Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ocean Jet: The Fastest Ferry

Well my title on this blog may be biased as I haven't really tried all the ferries here in the Philippines.  I'm more referring to our experience in riding a ferry boat to and from Dumaguete/Siquijor.  We arranged our ferry transfer care of Coco Grove Beach Resort, as initially instructed to them, I told them we prefer a ferry boat that is the fastest going to Siquijor from Dumaguete.  Since I do not have any idea on the various ferry boats available and its schedule, I let Coco Grove decide.  You can check my previous blog on the ferry schedules they have provided me.

From the schedule they provided, it seems that GL Express is the next ferry that could take us to Siquijor for just an hour.  We will be arriving in Dumaguete at around 8:30am so their 10am schedule is just right.  Ocean Jet is listed but their schedule is 1pm, already too late.  When we came back here in Manila, I read from Girltalk forum that Ocean Jet have early schedules, like 9am, from Dumaguete to Siquijor but the port will be at Lorena, which is quite far from Coco Grove Beach Resort.  But there was no such schedule indicated in Ocean Jet's website so I'm not sure if that's true.

Dumaguete Port
Jay Lann Jeziel
As mentioned in my review on Coco Grove resort, they bought ferry tickets from Jay Lann, with an hour and 15 minutes travel time.  But in reality, it took us 1 hour and 30 minutes! I am used to long ferry travels like going to Camiguin from CDO, to Caramoan from Naga and to Calaguas from Daet.  But maybe I expect a short travel time to Siquijor that I really got bored and almost pissed.


So by the time we asked again Coco Grove to book us a ticket in going back to Dumaguete, I make it clear to them that we wanted the fastest ferry, whatever the its cost is, and they offered Ocean Jet.  That time, I'm not really familiar again with the various shipping lines but I told the receptionist that we do not want to ride Jay Lann again.  Our schedule was at 2pm so we settled at the lobby area before 1pm.  Coco Grove's jeepney service will drive us to the port.

Siquijor port going to Ocean Jet

This is the Ocean Jet

Seeing the Ocean Jet, we were quite relieve as it is bigger and air conditioned!  We thought even if the travel time will be again longer, at least we will be relaxed with its quite comfy seating and of course the air conditioned ferry.  But to our surprise, it took us only less than 1 hour to arrive in Dumaguete port.  That was fast!  With that, we learn to love Ocean Jet!

Picture before boarding
I wasn't able to take a lot of pictures inside the ferry but aside from it has air con, comfortable seats, it also have LCD TV and rest rooms.  I wasn't able to check if the rest room is clean.  The ferry was quite big and life vest was already provided under the seat.  The ride was smooth sailing, you wouldn't even feel the waves, if there was any or maybe because it wasn't strong at that time (it was summer!).

Inside Ocean Jet
Ocean Jet operates mainly in Visayas and a few routes in Mindanao (Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin - I didn't know this before).  They offer various class to suit the passengers' preference and budget.  With their motto: "taking you there fast and easy", with our experience, it was indeed a fast travel, convenient, safe and easy.  I will surely take note of this the next time I needed to travel by sea in the Visayas region.  Check their website for the schedules and rates.

Enjoy traveling!

Review: Coco Grove Beach Resort

If you've been reading and following my blog posts about Siquijor, its this famous resort, Coco Grove Beach Resort that made us stay longer and extend for another night in Siquijor.  I maybe exaggerating but arriving at Coco Grove mad us feel at home with its relaxing by the beach ambiance.  The scenery and long stretch of white beach captures our hearts together with its friendly staff that made us decide to stay longer.

mini cottages

relaxing at their hammock

As mentioned in my previous blog, our initial plan was just to stay overnight since according to my research, Siquijor can be explored in half to one day.  Our plan was to tour Siquijor after having lunch at the resort (we expect to be arriving at the resort by lunch time) then swimming the following morning at the resort.  But maybe because of the long and quite exhausting travel from Dumaguete port to Siquijor (about 2 hrs including waiting time) and the beauty of the beach, we decided to just relax on our 1st day.

We availed Coco Grove's transfer service from pick up at Sibulan Airport in Dumaguete, getting ferry tickets bound to Siquijor port and going to their resort.  If you prefer DIY, Sibulan Airport to Dumaguete port is just about 15 minutes travel time via tricycle, which are easily available outside the airport.  From the port, several ticket booths for ferry boats are available.  You may refer to my previous blog on various ferry boat schedule.

Upon arriving at Sibulan Airport, we easily spotted Coco Grove's van to take us to Dumaguete port.  It was care of Coco Grande Hotel, Coco Grove's sister company.  Arriving at Dumaguete port, we waited a little while in the van while the driver bought us ferry tickets.  During my inquiry with Coco Grove, I specifically requested for a ferry boat that will not take more than an hour travel time to Siquijor.  The ticket we had was for Jay Lann Jaziel.  The travel time took us 1 hour and 30 minutes! But nevertheless, the staff of Coco Grove Beach Resort greeted us upon arrival at Siquijor port with refreshing wet towels and bottled water.

Aboard their improvised jeepney, the lady staff briefed us a short background of Siquijor as well as features of Coco Grove Beach Resort.  We passed by some tourist spots along the way which the lady staff also briefed its history.
Capilay Spring Park


St. Francis of Assisi Church




About 15 minutes, we finally arrived at the Coco Grove Beach Resort.  Refreshing drinks were again served and the front desk staff quickly assist us in our check in reservations.  There were tour offerings posted at the reception area, including Apo Island tour and Siquijor tour.  Similar to their website, their tour offerings have minimum number of pax required.  That's why I just ignored it during the time I was researching about Apo Island tours.  But what's attractive to Coco Grove's tour is that they are the ones who will be completing the number of pax required for every tour.  They do this by inviting every guests if they would like to avail the tour.  This is another reason why we decided to extend our stay for another night at Coco Grove.  Since we do have plans of going to Apo Island once we get back to Dumaguete, we thought it will be more convenient for us to avail Coco Grove's tour to Apo Island at Php 1,600 per pax all in.  This already includes lunch and snorkeling gears.  The tour will take up 1 whole day.  Quite expensive than DIY but it is very convenient.

We reserved for a Deluxe room at Php 3,100.  I initially requested for either Frangipani or Sunset Villa (you may check here the location of the rooms at various rates) but they told me that the room availability is dependent upon our arrival at the resort.  But we were surprised that they upgraded our room to Executive room and still at Deluxe price!  That's another attractive point in this resort that we were more eager to extend another night.

We stayed at Plantation 4, room #37.  It was a very spacious room.  Our only concern is that, signal for phone and wifi is very weak inside the room and a slight signal at the veranda.  See below for pictures of our room.

The bed with mini ref

Quite big room

View of veranda


Garden view from veranda

The toilet

Separate toilet and shower
I like their bathroom with separate toilet and shower.  It is also very spacious!  Being only a 3-star hotel, no other toiletries were provided except for toilet tissue.  But that wasn't really a big deal for us as we always brought our own toiletries.

The coffee table; Far right on the picture is their bamboo closet

Our comfy and clean bed

The way to our room

The Plantation Rooms

Stairs going to our room

Free books to read.  Our room on the left with bf peeking

Like in any hotels, keys have magnetic cards attached to it where you need to place it near the switches inside your room to turn on/off the air conditioning unit.  Since it was summer, we wanted our aircon to be running all the time but unfortunately, we cannot separate the card to the key.  But nonetheless, even if it is summer, the aircon is functioning well.

Coco Grove's location reminds me of our stay in Pimalai Resort in Krabi, Thailand (haven't finished my blog about this).  The vast area has several rooms along the way with lush greens in the surroundings which makes it a nice sight seeing adventure while you are walking to or from your room.  You will also pass by several pools, restaurants and even souvenir shops.


This is one of their pools with mini bar

This is near the pool, i'm not sure if its also a bar

The resort have 2 main restaurant: Sunset Restaurant and Salamandas Restaurant.  The pool also have a mini bar though I'm not sure if they are serving foods and drinks there since we didn't try it.


The mini bar at the pool

Sunset Restaurant

Salamandas Restaurant

The resort is also expanding.  I believe come December, new buildings and hotel will already be operational.

And because we had a very relaxing stay at Coco Grove Beach Resort, we were not able to tour Siquior as planned.  I will relate in my next blog about our Apo Island tour care of the resort.  We also ask the resort's assistance to book ferry tickets for us back to Dumaguete on our 3rd day.  This time, I clearly told them that we want a faster ferry going back.  They book our ticket from Ocean Jet.  You may check my blog about our experience with Ocean Jet here.

Overall, I recommend staying at Coco Grove Beach Resort if you are in Siquijor.  Just staying here is already relaxing: A blissful vacation away from the hustle and bustle of stressful Manila.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

An Unexpected Event During My Boracay Trip

My boyfriend and I visited Boracay again last weekend.  This time, the inclusive dates falls on our 27th monthsary.  Though we no longer celebrate our monthsary, this time was different because we decided to celebrate it by dining in a good restaurant in Boracay with sunset view.  That's what I thought on how will our monthsary day go, I was wrong.  My boyfriend has something else on his mind.

During our stay in Boracay, its somehow cloudy but the sun was still appearing from time to time.  For 2 days, we were able to see sunsets though on the 2nd day, it wasn't full sunset view as it is still cloudy.  On our (3rd) day, the sun didn't even peek all throughout the day.  Since we plan to dine with sunset view, I asked my boyfriend if he still wants to push through with having dinner in a good restaurant even without the sunset and he still persists.

We had our dinner at Friday's Boracay.  It was the usual dinner but my boyfriend kept on informing me to go back at our resort at a specific time.  He reasoned out that he might experienced upset stomach from eating a lot which equates to visit to the restroom.  I agreed so I just finished my dinner.  During dinner, I can't recall how our conversation went to the topic of trust.  He said, he read that one test to prove that a person trust you if you blind folded him/her and he/she will entrust you to lead the way to wherever your destination is.  While we're heading back to our resort, he insisted that we try that blind folding thing so he would know if I trust him.  I declined since its already dark, being blind folded will even make me feel so dark. I even joked that if he likewise trust me, he let me just close my eyes without any handkerchief on my eyes.  After some convincing, I agreed.  Besides, we will start from Willy's Rock all the way to our resort.  That's just quite a few steps away.

And so I was blind folded.  When we were stepping up, I knew we were already at our resort.  I asked why I still can't remove my blind folds.  My boyfriend just keep on telling me to wait.  He held both my hands firmly and started saying stuff about our relationship.  In my mind, I don't have the slightest idea that he will propose.  Maybe he's just professing his love.  I even teased him that he's too sure that I'd say yes, without me really knowing that he was already proposing.  He said that he already asked God for signs if I'm already the one and He showed smooth sailing in our relationship.  He even joked that he also asked help from Batman with our relationship (from "bahala na si Batman" expression of most Pinoys).  From there, he asked me to remove my blind folds.  I turned and saw sand "castle" with my name and the words, "Will you marry me".  I was surprised.  He knelt down and asked my hand for marriage.  Of course I said yes.



Now that explains why he kept on asking me the time of our dinner as well as the time we will be back at our resort, to give ample time to the resort's staff in building the sand "castle".  For your information, bulding sand castles in Boracay is already forbidden as it makes the sands dark when lit with candles.  I found out that my boyfriend's initial plan (well he's now my fiance) was to rent the paraw withe words "will you marry me" on each paraw.  It was quite expensive according to him so he resorted to building sand castles with my name and he will propose while the sun is setting.  But unfortunately, the sun didn't show up that day.  Besides, after talking to barangay officials and asking for permission in building sand castles, they still didn't permit it.  They will permit it with a fee of Php 2,000 but it is still not yet guaranteed.  So he asked for the help of the resort's staff.  Even if building sand castles is still not permitted, the resort staff build it right in front of their resort.

I do not have even the slightest idea that he will propose.  I was really surprised.  And he even had an engagement ring for me!  He often tells me that he can't afford the ring yet as it is expensive and he have other obligations and plans to fulfill personally which disables him to save up for the ring.  But all of these were just a bluff.  He bought the ring 2 months before and he really planned to propose during our trip to Boracay, and during sunset!  He knows I love sunset.

It was indeed an unexpected event to what I thought would simply be a vacation.  It has become a very memorable vacation, to a place I love, the beach. 



Thank you for your time in reading this far.  I hope you got "kilig" with my proposal story.  I am now engaged. :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Budget Accommodations in Boracay Station 1 Beachfront

The whole stretch of White Beach in Boracay Island is divided into three (3) locations, namely: Station 1, 2, 3. All these locations offer various accommodations from budget inns to high end and luxurious hotels.

Station 1 is always perceived to be having posh and high end accommodations especially if you prefer staying in beachfront resorts.  But this blog post will prove it wrong.  Being a budget traveler, I will list down a few beachfront accommodations that I have recently researched in Boracay Station 1 that cost at most Php 3,000 per night, good for 2 pax.  By the way, the rates are off peak.  Price changes during peak season.

1. Blue Lilly Villa
- Php 2,900 Standard room with breakfast
- www.bluelillyvilla.com
- 09179178540; boracaybluelillyvillaresort@yahoo.com.ph
- quick response through text

2. True Home Hotel
- Php 3,000 Superior room with breakfast
- www.truehomehotel.net
- contacted through contact form from their website
- no response; inquired room availability through other sites like agoda

3. Little Prairie Inn
- Php 3,000 Standard room w/o breakfast
- FB page: Little Prairie Inn Boracay Beach Resort
- inquired through FB messenger
- 036-2886100/09487896447

4. Watercolors Dive Resort
- Php 3,000 Deluxe room with breakfast
- www.watercolors.ph
- 09985541675

5. Boracay Plaza Resort
- Php 3,000 Standard room with brealfast
- www.boracayplaza.com
- 036-2883702

6. Blue Waves Beach House
- Php 2,000 Standard room with breakfast
- www.bluewavesboracay.com

7. Las Brisas de Boracay
- Php 3,000 Deluxe room with breakfast
- www.boracaytrinidadresorts.com/abtlasbrisas.htm

8. Sun Villa Resort and Spa
- Php 2,620 Standard room
- FB page Sun Resorts Boracay

9. Boracay Coco Huts
- Php 2,824 Standard room w/o breakfast
- from agoda and booking.com

The first 5 resorts are very near to each other.  Going to station 1, you will first pass by True Hotel, then Blue Lilly, Watercolors, Little Prairie and lastly Boracay Plaza Resort.  They are just beside each other.

Blue Waves is located at northern part of Station 1, nearing Fridays.  Las Brisas is also at northern part but nearer to Two Seasons.

Sun Villa and Boracay Coco Huts are near to each other, also near Astoria Hotel.

It's also helpful to check agoda, travelbook and tripadvisor websites for promo rates and reviews on these resorts.  From those posted above, I've only inquired from the first 3 resorts.  I have considered Nigi Nigi Too as they have an ongoing promo rate at about Php 3,100 per night.  Other beachfront resorts that is a little more than Php 3,000 per night are Residencia de Boracay and Royal Park Hotel.  The last time I was in Boracay, we stayed at Willy's Beach Club for less than Php 3k per night on a peak season.  That was a promo deal from My Boracay Guide.  Well, that was year 2012.

We've decided to stay in Blue Lilly Villa.  Will blog about our experience here once I get back from Boracay.

Enjoy Boracay!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

That Province Called Siquijor

When one hear the province Siquijor, they will immediately think of sorcery, witchcraft and the supernatural which makes this province a not so famous destination.  But that's an unfair judgment on this province.  Whether the myths and tales are true or not, the province has its distinct beauty and serenity which is very inviting once you get there.



As mentioned in my previous blog, planning a trip to Siquijor, I prefer to stay and explore this province longer.  But because of its close proximity to Dumaguete and Apo Island, I wouldn't want to visit these provinces as well.  So initially, we will only stay overnight at Siquijor on our 1st day.  Beside, I read in some blogs that you can tour the Siquijor in half to one day.  But our plans changed and our itinerary was totally revamped when we set foot at Siquijor.

After a long ferry ride (about 1.5 hours) from Dumaguete to Siquijor port, it was the beauty and the long stretch beach at Coco Grove Beach Resort which easily captures our heart.  The resort was inviting and seems very relaxing.  What we love best is the uncrowded and peaceful ambiance of the resort.  You may check my review about Coco Grove Beach Resort here.



The reason why we extended for another night at Coco Grove is because I learned that they are offering day tours at Apo Island to all their guests.  This service was posted on their website (along with other services like Siquijor tour) but I thought we won't be able to use it since the minimum number of pax is 10.  The resort ask each guests and offers this tour so as to accumulate the minimum number of pax.  The Apo Island tour cost Php 1,600 per pax which includes boat transfer, entrance fees, snorkeling gears and tour guides.  We found the rate a bit expensive but at least all will be taken care of.

We spent the whole afternoon of day 1 just lounging at the beach and exploring the resort.

this is on one end of the resort

one of the resort's restaurant



mixed weather: sunny yet cloudy



Him

Me


panoramic view


Our Apo Island tour was spent on day 2.  Travel time from Siquijor to Apo Island is about 1.5 to 2 hours.  With this schedule, we no longer had the time to tour Siquijor.  That's another reason to go back to this province.  We had a few pictures though of some tourist spots which we took along the way.    I wanted to explore more of Siquijor especially the falls and the beaches.  Siquijor seems a lovely province isn't it?    

Monday, May 26, 2014

Exploring Dumaguete, Siquijor and Apo Island

Hearing about the beauty of Siquijor, I was very eager to spend the most of my vacation there.  But since this small province is near to Dumaguete and Apo Island, I wouldn't want to miss visiting and exploring these places as well.


Planning
Its not hard to prepare and plan for a trip on these 3 destinations.  Maybe because I already know where I wanna go on each locations and there are not much to explore on Siquijor and Apo Island.  I started with checking the must see destinations in Siquijor.  Per research, one can explore most of the tourist destination of Siquijor in half to one day.  Famous destinations here are as follows:

  • St. Francis of Assisi Church
  • Capilay Spring Park
  • Balete Tree
  • Lazi Church and Convent
  • Cambugahay Falls
  • Salagdoong Beach

In Apo Island on the other hand, it is famous for snorkeling and swimming with the turtles.  There are also Rock Formations and the Marine Sanctuary.


Dumaguete was the only province which have quite a number of destinations to explore.  But since our trip is only 4 days, we will be only exploring the city.  Below are some famous destinations that I have researched.

  • Siliman University
  • Anthropology Museum in Siliman University
  • Casaroro Falls
  • Pulangbato Falls
  • Rizal Boulevard
  • Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao and Danao
  • Belfry Tower
  • St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral
  • Quezon Park
  • Aquino Freedom Park


Itinerary
Basically, our planned itinerary was overnight at Siquijor on day 1, rest on day 2 (coming from Siquijor to Dumaguete), day tour in Apo Island on day 3 then explore Dumaguete City on the remaining of day 3 and the rest of day 4.  You may read these blog posts on why this planned itinerary was not followed.

Transportation
If you plan to visit all these 3 destinations, by plane, your nearest drop off point is at Dumaguete (Sibulan Airport).  From the airport, one can ride the tricycle, about 15 minutes, bound to the port going to Siquijor.  From Dumaguete to Siquijor, travel time by ferry boat can be as fast as 45 minutes or as slow as 2 hours.  This is dependent on the shipping lines that you will be using.  Note that each shipping company provides different schedule and availability to-from Dumaguete and Siquijor.

Ferry from Dumaguete port to Siquijor port

If you are in Dumaguete City, traveling to Apo Island will take you about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  This includes 5 minutes tricycle ride from the city to the bus terminal, 40 minutes bus ride and 35 minutes boat ride to the island.


Our boat to Apo Island from Coco Grove Beach Resort in Siquijor

To help you further, see below on some ferry boat schedules from Dumaguete to Siquijor.  There are 2 ports available in Siquijor: Larena port and Siquijor port.  Siquijor port is nearer to San Juan where famous beaches are located.  These were provided to me by Coco Grove Beach Resort for Siquijor port (you may read my review on Coco Grove Beach Resort here).

·         Jay Lann (Outrigger Boat travels 1Hr & 15 minutes or more) Note: No trips every Saturday. Docks at Siquijor port
·         GL Express (1 hr) Note: No trips every Saturday. Docks at Siquijor port
·         Ocean Jet (Big Fast Craft, Seats options are Business, Tourist & Open-air & Travels only 45 minutes) Docks at Siquijor port
·         Aleson (Big Cargo Ferry travels about 2Hrs) Docks at Siquijor port
·         Montenegro Lines (Big Cargo Ferry Travels 2 Hours but to Larena Pier which 30  minutes travel to & from the resort) Docks at Larena port
Dumaguete-Siquijor

5:40 am Jay Lann
8:00 am Aleson Ferry
10:00 am GL Express
10:00 am Montenegro
12:00 nn Jay Lann
1:00 pm Ocean Jet
3:30 pm Aleson Ferry
4:00 pm GL Express
6:00 pm Montenegro

Siquijor-Dumaguete

5:50 am Jay Lann
6:00 am Montenegro
8:00 am GL Express
9:30 am Jay Lann
11:00 am Aleson
12:00 nn GL Express
2:00 pm Montenegro
2:30 pm Ocean Jet
3:45 pm Jay Lann
5:30 pm Aleson


Ocean Jet from Siquijor port to Dumaguete port

I prefer and would recommend Ocean Jet as this is the fastest (more review about Ocean Jet here).  However, the time indicated above seems late already but they also have trips to Larena port at an earlier time coming from Dumaguete.  It is suggested to book your tickets early prior your trip to Siquijor as these sells fast.  So it is better to plan your itinerary with ample time intervals to avoid ruining your plan just because you were not able to ride the ferry at your preferred schedule.  Also, the schedule are often changing depending on the sea and whether conditions.

Read my next blog about Siquijor, here.