Thursday, April 17, 2014

cintai coritos garden

I would consider Cintai Coritos Garden as a secret gem on this side of Batangas. being off the usual tourist routes in the area makes this resort a spot worth exploring even over a weekend or after a tour around Batangas and Laguna's growing adventure spots.
interestingly, the resort compound is composed of a large area of Bali-inspired villas, swimming pools and gardens. archways and intricately carved wooden gates divide its entirety to smaller areas of peaceful spots. it's quite easy to move around because of the large open lawns and stairways.
villas were strategically placed on areas that gives you a sense of privacy from the larger open grounds of the swimming pool and play areas. there are four types of villas:

deluxe villas - 1 queen size bed, a personal bar with refrigerator and its own terrace
terrace villas - 2 queen size beds, a personal bar with refrigerator and its own terrace 
garden villas - 3 queen size beds, a personal bar with refrigerator and its own terrace
executive villa - 3 queen size beds, a personal bar with a designated bar tender and waiter, an exclusive garden terrace, and an outdoor jacuzzi.
kids will love this place. one big reason would be finding the ten freely roaming peacocks in the resort compound. often moving around in groups of four and if quite lucky, you get to spot them on their most beautiful state. that's when they open their colorful large tails. next thing that kids will definitely enjoy is the open playground and a game room where they can play board games and console games. 
overall a great spot to consider if you want to rest and be disconnected from the busy lifestyle.

recommended activities when in the resort:
swimming - there are several number of swimming pools in the compound. 
walking - follow the walking trails from the main open area to the gate. you will be surprised to find small spots of interest.
do nothing - though it has great amenities doing nothing still is a great activity

giving two thumbs up to:
Bali-themed design villas and structures
several dining spots to choose around the compound
good food is served generously
big rooms of king and queen sized beds
spacious bathrooms and comfort rooms
nice landscape and walkways
fresh air and nice green scenery

facilities and amenities:
swimming pools - for kids and adults
game room - for barkada entertainments requiring television, movie players, music room
conference areas and halls 
kids playground
volleyball area

Cintai Corito's Garden
address: Sitio Pandayan, Malabanan Balete, Batangas
mobile numbers: +63917.833.1508 / +63917.833.1728
facebook page: Coritos Garden Page
email address:

how to get there:
from Manila: Take South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) then direct transfer to Star Toll (Laguna-Batangas Expressway). Take Malvar exit and right at P. Montecer road. Left at President Laurel Highway then right at General Leviste. Cintai will be on your left with a large covered wall. Gate is most of the time closed but a guard is always available. less than 2hours from Manila via this route.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

eigtheen of my most memorable experience in 2013

2013 was a year spent more on exploring places with friends. that made longer hours on the road matter less. all fun. from extremely hot summer trip in Bagan and extremely cold winter trip in China. all sun. from the beautiful Apo Reef to the quaint island of Alabat.
[18] defaced delight (Masinloc, Zambales)
place: i saw this place from Google Earth with a very interesting reef formation. it looked like veins crawling from the main Luzon island to the island of San Salvador. places like this i would usually go alone. no expectations. i just want to go.
experience: went there alone geared with a tent as i don't expect any hostel in the island. too bad that a typhoon just hit the area two days from my visit. so the shoreline of the island was damaged and water was blurry. 
bonus: while taking the boat to the island, a family decided to bring me to their home for a sleepover but with not much to see along the shoreline and the area is still recovering from the storm, i decided to return to the main island. with a short time with the family, i was able to walk around parts of the island surrounded by mango trees. also on that day one of the youngest kid in the family celebrated his birthday. we ate suman and pansit. instant family. im definitely returning. 
[17] eat all you can (Binondo, Manila) 
place: if there's that one place where i can spend the entire day eating it would be Binondo. the Philippine's busiest China town is the country's 
experience: eat all you can by day and shop all you can by night. we had the chance to do night shopping. i've never done this before. had a great time haggling. 
bonus: my favorite temple in Manila Seng Guan Temple is just a short walk away. often missed out by tourists because of its isolated location but it's worth visiting. 
[16] tea top (Antipolo, Rizal)
place: set on the hilly spot of Antipolo overlooking Angono and parts of the Metro. Loreland Farm Resort boasts its hanging gardens with infinity pools and water spa facility. it has a large area with lots of activities to do.
experience: it was just  supposed to be a horror night for the group but ended up making the most of our stay by trying their spa and massage service. by night we had a long chat of sharing our stories of how we started to wander.
bonus: we get to have a merienda of what Antipolo is best for, suman, casew and a bonus of fresh farm juice.
post: loreland farm resort

[15] just being there (Alabat island, Quezon)
place: the island of Alabat is Quezon province's second largest island but is often just seen from afar through the highway. the island is mostly covered with forest with some few coastal villages.
experience: i've been wanting to visit this island but was actually just looking for the best time. until fellow travel blogger Allan and two friends from Lucena decided to join me. all of us for the first time in the island. we ended up befriending the locals in a small village on the eastern side of the island. enjoyed cycling within the village with some kids.
bonus: had the entire long seat of the boat both trips from Atimonan to Alabat and back. 
[14] long quaint shoreline (Claveria, Cagayan)
place: a very wide coastal area with gray fine sands. despite being one of the most populated municipality in Cagayan province it relatively is still a quiet town. from here, one can already see Babuyan islands on a clear day. most people still move around town by motorbikes.
experience: woke up by the resounding waves hitting the shoreline. this was the last part of the Finding North's first journey and it was on this day when the sun finally came out. the placed that we stayed has an open balcony which gave us a 360 degree view of Claveria that extends to the mountain range of the province of Apayao.
bonus: place was peaceful and safe. so i had the chance to run early morning with a nice view. 
[13] on your bike, get set, go! (Maarat, Rizal)
place: i was totally stunned at this hidden beautiful spot not so far from Metro Manila. this hilly scenic area of Maarat has one of the most exciting bike routes with a mix of rocky, slippery and flat trails.
experience: made me ask myself why have i just found this place now. by far my favorite Travel Factor bike trip. requirement is just you know how to bike. the rest is bike your way through the trails.
bonus: i enjoyed every part of the trail but the bonus was that the bike route ends with a long descend along a paved road of Timberland. two thumbs up to this!
post: bikeph maarat trail 
[12] unlimited amok (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
place: traffic and crowded like the city of Manila but there are those little spots of interest in this capital city. these includes the Independence Monument, the market place, and the national museum.
experience: while going around the city whether by walking or by tuktuk, i will always end up eating amok. from breakfast to dinner there's always amok on my order. 
bonus: the hostel owner from Siem Reap recommended me to another hostel in Phnom Penh where i can leave my backpack to roam around in a day before leaving the city.
[11] miniaturized by the giant caverns (Miri, Malaysia)
place: when one says Borneo, i imagine large stretch of forest. this side of the island particularly the area of Miri in the region of Sarawak has a number of cave interconnections. this can be accessed from the small city by road. other interesting spot is the city fan park and the grand old lady oil drill monument.  
experience: i was really impressed at the long walkway built within the Niah National Park. this helped reduce the effect of trail damage caused by the tourists accessing the giant caves. saw some unusual creatures and towering trees along the way.  
bonus: we got the chance to meet some of the indigenous people of Miri, the Iban locals. they are selling handcrafts and fruits in the old city market. 
[10] trails above the clouds (Kabayan, Benguet)
place: the country's second highest point and Luzon island's highest summit. at this height, it is the climber's paradise to experience the coldest temperature in the country. if you don't get to see its famous sea of cloud, no worries. in exchange to that, you'll get to see the extremely beautiful view of the Cordillera mountain range in 360 degrees. 
experience: on our ascend, it was raining and foggy which meant colder environ but we were rewarded with a clear sunny day and a sea of clouds the next day.
bonus: bonded with new friends including a family who trekked in response to their father's dream of trekking Mt. Pulag. best to check out Travel Factor's regular climb to this summit. 

[9] giant steps (Hungduan, Banaue)
place: one of the five rice terraces in the Philippines listed as a UNESCO heritage site. i like its location and its wide flat terraces. other than this there's a small hot spring basin beside a river. believed to have been the last hideout of the Japanese General Yamashita during the World War II.
experience: like any rice terraces that you'll visit in the Philippines, it would require a lot of walking. but we were rewarded with the chance to sleep in a traditional Ifugao accommodation. five of us in one small hut. shoulder to shoulder sleeping didn't matter. 
bonus: despite being small and the only accommodation in the middle of the terraces, every time we had a meal it was served on different location.
[8] unplugged (Nagsasa, Zambales)
place: undoubtedly beautiful. Nagsasa cove is one of the places in the Philipines that i don't mind returning many times and do nothing. great mountain view by the beach with a lake that runs out to the sea. just go there. do nothing. that's how awesome a place like this can be.
experience: we slept in tents and spent relaxing over hammocks under the hissing Agoho trees. next to this we walked around looking for an overlooking spot and waited for sunset.
bonus: traveling by dawn has its own reward of seeing beautiful lights emitted by planktons on our way to the cove. you might miss the mountain view when traveling under the night sky but i would trade this for a neon light show of the sea.
[7] enigmatic (Yangon, Myanmar)
place: the city with the most number of colonial structures in Southeast Asia and home to the holy Shwedagon Pagoda. it is easy to notice that you're actually in a different country. majority of the people here wear longyi and htamein even when driving a motorbike.
experience: Shwedagon Pagoda by its shape will look like most of the pagodas one would find around Yangon. but to be there and sit around the area that surrounds it, is enigmatic. i can easily spend three or more hours just staring at it. best time to be there is from sundown to night time as its golden
bonus: now an open city yet it remains less touristy making this time one of the best time to visit Yangon. but this won't be too long.
first day in yangon
mingalaba myanmar - guide to going around yangon
why am i going to myanmar?
[6] chasing waves (Burgos, Ilocos Norte)
place: great beaches, stunning landscape and historical landmarks. all these Ilocos Norte offers the best. on places like this, you won't have a hard time tagging me along.
experience: traveling during a typhoon can make you stay inside the house but not on this trip with team Finding North. we braved ourselves and visited Bangui windmills. the furious waves gave a surreal view of these tower fans. we literally chased and run with the waves. after this we found ourselves crossing the Patapat viaduct hardly seeing the strip because of the heavy rain. all fun.
bonus: sleeper bus is now available from Manila to Laoag. leave by night and by the time you wake up you're already in Ilocos.
[5] urban delight (Shanghai, China)
place: bought a guide book to Shanghai thinking that i might someday visit this city. after browsing, it gave me the impression that this is a boring city. not until i found myself booking for a trip there that i started reading the book. found so many interesting things about the city including its direction in regaining its title as the largest and most prosperous city in the Asia.
experience: our first look at the central area of Shanghai was during night time. the bustling Nanjing road came into view as we came from the subway. it was a surprise seeing all the lights with the lofty Pearl Tower from afar. it was easy to move around the city through the subway and walking with a 4C temperature won't be tiring.
bonus: xiao long bao is cheap! need i say more.
[4] turtle haven (Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro)
place: one of the largest healthy reef in the country at a size of 67,877acres. that's one third the size of Metro Manila.  the good thing is that the number of visitors per day is limited. this helps the place to be preserved.
experience: 3hours bus ride. 3hours boat ride. 3hours bus ride. 4hours boat ride. that's how we did it to get there. it was tiring yet it was all worth it. snorkeling around this small island - infinite. i had a great time when our boat stopped over this large shallow area of clear waters in the open sea. i imagine the place like its best for a football size water hockey.
bonus: to swim with the giant sized turtles and the chance to see them crawl in the beach area. 
[3] block upon block (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
place: it does not matter whether you see it from afar or upclose. you will appreciate the magnificence of the Angkorian ruins. the intricate details in macro and the massiveness on a wide scale. 
experience: intrigued by the influence of each temple's features which is a mix of Buddhism and Hinduism. we forgot what it meant to be tired. the experience of being prayed by a monk, enter an undisputed area, and eat a barbecue frog made it all fun for this trip.
bonus: on a long journey to the temples Preah Vihear and the pyramid-formed Koh Ker, i said "it will most likely be a long time until i get to return to Siem Reap". if there's one reason that i am returning, it would be to see Kulen massif where it is believed to have been the source of the rocks used to build the temples. just after saying that, i saw a hilly range and asked the driver what is that hill and he mentioned that it is Kulen massif. what a coincidence. we stopped over and made sure to capture its grandeur.
[2] empire of temples (Bagan, Myanmar)
place: Bagan's remoteness and the country's prolonged communism has kept it almost . though the number of tourists is increasing, it's so easy to escape the touristy sites and find oneself lost in a middle of nowhere. rarely does it rain there and temperature can be so cold at night but too hot by day.
experience: "these is just too many" i kept on saying as we entered the Old Bagan temple grounds. how could they build so many temples? what more during its golden years with about ten thousand temples and pagodas. exploring even a portion of the remaining two thousand temples can be exhilarating. temperature can reach 39C by midday and dust can be inches thick but it was worth it. most unforgettable part was to bike at total darkness.
bonus: my favorite side trip was the visit to the sacred temple Taung Kalat above a hill near Mt. Popa. awesome view from the top that requires walking barefoot up hundreds of steps passing by shops, small sacred chapels and some not-so nasty monkeys.
an extended bike trail around old bagan
shwesandaw pagoda bagan
thatbyinnyu and around
the charm of new bagan
on the road from yangon to bagan
tharabar gate hotel bagan myanmar
bagan central hotel
[1]  (Huangshan, China)
place: rising like camel backs carved by glaciers to over hundred million years. the granite rock peaks of Huangshan are among the most enchanting in China and dubbed by UNESCO as the loveliest mountain in China. declared a world heritage site in 1990. 
experience: while on the plans for this trip i can't believe that off-peak season in Huangshan is winter. growing up in a tropical country and being a fan of snow, i always thought that the best time to see Huangshan was during winter. fast forward, we found ourselves lost when we reached the mountain top. snow storm. steep steps. extreme cold. then the sun showed up the next day. majestic mountain views. tastiest apples. buffet breakfast Chinese food. no coffee. sunrise beautiful. best cable car experience. sunset awesome. fun chats. endless photo shoot. red carpet walkways. all these made it the best memorable trip this year.
bonus: side trip to the heritage town of Hongcun. one of the location of the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. still cold but just right to explore this well preserved old village and get to share laughter with some locals while having our feet warmed by a wooden box heater.
not just another ordinary year in travel. i want to say the best year yet but there's so much to see. we might have a small world that we get to meet friends along trails and trips but it still is too big to explore in a lifetime. to travel and be happy is a choice.

the years in travel blogging
Most Memorable Trips of 2012
Most Memorable Trips of 2011
Most Memorable Trips of 2010
Most Memorable Trips of 2009
Most Memorable Trips of 2008

Monday, December 2, 2013

my gears of choice 2013

year ends and i'm listing down this year's favorite gears and wears. you will notice that there's something in common to almost all of these. durability, light weight, easily pack and it looks monochromatic.i chose gears which are easily packed at smallest space possible in my backpack. most of these i wear both for travel and work. so here's my favorite gears and wears for 2013.

[1] Columbia Omni Freeze Shirt
favorite shirt for trekking and running. quick dry and easy wash 
Highlight: Advance cooling technology, light, quick dry and stretch comfort
Shops: Columbia Boutique shops, R.O.X. Stores, SM Makati Dept Store

[2] Mountain Hardwear Pavo Jacket
i wear this jacket both for work and travel because it is not bulky when folded. has three outer pockets and an inner pouch. i highly recommend this if you do running on extra cold climate places like Baguio. Highlight: Light, stretch comfort, 
Shops: Mountain Hardwear Boutique Shop (Trinoma Mall), R.O.X. Stores, 

[3] Mountain Hardwear Hestia Pants
recommended for rugged trekking. integrated belt with a unique easy lock design.  Highlight: Light, quick dry, integrated belt with special tight-lock type 
Shops: Mountain Hardwear Boutique Shop (Trinoma Mall), R.O.X. Stores, 

[4] Targus Sports 26L
this is my most used bag this year as i use it for my day trips and everyday work. if you have a portable audio player, you can just place it inside the bag as this bag has a built-in external audio cord. matched with a special internal gadget pouch. it also has a special pouch for tablets.  Highlight: Built-in earphone external cord, light,special internal pouch for gadgets and tablet.  
Shops: Department stores: SM, Rustans, Cash and Carry, Metro Gaisano

[5] Banana Republic Shirt
very comfortable for traveling. light and thin clothing makes it one of my favorite shirt this year. Highlight: Light, thin and body comfort
Shops: Banana Republic Boutique Shops

[6] Columbia Master Fly Shoes
also one of my most used shoes this year because i wear this during work for site visits as well as running. main reason is its extra light features and the water repellant technology.
best for minimalist runners for urban run.
Highlight: Super-light, comfort, water repellant
Shops: Columbia Boutique shops, R.O.X. Stores, SM Makati Dept Store

[7] Mojo Slippers
comfort because of its circular cushion design and is recommended for everyday walk. Highlight: Light, comfort
Shops: R.O.X., Tobys, Athletes Foot,  

[8] Casio SGW
if you love trekking then you will love this watch. it comes with and altitude meter, temperature meter and a barometer. you can record your climb progress and environment conditions. it comes with a twin sensor and an illuminator plus the water proof of up to 100meters depth. also one of my most used gear this year for both work and travel. Highlight: Altitude meter, temperature meter, barometer, and water resistant
Shops: Casio Boutique Shops,

[9] Spyder Lock Sunglasses
my second Spyder sunglass this year and i love its interchangeable lens. what's even cooler is that it comes with two extra lenses. very easy to change its lens. plus its grip that fits for trail running. no issues of lens fogging. top choice for sunglasses this year. Highlight: Interchangeable lens, flexible nose-pad, 
Shops: R.O.X., SM Dept Stores, 

[10] Apple Iphone 5
got this one late last year and has been a companion since then everyday. best for being light and great software features. so many applications for travel which are available in the apps store for free. my favorite is the google maps app that allows one to use GPS. Highlight: I-Sight Camera, extra light, great downloadable travel apps
Shops: Macstores, Gadget shops

posting soon gears for 2014.

Monday, November 18, 2013

an extended bike trail around old bagan

on our first bike trails in Bagan, we chased for sunset and sunrise. but this unusual tower rising far North got our attention on the second day. along with fellow travelers Jerome and Rob, we were determined to go see it. geared with a map provided by the hotel we chose to explore more temples to an extended bike trail.

[1] Hotel at Tharabar Gate
our start point was from this hotel beside the ruins of the remains of Tharabar gate. bikes for rent can be found from a nearby cottage or at the hotel itself. from here we took the road to Nyaung Oo.
[2] Handicraft Shops
the long paved highway of Bagan-Nyaung Oo is the best warm up trail. we saw some few temples and pagodas on the right side. did some few stops along the way but it was these lined shops of handicrafts that was more noticeable. checked our map and not much to see along this stretch and so we had to move.
[3] Shwezigon Pagoda
unlike most of the giant pagodas which are immediately visible from the road, one needs to access this pagoda through this long covered pathway to see its golden stupa. the surrounding area filled with structures for meditation including a replica of the Mahabodhi tree. is also one of the pagodas in Nyaung-Oo that is still actively venerated by many. 
[4] Kyansittha Cave 
to visit this was not on our plan but out of curiosity and accessibility from Shwezigon, we took our chance. we found out that this was actually not a cave but a walled structure with dark rooms covered with murals of Bagan's history. taking photos while inside is prohibited. paintings and symbols of Buddhism are sold just outside. we took some time learning about its significance. it was a worth quick stop.
[5] Gibyauk Gyi
we then diverted through the highway to reach Anawratha road. here Robbie tried and successfully did a no-hand bike move. after a long straight path, we turned right to our next stop. this was a small temple that holds one of the most important script in Bagan's history which is in Mon language painted on its inner walls. many would miss out the significance of this temple for its small size. taking photos inside is prohibited. brass and wooden carved figures are sold inside the temple outer walls. 
[6] Cemetery
this was the part of the trail when we started to get off the paved road. this was the beginning of the long arduous cycling. our destination from here was the towering Nan Myint which we saw during sunrise. we were determined to see it no matter the long distance. along the way we passed by this cemetery. it was an unexpected stop. every time i visit a new country, i am always drawn to see their cemetery. as it reflected their culture. very similar to those in the Philippines but with a local script and does not have a cover.
[7] Nan Myint Tower
every pedal was not moving the bike to a foot distance. the dust was simply getting thicker as we moved farther. no other option but to walk and push our bike. we tried to pedal but it didn't help. sun was up and with less trees, our energy was going down. moved slower and on our left was a fenced golf course while on our right was a flat dry field with few small temples from afar.
we moved forward as going back doesn't seem like a better option. Nan Myint Tower finally was in view but we were already running out of water. when we reached the tower, we realized that the it was closed and that there was no one in the area. no vendors. no water. it simply meant that we have to endure another long bike ride without water. the 60-meter tower was actually built as part of a resort but that time it seemed nonoperational. 
[8] Long Wall
took a short rest to somehow regain energy. the road ahead was better. it was wider and dust was not as thick. looked at a map and we are actually way too far to our next stop. the distance may less likely matter if we still have water. 
there was not a sign that we were coming close to a place selling water. we had to stop once in a while. until we reached the long walls of a ruined temple. still no supply of water. our final resort was to reach the isolated village of Minnathu. 
[9] Minnathu Village
finally we saw some people passed by and they directed us to continue straight. a hope for us. when we reached the village, it actually looked like there was not much houses in it but we found a house that offered food. it was a relief. 
three of us immediately parked our bikes and checked out the menu. they served us peanuts and we requested for water as there was no food to order. we each took a spot to take a nap after the torturous bike ride.
[10] Thaman Paya
not so long, we had to move as we were still too far back to the hotel. bought extra water this time and continued. this time we passed by a large temple after seeing mostly ruins and smaller pagodas. took a quick shot of the temple but did not have enough time to explore it. 
at this point, we started to see tourist van. a good sign that we're back to the common tourist route. piles of small rock pieces were on the side of the road. this was used to cover the the thick dust. 
on one area, we saw the locals spread out the small rock pieces to the road. it didn't help much for our bike as it becomes useful more for the larger vehicles. we saw Dhammayangyi temple from afar which we were supposed to do a stop but was just too tired that we had to skip it.
[11] Ananda Paya
we continued until we finally reached Anawratha road and across it was Ananda Paya. one of the old temples that still attracts devotees and tourists alike. it remains a Holy temple for its statues and mural paintings.
this will be the most memorable and challenging bike ride during our stay in Bagan. this extended bike trail i will less likely recommend but for those who plan to explore the outskirts of Bagan, you can still do this but bring enough water and some energy boosters snacks. 

a more recommended bike route will be posted soon.

area profile:
country: Myanmar (Burma)
island: Greater Eurasia
region: Mandalay
township: Nyaung Oo

temple/pagoda complex access fee: 
entrance to the entire complex is standardized at USD10 per person for the entire time that you'll be in the area. keep the ticket as some temples have inspectors checking for your pass.

touring around:
Bagan temple complex is huge and your option of renting a van, a cart or a bike will depend greatly on the time that you have to explore the temples and your resistance to heat. some temples can be as far 25kilometers while you can find some stupas almost on every corner.
bus/van/car: comfort and you save time moving from one temple to another.
horse/cow cart: slow but a good experience of old local mode of transportation.
bike: active, fast and flexible but consumes a lot of energy. cheapest way to temple hop.
cost for the van/car/cart will vary on the temples that you plan to visit.
cost for bike: USD2-3per person per day. most hotels or inn offer this service.

how to get there:
by plane: there are regular daily flight from Yangon to Nyaung-U. the closest airport is Nyaung-U Airport which is just around 15mins away from the Old Bagan temple and pagoda area. Airlines with regular flights includes: Air Mandalay, Air Bagan, Yangon Airways
by bus: 
from Mandalay: daily bus trips are available to Bagan. duration: 6-8hours (estimate: USD10-15)
from Yangon: daily bus trips are available to Bagan. duration: 10-12hours (estimate: USD15-22)
from Nyay Pyi Taw: daily bus trips available to Bagan. duration: 5-7hours (estimate: USD10-15)
by train: 
daily trips from Mandalay and Yangon are available but the trip time may vary depending on the train stop duration. 


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