Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another quick round in Davao

My family had a quick trip this weekend in Davao mainly to attend a wedding ceremony of a friend. We booked via SEAIR (who redirected the purchase to its partner Tiger Airways) almost 3 months in advance and I guess we got a good deal as we only paid PHP5405.12 for the three of us (with Roshie and Ethan), inclusive of 20kg of baggage individually for me and Roshie each way. We had our first experience with the airline last June in celebration of our 2nd wedding anniversary where we flew the route of CRK-BKI-CRK and I would say our experience was good that I didn't hesitate booking again with the airline

Our flight to Davao was operated from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) and the airline utilizes Terminal 4 (formerly called Manila Domestic Terminal) for its domestic services from Manila. It was almost 4 years since the last time I was here and looks like nothing much changed or improved in the terminal. It doesn't mean it's getting worse, but again nothing much improved.

As a budget flight operating out of Terminal 4, there were no jetbridges available for use. Instead, passengers are directed to walk towards the plane parked at the apron and climb up the rolling stairs to board the aircraft. That flight to Davao yesterday was early (5:30AM) and because of the lack of sleep due to last minute packing, I felt very sleepy walking amidst the tarmac on that cold early morning.

It was a smooth flight, and the plane was up to about 80% of its passenger capacity when it flew. As the flight was very early in the morning, we just caught some sleep on the way.

The flight arrived in Francisco Bangoy International Airport (DVO) as expected around 7:15AM. Again since this is a budget flight, we deplaned at the tarmac.

Durian statue outside the airport terminal
From the airport, we followed the signs leading to the taxi queue and took one going to our hotel. We were booked for a night at Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao, located around 15-20 minutes from the airport (by taxi, fare less than around PHP150). Since it was still early for check-in (should be 2PM), our room was still being made up and we were asked to wait for around an hour at the lobby area. I took the time to roam around the grounds of the hotel and take pictures of the place.

entrance leading to the lobby and reception

eagle statue display at the lobby area

reception area

couches to stay. look closely, Ethan is sleeping!

Vinta Bar

hotel grounds and luscious greens

swimming pools
 beachfront area
We booked for a Deluxe Room (1 King Bed) for USD84.92 net from Agoda. The rate is inclusive of complimentary internet access and breakfast for 2 at Café Uno. Our room, located in building 2, is huge and spacious although it's already getting wore off due to years. I guess it's fair to say the hotel needs refurbishment.
The cable TV came with a SkyCable Digibox (individual per room) and because of this, had a number of channels more than the usual hotel offerings.
The king bed is enough and comfortable, although I wished there were more pillows available without requesting.

mini bar and closet


bathroom amenities

The room came with a spacious balcony. So spacious that I felt it was just a waste of space as there were only a couple of outdoor chairs and a table then nothing else.

Advertised to have a garden view, the room is facing the greens on one side of the hotel. The other room view in the building is pool view, facing the courtyard and swimming pools.
We rested in our room for the rest of the morning and headed to the newly opened (just last Friday, September 28) SM Premier Lanang mall, roughly less than 10 minutes from the hotel with traffic permitting. We had our lunch in Marina Tuna, located at the Sky Garden of the said mall.

inside Marina Tuna

California maki

crispy buntot ng tuna (crispy tuna fishtail)

grilled tuna belly

sinigang na tuna belly
After lunch, we immediately went back to the hotel to rest while the others do their duty for the wedding and then we started to prepare and dress up for the event.
Ethan wearing his barong, a formal wear in the Philippines.

Ethan and Roshie

Roshie and I had to skip the reception as Ethan was asleep and have to be laid on the bed. While Roshie ordered her pizza from the room service, Jojo, Kent and I went out for dinner in Ahfat Seafood Plaza, located along the compound of Victoria Mall.

steamed lapu-lapu with sauce

crispy spicy chicken

fried crabs

baked clams

We ordered a lot of food but we finished all of them even if there were only 3 of us. As expected, we got back to our hotels with our tummies full in a good way and not bloated.

The next day (earlier today), we had our breakfast early in Café Uno. For the price included with the room, I would say not bad as they had the usual but ample selection of meat, vegetables, salads, deserts and pastries for the early dwellers.
We checked out early today as we plan to go around the city prior to our flight back to Manila at night. The concierge suggested that we hire a van (PHP3500, good for 8 people) that took us the whole day to different points in and out of the city. We were 7 (together with other friends) so we just divided the amount among ourselves.
The first stop was in Eden Nature Park, a place I've been with Jojo years back. The place didn't change that much, except I thought it was deteriorating.

We paid for light snacks (PHP200) and guided tour (PHP120). We could have taken the option of having buffet lunch (PHP470) but we planned to eat out somewhere else and since it's required to take either option, we opted with the former.

The first stop was at the ampitheatre. Honestly, calling it such as it is undistinguishable as one is such an injustice. A new addition from the last time we came here is the rainbow backdrop.

me with Roshie and Ethan

Next, we stopped at the Tinubdan where children were playing as lumad (indigenous people of Southern Philippines).

entrance going up

the area

children performing

some statues showing indigenous way of living
Our final stop was at Lola's Garden. Ethan happily climbed over the carabao statue - yes it's just a statue!

 me and Ethan

flowers at Mayumi's wishing well

Roshie and Ethan

Ethan playing with the wooden stick
vast plantation as seen from above
From the tour, we were dropped off back from where we started (Day Tour Center) and we walked towards Fishing Village to consume the light snacks we paid for.

at the Fishing Village

Ethan wants to catch the angry peacock!

For the light snacks, we just had a choice of either spaghetti or tuna sandwich and we all opted for the former. It was served with either a bottle of water or a small cup of softdrinks. I would have expected more but then again, it's okay.

From there, we drove back towards the Philippine Eagle Center. It was unfortunate that rain started to pour and got harder just on time when we came so we had to wait a few minutes prior exploring the area. Entrance was at PHP50 per adult.

and it is raining!
Philippine Eagle is said to be one of the biggest eagles in the world and is today considered an endangered specie. The center is home to a few number of eagles that they are protecting (and breed) to protect the animal from becoming extinct.

a small eagle at the entrance of the center

The most famous eagle in the center is Pag-asa (which translates to "hope" in English). He is the first bred Philippine Eagle and was hatched in 1992.

another eagle beside Pag-asa's cage

There also is another (big) eagle in the center that is out of the cage and looks very stunning and it stands proudly from its platform.

On our way out, we chanced upon this young eagle sitting on a low-lying branch of a tree and our group took our time to take pictures with it.


After the center, we then headed to the Japanese Tunnel. Entrance is at PHP50 per adult.
The tunnel is one among the many tunnels found in the city. These tunnels, dating back World War II era, was used by the Japanese to transport things underground so that they remain undetected by the American forces.
The tunnel is said to be around 300 meters long. Some parts were too low that you have to duck down to avoid hitting the cave ceiling. The tunnel was said to be accidentally discovered while building a diversion road and at first, they were surprised to see skeletons inside. Parts of the tunnel today are closed down for security, safety and privacy reasons.
copy of Golden Buddha and gold bars
 said to be an office used during that time

inside the tunnel
After the tunnel, that's when we had our super late lunch. Vista View was our destination for the meal. 

The place is mostly in a cool open area as it situated on the hilltop. A big place actually and was practically empty perhaps due to the time we arrived there (past 4PM).
cottages with view
menu book

As the name implies, the restaurant offers a good view of the city's surrounding area.
People were starting to get dizzy at that time due to hunger. We immediately ordered and glad to have the food come and be served as fast (and realistic) as possible.


beef with brocolli

soup with clams


Basically after the meal, we just stayed for a few minutes then headed back to the city proper to buy some food items, specifically boxes of pomelos to take home then went straight to the airport. It was still early when we came in and had to wait for a few minutes before the check-in counters opened.

checking in for Manila flight

The airport had a lot passengers at that time and there were long lines everywhere, from checking in to boarding, but it was still as comfortable as it could get.

One thing I liked about the airport is that it has a breastfeeding station and toddler's corner. Very helpful for nursing moms or for parents who wanted to keep their energetic toddlers entertained.

Ethan playing with toys in the toddler's corner

Minutes after it is already boarding time. As expected, the gate led us to a stairs going down to the apron where we boarded the plane again by rolling stairs.

Such a quick trip flying in Davao yesterday early morning and out of the city late at night today but I guess we covered a lot so it's all worth it. Can't wait to be back and this time cross again to Samal Island!