Friday, April 25, 2014

New Found Love in Baler and Costa Pacifica

Costa Pacifica Raintree
Baler Beach

Artist's Village

Largest Balete Tree in Asia

Diquisit Falls

Costa Pacifica is the newest and hippest beach resort in Baler, Aurora. I fell in love with the resort at the moment I laid eyes on it. It’s also one of the first’s luxury resorts that I have ever been to,  which  also serves good food. Their restaurant called the Beach House is owned by the Raintree Group which owns many good restaurants in Manila. I would really recommend that you should stay here since this resort offers good food, great ambience , fantastic service, affordable room prices, nice amenities and value for money.

Surfing Lessons at Sabang Beach

Dicasalarin Cove

There are so many things to do and so many things to see in Baler.  I feel that it will be the next big thing in Philippine Tourism. The good thing about baler is it’s accessibility by land from Manila.  The one thing that lacks to this place is variety of good restaurants. Since this province is not that developed I can only name a few.  Nonetheless I definitely recommend that you should go to Baler, Aurora and stay at Costa Pacifica at least once in your lifetime, and I’m sure that you will definitely not regret it.
Scenic Route On the way to Baler

Aurora Quezon's Home
Pizza at Beach House

Costa Pacifica's Infinity Pool

Photo Op with the Owner of Costa Pacifca Sentaor Ed Angara :) #feelingclose

Where to Stay?
There are few hotels in Baler which offer good accommodation the only hotel which I can recommend is Costa Pacifica   .                                                                                                                                  

Costa Pacifica Raintree                                                                                                                    
Buton St. Sitio Labasin, Sabang Beach, Baler, Aurora                                                                       
Reservations Hotline: +639178336791; +639178536040                                                                    
Rates:P3500 to P7,500 Per Room Per Night                                                                                          
Tips: Try their breakfast buffet, pizza and clubhouse sandwich.                                                                   
Costa Pacifica is the most luxurious resort in Baler. They also have a partner hotel named Casita de Bahia
 which offers cheaper accommodation. It’s also nice place to stay at the  Casita de Bahia since it’s more
peaceful than the crowd in Costa Pacifica. Casita de Bahia is perfect for Family Reunions since it can
accommodate 40 guests which also has its own infinity pool.                                                                      
Rooms in Costa Pacifica can usually accommodate 2 to 4 adults with free breakfast. 

How to Get to Baler?
Genesis Transport offers a deluxe luxury bus from Manila to Baler called the Joy Bus. It usually departs
from Manila daily at 12:00am and 1:00am. This is the best option since the bus has an on board comfort
room, free snacks, wifi, toiletry kit, blankets and pillows, and has no stopovers.  One way ticket costs P695
per person. I must advice you to reserve in advance since the Joy bus gets usually fully booked.

 Genesis Transport also offers a cheaper bus ride to Baler. The bus departs daily from Manila at 2:30 am;
4:30 am; 5:30 am 7:00 am. One way ticket costs P404 per person.

Another way is to go by driving yourself to Baler just Follow the route to NLEX then SCTEX then take the
exit to Tarlac City. There are signs on how to go to Baler just follow them. Take note that GAS in Baler is more expensive by 7 Pesos. You must have a full tank in Manila or in Cabanatuan  in order to save more. 

What to do?
Surf the waves at Sabang Beach for beginner’s, while for Pro Surfers try surfing at Cobra Reef.
Spelunking at Tikbalang Cave                                                                                        
Dive at Los Confites Reef                                                                                                                   
Climb the Giant Balete Tree .                                                                                                          
Relive the History at Museo de Baler
Take a plunge at Diquisit Falls  
Swim at Dicasalarin Cove and see their Light House and Artist’s Village                                               Enjoy the breathtaking view at Ermita Hill.               
Take a 30 minute hike to Ditumabo Falls.
Where to eat?
There are only few good restaurants in Baler since the province is not that developed. The usual cost of a
meal in Baler is from P50 to 200.                                                                                                                  The only restaurant that has satisfied by tastes buds was Yellow Fin which serves grilled seafood and meat
products. It is located at the Back of Bay’s Inn. 

Personal Baler Tour Guide:
Emer Mortega                                                                                                                                  
Contact Number: +639985101862                                                                                                      
Rate: P800 per day 

Baler Surfing Guide: 
Surfing lessons P 350 per hour
Surf Board Rental
 P 200 per hour
 P 500 half day
 P 1000 whole day

Guide to Dicasalarin Cove                  
Operating Hours: 6:00am to 5:00pm                                                                                                    
Reservations Hotline: +63946 180 9489                                                                                               
Entrance Fee: P100 per head ( Costa Pacifica Guests) ; P300 for Outsiders                                           
You need a car to go here Van rentals can cost up to P2000 halfday and P2700 for whole day .                  
A Gate pass is needed to enter Dicasalarin Cove which you can get at Costa Pacifica Raintree.                   
Walk ins will take a longer time to entry since they prioritize Costa Pacifica Guests.                                
Another way to enter Dicasalarin Cove is by hiring a boat from Sabang Beach                                           
You must bring your own food and drinks   since there are  no restaurants here but they sell pizza for P300
per box which is good for 2-3 persons.                                                                                                     
Be early so that you can enjoy your stay here.

3 Days/ 2 Nights Baler Itinerary and Costing  
Day 1

Depart Manila via private van
( Roundtrip Gas + Toll ) (5000/4)
P 1250
Arrive Baler

Catch the Morning Waves (surfing)
Breakfast Tapsilog
Climb the Giant Balete Tree
Lunch at Gerry Chan’s
Check in at Costa Pacifica
(P6000/4 pax) x 2 Nights
Visit the Church and Aurora Quezon’s House

Know the History at Museo de Baler

Night Swimming at Costa Pacifica’s Infinty Pool

Dinner at Yellow Fin Restaurant
Day 2

Breakfast Buffet at Costa Pacifica
Go to Dicasalarin Cove
Entrance Fee
Swimming at Dicasalarin Cove

Have a Picnic at Dicasalarin Cove
See local artwork’s at the Artist Village

Pack Up and Leave Dicasalarin Cove

Go to Ermita Hill

Surfing at Sabang Beach
Dinner at Yellow Fin Restaurant
Day 3

Breakfast buffet  at Costa Pacifica

Take a Hike at Ditamutubo Falls

Check Out

Buy Pasalubong
Note : Try buying a sack of onion in Nueva Ecija. It’s a lot cheaper there and a practical gift to your relatives since there are few good delicacies to eat in Baler.
Depart Baler

Arrive Manila



*All rates are subject to change without prior notice 
*All rates are in Philippine Pesos.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Macau Day Trip

St. Paul Ruins
My Travel Buddies at the Venetian

written by my travel buddy: Ma. Denise R. Nery

Macau was well anticipated during our trip. Not only because it was our first time to visit the place, but basically because our 20-year old selves was so enthusiastic to enter world-class casinos, that we couldn’t do back home. The legal age to enter casinos in Manila is 21, but in Macau, foreigners can go at a young and legal age of 18. Score!
During our trip planning a few months earlier, I came across this website called GrouponHongKong, and luckily, we got to buy ferry tickets (via Cotai Strip) which was actually very nice inside and out + a dinner buffet at City of Dreams Macau for only P1,500. Isn’t that a steal? The only issue was, we needed to claim our tickets at some office in Hongkong, where the staff don’t speak English, but generally very helpful and friendly anyway, so we didn’t have any problem at all. We rode a taxi to the address, and voila! We got our tickets. There’s no stopping us in our little exciting adventure now.

We were originally planning to take the earliest ferry to Macau (I think around 7am was their first trip) and spend the entire day there, but our friends back home, talked us out of it, saying that “Macau is boring, there’s nothing to do there, it’s not fun, just go there in the afternoon blah blahblah, yadahyadahyadah…” Us, being good and trusting friends, believed and obliged. I am telling you this early, that this was the biggest mistake that we did. I will let you know during this blogpost why.
We boarded the Cotai Strip Ferry around lunch time. Let me tell you a little secret. I. GET. SEA. SICK. A. LOT.
I cannot even express how horrified I am of boarding the ferry and enduring the 1 hour ride. I know, I know. For those of you who don’t get sea sick, you might think that I’m just overreacting and stuff. I wish I was, but I’m not. My insides feel like they’re being strangled by a bouncer, my intestines feel like being twisted into all sorts of shape and whatnots, my gastric juices are like going on a fun run up my throat, and I can’t even see properly. See, that’s how you feel when you get sea sick. Now thank the Big Man up there that you’re not like me.
Back to our journey, we got to Macau Ferry Port around 1pm. It was a nice sunny day, perfect for three friends who are about to explore and conquer the Las Vegas of Asia: Macau. YAY!
The first thing that you see when you get to Macau are endless Hotel and Casino promoters handing out flyers and promotional information about their hotel. Most of the time, they’ll give you fans, keychains, and other souvenirs too. It’s not a bad idea to take them and bring them home with you. Bastalibre, sige, diba? We had no idea where to go first and how do we get there, I mean, we have an itinerary, but knowing how spontaneous we are, man, we’d hop on the first bus that we see and take it from there. Guess what? That’s really what we did. 
So we hopped on the bus of Venetian Macau, and we found ourselves in their WONDERFUL hotel/casino within a few minutes. It was really so beautiful, with no mix of exaggeration. We were in awe, literally. The paintings, the lights, the structure, the river canal, everything was close to perfect. We were just so happy and giddy and excited about it all. We first went to the casino to try our luck (hi mommy and daddy, hihi). We applied for a membership, and to our surprise, we were all given a scratch card, which gave us 100 HKD each to use! Isn’t that wonderful? It was all our first time to be inside a casino, so everything was new and exciting. Imagine the look on our faces when we were given money to burn, free food and drinks to take, and hundreds of slot machines and tables which were all brightly lit. We looked like hungry and famished kids in a candy store, or vicious lions seeing a group of gazelles in a safari. Whatever you want to call it, you get the point.

So after spending a couple of hours inside the casino, we decided to head out, with more than 400 HKD winnings in our pockets, which we plan to use for egg tarts, porkchop buns, and beef jerky. We walked around The Venetian for a while, appreciating its beauty and all the stores inside. A little bit of shopping happened too, of course.
We got on a bus taking us to the other side of Macau, where you’d pass by the big bridge that resembled the Brooklyn Bridge or the San Francisco Bridge. Very picturesque. We walked and passed by the busy streets of Macau, which was so beautiful because it doesn’t look like Asia, it makes you feel like you’re walking on a street or a plaza in Portugal. See, Macau, for a long time, was under the Portuguese government, which explains a lot about their culture, infrastructure, and food.

The plan is to go to the St.Paul Ruins by foot, to enjoy and appreciate the things and places as we go along, which you can’t clearly do when you’re on a moving vehicle. We were approached by a couple of very friendly Filipinos, which made us happy, because seeing Filipinos outside the Philippines made us feel very safe and at home. On our way to the Ruins, there is this street full of Beef Jerky stores. That road smelled so good and flavorful, and the best part is, they would endlessly offer you to sample their products. It’s very rude to refuse, right? Once again, bastalibre, sige.
At the end of the long road, not only were our hands full of beef jerky pasalubong for our friends and family, but they were also greasy because of all the jerkies that we got and ate. I swear we got so full because of the free samples. Yum.

We also wanted to try the famous porkchop buns and egg tarts Macau is known for, so we went to this store that was featured in Boys Over Flowers that sells them. It was a cute little stall, which even showed video clips of their exposure in the said TV series. In all honesty, I, together with my friends, were disappointed with the porkchop buns (10 HKD) L We heard so much review about it so it made our expectations even higher. They used a normal kind of bread for their buns, not that I’m expecting buttery brioche buns but hey, I wasn’t expecting a big monay too. The porkchop inside was meh.... normal. Like it was seasoned with salt and pepper, that’s it. The egg tarts (6 HKD) on the other hand was awesome. It will definitely make up for the porkchop buns, but I guess you’d find a better tasting egg tart in other places too.
We reached the Ruins and took photos as souvenirs. It was so nice to look at, and it has a different feel when you’re there, it feels solemn and religious. I can’t really put it into words, but when you’re in Macau, please go there.

It was already beginning to get dark, and we needed to get to City of Dreams for our dinner buffet. We were so tired and exhausted with all the walking, our feet were killing us, and we needed to take a break and eat. City of Dreams was also fantastic. We think all the hotels here are. It’s like luring us to stay here forever. If only we could.

The dinner buffet at City of Dreams composed of Macanese-Portuguese cuisine, but to make the long story short, I guess we weren’t all a fan of it. It was filling, but it wasn’t that kind of meal that you would remember for the rest of your life. As they say, Food without flavor, is like life without passion.
The beautiful hotel made up for it, though. Hahaha
As we go outside the City of Dreams, rain started to pour. But we still wanted to see the other hotels before going home, so the rain didn’t stop us from doing so. We passed by MGM, Wyn, and Galaxy, which were all equally beautiful, fantastic, and mind-blowing. We signed up for memberships, got free stuff as well, but nothing compares to the bribe money we got from Venetian. *wink*

Even though we really  wanted to stay a few hours more, we decided to head back to the port to catch the ferry. It was raining, we didn’t have an umbrella, and we have to get on a bus in order to get to the port. We missed the bus by a minute or two, and this taught us that buses in Macau are WAY DIFFERENT than buses in Manila. They leave on the dot, and wouldn’t stop if it was not on a bus stop. (Yes, we tried hailing a bus, forgive us.) This was actually great, because this teaches people discipline. Ehem, Manila.
Eventually we got on a bus, we were panicking and restless because we felt like we are going to be late for the ferry and might need to pay for our ticket back to HongKong, which was expensive, by the way. We got to the port, we were literally running, and the unexpected happened: We got to the wrong port. Uh oh.
This is when our friendship is literally tested. We were yelling and cursing in tagalog, blaming each other for being careless and stupid, or for whatever else we can think of. Gosh, we were so confused, puzzled, mortified, and problematic. Note that I’m leaving for Manila early in the morning the next day so I have to get my ass back to HongKong or else I’m dead meat. The other two were thinking of what to do, should we just stay for the night, should I call my airline and rebook my ticket or what. The possibilities were endless. LOCKED UP ABROAD NA TO, SHET.
Anyway, we decided to go to the right port and try our luck. We plan to still use our ticket (the trip that we already missed) and pretend like we’re not aware or whatever. HAHAHA this makes me laugh until now, geez. So we got to the right port, gave the lady our tickets, and ALAS, she gave us boarding passes. We were smirking uncontrollably while we were walking to the waiting area. We felt like criminals that got away for doing something really bad. (insert evil laugh here) Moments later, she walked towards us.. We were whispering to ourselves, shit, itona, alamnaniya, locked up abroad na to”. She asked us to come over the ticket booth and we obliged. We got all our things, looked really really guilty criminals, and walked slowly towards the booth. Only to let us know that she forgot to give us stickers. OMFG. THANK YOU LORD. Sweet baby Jesus.Hahahahaha! We were laughing our asses off, literally. Gosh that was intense. It was like a scene from a movie. Three guilty girls who thought they’ve been caught red handed.
We got back to HongKong past midnight, only bringing with us great memories of the trip. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, just laughing about everything that happened. It was such a great experience. We were just mad that we listened to our friends to only spend half of the day there, because we got so bitin. We realized that they didn’t enjoy their Macau trip mainly because they went with their family. They were restricted, hence, couldn’t fully enjoy the perks and privileges of wonderful Macau. 

Macau Travel Tips
·         You can go to Macau and not spend a single centavo on transportation.
·         Make use of the free hotel shuttle bus to get to your next stop!
·         Go to Macau with your friends, it will be legendary, I promise.
·         Go  casino hopping!
·         Stay as long as you can, one day or half day isn’t enough.
·         Walk and appreciate the surroundings, it’s healthy, it burns calories, and it gives you a better look of everything.
·         Taste everything you see, nothing beats experience---either good and bad
·         Breathe in and enjoy the little things

Macau Day Trip Budget
Roundtrip Hongkong- Macau Ferry  Ride
300    HKD
Food Expenses
Miscellaneous Expenses
Transportation ( Free Hotel Shuttle Bus Rides)
380     HKD