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Sunday, July 19, 2015

HanumanAlaya, Siem Reap: A Home, Art Gallery, Resort in One

HanumanAlaya Angkor's Boutique Residence blends the best of Khmer hospitality and Cambodian design, in harmony with international levels of service and sophistication.

My very first hotel experience, and my favorite in Siem Reap so far! This, probably is the best hotel I have stayed in Cambodia, ever. The hotel, restaurant, art gallery, and pool are so beautiful and relaxing.

Hotel entrance

What I like about HanumanAlaya Boutique Residence is its friendly and helpful staff. The boutique hotel also serve great food at the Reahoo Restaurant, and they have this little pool with a relaxing oasis feel.

The hotel is in a handy spot, very close to everything - perfect if you are planning on exploring the temples of Angkor, and it's just a short tuk tuk ride from the center - where you can spend the night partying at Pub Street and enjoy the food and cheap draught beer.

By the way, you can ask the reception to book you an Angkor Temple tour - hassle free because they will just pick you up at the hotel, lunch and tuk tuk ride/english speaking guide included.

The rooms and bathrooms are amazing. Their bedrooms are large, well-appointed and comfortable.

Look at that vintage-looking telephone in our room!

They even have a little art gallery with hundreds of these beautiful art pieces and creations that will let you breathe Khmer culture and tradition. The artworks and the architecture of the boutique in general were extremely interesting, which added interest with every turn.

I would definitely recommend HanumanAlaya Boutique Residence! The level of care and attention make the whole stay so much better than any other huge and expensive hotels around Siem Reap. And I don't need to try the others! I'd stay here again, and again. :)

HanumanAlaya Angkor's Boutique Residence
Website & Online booking
Address: 5 Krom 2 | Phoum Treang, Siem Reap PO2321, Cambodia
Phone: +855 (0) 63 760 582 | +855 (0) 63 760 581

The hotel lobby looks like a typical house entrance

There's artwork everywhere! The place is inspiring and empowering!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

My 13 Favorite ILOCOS Destinations: Kapurpurawan, Vigan, Windmills, Paoay, MORE!

Windmills of Bangui, Ilocos Norte

Ilocos is approximately 400km away from Manila, or to give you a more imaginable data, it's about 8-9 hours travel by land. Ilocos is divided into Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur provinces. Well, enough of the wiki facts! Let me tell you about my personal experience! :D

Ilocos is marked by an incredibly rich cultural heritage. It is where the old meets the new. Aside from the cultural experience, Ilocos is also home to some of the most breath-taking sceneries in the North - perfect for nature-lovers and adrenaline junkies. And delicious food, by the way!!

Let me go through these items one by one.

1. Ilocos Norte Welcome Arch

One of the tourist-popular sites you will first encounter the moment you enter Ilocos is the Ilocos Norte Welcome Arch. You can ask your driver to park at the side of the street for a quick photo op with the famous Ilocos landmark.

2. Bantay Bell Tower

Bantay Church is a well-known pilgrimage among Catholics because it houses the miraculous image of Apo Caridad (Our Lady of Charity), the oldest Marian icon in the region. Going up the church' bell tower was fulfilling and relaxing.

One of the bells up the tower. These bells are huge!!

Beautiful view of Vigan as the dawn breaks

3. Paoay Church

One of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, The Church of St. Augustine, more popularly known as Paoay Church is one of the star destinations in Ilocos.

Let me tell you one interesting fact about the church: Did you know that the bell tower of Paoay Church is made from corals? Look closely at the pictures for you to find out!

4. The MalacaƱang of the North

The MalacaƱang of the North used to be the official residence of President Ferdinand Marcos during his term, and now serves as a public museum. Nice place to drop by if you are into colonial mansions as this one is well-preserved and regularly maintained.

5. Marcos Museum and Mausoleum

The mausoleum houses the remains of the late Ferdinand Marcos. The Marcoses memorabilia can be found inside the museum.

6. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, also known as Burgos Lighthouse, is a cultural heritage structure in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, that was established during the Spanish Colonial period. A winding road from the highway to the hilltop will take you to the lighthouse. It has a nice view of the ocean and cliffs off the coast.

7. Paoay Sand Dunes

This is one of my favorite activities! For only 500 pesos per head for a group of 5, you get to experience an extreme 4x4 ride in the sand dunes. You also can also try sand boarding if you feel like sliding down the sandy terrain.

WARNING: Be sure to hold tight because the 4x4 ride can scare the hell out of you especially on sloping areas of the dunes! It's like a crazy roller coaster ride! FUN!

8. Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

Nature's beauty at its finest. The white rocks of Kapurpurawan in Burgos, Ilocos Norte were sculpted through time by the forces of the wind, rain water, and ocean waves. "Puraw" in Ilocano means "white".

The rocks are whitest during April to May. Definitely worth the long walk under the scorching heat of the sun.

See my Instagram video of the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation.

9. Kabigan Falls

Kabigan Falls is found deep in the forest of Ilocos Norte. It takes about 30 minutes of trek to get you to this 120-feet high waterfall. It's breathtaking!

10. Giant Windmills of Bangui

There are over a hundred of these giant windmills in Ilocos. Each stands 70+ meters high and each blade measures 41 meters long. The windmills are a source of sustainable energy that provides 40% of Ilocos Norte's electricity.

Jumpshot!! :D

11. Pagudpud Beach

After a tiring road trip around Ilocos, a relaxing dip through the crystal blue waters and fine sand of Pagudpud beach would be a superb idea! Here you can do zip-lining, banana boat ride, surfing, or a chill sunbathing by the beach.

12. Calle Crisologo

Vigan, one of the New7Wonder cities of the world is a city rich in centuries-old history. A walk though Vigan's Calle Crisologo is absolutely recommended if you wish to take a trip down memory lane and revisit the Philippine-Spanish colonial time.

TIP: you might want to wake up early and visit Calle Crisologo just after sunrise because it gets too crowded during lunch time 'til evening.

13. Ilocano Food

Empanada, Pinakbet Pizza, Poqui-poqui, and Dinakdakan are some of the must-try food in Ilocos. My personal favorite is Dinakdakan!

For Pinakbet Pizza, I suggest you try it at Herencia Cafe in front of Paoay Church simply because of the stunning view of the UNESCO church while you eat. Adds more drama. :)

For authentic Ilocano food, I highly recommend:
Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant | must-try: dinakdakan, poqui poqui, and tamarind Juice
- La Preciosa Fine Dining | must-try: bagnet, and carrot cake - super delicious!!

Follow me on Instagram @enjayneer for real-time travel updates! :)

Detailed Itinerary:

2100 ETD Manila to Laoag

0530 ETA Laoag
0600 Laoag City Tour

 - Bantay Bell Tower
 - Paoay Sand Dunes
 - Malacanang of the North 
 - Paoay Church 
 - Marcos Museum and Mausoleum
1200 Lunch
1300 Continuation of tour
1600 Hotel check-in

0700 Breakfast
0800 Northern-Pagudpud Tour

 - Burgos Lighthouse
 - Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
 - Bangui Windmills
1200 Lunch
1300 Continuation of tour
 - Kabigan Falls (30 minutes hike)
 - Patapat Viaduct
 - Pagudpud Beach
1700 Back to hotel
0700 Breakfast
0800 Vigan City Tour: Calle Crisologo, Baluarte ni Singsong, shopping
1200 Lunch
1300 ETD Manila
2200 ETA Manila

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Talk soon!
- Jaypee