Solaire Resort and Casino

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I have seen posts from many friends. Typical of me, I almost always am the last to see a new place.

First set foot inside Solaire a few months back to watch Celeste perform at the Theatre. And then, Sound of Music came in and I booked tickets for the family, and a room. A Sky Suite, to be exact.

We were advised to enter thru the Sky Tower VIP entrance. I thought it was a special entrance, and it turns out it is the usual hotel entrance. Had to walk thru the hallway past the smoke-filled casino.

The front desk is at the lobby beside the PRADA store.

We got to our 12th floor suite. Hmmmm, nice room. Two queen sized-beds, complete amenities (as expected of a suite within a “luxury” hotel). A sitting room with fruits and chocolates to welcome us.

 

 

I only wished we had a room with a better view.

So we won’t have to rush for dinner, thinking it would take up so much time ordering and waiting for the meals, and waiting for the bill – – we ordered room service dinner a good two hours before. It came promptly, and both my wife and daughter liked everything we ordered so much that we finished what we thought was too much food to finish.

We didn’t get anything from the mini bar, though. And noticed that water is more expensive than beer.

 

The housekeeping and in-room dining service staff are excellent. I would not give as high a rating to the front desk staff who made us wait for our room, even when it was already available. And we were ushered to a smoking bar/lounge beside the front desk, for complimentary drinks, while waiting. Until I stood up to ask if the room was available, we were not being called, as they earlier promised to do once the room was ready.

Minus this check-in episode, I rate Solaire pretty good. And I don’t mind staying there again when a show I like gets to be scheduled at the Theatre.

Palani Beaches in Balud, Masbate

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kilometers of white sandy beaches

I first visited this stretch of long, powdery white sand beaches in 2013. On a recent vist, I was not surprised that this paradise is developing quite fast, and I think that by sheer distance it will never go the way of Boracay or Puerto Galera. SoPpalani will forever be beautiful.

Palani is the crown jewel of the town of Balud, 68 kilometers from Masbate City, the capital of this island province. From the town proper, the beaches are 2.5 kilometers away. Habal habal (back-riding on a single motorbike) is the mode of transport for travelers without their own transport from Balud to Palani.

Today, I would rate Paraiso de Palani as the top resort in this long stretch. Right beside it is Palani Beach Park.

PARAISO DE PALANI

Paraiso de Palani lives up to its name. I like the thoughtful design that blends the facilities with nature. There are huts and shades with white curtains that dance to the wind. The accommodations are well appointed and inexpensive. The staff hospitable, as well as the dogs “Negro” and Negra”, And the amazing turkey that seems to have appointed himself as the official “one-man” welcome committee.

 

Accommodations, all airconditioned, are as low as P1,200 for a room with a bed for two. Two rooms, slightly bigger, rent out for P1,800 for 2 pax. Then there are the pricier “presidential” rooms with wider floor areas and queen sized beds at P2,500, also  for 2 pax. They have rooms for 6 that go for P3,000, with TV and ref. There is a dorm good for 24, with 2 toilets and bath in the room, for only P6,000. There are smaller dorms for 8 or for 10 persons at lower rates.

Room for 6, aircon, with toilet and bath, TV, ref, for P3,000

 

veranda of the room for 6

 

Room for 2, aircom, with T&B for P1,800

 

“Casita” room for 2, aircon, with T&B for P1,200

“Presidential”, a bigger room for 2 for P2,500

Dorm for 24pax at P6,000, with aircon plus 2 T&B

Three of us had lunch consisting of 3 big fried samaral, 4 legs of chicken inasal, rice and bottled water. The bill came up to only P730.

Pity that we were not ready for an overnight stay because our bags were still in the hotel in the city where we checked in. Paraiso de Palani is an “I must return and stay” destination.

Contact Grace Dalida for reservations at

0917 517 6998

0998 577 6818

email : paraisodepalani@yahoo.com

or check out their facebook        https://web.facebook.com/paraisodepalanibeachvillas/

 

 

OTHER ACCOMMODATIONS

 

Bocala Beach Resort

 

My Q

And then there is HORIZON at the far end on the right. I didn’t take photos –  personally I wasn’t impressed and I thought the huge colorful HORIZON sign, meant for groufies, was a turn off.

There are also some “unbranded” smaller resorts that visitors may check out, and maybe find even more bargain.

 

How to go to Palani

We went to Palani on our own vehicle. But there are vans that go to Balud from Masbate City, at the transport terminal in the market which locals call the mercado. The fare I think is around P200 per person, on a 1 1/2 to 2 hours ride over beautiful sceneries of hills and mountains that will remind visitors this is cattle country. There are ranches along the way and grazing cows on grassy hills are a common sight. The roads look immaculate while seemingly endless. From Balud it will be easy to arrange for transport to Palani – – – a solo traveler can take habal habal (on a single motorbike, as the passenger, for P30-50 per person).

 

How to go to Masbate City

 

Masbate City is beautiful. Check out the city before you go out of town. You may even want to prep yourself up for a Masbate beach experience by taking a short boat ride from the city center to Buntod Reef, a sand bar that is the center of a marine sanctuary.

so beautiful, so accessible

 

PAL and Cebu Pacific fly direct from Manila to Masbate daily. Fares on PAL average P5,000 one way, depending on the season

There are also roro buses from Cubao. Check out Isarog Bus, Raymond, and RORO. A regular aircon bus from Cubao to Masbate is around P1,200 one-way. Isarog includes some buses on its fleet where there are fewer seats and the seats recline like airline seats, with a toilet in the bus, for a higher fare.

You can drive your car to Masbate. Travel to Pio Duran Port past Ligao town in Albay and pay P2,500 per 4-wheeled vehicle to transport your car via roro. This will include the boat ticket for 1 passenger. Extra passengers pay the boat fare. Roro ships leave Pio Duran at 8pm, 3 am and 5 pm. Be there at least 2 hours before to arrange your transport.

Alternatively, drive on to the port at Pilar in Sorsogon. The roro fare for your vehicle will be P3,000. There are roro vehicles from 10pm, 2 am and 5am.

Palani, you’re for me

 

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN MASBATE:
I have visited Masbate so many times and have marveled at the sights, moving me to write about how beautiful and how underrated this province is.

https://boyplakwatsa.com/2016/01/10/masbate-so-beautiful-so-underrated-2/
https://boyplakwatsa.com/2014/05/03/masbate-so-beautiful-so-underrated/

 

Dimasalang Masbate

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Dimasalang is a 3rd class municipality on the southern parts of the island province of Masbate. Visitors to Masbate inevitably stay within the city limits or visit the nearby Ticao Island. But out-of-city travel normally comes after visiting the famous sights in Masbate City and its surrounding municipalities.

I first went to Dimasalang last year and did not have enough material to write about the place. Last week, my friends from the group of travel-photography facebook group called FUNtastic Philippines set out for island hopping, after attending the Masbate Rodeo the day before.

We left Masbate before breakfast and were in Dimasalang in less than 2 hours, 67 kilometers away.

First stop was Patio Milagros, a resort hotel that is also the default party and function venue in Dimasalang. We went straight to a picnic hut on the garden overlooking a group of islands we were going to visit. After coffee and native pastries offered by our hosts, we were briefed on our itinerary by the Tourism Officer, Virgilio Natural, known to everyone as simply Ilyo.

PATIO MILAGROS

ISLAND HOPPING AND PORTAVEGA


We boarded a fishing boat at the town’s pier and went straight to the islands, mostly uninhabited. Such beauty. After about 30 minutes of oooohs and ahhhhs, we were brought to Portavega, a very relaxing resort on a cove.

Within Portavega is a very unique, dome-shaped church with Latin words around the dome. Because of its shape, no microphones are necessary during mass. And the religious should not even talk to each other in whispers. the whole congregation will hear what you are talking about.

Lunch was boodle fight consisting of pork dishes, sea food including sea urchins. Drinks were fresh coconut juice. We had for dessert some more native delicacies that looked like camote or balinghoy. I can’t recall exactly how the locals called it.

 

From PortaVega it was a short boat ride back to the pier, less than 15 minutes.

A sidelight was a visit to the statue of our National Hero Jose Rizal, the only known statue of this here where he is sitting down. Jose Rizal, for those who don’t recall lessons from grade school, used “Dimasalang” as his pseudonym when he wrote.

We were briefed on the development plans for the islands. Deep inside, I was hoping that the development will be controlled, and only to add some amenities that will make visitors more comfortable.

As for me, I will be happy pitching a tent at Porta Vega. There is a small store there that sells very basic provisions. And there are toilet facilities, too.

 

HOW TO BOOK AT PATIO MILAGROS:

Baler Revisited

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This is another revisit. April 2017.

On a previous visit, Costa Pacifica was under construction. Now it is the best Baler has to offer, and nothing comes close.

Costa Pacifica has no equal. The 2nd best will be a far 2nd.

Aurora Beach Camp is a campsite no more. It has been developed into a resort called Coconut Plantation.

Not a trace of the old campsite, Coconut Plantation is now a proper resort, with air-conditioned cabanas.

 

There was just a pebbly beach before, now there is a swimming pool with gazebos

 

this cove is the only thing that reminds me of the old camp site

 

While the resort looks nice, I can not see my self staying in this place which is about an hour from Baler’s nerve center, Sabang Beach. The snacking experience was also bad. The “restaurant” is a shared space with guests checked into a room within the restaurant area. we were having snacks while the guests were comfortably slumped in the sofas right beside our table, applying make up, and doing things normally done in the privacy of their cottages. Not their fault. Just bad space planning.

 

I didn’t stay at this resort, and only went for snacks. Ordered “pako” hamburger. I thought it was expensive at P200, way more expensive than the better tasting (for me) Big Mac which even comes with fries.

PASALUBONG CENTER

For some reason, I missed writing about things to buy in Baler. The best place to go to is the Pasalubong Center at the back of the public market. The best buys are Pacing’s coco jam and also shredded beef. Look also for rice cakes and other kakanin in the stalls just outside.

vinagar, including pinakurat in stalls outside th Pasalubong Center. And suman (photo below). There are also several carinderias in the area if you get hungry after shopping

 

WHERE TO EAT IN SABANG BEACH

Yellow Fin : top favorite. At the back of Costa Pacifica

 

Good Food. Inexpensive. With healthy options.

at Good Food, blue marlin with rice (and it is a good size cut of marlin) is P200. Quesadillas was good. Taco was nice. No softdrinks here – – so we had lemon grass for drinks.

 

Vegetarian.

 

ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATIONS. 

There are plenty. Here are some of them just around (at the back, actually) of Costa Pacifica

wherever you end up staying, you will want to be on the shores of Sabang morning and afternoon. Enjoy Baler !

To and from Baler, there is Hillocks Coffee Shop and Restaurant. My favorite stop. Along Pantabangan.

 

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW FOR LAKWATSA TO SEE MORE OF BALER

LAKWATSA

Baler is now more accessible after the roads have been completed and it now takes only a few hours from SCTEX. Before we hit Baler town, we stopped at the centuries old balete tree that is so huge and intricate it can literally carry 100 people at any one time, hanging around it.

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Baler now teems with visitors from Metro Manila, for that now-so-near holiday. Especially for those who love the beach and the surf. In fact, Baler is gives visitors a flavor of either Boracay or Phuket.

Baler Kahea

Baler Aliya

Baler surf2

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Baler resort

Baler Desiree's Inexpensive accommodations on the beach front

Baler Amihan

Baler outdoor Boracay feel – – food and drinks almost on the water

Baler outdoor 2

Baler store Store on the beach front

Other than the main beach lined with hotels, surf shops and restaurants, Baler offers tens of other beach locations. We had lunch in a rather quiet beach, at the Aurora Beach Camp. Here, there were no other visitors and we…

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Costa Pacifica Baler

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This is my nth trip to Baler, but the last was when Costa Pacifica was still being constructed. My first was at Bahia, that beautiful resort with a swimming pool at the front, with beautiful rooms, but really very few. Next thing I knew, there was another Bahia, this time a 3-level structure. Costa Pacifica, built by the same owners, is right between the 2nd Bahia and the ocean.

Today, Costa Pacifica is without equal. Nothing comes close. The resort compares with the best resort hotels I have been to.

As one enters the lobby, the resort feeling immediately sets in. Very tropical. Open space plan, with the huge pool and the ocean right in front of the guests. Tables and deck chairs surround the swimming pool.

The rooms have verandas facing the ocean. Ours was a suite on the second floor with a perfect view of the whole grounds, including the pool and the beach.

The room has 2 comfortable beds, a wardrobe with a safety deposit box, a luggage rack, color tv, a nice big bathroom with a shower and a tub. Two lavatories. Spic and span. With all the bathroom amenities one finds in 5-star hotels and resorts.  Not all rooms have living rooms, but our suite has a good-sized living room with 2 daybeds that double as sofas, another TV with a DVD player, a round breakfast table for 4, a bar counter top with 2 bar stools, a kitchen counter, with coffee and tea facilities. And a fridge stocked with mini bar items. The veranda has two deck chairs and a clothes drying rack.

 

 

the pool deck as seen from our bedroom, on the right

 

when the blinds are up – – the view from our beds

 

the living room, and the living room deck

 

 

Costa Pacifica sits on a huge property that has a long waterfront, probably the longest waterfront property in Baler. The garden has colorful chairs grouped in one section, a gazebo with swing chairs, a swimming pool bar. And nearly everyone gravitates to the shore where surfers get the ooohs and aaaahs from awed guests. I understand that Baler still offers the cheapest surfing lessons, and there are surf boards for rent. And lost of surf instructors.

Buffet breakfast is served at the restaurant called Beach Club. The breakfast spread is sumptuous, with cereals, fruits, breads, omelettes, and rice plus many choices of dishes to go with fried rice.

Outside of Costa Pacifica are a variety of restaurants and bars. And alternative, albeit cheaper, accommodations.

 

But one can say that Costa Pacifica is the nerve center when one comes to Baler for a holiday. One can go around. But the spell of Costa Pacifica will stay in the visitor’s mind for a long time. And this view will probably stay for quite a while, until the visitor encounters another beautiful resort.  Costa Pacifica will have a place in in their guests’  hearts.

I booked online, and you can book thru their website:
http://web.costapacificabalerph.com/

GLAMPING, anyone?

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Glamping as defined in Oxford Dictionaries:

NOUN

[MASS NOUN] British informal

A form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping:glamping is likely to satisfy any city slicker seeking a little refuge in nature—without foregoing any of life’s luxuries
jon-michael-pool-reflection-and-tent
My friends and I who regularly go camping, pitching tents near the beach or in mountains and riversides decided to glamp, for a change. All photos appearing on this glamping posts were taken by friends from #FUNtastic Philippines Fun Group, my fellow glampers: Papa Jet, Mai Sotto, Jun Bucao, Bob Gan Ferrer, Jon Michael, Nikki Lim, Connie Talactac, Annette Tamayo, Mommy B, Cherry Rose Dematera, Senyorita Lakwatsera, Rhyan Manago, and Gerry de Leon, Bobby and Amy Taron, Henry Completo, and Monina Cabanada.
Venue was a private vacation place in Tagaytay. Early Saturday morning, glampers started to pitch tents and, unlike in previous camping experiences where earth pads were rolled, each tent had proper mattresses and beddings and pillows with crisp, white, starched pillowcases.
pitching tents

pitching tents

pitching tents, setting up mattresses and white linen beddings

pitching tents, setting up mattresses and white linen beddings

if there are model homes, we played with this tent as our "model tent"

if there are model homes, we played with this tent as our “model tent”

all tents set up

all tents set up

Amenities included a swimming pool with waterfalls, a restful veranda with huge couches, a billiard table, darts, toilets with hot & cold showers, an outdoor kitchen with complete cooking facilities, and a bar with tables and chairs used as our dining area and videoke hall. There was also a huge “kawa” hot bath, and an authentic Ifugao native house as points of interest for the glampers.
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nikki-veranda
nikki-billiards
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A group of 4 went to the nearby Tagaytay City Public Market and later on prepared a boodle fight lunch. Never imagined camping to have as much food on the table, including shrimps and crabs, fruits and wine, and many other dishes.
bob-gf-fruits
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mai-sotto-boodle

Dinner was by candlelight. For photography we turned some ceiling lights on. After dinner drinks consisted of flowing brewed coffee, beer, Johnny Walker Double Black, and a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label. Oh yes, we also had Absolut Vodka with Sprite, lemon and cherries.

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There was singing til the early hours of the morning, with some glampers taking a dip in the pool even at 4am.

mai-videoke

bob-pool

We broke camp the next day. After breakfast, and while preparing to leave for home, the group decided to go on an unplanned lunch to a restaurant in Calauan, Laguna. And to shoot some old homes and the old church in nearby Pila. But that is another story.

We will most likely do a second glamping experience – – more to accommodate friends who weren’t able to join us the first time.
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Subic: Ocean Adventure & Zoobic Safari and Convention Center

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Subic has consistently been one of my most-viewed blog posts. I guess it is because this R&R destination keeps on improving itself. The AdSummit #ADSUMMITPH2016 is actually being held now at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC) which was built for these huge ad industry events many advertising congresses ago.

Direk Joey Reyes was a hit

Direk Joey Reyes was a hit. He also said “Think like a fruit. When you mellow, you will start to rot”. How true.

 

words of wisdom

words of wisdom

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Thousands of ad men and women attend the Ad Summit. Many freebies, including Krispy Kreme where delegates queue for this free treat

Thousands of ad men and women attend the Ad Summit. Many freebies, including Krispy Kreme where delegates queue for this free treat

The hotels have also mushroomed. The Mansion Garden Hotel where I am staying is one of the sought-after accommodations. Nice, clean, and most of all it is the closest hotel to Meat Plus, Subic’s most popular restaurant.

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my suite

my suite

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LAKWATSA

I have been to Subic a lot. In one of my trips, with my wife, my daughter and her nanny, plus my driver, I won so much in the casino that the cost of the entire trip was more than paid for. As I checked out, I was given a promo stub to fill up. Apparently, all guests were entitled to a raffle stub with a trip to Malaysia for 2 as grand prize. I won that, too. Tubong lugaw.

Ocean Adventure

This is my daughter’s favorite. Within the park, visitors can watch a seal show, a dolphin show, a whale show, and actually swim with the whales. And ride the whales. The handlers took my daughter from the shore to the raft in what I thought was not possible. The whales were beached on the shore, and my daughter was asked to ride it and hold on to the…

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