Reclaiming Paradise in Boracay

Where fine white sands sprawl amid crystal clear blue sea, the Philippine’s most famous tropical island called Boracay is indeed paradise again. During the six months of closure from tourism operations, Boracay faced drastic rehabilitation to restore its innate beauty and pristine state. 

Volunteer divers unearth garbage from the sea during the six-month rehabilitation

Major works were facilitated to fix the waterways to make its prized crystalline sea clean and clear, roadways are fixed and widened to provide easy access inland, and wetlands were reinstated to pave for smooth rainwater flow and as additional tourist spots. At that time, the locals experienced the island that had allured them to make it their home.

Locals have the beach all to themselves at sunset during the closure

Such as an island emanating with a virgin-like beach that matched the radiant sunlight and where towering coconut trees outnumbered the people permeating on it.  No sign of major commercialism was present, save for a few local businesses that thrived to open and sustain its faithful employees.  These businesses, namely Dos Mestizos Restaurant, Cafe del Sol, Aria Ristorante Italiano, Lemoni Cafe, Real Coffee and Tea, Bom Bom Bar and Pat’s Creek Bar, Nagisa Japanese Restaurant, Coco Loco Restaurant, Levantin Bar and Restaurant, Nigi Nigi Beach Bar and Restaurant have garnered huge support from the locals who had come to commune in and enjoy the bare essence of the place like a part of their home that was permeated by only people they knew. Sunset gatherings were made sacred by the scenery’s serenity and parties were kept raw island style, impromptu, exclusive and simply fun.  While the sheer sounds of the island’s nature magnified with the absence of in-bound airplanes emitting its flight sounds, except for the constant flight services of Air Asia, which operation of Manila to Caticlan flights provided efficient and economical flights daily to the locals. 

Paradise reclaimed on the long white beach during closure

In those six months, paradise was truly reclaimed in Boracay’s most coveted long white beach. Now that the island has been open for almost a month, the beaches are once again enlivened by the addition of tourists.  

Time to fly on Air Asia bound for Caticlan
Touchdown at Caticlan International Airport, the gateway to Boracay Island

More flights from national airlines, including Air Asia, are back in full operation, thus tourists from all over the world get the visit Boracay and revel in its new and improved state. Through strictly implemented guidelines to sustain the island’s rehabilitation, tourists, especially families with children can already swim in safe and clean water, lay out their sarongs on spotless white sand to relax and sunbathe instead of the beach beds and dining set-ups that used to fill the beach front, and walk along the beach in tranquility and commune with the soft waves dancing to the star-lit night sky that shun the few shimmering lights on the beach path. 

Noontime dipping in a cleaner, clearer sea at Boracay’s most frequented spot, Station 2

The nourishing sea breeze has also become more potent with the lack of smoke coming from cigarettes, boat engines, and daily fire-dancing shows that not only emitted smoke but also harmful toxins to people and to the precious white beach.

Privacy and space on the beach are likewise enjoyed with the controlled number of tourist arrivals and the restriction of commissioners who incessantly solicit activities to tourists.

A profusion of towering coconut trees line up among the virgin-like white beach

The roadways, however, continues to undergo renovation, as it needed more time beyond the six months closure.

Beach baskers relax on their sarong

So while alert attention is required from tourists passing along the roads, the white sandy beaches of the island are ready to embrace and nurture them at best.

Sumptuous offerings at the island favorite food hub, Real Coffee and Tea

AirAsia connects you to more than 120 destinations via Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia flies out of Manila, Cebu, and Kalibo to domestic and international destinations like Palawan, Bohol, Davao, Korea, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Taipei, and many more! 

Find out more about AirAsia’s exclusive offers at airasia.com, and like facebook.com/AirAsia for more updates. 

Now everyone can fly!

Article by Amanda Virrey


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A Family Staycation in Lagun, El Nido

Last month, my husband and the kids had a vacation from our permanent El Nido vacation.

LOL! Seriously speaking though, we checked in Lagùn, one of the newest hotels in town for a much needed one night staycation.

Sometimes, it is nice to get away from our current (seemingly neverending) home construction and enjoy the amenities, sights and food of establishments here. What’s the use of living in paradise if we don’t enjoy once in awhile as if we are tourists in our own island home?

The view from our hotel room was spectacular!

Not many hotels here offer a pool with such majestic views so my kids and I managed to swim all afternoon to exercise and expend some energy out.

TIP: If you or the kids love swimming, request for a room closest to the pool deck.

You won’t believe it but my absolute favorite experience in this hotel was their breakfast buffet.

I find that not many places in El Nido offers a wide array of choices. Here, they bake their own donuts and bread daily! Plus, they had many choices for pescetarians like me. I did love the fish dishes and many sauces available. 

Check out this short clip on what’s in store for brekky. Happy dance because they allow locals to dine in here for a fee =)

If you are a local or even a visiting tourist, I highly recommend their restaurant because they are probably one the few establishments in El Nido town that has parking, seats that can accommodate big groups, wifi connection, good dining options (Sushi in El Nido!!) and quiet spaces perfect for catch up with friends or meetings for work.

I really have to salute Lagùn for their winning interiors. If you ask my kids, they would easily imagine that the reception is a scene out of a spaceship in outerspace.

The lounge area upon check in is also a wonderful space to zen out.

On the same floor as the pool, there are areas where you could roll out your yoga mat, do some breath exercises, meditate or do taichi. 

For more information, please contact +639171561507 or email lagunhotel@gmail.com.

You may also like and follow Lagùn Hotel on Facebook (Lagùn Hotel El Nido) and Instagram (@lagunhotel).

I Lost My Son at Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto

Kiyomizudera Temple is definitely one of the places you must see in Kyoto. It actually is in my top 3 recommendations for Kyoto. But before you go, I must warn you to be extra mindful of your children. We lost our son for nearly an hour during the tail end of our trip! And boy were we scared and worried for him. I was already looking for the closest police station to report a missing child. Good thing I saw him (after an hour of looking) before we found an officer.

Travel Tip: Before going to places with large crowds, talk to your children about staying close to you. Japan is generally very quiet but perhaps it pays to have a whistle for when your child thinks he or she is lost so you may locate each other at once.

Beyond that legitimate scare, Kiyomizu-dera Temple grounds was so scenic and serene. See our photos from that day =)

Taken from the vantage point of Mt. Ottowa on our downhills. Climb from Kiyomizu-dera Temple.

Kiyomizu in English means “pure water”. People come here to do a water cleanse ritual. The line was long when we got to this point and didn’t think our kids would like the wait do I encourage you to go very early. The temple opens by 6:00 am so early risers will not have a problem with long queues.

Spooky fact: There are nearly 200 statues of the Buddhist deity Jizo at one of the gardens at the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Jizo is the protector of unborn children or children who die very young. These stone statues are dressed in bibs by parents who have lost a child.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

1-294, Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan

Website https://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/en/

Fushimi Inari Shrine Tips

There was not a single day in Japan that we didn’t get lost. Having said that, I would not want for you to have the same fate as we did..unless you like being lost in a foreign country. Maybe you enjoy the mere thrill of it? If so, don’t read this post or don’t do any research at all. However, if you do not want to waste precious travel time, I suggest you continue reading on =)

Here are my tips for visiting the famous and photo worthy Fushimi Inari Shrine:

1. TRAVEL EARLY: Yes, many others already say that but I cannot stress it enough. You would want to get there before the crowds start. There are tons of other tourists wanting to visit this place on any given day. The earlier the better. Fushimi Inari is open 24 hours so as early as can be! And to be early, I move on to my next tip…

2. STUDY YOUR ROUTE WELL. Aside from knowing your proper entrance gates, double check wit Google Maps on proper location. I made the painful mistake of following a pin that was FAAAAAR from where we needed to be 😩 We wasted almost an hour trying to get back on track. If you have a concierge or a friendly manager or airbnb owner wherever you are staying, please always confirm with them where you intend to go for the day. Locals (not maps) know best!

3. THE WHOLE PLACE ISN’T ENTIRELY STROLLER FRIENDLY so prepare to CARRY your stroller for at least 1 or 2 full flight of stairs if you want to see all of the the famous and seemingly never ending red Torii Gates.

4. Obviously, A BABY CARRIER IS MORE IDEAL but if you must bring a stroller because you intend to be out the whole day or like to avoid meltdowns because of kids wanting naps in a stroller, then embrace the fact that you can only see the bottom portion out of the whole area. If you decide to carry your baby in a carrier, prepare to walk a lot with the extra weight. It is a mountain trail! So, it’s a tough decision that must be made before you head out for the day.

5. REST WHEN YOU CAN. I doubt that very young children can walk the whole Torii Gate pathway without wanting pee breaks, snack break or just general foot rests. WARNING: It is a total hike of 4 kilometers one way alone!

There is a beautiful rest area facing a garden close to the entrance on the left side. Perhaps it wasn’t really meant for those going up, but really meant for those coming down – – but we chanced upon it anyway because we had a stroller and that was the only path possible for it to roll up!

It is nice to sit, enjoy the view and relax here before attempting to walk all the way up.

6. BE PATIENT. If you didn’t listen to the very first advice of coming early, there will be hordes of people passing through these gates. We had to wait maybe 10 minutes before taking a single decent photo. Then wait again another 10 minutes because a new batch of tourists would walk and take photos, too.

7. SEE WITH FRESH EYES. You are obviously there to see Thousand Torii Gates, or maybe look out also for the fox statues known to be as messengers of the gods for their rice harvests. My advice is to also see things as children would. My son spotted a tiny companion for the duration of our Fushimi Inari Torii Gates journey. As fascinating as I thought the Torii Gates was, my son was totally interested in his new found insect friend!

We are no stranger to the praying mantis as we have these back home, too, but we liked the thought that this Japanese praying mantis could act entirely different. We were gentle with the mantis and did say goodbye even if my son wanted to bring him home to our hotel.

8. IF YOU AREN’T PATIENT WITH PEOPLE, I suggest you take your photos outside the Torii Gates instead of inside them. Not many people would want photos taken from that angle which leaves you with shots like these anytime of day!

9. FOOD STALLS are found on the leftside exit. Now we made the mistake of coming at an odd time – almost lunch so the kids were famished and wanting to eat from every stall we passed. You should definitely go hike immediately after having a big breakfast to avoid hunger pangs. If not, have a snack by these food stalls before going all the way up!

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed all my tips for the Fushimi Inari Shrine. We never made it to the top but that’s okay. I know I’ll be back someday when my kids are older and I will attempt to finish the 4 kilometer mountain hike with them then.

Mama’s Hour Off in Kyoto

After taking care of all 3 kids alone when my husband was sick in the hotel for a day in Kyoto, I persuaded him to give me an hour off a few days later so I can do an errand faster.

Not only did I get to do that said errand, I also enjoyed wandering the streets alone and randomly walked into a local and natural soap shop in Kyoto!

I spoke to the sales lady who just opened the shop and asked her many questions about the soaps. Despite the language difference, we did manage to communicate.

According to her, this shop is local to Kyoto and is not available in Tokyo (although she did mention that they have a shop in neighboring Osaka). What interested me was that all the ingredients are natural or organic. And everything was made by hand! It reminded me so much of my soap mentor back in the Philippines. We also do handmade cold processed soaps so I was curious on how they make theirs in Kyoto.

They also make lipbalms. Look at the bamboo containers! So innovative!

I wanted to buy these for my kids. They are similar to Chinese Jackstones but Japanese made?

They list their soaps, bestsellers and their ingredients.

Will you look at those beautiful wash basins to try the soaps? I was pressed for time so I only tried to wash my hands with 2 bars of soap.

And this section leads to the cafe!

You can have some tea while getting your foot soaked in warm water! To me this is a very unique concept but to the Japanese who traditionally practice the art of onsen, it must be normal to do this sort of thing on a daily basis?

It’s too bad I didn’t really bring enough cash with me during this walk. I would have loved to buy more (if not all.. I wanted to buy so many things!) from this local soap shop but it is probably a sign that I need to go back one day!

Shabon-ya

1F Shiratori Bldg.55 Masuya-cho,Nakagyo-ku,
Kyoto, Japan

Business hours : 11:00~20:00

www.shabonya.com

P. S. Do you also follow a Mama’s Hour Off during your family travels? Or are they more like Mama’s Day Off? 😂

Mochi Pounding in Nara, Japan

While my kids absolutely loved seeing the deers in Nara, Japan.. I had the mochi pounding activity high up in my itinerary. And guess what, my kids were mesmerised, too.

After searching, hanging out and feeding the deers, we went to look for the famous Mochi shop called Nakatanidou which was close one of the train station’s exits. After back tracking our path via Google maps, we watched the live demo which happens every 30 minutes. As soon as we got there, they were already preparing for another mini show.

After the mochi pounding demo, we bought Mugwort and Red Bean paste mochi for taking back to the hotel for us.

There is something so special about seeing local artisans completely passionate and immersed in their craft. I hope to continue witnessing and sharing these kind of travel experiences with my children.

Yes, we would totally go back for those freshly pounded mochi! So so good!

Nakatanidou

http://www.nakatanidou.jp/sp/

Nara Deer Park Day in Japan!

If you plan on going to Osaka or anywhere in Kansai region in Japan with kids, you must prioritise visiting the Nara Deer Park in Nara Prefecture!

This was the obvious highlight of my kids because you not only get to meet, but also get to feed, hang out and pet the deers which are almost mythical creatures for us Filipinos since we don’t have any deers in our home country!

Not far from the train station, we saw some vendors selling deer biscuits for 150 ¥. My son hurriedly bought some to feed any deers that might come to our path. Little did we know.. there were tons roaming!

Some are aggressive so I warn you to please be mindful because they can nudge you with their antlers when asking for food. We noticed that some deers had their antlers removed. I think it’s because they are the most aggressive ones?

Also, don’t leave any kind of paper (maps or brochures) lying around. I mistakenly left mine on the stroller which was half eaten by a hungry deer by the time I came back for it. 😩

There were a lot of places you could just find a spot, sit down and do a picnic?

Remember to bring your own snacks and drinks. Luckily, we had some Mister Donuts with us which we bought from the Kyoto Station to tide us over because we were running late for lunch.

Many restaurants close after 2pm and reopen for dinner!

My kids loved Nara and the deers so much they are determined to stay at one of the guesthouses located within the park next time we’re in Japan 😂

What To Do For Kids at Kansai International Airport in Osaka

1. Look for the nearest playground!

Traveling with kids mean you are always on the lookout for playgrounds. One way to ease some travel stress, get limbs moving and keep kids happy during waiting times before a flight is for them to play at an indoor playground in an airport. Luckily, Kansai International Airport in Osaka has a few. We were able to have my kids play at the one closest to our gate before leaving Japan. Note that you can only avail of the playgrounds AFTER checking in so if you want to get your kids to spend some time here, do come early.

It would really depend on where your country destination is but most international ones will have designated playgrounds near their gates.

For us, it was right next to Tully’s Coffee where I had their Honey Latte (Yum! Not available in my own country)

2. Relax at one of the aufomated massage chairs

My son used up his last 200 yen on this massage chair while he waited for me buying coffee at the cafe next to it.

3. Don’t forget the donuts!

My kids absolutely love Mister Donuts and we were thrilled to find out that there was some available at the Mosdo restaurant (a brilliant Mos Burger +Mister Donut collaboration!) We didn’t choose to eat here before our flight but we did grab some donuts to go for snacks.

They even have ice cream which we didn’t get to try because we were there before lunch.

The Japanese are big on Halloween so decor was all over even if we left Osaka end of September.


Find Mosdo at the 2nd floor in the Dining Halls before checking in for your flight. Again, go to the airport early enough if you want to explore Kansai International Airport.

Three Dames Cafe

We’re back in civilization (aka the big city of Puerto Princesa) and had a late lunch at Three Dames Cafe as recommended by my mom peers. I’m always looking for new places to eat because we lack big city choices in El Nido. This place is hip and relatively new so I was looking forward to new tastes.

We ordered the Three Dames burger with fries, the Pesto with Grilled Chicken, Kimchi Fried Rice sans the Pork and had coffee with 2 desserts, the Apple Pie ala mode and the Ube Leche Cake. While waiting for our orders, one of the owners who also happens to be the baker sampled some merengue for my kids to try. They loved it, of course 😍

We were so famished so gulped down our orders like there was no tomorrow 😂 Yes, everything was good! It reminds me of really good homecooked meals. Comfort food and a cool place to hang with friends for tea, coffee and dessert. My kids also loved the unique seating concept which was their playground for a few minutes😂 We can’t wait to go back to try the sticky buns. One owner said they’ll have a fresh batch made tomorrow afternoon!

Three Dames Cafe

2nd floor Malvar Square

Malvar Street, Puerto Princesa

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