Boracay Times.

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I ended up heading to Boracay during the super peak travel season, just before Christmas, with my family last year. We spent 3 nights in Manila and then flew Sky Jet Airways for about SGD 120 (1-way) to Caticlan Airport as we had a 1-way ticket booked back to Singapore with Tiger from Kalibo Airport (approximately 1 hour from Caticlan).

Accommodation

Our accommodation in Boracay was a pretty basic 3-star resort located just along Station 2 – Boracay Haven Resort. For just SGD 130/night for a deluxe room with breakfast, the best thing about the resort is the location! It is about 50m away from a Macdonalds (for all your late night cravings) and within a matter of another 100m your feet sink into the pure white sand of the beach paradise. How perfect and heavenly!

Activities

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Being a beach haven, there is a plethora of activities to greet you once you set foot in Boracay. Plenty of tour companies are littered along the beachfront you will be spoilt for choices. We booked our activities with Jojo Fadrillan from Allan B Fun Tour for a rather reasonable rate. We got a private boat chartered for 4 hours (no lunch provided) for PHP 500 each. It totalled to PHP 2000 for the 4 of us for Magic Island (up to 10m cliff jumps), Crystal Cove, Coral Garden (snorkelling) as well as Crocodile Island.

There is an entrance fee of PHP 150 per person for Magic Island (payable on reaching destination) which grants you access for (unlimited) jumps. I did 8m and 10m jumps while the sister did the 8m and 9m ones. I reckon there are 5m and 7m jump options available too.

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Crystal Cove was a picturesque place that was definitely worth the visit. Lying between Boracay and Caticlan mainland is this beautiful islet of white beach with pristine crystal clear water. According to legend, this islet was once called “the island of desire”.

If you are looking to get away from crowded beach, Puka beach at the far end of the island towards Station 1, is worth a visit.

For the other activities, if I remember right, I paid about PHP 400-500 for 1 hour of stand up paddle boarding (1 board) and PHP 1000 per person for parasailing.

Other activities to consider would be heading to the famous Aerial’s Point for cliff jumping. We gave it a miss as it is a whooping PHP 2500 per person due to the distance of the place from Boracay.

Food

I was recommended Cyma restaurant for greek food as well as Dos Mestizos for spanish tapas by my brother who visited Boracay some time back. And oh wait, of course, everyone hears about Jonah’s Fruit Shake and Snack Bar before even setting foot in Boracay. But, to be honest, it’s highly overrated in my opinion. Worth a try if you are in Station 1, otherwise I wouldn’t actually go in search of it.

At Cyma, we tried an eggplant appetiser, their famous and renowned flaming cheese, Solomos (tomato based salmon angel hair pasta) and lamb ribs (which were way too oily for any our liking). It’s a relatively small eatery within the area of D’mall which makes it appropriate if you are looking for a quick meal with an interesting culinary experience. Another very popular dish at Cyma is a crab pasta dish, yes, it’s a whole crab! So be prepared, for the dish to set you back by about SGD 30. Overall, I was slightly disappointed with my visit to Cyma. It might have been my poor food choices or it could have been the extremely busy restaurant which didn’t allow me enjoy my dinner in a laid back fashion.

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Having said that, Dos Mestizos, blew me away for the quality of food as well as quiet and chill ambience which made the whole dining experience with my family a good one. We ordered a few tapas as well as a seafood paella to share. Fresh fish cubes in garlic marinade, blue cheese and bechamel croquettes, shrimps sauteed in olive oil and garlic and squid stuffed with chopped egg, chilli, garlic and tomato just to name a few tapas we had. The squid tapas (pictured above) is definitely a must try!

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And saving the best for the last, D’ Talipapa wet market! Located in station 2, down a small alleyway near Victory Diver’s Resort, this is a very interesting dining concept especially for lunch as you get to buy your own fresh seafood from the market before proceeding to get your food cooked in your preferred stall.

A few things to note:

  1. Haggling is a MUST! It’s hard to know exactly how much you should be paying so be sure to walk around without being in a hurry to close the deal.
  2. Avoiding the lunch hour belt between 12-2pm would be good if you are looking to get the seafood at cheaper prices. It will be ideal if you are spending the morning doing half day tours and then you can head over for a late lunch.
  3. Apart from seafood, you can buy chicken, vegetable and fruits at the market.

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Having tried just 2 stalls within D’Talipapa to get our food prepared, I’d suggest Plato D’ Boracay for their above average cooking service. Natalia’s Kusina although cheaper was pretty average. But, having said that, it all depends on the preparation style you request for.

Our seafood haul:

800g Lobster PHP 1200

1kg Prawns PHP 500

500g Scallops PHP 150

Long beans PHP 80

Cooking service at Plato D’ Boracay PHP 885

Dollars and Cents

Upon arrival at Caticlan Airport, you will be flocked with people looking to transport you directly to your hotel in Boracay. Just for your info, your means of getting to Boracay from Caticlan would consist of a 5 minute tricycle ride followed by a 20 minute ferry ride and then a tricycle ride to your hotel in Boracay (station 1/2/3). Apart from the transport fees for this 3 rides, you will be paying terminal fee (PHP 100) as well as environmental and admission fee (PHP 75) at the ferry terminal. So, be sure you know exactly what you are paying for and how much you should be, to avoid getting ripped off before your adventure even starts proper.

When you depart from Kalibo Airport, effective 1 June 2015, all visitors have to pay a international terminal fee of PHP 700. I think the 1 hour journey by a charted van from Caticlan to Kalibo costed us about PHP 200 per person.

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Overall, my 4D3N in Boracay was a blast! If I could do it again, I’d definitely pick the low season to travel so that I can save more on transport and hotel costs and also have less crowded beaches to frolick in. Till then, let me continue dreaming about my next beach getaway!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

My Sunshine Coast!

This is quite a belated post of my 10 day Down Under adventure in April. But, thank god for iCal and my awesome photos to refresh my rather elephant memory. I spent 6 nights in Sunshine Coast before ending the trip with the sister in Gold Coast. I had previously blogged on my different accommodation types for my travel. For those of you who had missed it, here you go.

Sunshine Coast isn’t a very popular tourist destination in comparison to Brisbane or Gold Coast which are both an hour or two drive away. But, hey, if you’re looking for a place to spend a couple of days just chilling and lazing, Sunshine Coast will be perfect for you. If you’ve always thought Gold Coast is chill, Sunshine Coast is CHILLLLLL.

1. Spend a day in Mooloolaba 

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I spent my first day in Sunshine Coast staying with a local family so after a lovely home cooked meal for dinner we drove to Mooloolaba for a stroll before calling it a day. What Surfers Paradise is to Gold Coast, Mooloolaba is to Sunshine Coast. Wander into some cafe to while the morning away sipping coffee and reading. Grab a quick bite for lunch and head to Sea World to spend the afternoon. Lay by the beach to enjoy the sounds of waves crashing on the shoreline while watching sunset. Have a lovely dinner after in any one of the many scrumptious restaurants lined along the coast. Ah, what a perfect way to spend a day.

Quick tip: Stay at Buderim if accommodation at Mooloolaba is too expensive.

2. Local Markets!

It’s almost impossible to visit any part of Australia without stopping by a market. There are so many weekday and weekend markets available that you’ll be spoilt for choice. It was nice to spend a Sunday morning shopping for second hand books, clothes, fruits, knick knacks for the home etc. Usually the patrons are regulars, so the community is a rather close knit one, with stall owners greeting customers by their first names. As an Asian, this culture might take a bit of getting used to. But, after a while, you’ll wish you have such markets back home. At least, I do.

3. Mt. Coolum 

I decided to spend a night in Coolum so that I could climb Mt. Coolum first thing in the morning before I head up to Noosa. My couchsurfing experience worked out well as I met Ally, another adventure lover, so we did the climb together before she dropped me off at the bus station after a hearty brekkie. I wouldn’t call the climb easy so take your time and pace yourself well. We did the climb up in about 45 mins and took about 20mins to descend down.

This is the nature of the course so pace yourself well, really. There is no point rushing through the climb. And, once you are up at the summit take your time to enjoy the view before you make your way down. The view is easily worth a good 15 – 20 mins.

4. Frasers Island!

My Frasers tour has got to the best part of my Sunshine Coast adventure. Initially, I was sightly apprehensive. Can you imagine being a stuck with a boring bunch of travellers on an island for 2 nights?! Especially since, I was already travelling solo I was praying for some good company. Again thank god, everything worked out well and I met George, a dutch guy who was also travelling alone for 5 weeks along the East Coast of Australia. The 3D2N ended up being a blast despite being cut off from technology.

To explore this world’s largest sand island you’ll require a 4 wheel drive so decided to join a tour. I did my tour with Sunset Safaris and no regrets! Worth every buck despite me being a near SGD 700 poorer! I will be doing a separate post on Frasers soon so do keep a look out.

5. Cycle along the coast

After I got back to Sunshine Coast from Frasers, I spent my last night in Caloundra in a beautiful apartment booked through Airbnb. That meant I was 10 minutes away from the picturesque Dicky Beach. I borrowed a bike from my host couple and decided to cycle from Dicky beach all the way down to Golden beach through Moffat, Shelly and Kings. Apart from my minor injury (I didn’t brake in time so smashed into a tree), it was a good 30 minute ride down south. Feel free to stop by to grab a coffee or take some shots while cruising along the coast. If you’re looking to have a breakfast, do check out The Pocket at Moffat Beach.

 

Doing this post makes me miss Sunshine Coast so bad. :/

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Hoi An on 2 feet.

Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An

I’ve been always meaning to make a trip to Hanoi, specifically Halong Bay, and last month I managed to squeeze some time amidst work for a trip.

Flight Matters

Flying in to Hanoi from Singapore isn’t specifically cheap, if you compare a return flight that is, so I decided to fly in to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and catch a domestic flight to Danang. Spent a night in Danang, or rather Hoi An, and I flew up to Hanoi. Works out cheaper and you get to see Danang/Hoi An, so why not? For domestic flights, I flew VietJetAir which costed me about USD 40. Nothing fancy, basic, fuss-free 1-hour flight journeys.

Dollars and cents

Hotel, cruise, tour payments can be made in USD. All other small expenses, street food to bike rentals to taxi rides can be paid in Vietnam Dong (VND).

I didn’t spend much time in Danang apart from just flying in to the city. In my opinion, there is more to do in Hoi An, as compared to Danang, so I caught a motorbike ride to head down to my villa for USD 10. Just about a 30 minute ride away.

Danang and Hoi An are both peaceful and quiet towns perfect to get away from the hustle of city life. Very different traffic situation as opposed to Hanoi traffic i.e. madness. I specifically loved Hoi An for it encourages cycling around. It is a common sight to see locals, school kids and of course, tourists just paddling away on their bicycles to explore the town.

Apart from being known as a cycling town, Hoi An is known for being a city of lights when the sun sets. The city transforms into a magical town, perfect to stroll down just before a hearty dinner.

 Common sight of lanterns hanging along the streets

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We stayed in a villa room (facing the swimming pool and river) at Pho Hoi Riverside Resort which costed us USD 80 for 3 pax. Just a 2 minute walk from shops which was perfect and yet, quiet enough for us to just relax by the pool.

“I’ve got nothing to do today but smile.”

Street vendor who ended up chit-chatting with us rather than pushing sales

My Son Sanctuary tour

 Beauty in destruction

Hoi An, was a perfect pitstop for me being continuing the rest of my journey to Hanoi. Other common areas to visit around central Vietnam would be Nha Thrang (further South) or Hue (just North above Danang).

Keep on reading for my updates on Hanoi and, of course, Halong Bay.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Surfers Paradise, Goldcoast!

Last year, after I finished my 4 years of study to earn myself a bachelor’s degree, I flew the very next day to visit my closest of kin a.k.a my sister in Down Under for over 2 weeks. It has by far been my best summer and I can’t wait to get myself back there come this September.

So, while I look forward to the arrival of September, let me make you jealous of just how awesome my summer was! It wasn’t exactly summer in Australia since I always had to be in at least 2 layers sometimes even 4. But nonetheless, it was awesome despite being wrapped up in layers and altering plans for the day based on the day’s temperature and weather forecast. It was my longest travel without the parentals so the fun definitely was double or triple maybe.

Day 1 consisted of mandatory visit to beach at Surfers Paradise while indulging in some Cold Rock ice cream and then watching sunset at Skypoint Observation Deck. Sounds pretty perfect right? But my day just had to end with me dying when I decided to be a hero and go for the Vomatron ride. I suppose the pun was intended when they chose to name the ride Vomatron. We had to get ourselves back home via a cab that costed us almost 40 AUD for a ride that didn’t even last for 10 minutes. Take it from me, renting a car when you’re in Australia is cheaper than commuting via cabs.

Mandatory jump shot before we leave the beach!

This is where I died!

P.S. All images you will be seeing about my Australia travel adventures belong to me (solosingaporean) unless otherwise stated. Most of them have been shot by the (talented) sister using her Canon 500D with 18-55mm kit lens. Be kind and give credit where credit is due. Cheers!