Where to stay in Legazpi: Mayon Backpackers Hostel

When we were searching for places to stay in Legazpi City, we really didn’t know what options to expect. Average hotels would be fine anyway, just as long as they fit our P500-per-person-per-day budget and they have proper door locks.

But finding a HOSTEL in this part of the country—now that was a surprise.

Mayon Backpackers Hostel opened late last year and has so far received rave reviews at Tripadvisor, so we decided to give it a go.

Mayon Backpackers Hostel Review by Two2Travel.com

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Review: The North Face Alteo 35 Backpack

I got The North Face Alteo 35 backpack late last year as sort of replacement for my old TNF Jester daypack, which, although still very much in mint condition, wasn’t as comfortable as before. Don’t get me wrong—the TNF Jester is a fantastic bag and it’s still the most comfortable daypack I’ve used. Let’s just say what I pack in just outgrew its carrying capacity.

Two2Travel | The North Face Alteo 35 Review

In came The North Face Alteo 35, a 35-liter rucksack made for multi-day trips and probably one or two-day climbs (although don’t bet on my word for the latter because I am no mountaineer and I haven’t gone trekking a mountain with this yet). For trekking enthusiasts who may have landed on this page looking for a definitive review of the Alteo, I apologize in advance for my limited know-how. To make it a little easier for all of us, I’m reviewing the bag as a multi-day traveling pack. Hope it becomes helpful all the same.

THE NORTH FACE ALTEO 35: WHO IS IT FOR?

The TNF Alteo 35 is great for backpackers on trips no shorter than a week. I daresay it’s ideal for month-long travels too if and only if you know how to pack right—and by packing right, I mean packing light. And if I may add, which I’ll explain a little later, the TNF Alteo 35 is also perfect for people with small frames. Yep, people like me. PAK.

Two2Travel | North Face Alteo 35 review
I am all of 5’1″ folks, so its fit is just right, right?

Note:
  • Used at least once a month out of town since date of purchase; longest trip duration was a weekmonth and still a-okay
  • Never used for mountain climbing
  • Bought November last year, P8,990, ROX Camp John Hay
  • As you can see, apart from it being a huge financial predicament (darnit), it also hasn’t been used (and abused) that much. Others may even argue that’s no proper way to use a backpack at all.

    But for all it’s worth, The North Face Alteo 35 has so far been serving my travel needs very well. When Owen and I travel together for short periods (like three days), we simply stuff this with all our things (two sets of DSLRs included, plus tripod at the bottom) and we’re good to go. Owen has been thinking of getting one since I got mine—probably a 50L—but we figured we wouldn’t need one yet until the latter half of this year.

    I initially wanted the good ol’ TNF Terra 35, which by the way comes in more colors than the Alteo (so far I’ve only seen a pure black and an orange-gray Alteo at ROX BGC & John Hay). For those who are trying to decide which between the Terra 35 and Alteo 35 is better, here’s a quick comparison. You’ll notice that I’ll also be discussing much of the Alteo’s key features along the way.

    alteo models
    These are Alteo 35 models apparently available only at the European market. Left & middle photo from here. Right photo—which shows how a hydration pack & tube are fitted inside—from here.

    FITTING

    Both had the usual padded shoulder straps and hipbelt, but Alteo’s hipbelt is a bit wider, hugging the hips better and providing better support, methinks.

    Two2Travel | The North Face Alteo 35 Review

    FORM

    The Terra 35 is narrower and longer than the Alteo. When I tried the Terra, it was level with the top of my head while the Alteo was just a bit over my shoulder. The Alteo also looks a bit wider, which is most likely how they compensated for the reduction in height. I think this worked better in distributing weight to the lower part of the body instead of the shoulders. Then again, that may just be me and my wild imagination.

    FABRIC

    The Alteo is made mostly of nylon so it’s bound to be more resistant against dirt, moisture, and odor than the polyester fabric of the Terra. If any, the Alteo looks way easier to dust off.

    FUNCTION

    The defining feature of the Alteo 35 is the WindTunnel—basically a plate fitted at the back of the pack that’s arcing away from the wearer’s back towards the bottom. This creates a void between the bag itself and the wearer, separated by a mesh sheath designed to ventilate the back portion better than most backpacks do. It’s a genius! I’ve never had a sweatfest while using this, even when I had to walk all around Kalibo during the Ati-Atihan a few months ago because we didn’t have a place to leave our bags to.

    Two2Travel | The North Face Alteo 35 Review
    A backpack with a built-in electric fan — well, sort of. I love this feature!

    Two2Travel | The North Face Alteo 35 Review
    The back portion has mesh outer covers, letting air circulate better. There’s also a whistle on the buckle for emergencies. Very nifty.

    OTHER ALTEO 35 FEATURES

    ACCESS

    Aside from the top drawstring opening, its front face access opens two ways so it’s easier to reach to the darkest pits of the bag without unpacking the living hell out of it.

    Two2Travel | The North Face Alteo 35 Review

    POCKETS, POCKETS EVERYWHERE

    It has two big elasticated side pockets for water bottles; another long pocket outside where I usually pack my slippers for easy access (shown below); a zipped mesh pocket on the inside (shown above); and a space for a hydration pack on the opposite side (the orange compartment above).

    Two2Travel | The North Face Alteo 35 Review

    Climbers will be delighted to find out that it also has a nearly obscure hole at the top right portion through which they can slip hydration tubes. The hipbelt also doubles as a mesh pocket, which I find very handy for holding my passport, pen, notebook, phone, and loose change. A compact camera can also fit inside. There’s also another compartment on top of the flap where you can keep documents and other small stuff you might need in transit. You can also slip in a sleeping bag or tripod at the bottom part.

    Two2Travel | The North Face Alteo 35 Review

    CAPACITY

    The plate arcing farther from the back does look like it’s sacrificing a lot of space inside. I carry an 11-inch laptop which I stuff above the area where it arcs since it won’t fit at the bottom. It’s all good for my ends, though I’m not so sure how well that space can carry bigger ones.

    Here’s a sample I’m working on for a weeklong trip to Bicol this weekend. Everything you see here is pretty much all I’m carrying with me.

    what fits in a TNF Alteo 35

    Two2Travel | The North Face Alteo 35 Review
    The two biggest cases (clothes + camera) go right at the bottom. You’ll notice that area where the plate arcs, which makes fitting rigid stuff rather difficult.

    Two2Travel | The North Face Alteo 35 Review
    Stuffed pretty much everything inside. The laptop is just below the drybag and everything else.

    Two2Travel | The North Face Alteo 35 Review
    As you can see I still have lots of space left.

    MOBILITY

    It’s a big backpack so be prepared to part with it if you’re in cramped buses. Best solution to this is to anticipate your transport means and leave it at the bus compartment if you keep your valuables in a separate (and smaller) bag.

    WHAT I LOVE BEST ABOUT THE NORTH FACE ALTEO 35:

    I love how well it distributes the weight into the hips and away from the shoulders. I easily get shoulder strains which is why I gave up on the Jester. This is a gap that the Alteo has filled in really well. I could actually stuff the whole bag full and feel the weight disappear as I buckle the hipbelt in place.

    I also love that I can simply let the shoulder straps loosely dangle from my shoulders as I walk because the whole pack’s weight is absorbed by my lower body. Walking for longer periods while lugging everything is definitely easier and breezier.

    Of course, having to carry that load after a few hours does get to you somehow. After all, the hips and knees are bearing much of the brunt here, but at least it doesn’t strain all the unnecessary parts. Overall I really love my Alteo 35. It’s a bag for keeps, unless I decide to be taller later on and hence carry a 50-liter pack, which isn’t going to happen in maybe a million lifetimes.

    What pack do YOU count on when traveling?

    What’s that one thing you cannot travel without?

    The things we take with us when traveling to strange places are pieces of home—the familiar, the comfortable, the secure. Most of us yearn for adventure—it’s what traveling is about, yes?—but before we even get a foot out of that door, we yearn for assurance first, and we take that with us on our backs wherever we go.

    And that’s when we begin to experience the joy of stepping on strange lands, becoming friends with people whose language we know just one word of, tasting food we can only pray won’t let us stay in the toilet for the entire duration of our stay. Everything is overwhelmingly, beautifully new.

    So how is it for travelers like these people who are gracing our pages now (THANK YOU, guys!)? They scale mountains, dive to the depths of the seas, ride waves, take photos. They lead different lives but they’re all bitten by that travel bug just like all of us. What travels with them?

    What's that one thing you cannot travel without?

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    Tips for your trips: Apo Island, Negros Oriental

    Not to be mistaken with Mindoro’s Apo Reef, Apo Island in Negros Oriental is a haven for snorkelers, divers, and those who can live off only 3.5 hours of electricity per day. Yep, that’s from 6 PM to 9:30 PM only, and expect videoke stalls in full blast throughout the small barangay, because after that, everything plunges to darkness and silence until the next day.

    Tips for your Trips: Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental

    Most visitors who simply want to swim with sea turtles sign up for a day trip with a dive center in Dumaguete. Those who opt to stay the night, meanwhile, have simple board and lodging options. If you’re looking for a fancy holiday, this island won’t give you any lounge chairs and spa treatments, but as long as you know how to breathe through a snorkel, its waters should shut wayward thoughts of five-star holidays off your mind for a few days.

    If you’re staying in Dumaguete, this one’s worth a day trip. Siquijor, meanwhile, is more or less an hour away.

    How to get to Apo Island





    Apo Island is located off the southern coast of the Negros mainland. Depending on the sailing conditions and how big or small your outrigger is, the trip may take 30 minutes to an hour.

    The easiest route to take is to fly to Dumaguete, take a jeep to Malatapay market (30 minutes from the city proper), and rent a boat to the island (P2,000 for up to 4 people).

    If you are lucky, you can ride with boats carrying other tourists and just split the costs with them.

    Alternate routes:
    • From Bacolod (Negros Occidental), take a Ceres bus to Dumaguete (5 or 6 hours; around P250).
    • If coming from Cebu City, take a bus south to Liloan (3-4 hours, around P250). From Liloan, take a ferry to Dumaguete (30 minutes, P62).

    Where to stay on Apo Island

    Liberty’s Lodge is one of two big resorts at the western face of the island. It’s the single largest beachfront structure and is difficult to miss. The views from their hillside rooms are stunning—we realized as much because the entire property runs parallel with the stairs going up the lighthouse. Rates are between P800 (dorm) and P3,300 (maximum of two occupants). Rates already include three meals a day.

    Apo Island Beach Resort, meanwhile, has the most exclusive beachfront location on the island (actually, it’s the only one with the slightest hint of a beachfront in the whole island). It’s enclosed by an assemblage of tall volcanic rocks away from the rest of the establishments but is still easily accessible. Rates start at P800 for dorms to P3,400 per night for the cabins. If it’s any consolation, they do have a generator running till midnight.

    We stayed at Mario’s, a dive center slash homestay, whose rates range from P600 to P1000 per night. Their rooms are clean, spacious and breezy, and they offer *probably* the cheapest dive rates on the island.

    Other homestays are available farther inland at around P500 per room per night, double occupancy.

    CHOW 2

    Food was such a bummer. To say the options were limited would be an understatement. When we got there, we had two options: have our meals at our homestay (they could cook for us at P180 per person per meal) or look for stalls that serve cooked food on the island. We tried both and were terribly disappointed both times. Those at our homestay were overpriced considering the kind of ‘food’ we got in return. We did like the banana pancakes they served for breakfast though, and the fact that we could have coffee all day every freaking day. 

    We also ate at one of the eateries doubling as videoke stalls one night—their menu was disappointingly familiar (think fried chicken proportions, que horror), but they did have fish for grilling so we opted for that. Well, we didn’t return the next day, or ever.

    The best way we could think of is to buy supplies instead at the Malatapay market and just let your hosts cook for you. Or if you cook well, you can just ask to use their kitchen.

    What to do / see in Apo Island

    Of course, go snorkeling and look for sea turtles!

    Who needs electricity all day when you can soak up in its crystal clear waters just a few meters off the shore and have your sea turtle fix until your skin gets pruned? It is worth noting that Apo Island hasn’t always been like this; it was a poor fishing village that relied on dynamite fishing until it was transformed into the country’s first successful marine conservation project.

    The marine park office is right in front of the beach, where you can pay for your marine park conservation fees (if I’m not mistaken, P100 for snorkelers and P300 for divers). Ours was already part of the diving package we availed of at Mario’s. Life buoys, lifejackets, snorkels, masks, and fins are also available for rent there.

    Hike to the lighthouse.

    You’d take the hike not really because you want to see the lighthouse—which is nothing of epic proportions by the way—but to see the sunset from the island’s highest point. From here, you can also see Mt. Talinis from across the seas. The hike takes 15 to 20 minutes through concrete steps.

    Dive.

    Dive packages range from all-inclusive rates of P1,100 to P1,800. Ours was at Mario’s Scuba at P1,100 per dive. The rate includes DM fee, gear rental, boat, and conservation fees. Liberty’s Lodge and Apo Island Beach Resort also have dive centers.

    Although the dive sites at the eastern end of the island are closed, all those at the western end are accessible. I counted at least six, including Coconut Point at the north-western side, which is known for its schools of jacks. This is for advanced divers only though since Coconut Point is notorious for its whirlpool currents. The coral gardens at Chapel’s Point and West Rock Point were stunning and visibility was great.

    photo tip 3

    Interesting points for photographers

    Boluarte, a volcanic rock formation in front of Apo Island Beach Resort. The formation is one of the island’s most popular landmarks. You can also walk further inland to find a mangrove area (we don’t really know which direction it is, because it was difficult to orientate once you get past the maze of houses).

    We haven’t explored the other side of the island because it was closed to the public following the storms. The island is giving time for the corals to regrow—which will take years—so no swimming, snorkeling, or diving for now in those areas.

    Other options

    This was how it turned out for us: We stayed at Harold’s in Dumaguete before heading for Apo Island. We arranged our roundtrip boat rides with them because they were organizing snorkel and dive trips everyday anyway. Total cost is P500 per person, roundtrip, which is half the usual boat rides when coming from Malatapay. We also got a bonus: we were able to snorkel along with the group for the most part of the day before being hauled to our place for the night on the island. It was a very good bargain, considering the dive boat also had this breezy upper deck we were able to have for ourselves. It was so big we could run around and roll over on deck if we wanted to. And they serve humongous sandwiches too, and coffee and tea and fruits are free for your taking throughout the trip. If that ain’t awesome, I don’t know what is.

    Harold’s Day Trip packages:

    Snorkeling: P1,000 per person, inclusive of roundtrip land transfers (Dumaguete-Dauin-Dumaguete, 30 minutes), roundtrip boat ride (Dauin-Apo Island-Dauin), gear rental (mask, fins, snorkel), and snacks.
    Diving: P2800 per diver for 2 dives; P3300 for 3 dives, inclusive of roundtrip land and boat transfers, marine conservation fees, DM, gear rental, and snacks.

    If you want to just snorkel/dive in Apo Island, go to a dive center in Dumaguete instead. Harold’s is one, Liquid Dumaguete is another. They schedule dive trips to Apo, Siquijor, Sumilon, and Dauin.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Apo Island
    Apo Island’s lighthouse

    TWO2TRAVEL | Apo Island
    Harold’s dive boat departing Dauin for Apo

    TWO2TRAVEL | Apo Island | Underwater
    Sea turtle spotted at very shallow waters! If you love being underwater, you’ll want to live in this place.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Apo Island | Underwater
    Isn’t it obvious? We love Apo Island’s waters!

    two2travel | apo island
    Photographers will have a field day taking photos of the people as they go about their lives.

    two2travel | apo island
    Craggy landscapes make up much of this little island. Just beautiful!

    two2travel | apo island
    Beach dogs. They follow you wherever you go.

    two2travel | apo island
    Island women station themselves near the beach where boats dock so they can sell their wares to tourists.

    Links: LIBERTY’S LODGE | APO ISLAND BEACH RESORT | HAROLD’S MANSION

    View Larger Map

    Baguio on a budget

    Ah, Panagbenga. The last time we were on the streets of Baguio for the festival was 2011—we skipped last year’s and one of us got a tattoo out of boredom instead—but we’re thinking of staying in this weekend and seeing our beloved cold city stage a festival again.

    Two2Travel | Baguio on a budget
    Anybody who’s ever had the chance to live in Baguio will tell you it is cheap here. Of course—it’s a university town. For those who don’t have a lot to spare, Baguio can ably give you that warm and fuzzy feeling you thought only fat bank accounts can give. Seriously.

    Going up this weekend? Skip the mall(s). Go around by foot if you can. Jacket not necessary.
    Continue reading “Baguio on a budget”

    Where to stay in Manila: MNL Boutique Hostel

    For those of us who don’t live in Manila, finding a nice, safe place to crash for the night is as hard as getting a good-natured cabbie to ferry you around. So it’s such a relief when, while searching for a place online, we stumbled upon this new hostel that looked very promising.

    Two2Travel | MNL Boutique Hostel

    Continue reading “Where to stay in Manila: MNL Boutique Hostel”

    Sharks and surprises: 2013’s first month so far

    Don’t we all love a clean slate—

    It’s like getting a brand new notebook to write on, a new pair of shoes to trudge with, a spanking new camera to take with you to places.

    Sometimes, it’s like getting one of these new plastic cards too:

    PADI scuba diving open water diver certificate | Two2Travel
    Our ticket to sea turtles and sharks and mantas in the wild.

    And this is how our first month’s notebook for this year looks like so far (and no, our handwriting, at least mine, is not this nice):

    2

    License to see SHAAAAARKS.

    Owen and I got licensed late last year, but we didn’t get our IDs until early this month. This means we can now go on dive trips on our own (but the ID is just a meager part of it; the dive fund—THAT is the big question). Now all we can think of are sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, and how to fund this hobby that’s probably going to strip us bare of cash even before it warms up on our hands.

    Free dive trip!

    And just like that, the Universe decided to play Santa this early: Thursday this week I received news that I won an online photo contest by a scuba diving website, earning me a three-night stay at El Galleon Resort in Puerto Galera and two fun dives! JACKPOT!!! Thank you Universe! Keep all the good things coming!!! :-)

    DSC_8135My photo of Calaguas with those two kids won me a free dive trip this year!

    Festival Frenzy.

    January is always a great time to travel around the country because of the four big festivals Dinagyang, Sinulog, Ati-Atihan, and the Feast of the Black Nazarene. And since all this traveling preoccupation started with Dinagyang in 2011, we’ve made it a point to attend as many fiestas as we can from then on.

    two2travel | Nazareno 2013
    Nazarene 2013. Read more here.
    And after seeing Sinulog last year and Dinagyang the past two years, we’re finally ticking off the other two: the Feast of the Black Nazarene just this week and Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan next week! Ati-Atihan is the Philippines’ oldest festival and is said to have a very different vibe from Sinulog and Dinagyang. We can’t wait to see it for yourselves!

    APO ISLAND.

    We decided to forego our Dinagyang plans this year to make room (i.e., save money) for a dive trip to Apo Island in Negros Oriental, where we’re going right after Kalibo (and on that note, Universe, please give us the camera we’ve been wanting to use on this trip but for some reason is out of stock in every freaking camera store in the Philippines).

    Apo Island is one of the best dive sites in the Philippines and the world, but frankly I’d be very happy with just a sea turtle. I’ve always wanted to see one but I haven’t been very lucky. Hopefully on this trip, I will (fine, Owen will) manage to take a photo of our big shelled friends in the wild.

    That said, do we have any New Year’s Resolutions?

    Uh, we’ll cross the bridge when we get there. Hope it’s not some bridge with a hole that can swallow a whole motorcycle though.

    Thanks for reading! Hoping you’ll stick with us this year! Add us up on Facebook & Twitter!

    pinoy-blog-carnival-logo
    This is Two2Travel‘s first entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival. The January carnival is hosted by Roj of Adventuroj.




    Our 12 favorite travel snapshots for 2012

    2012 has been a generous year for us and as much as we’d like to pour our hearts out, we’re already pressed for time (time check: 7:41 AM December 31) and we haven’t even written about everything we’ve been to. So we’ve simply chosen six shots each that we would remember 2012 fondly by.

    It had been an amazing second year of traveling together, and we cannot wait for 2013 to come so we can get started with our plans! Thank you too to our readers—hope you stick with us next year! Here’s to an awesome 2013 for all of us!

    http://www.two2travel.com/2012/12/our-12-favorite-travel-snapshots-for.html

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    No fly, no problem: Air travel alternatives in the Philippines

    Planes can sometimes be a messy affair. They’re darn expensive when you don’t book 10 years in advance, and they can leave you just like that if you’re not there when they’re ready to fly. But then they can hold you off for two hours or 24 hours at the slightest technical glitch. It’s an unfair world of flying, we know.

    TWO2TRAVEL AIRTRAVEL ALTERNATES

    Continue reading “No fly, no problem: Air travel alternatives in the Philippines”

    Stunning hilltop views and more at Thunderbird Resorts Rizal

    Immaculately soft pillows make for good beds—others would argue they make for great beds—but the best beds aren’t even about the mattress you rest on for the night. It’s about what greets you the minute you wake up.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird



    This is why great waking up moments are usually associated with the scent of coffee, sunlight streaming through the window, stunning balcony views, or at times, a plateful of your favorite breakfast (sometimes, ALL of them).

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

    And because sleep is such an intangible idea, we instead associate a good night’s sleep with the first thing we see in the morning (which is also why seeing that bedside clock at 8 AM instead of 7 AM, or looking at your phone with 1,000 missed calls from your wretched boss, is guaranteed to ruin an otherwise good sleep—agree?).

    Rooms with a view

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

    Waking up with a view from above Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the Philippines, is arguably a great way to end a good slumber and start another day—or for us, cap off a day-long dose of nearby Angono, from its higantes to its crickets to its petroglyphs.

    The lake looked massive—indeed big enough to house a humongous dino if you let your mind go on an overdrive. But at such height, you could very well see the lake from end to end, Metro Manila’s skyscrapers visible on the right side on a clear day.

    This kind of view, plus of lush mountains all around, is something this sprawling resort on the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range has no competition for.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

    Many would troop to Thunderbird Resorts Rizal for its casino. The concept itself is rather uncommon—you don’t see most hilltop resorts with their own casinos. This is the same concept that the resort has in La Union—our hometown—which in turn is done in that distinct white-and-blue palette inspired by the hillside town of Santorini in Greece.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

    But it’s the stunning mountain views we really wanted to see—something we believe is the property’s strongest asset. This, plus its accessibility from Metro Manila, makes it one of the better-value choices for harrowed city dwellers for the weekend.

    The surroundings smack of Baguio too, and we were all too glad to have cool mountain air around instead of smog.

    From sun up to sundown

    The property faces the west—which means you get a generous hilltop view of the sun as it sets on the horizon.

    Another equally magical moment that follows the sunset is the blue hour, which, contrary to its name, is over in about 15 minutes. At this time, rows of lights from Metro Manila down below puncture the bright blue sky as the rest of the resort illuminates itself in subtle warm light.

    It was a bit difficult to reconcile that the road between the smog of Manila and the cool air of Rizal is just about an hour’s drive long. On a regular weekday, that same amount of time would take you only as far as Makati from Quezon City.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
    Morning

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
    Just before sunset

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
    Blue hour

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
    Twilight

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
    Early evening

    The guest houses—all 41 of them—are housed in two main wings, all of them facing the lake. Guests who prefer a direct casino access can book one of the Deluxe Rooms, but other than that, the Deluxe and the Superior Rooms have the same amenities every traveler with discriminating taste will appreciate.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

    These rooms come in a clean, understated vibe: the interiors have mostly earthy tones, and room has two double beds, making them ideal for families taking the kids for the weekend. This is not to say that friends cannot have as much fun with an impossibly huge bed to themselves.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
    There’s your stream of sunshine.

    The palm-tree-lined courtyard that separates the casino from the resort is a refreshing extension of the property’s lush surroundings, and tucked in one of its corners is the outdoor Zaphira Spa covered in dreamy white drapes.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

    It turns out there’s quite a lot to preoccupy the weekend tourist aside from the stunning views—and aside from the casino, of course.

    The resort rents out bikes, including a tandem bike, which guests can take for a spin early morning when sunlight’s not yet too harsh. There are designated bike trails, and the resort actually encourages guests to go all the way downhill to the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs, the oldest known artwork in the Philippines (the site is a stone’s throw from the resort gates, but more on that on the next post). At the back of the property is another uphill trail with steeper slopes that are best for more experienced riders.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
    The cool mountain air of Rizal makes for great mornings pedaling on a bike around the resort property.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird

    Thunderbird has twelve (!) chefs manning their main restaurant, Koi, which serves fusion food; their Pool Bar, which serves mostly grilled food that go well with beer (where else, by the pool); and their Cabana Bar inside the casino.

    Non-fans of fusion food may change their minds with the US Angus Beef Kare-Kare, whose peanut sauce is as rich as any but whose beef shames all others for its tenderness (not kidding). There’s also the cornflake crusted fried chicken with country cheddar mash and homestyle gravy, which is a new take on bringing out the crisp in everyone’s favorite chicken part (the skin, of course, what were you thinking?). It was a pretty good one too—we didn’t know cornflakes could ever taste good. The mashed potato would need a bit more TLC though (no, not tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese).

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Thunderbird
    L: Cornflake-crusted fried chicken with mashed potatoes;
    R: Cups and glasses to start the day right.

    TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | ThunderbirdL: Diavolo (sauteed shrimps with red wine, butter, eggplant, fresh red chillies and spiced Pomodoro finished with rich cream, butter, and penne pasta; R: Hickory pork and grilled pineapple (diced pork belly marinated in stout, soda, and molasses, grilled pineapple served with mozzarella, parmegiano, and tomato concasse

    Those with more adventurous palates can also try the Salmon and Uni Cream with Tobikko Fish Roe (sauteed salmon cubes, fresh sea urchin puree, cream and tobikko fish roe, toasted bonito flakes, served with pasta fetuccine). Koi also uses Angus Beef in—wait for it—sinigang, which it calls the US Angus Beef Sinigang sa Kamias at Tanglad.

    Aside from all the staycation options just a few steps from one other—not to mention the tempting boards—guests can hie off to several interesting spots around Rizal province (click here to see the list). Nearby Angono, the Art Capital of the Philippines, has some really interesting art galleries and museums. If all these don’t get you through the weekend—seriously?—may we suggest a trip down to Balaw Balaw for a hearty serving of uok to cap off the experience? :)

    THUNDERBIRD RESORTS RIZAL

    Eastridge Avenue
    Binangonan, Rizal
    Philippines 1940
    (+63 2) 651.6888

    Map & directions here. Free shuttle services to and from several points in Metro Manila are also available.
    www.thunderbird-asia.com
    @TBRPhilippines
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    This post is the second of our Rizal series from our Rizal Blogger Tour sponsored by Thunderbird Resorts Rizal. Opinions expressed in this post are the authors’ own. Check out our other posts: