Tag Archive: Phuket



This 2013, my year ends 7 hours later. Madrid has been home since November but in a few weeks, I should be flying back to Manila. When I tried to recall how the year went, I automatically searched through my blog archives to check what has kept me busy. So…… my life has been a blog series of sorts. Nice ๐Ÿ˜‰ And complete with photos too! These are my memory aids, and they work.

 

 

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We “baked” under the sun here in Nacpan/Calitang near El Nido, Palawan.

 

 

Our family commenced the year 2013 with a trip to El Nido and Puerto Princesa, Palawan. All of 5 days basking in the sun with sands in between our toes. A pleasant detour was the day spent in the twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang. In this photo, we felt we were the only tourists but for this couple of Caucasians by the beach.

 

 

Paete Church, one of many around Laguna de Bay.

Paete Church, one of many around Laguna de Bay.

 

 

Then friends based abroad came a-visiting and we decided to do a roadtrip around Laguna de Bay. From SLEX through Calamba through the coastal towns of Pila, Paete and Pakil, then heading home via the Manila-East Road. We never thought we could do all that in a day.

 

 

We conquered Mount Pinatubo!

We conquered Mount Pinatubo!

 

 

I’ve always wanted to trek to Mount Pinatubo while my knees and legs would allow me. My nieces and a couple of friends joined me. We didn’t trek the whole way, and you may call us cheats, but still, I can’t say it was easy.

 

 

The northernmost island province is a must-destination.  Trust me on this!

The northernmost island province is a must-destination. Trust me on this!

 

 

Aaaahhhh….. Batanes. The place is magical. I intend to go back. I’d love for my family to see this enchanting place and meet up with the very kind, welcoming locals. I’ve had some pretty amazing domestic travels early in the year, like striking off from a bucket list! Batanes ranks high up in that list and for good reasons.

 

 

Speedboating and island-hopping in Phuket and Ko Phi Phi

Speedboating and island-hopping in Phuket and Ko Phi Phi

 

 

And then Phuket happens. We didn’t plan on it, but the idea of speedboating and island-hopping in Thailand was simply too tempting. Images of James Bond sailing away on a speedboat and Leonardo di Carpio’s “The Beach” crossed our minds. We also enjoyed the luxury of a villa with a plunge pool while we were there. And this was just less than 2 weeks from our long- planned trip to Ulaan Bataar. A couple more off the bucket list!

 

 

RAW, unspoilt Mongolia

RAW, unspoilt Mongolia

 

 

By midyear, I felt I’m done traveling until my scheduled holiday by yearend in Madrid. But it’s June, and I joined some of my friends flying to Cagayan de Oro to celebrate a dear friend’s 60th. Sidetrips to Maria Cristina Falls, the Divine Mercy Shrine and the Monastery of Transfiguration in Bukidnon were soon arranged, and voila!

 

 

Monastery of Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon

Monastery of Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon

 

 

July-August till the first week of September found me in Sydney, Australia. Absolutely unplanned, but I needed to be there for my eldest sister and only surviving member of my immediate family to deal with her health travails. Thankfully, my sister beat the odds so it was a good celebration after 5 weeks of ordeal. God is truly good and merciful.

 

 

Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

 

 

Before long, I’m back home. This time, eager to experience a local festival. The MassKara Festival in Bacolod was timely as kin based abroad arrived to join me in celebrating a milestone in my life. Six–oh! Soon after the MassKara frenzy, we were partying on a safari theme, and moved on to Seoul, Korea for an extended celebration. Phew!

 

 

MassKara Festival in Bacolod City

MassKara Festival in Bacolod City

In seoul, we feasted on Korean food like there was no tomorrow.

In seoul, we feasted on Korean food like there was no tomorrow.

 

 

And since November, I’ve called Madrid home. Certainly a break from tradition (and the rest of the family) to spend Christmas and New Year’s here in the midst of winter. It’s a great experience for me to hear Misa de Gallo — complete with singing of Christmas carols (in Spanish of course) in a country that christianized us and passed on many of its traditions. I have grown accustomed to lunch at 2pm and dinner at 9pm. No siestas for me. Yet. But Misa de Gallo at exactly midnight, Noche Buena at past 1 am till 3 am is a tad difficult. Many Madrileรฑos celebrated till 5am. No wonder Christmas mornings in Spain are very quiet and peaceful. Everyone is still on bed!

 

 

Christmas In Madrid

Christmas In Madrid

 

 

A couple more things. Christmas here is more about BELENES. There are Nativity Scenes in churches, museums, palaces. The center of attention is the Child Jesus. Not Santa Claus or a Christmas Tree. And gift-giving? NOT on Christmas Day. Rather, it’s on the Feast of 3 Kings who introduced the idea of gift-giving. The kids have to wait. Feliz Navidad!

 

 

El Belen de Salzillo

El Belen de Salzillo

 


Whenever I thought of Phuket back then, I thought it was just a single destination area where one chooses which beach corner to claim for a getaway. I didn’t realize that Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and that there is a variety of beach resorts to choose from. Neither did I know that it is the jump-off point for smaller islands like Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Lei, James Bond Island, Maya Beach, Koh Lanta, Monkey Island, etc.

 

 

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Marriott Vacation Club in Mai Khao, Phuket.

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JW Marriott Hotel and Spa

 

 

We stayed in Marriott Vacation Club in Mai Khao Beach which is near the airport. It is nearly an hour away from where the action is (Patong Beach, Karon Beach, Kata Beach, NaiYang Beach, etc) but we don’t mind as you have everything you need in this more quiet corner of the island. Perhaps not so for the party crowd and the shoppers, but we’re neither so the “remoteness” is perfect for us. Besides, there’s a free shuttle to the sister-hotel (JW Marriott Phuket Club) where one can enjoy charming sunset views. For retail therapy and other dining outlets, just a stroll away is the Turtle Village. We highly recommend the Coffee Club here not just for the coffee and desserts, but also for their Pad Thai, Thai Prawn Rice and Curry Dishes. We went there for 2 consecutive dinners. And guess what, we ordered nearly the same dishes.

 

Check out these links:

 

Holy Cow, We’re in Mai Khao

 

 

Oh, So ChiChi in Ko Phi Phi

 

 

Sunsets In Phuket

 

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Prawn Rice. Ohhhhh such goodness!

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Lunch was in this place with this view in Phi Phi Don.

 

 

We devoted an entire day visiting some islands on a speedboat. Booked the tour online via AsiaWeb. No hassles. They picked us up from our hotel, brought us to the Royal Phuket Marina, enjoyed unlimited drinks and fruits on the boat, had an authentic Thai lunch in Phi Phi Don, snorkeled and enjoyed the islands. Some may still have the energy to shop and party later that night, but not us. After a good dinner at Turtle Village, we just wanted to crawl into our beds.

 

 

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Snorkelers Haven

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Just another beach.

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AsiaWeb bundled up the speedboat tour with a choice of airport transfers, or a city tour or a night with the ladyboys. We chose the city tour where we had the van & driver all to ourselves visiting temples, the old part of town and about 4 beach areas. The beach resorts especially Patong Beach underwhelmed us. Overhyped, if you ask me. But maybe I’m saying this because I’m extremely biased in favor of our Boracay (yes, despite the rowdy crowd and the trash), the islands of El Nido and other parts of Visayas. But I love how the Thais do this tourism business nearly seamlessly.

 

 

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In the end, we simply breezed through the beaches. Declaring ourselves beach-fatigued, we skipped the stroll on the sandy shores and only managed one temple visit and a drive around the old town. No need to get sand between our toes. We had enough of that when we did the islands. As for shopping, we were just interested in food items! Can you blame us?

 

 

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The day my Canon G12 “died”, I was in high spirits literally “shooting the breeze” in Chamantad Viewpoint in Tinian Cliffs in Sabtang, Batanes. Standing by the promontory facing the Pacific Ocean, I let that breeze slap me in the face. I took in all the ocean spray as well. Refreshing. I took it all. And so did my Canon G12 which jammed soon after I took a video and more snapshots of the cliffs and the rocky coast. It “died”. I began to mourn its “demise” only when I reached chaotic Manila. Took me some days to bring the camera to the Canon Center for repairs. Sob ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

 

 

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My Canon G12…. a faithful companion in my travels.

 

 

The entire lens had to be replaced, costing 8,500 pesos. Luckily, the 3 year warranty is still good for a couple more months. When I picked up my cam, it was as good as new and didn’t cost me a cent. Just in time too for my recent unplanned, unscheduled trip to Phuket. Sunsets in Phuket every single day we were there never passed without my memory catcher getting into action. Though it is only a Point & Shoot cam, I fell in love with my Canon G12 again. What a lovely travel companion!

 

 

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SPOTTED With My Canon G12: Bromance in Phuket Beach.

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SPOTTED: Bromance in Phuket Beach. Thailand. May 2013

 

 

It is the same sun. But as a friend would say, sunsets melt your heart in different ways. In my case, I was only too happy my resurrected Canon G12 can capture these moments. For sure, there are better sunset shots. But I like mine, simply because they’re MINE. I alone captured the exact spot, the exact angle, at the exact moment, with the exact sentiment I felt on the exact second I pressed to take the exact shot! I owned that feeling. Does that make sense?

 

 

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Sunsets are lovely. But I honestly love twilights more. TWILIGHT IN PHUKET BEACH. JW Marriott Resort and Spa

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Just a manageable “crowd” in JW Marriott Resort and Spa. Phuket, Thailand.

 

 

In Phuket, we had the luxury of viewing the sunset without the crowd. That helps build up the mood, I guess. Calm, serene, quiet, almost sacred. As we headed back to our rooms, we caught a few more snapshots. It seemed the sunset shots were never enough. Truly, who can compete with Nature? The explosion of colors just as and as soon as the sun set was the highlight of our evenings here in Phuket. Thank God my good ol’ buddy is back in action. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

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A few more shots. Can’t seem to get enough of sunset and twilight shots here in Phuket, Thailand.

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Just before going off to dinner. Can’t make that Pad Thai wait too long…..

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View from the lobby of JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa


Thinking James Bond 007 this morning as we boarded our speedboat to the islands off Phuket. Phi Phi today. The Beach. Monkey Beach. Vikings Cave. But no time to do James Bond Island. Funny how some of these islands’ claim to fame is by way of the movies shot in their lovely shores. I’ve seen the movies. Enough to get me all excited. And thinking James Bond….. No ferries for old ladies. Let’s have the speedboat, no less!

 

 

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Royal Phuket Marina where the speedboats are parked.

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There’s our speedboat (bottom left) with 675 hp engines. We flew!

 

 

Oh, the kids would have loved this. Maybe next time. How I wish we have speedboats hopping from island to island in El Nido or Coron. Quite an adventure. Outside of that, I can’t say I’m really overwhelmed. The beauty of our own islands compare very well with the likes of Phi Phi. And it is just as hot and humid too. If it were cooler, I’d choose these tropical islands anytime of day, or year, over the Greek islands off the Aegean Sea. Just make it a tad cooler. Enough to make it bearable, but warm enough to still swim in its warm waters. Or maybe I complain too much. I must be SPOILED ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

 

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The monkeys in Monkey Island must have been waiting for boats to stop and throw ’em those bananas! Quite a show.

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We had lunch here in Phi Phi Don. Calmer waters. Colorful boats. Relaxing.

 

 

We booked the tours via Asia Web. For 3,100 baht, you have the speedboat to island hop the whole day and a half-day tour of Phuket Island another day. The speedboat cruise includes lunch, unlimited drinks and fruits on the speedboat. You may choose to ride the ferry to see the same islands for far less (900 baht) but I’m telling you, the speedboat ride is an adventure by itself! Powered with 3 engines @225 hp for a combined power of 675 hp, we flew! In some of the islands, we were allowed to swim, snorkel, feed the fish ( I love this part best! ). In one spot, the current was so strong it was a struggle to swim back to the boat!

 

 

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Snorkelers galore!

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Hungry fish!

 

 

We saw the boat crew catch fish with their bare hands! It looked so easy as they grabbed the fish by the heads and threw them in a basket. We were kinda hoping that was lunch, but the tour operator had other ideas. Thai lunch was not bad, but it wasn’t spectacular. I wouldn’t trade our grilled seafood lunch in one of the El Nido islands. Neither was I overwhelmed with the sights. I prefer the beach, coves and seascapes of Palawan. But I’ve got to say the speedboats and the colorful traditional boats give the place tons of charm.

 

 

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Off the boat for some siesta time in Rang Yai Island, nearer to Phuket.

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Vikings Cave. Nothing spectacular but those birds’ nests fetch a hefty price!

 

 

And it sure helped a great deal that Hollywood movies were filmed here. The Beach starring Leonardo di Carpio was quite a hit — which explains the thick crowd when we visited Maya Cove. Personally, I prefer the more quiet beach of Rang Yai Island. The sands pale in comparison with Boracay and El Nido, but it attracted a more sober crowd.

 

 

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The Beach. Thick crowd. Rowdy youngsters who got busy “throwing” their lady friends into the water. Boys will be boys!

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This is more like it. Quiet. More serene. Huts around. Showers off one side with a pair of peacocks watching! This is Rang Yai Island, just a few minutes to Royal Phuket Marina.

 

 

But you’ve got to hand it to them Thais. They sure know their tourism industry. The tour was conducted systematically, the guides were very well-trained, you never grow hungry throughout the cruise, and there’s the element of “surprise” and personalized service the way the tour was handled. In particular, we were all pleasantly surprised to find exotic fruits on the boat — sliced pineapples, rose apples (macopa), local oranges, bananas — and to be offered local Popsicles at the last leg while viewing photos taken by the tour photographer. Nice touch. Everything was well thought-out!

 

 

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Macopas is what we call them. Rose Apples to others.

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BOND. JAMES BOND. Very chichi.

 

 

The marina looked very classy that one easily justifies the hefty price paid for this tour. Very charming. Very cleverly done. Indeed, it was so chichi in Koh Phi Phi! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Monday delights. Left Manila at noon via Thai Airways, made a brief stop in Bangkok, then flew onwards to Phuket. It’s the biggest island in Thailand and we found our retreat here in Mai Khao. The beach resort is blessedly isolated and away from the tourist crowd. Very much self-contained with an option to do some retail therapy in the nearby TurtleVillage. But who wants to get out? A 2-room villa with its own plunge pool tempts you to stay in. In fact, we opted to dine in and used the well-appointed kitchen to cook our pasta pomodoro dinner to go with a bottle of good shiraz. L.U.X.U.R.Y. Pure luxury. This is the life! Happiness ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

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JW Marriott Phuket

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It is tempting to just stay IN in JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa

 

 

In the end, we decided to skip the shiraz. It can wait till tomorrow. We turned in early to prep for a whole day of activities tomorrow. The stroll around the lovely resort hotel can wait too….. and so with a dip in the plunge pool. It could have been perfect. Four friends around the pool, each holding a glass of wine, chatting like there’s no tomorrow, while keeping their heads dry and the rest soaking in the pool. Holy cow! We must be getting old. All we wanted to do after dinner is to climb into our heavenly beds.

 

 

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One of 2 villa bedrooms in Marriott Vacation Club in Mai Khao, Phuket.

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That’s the plunge pool right outside the room in Marriott Vacation Club

 

 

This is NOT an advert. But MARRIOTT VACATION CLUB in Mai Khao, Phuket is a lovely place to stay in. The 2 bedroom villa with a well-appointed kitchen is a sanctuary for weary bodies and tired souls. The plunge pool is a bonus. Easily, the villa can accommodate 6 pax. Maybe even 8 pax. Best for families or good friends. You can even choose to stay in, buy your supplies from the nearby Turtle Village, cook and dine in. Tonight, that’s exactly what we did. Tomorrow and days after, we’d be in serious search for Pad Thai and some curries. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

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Who’s cooking dinner tonight?

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Towel elephant on my dining table!

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The Living Room. Marriott Vacation Club. Mai Khao, Phuket.