I <3 Gold Coast

Gold Coast is one of the best places I’ve ever been to. It was paradise for me. The beachfront extended long beyond what your sight can reach. They say beach extends more than 53 kilometers, that’s so much more beach than I’ll ever need in my lifetime. There’s a lot of beautiful sand to lie on. The seawater was still cold when we were there, but it had good waves worthy of a little swim or a nice surf. The main segment of the beach is even called Surfers’ Paradise, and the place is very worthy of the name.

Gold Coast, of course, boasts of its exceptional coasts and beaches. In addition, there are a lot of other recreation places and attractions in town. There’s Movieworld, Dream World, Sea World, White Water World, Wet n’ Wild, Australian Outback Spectacular, Paradise Country, among so many other attractions around.

While we were in Gold Coast, we stayed in the Surfers’ Paradise area, in the Q1 hotel. Q1 hotel is the tallest building there, and one of the tallest residential buildings in entire Australia. They had a viewdeck at the 77th floor from where you can see almost the entire Gold Coast area, and maybe even nearby areas. There is also an option to go up even further on top of Q1 to its spire, but it requires an additional pay, and you will need to be strapped to a full body harness to step outside the building at that height.

We had a VIP pass, which allowed us unlimited entry to Movieworld, Sea World, and Wet n’ Wild. We had limited time though, so we just got to go once to Movie World and Sea World, but no longer had time to go to Wet n’ Wild.

The Movie World was something similar to the Universal Studios in Singapore, both in content and in size. Would’ve been nice to stay for an entire day in Movie World. There were a lot of nice rides and shows, rollercoasters, and such. There was also a parade of their characters in the late afternoon. We got to ride the Superman rollercoaster, but we didn’t get to experience a lot of other rides because lines were so long and we only had one entire afternoon there. I enjoyed the place nonetheless

The Sea World was amazing. I’ve been to Sea World in San Diego before, but that was more than ten years ago that I can barely remember how it was. Sea World in Gold Coast was big, and it had a number of big enclosures for different marine animals – dolphins, manta rays, sea lions, and sharks, among others. There was also a huge place for some polar bears. We did watch most of the main shows, but didn’t get the time to ride the rollercoasters again.

We went to Paradise Country too, a good place to see a bit of Austalian wildlife. Of course we didn’t want to miss the chance to see koalas and kangaroos. There were also horses, sheeps, and other animals. It was just a good morning visit, and you can opt to have lunch there too. The place is just a kilometer or so from Movieworld.

We also took good time at the beaches. How can anyone not be drawn to spend time at the beaches of Gold Coast? How I wish I knew how to surf though, because it seemed a wonderful place to surf. A good place to bake under the sun to, and I love sunbathing.

A lot of people say that Gold Coast is the vacation capital of Australia, and I would totally believe them. There is so much there to enjoy, and a week is not enough to get to do everything. Perhaps you’ll just keep coming back. And yes, I plan to come back again someday.

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Walking Sydney

I had almost two weeks in Sydney during my trip to Australia. The purpose of our trip was mainly to visit my brother, but we included a lot of sightseeing. There is just so much to see around Sydney.

Town HallIt was good that my brother’s place where we stayed is smack in the middle of the city. He has a condo along George Street, and if I understand correctly, it’s one of the main roads within the city. Almost everything was within walking distance and we were able to take advantage of this.

 

Hyde Park was two blocks away. It was a wonderful big park, although I don’t know how else to describe a beautiful park besides mentioning the nice big trees, the lush green grass, and the amazing fountains, and the lovely park benches. There was also a small war-memorial museum on one side of the Hyde Park. On one end, you can already see the St. Mary’s Cathedral. It was just a good place to walk to and around.

 

The Town Hall was right beside the condo, although we never took time to have a look inside. However, there is a free walking tour around downtown Sydney that starts infront of the Town Hall twice a day. We joined one walking tour one morning, and it showed us around the different sights and structures around the George Street area, ending at the edge of The Rocks, near the Circular Quay. The entire walking tour took around 3 hours, but it was a very leisurely walk, together with a crash course in Sydney history.

 

 

Sydney structures and architecture are beautiful, and something different to me. Their old buildings are very ornate, reflecting such a rich history as a Commonwealth colony. It’s good that they are able to preserve a lot of these buildings downtown, if not all. The Queen Victoria Building (QVB) building was pretty interesting too, the way it has been re-purposed to be a high-end mall, and yet retaining that old-English vibe. It is a wonderful mix of the old and the new.

 

 

The Westfield mall was also close by. You can practically get from QVB to Westfield and Pitt Street through the basement shops. Westfield is their big, high-end mall. They have mid-range stores at the lower levels, and a good food court at one of the upper levels. You can also access the Sydney Tower Eye through Westfield mall.

Paddy’s Market and Chinatown was also around the vicinity. Although their Chinatown is not as “Chinese” as the other Chinatowns I have visited, here in Manila and in Singapore, it was also a pretty interesting area. Paddy’s Market is a covered, flea-market style retail area, and there are also a lot of things you can find there, both dry goods (clothes, household items, toys, souvenirs) and wet goods (fruits, vegetables, and meat). It’s a good place to buy souvenirs and “pasalubong” (take-home gifts for family and friends).

The Circular Quay is a long walk or a short bus ride away. From there, you can take a ferry to most of the ports around Sydney. It also gives a good vista of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge on opposite directions. Unfortunately we did not have the time to go climb the Harbour Bridge, nor walk to the Sydney Opera House. We did, however, take a ferry to Manly Beach and explore the area. Manly Beach is a good place to hang out, sunbathe, swim, and surf, and it’s pretty near the city and very accessible via the ferry.

Speaking of beaches, we did go to Bondi Beach, but it’s a bit of a drive from the city. We did not get to swim because it was pretty cold during that time, but there were number of Aussies doing their sunbathing. We decided to settle around the grassy area and have a picnic. We also got to walk around the area, with a number of food places and stores around.

 

Darling Harbour was also a short walk from my brother’s place. Darling Harbour is a busy area but also relaxing in a way. There are a few museums around Darling Harbour including the Maritime Museum and Madame Tussauds along the harbour, and the Powerhouse Museum a short walk away. We did not go to any of the museums though. I went on a solo walk there one late afternoon and just spent some time around the Tumbalong Park and beside the harbour. On another occasion, I was there with the family and we had dinner as we waited for the Saturday evening fireworks.

Whatelse? Hmmmm… Maybe I should also mention Woolworths (or Woolies!) right across Town Hall. We were getting foodstuff from Woolies almost every day, and it was just a tumble away from the condo.

Perhaps if I had more than two weeks in Sydney, I would be able to see more and explore more of the city and the nearby suburbs. I would also be able to spend more time with the extended relatives. Aye, I’ll definitely be back, I’ll find a way.

See you again Sydney.

The Pundaquit Adventure

Ever heard of Pundaquit, Zambales? Perhaps many haven’t heard of it yet, especially as it is not as popular as other local beach destinations such as Boracay, Puerto Princesa, Coron, Anilao, Camsur, Caramoan, etc. But perhaps you have heard of Anawangin Cove? Yes, it’s a relatively popular place to go to for a beach-side camping adventure. Pundaquit is the jump-off point to Anawangin, perhaps that’s the most familiar description for it.

A few weeks ago, I went to Pundaquit with my sister and my cousin. There were just 3 of us girls, and we were on a tight schedule and budget. The three of us wanted to go for a beach adventure for the summer, but we opted to go somewhere relatively near, and I suggested and planned an overnight trip to Pundaquit. I’ve been hearing about the place already, although I have not heard any concrete feedback yet. Nonetheless, I pushed through and booked and planned the trip for us three.

The budget was P3,000 per head, for 3 people, to go to a beach area which was roughly 3-4 hours away. The budget was inclusive of transportation (with our own vehicle, passing through NLEX and SCTEX, including toll fees), accommodation (triple sharing for an A/C room), food, and the boat trip for the island hopping.

To be honest, the beach at Pundaquit itself was not that glam and wonderful, and there were not much to see there, except for an amazing view of Capones and Camara islands in the horizon. The sand was gray (more volcanic sand than coral sand), and the waves were quite strong. The accommodations we got at Pundaquit Luxury Resort was basic but clean (two beds, our own bathroom with good running water, working A/C, and just about that), and was just worth it. Perhaps the best thing about the trip was the island hopping.

pundaquit-capones-camara-sunset

Our boat trip on the first day was to Camara Island, then to Capones Island, then to Anawangin Cove. Apparently our worst decision was to go to Anawangin Cove. There were far too many people there, and the place have already been too commercialized because of its relative popularity. But I must say that Camara and Capones were wonderful. They were small islands with good white beaches. Because we did not have much time on the first day, we decided to go back to Capones island and hang out some more the next morning.

capones-island-beach

Beaches on Capones Island have white sand (or coral sand). The waves were also strong while we were there, but gentle enough that we were able to swim and snorkel around. Unfortunately the strong waves also brought in some trash with it, and because of this some areas of the beach had lines of trash brought in by the waves. Other locations on the beach were much cleaner. The scene underwater in Capones Island was good too. The bottom was more sea-grass than corals, but there were a lot of different marine life nonetheless. It was also a good place to snorkel. The crowd at the island was not a lot, especially because there are no established accommodations there. There were campers on the island too. There are some places to trek, and there is also a lighthouse on one side, but we were too lazy to walk around and explore. We basically just stayed around the beach and soaked in the sun.

Overall, the trip to Pundaquit made for a good budget adventure. It was worth going to, mainly because of the islands nearby. It was a good two-day adventure with my girls. 🙂

Boracay – Rain or shine

boracay-henna-tattoo

I’ve been to Boracay three times – twice this year and once two years ago. Each of my trip there is a different story. During my first trip to Boracay, I caught a sun-shiny weather. On my second trip last February, weather was cloudy. During my trip last weekend, it was raining nonstop.

Rain or Shine
Boracay is beautiful rain or shine. Of course, I’d love the shine more than the rain – it gives me more time to work on my tan. Also, the sea is much calmer, and there are a lot more activities to do when it’s not pouring. You can go island hopping and do other water sports activities.

I’ve also seen it all wet from last weekend’s storm. I also had fun despite the storm. I was still able to get my hair braided, get a henna tattoo, swim a little bit in the beach despite the strong waves, and eat around. It’s okay even if its raining, as long as you’re ready to wade in ankle-deep water in D’Mall, and have a parka or an umbrella to keep your upper body dry. The wind can also be a bit harsh at times.

Station 1, Station 2, or Station 3
Personally, I would always choose Station 1 over other areas because it is the most beautiful part of the white beach in Boracay. I am a sun, sand, and sea person, just put me in front of a good beach and I’ll be okay. However, Station 1 is so far away from D’Mall, where most of the activities are happening. It can be a tiring walk from Station 1 to D’Mall. If you like to party and or shop in Boracay, better to be in Station 2 where D’Mall is. Also, Station 1 accommodations tend to be more expensive than those in Station 2 and Station 3. I’ve never stayed in Station 3 before though, so I can’t comment on that location.

Beach-front?
Again, I would always choose a beach-front location because I am in love with the beach. It’s also more expensive though. Sometimes you get to find cheaper beach-front accommodations, but the rooms are minimal in terms of facilities and size. But if it’s beach-front, you can always stay outdoor on the beach, so I’m good with it.

Last weekend we stayed at non-beach-front accommodations in Station 2. Everything was just outside our accommodations – restaurants, stores, bars, convenience stores, etc. Although it’s a bit of a walk amidst these establishments before you get to the actual beach. And of course, you don’t get to have your own lounge chair at the beach front. But somehow it was an advantage to be in the area during a stormy weather. It was much easier to get to the things we needed even when it was raining.

Three to Five Days
I was able to stay three days the longest on any of my trips to Boracay. I think this is enough, although would be wonderful to stay longer, say, five days if one has the time and resources. There are a lot of things that one can do there, and I have not yet explored all of these activities yet. There was one time I only got to spend overnight in Boracay and found it too short, because it just wasn’t enough time to properly enjoy the place. I would say three to five days would be great. Any more than five days and it may be a bit boring, or maybe too expensive for a single trip already.

I will definitely go back to Boracay, maybe next year. Anyone want to join me? :p

Travel Buddy

Writing this while currently basking in the sun. I am on an out of town trip right now with a friend of mine. It’s our second adventure so far.

Ironically, my friend is currently based in Belgium. She was my barkada back in high school, but we were not able to spend a lot of time in college because we were in separate universities. After grad, she went to Europe for further studies, and have stayed there since. She comes back to the Philippines around once a year.

Last year I went on adventure with her (and a friend of hers) to Coron, Palawan. It was our first time there, and we really enjoyed the place. A great place to go back to soon.

This year, we were supposed to go to Boracay. However, due to some unforseen events, her trip back to Manila was postponed and we had to cancel our trip. She finally arrived two weeks ago and tried to plan the trip again, but the weather forecast wasn’t so good so we decided not to book for Boracay anymore.

But we were still desperately craving for sun, sea, and sand. We just had to plan something else that did not require from us a long time of planning. After discussions and a little research, we took our bags and headed here, in Subic. Luckily we were able to get a nice boutique hotel in the middle of Subic. Wonderful architecture and interior design, great music and ambience, a nice little pool, and a beautiful suite, at a reasonable price (definitely not cheap, but well worth it). They also have a great spa and a good restaurant.

An afternoon at the beach a short drive away, and a really relaxing time here at the hotel. My last hurrah for this year’s summer isn’t so bad, even if this is my only beach trip this season. Ready for the hectic work I have to face for the next of the year.

It’s so fun to have these adventures with Pia. Her trips back to Manila is always a good reason to plan out of town trips with her.

It’s nice to have travel and adventure buddies like Pia. How do you know the people who are good travel buddies? They are usually:

  • someone you know well enough to be comfortable traveling and sharing accommodations with;
  • someone who is fun to hang out with;
  • someone you can stand (and actually enjoy) talking to for extended durations;
  • someone who’s willing to spend a little bit more than usual;
  • someone who’s willing to spend time on vacation and completely abandon work during the trip;
  • someone who is as adventurous as you; and last but not the least,
  • someone who is actually willing to go on the trip (or trips) with you.

Of course to find a good travel buddy, you should also be a good travel buddy. Don’t expect to enjoy traveling with someone if you don’t know how to enjoy yourself. Be all of the things above. On top of these, do a good research of potential adventure spots, and cheap flights, reasonable accommodations, and the various activities you can do in the places you’re going to.

(Written on June 3, 2011, 12nn, in Subic, Zambales. Edited some other time and somewhere else, back in the city. Booo.)