Monday, 24 April 2017

Lakawon Island Resort and Spa

We were just a bunch of globetrotter wannabes trying to escape momentarily from the chaotic city life. So we packed our not so light bags and flew from Cebu to Bacolod. Destination: Lakawon Island.

We took the early morning flight to reach the island the soonest possible. Armed only with a research article on how to go the island, aided by our unrivaled eagerness to explore the place, we took our chance and expected nothing more but pure enjoyment. 

Upon arrival at New Bacolod-Silay Airport, we were a bit confused as to how to go to the North Bus Terminal. A few guys approached us and we just listened with rapt attention. A guy told us that to reach the terminal we need to pay P500 for the taxi fare. With disoriented glances, we agreed so as not to delay more of our time. And yes, I think we found the right driver because heaven gave its blessing as it was raining that morning. 

Anthony, or Tony as I fondly call him offered to take us directly to Cadiz port instead of just the original destination which is the North Bus Terminal. He said we would be able to save time and money if we pay him P1200 for the whole duration of the trip instead of P500 which is only good for reaching the North Bus terminal. We know we won't be able to save really but given the fact that we are in a hurry and we are all new to the place, we closed our eyes and prayed we made the right decision. 

It took us over an hour to reach Cadiz Viejo port from the airport. Indeed, it was a hassle free journey because from the crossing kamias terminal (where you need to ride a tricycle going to the port) to Lakawon Port it will be a 20 minute tricycle ride and you need to pay P120 (one way fare).

The beach air was cold when we arrived at Cadiz Port on our way to Lakawon Island. After all, it was just a few hours away from the time typhoon Crising left our country. Yet the heat of the summer never failed to make its presence known as our skin felt the warm sea breeze. 

You need to pay P280/pax as payment for Environmental Fee, Entrance Fee and Boat Ride (round trip). A minimum of 10 persons is required before the banca leaves for Lakawon. First trip leaves at 7:00am and last trip is 5:00pm. Beyond the said hour, you will be charged an overnight rate. 

We were lulled to sleep by the sound of the crashing sea waves as we prepared to cross the island. We cannot hide our excitement however, as we were approaching our destination.

Cerulean-Blue water enclosing the island, White powdery sand along the beach, beautiful native cottages, jaw-dropping scenery, waves rippling gently - these are just some of the alluring images to welcome you on this insanely beautiful island of Cadiz, Negros Occidental. 

Lakawon is an idyllic coastal beach, a hypnotic island so mesmerizing that it enchants you to stay longer as planned. The water of the South Pacific stretched away like the vast blue horizon stretching above us - crystal clear and turquoise blue. 

We went directly to the reception upon our arrival to pay for the Beach Huts which is P2500 (overnight stay good for 4 persons). We also informed ahead that we will also be chilling at Tawhai Floating Restaurant. So we paid P250 (non-consumable) as well inclusive of the round trip boat ride and the waterproof wristband which is unlimited (can be used from 10:00am to 5:00pm) 

After payment, we were guided to our beach huts and we all fell in love with our mini house. It was quaint and aboriginal in nature accentuated by modern appliances (ceiling fan) and things (comfy beds and pillows). It even has mosquito nets if ever you'll be bothered by mosquitoes but there were none. There's a separate toilet and shower for each bamboo hut for that much needed privacy from other tenants. 

If sleeping in a simple thatched dwelling by the sea is your idea of relaxation, then you're at the right place because the beach huts scream serenity and peace - away from the hustle and bustle of city living. 

We swam at the beach, enjoying the feel of the water sluicing away the stress caused by city life.

Tawhai Floating restaurant on the other hand is the best place to chill while marveling at the island’s magnificent view. The name “tawhai” is derived from the local dialect that means “relaxed” which surely is the most relaxing floating resto I have ever been to. It boasts of being the biggest floating bar restaurant in Asia. By the way, you need to sign a waiver at the reception upon payment before you are transported to the floating bar. Tawhai Floating Bar puts “U” in the word adventure by jumping overboard but do it at your own risk. Life vests are provided though if you wish to jump or swim along the side of the floating bar. They are open from 10:00am to 5:00pm and you can go back to Lakawon Island anytime you want after sipping your strawberry margaritas and Long Island Iced Teas.  

And I guess we didn't regret hiring the services of Tony after our Lakawon adventure because he offered to tour us around Bacolod and nearby cities for a fee of P3000 from 6am to 6pm. (We gave him a P500 tip though for a very efficient and stress free tour).

How to go there: 

By Bus (from Cebu): 

Take the first hour (2am) Bus bound for Bacolod via Toledo Port at North Bus Terminal. 

Manual Travel Summary Cost:

Van/Bus going to Toledo (2hours travel time): Php100
Toledo Terminal to Toledo Port (Motorcycle): Php10
Barge/Fastcraft (1 hour and 30 minutes): Php150 to Php170
San Carlos Port to San Carlos Terminal (Motorcycle): Php10
Terminal Fee: Php10
San Carlos to Bacolod (3 hours): Php150
Bacolod North Bus Terminal to Cadiz City: P95
Crossing Camias Terminal to Cadiz Viejo Port via Tricycle: P120(minimum of 3 people)

Cadiz Viejo Port to Lakawon: P280/pax (inclusive of Environmental Fee, Entrance Fee and Boat Fare round trip)

By plane via Cebu: 

a.New Bacolod - Silay Airport to Bacolod North Bus Terminal: P500(taxi fare)

Bacolod North Bus Terminal to Cadiz City: P95
Crossing Camias Terminal to Cadiz Viejo Port via Tricycle: P120(minimum of 3 people)

b. New Bacolod - Silay Airport to Cadiz Viejo Port: P1200 (taxi fare)

Day Tour Information: 

Entrance fee, terminal fee, boat ride 2-way: P280/person
Tawhai Floating Bar - P250/person
(open from 10:00am to 5:00pm) 
Umbrella hut -P600 (up to 6 persons)
Family cottage - P1200 (up to 10 persons)
Canopy tent (small) - P600 (up to 6 persons)
Canopy tent (medium) -P800 (up to 8 persons)
Canopy tent (large) - P1000 (up to 10 persons)

Bamboo Huts: 
P2500/night good for 4 persons
2 single beds, 2 extra foam
extra person:P300/head

Check-in Time: 2:00pm
Check-out Time: 12:00noon

Contact Details: 

Lakawon Island Resort and Spa
Landline No.: (034) 4333960 / 4333259

P.S. If you wish to avail Tony’s Services, you may contact him via his mobile no. 09425676316. He charges P3000 (6am-6pm) for transportation that covers: Campuestohan Highland Resort, Balay Negrense, The Ruins, Calea and Felicia’s, Hofileña Museum, Mambukal Resort. 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Isdaan Floating Restaurant - Gerona, Tarlac

Flickers of the excitement I have felt days before the trip began to charge the atmosphere as I slowly gazed without blinking at the plane bound for our next adventure. We have one important agenda in mind and it was Isdaan Floating Restaurant in Gerona, Tarlac. 

When we landed in Manila, it was a bit gloomy and looked like it was about to rain. It wasn't an omen though, just inevitable knowing how unpredictable the weather conditions in the Philippines could be. 

It's a three-hour bus ride from Manila to Paniqui Tarlac, and a good 20 minute trike ride from Paniqui to Gerona where the floating resto is situated. So we ate our breakfast at the airport before heading to Five Star Bus Terminal in Pasay City. We each paid P257 one way and the bus thankfully has its own Toilet. (Note: inform the driver that you need to disembark at Chowking Paniqui where there are trikes available. Trike Fare is P15 from Paniqui to Isdaan) 

Ironically when we arrived in Tarlac, the place was scorchingly hot as if the territory was never drenched with rainfall at all. The dry lands were bare witnesses as we silently explore the region via the tricycle on our way to Gerona.

Upon arrival, diners are greeted by a beautifully designed landscape and gleeful staffs. The restaurant was oddly familiar perhaps because it is reminiscent of the floating restos that I have ever been. The bamboo floors, koi ponds, water gardens and fountains. The only thing different is the concept itself, it is surrounded by exuberant decorations such as the seemingly out of the country statues like Wishing Buddhas, playful sculptures like angry birds and children's famous cartoon character like Snow White and superheroes like Superman and Batman. 

The place is so wide with a ceiling of pale blue skies, cloaked in a few cottony clouds with a bit of nature as a backdrop. In fact for awhile there, words blurred together that it took me sometime to decipher the meaning of the theatrical scenery offered by this majestic floating restaurant. 

Of course the visit won't be complete without trying their signature dishes, Lechon Manok Tinupig and Barrio Fiesta’s Mama Chit Special. 

Lechon Tinupig is a whole chicken marinated overnight which is wrapped in banana leaves then smoked grilled to perfection. This is an absolute must-try dish when in Tarlac. The meat was really tender and tickles the taste buds while the smell of the burnt banana leaves adds a smoky flavor which dominantly fills the nostrils in every bite. 

The Barrio Fiesta’s Mama Chit Special is not your ordinary Surf  and Turf dish. It is composed mainly of fried fish (tilapia and hito), fried chicken, crabs and Shrimps, calamares, vegetable tempura, lumpia (vegetable and shanghai) with a side dish of green mango and bagoong. It was a sumptuous meal in a winnowing basket. 

It is noteworthy to mention that ordering food takes time and even more time having the food delivered to your table. So it would be best to eat something before you go there to curb the feeling of hunger. 

Apart from eating, there are other activities that you need to experience when you're inside the floating restaurant. 

First, you can marvel, take a photo and fervently hope that dreams do come true at the wishing buddhas. These Buddhas are so magnificent that you can't help but take a photo of the scenic views. 

Secondly, the Tacsiyapo Wall where you can vent your anger by throwing things at the wall such as wall clocks, television, mugs and plates, etc. Each item is individually priced ranging from P20 to P2000. 

Lastly, exploring and sightseeing. The place is filled with too many instagram-worthy, beautiful sceneries and structures that are aim to entice both local and foreign tourists. It would be a shame not to take the opportunity to capture every charming moment spent on this resto. 

By the way, they do not accept credit cards since they are not affiliated with any of the credit card companies so basically they are on a cash basis only. Also kids are required to wear life vests as part of the restaurant’s precautionary measures since the water is 6-9 feet deep.

Contact Details:

Isdaan Floating Restaurant - Fun Park
Gerona, Tarlac

How to get there:

You can take buses at the Five Star Bus Terminal in Pasay City. Schedule is hourly. Bus Fare Pasay to Paniqui, Tarlac via TPLEX is P257 (with toilet). Tricycle Fare Paniqui to Gerona is P15.

You can also take buses going to Gerona, Tarlac via Cubao which will drop you at Tarlac City. Bus Fare Cubao to Gerona is P224(deluxe). From Tarlac City, ride a jeepney going to Isdaan - fare is P20. Also, there are a lot of Buses going back to Manila outside the restaurant. So there's no need to worry if you want to go back to Manila after you have visited the place. Bus Fare - Gerona to Pasay City is P235 (deluxe), Gerona to Cubao is P224 (deluxe).