TRAVEL: Tailor-made fun in the sun in PHUKET


The party island of Phuket is officially our most-visited place, having just concluded our long weekend Christmas getaway there. It was our third time to celebrate Christmas on the island, an every-other-year holiday tradition Hubby and I started back in 2010, and our fourth trip overall. While that hardly qualifies us as experts, we have certainly seen and experienced more of this island than perhaps any average holiday-maker.

I have loved Phuket from the first moment I set foot on the island. It certainly isn’t the best island there is but there is just something about Phuket that draws us in and keeps us coming back for more – no matter how many times I keep telling Hubby that we should probably give Phuket a rest and go somewhere else next time. A little digression, if I may: We were in the same speedboat as this young French couple when we did the Phan Nga Bay tour and the guy, who himself is an intrepid traveler, said that among all the islands that he has visited in Asia he liked El Nido the most. He said not even James Bond Island or Koh Phi Phi comes close. It’s a shame that I have not been to El Nido myself, but I have seen enough photos and videos and heard first-hand account from friends to know that this cannot possibly be a fib. So yes, El Nido is definitely in our future travel plans. Now back to Phuket. You see, it’s not so easy to write-off this gem of an island given that it’s only a mere 1.5 hours air travel time from Singapore and there are flights galore! Besides, when you only have one long weekend to scratch the beach-itch, you really wouldn’t want to spend several hours cramped in the whatever-happened-to-leg-room budget airline seats when you could already be sampling pad thai or tom kha gai in one of the restaurants in Kamala, in your sexy swimsuits and with your toes buried in the soft white sand, for example. If you have been to Phuket, chances are, you probably love it for some of the reasons that we do. If you don’t like it, however, then it’s just too bad.

So here’s our definitive list of things to do in Phuket. I will be using photos from both our recent and older trips so don’t get too shocked by the weight gain and more pronounced appearances of crow’s feet, age spots and flab because sweetheart, we aren’t so young and so tight anymore.

1. Explore Patong on foot. This place certainly makes no apologies for what it is: tacky, sultry, campy, hot, crowded, boisterous, sexy, delicious, morally-bent, cheap, expensive, delightful, relaxing, capricious…all that and much more coming at you all at the same time! It can get a little too much but once you get used to the cacophony of noise, colour, taste, scent and feel of Phuket, trust me, it will grow on you.

Walking around Patong. December 2010.

…is all you need. Patong, December 2014.

2. Rent a motorbike and visit the more pleasant and less congested beaches of Surin, Karon, Kamala and Kata. Of the four, Surin is our favourite and this place just keeps changing each time we visit so it never gets old or boring.

Rent a motorbike to get around Phuket. August 2014.

3. Eat as much of your favourite Thai dishes and dare to discover a few others (deep-fried bugs, for example) because you know as well as I do that these delicious authentic Thai cooking is terribly hard to find in other countries. And even if you’re lucky enough to find a good one, you can bet it’s not going to be as cheap.

My all-time favourite, Tom Kha Kai.

4. Book a trip to see the Koh Phi Phi island. You’ve seen the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, I presume? This area here is where some scenes of the movie were supposed to have been shot. Gorgeous island but just overly crowded especially during peak season.

Koh Phi Phi Island tour. December 2012.

Just wow.

Just wow.

5. Experience the Phang Nga 7-island Tour at least once. They say if you have a choice between Phi Phi and Phang Nga, you pick the latter because there are more activities and views to enjoy. The Phang Nga Tour includes the famous James Bond Island as one of the stops. We don’t dare play favourites because we like both (Phi Phi and Phang Nga), but yes, the 30-minute canoe experience at Koh Hong and the small cave exploration before that were quite nice. Koh Hong is one of the seven islands in Phang Nga.

James Bond Island tour. December 2014.

Canoeing at Koh Hong Island. December 2014.

6. Go elephant trekking and enjoy traversing the tropical jungle paths while comfortably seated on the back of these gentle giants. Afterwards, you can pay extra Baht to buy bananas to feed the elephants with, at the observation kiosk. They even have baby elephants dancing and doing tricks that will make you go awww and turn your heart into a big puddle of mush inside your chest.

Our second time to go elephant trekking and this time, we caught the beautiful sunset on our way back and it nearly brought tears to my eyes, I remember. December 2012.

7. Visit Wat Chalong, arguably the most visited Buddhist temple in Phuket. Thais offer flowers and light candles at the central temple by way of making merit or showing gratitude for wishes granted. You will also hear firecrackers exploding loudly which generally comes from this brick oven-like dome close opposite the main temple.

The Wat Chalong. December 2014.

One of the temples at Wat Chalong.

8. Drive up north to see the Big Buddha. This is probably one of the most recognisable structures in the northern part of Phuket, In fact, you will see the Buddha from any vantage point on this side of the island. Ladies who are wearing shorts and sleeveless tops will be given sarongs to cover up bare extremities. Entrance is free and the view is spectacular from here.

Behold the Big Buddha in Phuket. December 2014.

Big Buddha Phuket_vickyras

9. Take the most awesome sunset photos at Phromthep Cape. Or just about any panoramic photo and selfie shot, in case you’re there before sunset. Been here twice before and yes, the view is just spectacular, especially on a bright and sunny day.

Fantastic view from Phromtep Cape on a sunny day. December 2010.

Elephant sculptures of different sizes at the Phromtep Cape.

Elephant sculptures of different sizes at the Phromtep Cape. August 2014.

10. Catch the fascinating nighttime Thai cultural show at Fantasea. Be mesmerised by Thailand’s rich and exotic heritage and ancient traditions with some of the coolest technology and special effects. Watch out for the elephants. They will bring you to tears with their cuteness.

The Thai cultural show at Fantasea is a must-see when you’re in Phuket. The elephants were sensational!

11. Try the famous Phuket banana-nutella pancake and other flavours available. You are bound to feel that all-too-familiar tightening on your pant’s waistband after eating copious amount of this dangerous concoction but trust me, it’s worth the calories my friend.

I must always have my banana-nutella pancake when in Phuket. Try and I bet you’ll love it!

Banana-Nutella  pancake at  Surin Beach. December 2010.

Banana-Nutella pancake at Surin Beach. December 2010.

12. Dine at MK Gold (the duck with green noodles is an absolute must-try!) and watch a movie (or two) at Jungceylon Mall. On our recent trip alone, we watched Exodus and The Hobbit, and all because we love the cinemas here. The seats are perfectly plush and comfortable and the screen is huge!

Go for the duck dish, dimsum and steamboat ala carte. YUM! December 2014.

13. Get a facial treatment in any one of the facial centres in Jungceylon and get rid of those hard-to-eliminate blackheads and other skin impurities. They usually have a treatment package that already includes facial cleansing, blackheads and whiteheads removal, facial scrub and mask and a few minutes of soothing facial massage, ranging from 500 to 900 Bht.

14. Get all your skin and beauty swag at Boots. I love going to this shop because somehow I feel like I am getting a good deal when I buy my moisturisers, creams, oils, etc from here.

I can’t believe all these cost me only 56sgd! Boots loot, December 2014.

15. Try any one of the fish spas scattered all over Patong and get those dead skin and dirt nibbled away by these hungry little suckers. A caveat: If you are too sensitive to aggressive nibbling and gets tickled easily, you may want to rethink your decision. But try anyway ‘coz YOLO, right?

Ça chatouille! December 2012.

16. Indulge in a one-hour Thai massage on the beach. And a foot scrub, too, while you’re at it. The price has gone up a bit now to around 400-500 Bht for a one-hour session but still well worth it. Tips are not mandatory but encouraged.

Foot scrub and massage on the beach is always a great idea. Surin Beach, December 2014.

17. Explore Phuket City. Though there isn’t much here based on what we have experienced when we drove out to the city in the morning (the weekend night market seems to be a crowd-drawer from what we have read on the internet), we did, however, discover this quaint little café called The Circle Coffee Boutique where they serve delicious homemade cakes and pastries. Look it up when in town.

#Foodporn. December 2014.

18. Yoga anywhere but especially on the beach.

Surin Beach, August 2014.

Heart opener. Karon Beach, December 2014.

19. Soak in the sun. But don’t forget to slap on generous layers of sunblock for protection. Your skin will thank you for it later.

#Pinkythetravelingpig likes it hot. As do I. Surin Beach, December 2014.

20. And get one last massage at Let’s Relax. There’s a plethora of massage centres to choose from (dodgy or otherwise) but personally, we like going to Let’s Relax.

Nothing quite like a fantastic Thai message to cap our holiday. Let’s Relax Phuket, December 2014.

I’m fairly certain that even with these 20-odd things I have listed down, I (probably) barely scratched the surface because Phuket is just…larger-than-life, in many ways. And that’s probably why we can’t stay away for a long period of time. We may not be going back to Phuket anytime soon but we have Krabi on our March travel calendar. That’s going to be another epic beach trip for sure. Abangan!

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TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part I)


The idea of Maldives came to me one morning in November last year while I was checking my personal email and got an alert from Tiger Air announcing its maiden voyage to Maldives from Singapore beginning January 2014. Not too long before that, I remember asking the Emperor if he had already plotted his 2014 travel schedules, in case I would be able to join him in one of (possibly) many trips this year. As you know, the Emperor and I have been to a few international and local travels together and knowing how he can be very flexible with his schedule (if he wants to!), I thought I’d mention Maldives when I saw him go online on FB. Et voila, in less than an hour, I had already booked Chris and I on a flight and Eric had done the same!

Knowing that Maldives requires no visa application (it’s VOA for a lot of countries, including Philippines!) made decision-making a no-brainer. Of course, the impossibly turquoise water surrounding the atolls and the promise of earthbound paradise go without saying. I mean, we would’ve gone still even if there was visa required. Maldives is just something you never say no to. What followed after that was a fun hotel hunting/booking. We had a reasonable budget to work with which, the three of us agreed, need not require us to smash our piggybanks open or you know, rob a bank.

After going through a long list of hotels and reading a lot of reviews on Trip Advisor, we opted to book our stay at Dream Inn Thulusdhoo for 3 nights and then spend our last night in Malé so we can explore the city and not be worried about missing our flight the following day (it takes an hour and a half from Thulusdhoo to Malé on the public ferry).

Finally, Maldives!

And so on the 12th of March, the three of us boarded Tiger Air bound for Malé, the urbanized capital city of Maldives. The flight was about 4 hours and 20 minutes long and by the way, Maldives is three hours behind Singapore. Soon as we exited the arrival hall, the first thing we saw was the exquisite turquoise waters dotted only by a few speed boats loading and unloading tourists. We had to physically restrain ourselves from jumping right into the water given the scorching heat outside. Gorgeous (easily three shades of) blue ocean water everywhere you look – and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before! It took a while for our airport pick-up to reach us and we were starving so Eric and my husband decided to get us some takeout meals from Burger King. An idea which we all would come to regret IMMEDIATELY as one meal costs a minimum of US $10! (The chicken sandwich meal Chris got me was $15!) Definitely one of the most expensive junk food we have ever ingested and I wouldn’t recommend that you try it. Unless you’re even more famished than we were at that time, or just plain addicted to junk. Ewww.

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Welcome to Thulusdhoo

It takes an hour and a half to get to Thulusdhoo atoll from Malé. I will not give you the wikipedia description of this charming little atoll but instead, I will try to paint a picture of Thulusdhoo based on what we have seen, heard, and tasted of the island. First of all, Thulusdhoo is also known as the Coca Cola island because of the presence of a Coke plant which is supposedly the only one in the world that uses aerated water to manufacture the carbonated drink for Maldivian consumption (Please feel free to verify that as I am rather lazy to Google it up). It is no surprise then that there is a hostel called ‘Cokes Surf’ in the island that specifically caters to surfers and backpackers. And in case you’re wondering why, it’s because Thulusdhoo is said to have the best waves in all of Maldives during surf season. Tim, the-hot-Aussie-surfing-instructor-with-six-pack- abs-that-won’t-quit at Cokes Surf, confirmed that when we all had dinner on our last night on the island.

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The cozy little inn we called ‘home’ for three days, Dream Inn Thulusdhoo, is such a great find! At first, we were disappointed when Shaheem (awesome travel organiser!) told us two days before we were to depart SG for Maldives that he had to transfer the three of us to Askani Villa because they have about 20 youngsters from Denmark arriving the same day. But Askani proved to be just what we needed because it only had four very spacious rooms and we only had to share the whole place with a nice Russian couple. We had good wifi connection in our villa – at least for my iPhone but my Samsung phone totally crapped out on me during this trip so I was struggling a bit doing some work while traveling. 100 points for iPhone, negative 100 points for Samsung S4! – which made it quite convenient for the social media junkies in us to post occasional updates on FB and Instagram. The hotel staff were very amiable and always ready to help make arrangements for our island hopping adventures. And I love how their English is almost impeccable – and how beautifully they enunciate words!

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Thulusdhoo residents take pride in their ‘Sunrise Beach’ and ‘Sunset Beach’ and by right, they should, because these two places certainly give you an awesome sunrise and sunset views. Look!

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Sunrise at 5:50am.

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Sunrise Beach at 6am.

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Sunset Beach at 6pm.

But if you ask me, the real treasure Thulusdhoo has is its charming people. Easily among the friendliest, accommodating, and well-mannered people you will ever meet, the residents of Thulusdhoo will make you feel welcome at any time of the day. Always smiling and often ready to greet you ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’, some will even inquire about your day/health. On our first night at Dream Inn, we were lucky to have been treated to a lively cultural song and dance production by the young men of Thulusdhoo and we were impressed by the passion and energy they put into their craft. The Danish group, as well as the young lady from Kosovo, had a great time jumping around and gyrating to the infectious beat of the drums. Being an old boring fart, I just sat and watched the revelry. Kidding! We had to turn in early that night because we were off to ClubMed Kani the following morning and didn’t want to be sporting eyebags to go with our lovehandles. Not at all great for selfies, haha.

Oh, one more thing that we noticed in Thulusdhoo are the colorful doors and walls in every home which truly fascinated us. But apparently, this love for bold colors is typically Maldivian as we would see more and more of these colorful doors around Malé.

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One great thing about living literally next to the ocean is that you get to enjoy fresh catch for your daily meals. Being just a tiny dot of an island (with only a little above 1,000++ inhabitants), Thulusdhoo does not have restaurants (though we saw one or two bars near the jetty) so we were only eating mostly at our resort and on our last night, at Cokes Surf Villas. There’s not much of variety here but the grilled fish we were served a few times was truly divine! It’s so fresh and tasty you don’t even need condiments to enjoy it!

If you are looking for some sun, surf and sand adventure with a little splash of culture, you can’t go wrong with a trip to this charming North Malé atoll called Thulusdhoo. And oh, good news to the ladies who might be wondering if swimsuit is allowed in the beaches of Thulusdhoo at all – the answer is yes, my sweetpea, you can wear your swimsuit on the beach! But please don’t go around the village in those tiny stringy cloths as you are definitely bound to offend the residents’ sensibilities and conservative ideals. Keep in mind that Maldives is an Islamic nation and all tourists must respect that.

End of Part One

TRAVEL: BOHOL, beautiful!


So, thanks, in no small part, to my current state of preoccupation I have not exactly been livin’ it up in many areas of my life. Well, apart from super fun trip to Bohol with C for his birthday, I haven’t done anything exciting or sexy lately. Unless you are just like me, someone who thinks work is sexy. At least I consider mine to be. Maybe because I am passionate about what I do and the many opportunities that are still to come. Just this afternoon, Kas and I were having a private conversation on Twitter about how our respective social lives have ceased to become social, so to speak. Mainly because we have not been doing any form of socialization unless it involves work. Like I said, the only places I ever see now are the interior of our office, the mall close by where I would often have my lunch, and my shoebox apartment. And lately, I have been going home late nights because of so many projects we need to deliver by September. And most of these projects are simply too big to fail, so there’s very little room for F-ups.

So anyway, Bohol. Perhaps one of our best trips together. Well, come to think of it, all of our travels have been nothing if not fantastic. It’s just that I realized that apart from the two trips we made to Boracay in 2010 and 2011, C has seen very little of our country. We travelled to Banaue and Baguio once with friends but it was one disastrous trip it hardly counts as an adventure.  In fact, he would always remind me of it whenever the subject my ‘travel planning skills’ would come up. Now I can safely say that Bohol became my redemption. It was also my first trip to the island so it was double fun for us!

We stayed at the beautiful Bohol Beach Club and I could not have chosen better, if you ask me. The resort was just perfect for what C and I needed – some privacy, good food, fun amenities, and a long stretch of white sand where we can run barefoot on. The resort staff were very nice and accommodating and everywhere you look there’s always someone sweeping the ground or picking up dried leaves. Bohol Beach Club is such an amazing place I recommend that you make it your first choice when planning a trip to Bohol.

Now one of my favorite places in the country, Bohol Beach Club!

We were only there for the weekend but we managed to do a lot of things and visit a lot of places. Thanks to our local guide recommended by Atche Noel. For 2,000, our local guide took us to the touristy places in Bohol and all things considered, I’d say it was well worth it!

1. Blood compact. Our first stop during the tour. This is supposedly the site where the then-Captain General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi entered into a blood compact with Datu Sikatuna to crystallize the friendly relations between the Spanish conquistadores and the natives sometime in the 1500’s. The site itself is really not much to look at as it was just there by the roadside and one could hardly call it a marvel. But I guess it’s what the stone sculpture of the Spaniards and Datu Sikatuna represents that merit some form of acknowledgment in this case. So, hooray for friendship and alliance! Much good it did us, ‘no?

The Blood Compact.

2. Baclayon ChurchAnother colonial religious architecture dating back middle of the 16th century. The church interior has that kind of ornamentation that’s similar with a few other old stone churches still found in the Philippines. Although I think some of them failed to withstand the test of time and natural calamities but Baclayon Church, thankfully, is not one of those. There is a museum attached to the church but we did not go anymore because we rather pressed for time. I heard the museum itself is loaded with antiques and other beautiful art pieces, so looking back, it would have been nice if we made a pitstop there as well.

The interior is actually fascinating…and a bit sad. It carries a lot of history in it, for sure.

So there you go. I guess C and I have not ‘really’ been to Baclayon…

3. XZOOTIC Animal Park. For only P20 entrance fee, you get too see a few exotic animals such as the ostrich, civet cat, asian leopard, bear cat, monkey, porcupine, and the main attraction: the two pythons each weighing over 200kgs! If you’re feeling brave, you can have your photos taken with them inside the cage. Don’t worry, they’re fed well enough (two live chickens we were told) that they’re usually asleep or digesting during the day. Looking at those animals though, you’d somehow feel distressed because they are kept in such tiny cages you just know they feel very restricted and unhappy.

Norio the ginormous reptile. Caretaker told us he weighs about 203kgs. And no, i’m NOT that brave at all. It’s just that he’s sleeping, as you can see. If he were awake and hungry, I will be in another city or country, that’s for sure. LOL.

With Milo the Ostrich.

4. Loboc River Cruise. In truth, there was nothing exceptional about this part. Sure, it was relaxing to be on board a mid-sized boat while enjoying your lunch. Well, it would have been if only fellow passengers were not moving around too much taking photos of each other every two seconds and blocking your view in the process. Food was okay and for Php300 per head for the one hour river cruise with buffet, you could say it’s not that steep. At some point during the cruise, we made a pitstop so the young Boholanos can serenade us with folk songs and wow us with their folk dancing skills and dexterity. Oh, watch out for the waterfalls, too. And I mean REALLY keep your eyes peeled because it’s so tiny you’d miss it if you just blink.

Cruisin’ for Bruisin’

The Tinikling. I performed this once before in a school program back in the province where I came from. Ako na ang katutubo. LOL.

Dig in!

5. The TARSIER Conservation Area. Definitely one of the two highlights of our tour. Oh just to see those cute primates is already a fulfilling experience in itself! Too bad we are no longer allowed to get too close to them, much less pet them, because I really would have wanted to put them in my palm and just nuzzle their furry little bodies with my nose! The place itself is about three acres (according to the watchers) and it is home to 129 tarsiers, each one of them watched very closely by the caretakers – all of whom are ready to pounce on unruly visitors who would insist on taking photos with their camera flash on and/or touching the sleeping tarsiers. They’re nocturnal animals, by the way, so they’re sound asleep during the day. Although we saw one who was struggling mightily to sleep and he kept blinking his very big eyes until he finally tuned out the world. C was especially enamored by the tiny primates he wouldn’t stop gushing about the until after we left Bohol!

Home of the Tarsier.

Oh hello there, cutie!

The obligatory couple photo with the tarsier.:p

6. Man-made forest. What else can I say about this site except that it’s a forest made by, well, men. But seriously, the trees actually look pretty, slightly bent forward as they face each other so when you look at them from afar, they seem to form an umbrella giving shade to motorists and vehicles passing through. Nice place for photo op, too.

Man-made forest.

7. Chocolate Hills. Our second favorite part of the tour, next to the tarsier. What we found fascinating was the fact that these hills had actually been carved out from thin layers of corals and shell fragments as they were once submerged in water. As to why the nearly 1,300 mounds of earth were formed and shaped essentially the same is I suppose a happy accident. There’s also a wishing well at the viewing deck to which C and I made a coin donation each for our, uhrrrm, individual wishes. Oh, by the way, there’s some 200 steps you have to climb to get to the viewing deck, so I suggest you work on your cardio a little bit before you take the stairs.

The hills are alive with the sound of music…

Make a wish, baby…And our love will make it come true…

The two things we failed to do while there were (1.) Visit and dine at the Bee Farm, and; (2.) See the dolphins. C’est dommage! We actually made arrangements for a boat ride to Virgin Island, a known sanctuary for the dolphins, on our last day in Bohol, but on that particular morning it rained heavily we decided not to risk it. Seeing the dolphins would have been a perfect way to cap our trip. Instead, we decided to run barefoot on the beach for half an hour once the sky cleared; avail of our complimentary kayak ride; and get one last massage by the beach before finally leaving the resort.

Bye Bohol Beach Club!

All in all, it was an awesome awesome awesome adventure and we loved every single moment of it! I guess we will just have to go to Apo island one day to see the dolphins. But that won’t be anytime soon because we have Palawan lined up…