Category Archives: Travel

Leaving Manila…

A very rare moment here in our place:  Ellie is asleep, during the day, in her crib (!!!) and I have two (TWO!) free hands.  Have I mentioned how much I miss typing with two hands?

So despite being late in updating a lot of things (like trips from almost a freaking year ago, how home leave in OBX was awesome, how my running is going badly, how the podiatrist said I will need surgery in both feet, etc, etc), I figured now it’s a good time as any to update on the last few weeks in the Philippines.

It was tough leaving Manila, I left a lot of amazing friends behind that I miss dearly.  As much as being back in the US of A is awesome (awesome!), I wish I could have packed up all my friends with me.

Before leaving Manila, I got to do a lot on that last month…  I said goodbye to my Brazilian friend and her twin girls (cannot believe they’re a year old now!).

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I went to Puerto Galera for the first time and got to pack my diving stuff after a year away…  And yes, I got a couple of last dives in!  Yay!  Never got my 50th dive, but I did leave the Philippines with 49 dives under my belt – which is pretty good, considering there was a 9 month pregnancy in the midst of that.

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We stayed in Buri Resort, and it was lovely…

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Yep, we had our own plunge pool, and it was a two bedroom/2 bath/2 stories villa – which we shared with friends – with an amazing view!

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Then 6 moms, 7 babies, one yaya all took a flight then a boat over to Siquijor Island…

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And aside from a stomach bug I caught at the last night, it was lovely to spend a couple of days with them and to just relax and hang out with this view… 

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And with this pool.  We got two villas in Coco Grove, each with two floors and two full bathrooms, and it was perfect!

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Before leaving I ordered a Filipino quilt for Ellie at the AWCP Bazaar, since I wanted her to leave with something from the country she was born in.

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After almost 2 years, Karl finally got his braces removed!

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In the midst of moving madness, I thought it was a good idea to pull out this broken plug from our wireless router and electrocuted myself (I do not handle sleep deprivation well and make stupid decisions…).

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I took more cute pictures of Lily and Ellie…

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Our place got packed up and all we had left was ugly embassy furniture – and we won’t see our stuff for another year, until after we get to Brazil.

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I got one last shopping trip done in Greenhills.

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And had one last meal at my favorite restaurant in Manila, Alba.

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The pets hung out on our ugly now-uncovered embassy furniture…

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We went a few more times to Salcedo Market across the street from us.

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Had more amazing ice cream at Merry Moo (Salted Caramel, Honeycomb and Cookies & Brownies are our favorite flavors).

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Got more of the amazing fruit only found in Asia, like mangosteen…

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Lanzones…

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Dragon Fruit…

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Rambutan…

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I will NOT miss seeing the cow lechon every Saturday! (I’m a very much hypocrite carnivore – don’t show me the animal!)

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I had the worst haircut of my life by the same stylist who had given me the best haircut of my life…  This was my 4th time with the same stylist at Hair Philosophie.  I left in tears (then took scissors to it myself a couple of days later so I could wear it down again).

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Went to Legaspi market…

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Ellie wore her Department of State onesie (that Karl’s coworkers gifted him) to represent!

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I had a great goodbye party thrown by Una (sadly we didn’t get a picture with everyone later, we were too busy eating and chatting!).

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Una also gave us this super cool Filipino painting.  I will not miss the jeepneys!

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Una and Naomi came over on my very last day, and Naomi went all general on me and got me to get on to packing, and weighing every single piece of luggage I had, which means Karl and I actually had free time later for a foot massage and dinner.

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We woke up at 3am and left to the airport to what was (and hopefully will always be) our worse travel experience ever.  Cely, our helper and yaya to our pets, said goodbye to Lily and Lucas through many tears.

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Turns out what we were dreading the most, going through NAIA, was the easiest.  We were very mistreated in Japan, and kicked out of the Delta lounge because we had pets (even though they were quiet, and we were allowed to be there with pets as long as they were in their carrier), Lucas broke out of his carrier and almost escaped, and I had to McGyver the thing mid-flight…

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And this is how the inside looked like.  Somehow no one noticed and we went 7 more hours in flight with the carrier looking like this, got through a connection in Detroit and boarded our next plane with no issues.  He also pooped himself because he was so freaked out (Lily’s blanket that she had since the day she came home to us was sacrificed), broke his claw and had multiple cuts to his little nose.  I had to spend the rest of the time with a hand inside the carrier petting him.  It got very tricky when I had to hold Ellie with one hand to nurse her and had my other hand petting Lucas, with both Ellie and the carrier on my lap. 

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Then we finally arrived in DC, bought a brand new car which we love, and headed to the start of our much needed rest in the Outer Banks, NC.

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Pictures from our home leave at the beach to come…

(And for the record, the last half of this post was typed mostly one handed.  This chick will not sleep for long during the day.  *sigh*)

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Filed under Foreign Service, Manila, Philippines, Travel

Boracay!

As I mentioned before, as we are getting ready to leave the Philippines (in 25 days!!!), I was sad that we had never been to Boracay, the most famous beach in the country.

Stories of crowds and the partying atmosphere might excite some, but actually kept us from going there. Personally, I hate crowded beaches – I like my space, my quiet, my peace. To add to that, tickets to Boracay are just as expensive as international tickets, so we chose to go to places like Hong Kong, Taipei, Jakarta, Shanghai, Brunei, Kota Kinabalu, Seoul, Bangkok, (etc, etc) instead.

But splurging for a 5-star stay at the Shangri-la in Boracay sounded like the perfect way to end our time in the Philippines, plus an easy first trip with a newborn!

Ellie did great on her first plane ride, I nursed her on the way up and down, as everyone recommended in order to keep her ears cleared, and she slept the rest of the time.

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We got to the resort, and immediately fell in love…

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The view from our room didn’t hurt…

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We spent the next few days at the private beach in front of our room, the water and sand were gorgeous!

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And as Karl and Ellie took a few naps at the beach, I was able to explore the grounds and check out the pool (which oddly enough, was heated, so it was super uncomfortable in this sunny weather…).

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I also visited the other private beach, which was much smaller, but being next to the pool, also much busier…

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But from there we could see amazing sunsets… (No filters needed – actually, for any of these pictures, everything looks exactly as it did on my camera!)

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Traveling with Ellie was great too! I wore her on my Beco Gemini, which instantly makes her pass out, so we were able to go out to dinner every night, and she was completely oblivious to it! (I’m getting really good at eating above her head…)

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And to add to my joy, Ellie loved being on the beach!

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And she loved the water too!

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(Except when Karl held her…)

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We took advantage of the free shuttle and checked out the “real” Boracay as well…

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But around the beach area, and specially the boardwalk, it was all so noisy and crowded, we were relieved we decided not to stay there!

The only hard part of the trip was leaving this behind…

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I’m so happy we went to Boracay, and despite the extra expense for the flights and to stay at the Shangri-la, it was absolutely worth it! The place was paradise, and it was a super easy trip with a newborn too (after all, Ellie wasn’t even 8 weeks!).

We have one more trip scheduled before we leave, spending a weekend in Puerto Galera (which involves a drive + boat), and I ended up scheduling a trip with the girls from MADS back to Siquijor – 6 moms, 7 babies, 1 yaya. Now THAT should be interesting… Stay tuned… I’m also hoping procrastination to pack will give me a chance to finally catch up on all the trips I’ve taken in the last few months and failed to blog about!

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Filed under Asia, Foreign Service, Philippines, Pictures, Travel, Travel Review, Traveling in Asia, Trips!

Away at Sonya’s Garden…

After a failed attempt to spend a nice and relaxing weekend in Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay, I’m looking forward to 3 full days enjoying the beach and (hopefully) sun in Boracay!  We leave in a few hours and I couldn’t be more excited!

I had such high hopes for Sonya’s, after all, their rooms are made for relaxation (if you ever go, ask for the Chamomile room below):

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And yes, Lily was welcomed too, which was a big plus (wish I could take my little puppy everywhere!).  Sonya’s is such a nice contrast from Manila, and having been there for lunch before, I couldn’t wait to spend the weekend (dogs are welcomed in the restaurant too!).  Who wouldn’t want to relax here?

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Entrance to our room:

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We had an amazing lunch at Antonio’s (everyone insisted that I’d go, I’m glad I listened!), wish I knew Lily was welcomed there too though.  The atmosphere at Antonio’s was also great!

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When we got back to Sonya’s we had a spectacular massage  (HIGHLY recommend their signature massage! One of the best I’ve had!).  We went back to the room to relax and read our kindles, when the super loud music started.

Yep, they forgot to mention they were hosting a wedding at the restaurant that is just a few steps from the rooms.  So we went from hearing the birds outside to feeling like we were in a club, ready for some fist-pumping…  *Sigh* 

I have no idea why with two big restaurants they chose the lower one near the rooms to host the party instead of the upper ones, which would have been far enough that the noise would not be bothering the guests.

It wasn’t even 6pm, and I knew the party would be going on until late, and I didn’t expect the wedding to be quiet (it’s their one day, you know?  I wouldn’t even think of complaining to keep the noise down!), so we decided to cut our losses and leave.  (Karaoke was starting up then, and though Filipinos are amazingly talented, not all of them can sing, and that was clearly obvious by the sounds of it!)

Sonya’s staff was wonderful and totally understood why we were leaving (and apologized as someone should have warned us about the wedding when we made the reservations – if we knew, we wouldn’t have booked it).  They refunded our 50% deposit without hesitation, and we headed in a 3 hour trek with traffic back to Manila.  It was still a nice day so it wasn’t a complete loss, but I was so so so disappointed that my weekend of relaxing in a quiet environment that smells like flowers (because the area really does smell like flowers – such a change from Manila!) was a fail.  And with less than 40 days until we leave the Philippines I wouldn’t get a redo.

I still highly recommend Sonya’s Garden if you want a relaxing weekend away from Manila, just make sure they aren’t hosting any events when you’re there.  We had dinner on our way out, and I was disappointed with the food.  Though the menu is the same, lunch was way better the few times we’ve eaten there, so if you just go for one meal, do lunch, not dinner.  (The food for the guests at the B&B is different though, but we never got to try it.)

Now hoping relaxation will finally happen in a few hours!  Boracay, here we come!

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Filed under Asia, Philippines, Travel, Travel Review, Trips!

Boracay: Booked!

Every Filipino I meet outside of the Philippines, or anytime I chat with one locally, I always get the same question:  “Have you been to Boracay yet?”

Yes, we have traveled extensively in the Philippines, visiting Bohol, Cebu, Moalboal, Coron, Siquijor, Apo Island, Subic, Mt Pinatubo (still need to blog about these last two…), Batangas, Tagaytay, El Nido…  Considering we’ve had less than two years to travel around here, I think we did pretty well.

But despite El Nido being gorgeous…

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The diving in Apo Island…

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…and Moalboal being spectacular…

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Hiking Mt Pinatubo being an unique experience…

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…and Bohol having the famous tarsier monkeys…

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No one ever asks me if I’ve been to any of those places.  Nope, they’re only interested in knowing if I have been to the famous white beaches of Boracay…

I was convinced we were going to leave the Philippines without stepping foot there.  I do hear mixed reviews:  I have friends that love it and been multiple times, and others that hated how crowded the beach is (and I am not one for crowded beaches).  And when I’ve been to other white beaches here, like Malcapuya Island during a beach hopping boat trip in Coron…

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…I had no immediate desire to go to Boracay, a place I can’t ever find a good fare deal for.

But I still felt like we couldn’t leave the Philippines without checking that box.  Who knows if we will ever be back here?

So in late April, Ellie will be going on her first plane ride, and spending a weekend with us at the most famous beach in the Philippines…  And as it’s our first trip with baby, and our last trip here, we went for a bit of a splurge:  we’ll be hanging out at the Shangri-la!

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It wasn’t cheap by any means, but after I found out they offer resident rates, the prices became much more affordable (though still a huge splurge). But after staying put since NYE in Australia, when we usually travel at least once a month, and considering we’re dragging a newborn around for the first time, this sounds like the best way to end our time in the Philippines!  Plus, it will be a great way to travel with baby AND relax (we even splurged for the seaview room, in case we need to be cooped up in the room, at least we have something nice to look at).

Now let’s hope I can make Ellie be just as much as a water baby as her mom…  I don’t know what I’ll do if she doesn’t grow up to love the beach like I do!

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Filed under Baby, Foreign Service, Philippines, Pictures, Travel, Traveling in Asia