Saturday, May 31, 2014

Gratitude Report

Today, I made some adult commitment. 

In spite of the responsibility this brings, my heart is filled with joy how God blesses you with things one can only dream of. After some emotional roller coaster summer, I am reminded this week that everything happens for a reason and always it is for the better. 

With gratitude in my heart, allow me to share the happy things that I snapped in my spiffy point and shoot while we sweltered in the 40-degree (of course Celsius!) heat. 

While alcohol was slowly taking over my body last night, this greeted me when I opened the car door. For a second, I can hardly figure out was going on until I realized yes, Person A is one of the sweetest person I know. 

Let it be known as well that I am one of the cheesiest person you will meet.

And I melt. 

This morning, I mustered the strength to cut some of the flowers and plop it in the vase. 

Speaking of flowers,  these are the beautiful blooms that we chanced upon during our morning walk in Baguio on the grounds of our favorite hotel. 

Fluffy, healthy, hydrangeas....

Yellow mums and cabbage-like cacti (which I am pretty sure has a proper name) 

This butterfly enjoying the wild flower as much as we do ...

Mornings are best spent with your favorite-st person in the world.

Speaking of walks, let me share with you how I pimped my toes 3 weeks back. 

Boom! Stabilo Yellow! Ubos ang highlighter sa opisina!

It did not disappoint, it was noticed by everyone - friends, Romans, boss  alike. 

Fret not, my toe nails are now back to neutrals care of O.P.I. Taupeless Beach. 

What's happiness if we don't include food in the picture. While we were in Baguio for my bestfriend's wedding, I finally had the chance to try breakfast at Cafe by the Ruins. It's absolutely good and worth it. 

This comes with fresh fruits and juice and may I just say that's the longest longganisa ever. At least 1-foot long. 

Person A has finally rubbed off his favorite dessert on me, this is my Summer 2014 official favorite - Amici's Gelato Brazo de Mercedes. 

Sinful. Calories. Sorry, I'm not really sorry.

To wrap up this post, I was so happy to watch the ballet recital of my very cute friend. 

Admittedly, they're way cuter than I am. Look at this lot at the end of the show. 

The recital also featured the prettiest Tahitian dancers. 

It was one of the best Sunday afternoons this summer.

Life is full of little happy things that sometimes we forget to notice. We are always blessed.

Have a great weekend, friends!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Maldives: Angsana Ihuru

God gives the most wonderful gifts.

On top of showering me with the best life partner any girl could wish for, He threw in little extras here and there. One of which is a trip to the Indian Ocean where we spent our days lounging in the sand under the Maldivian sun.

Let’s back track a bit on how we were able to zero in on this beach paradise out of the  4 countries we considered to honeymoon at. First we knew that we wanted a laid back vacation: meaning lounge, eat, sleep, repeat: that leaves us with beach or a mountain lodge. Though we asked ourselves a number of times if we would like to forego an African safari or spend a week at a beautiful seaside Croatian town.

Then enter the season, we considered that if we spend our hard-saved money on a splurge vacation, we should get the most sunshine and the least rain. This crossed out our Tanzanian safari dream, a week in Bora Bora (which, the airfare costs gaz$$$$illion if you travel from the Philippines), even the Seychelles ala-Prince William-Kate Middleton-honeymoon was not option – all because these places are in their off season.

Which narrows down our option for a beach holiday – Maldives – January is the start of their “summer” season.  Plus, we were scared that it will be gobbled up by the ocean should global warming melts all the glaciers hence it‘s now or never.

No matter what people say that Maldives is over-rated, I’d say not. It’s paradise with a dash of luxury in 50 shades of blue.

Choosing a honeymoon destination is one big lesson on geography. We learned where Papeete and Zanzibar are and that Colombo is a major hub in the Indian Ocean. We also fancied the places on the South American continent and visiting Patagonia is on our long-term vacation plan.

The Earth is  a very beautiful place.

The Place

Among the thousands of resorts in Maldives, we were able to  zero in on Angsana Ihuru for its excellent house reef – rumored to be the best on the island chain. We fancied on resting the entire day, sunbathe and when things get boring, snorkel and probably kayak around the island and Angsana Ihuru doesn't disappoint. 

Journey starts in Manila with a quick layover in KL before landing at Male 23:00 - local time - which is 4 hours later than Manila. Air travel time is 7 hours with 2 hours stop to change aircraft.

This is your Maldivian taxi at midnight: ride from Hulhule to Male. 

We stayed at a quaint hotel in Male, had leisurely breakfast at an Aussie-owned joint and then reported at the jetty before 1200. 

Our island adventure begins. 

Upon arriving, a guest relation officer welcomed us and gave us a rundown on the resort. The hotel employs a multinational staff and our pretty welcome party of 1 is from Slovakia. She served us this ice cream.

The island is small enough for your to walk around in 20 minutes. My island fashion on our first day. 

Person A's version of resort wear - at least his uniform.  

This is my husband in action. 

There are around 40 villas (90% of which are beach front) and here's a sneak peek of our villa. The entrance with my favorite wash basin of coconut shell and clay pot. 

The service staff makes sure that a frangipani/gumamela is soaked in our wash basin. I love washing my feet before getting inside the boli. 

The suite comes with its own living room and a work station facing the ocean... not that I worked but I blogged once or twice. 

It has one of the best lightings as well: perfect for day and night. 

Can I say the bathroom is to die for? It is an outdoor bath with 2 showers to choose from. I remember taking a shower while it's drizzling and under the stars. 

I want one at home. I already told the husband.  We. Must. Work. Hard.

Going outside the villa is our own stretch of beach but first, you can enjoy outdoor breakfast on the wooden porch. There's a daybed - which is my favorite place to lounge around before sleep time. Enjoying the fresh sea breeze, with the waves lapping the shore, the stars above and my favorite person in the world. 

This swing is also a favorite during daytime. The bungisngis is a testament to that. 

The lounge chair and the sand is a story of its own. My date -(",)-*wink* My forever date. *Keso*

Haayyy.... I want to live here. 

The Activities

Let it be known that an Angsana Ihuru means a do-nothing vacation or also known as sleep, eat, sunbathe, snorkel, repeat. However, for the purposes of discussion, let me share the amenities available on the island. 

Snorkeling is the best. You can opt to snorkel at the light blue portion, i.e. shallow area, or you can venture out of the coral reef via the snorkeling path: there are 5 exit points on the island...

and get your self treated to an island cliff delight and along that cliff is the best snorkeling experience I've had.

A pufferfish

A red one

I have no intention to bother you, folks. 

These are at least a meter long. I thought I'd only see you guys in the deep blue sea.

Oh wait, this is the deep blue sea!

This looks like a party

Squid, anyone?

I love snorkeling more than Person A does but the 2 of us - we love getting baked in the sun: sunbathe it is! It is our favorite activity on the island. 

We do it in the morning and afternoon typically on the sand because getting burned on the sand is much better than doing it on your lounge chair. You can also say that table tennis is a sport on the island. I love table tennis so I spent time hitting ball with Person A and chasing it on the beach.

Here's my husband giving it a go with a Chinese guest who invited him to play. They did not understand each other but I remember it was an exciting game.

You can also hop on a boat and go to Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and feed the stingrays. 

These are wild stingrays - meaning they venture out the Indian Ocean but at 1700H they always report back to the shore of the island to get fed. About 15 of them report everyday and the Biologist has to scratch their mouths to tell them that feeding time is over and it's time to go. 

Vabbinfaru is one beautiful island (it is owned by the same company - hence guests can visit both islands) and when we have the resource to come back, this will be on top of the list. Mario, the island bird, usually accompanies you when you sunbathe on the island's shore.

On our last day on Ihuru, Person A arranged a spa date. Here's my spa ninja. 

The massage was of the Chi kind - hagod-hagod, haplos haplos and although it lacked the pressure of my favorite Swedish stroke, it's the most relaxing massage I've ever had. My energy has been aligned.

Just don't think of the cost. 

The massage comes with free luxurious facial, perfect for our burnt faces. 

The Food

And yes, drinking and eating are both a sport in our books hence, presenting the calorie gorging that happened in between. Breakfast and lunch are buffet while dinner is buffet and set meals every other night. This is the view from the main restaurant. 

Not bad, eh? 

Please get the all-in package (breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks from 11AM to 11PM) since this will come cheaper and you will never go hungry. Imagine beer and wine every hour!

The buffet spread and food is insane. Everything (Asian and Western) is good except for the pasta! 

So steer clear of the pasta but the rest is sooo good. I had steak lunch and dinner everyday. 

Sample dessert... need I say more?

Fresh fruit juice, shakes, soda, wine and beer are the drinks for pairing. Oh yes, S. Pellegrino water is available as well. 

This is what I do on our daily walk to breakfast. I can't resist doing tampisaw - hindi makapaghintay na makakain muna. 

Water babies problem.

The husband asked me out on a dinner date at Vabbinfaru (we're keso like that) and here we are waiting for dinner. 

And here's dinner. Banyan Tree, being the highest end of the group, offers fine dining plated meal. 

Salad for appetizer

Main course


Here's the bar where you can order your drinks anytime. I was probably drunk already - hence the blurry photo.

Travel Tips

If you plan to enjoy Maldives, here are some tips:

1. If you come from the Philippines, the  cheapest stop is via Colombo, Sri Lanka, value for money option is through Kuala Lumpur (we took Malaysian Airlines but there's Air Asia, I think) and the luxury way (which will cost you USD200/person more) is via Singapore. 

2. With hundreds of resort to choose from, it would be best to list your priority activity so you can easily narrow down which island to visit: 

a. Do Nothing - Island amenity is a must: nice room, excellent and secluded beach for sunbathing and good food. 

b. Snorkeling/Diving - I love snorkeling and Angsana Ihuru offers the best if you combine both a and b. The island reef is simply the best and it's right at your backyard. Please be warned that majority of Maldives resort don't have a decent reef around the area and you have to travel. As for diving, I am sure other resorts offer the best also on the country. 

c. Family or Couple Resort - You also have to consider if you want a family resort or a honeymooner's paradise. I honestly prefer a secluded island where I can be with the sun, sea and Person A - with minimal distractions :P

d. Budget - You can dream for the best diving spot but if you can't afford it or be in debt for you to enjoy it - then I don't think it's a wise choice. If you do a check, cost would range from USD 400 - USD 2,000/ night and definitely more - that excludes food and taxes. This is based on 3-star to 5-star cost. 

3. In order for you to maximize your stay at the hotel, it would be good to take a rest at Male so you can check in at 12noon at your resort. We also purposely allotted a day to explore Male so at least we get to know the place and meet people. 

4. Speaking of Male, if you want to do budget Maldives, it is possible if you make Male your base and just do a daily island excursion. It can possibly cut the cost by 75%!

5. As I said, some people say that Maldives is overrated, I say Angsana Ihuru is a beautiful place, with luxurious amenities and has been worth every penny we saved up for to kick start our forever. 



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