Monday, January 30, 2012

Coron: Paradise Found {3/3}

I'm now down to the last entry on my adventure in Coron, Palawan {Part 1, Part 2} and just like what I felt when I left Palawan, I have a separation anxiety going on here. I love talking about my Coron experience because it's one of those travels that I did not expect to live up to my expectations, and go beyond it pa. Coron was a random choice my friends made when a promo seat sale came and boy am I glad their finger landed on this island.

Our view from Ralph's Pension Lodge
I'm sure you're wondering about the accommodation and the food and the souvenirs... very touristy! :) Well, the good news is, accommodation and lodges in Coron are very affordable (bordering on cheap pa nga). The semi-bad news is for picky travelers. The very affordable price comes with basic amenities. There are no grand hotels here that will give you five-star service and amenities. My friends and I are not picky travelers and we can even rough it out if the going gets tough. We had a decent stay at Ralph's Pension House in the town proper. They gave us a competitive package that has everything we need for this vacation (thanks A for arranging everything!). They were easy to talk to and they made sure requests were taken cared of. Here's our room good for five.

The Babydoll Room: 2 queen beds and 1 single bed.
There were towels and a clean bathroom in the room.
Climbing the steep, roughly-hewn steps to get to our room
We paid around P5,000 each for the accommodation, tour, and meals. Speaking of meals, their food are awesome and more than adequate for the five of us. They gave in to our request of seafood on our last night in Coron. I super duper love their huge crabs! And their shrimps too. Even their simple adobo and chopsuey were tasty.

What's for lunch?
Oh my goodness, cholesterol dinner is served!
If you're not satisfied with the food in your accommodation, you can try a lot of restaurants in Coron. There's Lolo Nonoy's Food Stations, Kawayanan Grill, Coron Bristro and Bar, etc. They mostly serve house-cooked meals (lutong bahay). If you're not sure what to order, go for the grilled meat and seafood in the menu. As for the nightlife, hmnnnn, restaurants close rather early. After all, this is still a sleepy town in the middle of the sea. There's one 'bar' though known as Subasco.
As for souvenirs, either go for the tried and tested key chains, ref magnets, t-shirts, and displays at the shops in the town plaza or buy their kasuy (cashew nuts) and daing (dried fish). I picked a few colorful fish key chains for my collection, pairs of pearl earrings for my grandmother, packs of cashew nuts, and a kilo of daing. You can buy them in the stalls near the harbor plaza.

Coron shirts
The usual pasalubong; nothing beats a key chain! :)
Ooooh lovely colors! So summer lang ang peg.
For the cashew nuts, you must go to Coron Harvest. The proprietess is a legend in cashew nuts. 

Nanay Lita of Coron Harvest
Nanay Lita has been interviewed and photographed countless of times already because she sells the most awesome kasuy nuts ever. I think I finished two packs in a few sitting. Hindi nakakaumay! They were supposed to be pasalubong for my sisters but I ended up eating them. Haha, guilty!

Once you stop munching, you'll never stop!
Coron's dried fish is a little bit different from the daing in Manila. Theirs is not too dry and not too salty. It's crunchy but still has soft meat in it. We loved it as 'dasilog' (dried fish-garlic fried rice-egg)... perfect breakfast!

Saraaaaaap!
After a hearty breakfast and a walk in town, we went back to Ralph's to prepare our things. With our bags packed, we bid Coron goodbye and headed back to Manila. 

Goodbye, Coron! Thank you for an awesome vacation!
Aside from what I've written in Part 1, 2, and on this entry, here are some tips more for future Coron travelers:
1. Pick an accommodation that is near the port like Coron Gateway Hotel (it's the nearest) or those hostels that are in the town proper, esp. when you just come for the usual island tour. It's easier to go to the port and meet your boatmen and guide.
2. Pick an accommodation that is on the other islands if you want to have a peaceful, relaxing vacation away from the hustle and bustle of it all (ie. honeymoon). They're far from the town proper and are usually 30-45 minutes away from the Coron port. Talagang 'middle of nowhere' ang dating. Survivor Series with the amenities! Haha. I recommend Chindonan Resort and Dive Center (a separate entry on it soon).
3. Bring a lot of family and friends so you get cheaper packages with everything included.
4. For divers, try Sangat Island Resort. They're nearer the wrecks of Japanese boats sunk in WWII and really specialize in diving. They have the complete gear and equipment for it.
5. Bring your own snorkel and water shoes if you have so you won't have to rent.
6. Bring a waterproof camera (or rent one in Coron). It's a must!!! (I regret not bringing/renting one!)

The whole Coron experience still feels surreal for me. Was it really possible that I've been to paradise? On earth? In this lifetime? Ahhhh... I couldn't believe it but I have the photos to pinch myself with.

So, what's your travel plans for 2012? I promised myself that I'll travel outside Saudi Arabia this year. I mean, aside from going to the Philippines, I will have a RUH-(somewhere)-RUH itinerary. I'm thinking Morocco or UAE to visit friends. Hmnnn... Maldives is beckoning too. Where are we going next?! :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How To Keep Your Skin Moisturized in the Desert

I really love beauty products especially natural and organic ones. I also like to try new things on my own. I make my own facial masks and color my own hair. *yes, it's actually easier than I thought.*

I was already a lotion junky in Manila. Even though it's really humid I would still wear lotion. Why? Because I've seen the long term benefits of moisturizing your skin. My grandmother had the smoothest skin and even at 50, her skin was still supple. She didn't have a lot of wrinkles and if she did, it was only visible when she smiled.

The skin is the largest and most exposed organ in our body and we should remember to take care of it. Beautiful skin really glows and makes one look youthful. And I would gladly endure the lagkit factor (though I don't really feel it) if it will ensure that my skin will age gracefully.

When I moved back to Riyadh a few years ago, I had to slowly change my beauty regimen to fit the climate. You see, in Riyadh, regardless whether it's summer and winter, it's always dry... really dry... so I really had to double my efforts to take care of my skin. Here are my tried and tested natural remedies to dryness.

For the body:

To lock in moisture, I use olive oil! Yep, olive oil. Right after I shower, before I towel dry, I lather on some olive oil. When I'm done, I use the excess olive oil on my face and massage it for a minute. Then I towel dry and put on some lotion on my body. I find that lotion glides on smoother when I do this and it keeps me from re-applying.

Virgin Olive Oil at our local bakala

Don't forget to wear lotion with SPF 15 to protect your skin from sun damage! This is actually the key to taking care of your skin. I usually apply a mix of sunblock and lotion on my arms, the back of my neck, my feet and wherever else my skin is exposed to the sun. This is the best way to maintain your fair skin and avoid further sun damage like darkening, sun spots and sun burn. Wa-epek lahat ng whitening creams if you don't use sunscreen. Do remember that even though it's winter, you still need the SPF. The sun is still there... no matter how cold it gets.

For the face:

After I wash my face, I apply a mix of Aloe Vera gel, SPF 15 lotion and my liquid foundation. This combo helps prevent makeup from looking "caked on". During the evenings, I use Vitamin C serum or Aloe Vera Gel before hitting the sack. On weekends, I prepare a yogurt facial mask for deep moisturizing. ^_^ (I use full cream natural yogurt, it's only 1sr per cup at any bakala or grocery store.)

For the hair:

Oh let's not forget our hair! Conditioning is really important if you regularly blow dry, curl, iron or color treat your hair. And because I color my hair, it's really important for me to keep it moisturized to prevent split ends. I use shampoos and conditioner specifically for color treated hair. Apply conditioner from the middle down to the tips to avoid product build up on your scalp.

Almarai natural yoghurt for 1sr.

On the weekends, I use a mixture of yogurt and olive oil on my hair and leave it on for at least an hour. Then I wash it off. The yogurt hair mask has the consistency of coconut milk minus the smell. Plus natural yogurts are cheaper here as compared to buying gata at the Pinoy market.

So what are you waiting for? Bring on the TLC!

xoxo,
Sampaguita Pride

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Coron: Paradise Found {2/3}

Hola, readers! It's cold in Riyadh... how are you coping? I'm coping by looking at the photos of Coron. It's summer on this entry as I pick up where I left off in my Coron, Palawan post. (I'm one with the Filipino people in promoting the Philippines especially after the launch of our "It's More Fun in the Philippines" campaign. And just for fun, here's a It's More Fun in the Philippines meme generator. Make your own! :)

Read the first part of my Coron adventure here.

My friends and I were really excited for our Day 2. We had an "island hopping" trip the whole day. This is what we missed hiking the 700+ steps to Mt. Tapyas for. We conserved all the energy we had to enjoy our day trip to . Yup, all in a day's work pleasure, folks!

Seeing Mt. Tapyas from the port
The Hollywood-like sign of Coron

The day was clear and beautiful. It was the perfect day to bring out our sunnies and summer dresses (kahit na November na!). The sea was amazingly calm and blue and the sights were all so green.

Boats are so ready for tourists!
I had to pinch myself a few times to remind myself that I'm not dreaming. I'm really seeing nature at its bluest and greenest (as opposed to its brownest in the desert). You'll notice in the photos on this entry that blue and green are the dominating colors. So inspiring! I was on high!

Our first stop is Kayangan Lake, known to be Asia's cleanest lake and when they say clean, as in crystal clean! Este, clear pala! :) But before we reached the lake, we needed to go up and down roughly-hewn, slippery stone steps. For me, who's been bingeing on junk food and avoiding exercise for 2011, it was a nightmare. I was puffing and huffing after 10 steps. Exagg! Haha. Good thing, there was a bench halfway. And the gorgeous scenery renewed my energy. Parang walang nangyari after!

Coron, Palawan
It's the most known scenery in Coron (and I'll be disappointed if you don't know that this is in our beloved Philippines). This is the photo you'll find advertised in travel agencies, travel brochures, and DOT campaigns. I can't blame them for picking this. This photo best captures the things Coron has to offer. It looks amazing yet mysterious at the same time. You're seeing a lot but you'll be surprised more of what these photograph doesn't show you.

This is the huge limestone that you see from above on the photo^^.

We decided to head down the lake...

Time for a dip, don't you think?

The clear blue Kayangan lake was surrounded my limestone cliffs. There was a man-made bamboo bridge to walk in. The first dip in the cool water was amazing! We spent an hour just swimming and snorkeling in the lake (life vests came free with the tour package; goggles can be rented at P50.00/ea). There was a small cave but we were too afraid to enter it. It was dark and the water was rising. After a while, the lake got crowded with students on a field trip so we bid Kayangan Lake goodbye and went to a less crowded lake.

Will we see a barracuda?
Enter Barracuda Lake. Can you guess the reason behind the name? Naman! A huge barracuda fish lives on this lake. Our guide said she's seen it. I had mixed feelings about seeing a barracuda so huge it can probably swallow me whole. Haha. Good thing, the barracuda was a no-show. It wouldn't come to the shallow surface. The photo above is the deep part of the lake as you can see from the color of the water. It's too dark blue/green.

The lake stretches to the other side.

We had the lake to ourselves so we enjoyed this lake better than Kayangan. It was so serene and lovely. We got hungry, of course. So our boat team suggested we eat lunch after Barracuda Lake. They took us to Banol Beach, a slice of 'Boracay' in Coron. It's a small strip of white sand with a few huts where most tourists eat their lunch. Our guides prepared some grilled fish and meat for us.

  

 

Sino ba naman ang hindi gaganahan sa pagkain with this view?!
After lunch,  we went to the much-talked about Twin Lagoons.

The entrance to the lagoons.
Here's the thing about these lagoons: the bigger one welcomes you with open arms while the smaller one is a little bit mysterious. We needed to make a choice between two ways to enter the smaller, inner lagoon. One is wading in this very small, low tunnel and the other one is to climb a rickety, wooden stairs and jump to the other side. The former seemed a better idea so off we went! {I'm sorry, I didn't have photos of the small lagoon. It's part of its mystic you see. You should go to see it. That, and I didn't bring a waterproof camera with me.}

Which option will you choose?
The unusual thing about the small lagoon is the temperature of the water. It changes every feet or so. One minute you're wading in cool water, the next minute it's lukewarm. Or hotter. Or colder. You wouldn't know what to feel unless you're already there. Fascinating!

It's time to head off to a snorkel site in the area called Twin Peaks. There were so many fishes and beautiful corals in this area. Our boatman opened his stash of bread and offered it in the water. The fishes swarmed and I photographed them like crazy!

Hungry much?
Come here fishy, fishy!

We had a good time meeting the fishes.

Meet n' greet! :)
After that, we went to Siete Pecados, another snorkel site. Siete Pecados is called such, not because of bad things (seven sins), but because of the seven islets dotting the area. It's filled with colorful fishes and long stretches of coral reefs. Sayaaaaa!

The last pit stop.
Even from the boat, we can already see the corals and fishes
My friends and I waited for sunset in this area and it's one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in my life. Promise!

The sunset at Siete Pecados
These are the scenes on our way back to the port...

So nostalgic...

A burst of color
Sunsets... what a perfect way to end this marvelous day.

This is one day in my life that I'll never forget. I saw a lot of beautiful places that still tugs my heart at this very minute of writing this entry. I learned and experienced a lot. You see, I don't know how to swim and being in the water is obviously my waterloo. Even with life vests on, I cannot for the life of me, trust myself not to do something stupid and prolly drown. Well turned out, I worry too much and I don't believe in myself enough. With the help of my friends and our very friendly, funny guide Ate Tin, I conquered different kinds of fear. The beauty of Coron helped a lot. I wouldn't pass up this chance to not swim in the very blue, clear waters of Coron. And so, I managed to snorkel and wade in the water without screwing up. I managed to enjoy in my very own waterloo. That to me is an achievement. So really, I encourage you to go to Coron and experience a life-changing place. You'll be mesmerized and amazed and inspired and awed...

Okay, I'm waxing nostalgia again. Haha. The best of Coron food and products on the last installment to this travel series. :)

Happy Wednesday!


Much Love,
§undrenched
PS. I'm not blogging from MNL anymore. This tarha is back in Riyadh, haha.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Q&A Portion 12

Hi dear tarhas! How's January treating you? It's still cold in Riyadh and a Saudi officemate told us that it'll reach -7 degrees this weekend. Oh my! Let's all bundle up then! :) Anyway, we know we owe you a lot of entries and hopefully, we'll be able to recover from all those 'silent' weeks. You'll be hearing more from us in the next few days.
Orayt then, let's begin!

It's been a long time since we had the Q&A Portion. If you notice, we tend to create a series of entries and then ignore them. Like hello A Photo A Day, Collage Week, and Q&A Portion?! Where are you now? Haha. (We also forget to write entries, imagine?! Haha!) Yes, yes, we tend to write according to what we feel like writing and not go within a scope within a schedule. So, anyway, we'd like to revive the Q&A Portion and this time, we have a "Where Can I Find...?" edition. We've been asked by readers and likers in our FB page where we can find some stuff. Some blog readers might have not encountered the answers in our FB page so we're sharing them here too.


Where Can I Find...

1. An eye mask/sleeping mask
The easiest and most convenient place would have to be Claire's. They have this funky-designed eye masks suited for children and adults trying to be children. Sometimes, we see them in lingerie shops too. If you want it free, ask a stewardess for eye masks when you're flying to Saudi Arabia or anywhere. And nick keep them. We're sure they wouldn't miss it. Qatar Airways and Etihad Airlines give their passengers free loot bags with travel necessities in them. ;)
2. Jeffrey Campbell shoes/bags
There are no JC stores here in Riyadh. You can only buy them online. Shoegarfreeruby almost always go to Solestruck.com for her unusual shoe needs. Sometimes, we also use Envishoes and Nasty Gal. Sundrenched warns you against using the latter though because she didn't have a good experience shopping with them.

3. Kikay Camels
This is probably the most asked item in the blog. Where did we get these cute keychains? We got them from a bazaar in our workplace. The bazaar has long been gone so we don't know where they are now or if they have other branches in Riyadh. What we do know is these kikay camels, along with Saudi Arabia souvenirs (mugs, photo frames, magnets, etc.) are fairly easy to find. Gift shops in the city carry them. For example, there's a perfume/gift store carrying this near Al Rajhi Supermarket (beside the Military Hospital).

4. BB Creams
For those who are encountering this for the first time here, BB (Blemish Balm) creams are all the rage in Asia in 2011. They act as moisturizer and light foundation in one. There are a lot of BB creams brands in Korea and the Philippines but we haven't seen them here in Saudi Arabia. Maybe because it's not made for the Middle Eastern market. Remember that we have different types and colors of the skin so what works for Southeast Asians might not work for the Middle Easterners. A reader asked us about the Missha brand. It's not available here in Riyadh. Your best bet is online shopping, of course.
5. H&M Cosmetics
They're here in Riyadh! While not really known for their high quality makeup line (ala MAC), H&M carries very affordable cosmetics that are best for those who are just starting to build their kikay kit or those who just wants to add something new and versatile in their kits. Sundrenched hoarded their lip glosses and eyehadow palettes just because. Haha. The H&M branch in Granada Center carries them. (S haven't been to any other branches since she got back from my vacation in the Philippines.)
6. Organic Products
When we were trying the Master Cleanse (major fail for S), we scoured the city for organic stores that might carry pure maple syrup (not the ones we pour in our pancakes). We found Bio-Best in Olaya (across Al-Akaria Mall). We called them first to find out if they have the item we were looking for and good thing, they did. They offer a variety of organic foods, organic beauty products, and even natural supplements (herbal medicines). There are two more shops in Oruba Road that offer organic products but we failed to get their names. We usually pass them when we go to Tokyo Restaurant. In the Kingdom, there's Al Watania Agricultural Company, which uses organic fertilizers on their produce and natural feeding on their animals. Their products can be found in Tamimi and Azizia Hypermarkets. These huge supermarkets (also Lulu) also offer imported organic brands so be on the lookout on your next grocery shopping day.
7. Beauty Products and Salon Supplies
In the Philippines, we have Hortaleza or HBC for our salon products needs. In Riyadh, we have Nazih Trading in Olaya Road, just in between Centria Mall and Habitat. They offer a lot of beauty products  (hair care, skin care, makeup, nail treatments) and salon supplies in more affordable prices (as opposed to going to the salon and paying  SR150 for a hot oil treatment for instance). You can even buy salon furniture here if you want to build your own in-house parlor. Sosyal! We found O.P.I., one of the leading nail polish brands in the world, here.

Do you have other questions? Do you want to find anything ( we don't do missing passports or cellphones, okay?)? ASK us by commenting in the blog, visiting our Facebook page, tweeting your questions @thepinktarha, or emailing us at thepinktarha@gmail.com! :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hello 2012!!!



HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Cheers to a more productive, beautiful, and fun 2012!!!
(And hopefully more entries from us too.)
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