beautiful for me, I wanted to look at the view one more time.

So that’s it! We just went back to the hotel after that. Oh, by the way, that time, the restaurants upstate had indoor dining. But they were by reservations only. We ordered food at The Hard Rock Cafe but since they only take reservations and not walk-in, we cannot stay. I was looking forward to dining in an actual restaurant. But oh well, so we just did take-out. Since I was sad about Hard Rock, Gerald and I had some drinks at The Rainforest Cafe. They had some food too but Gerald wanted Hard Rock food. The next day was our check out day. We just had to go back to Royal Dragon for food on the road.

Maybe this is, to this day, the best place I went to since I came to New York. Maybe next time I can cross the borders! Hoping that will be soon.

Upstate New York Adventure: Green Lakes Park & The Craftsmann Inn

Drove upstate for our little honeymoon last summer. A little R&R at The Craftsmann Inn and Green Lakes State Park.

The first half of 2020 has been really hard for all of us and the pandemic has driven us crazy at some point. So since we are newly weds (kind of), and it’s summer, we decided to take a road trip upstate New York. It was kind of hard looking for a place to go since you have to really check and call establishments to be sure that they are open. After two weeks of researching, we’ve settled on two places – Green Lakes State Park in Syracuse, and Niagara Falls in Buffalo.

Gerald has always wanted to take me to Green Lakes State Park. He saw these photos online when we first started dating, and we planned to go when I was supposed to visit last year (2019), but since I was not able to go back to USA that time. Anyways, Green Lakes is known for its two lakes and man-made beach. It’s perfect for a quiet morning jog because you can just pick your trail. It’s up north, a little over four hours away from NYC. And yes, the lakes were green.

So the struggle of trying to find a hotel is another thing, also we are a bit picky with hotels. For me, I have been to the worst hotels back home but I am not taking the risk during this pandemic. Well, we are already taking a big risk traveling. Gerald is a bit picky when it comes to hotels too. Luckily, I found this hotel 15 minutes away from Green Lakes – The Craftsmann Inn. I am so glad I did and here is why —

They have kind staff. Everyone working in the hotel were very nice. They were always smiling and genuinely happy to assist you. Before getting there, I called them and asked for their protocols and what are the inclusions (LOL, I really want to have that breakfast buffet! It’s why I go to hotels!) – that time unfortunately, they do not serve breakfast. They do, however, give some yogurt cups and unlimited water.

They upgraded us to Signature Suites. I tried booking them on Expedia. That time, their rate was $125. It’s a decent rate for Standard Room, right? I was excited to go because their website had really good pictures, and it had a 3D Virtual Tour thing. I know, I’m like a kid lol. When we got there, they upgraded us to their Signature Suite since I mentioned we are on our honeymoon.

The room had one bedroom. Which was small, but I mean, you’re just sleeping. I love the big windows! There’s a living room and a mini kitchen. I didn’t take a picture of the bathroom, but it was a good size. Overall it was very clean, and cozy, and we had a comfortable stay. The room comes with complimentary coffee, that you can make using their coffee maker. And of course, water.

Their restaurant food and service are the best! Craftsmann Wood Grille & Tap House is the restaurant located right in front of the hotel. That time, we had to do reservations because they had limited capacity. So, the front desk told the restaurant that we are newly weds, so they gave us complimentary wine. They gave us the Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero, topped with a slice of strawberry.

Their food is also amazing! For starters, I had the Craftsmann Salad – heirloom tomatoes, baby cucumbers, pickled red onion, carrot, radish,
wood roasted shallot vinaigrette. And then for my main, I had the Grilled Salmon Fillet. It was topped with fire roasted pepper sauce and some crispy onions. Gerald had steak, the man loves steak! He had the Flat Iron Steak, with fries on the side. They had pretty big servings (hello, I’m Asian! LOL) but we destroyed this!

After that night, we were so tired but we decided to go to Green Lakes Park early because we have to drive to Niagara Falls after that. We wanted to go super early, but the park opens at around 8 in the morning. But, LOL, we just slept until 8am and got ready. It was drizzling a little that time, but we didn’t really care. We arrived at the park around 9am. There was parking right outside. You have to pay around $8, and you’re good for the day. I mean, not sure but we did stay until 10:30am.

Since everything was closed, there was nothing much to do but to walk, or jog, and take pictures and just enjoy the nature. I was fine with it. I was just so happy to be outside, somewhere not inside our room, and just to be able to smell the fresh air!! The park had two lakes, as I mentioned. Those lakes total to I think 2-mile trail around it. You can find the map here. We just walked around it, that’s the only thing to do.

If it was a normal day, there are a lot of activities to do at the park like Beach/Swimming, you can rent a boat, camping, there were also barbecue grills there. There’s also a golf course nearby. You can find all the list of activities and rates here.

Over all, I think Syracuse is such a nice place upstate. It was quiet, and people were very nice! There is not much happening there but at least you get to relax! I love upstate! I hope you guys will consider visiting the Green Lakes State Park, and stay at The Craftsmann Inn. I mean, this is not a sponsored post but we had a really good time! 🙂

Bantayan Island, Cebu

I’ve always wanted to go to Bantayan Island since I saw Camp Sawi. So when Gerald visited Asia, we took a 6-hour bus ride to check one thing off my travel bucketlist!

This is almost a year delayed in posting, I’m so sorry. I’m still writing because this might be useful to some of you guys. Okay, I am not really a travel blogger so I will make this short, simple and as helpful as it can be.

Gerald went to visit me in the Philippines last October. Of course, he stayed in Manila while I work. But we planned the whole two weeks – our first stop in his trip is Bantayan Island in Cebu. I have always wanted to go to Bantayan Island and have been planning to go several times and for some reason, it is always getting postponed. Since Cebu is on our itinerary, Gerald insisted that we go to Bantayan Island. To be honest, I kind of regret it for the main reason that it was a lot of travel time, and we only had three days in Cebu. It was not a smart move but he still enjoyed it so it’s still worth it, I guess. So tip, do not do land travel if you’re only going to this place for three days. Bantayan Island is in North of Cebu and it is 6 hours away.

How to get to Bantayan Island:

  • Go to North Bus Terminal. You can either take a cab or a jeepney. We were staying in Lapu-Lapu City, so we opted to take a cab.
  • Next, you need to ride a bus going to Hagnaya Port. It would take around 4-5 hours travel time going to Hagnaya Port. So it would be best if you go early.
  • Go down at Hagnaya Port and take a ferry going to Santa Fe. The Ferry trip usually takes an hour to 1.5 hours, but since we came late and it was raining, the boat had to go slow so it took us two hours.
  • When you dock at the Santa Fe Port, you can take a tricycle going to your hotel. We booked our hotel and transfer ahead of time.

We stayed at Camp Sawi – or Kota Beach Resort. We took the standard room so there was no television (though I don’t think there is a television in their rooms anyway). I think it’s fine because people would be out all day anyway. The room came with complimentary water for two and an umbrella (which came in very handy because it was raining when we arrived).

We had to transfer rooms because the roof in this one was leaking. It was kind of hard because there was no reception after 7pm, so the guards had to wait for the decision and all that, if we can transfer. They were kind enough to assist us. They transferred us to a room for three since it was the only vacancy. Photos from the resort website.

It rained all night so I was kind of anxious if our trip was really wasted. Good thing we were blessed with good weather the next day. We had free breakfast at the Kadlawon Restobar. Photos from the resort website.

So, our day tour went like this:

1. We had breakfast around 7 in the morning. I can get used to morning like this! The restaurant was right beside the beach and you can see and hear the sea, feel the fresh air. They also have a pool table right outside the restaurant – you know, to chill with your friends at night. Anyway, they had a number of breakfast sets; the traditional Filipino -silog breakfast sets, or the American bacon, eggs and toasts; all of them came with fruits and juice. Photos from the website.

2. We booked an island tour. It cost us PHP 1,500 plus tips. We went snorkeling – Gerald did not really like it. I for one am not a fan of snorkeling because I am scared of what’s under the sea. Haha!

3. We went to the Virgin Island. This is a small island about 30 minutes from the main Bantayan Island. And we had to pay PHP 500/2 heads then I think extra PHP 100/head.

If you ask me, it wasn’t really a virgin island. It has pretty decorations. There were some accommodations in the island. Our tour guide said that each cottage cost around PHP 3,000 for 24 hours. The electricity is only on for a certain number of hours.

According to the tour guide, there were cliffs where we can jump, but we chose not too. We’re saving the cliff diving for Canyoneering.

This cliff was one of the locations for the movie, Camp Sawi. You can actually jump off at some part of this. We chose not to.

We went to swim for like fifteen minutes, just so Gerald can experience the water. He loved it. He said it’s just right for swimming. We wanted to stay a little more but we don’t have much time.

4. Before leaving Bantayan Island, we went to visit The Ruins. To be honest, I expected it to be a little cleaner – Production Design really does Magic!

We had to hurry back to the city because we wanted to have a little tour if we still can. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for that. We went to the Top of Cebu and tried the infamous Rico’s Lechon!

Poblacion: Manila’s own Williamsburg

Poblacion has always been my comfort zone since I kind of grew up there. My school from pre-school to high school was there, right next to a church and several strip clubs down the block, LOL. Overtime, it evolved into a party and artsy area, so it was a very convenient place to go to since it’s also close to home. Whenever I want to just chill, or have a wild night, I would just go to Poblacion. If you’re visiting Manila and looking to have a little night life fun, do drop by Poblacion.

Poblacion has always been my comfort zone since I kind of grew up there. My school from pre-school to high school was there, right next to a church and several strip clubs down the block, LOL. Overtime, it evolved into a party and artsy area, so it was a very convenient place to go to since it’s also close to home. Whenever I want to just chill, or have a wild night, I would just go to Poblacion. If you’re visiting Manila and looking to have a little night life fun, do drop by Poblacion.

Dulo is this artsy space located in P. Guazon Street. I loved going there because it was pretty chill and away from all the clubs in Poblacion, the drinks were really good. During the day, they serve coffee and food, night time is for bar chows and cocktails. Their Pork Belly Bao was amazing! I kind of forgot the name of my favorite drink there – but this I say – their sake sour was good but kind of a traitor.. you’ll see! They often hold events in there too – art exhibits, wellness yoga or RuPaul viewing parties, it could also be private events!

Across Dulo, when you open the red metal door, you’ll enter the handcrafted cocktail heaven – Run Rabbit Run! It’s a lot smaller than Dulo so it gets a little too crowded sometimes. I love going there because of the drinks plus the bartenders let me shake the Cocktail Shaker (LOL!). My favorite drink was Off With Their Heads, one of their signature cocktails. To be honest, when we order drinks, we just say Surprise me! – the bartenders never fail!

Run Rabbit Run | P Guanzon Street

So my used-to-go-to place was Poblacion Ruins – it’s an old house turned art gallery. There is something about it that feels like home for me. I know, it’s weird. Probably the smell of old wood, the sound that wooden floors make, and the capiz windows remind me of my great-grandmother’s house. They have been closed before I left Manila. I guess they only open for events or if there are exhibits.

I remember there was this small window right next to Ruins where we order Spicy Mango Rum or Calamansi Vodka – and they were the best most affordable cocktails in Poblacion! Wait! They were a part of The Workshop – a small boutique and retail shop for unique local made products – before that small-window-mini-bar moved to Annex House, a restored post-war Filipino house turned bar and club featuring great unique music, sometimes art exhibits, good food, a good time and most especially — Spicy Mango Rum!

If you’re looking for some good wine, you can check-out Dr. Wine Manila or the rooftop bar in the same building – Kartel. Wine, cocktail, quiet time to catch-up or date, plus a good Sunset view while enjoying the Happy Hour at Kartel. They are our go-to place for mid-week Fake Fridays or anti-stress quick dinner breaks.

Let’s not forget the famous Z Hostel which is not only a hostel but also everyone’s go-to rooftop bar for some good music, dancing and socializing. I’m not really a fan of Z Hostel but all the times I’ve been there, I met a lot of new people. And while we’re on the topic of hostels – Lub’d also offers good accommodation plus they have a co-working space where you can entertain your guests if you’re staying there, mingle with other hotel guests, play pool, drink beer or eat some sandwiches.

Perfect me-time place for me was Antidote, the rooftop bar of I’M Hotel. I used to love going there, have a glass of Mr. DOMango (sometimes the bartender’s surprise me drink, whatever it was) and just enjoy the view – 360 degrees view of Metro Manila from the 40th floor. Oh! They also have well-lit jellyfish aquariums! Just had to mention it because they look cool, lol. Another thing about Antidote is that they have the nicest restroom I have ever since. You know those airbnb photos with tubs beside a huge window with a nice view – well, they have their own version except that it’s a toilet plus this view!

View from Antidote Roofdeck Bar | I’M Hotel

Poblacion is a whole lot more than parties and bars. It has art, culture, good food and history. Whenever I go to Williamsburg, I remember Poblacion and all the good times we’ve had there. People can probably say it’s nothing compared to Williamsburg – sure! But if asked where to go for a nightlife, I would say Poblacion. It’s my place to be. It’s just sad that since Pandemic struck, some of our favorite places had to close their doors forever. I do hope that they can come open again after recovering. I’ll just be here dreaming about Manila, ’til I get to visit again.

If you’re visiting Manila, send me a message and I’d be happy to give you recommendations on places to go.