Philippines: Catching-up with high-school friends in Tandag

I am very lucky to have some really amazing and crazy bunch of friends around, who bring so much positivity and make my life wonderful and lively.

It’s been a while since we saw each other last; I’m grateful that they were able to squeeze in a little time off their busy schedules to make my short break in the Philippines worthwhile and I’m so glad I had the chance to catch-up with them.

…with my high-school friends through the years!

How did we catch-up?

  • I invited them to my sister’s wedding and to the house blessing of our new home.
  • Chaperoned our children (who happened to be classmates and friends) to their own catch-up time at VML Hotel.
  • Went for a sunset walk at the Riverside in Telaje.
  • Played badminton at ELG Badminton Center.
  • A coffee group date at Brew Central

…with my high-school friends at my sister’s wedding.

What did we talk about?

We talked about life in general – memories (loads of them and we laughed at them), work, family, food, fitness, travels, friends we have in common, etc – just a bit of everything. It was just pure fun and laughter. Everybody was cool, calm and casual, so there was a natural flow to conversation as if we were just talking a few weeks ago. And when one was talking, we were all ears!

…with my high-school friends through the years!

They were still the same guys then, even though I didn’t get to see many of high-school friends since it was December/Christmas break – in the Philippines, it’s a time of the year for so many family gatherings. I really missed them. It was so great to catch up with them after all these years! And I hope to see them again soon.

when we chaperoned our children…

Personally, I think when I met my high-school friends, emotions speak more than words. And when we met, we thought we were still in high-school and we wished to go back to those good old days when we were carefree and relaxed from the stresses of life. It’s like all that mattered was that we were together again.

…with Daryl.

…with Grace and Eowyn, her daughter.

Certainly, I reckon meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen in years and being able to chat for hours is one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had. Cheers to 25 years of friendship and counting!

in the wilderness?

sunset walk at the Riverside.

…with Daryl and her love of her life.

How about you – how often do you meet your old friends?

 

 

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Philippines: Breakfast at the beach in Tandag

Amongst the many things I love about my hometown is a wonderful beach breakfast or brunch at Mabua Beach in Tandag, where we only live 5 meters away from the sea.

Breakfast with family at Mabua Beach in Tandag

Mabua Beach in Tandag

It was a beautiful day after Christmas, all of the big events in the family (my sister’s wedding, Christmas Eve celebration and house blessing of our new home) were over, so we decided to have breakfast at the beach.

Mabua Beach in Tandag

We brought all the leftovers from Christmas, plus mom’s cooked fresh tinolang isda (fish soup) with freshly harvested vegetables from her garden.

Everybody had good appetite. Everybody was delighted. Everybody savored the moment.

  • Got thrilled out by the unlimited karaoke on the beach. Don’t you know that it is part of the Filipino passions?

Mabua Beach in Tandag

  • Had fun with the big waves – swim through, dive under or ride over them.

Mabua Beach in Tandag

  • Luxuriate in with one of my favorite books.

Mabua Beach in Tandag

  • Got a kick out of a tranquil walk on the seashore.

Mabua Beach in Tandag

Mabua Beach in Tandag

  • Dug on the beach and buried up to your neck in the sand.

Mabua Beach in Tandag

Mabua Beach in Tandag

  • Wallowed in the luxury of tranquility and togetherness.

Mabua Beach in Tandag

Mabua Beach in Tandag

Certainly fun!

Mabua Beach in Tandag

How I love to smell and hear the warm early morning sea breeze, listen to the sound of the crashing waves, watch the sun glorious rising hues, and bask in the stunning view of the sea. It was so warm, relaxed and breathtaking!

Indonesia: 3 days in a gorgeous secluded beach resort in Bali

My family and I are a true beach bum. We love beach! And one of the reasons why we traveled to Bali was to enjoy a private escape to the beach without worrying about crowds.

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

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Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

We lazed at Sandi Phala Beach Resort for 3 days – siesta on the beach, a lot of reading, schmoozing with my boys, sun basking, swimming, playing with the big waves, watching sunset, tasting Balinese food and enjoying the refreshing Bintang beer. We certainly enjoyed the luxury and the privacy.

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

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Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

The tranquility, the beautiful sunset, the breeze, the big waves, the playful blend of aqua colors, the yellow brown sands, the luscious food and the friendly staff make this destination a genuine paradise.

Ma Joly Restaurant

Sandi Phala Beach Resort

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

Likewise, we liked the place because it is like half way between Tandag, my hometown in the Philippines and Carantec in Brittany, France. Plus, it was absolutely quiet. We spent 5 full great days in Bali – 3 days at the beach and 2 days to visit other places, was just right to re-charge our mojo, re-energize and re-ignites our passion.

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

Sandi Phala Beach Resort in Bali

Cambodia: Explore Mondulkiri for its romance in rolling hills

Mondulkiri is a special destination to visit in Cambodia. It is a very different place from the flat, steaming-hot capital city, Phnom Penh. The chock full of natural beauty, the thickly forested mountains, the powerful waterfalls, the lush green rolling hills, the Cambodian aboriginal community, the mild temperatures, the off-the-beaten-tourist trail, the variety of languages used – Khmer, hill tribe languages, Vietnamese, Laos and the tranquility of the place offer such a contrast when compared to Phnom Penh. I love it!

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

While traveling from the Penh to Mondulkiri, I couldn’t help but exclaimed, “Wow, it feels like we are traveling to the French countryside!” because of the manicured landscape and the quality of the road.

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Once there, we walked through the forest, ambled hills after hills and did a lot of sightseeing. While hiking, I imagined several scenes from the movie “The Hobbit” especially when Gandalf entered Hobbiton and when Bilbo jumped over the fence and said, “I’m going on an adventure!” Mondulkiri is very picturesque. Certainly, our adventure there was nothing less than spectacular and it was one of the most wonderful experience in Cambodia for us.

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • The town of Sen Monorom is the best base camp for travelers who want to explore the surrounding areas.

Cambodia: Waterfall hopping in Ratanakiri

We fell in love with the natural beauty of the hidden treasures of Ratanakiri, which are off-the-beaten-track and unbeknownst to the tourist crowds. So, since Ratanakiri is home to stunning waterfalls we decided to do waterfall hopping.

Cha Ong Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Cha Ong Waterfall

We went there during the rainy season and we could only visit 4 waterfalls as some roads were not accessible – very slippery, very muddy. On our way to the falls, I felt like I was traveling back to the earliest beginning of the world when the big trees were kings. We saw a lot of plantations and some impenetrable forest. The air was cold, thick and sluggish, and there was no joy in the brilliance of the sun.

Ratanakiri

The water level of each waterfall was huge and strong, and the sound was impressive. The waterfalls were all gorgeous, refreshing, cool and each one is picture perfect.

If walking through dense jungle and lush green canopies is your idea of fun, then waterfall hopping in Ratanakiri should be on your Cambodia’s bucket list. So to help you on your next adventure, here’s our top 4 best and more accessible waterfalls in Ratanakiri for you to discover.

Ratanakiri

Ratanakiri

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall

It has 7 steps and it is located in a deep jungle surrounded by beautiful landscapes. The water flows throughout the year. On the way to the waterfall, you will see villages and mines. You can also visit the zircon gemstones mining company.

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Ka Chanh Waterfall

The waterfall is 12 meters high. One of the main attractions there is the suspension bridge right before the waterfall – great photo on the hanging bridge. There were also traditional houses in the area for you to explore. Once there, we got some amazing pictures and truly enjoyed the experience. For us it is the most charming waterfall.

Ka Chanh Waterfall

Ka Chanh Waterfall

Ka Chanh Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

It is about 10 meters high and it’s in an interesting geological formation which has resulted in a cave forming into the cliff that faces both sides of the water. The highlight there is the elephant ride on the top of the waterfall, and feeding and bathing the elephants.

Katieng Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha ong waterfall is amazing and our favorite because you can go behind and explore a bit – there’s like a huge cave behind the waterfall. It is surrounded by such splendid nature and it is very jungle like.

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cambodia: Sightseeing Tour in Mondulkiri

The morning had arrived for the start of another countryside adventure in Mondulkiri, an eastern province and most pristine province in Cambodia. It is known as the “Wild East of the country” with its high hills, deep valleys, wild jungles, amazing waterfalls, off-roading and elephant’s adventure.

Amazing Mondulkiri

Dreamy

After enjoying a leisurely tasty breakfast, we hopped into our tuktuk to begin our whole day sightseeing tour. Our first stop was at the Bunong (Pnong) Village – the Bunong people is the largest aboriginal Cambodian ethnic group, who are believed to have been living in Mondulkiri area for about 2,000 years. Once there, we learned their culture, custom, tradition and way of life. I have learned that Bunong people have a strong link with their environment and they follow animism – they believe that everything (animals, plants, hills, mountains, stones, jars, etc) has a spirit.

Behind me is a house of the Bunong people where 7 families live.

Wooden jars made by Bunong people

We drove further for about 45 minutes to visit Bou Sra Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Mondulkiri. It is surrounded by beautiful, dense tropical forests, rich with diverse wildlife. It has 3 layers: The first layer is 12 meters high and 15 meters wide. The second layer is 20 meters high and 20 meters wide, and the third stage couldn’t be reached because it is surrounded by dense thicket. We spent about 20 minutes wandering around the 1st layer of waterfall. Standing nearby for the photograph, we could feel the fresh spray coming from the water crashing down. While meandering around, we spotted a kaleidoscope of charming butterflies swopping by. However, at that time the bridge leading to the 2nd layer of the waterfall was broken, hence we weren’t able to see it. Then, we hiked up to the mountain to see the main source of the waterfall then we descended back to our tuktuk. It seems that it’s the grandest waterfall we’ve seen throughout the area.

The first layer of Bou Sra Waterfall.

The second layer of Bou Sra Waterfall.

From the top of Bou Sra Waterfall

From the top of Bou Sra Waterfall

Beautiful butterflies around the waterfall area

The forest surrounding the waterfall.

The Eco-park surrounding the waterfall

Overlooking the main source of the waterfall

Next, we went to the “Sea Forest”. We reached the area at around 11.10 and spent about 30 minutes there. We enjoyed the splendid view and fresh air. We saw many hills and more hills carpeted with green as far as our eyes could see. I like the place, it’s wonderful and it’s good for the soul!

The “Sea Forest”

pristine and peaceful

Life is beautiful!

From there, our guide drove us to the coffee plantation, one of the places we were looking forward to visit in this trip since we both love coffee, like Angkor coffee which is locally produced. Before roaming around, we had coffee and coca-cola for Pete while resting for a while as it was noon-time. The plantation is huge, though and it seems it is adapting polyculture or mixed cropping as different crops such as coffee, avocado, durian, rambutan, etc. were growing in the same field. We tried a fresh coffee bean – it tasted good and juicy.

Coffee plant

Have you seen a Durian tree before?

It was already 1.30pm, then we proceeded to the “Sunset Hill” and Phnom Doh Krokom Pagoda. This place is popular for its great sunsets and for its incredible view of the town and the surrounding hills covered with thick trees. The atmosphere was nice and we surely enjoyed the views!

at The “Sunset Hill”

at The “Sunset Hill”

Before heading back to our hotel, we stopped in a shop near a gas station for some quick shopping. It was around 3PM and we were famished so we quickly grabbed some potatoes and shrimp crisps. We got back to our hotel just before a mighty tropical storm hit the town, so lucky!

Reading our favorite book on a chilly rainy night, was a perfect end to a great day in Mondulkiri.

 

 

Cambodia: Great time in Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

For this year’s summer break, we decided not to travel outside the country but to explore the Northern provinces in Cambodia – Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri, for two reasons:

  • First, this year (2018) marks our 10th year here in Cambodia and we hadn’t been there yet.
  • Second, between Disneyland and jungle trekking, hubby and son were more excited about the latter option.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

We stayed in Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel for a couple of days, located in Banlung amidst tropical greenery. It’s about 20 minutes (depending on the condition of the roads) by a 4×4 off-road vehicle from the city centre. It might be a little far from the city, but that is what makes this place so special – in the middle of the beautiful wild nature, very calm environment and friendly and helpful staff, for a relaxed holiday.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

We went there last week (still low season; rainy season); luckily, we’ve got the entire resort just all for ourselves. It was very nice and very quiet.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The way to the hotel was quite difficult but it could be said to be an adventure. During the rainy season (May to November), sometimes the roads are not passable as it’s very slippery and very muddy. During the dry season (December to April) the road is no problem.

The way to the paradise

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

During our stay, we were given a room with a pool and mountain-view. Our room was cozy and clean. What I liked the most with our room was the balcony, because of the serene view it offered of the surrounding mountains combined with the sounds of the not-so-far-away jungle.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

This paradise resort is close to the major attractions of the town such as lake, waterfalls, gem-mining (zircon gemstone), and local village. It also offers reasonable prices for the tour to these places.

Yeak Loam Lake, a volcanic crater lake

Waterfalls in Ratanakiri

Waterfalls in Ratanakiri

Every day, after I woke in the morning, I walked around the vicinity and saw all the beauty around. It’s very refreshing! After the family awoke, we had breakfast in the restaurant then we swam in the pool with a view. Later, we started whatever activity we wanted to do for that day.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The staff was nice and polite. They helped us with our tours and were always caring. The owner was amazing – friendly and positive. She arranged everything for us – the things we needed and the things we wanted. They ensured that we were happy throughout our stay. They definitely did all their best to help us and made us feel comfortable and at home. I think that’s one thing what made the atmosphere of this place so welcoming and lovely.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The food was delicious and I think it has the best cuisine in Ratanakiri Province. They serve both local and western foods. Tea and coffee was free all day!

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The setting is real paradise – with breathtaking view and positive atmosphere around. After a couple of days, we felt at home; and we were quite sad to leave and wished we could have stayed longer. Throughout our stay, everything we wanted in a holiday was there. Indeed, it was a perfect peaceful getaway.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • Upon arrival, the hotel offers free pick up from the bus station to the hotel. If you wish to go to the city center, it offers transfer for $3 (one way) since it is quite far away from the town.
  • There was no hot water as it’s not connected to the power supply system, but we managed it.
  • The internet was very slow – or worse – but that didn’t matter at all to us, for who can ask for a good hotel in the jungle, in the mountains, in a far-away-province in Cambodia and then expect perfect wifi?
  • There are organic pepper and Zircon stones available (for sale with a reasonable price) in the hotel. If you wish to get some souvenirs.