I never thought seeing famous landmarks around the world would only take an hour and would only cost 300 baht. Impossible? It’s possible in Mini Siam. Yes, you can feel like you’ve traveled the world when you visit this famous attraction in Pattaya.
Who is the Tarlaqueno Traveler?
One of the must-visit Pattaya attractions on our list was Pattaya Floating Market (originally known as Four Regions Floating Market). I’ve read a few articles about it and although it was said to be unauthentic, I didn’t mind because it would be our only chance to see a floating market. Damnoen Saduak may be authentic but will require us to travel to another province for the sole purpose of visiting the famed destination.
|The butterfly-themed garden at Nong Nooch Tropical Garden|
I was a bit surprised that quite a number of Thai locals I had short conversations with told me that Nong Nooch Tropical Garden should be the first on our list of places to visit in Pattaya. Seriously? What’s in that garden anyway? I am not really a fan of botanical gardens, although I get fascinated with flowers sometimes, especially the rare-looking ones. Nevertheless, visiting Nong Nooch wasn’t on top of our list. Actually, it wasn’t even part of our itinerary! But with a little more persuasion from our song thaew driver, we finally agreed to check out the popular attraction.
If you’re planning a vacation in Bangkok, do consider saving a day or two for a Pattaya City tour. Approximately 140 kilometers southeast of the country’s capital, Pattaya is a bustling coastal city that’s pretty much like Bangkok, except for the absence of a train system and, you will like this one, heavy traffic. Hehe.
|Blue Elephant at the Thai Chine Building|
During my first night (it’s my family’s second since they arrived a day earlier) in Bangkok, Mike treated us to a sumptuous dinner at Blue Elephant along South Sathorn Road. It was also during this night that we celebrated mom’s 57th birthday.
|Chakri Maha Prasat Hall|
I would like to share to you my unforgettable experiences in the Land of the Free, the culturally rich country of Thailand. I went there with my boss and colleagues to attend a conference and also with my family to celebrate mom’s birthday and to spend the remaining days of vacation together.
I'm done with all my posts for the Eastern Mindanao-Cebu trip. Now here's the actual schedule of our 6 days-5 nights trip in Eastern Mindanao (Davao Oriental, Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur) and Cebu:
With a little more than 2 hours to spare, my friend and I decided to spend our remaining time on a day trip. Our choices were Shalala Beach, Abalone Resort, and Talima Beach Resort. Shalala Beach is a public beach with no restaurant. And since my friend had already visited the place, we scrapped it out of our options. Abalone Resort, on the other hand, is a resort which looked good outside (we passed by it on the way to Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary). But since it is an inland resort, meaning there is no beach, we also eliminated it. So we were down to Talima Beach Resort. I’ve already seen the resort in the internet and it appealed to me. So Talima it was. From OIWS, a tricycle picked us up and drove us all the way to the resort for 120 pesos. There were some exaggeratedly bumpy parts going to the resort.
|On the way to the bird watching area.|
Cebu has loads and loads of attractions to offer. I have visited the province five times already yet I still haven’t gone to many places, especially the far ones. I usually toured just around Cebu City and Mactan Island. During my 5th visit to the province, I only had 7 hours to tour the province and at first I couldn’t imagine if I’d be able to visit at least one interesting place off the city.
Fortunately, my friend suggested a place outside the city that we could visit with our time available. It’s Olango Island, a small island 4 kilometers southeast of Mactan Island and is under the jurisdiction of Lapu-lapu City. The island is home to the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary (OIWS), a 1,030-hectare wetland where almost 100 species of migratory and resident birds can be found. This makes OIWS the area in the Philippines with the largest concentration of migratory birds with a total number of 48 species.
Last on our list of places to visit in Bucas Grande was Hidden Island Resort. We did a quick stopover here after our boatman Kuya Kenny offered to drop us off while he fetched some fuel for his boat.
Hidden Island Resort is a charming resort that is tucked in a cove somewhere in Brgy. Doña Helen. It caters to large middle to high income groups. They offer more rooms than Club Tara and their rates are much cheaper. The resort design is very simple yet stylish. The resort has a restaurant, meters and meters of foot bridges, aquariums, and offers transfers via boat and sea plane.
In case you want to spend a night or two in Bucas Grande, there are actually a lot of accommodations you can choose from, ranging from budget rooms to high-end suites. If you feel like splurging on your trip, then head over to Club Tara Resort.
|Jellyfish sans the sting|
Our short tour at the jellyfish sanctuary was my favorite part of our Bucas Grande tour. You might ask what’s so special about the jellyfish swimming there. Well, just when everybody believes that every jellyfish stings, what is found here in Bucas Grande are thousands of stingless little organisms. It is a rare opportunity to encounter such creatures that are said to be found only here and in two other places in the world: Indonesia and Palau.
It was a clear morning when we left Revlun Pensionne to start our Bucas Grande tour. The sun was just about to shine as we rode a trike going to Hayanggabon Port, the jumpoff point to Bucas Grande Islands. Along the way, the sun was slowly peeking out from the mountains, a good indication that we’d enjoy a bright and sunny Sunday in Bucas Grande.
If you think surfing is the only thing you can do in Siargao, think again. Or better yet, continue reading this article. Hehe
Politically speaking, Siargao Island, or more simply known as Siargao, is a group of islands east of Surigao City. Siargao belongs to the province of Surigao del Norte, and 9 of the 20 municipalities of the province can be found in the island. When someone hears the name of the island, the first thing that comes to mind is surfing. Siargao is dubbed as the surfing capital of the Philippines because of the giant waves crashing into its shores especially during the months of August to November, making it a perfect destination for pro-surfers.
|Sunday sunrise in Hayanggabon Port|
We were approaching Day 5 of our Eastern Mindanao trip – our much awaited Bucas Grande day! Originally, we planned to travel towards Bucas Grande on the morning of day 5. After much thought, we realized it would be best to travel as early as the afternoon of day 4 so that we can start the tour early the following day and be able to travel back to Butuan early.
|Appetizing Chicken Mozzarella Melt|
It was almost 2 pm when my friend and I arrived in Surigao City after our visit to Lake Mainit. We were so hungry so we hurried to the newly opened Gaisano Capital Mall just beside the transport terminal to get some late lunch. The first restaurant that I saw was Mooon Café and without second thought, we got inside. I knew it would ruin our budget since we were trying to cut costs on food, but I was too hungry to find another cheap resto or eatery. And besides, I think we deserved some good food and good ambiance after a tiring journey from Surigao del Sur.
It was day 4 of our Eastern Mindanao trip and we were headed to Surigao del Norte for our much awaited Bucas Grande tour. We started our day early, waking up at around 3 AM to catch the 4 AM bus bound for Butuan City.
Aboard a non-airconditioned Bachelor Express bus, we left Bislig City at around 4:15 AM. I paid 244 pesos for my fare. I had no more idea what went through in the next two hours as I fell asleep and woke up to find that we were already in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. Though we didn’t have anything to visit in Agusan del Sur, I felt happy to have set foot on the province even for just a short while. San Francisco is quite a progressive town which made me feel I am missing the ‘city’ life. Well, my home city Tarlac is not really a bustling city, but it is way livelier than the towns and city we’ve visited in the past 3 days.
|View of the Pscific and Bislig City|
As I was saying in my previous post, one good way to end your vacation in Bislig City is by visiting Ocean View Park (OVP) in Brgy. Cumawas. The same couple who owns the International Doll House (see related post here), the Willimanns had the place built so that guests coming to Bislig can enjoy good views of the Pacific Ocean and several portions of the city while dining in their simple restaurant.
|Kimmy dolls from Japan|
By the time we left Hinatuan, my friend and I had decided to visit the International Doll House in Bislig City before heading back to our accommodation in Casa de Babano. This is actually not a part of our original itinerary. I just happened to read the doll house’s signage when we were heading back to our inn the day we visited Tinuy-an Falls, and it looked intriguing.
|One of the first few islands you'll encounter|
I’ve been to and have heard of several spots in the Philippines named Tinago, most of which were called such because of their undiscovered beauty. Filipinos are well aware that the word tinago came from the root word tago which could mean hide (as in tágo) or hidden (as in tagó).
|Sibadan Fish Cages and Sand Bars Restaurant|
It was Day 3 of our Eastern Mindanao Trip and I haven’t used my snorkeling gear yet. So it was a pleasant surprise that I’d get to use my snorkel in one of the attractions in Hinatuan—the Sibadan Fish Cages and Sand Bars Resort. Well, I could’ve also used my snorkeling gear in Enchanted River, but there aren’t so many fishes in there.
Almost anywhere in the Philippines you’ll be able to get a view of the Pacific Ocean. The rivers and seas surrounding the archipelago discharge into the world’s largest body of water. But among the places that I’ve visited that offered great views of the Pacific, I think the view in Margarett Island Peak Resort is yet the most spectacular.
Margarett Island Peak Resort is an attraction located in Pangasinan Island, off the coast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, reachable in 15 minutes by a small pump boat. It is one of the few tourist spots that can be visited in the arranged tours offered in Enchanted River. For a glimpse of other attractions in the area, please click here.
If you are visiting Enchanted River in Hinatuan, the enchantment doesn’t stop at enjoying the cold, blue waters. There are actually a lot of other amazing places to visit in the small town.
If you are keen enough to explore Enchanted River, you will find a number of boats further downstream. For a fee, these boats will take you to several places that Hinatuan is also proud of. Among the places you can visit are Sibadan Fish Cages and Resort, Margarett Island Peak Resort, Tinago River and Islands, Pangasinan Pacific Shore Resort, and Vanishing Island.
|Bluer than blue|
After our much anticipated visit of Tinuy-an falls, we had one more place to visit in Surigao del Sur. It’s Enchanted River located in the quaint town of Hinatuan. I’ve read so much about Enchanted River and got so much excited with the photos I’ve seen. Could the water really be that blue? That I had to confirm by seeing it with my own eyes.
We got up early on Friday and started our day with a complimentary breakfast from Casa de Babano. Corned beef, omelet roll, rice, and coffee – not bad for a cheap overnight fee. At around 7:30am we were already in Bachelor Express’ bus terminal. We boarded a bus for Butuan. If I am not mistaken, I’ve also seen jeepneys bound for Hinatuan the day before. We waited for about 30 minutes before the bus finally left. The fare for the 1-hour trip to Hinatuan proper is 55 pesos.
|I love the reflection in the still part of the water|
Contented with our short yet amazing stay in Cateel, we headed to Bislig City for our much awaited visit to Tinuy-an Falls. Bislig City is about 2 hours travel from Cateel. After checking out at Oar Inn, we rode a trike going to the jeepney/bus terminal of Lyra Express.
There were no direct trips to Bislig that day. There was only one mini bus bound for Lingig, a town in Surigao del Sur which is just south of Bislig City. While waiting for our departure, we had our lunch in a nearby eatery. At exactly 1pm, the mini bus departed for Lingig, fare was 80 pesos. The 1 hour 20 minute – travel passed by Boston which is the last town of Davao Oriental before approaching Surigao del Sur.
After an exhausting adventure in Aliwagwag Falls, we still had an hour to spare before we check out from our accommodation. We asked our habal-habal driver, Kuya Along, to take us somewhere for a quick visit. He asked if we wanted to visit a white sand beach, and we said yes. He told us he’s going to take us to Mahoc Beach, a white sand paradise located in San Antonio, a barangay in Cateel that’s just next to the town of Baganga.