Tag Archives: Coron

Hanoi: In the Company of Strangers (Days 2 and 3)

I woke up early for the cruise the next day, had my breakfast, checked out from the hotel and waited for the bus to pick me up. I decided to check out since I’ll be staying overnight on the boat and paid for my entire stay as well. In total, I paid US$200 for 3D/2N at the hotel (inclusive of breakfast) and the overnight stay on the boat, inclusive of welcome drinks; lunch & dinner for the first day; and breakfast & lunch the next day. *Pats myself on the back for such  a steal of a holiday.*

Tips:

  • TripAdvisor.com is your best bet for legit reviews of hotels and sample itineraries. 
  • Whatever hotels you find on agoda.com, booking.com or similar sites, cross-check it with TripAdvisor. So far, this site has not let me down yet. 
  • Feel free to bring your swimsuit and sunscreen.

Instead of me blabbing away on the 2D/1N Halong Bay itinerary,  I’ll post photos to take you through my overnight journey to one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

After about 1.5 hours of traversing the road to Halong City, the bus will make a mandatory stop  at a handicraft store for about 20 minutes.

Pier

More than an hour later, we arrived at the Bai Chay Pier in Halong City.

After the tour guide has purchased the tickets, passengers will then proceed to the wharf to be transferred to the Viet Beauty Cruise via a small ferry.

After our tour guide has purchased the tickets, we proceeded to the wharf to be transferred to the Viet Beauty Cruise via a small ferry.

The boat doesn't come to you. You come to the boat. And you do it via these small ferries. And no matter how short the distance, wear the life jacket. It's a hard rule.

The boat doesn’t come to you. You come to the boat. And you do it via these small ferries. And no matter how short the distance, wear the life jacket. It’s a hard rule.

This is the view from the dining hall. While there is a wifi onboard, it's very unstable since we're in the middle of the bay. I barely cared. I have my camera. I'm good.

This is the view from the dining hall. While there is a wifi onboard, it’s very unstable since we’re in the middle of the bay. I barely cared. I have my camera. I’m good.

Right outside the dining hall are small tables lining up the lower deck.

Right outside the dining hall are small tables lining up the lower deck.

The cabin in The Viet Beauty Cruises is cozy and equipped with hotel grade bathroom facilities. Except for the water taking a bit of time to go down the drain, I've no issues with the room.

The cabin in The Viet Beauty Cruises is cozy and equipped with hotel grade bathroom facilities. Except for the water taking a bit of time to go down the drain, I’ve no issues with the room.

Since I was travelling alone, they gave me the option of adding US$40 so I don’t have to share the cabin with a stranger. I scrimped and decided to tough it out and go for the shared cabin. It’s just for a night anyway. I wasn’t prepared to share it with a late 50-ish English guy. I thought that since I’m a girl, they’ll pair me off with a girl too. Unfortunately, there was no other girl travelling solo so, I’m stuck with him. Thankfully he was decent and that the only time we were in the cabin together was when it was time to doze off for the night.

Once we’ve freshen up, we started our tour and first stop is the Sung Sot Cave or the Amazing Cave.

Sung Sot Cave is a famous tourist stop in Halong Bay and since it's peak season, you can just imagine how busy this place is.

Sung Sot Cave is a famous tourist stop in Halong Bay and since it’s peak season, you can just imagine how busy this place is.

So maybe, this is why it's called the Amazing Cave. *insert naughty grin* And of all the colors to light up this VERY interesting rock formation, they choose red.

So maybe, this is why it’s called the Amazing Cave. *insert naughty grin* And of all the colors to light up this VERY interesting rock formation, they choose red.

We spent about an hour going through the different caves, with our tour guide pointing at more interestingly shaped rocks and stalagmites. In my head, no other rock formation can be as interesting as that photo above.

The tour is finally done and we headed back to the boat again to go to a spot for kayaking. I decided to skip this out because the heat got me and I don’t feel good anymore.

I decided to nap and about 20 minutes later, I decided to go up the sundeck and enjoy some quiet time.

I decided to nap and about 20 minutes later, I decided to go up the sundeck and enjoy some quiet time.

The local vendors make for an interesting addition to the Halong Bay scenery. They sell chips, cigarettes and sweets.

The local vendors make for an interesting addition to the Halong Bay scenery. They sell chips, cigarettes and sweets.

As we wait for our dinner, we had cooking class and they taught us to prepare fresh spring rolls.

As we wait for our dinner, we had cooking class and they taught us to prepare fresh spring rolls.

I was the lone Asian in the cruise, save for the Vietnamese junk crew and tour guide. I thought I will feel awkward but it was so much fun chatting with Irish travelbugs Emma and Karen; her mom, Helen; and Jeremy, the Englishman in Hanoi. 🙂 After chatting some more, we headed to our respective cabins and called it a night.

The following day, those who were able to wake up early joined the Tai Chi class held at the sundeck. I skipped that and headed straight to a light breakfast. Few minutes later, we are on our way to Soi Sim Island, a mere five-minute ferry ride from where the boat anchored for the night.

Soi Sim Island is ok but having been to our glorious beaches, the beach did not impress me. It was a small stretch and the water doesn't look inviting; maybe Cat Ba Island is better but it's not included in our itinerary.

Soi Sim Island is ok but having been to our glorious beaches, the beach did not impress me. It was a small stretch and the water doesn’t look inviting; maybe Cat Ba Island is better but it’s not included in our itinerary.

For me, Palawan sets the bar for gorgeous beaches and the Conde Nast Traveler placed a stamp on that for naming Palawan as the top island in the world for 2014.

And so I decided to hike towards Soi Sim Hill.

It's a 400+ steps up this hill and while the sign discourages older people from hiking, I still found some elderly couples heading up the cemented steps.

It’s a 400+ steps up this hill and while the sign discourages older people from hiking, I still found some elderly couples heading up the cemented steps.

The elderly people hiking up inspired me to get to the top but with the lack of exercise, I was catching my breath by the time I reached the top.

The elderly people hiking up inspired me to get to the top but with the lack of exercise, I was catching my breath by the time I reached the top. But the haze that morning diluted the beauty of the beach from the top. Oh well.

An hour later, we’re back on the boat to check out and have our buffet lunch. At this time, we have new companions onboard as they are the ones checking in for the night. After lunch, we headed back to the pier to board the bus back to Hanoi. Back to the crazy city of speeding motorcycles but this time, I went back with new Twitter and Instagram friends.

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The Lunar Project: October

I have been raving about Coron’s unadulterated beauty and local life, and I hope it stays that way for years to come. I have nothing against tourism but sadly, it comes with it commercialism and exploitation of the natural splendor of the place. That’s what happened to Boracay; who would have thought that Starbucks will find its way there?  Much as Boracay is one of the reasons tourists visit our country, it will be sad to see Coron altered to fit the western and urban lifestyle.

People from the city go to the province to relax and get away from the urban noise that we are so accustomed to and Coron is one of the splendid places where you can escape and stare in wonder at nature’s magnificence and just chill in the laid-back local life.   

Photo #10

The perfect scene that capped off our Coron Island Tour.

And here are still some photos of Coron:

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Take nothing but pictures.

 Leave nothing but footprints.

Kill nothing but time.

Break nothing, especially hearts.

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Coron Chronicles: Life, Celebrities and Crabs

It is fun to engage locals in conversations while you’re on trip. It gives you a better perspective of their way of lives, the history of a particular place and you might even get a snip of their celebrity encounters!

Anecdote #1

Our tour guide, Kuya Ferdie shared that we should not take pity on Coron natives, the Tagbanua because though they may dress and look simple, these guys are actually rich. They have been awarded the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim in June 22, 1998 thus giving them the right to over 22,000 hectares of land and sea.

The booming tourism industry in Coron gives them ample resources, in the form of entrance fees ranging from P100-200 per tourist, for gadgets and whatnots that urbanites likewise enjoy. Just imagine how much they earn per day during peak season.

His family was just one of the many tourists enjoying Coron paradise. According to my friend's research, he's an Iranian studying Nursing in Manila.

Anecdote #2

Our boatman, Tay Sitong, an owner of five boats (it used to be seven! O ha!) was lucky enough to meet and service celebrities like Lovi Poe, Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes.

He said that Lovi was really nice and made small talks with the locals. Marian, on the other hand, verified what she is so infamous for in tabloids and in Youtube. Nuff said. Dingdong was his amiable self, the complete opposite of his girlfriend (who according to Tay Sitong, would douse her hand in alcohol each time someone shakes her hand). He made no fuss as market people shook hands with him and he doesn’t mind even as some hug him and take pictures with him.

Side note: There is absolutely nothing wrong with being clean. But there is that fine line between being snooty and being hygienic. IMHO.

Tay Sitong was personally approached by the director  to be casted as an extra in one of GMA’s teleserye where he played a fisherman. Sad thing is, he never got paid. But he said it was ok, though.

Anecdote #3

We hired Tay Sitong’s boat to Malcapuya Island for P3,000. He let us ride on his special boat, named after his granddaughter, Giselle. When you hire a boat for a day, the captain earns P500 while the boatman or spotter gets P300. He decided to keep the P500 to himself as he personally manned his boat and his assistant, Louie, took an absence from school because he may be a local, but he hasn’t been to Malcapuya yet. So he grabbed this chance.

The gang at the View Cliff with our boat captain and owner, Tay Sitong and his boatman, Louie.

A tip after the ride is very much appreciated, especially since they also cook your meals while you bask in the sunshine and frolic in the waters.

Contact Number of Tay Sitong: 0949-8464544

Anecdote #4

This is my experience in the market while buying some crabs for pasalubong. Initially, Nanay (the seller) told me that she doesn’t have a small box for 2 kilos of crabs. So I decided to buy a little styrobox from the next stall for my crabs and went back to Nanay.

Then Kuya Fruits (I call him that because, well, he sells fruits and I didn’t get his name) saw what I was holding and our conversation went like this:

 Kuya: Para saan naman yan? (he asked unsmiling, while pointing at my styrobox)

Me: Para po sa alimango.

Kuya: (in his trying-to-be-masungit voice) Di mo kailangan yan. Karton lang pwede na. Yung pera mo, ipambili mo na lang ng alimango. Isauli mo na yan.

Me: Kuya, nakakahiya naman po kay Ate.

Kuya: Ba’t ka mahihiya eh di mo nga kailangan niyan? Di na rin kayo magkikita bukas. Isauli mo na yan at ihahanap kita ng maliit ng karton.

My fab hat and the man behind me is the nice fellow who packed my crabs. Sweet!

After much deliberation, I did. But since I do not have the heart to return it, I just had it exchanged for a fabulous hat (which I truly love). Kuya Fruits on the other hand went back with a small box, asked for my crabs and proceeded to pack it like a pro. He even placed some bakawan leaves to keep the crabs fresh. What a sweet, huge, goon-looking man!

As a token of thanks, I thought of buying mangoes from him to which he said, “Sa Maynila din galing yan. Dun ka na lang bumili. Mahihirapan ka pa.”  He is such a darling, I swear!

My last attempt was to give him a tip, which he refused outright and I cannot budge him into taking it so I just thanked him profusely for packing my crabs. And just as he promised, the crabs were still alive when I arrived in Manila hours later.

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Travel Diaries: Coron Island Tour

The Coron Island Tour is part of the package we got from one of those online deals littered on the web but should you choose to do your Coron trip DIY, I saw several signs offering this tour for P650-750 per person.

We first headed off to Kayangan Lake, which according to our guide, Kuya Ferdie, is a 150-step trek (75 steps going up, 75 going down). After some ten minutes of hiking from the docking area, a little trail to your left leads to a small cave and the scenic viewpoint of Kayangan Bay.

Docking area at Kayangan Lake

From there, the trek goes downhill to the famous Kayangan Lake. Tourists at this point will just drop off their stuff on the nearest rock and take the much needed dip to ward off the heat and sweat from the trek. This is bliss!

This photo does not do justice to the beauty of Kayangan Lake as the wooden planks limit the shots to water, rocks and skies.

After an hour of snorkeling, we headed to Twin Peaks Reef, situated somewhere between Kayangan Lake and Twin Lagoon.

Next stop is Coron Youth Club Beach, better known as CYC Beach. We didn’t set foot on the beach anymore as it’s not safe according to our guide so we just did snorkeling.

We finally had our lunch at the small, white sand beach of Atwayan. The boatmen readied one of the cottages and laid out our sumptuous feast on a table cloth.

Stopped over at Atwayan Beach for lunch

Tips:

No matter how much you ask them to join you for lunch, they will refuse you and tell that they have eaten already. It must be a rule they have set, I don’t know.

There is NO toilet or water facility of any sort at this beach. So make sure that you do #2 at the hotel or inn! *wink*

After lunch, we headed out to the Skeleton Wreck for some snorkeling. The fishes, corals and the wreck itself are fascinating sights to behold. Note to self: Get an underwater camera before the next trip!

Last stop is Twin Lagoon. The towering limestone cliffs look so majestic in the afternoon sunshine that it literally takes your breath away. Not even a good photograph can do justice to the beauty that the eyes have seen and the brain has captured. Amazing is an understatement.

The magnificent limestone formations

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Travel Diaries: Malcapuya Island, Coron

Malcapuya Island is found on the south of Coron, Palawan and is breathtakingly awesome with its pristine, fine sands and clear waters that will easily rival that of Boracay’s. Compared with the other Coron islands and beaches, Malcapuya has the widest stretch of white sands where you can roast yourself to your heart’s content.

On a clear day, it takes less than one and half hours to get to Malcapuya from the Coron Market. Best to be at the market by 6:30AM and buy all the stuff you need as there are no stores around the island. Only fresh buko (as in freshly-picked from the tree) is available there and if you get lucky, Coke and beer can be snagged from the caretaker, with a hefty price tag, of course.

Basking in the Malcapuya sunshine

Boat rental for the whole day costs P3,000 (which is well worth it); the captain and boatman cook the stuff that you bought as part of the deal. You can contact Tay Sitong at 0949-8464544.

The boat ride to Malcapuya

You can spend half the day in Malcapuya then head on to Banana Island for another round of frolicking by the beach and snorkeling.

But if you plan to stay overnight, make sure you have enough food with you lest you go hungry on the island. Airconditioned room is available for P1,000 per head in the lone sanctuary there or spend the night in your cottage for P500 per head and they will provide you with a mat (banig), blanket and pillow. Better yet, you can pitch a tent for just P300!

View from the cottage

Never miss this island when you go to Coron! The P200 entrance fee you paid will not be a waste; it’s a small price to pay for a few hours of serenity in this splendid island.

Seen from the View Cliff

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