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A Glimpse of Korea

27 Sep

Living in the Philippines where a lot of people have fallen in love with the Korean culture, finally being able to go to this beautiful country was very magical for me. And getting to visit the place in November was especially amazing since I got to experience snow for the first time.

Day 1:

Beforehand, I checked the weather, and was expecting Autumn. Never did I thought that since we were arriving at the last week of November, it was already the beginning of their Winter season. Thus, I was somewhat unprepared for the biting cold that met us when we got out of the Incheon International Airport.

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At the arrival area, dressed lightly in boots and sweater. This definitely wasn’t the right set of clothes for the weather outside.

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From the Arrival Area, we needed to ride a train to get to the stop that was nearest to our hostel.

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Quick snapshot of the group before we head out of the terminal.

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All of us were first timers. It was a bit hard to navigate around the place. There weren’t a lot of English-speaking locals, though they were very willing to help. They usually ended up pointing us to the wrong direction. It was fine though, getting lost in a new city was part of the adventure.

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We finally found the right exit.

It was a short walk to our hostel. And even if we wanted to enjoy the sights around us, it was difficult because it was freezing. It was hard to step out from the warmth of the terminal. 

After settling in our hostel, a few of us decided to walk around a bit to make the most out of our first night in Seoul. 

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Out and about with this crazy bunch.

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Had to practically wear every piece of clothing I could find in my duffel bag.

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Enjoying the remnants of Autumn.

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And we didn’t miss the chance to have some authentic Korean food. We didn’t know the proper sequence of eating the dish we ordered, so the locals sitting beside us gave us some tips, without us having to ask them. I told you. Koreans are very helpful, despite the language barrier.

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Capped the night off with these babies. New-found coffee bottles that we bought from a nearby convenience store. And though this was filled with caffeine, it didn’t stop from falling right off to sleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

 

Day 2:

We started our second day by taking advantage of the scenic spots outside the place we were staying in.

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This was the pathway going to our hostel. The whole gang up and ready for a day of exploring the city.

Today was to be dedicated to going around the tourist spots in Seoul. Armed with our map and documented research, we went our merry way and conquered the streets.

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We started early, so the roads were still a bit empty. A beautiful meld of cold and sunny as we were in our coats and sunglasses on.

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When you live in a tropical country, getting the chance to wear winter clothes is a welcomed rarity that we took advantage of during this trip.

 

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We were supposed to visit Nami Island, however, we got lost on our way there. We ended up going to the other side of the right road to that destination. Nonetheless, we still enjoyed going around the train stations and getting to interact with the locals. I ended up buying a pair of gloves because the cold was simply unbearable, and my hands were frozen to a crisp.

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I stole my boyfriend’s jacket, because mine was still not enough to fight off the cold.

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We decided to visit the palace for our last day-stop. Even if we weren’t able to explore the inside, since we arrived during closing time already, we still got a glimpse of the majestic architecture from the outside.

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And since it was already nearing the closing time when we got there, there were only a few people left roaming around. Because of this, we were able to get a few decent shots of the place without the other tourists behind us.

After a long day of walking around train stations and terminals, we were not ready to end our adventure yet. We checked for directions, and checked out the Seoul Tower.

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We had to ride this gigantic glass cable car up to the Seoul Tower. When we got off, we were rewarded with this majestic view of the city lights.

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Artistic graffiti walls lined the road up to the tower. We couldn’t stop ourselves from taking pictures on our way up.

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The celebrated love locks were a must-see section at the foot of the Seoul Tower.

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And since, we didn’t bring our own locks to write onto, we just took pictures of the gazillions of love locks around the place.

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It was a really great night spent with these amazing couples, inspirations to the younger generation.

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To save up, we decided not to go to the tip of the tower anymore and enjoyed the scenic view from the love lock area below.

After braving the cold winds of the upper side of Seoul, my companions were excited to shop! And since I’m not a really big fan of shopping, I went around the streets to check out the food stands littered outside the stores.

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The busy streets of the shopping district. I was giddy with excitement upon seeing the numerous food stalls. I couldn’t wait to get a taste of Korea.

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Everyone had to refuel after all the walking. We filled our bellies with good food in one of the local restaurants..

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Can you see what’s behind me?

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Spiced squid was my favorite.

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They had grilled shells as well. Talk about a unique set of street food that you’ll only find in Korea.

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And since it was November, Christmas lights were starting to decorate the streets.

Our second day was defined by different places, good food, and the best company. 

Day 3:

A trip to a different country is never complete without visiting at least one amusement park. And in Korea, we had several to choose from. But we decided to visit Samsung’s noted Everland Resort.

We kicked off our day by having a hearty breakfast at a nearby cafe.

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The place had really good food and very accommodating waitresses – plus FREE WIFI!

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Magnificent to the very last piece!

It was when we went out of the cafe to catch the bus to our destination, when I finally encountered my first snow fall! 

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And of course, let’s take a moment to appreciate the eye-catching art behind me.

It was another day conquering the numerous train rides.

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Gangnam style! Typical for Korean songs to become popular in the Philippines. I just had to take a photo of the signage.

And finally, Everland Resort 🙂

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Happy to find out that they actually had discounted entrance rates for tourists!

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There literally was snow everywhere! It was a fun sight during the first 5 or 10 minutes. It wasn’t much fun anymore when I couldn’t bring my hands out from the warmth of my jacket pockets.

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Celebrating Christmas in fantasy.

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You have to give credit to the amazing decorations around the park.

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This was easily my favorite tree.

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How the tree looks at night.

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Cable car ride to the other side of the park.

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It got even colder in the cable car, but all smiles for our emprise.

The other side of the park was filled with different kinds of animals. And these were animals that I don’t normally see in other zoos. Animals that usually thrive in cold weather. This was definitely one of my favorite parts of the park.

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My fascination piqued when the cute little penguins put a show of jumping out and into the water.

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The white tigers were a sight to behold. They were majestic and beautiful.

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My favorite part of the show. I was amazed by the amphibious ride that allowed us a firsthand experience with the animals that were around the vicinity.

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The lions surely weren’t shy when they decided to do this.

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The giraffes were pretty friendly and went near our ride. It was amazing to see them up close and personal.

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Lunch was delicious and surprisingly affordable.There were numerous food places to eat from, and I’m glad that we chose this one.

After that, we went around the whole park to see the rest of what it could offer.

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Interesting show of lights.

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Pretty photo op sections everywhere.

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Taking a short break from all the walking.

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We didn’t have to get on the rides to enjoy the place.

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And the trees were immaculately maintained.

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The miniature cities were a few of my favorites as well.

After walking around, we decided to stop by and warm ourselves with a few cups of coffee in a cute cafe.

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Coffee break!

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Polaroid shots 🙂

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Look at that profile ❤

Before heading out, we watched the park parade, which was impressive and fun.

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Everland Parade

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Ended the trip with some cinnamon churos.

This day fed the kid in us. We enjoyed running around the huge Everland Resort. The animals were entertaining, the food was sumptuous yet affordable, and though it was very cold, we had fun exploring everything that they could offer.

Day 4:

On our last day, we took our chances and decided to go to Nami Island. The place is a tourist destination because of the Filipino favorite koreanovela, Winter Sonata. This time, we had our directions right. And we set off to check out the place. It was a bit far from Seoul, but the white scenery made us even more giddy.

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It took us several train stops, a boat ride, and braving the cold.

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We finally got to Gapyeong Station.

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Port to Nami Island.

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Cute snowmen at the pier.

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Off to ride the boat!

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Winter chills on the icy sea in going to the island.

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And boom, we’re here!

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Getting my first literal taste of snow. 

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Snow everywhere!

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Trail of trees were mind-blowing.

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I couldn’t resist taking more than a few shots.

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Enjoying the Winter Sonata feels.

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Dramatic trees.

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Some parts still had remnants of Autumn.

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Nami Island crew.

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Tried the grilled lamb skewers that were all over.

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Enjoyed our snack by the heat of bonfires scattered all around. A welcomed break from the freezing cold.

Here’s a video to summarize our trip:

We made it back to Seoul by lunch time. And we were so hungry that we each had a fill of these succulent Korean food.

After some last-minute shopping, we checked out this last scenic view before heading to the Incheon International Airport.

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And to conclude the whole trip, another authentic Bibimbop meal on the airport.

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Korea was jaw-dropping. I wish we could’ve stayed longer and seen the other spectacular places that it could offer to their tourists. Definitely one of the places I would love to go back to, but maybe in a different season, like Summer or Autumn. It was a delight to finally experience snow, and a whole new culture.

With tons of cheap fares to just about everywhere in Asia, it won’t be too hard for you to live your Korean dreams as well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apo Island: Turtles and the Beach

28 Feb

My second time in this beautiful island, and I am still amazed by how stunning it is. I still cannot get over the fact that I got to swim with these gentle sea creatures. 

Apo Island is the largest community-supported marine reserve in Negros. It houses several species of sea animals. But it is best known for the giant turtles that swim freely in its shallow waters. I feel so blessed to have been given the chance to experience this. And I am so thankful to the local government for protecting them and yet, allowing tourists to see them as well. Being assigned in Dumaguete for two weeks made it easy for my friends and me to visit the island again. This time, I got to visit with my sister as well.

From the city, you can take the tricycle to the Ceres Liner Terminal. Ask the conductors and drivers which bus you should take to the Malatapay Port. This is where you would ride a boat that would take you to the island. You could either take the aircon bus, which costs Php 50.00 per person; while the non-aircon bus costs Php 25.00 per person. I recommend that you go early in the morning, so that the island would not be as crowded as it usually is during lunch time. And it’s best if you avoid going there on weekends, so that you could take better pictures of the place, without having to crop out people from your photos. 

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At the Aircon Ceres Bus with my friend and sister.

Remind the bus conductor that you will be going down at the boat port for Apo Island. They’ll be the one to tell you when to get off. There is a short, but scenic walk towards the actual port. It could be hot, but there are a lot of big trees that you could appreciate along the way.

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Road to Malatapay Port

 

As soon as you get to the port, you can approach the tourist desk and they will be the one to arrange the boat ride for you. You could save more if you go in groups. Here are their options:

Medium Boat for 4 People: Php 2,000.00 (Rates are fixed. So if you go there with less than 4 people, minimum rate is still the same.)

Medium Boat for 8 People: Php 3,000.00

*For every excess person, they charge Php 250.00

This already covers the expense for the ride back and forth. When you go to the island during lunch time, they usually don’t have the big boats already; so you’ll be forced to take two medium boats, if you’re more than 4 people. 

The boat ride is smoother and the sea is calmer if you visit the island during the day. I tried going there in the morning and I’ve also tried going there during lunch time. If I were to go back again, I’d definitely choose to go in the morning.

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Appreciated the calm water during morning ride. First boat leaves at 8am.

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The real magic starts as soon as you set eyes on the island. The amazing rock formations are enough to take your breath away. I couldn’t resist taking numerous photos of the place.

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When you choose to go during lunch time, there are a lot of boats littered in the beach front already.

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All smiles for the amazing view.

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Signature rock pose.

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This was during my first trip. Mornings mean lesser boats and a better view.

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Most of the rocks were really sharp because of the strong waves. That didn’t stop us from sitting on them and taking good photos, though. We were rewarded with lots of wounds and scratches, but all was worth it.

We eventually let ourselves be led towards the marine area, where we would start our swim with the turtles.

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Shore line towards the tourist desk where you would be asked to pay some fees.

The locals would then ask tourist fees from you. Please see rates below:

Dumaguete Residents: Php 25.00 / person

Tourists: Php 100.00 / person

Guide (For 4 People): Php 300.00 (They do not allow you to snorkel without guides for safety reasons)

Snorkeling gear: Php 100.00 / person

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Entrance to the Marine Reserve. The adventure starts here!

If you don’t have flippers or aqua shoes, better if you use your slippers. Some of the corals are pretty sharp and there are several areas that are filled with sea urchins. If you’re not a strong swimmer, you can rent life jackets.

The first time I visited the island, the guides were less strict. They allowed us to go near the turtles and take selfies with them. This time, our guide was stricter and only took our videos and pictures himself. We were not allowed to go very near the turtles. The local guides are extremely helpful, friendly, and accommodating. You could also rely on them to take you to the best spots in the marine reserve.

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They swam freely near the shores. It wasn’t very hard to find them. And most were extremely friendly. They didn’t mind the tourists swimming around them.

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A hefty fine will be charged if you got caught touching the turtles. This could prove challenging when they have to go up for air. They sometimes swim towards you and you’ll have to be the one to swim away from them.

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First time snorkeling with our guide.

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Got to be this close to Mr Turtle during the first time.

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Second time with the group and our new guide.

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This time, I swam far away from the turtles. But I still enjoyed, nonetheless.

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The sizes of the turtles varied from small to very big.

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The real challenge here was trying to catch up with these strong swimmers. But every time you get the chance to swim on top of them, you’ll get a rewarding feeling of pure joy.

I don’t have a lot of pictures of the other fishes in this marine reserve, but there were a lot swimming around. For this reason, the island is definitely included in my top list of best places to snorkel in the Philippines.

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You won’t miss these spectacular rock formations littered around the beach front.

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Best part was that I got to enjoy the day with my sister.

All in all, I definitely recommend that you visit the island when you go to Dumaguete. It is an experience that you would not want to pass up. The best time to go is during the summer because the boats don’t travel if the weather isn’t good. 

To cap off this blog, check out my short video:

Till then, Loves. Toodles! 🙂

Iloilo’s Paradise: Isla De Gigantes

6 Oct

Iloilo City has always been a favorite gatehub to the world-renown Boracay Island. Guimaras is also one of the more popular destinations when visiting the city. But this year was different for me. Being the city’s frequent visitor, I was happy to explore more of what it can offer to its tourists. And I got an exhilarating fill of Mother Nature that was infinitely unique to other Philippine destinations that I’ve experienced.  

Before I go on and on about how amazing this tour was, I’d like to recommend the tour package that we were blessed to have. Gigantes Experience Travel & Tours made sure that our trip was easily the best and most comfortable vacation for all of us. Everything was very well-planned and we were taken care of so profusely that we felt guilty for just sitting back and doing nothing. I have been traveling for most parts of my adult life, and this, by far, is one of my most favorite trips here in my country. Mr Christopher Salao (or Kuya Tope) was the epitome of Filipino hospitality. Every penny we paid for was worth it, or even more. He made sure that we were extremely-fed and happy all throughout the entire trip. If you want the same experience, please feel free to contact Kuya Tope at this number: +63 906 502 5250, or you can also check out their facebook page: GigantesExperienceTour .

To give you a sneak peek of our trip, please check out this video:

Isla de Gigantes is a litter of islands in the Western part of the Visayan sea.  According to our tour guide, coffins with the bones of giants were found inside the caves around the island. The skeletons showed indications of the existence of giants that grew to be as tall as 8 feet. Thus, how the island was named.

My friends and me left Iloilo City at 12:00 NN. A van was arranged to take us from the city to Estancia. It took us around 2 & 1/2 hours to get to the port. Our van comfortably fit the 8 of us. When we got to the port, we got a colorful treat of cute little boats lined up on the dock side, ready to take tourists to their island destinations. It took us another 2 to 3 hours to get from the pier to the island where we would be staying for the night.

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Picturesque view of Estancia Port

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Life jackets were provided during our trip, but we didn’t really need it that time because the sea was very calm.

As we neared our destination, we were able to take the time to drop by two islands that gave us an exciting appetizer of what we would be marveling all throughout the weekend. At the sight of the islands, we were all giddy with anticipation. We did not miss the chance to take a few shots at the front of our cute, little boat.

I couldn't help admiring this when I saw the amazing view. This is me doing my staple pose whenever I get really excited. (c) IG: Bakemason

I couldn’t help admiring this when I saw the amazing view. This is me doing my staple pose whenever I get really excited. (c) IG: Bakemason

(c) IG: Bakemason

(c) IG: Bakemason

Most of us had our cameras out, we desperately wanted to capture the view. (c) IG: Bakemason

Most of us had our cameras out, we desperately wanted to capture the view. (c) IG: Bakemason

Our first stop was at the Tangke Saltwater Lagoon. We were lucky that the weather was really good that day. Under normal circumstances, boats would find it hard to dock on this spot because of the strong waves. It would be impossible for them to steady the boat without hitting the huge rock formations lining the entire place. Since the sea was really calm when we visited, we had no problems at all. Though, we weren’t able to swim because the lagoon was barely filled with seawater, our eyes were filled instead with the jaw-dropping sight of angry rock crevices that demanded to be seen. It was literally like we were inside the arms of the most enchanted side of Gaia. The beautiful mix of greens and grays reminded me a lot of scenes from Jurassic Park or the Amazon Jungles.

The lagoon was nestled between huge rock formations that were artistically arranged by the angry waves that surrounded the whole place. (c) IG: Bakemason

The lagoon was nestled between huge rock formations that were artistically arranged by the angry waves that surrounded the whole place. (c) IG: Bakemason

It might look easy, but it was a real challenge climbing from the top of the rocks down to the lagoon. Thankfully, it wasn't slippery and I managed to do this pose with only my slippers protecting my feet. (c) IG: Bakemason

It might look easy, but it was a real challenge climbing from the top of the rocks down to the lagoon. Thankfully, it wasn’t slippery and I managed to do this pose with only my slippers protecting my feet. (c) IG: Bakemason

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After we saw our boat man showcase his cliff-jumping skills, two of us, decided to try it ourselves. The water was really inviting, but since we already had to leave for our next destination, not all of us were able to swim here. (c) IG: Bakemason

The boat then took us to the best place to catch and capture a killer view of the sunset, Bantigue Island. This place reminded me a lot of the White Island in Camiguin. Only, I wasn’t able to witness the same thing there. The sand bar was filled with vast white sands and we got to enjoy the beautiful glow of the sun as it bid farewell and give way to the rising nightfall.

Sandbar in Bantigue Island.

Sandbar in Bantigue Island.

Sunset View (c) IG: Bakemason

Sunset View (c) IG: Bakemason

(c) IG: Bakemason

(c) IG: Bakemason

We felt so blessed to have witnessed this.

We felt so blessed to have witnessed the beautiful play of orange and yellow, fighting with the beautiful melding of the slowly darkening sky.

Contented with the few minutes that we got to spend in the Sand Bar, we agreed to head to our final stop for the day, Antonia Island Resort. We got there after sunset, so it was a bit dark already. The secluded island was really quiet and absolutely unspoiled by technology. There was barely cell signal, and absolutely no internet connection. Electricity was made available only at night through a generator that was only turned on during the evenings. It truly was an escape from the topsy-turvy realities of the city. No internet made us appreciate nature more. No cell signal forced us to talk to each other. And the limited electricity made us see the stars in all its wonderful glory.

The quite serenity of seeing the tranquil sea and hearing the gentle waves hit the shore.  (c) IG: Bakemason

The beautiful pink and violet sky was littered with glittering stars that could only be visible in places like these.

The playful pink and violet sky was littered with glittering stars that could only be visible in places like these. (c) IG: Bakemason

 (c) IG: Bakemason

(c) IG: Bakemason

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Dinner was expertly prepared for us. We were treated to plates of crabs, scallops, vegetables, and fish fingers. The grapefruit juice was exquisite as well.

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It was culinary-heaven to have lots and lots of scallops in our menu. This is usually expensive when you buy it from restaurants in the city, but in here, it seemed like they had an ample supply of seafood, so they naturally treated us to plates and plates of it. And we weren’t complaining at all.  (c) IG: Bakemason

The crabs were really good too! Generous servings were cooked for us.

The crabs were really good too! Generous servings were cooked for us. (c) IG: Bakemason

We capped off the night with some bonfire, good music, and a few glasses of alcohol.

We capped off the night with some bonfire, good music, and a few glasses of alcohol. (c) IG: Bakemason

We stayed by the beach with our little bonfire and random stories, until close to midnight.

We stayed by the beach with our little bonfire and random stories, until close to midnight. (c) IG: Bakemason

All of us shared a huge tent carefully situated in the island. We all had foams inside and though it was raining during the first hour of the morning, their tents held strong and we slept through it. 

Front view of our tent of 8.

Front view of our tent of 8. (c) IG: Bakemason

Inside were lined with foams for all of us. We peacefully slept through the night. It was kind of hot inside during the evenings. But they did allow guests to sleep on the beachside. Some of us did. It was perfectly safe to sleep outside as well. People in the resort were very respectful, helpful, and polite. (c) IG: Bakemason

Inside were lined with foams for all of us. We peacefully slept through the night. It was kind of hot inside during the evenings. But they did allow guests to sleep on the beachside. Some of us did. It was perfectly safe to sleep outside as well. People in the resort were very respectful, helpful, and polite. (c) IG: Bakemason

We all shared a public toilet with the other guests in the island. They have seawater to flush, but you can also buy fresh water from the little store. It cost Php 25.00 per bucket.

We all shared a public toilet with the other guests in the island. They have seawater to flush, but you can also buy fresh water from the little store. It cost Php 25.00 per bucket. (c) IG: Bakemason

We started our day with this sumptuous Filipino breakfast feast. It was the perfect jumpstart to our long day.

We started our day with this sumptuous Filipino breakfast feast. It was the perfect jumpstart to our long day. (c) IG: Bakemason

The resort offers various activities to its visitors. Water Sports were available. Some of us even tried the jetski. Others went for snorkeling, and there were also some who explored the cave on the resort.

The resort offers various activities to its visitors. Water Sports were available. Some of us even tried the jetski. Others went for snorkeling, and there were also some who explored the cave on the resort. (c) IG: Bakemason

We spent the first few hours of the day going around and taking pictures of the spectacular sights inside the island. I could not even begin to explain how stunning the whole place was. I don’t think there would be enough words to describe the intoxicating feeling of everything that we saw. We couldn’t get enough of the place. I personally think that one night was still not enough for our eyes to completely memorize every detail of the island.

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Bird’s Eye view of the front stretch. (c) IG: Bakemason

(c) IG: Bakemason

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One of my most favorite shot from my dear friend, James. Check out more of his photos in his IG account: bakemason

(c) IG: Bakemason

(c) IG: Bakemason

At around 10:30, we set off to see the other islands. Our first stop for the day was at Cabugao Gamay. What made this place interesting was the viewing deck. You’d have to crawl inside a small opening to get to view everything from the top. Common here are the brilliant rock formations that made the experience standout from the common island hopping adventures in other provinces.

Rocks were piled up on top of each other on the side of the beach.

Rocks were piled up on top of each other on the side of the beach. (c) IG: Bakemason

The soft, white sand inspired this jump shot. (c) IG: Bakemason

The soft, white sand inspired this jump shot.

Entrance to the viewing deck (c) IG: Bakemason

Who wouldn’t fall in love with this place? (c) IG: Bakemason

Chilling with the gang.

Chilling with the gang. Luckily, we were still able to take a photo of the place while it wasn’t crowded yet. (c) IG: Bakemason

Back-view of the Island.

Back-view of the Island.

After braving the crazy heat, we set ourselves off to the next island, Cabugao Dako. Here, we were able to swim with the fishes and enjoy the sparkling, blue seawater. And of course, more rock formations to admire.

Rock Formations (c) IG: Bakemason

Under the Sea

Under the Sea

(c) IG: Bakemason

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(c) IG: Bakemason

After taking our fill of the pristine waters, we headed back to Antonia Island Resort. We had another mouth-watering meal for lunch.

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(c) IG: Bakemason

Halaan for lunch.

Halaan for lunch. (c) IG: Bakemason

Steamed Dory Fish

Steamed Dory Fish (c) IG: Bakemason

After packing up all our things, we headed out to our next and final stop: Small Hidden Lagoon. Admittedly, it was hard for our boat to dock. Thankfully, our boat man was quite the expert in navigating our ride. It wasn’t long before we were all piling up to check out the place. 

(c) IG: Bakemason

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It was sad that we were about to end the trip already. If only we could do it all over again, I would gladly spend another weekend in these islands. I wouldn’t mind going here again and again for the nth time. My eyes simply could not get enough of the stunning views and unspoiled nook and crannies of nature. I felt so blessed to have been given the opportunity to see all the best parts of my country. And I would never get tired of describing to everyone who would care to listen about how exquisite Isla De Gigantes is.

The Isla De Gigantes gang, signing off! :)

The Isla De Gigantes gang, signing off! 🙂