[Travel] Boracay 25 Dec 2013 – 1 Jan 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI enjoyed Boracay so much when I visited earlier in 2013, that I decided I had to go back again. I love the beach, the sun the sand and the sea are just awesome and make me feel so alive and happy.

This period, however, was the peak period, so I booked my lodging months in advance. Not only is the weather supposed to be excellent during this time of the year, the trip stretched over 2 public holidays (Christmas and New Year), so I was expecting lots of local and international tourists.

I learnt many things on this trip :

– there are 2 main types of lodging there, chalets and hotels.
The chalets are mostly occupied by the locals, and the hotels can be further divided into the budget kind, and the exclusive kind.

– they have cooking services at d’talipapa and d’mall!
This means that you can bring raw food to them, and they will charge you a fee to cook it. They give you a selection of ways that you can have your food cooked.

– there aren’t that many places which open in the early morning ie. 5-6 am
But you can buy taho (sweet bean curd) from peddlers along the beach, and you can get food from some of the 24 hour places
I also stocked up on some instant noodles (the bulalo flavoured one was pretty sinful!)

– the best way to enjoy your holiday there is to SOCIALISE!
get to know the other tourists, many of them are repeat tourists, and some may have discovered other gems which are worth experiencing!
It’s also more fun when you go do cool things with more people, think cliff diving, or a boating trip.

I didn’t have a planned itinerary, I shortlisted certain things to do, and played by ear for the rest.
In general, because my sleeping times are just so weird, I was asleep around 8-10pm, and awake from 3am onwards. This meant I caught more than my fair share of sunrises.

Anyhow, let’s start with the trip there.

We took tigerairways to Kalibo. The previous time, I travelled to Caticlan from Manila, because I was already in Manila for NCCL/PGF Summer Assembly 2013.

If you’d like to read about my trip in May, click THIS.

Travelling There

Unfortunately, I can’t say I had a pleasant time travelling. After landing at Kalibo, a 2hr long slow bus ride around some hills and villages awaits you, and if you were stupid enough to have bought a package travel (bus+boat tickets in one) you’re in for a really long wait at the ferry terminal at Caticlan.
So, which airport you choose to go to really depends on your preference – would you rather have a layover in Cebu/Manila, or would like like to fly direct but take a long bus ride?

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You do get to see interesting things along the way though, like many men piled on a tuktuk, each carrying his own rooster, probably on the way to or from a cock fight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After experiencing both, I’m inclined to choose the layover in Cebu/Manila.
Also, DO NOT bother buying a 2 in 1 ticket. Just get the boat ticket from the Caticlan ferry terminal directly. You’ll have to queue to pay the environmental fee, terminal fee and register your name (so that they can track who is on the island in case of typhoons?), and also, if you get the 2 in 1, they make you wait for a really really long time before the boat goes off. This is probably because they want to get it as full as possible (save cost) before sailing off. And the boat is pretty big. So it takes quite a while before there are enough people.
I’d opt to travel the way the locals do, on wooden boats with skiffs :
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey fill up pretty quick, they leave the terminal fast, and they’re cheap.

There are unlimited numbers of tuktuk’s around for you to hail, so no worries on not being able to get to your hotel. It’s advisable, especially if your lodging isn’t one of those more famous establishments, to ensure that you have a map of the area, and the address at hand.
Our chalet was off the beaten track, and it took quite a long time to find the place. We ended up trotting in some people’s backyards along dirt paths before we finally found it.

Lodging

I paid about 300SGD/8 nights to stay at a place called Amigos 2. It’s worth noting that Amigos is under a different management from Amigos 2, and that Amigos has pretty decent reviews. Amigos 2 seemed to be less popular, and less established.

If you’re spending your whole day out at the beach, you won’t have that much to complain about the room. The bed is firm, the pillows are a little flat, there’s even a wooden wardrobe in the corner to dump your clothes. There’s a mini bar, a TV, and hot water is available at the reception from a dispenser.

What was terrible, was the toilet. There was barely enough space to sit on the loo, your knees were more or less touching the wall in front, the sink is tiny and the shower area didn’t drain properly, so all the crap from the drain pipes flowed back out when the bath floor got flooded. So, after a long day out, with sunblock on, sand and salt in my hair, feeling so grossed out everytime i went to the toilet was in the end not worth the good price I paid.

After a few days of tolerating the flooding, tiny toilet, we finally looked around and moved into another chalet-style lodging. This place seemed to be a hotspot for Russians and Europeans. It’s called Nigi Nigi Nu Noos and we had a lot of fun repeating the name aloud.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you can tell, they tried to build it in the style of their native buildings, with woven leaves and bamboo. This place was a whole lot more pleasant, simply because the toilet was larger, and drained perfectly.
There was also free wifi!!!
The only problem we had was that there were cats in heat zooming around squalling at weird times, but that was pretty tolerable.
All the chalets are named after some kind of bird, and ours was humming bird.
I liked that there was a porch to sit on! Unfortunately, if you’re there in the evening, you’re going to be a great feast for mosquitoes.
The nice thing is though, that they provide insecticide, and they clean your room daily.

Because it was the festive period, we paid 4500Php per night, without breakfast.

I quite liked the hotel we stayed in previously too, Hotel Soffia, but it’s pretty far from the beach areas, and you’ll need to take a tuktuk or the hotel shuttle to get there and back.
The best part about the 2 chalets I stayed in this trip was that they were practically on(in the case of Nigi Nigi) , or 3 minutes walk from, the beach (Amigos 2). However, keep in mind that this means you’ll have to trot out to the main road, with all your luggage, to catch a tuktuk to the ferry terminal on the last day.

FOOD

When I travel, I love trying the local food. I get excited when I spy roadside stalls selling random tit bits and snacks. I’m definitely not the kind who will only eat MacDonald’s and drink coke rather than sample the local cuisine. It does help that I very very rarely get stomach upsets.

One thing to note, is that Filipinos seem to like to use coconut oil in their cooking. I am not a fan of coconut oil, even though there are supposedly many health benefits to it, because it adds a really strong taste to the food. So, I tend to pick foods which complement the taste of the coconut oil.

So, here are the top picks for my trip:

Mang Inasal
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d2042119-Reviews-Mang_Inasal-Boracay_Visayas.html
This is the fast food version of grilled chicken and meats.
I normally eat the spicy chicken leg. Unlimited rice when you eat in too! But I normally take away.

Smoke @ D’Mall
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d1758999-Reviews-Smoke_Restaurant-Boracay_Visayas.html
My favourites include the Beef Salpicao (it comes with rice sitting under the beef). It is a super fragrant bowl of beef sauteed with garlic, onion and other delicious things. The closest I can get to describing it’s taste would be Rendang, but without the chilli. (If you like Malay food, or if you’re a Singaporean, you should know how that tastes!)

The Bulalo soup is pretty nice as well, and when you order hot tea, they serve it to you with a wedge of lemon. Perfect.

Just don’t order the kangkong, or morning glory. It’s a sinewy dried out vegetable, unlike the juicy, tender stems and silky leaves I’m accustomed to. I think its the native climate which causes it to grow that way.

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They have some kind of backpacker lodging upstairs as well, it’s a really scary narrow staircase up to it…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mica’s Kitchen @ D’Talipapa
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d1983757-Reviews-D_Talipapa-Boracay_Visayas.html
This area is actually a wet market, surrounded by cooking services. There are stalls to buy fresh seafood, poultry and meat, and vegetables.
After you purchase your meat, fish and whatever, you pick a shop and get them to cook it for you.

I visited this place quite a few times, and my personal favourite is the crab and ladies fingers.

Our first cooked meal there which costs us more than we should have paid for:
butter garlic prawns, non-spicy stir fried ladies fingers, stir fried spicy kang kong (DO NOT BUY THIS!), adobo squid and a steamed crab.
DO bargain. They will sometimes quote you up to 4 times more than they are willing to accept. And even the cooking service staff, who are not related to the market stall holders, will try to bluff you into expecting some exorbitant price for your fresh produce. It’s all a ploy to get the most out of tourists!!

As a guideline, a handsized crab (my hand size…) is about 10 SGD. So I kinda worked around that estimation for crabs.

The ladies fingers were totally delicious. They’re a tender smooth variety, and they’re cooked in finger length pieces.
I picked a live female crab, and they cost more than the male crabs. It is my opinion that FRESH seafood should be eaten lightly steamed. Grilling tends to make the flesh stick to the shell, and cooking with random sauces takes away the sweet natural flavour.
The adobo squid tasted excellent, and I tried the adobo chicken on another night, but the chicken came back kinda undercooked.
The prawns were soso. I never ate any more prawns after the first night.

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Huge variety of fresh seafood available to the customer.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAyummy yummy yummy steamed crab…

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Lemon Cafe @ D’Mall
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d804865-Reviews-Lemon_Cafe-Boracay_Visayas.html

Serving mostly western cuisine, or fusion cuisine is this little joint run by a mother daughter pair. They clean the place up very thoroughly in the morning, and the smell of bleach lingers for quite a while.
I ordered a Thai inspired beef and papaya salad, and it was kinda too wet. Otherwise, it was tasty and sour, with an additional lemon wedge. slurp.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe ordered a minute steak with herb potatoes and scrambled eggs.
The steak tasted like teriyaki, but it was quite nice to eat. The potatoes were delicious too.
Apparently, the specialities of this place are the eggs benedict and the lemon tart, so you might want to try that out if you go there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATilapia & Chips @ one street away from D’Mall
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d3160194-Reviews-Tilapia_N_Chips-Boracay_Visayas.html

I had quite a hurried lunch here, because I was rushing to catch a boat for a snorkeling/island hopping trip.
They serve a whole tilapia and fries for roughly 10SGD, which is a little pricey.
It was quite a fun munch, and I’ve seen recommendations to eat their burgers. Apparently those are great too.

The best thing about this place? Free Wifi, and they use NORMAL oil to fry their food!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Local Cuisine, further down from Tilapia& Chips, and Budget Mart

It distresses me greatly that I cannot remember the name of this restaurant. It’s further down from Tilapia and Chips, and pretty near one of the Smoke branches.
I absolutely loved everything about this place!
The first day there, I had the pork belly, which was grilled and served with chilli, lime and soya sauce. I ordered a top up of garlic rice instead of white rice.

Their tea is pretty basic, just a lipton teabag and hot water.

My travelling partner ordered their sizzling pork sisig 2 days in a row, and he enjoyed it thoroughly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
So look out for this somewhat creepy hanging feature outside the shop. It’s made up of lobster shells and stuff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother place you can try if you’re craving western food is a restaurant called I Love Backyard BBQ @ D’Mall
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g294260-d3607786-Reviews-I_Love_Backyard_BBQ-Boracay_Visayas.html

The queue is insane, and some of the food will inevitably run out of stock. You can try the ribs and the onion rings are famous.Again, the food didn’t impress me much, especially since the onion rings tasted strongly of coconut oil, and the waiter who took our order seemed like he was stoned.
Here’s a pic of the famous onion rings. It’s way too much for 2 people to eat as an appetiser, because it’s fried and really really thick.

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As mentioned we went during the festive season, and many of the larger hotels and restaurants had huge buffets, or special meals. We spotted 2 out door grills, grilling whole animals. One was a calf and the other, a pig.

We would have loved to try it out, but they were all full.

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Activities

Sadly, this time round, the weather wasn’t as nice. It was stormy and raining for half the trip. I think this is supposed to be an anomaly, because other tourists I spoke to told me their own countries were experiencing weird weather too. Or maybe it was due to Haiyan. Either way, it didn’t seem to matter to the majority of the people, they were all hanging out on the beach 24/7, whatever the weather.

Get a massage on the beach
They do tend to give you a shorter time than you are supposed to get. So if you want to be insistent, just make sure you keep track of the time that you started.

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Visit Willy’s Rock. Guilly?
There are variations on how to spell this, and I’m not sure how to spell it. Pronouncing it is all the same.

Further on from the rock is a sort of cave, and the pedestrian path goes through it. Quite interesting to take a stroll up.

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Hang out on the beach.
Enjoy the different shades and colours, depending on the time of the day and the weather.
Sink your feet into the powdery white sand, and paddle in the clear waters.

Pro tip : buy your own floats to bring to Boracay, I bought 2 awesome floats and had a magnificent time floating around in them.
You might want to invest in a proper water proof handphone carrying case as well, so that you can take underwater photos, or just be able to bring your phone out to sea without fear of it getting spoilt.

My awesome Intex River Run II. It’s as huge as a raft.
(By the way, that’s the room we had at Amigos 2)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had a smaller doughnut float which you can see in the photo of the balcony at Nigi Nigi. It’s that green thing in the right corner…

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The 2 of us on my awesome 2 man float. We’ll never float away from each other!
Photo taken with my xperia z, which is waterproof. Was blasting music from spotify while floating out on the sea.

Here’s a stormy dayOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Cloudy dayOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA6amOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sunny morning at low tideOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMid morning OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfternoon OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStormy Evening, White beach faces the sun set.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Check out the local flora and fauna

Random cockerel, I think this one escaped.
Filipinos are really interested in their cock-fighting, you’ll see numerous tethered chickens, some sitting under wire cages.
I passed by this building that looked like a school, and the field was full of these tethered roosters.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone’s future dinner, in a backyard.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone’s unfriendly pet monkey which lunged at me when I went closer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone’s pet retriever.
It’s huge, something like 40kg.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisit other beaches on the island!
Bulabog beach has beach front apartments, the they face the wind, so the waves wash up pretty close.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The wind makes for good kite surfing, something Bulabog beach is famous for.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  You can also go to Diniwid and Puka Shell beach, but having gone to both once is enough for me.

Diniwid has strong waves, so I didn’t find it suitable for lounging around on, and Puka Shell has rough sand, with little shelter from the sun. So it’s really really hot. The current there is strong too, so swimming is tiring.

Take a boat trip

I suggest hiring a boat for a few hours, and this is where socialising comes in handy! Share a boat with your new found friends, this saves on cost!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis particular boat took us snorkeling, I like the coral garden stop the most.
Remember to buy some bread to take along with you to feed the fish. They will really come swarming around you.

We took a short stop at a small community centre-like place. There didn’t seem to be much of a purpose to this place other than for the locals to gather, have picnics and…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKaraoke! (sorry, I still can’t rotate the pics!!)

It’s quite amazing that literally in the middle of NOWHERE, there is this karaoke machine and mic, sitting under some shabby looking canvas.
I’d be terrified that the equipment gets wet in a downpour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA One of our new friends, showing off his vocal prowess.

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The view from the karaoke area. A nice sheltered bay, and that’s our boat! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAriel’s Point

THIS is a MUST DO when you go to Boracay.
Every morning, Ariel’s House will open up registrations for the day and you’ll pay about 50SGD for a full day of cliff jumping, lunch and free flow drinks. There are kayaks and snorkeling gear for your use too, if you can find any left around.

And here comes another pro tip : buy your own snorkeling gear to bring along! And a go pro if you’re planning to do fancy jumps

There’s a life guard I made friends with previously, and he got me fresh sea urchin roe to eat again, for a small tip.

DSC_0026Sea Urchins at at Ariel’s Point! Taken with my Xperia Z, underwater shot.

[TRAVEL] Bintan Lagoon Resort

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATake a nice look at these 2 people here, because these are the two happy travelers who decided to take a weekend beach vacation at Bintan Lagoon Resort over the long weekend!

As a starting note, I took my pictures using my Olympus OMD EM5, 12-50mm kit lens, and my Panasonic Lumix LX3. I brought my LX3 to the beach, because, as much as I love it, I’d rather risk it getting stolen.

We spent 4 days, 3 nights there, and we booked the accommodation via Tripadvisor. They will give you a selection of sites with prices, and you can choose the one with the best price. We’ve been planning a trip for a while, so I’d been keeping an eye on prices. I ended up booking the hotel on the 10th, 2 days before we were supposed to be there. In general, hotel prices get cheaper nearer the date that you want to book. Something I learnt from booking Montigo Resorts (Batam) last year. It was roughly SGD160 per night when I booked.

I do have to admit that based on recommendations, I was looking at Nirwana instead, but because it was a long weekend, the rooms were all sold out.

Anyhow, when the shuttle bus from the BBT (make sure you book a trip to BBT, and not to Tanjong Pinang, we booked using Bintan Resorts Ferries and it cost about SGD90 for 2 people, 1 way) jetty drops you off at the main lobby at Bintan Lagoon Resort (BLR), you’ll be welcome by a group of dancing people in their local festive costumes along this walkway below. I felt that it’d be kinda weird to take a pic of them while they were dancing… so I took a pic when the coast was clear.

The check in counter is on the left, and the checkout counter is on the right, so that helps with crowd control somewhat. There are sofas and power points everywhere in the lobby, and it’s totally non-airconditioned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a typical corridor, and this particular one is leading from the west wing to the reception area. There are shops selling beach stuff, provisions (ie. beer), clothes and even a hair salon.
It’s all open air, but surprisingly, there are few bugs around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is our room! 2 separate beds (I like!) and a huge wooden platform at the far end. I never figured out what it was for, but there were bolsters on it. I put all my clothes in neat piles on it, and just tried not to trip on the edge of the platform.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe toilet. Pretty basic, and not extremely well designed. The towel hanger for the sink is built for midgets (look at the bottom left of the pic, its below my knee level!!) and the hose of the shower head is about 1 metre too short.

The toiletries provided are also quite basic, just bath gel and shampoo, 2 cakes of soap and some other random things like sanitary disposal bags. So, DEFINITELY bring conditioner and your shaver, toothbrushes, toothpaste, facewash… that kinda thing.

There are obvious cracks in the tiles and it’s quite obvious that the place is quite old, but seems to have been recently re-fitted.
Everything is clean enough though you might find some stains on your linen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe East wing, which supposedly offers a sea view. The balcony of our room opened up into a jungle, which was preferable to me. I’m pretty sure the sea would look very far away from these rooms because the hotel is set quite a way from the beach. The large field in front of the east wing, however, had the boy dreaming of bringing a soccer team of friends down to kick some ball.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMore pics of the East wing. The building on the left-most is the nearest to RICE (a beachfront restaurant)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABirds-eye view of the pool from the reception. The pool is broken into 4 sections, all of which are joined together; the 2.2m deep pool on the right, the pool bar (aka Ripples the red roof building), the water sports section in the middle (its 1.3 metres deep and has waterpolo nets and basketball nets), the 1.3m play pool on the right.

There’s lots of deck chairs and even a small pavilion (the brown roof) for the visitors to sit and relax, all day, and all night. Yes, all night. Take a stroll by the pool in the evening and you’ll find people sitting in the chairs, chatting, reading their kindles, using their ipads…

The pool closes at 6pm though, which is kinda early in my opinion. The water feels heated, but I think it’s because it’s always exposed to lots of very hot sun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can try shooting some hoops… they provide balls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you can’t get the basketball/waterpolo ball, you can always grab a kid to toss around. Plenty of them!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s the pool bar on the left, the tiles have seen better days for sure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd… a bunch of teens playing waterpolo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA kid finishing up her icecream (a Magnum costs SGD6 from the pool bar). Towels are provided, but you have to sign in and out when you take them from the counter.
As you can see, there are plenty of foreigners!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pool at night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Mojo Cafe in the hotel lobby offerrs window seating, or you can take your food/drinks to the sofas which are positioned all over the lobby.
The Mojo cafe also has 2 PC terminals, and you can surf the net there for free. They also have a printer, which is useful if you need to print out the hotel booking (like I had to).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile waiting for transport to town, or transport of any kind, there’s plenty of seats for you to stretch out on and enjoy the breeze.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beachfront restaurant with alfresco dining. I didn’t try the food there because the selection wasn’t that extensive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe decor is really nice though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s how RICE looks from the beach at night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe resident Japanese restaurant. I definitely wouldn’t recommend dining there. They charge you Singapore prices, but give you terrible quality, and tiny portions. On that note, the currency that is accepted throughout the resort is Singapore Dollars.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAttempt at a zen feel, outside the Japanese restaurant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the whole, the restaurant I had the best meal at was Kopi-O, and that was on the night we arrived. They have themed dining, and that night it was steamboat and grill. Their selection of food isn’t extremely wide, but the seafood was fresh and tasted great.
We chose tom yam steamboat, and had a few servings of teppanyaki.

 

The BEACH

It’s a beach resort, so of course the beach is going to feature very strongly in your visit there!

Here are some important items that you’ll probably want to bring!
1. A donut float, or a large float of some kind (it costs SGD 18 at the resort, and SGD6 at Pasar Oleh Oleh)P10609342. Slippers of course!

P1060935The sand is decently fine and it’s very clean. The water is clear and clean too. You can see all the way to the bottom for quite a way out.
They do “restrict” where you can swim though, they mark out the area with some floats. I say “restrict” because I don’t think there’s actually anyone who will really stop you if you swim out of the area. No one tried though, there were warning signs posted up about currents and stuff.
Although the sun is scorching hot, there was a strong steady breeze which actually made me feel chilly after soaking in the sea then getting blown by the wind a few times.

P1060940Snorkeling gear and towels can be obtained from the seasports counter. There’s a separate counter near the beach where you’re supposed to get your towels from (They’re a different colour! And you don’t have to sign them in and out like you have to at the pool)

Towels are free, but the snorkeling gear is SGD11 an hour, per set.

P1060950Each set comes with flippers, which we didn’t use, because we had the donut float!
And in case you’re wondering if it’s worth it to rent, I’d say, yeah! We were floating around on the donut when this school of fish swam by all around us. There were at least 4 different kinds of fish, and maybe about a hundred odd of them. Some were as large as my 2 hands put together, and some were finger length. After seeing the school from the donut, we went to rent the gear and proceeded to stalk them.
There are also quite a healthy number of jellyfish around too, so expect to get stung. The pain wears off pretty quick, and it just feels like an irritation, not a sore.

P1060949Some people rented kayaks. And we spent some energy avoiding them because they were paddling in the designated safe swimming area. A little annoying, but tolerable.

P1060941You can also get your face painted. Seems like it’s quite waterproof too!

P1060942A view of the bay.
There are little pavilions and beach chairs to the right of this pic. They were all taken most of the time, and kinda far away from the water, so we didn’t bother with trying to get one.
I prefer to have my belongings in sight on the beach when I’m in the water. Even though I’ll probably never be able to swim fast enough to catch the person who takes my things, I still feel better knowing I can see my stuff from the water!

P1060943Pasar Oleh Oleh, the local Food Market and Massages!

A cab ride out (It’s not really a cab, more like chauffered) is SGD22 one way. If you do contact one of the massage/spa places there, some offer 2 way transport to and from your hotel.
Pasar Oleh Oleh (POO) is near the BBT Ferry terminal, and is about 15minutes drive from BLR. You can also catch the shuttle bus out, but the timings are weird, something like 10am and 2pm, which is probably the time you’d like to be at the beach or pool.

Here’s where you get swindled into buying “local” stuff at Singapore prices. I’d recommend only stocking up on provisions, and donut floats if you go to POO. Other items like shampoo, sunblock, conditioner etc are at decent prices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARandom pavilion at POO with many many bats!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOpposite POO, there’s the Polo Ralph Lauren outlet. The prices are definitely better than retail, but I’m still not sure if they are authentic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocals lounging on the pavilion at POO.
Most of them will approach you to get you to go to their spa. We booked at Bintan Natural Spa beforehand and had to pay a deposit, so we didn’t really listen to their offers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA 5-10minute walk from POO is the local food market. This is the one and only best of the best nasi padang store (that’s how the locals describe it!)
Lamak Basamo closes around midnight everyday, and has a nice selection of food. My favourite is the rendang and fried/dried mutton. The fried fish with green chilli was pretty tasty too, and the nanka curry was very flavourful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClockwise from the 12 o clock position : nanka curry, fried fish with green chilli, rendang with potatoes, a dish of green chilli, and the fried/dried mutton with red chilli. There’s also some ayam goreng on the plate with rice, which was tasty, but kinda pathetic because 2 out of the 3 pieces was neck.

We were definitely overcharged, all that cost SGD10, but we were in no position to argue or haggle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI also ordered a teh o. This was the tag! It had a nice floral taste to it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADefinitely pay a visit to the provision stores next to the food market. Prices are cheap – SGD0.60 for a can of sprite!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are other stores there, and there are some dishes which they serve that Lamak Basamo doesn’t. Some suggestions on what you can order are kangkong fried with belachan, ayam penyet and nasi goreng.

On to SPAs next!
We visited 2 spas at POO, the first day we went to Bintan Natural Spa and 1 spent about SGD78 on the comfy aromatherapy massage and scrub package, and he spent SGD75 on a 120minute aromatherapy massage.
You get to choose your oils and your scrub scent. I took Rosemary oil, and had an orange scrub. He had lavender oil, I believe.
Bintan Natural offers complimentary one way transport back, and we met a foreigner there who was stationed in Bintan for the past 11 months and she was all praise for their treatments.
On the whole, the Bintan Natural was a good experience. However, they could have improved on the comfort of the customer by having some kind of neck support while lying face down. Most spas have a bed with a hole for your face to fit into comfortably, but this spa only had a flat mattress.
The staff however, we professional and experienced.

The next day, we went for a spa at Martha Tilaar, which is facing the food market. Bintan Natural is a block away, and is a little secluded.
The first impression upon entering Martha Tilaar was that the staff weren’t as professional as those at Bintan Natural. We decided on a leg massage each, because he was sunburnt and didn’t want his shoulders rubbed (lol) and because we just had a full meal.

One reason why I have photos of Martha Tilaar and not Bintan Natural is because Martha Tilaar didn’t have lockers (that I saw, at least) for us to put our stuff, whereas Bintan Natural did.
So this is him, next to me about to get our legs rubbed.
Despite the feeling that the staff weren’t as professional, their massage was definitely up to standard. We chose olive oil, aromatherapy oil is an additional SGD2. I think we paid SGD24 per person.

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Some random decor on the floor.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Bintan Lagoon Terminal

The BLR has it’s own adjoining ferry terminal, so you can actually arrive and depart from here without going to BBT. It’s about 2 minutes walk from the reception, and it costs about SGD90 for 2 pax, one way, which is about the same as BRF from BBT.
BRF will always have shuttle buses available at all the ferry arrival times, so you don’t have to worry about not having free land transport to the hotel. BRF also has many departure times, whereas Bintan Lagoon terminal only has 2 arrival and departure timeslots per day. For this reason, we were unable to arrive here, and had to take the 5pm ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (TMFT) to BBT.
The return ferry also lands you at TMFT, and you can get the tickets at Journeyful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s the queue of people waiting to clear customs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bridge out to the ferry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA last look at the beach…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd that’s one of the ferries that docks at the terminal!

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Other Comments and tips

*BLR couldn’t find our booking, so they had to hastily prepare a room on the spot and they didn’t offer any form of compensation etc. We had to wait quite a while for everything to be ready, so we went to eat at Kopi-o first.

*Remember to bring your hotel booking, printed out.

*Bring some of your own food along, in case you’re not super hungry and don’t feel like spending at the restaurants there. Canned tuna/salmon and bread/biscuits for example!

*Don’t buy anything from the provision shops/stores at BLR if you can help it, they have the same stuff at POO, and cheaper!

*There is NO FREE wifi available, it’s apparently the only bintan resort not to have free wifi in certain zones. The wifi in the room is about SGD20 per 24 hours, which is EXORBITANT. I applied for Singtel 3G data roam, which cost me SGD15 per 24 hours.

Closing thoughts :

4 days 3 nights was actually quite a good length for a getaway. Just enough time to experience the full spectrum of activities, but short enough so that you’re not bored yet, and would want to go back again in the future.
I’d probably opt to go to club med bintan the next time, if I’m looking to be a “captive audience” because at least most of the activities and food are an all-in fare.
I’m keen to check out Nirwana as well, since I’ve heard that the amenities are better… and… free wifi.
All in all though, it’s pretty chill and nice for a weekend getaway.

[The International 2013] Grand Finals Day 4, 2 Post Event Break Days

Hi everyone. OK I’m totally aware that this is a super belated post, but better late than never!
In case you’re wondering why I’m skipping day 3 and moving from day 2 to day 4 (and also, thank you, if you noticed this, because it means you’ve been following my posts!), it’s because on day 2, during the zenith vs iG game, I puked my guts out in the Benaroya Hall after suffering from a migraine all day long.
This very same migraine lasted til mid day on day 3, so I spent my day 3 in the hotel, watching the stream and resting.
Therefore, no event photos on day 3.

Here’s a photo that moose from joinDOTA took of me on day 2, when I was trying to rest my migraine away in the player’s lounge. Hope it makes up for the lack of coverage on day 3! (a little? I hope?)

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Do check out the event photos that moose took over at this link!

Grand Finals Day 4

Decided to make full use of my purple manager pass and check out the media area. There are a few different passes, and they are all colour coded. Different passes give you different levels of access to the areas at the Hall, and the purple pass gives one of the highest levels of access.
Anyhow, the media area is where the shoutcasters are located, and where all the news writers are sitting.
I was curious to see and hear the Korean casters, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Check out the mass water that they have! Now we all know their secret to their crazy loud and perma excited casting!

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One of the most requested for pics, is this following pic.
One of them is Zenith’s xy- and the other is eternalenvy. Can you tell them apart?

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Gabe Newell making a short announcement before the private screening of Free to Play.
He told the audience to feel free to chain stun their neighbours if they caught them attempting to film the movie in any way. lol!
The movie won’t be out for a while, because they’re clearing copyright issues, and also editing it a little bit more.
The estimate was 2months or so.
The movie was great, and there were way too many ninjas chopping up onions in the hall. That’s about all I’m going to say about it, just be happily surprised when it comes out!

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This sorta moved me last year when I read it. It’s an inscription outside Benaroya Hall.

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THIS, MY DEAR READERS, IS THE GUY WHO IS THE VOICE ACTOR OF PUDGE AND STORM SPIRIT!!!!!!
Incidentally, his wife is a voice actor too, and she did the voice of death prophet.

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The movie poster for Free to Play.

 

 

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a look at the hall from the second floor of the lobby. This photo was meant to show the size of the Free to Play posters.

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Synderen, right before he gave me his virtual autograph. I think he was talking to iceiceice.

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The LGD vs Alliance game…

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Cheese passing ceremony!

It starts with Bruno…

 

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to iceiceice…

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to… another guy!
How much would you give for an iceiceice hug?

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A pic of the confetti raining own on the audience after Alliance wins

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A pic of Alliance holding the Aegis.
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Break Days

Dinner with many people at monsoon, a vietnamese inspired restaurant at Old Main.

 

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Dendi stealing my bag with Bruno acting cool.

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Bruno and self-proclained fan boy of Bruno, Ant.

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Playing fighting games and console wrestling and DRINKING. ALOT.

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Here’s a video of Toby half casting half playing wrestling:

Bruno fashioning a soccer ball out of tissue paper, rags and tape.

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iceiceice’s divine rapier, the trophy from the 1v1 competition.

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feeding ducks again at the nearby pond/park.

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Dog outing!

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Was invited over to Jeff’s (one of the valve staff) house for dinner on one of the nights. Awesome experience at an American house bbq! Here’s some of the other people who were there.

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We also popped by the beach, the water was cold, even though it was supposed to be summer.

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and random lobby gatherings. =D always have people in the lobby to chill and hang out with.

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and a video of these ogre magi cosplayers being very happy during the Alliance/Na`Vi game because it was picked.

[PHOTOBLOG] The International 2013 – Grand finals day 1&2

Since I’m sitting alone in my hotel room today, watching games on dota tv, I decided to do my updates in between games.

Had a migraine that’s lasted about 36 hours, and it made me puke in the Zenith team box yesterday. (eek, I know) and all my box companions were so engrossed watching the games they just let me go ahead and puke all over the floor non stop. Thx guys. LOL.
It was at that moment, that Zenith lost to iG, and I was puking my guts out that I decided it was one of the worst moments of my life. Especially when I had to clean up the box as best as I could after that.

Anyhow, I’m finally feeling better after intermittently dozing in various positions on the floor. I’ve decided that soft hotel beds are just not for me cos they give me neckaches and migraines, and I should be sleeping on the floor from tonight onwards.

Anyhow! Enough whining, even though I’m feeling sore about not being at the hall today, and not being able to go trot around Pike’s Place with the guys.

Here’s my update, starting from GrandFinals Day 1…

Grand Finals Day 1

Zenith didn’t have games on this day, but we popped on by to check things out, get secret shop items and meet the fans.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While waiting for the bus, I took my jacket off and realised the label inside says DOTA 2!

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iceiceice and yamateh with funny faces.

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The bunch of us waiting for transport to Benaroya.

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TongFu.

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Elysium and LightofHeaven! Light was surprisingly chatty that day, I always remember him sorta sulking in a corner, but this trip, he was chatting away happily with all of us around him.

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We were sitting right at the back of the bus. You can see the river through the windows, it was one of those typically beautiful Seattle summer days…

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The queue outside the hall was really long… and we spotted these 2 jokers in line! Ogre Magi!

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The China gamers bonding. Not sure what they’re smirking at…

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ixmike, in his Liquid shirt.

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Anywhere there’s something to drink, the guys will be playing drinking games. Doesn’t matter if the drink isn’t alcoholic…

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The hall filling up.

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Zenith’s flag above the box!

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We’re sharing the box with mufc.

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The Analyst’s table outside the hall in the lobby.

For a full walkaround check out this video :

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Loda, xy and iceiceice having a chat in the lounge.

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Gabe giving his traditionally short and sweet welcome speech.

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At this point in time the players were introduced and spotlights suddenly shone on the player boxes. I was quite alarmed because I was sitting in some super unglam position with my feet up on the railing. LOL!

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The boxes opposite ours. The spotlight was really quite bright!!

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First match of the Finals! Orange vs Na`Vi.
The boxes this year are really quite beautiful… but as I can’t go in, I have no idea if it’s soundproof.
I like that Valve forbids anyone other than the 5 players from being in the booth, there was a debate last year on whether a manager/coach should be allowed in, and I am glad that they don’t allow it, simply because the game should be about the 5 people and their decisions.

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iceiceice signing on a fan’s shirt.
Btw, thanks to all the people who grabbed me and took a pic/got an autograph from me! And sorry if I seemed to be hurrying somewhere all the time… somehow there’s always things to do!

 

Last year, we were introduced to this awesome little food place called Lecosho.
We’ve been thinking about it all year, and took the first opportunity we could to go grab some eats from it.
Unfortunately, we went at 4pm, so we couldn’t really order a meal, only mid day snack things.

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Smelt with pickles and tartar sauce.

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Highlight of the meal : Roast pork belly!!!
This is really awesome.
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Beef short ribs with beetroot.

 

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Manila Clams. This was super good too. The clams were all really plump and yummy.

 

And back to the hall after that, we popped by the signing area.

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What Tobi said to me. LOL!

 

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The really long queue. Viewers can also get their barcode scanned, and it will give them some in game item.

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iceiceice’s bag. I don’t think he actually bought any of these, I think he was given them all!

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HUGE pizza in the lounge. Valve provides breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner for all the players. Everyday.

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NS lying sexily in front of the screen, enjoying the games.

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On the bus back to the hotel… at the end of a long tiring day.

Grand Finals Day 2

On this day, the guys had their first games at the Hall.
I love the flag flying across the screens…

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VS Virtus Pro.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Invoker pick!

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3 of the audience, wearing the Zenith tees. Zenith fans FTW!!

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VS iG.

For the player intro vids, watch this :

And this is xy’s somewhat unintelligible interview :

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The guys in the backstage room, preparing themselves for the match vs VP.

 

And, My loot for the day from iceiceice!!
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Just to end off with a video of the crowd cheering Liquid on. Amazing.

 

***

Apologies, but I won’t have anything to update for today, cos I’ve been planted in the hotel room recovering. I think the Zenith blog should have something, maybe!

[PHOTOBLOG] The International 2013 – Groupstage day 2&3, Valve Office Tour, Break Day

Ok, it’s been a couple of days since I updated. Partly because my server was migrating on the day I wanted to update things.

So, you’re in for a SUPER LONG update tonight.

Let’s start with the groupstages, which are mostly pics of people around the viewing area.

(Captions are BELOW the pictures!)

Groupstage Day 2 & 3, Valve Office Tour

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I call this the Russian/EU table. That’s where they cluster!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASatean from Neolution, Ohaiyo, kyxy and Chuan.

 

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Alliance Creed.

 

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LGD Xiao8

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Yamateh, with kuroky monstering some salad behind.

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Being asked to do an interview for a Swedish TV.

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Sitting with our Alienware m17x’s, obsing games and discussing strats.

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This is what happens when you let gamers have a free run of food and drinks. I bet this looks like some of your computer desks at home…
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ixmike

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One of the drafts…

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iceiceice flaunting his deadpool beanie, after he had fun bullying Xtinct from Orange.

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Dendi and Bruno. Too much win.

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The 3 pics above precede this video below. It’s what happens when you give 2 boys 1 cup  :

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Finol talking to Puppey. Not gonna tell you which one he is exactly!

 

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DINNER!!! Lamb which was awesome.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Porterhouse for 2.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAValve is so awesome, or maybe they wanna make sure we smell good for the audience, that they did our laundry mid trip.
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Passed by Soe, so I decided to catch a pic with her. She interviewed me earlier, before this pic was taken.
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I know some people have asked for rOtk’s raging video, I can’t get one, so I’m hoping this one will suffice.

I do have an old video of him raging… you can check it out here :

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NS in the process of throwing me the courier! He gave it to me! =D

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Hotel pool. Super inviting, I think I might find a day to go have a dip.
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The Hotel gym

 

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a typical summer evening in Bellevue. Gorgeous.

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took a walk to a nearby park. This is the late, at night.

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An ice cream truck! Kimchi and Elysium getting something to cool off.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ducks, and ducklings!

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The residents here in Bellevue are all really friendly. We spent about an hour playing with this little doggie, Oscar, and chatting with his owner.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He’s not the only one having a ball of a time!

 

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The 2 sad donkeys that we plucked from the Valve office. Staring into the distance. (credits to Kimchi for composing this shot.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mini donkey, and big donkey.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stripes unite!

Dendi and Kimchi.

 

Here’s all the pics from our Break Day. We went to Pike’s Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium and various other places around the area. So, if you’re not interested in the peripheral stuff, and only want the game stuff, you would probably like to skip what’s coming up.

Even though I hope you read on =) Might give you a nice idea of what to do/eat if you ever come to Seattle!

 

First stop : IHOP aka International House of Pancakes for brunch.

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Sirloin tips with 2 eggs, sauteed onions and mushrooms, hash brown, and 2 buttermilk pancakes.

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Omelette with ham and hashbrown inside, and red velvet pancakes. I don’t really recommend the red velvet pancakes if you can’t take sweet stuff.

 

Next stop, Pike’s Place Market!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The famous sign board.

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We also dropped by the first starbucks store, which is also at Pike’s Place.

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Check out that queue.

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That’s Elysium, Me, kimchi. =D
Finally revealing which shadow belongs to who.

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The Seattle Aquarium on the left, the ferris wheel on the right.

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Just a shot walking along the bay. There are tons of restaurants and interesting shops there which sell very odd stuff.

Along the way, we came across The Gum Wall.
Apparently, this is where people come to stick their chewed gum. You can actually smell the sweet scent of thousands of flavoured gum. (eek)
The window sills are the most disgusting!!!

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i was petrified that someone would shove me backwards into the wall and that I’d get stuck there like a fly on sticky paper. eeeeekkkk

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TINY!!! Is this a SIGN FOR TI3???

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This is where the fish are thrown around, and where you can find a fruit store.

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Monster blackberry from the fruit stall. Summer is great – there’s tons of berries, which are my favourite kind of fruit to eat!

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further up the road from Pike’s Place, outside the Macy’s, there’s a public square with blue trees. This year, there’s a dancing gathering going on. Last year, there was chess, and each chess piece was about half my size.

 

 

Just some additional pics of the scenery along the way :
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If you have the time to spare, you might want to take a look at the Seattle Aquarium.

In 2012, we didn’t have the time to explore the area AND go to the aquarium. This year, however, since we’ve explored most of the places, we decided to spend a couple of hours in the aquarium.

fishie go home!!

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The octopus exhibit fascinated me the most. The way it’s tentacles undulated and the sucker pads stuck to the walls was creepy yet cool.

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This has got to  be my favourite fish there. It looks like puck!

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A furryfish?

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grumpy looking fish 1.

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grumpy looking fish 2.

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a puffin!

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This is some weird sea creature, with its florets out, and with it’s florets kept.

I just realised I didn’t figure out what it’s called after all.

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a Lumpfish, stuck to the glass.

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BITCH, I’M FABULOUS!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

City skyline, which can be seen from the seal enclosure (which is outdoor)
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OTTERS!!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sleeping otter.

 

Another place to drop by would be Ivar’s.
They sell fish and chips, and all other kinds of battered seafood with chips.
The best part (to me) is that this is where you’re encouraged to feed the gulls.
It’s amazing, they join you at your table, and eat from your fingers. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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Another shot of the ferris wheel.

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We were super full from brunch at IHOP, so it was pretty late before we decided to head back. And cos we were tired from the long day, we dropped by a shop nearby and packed some food back.
Korean take out for dinner!

 

***

I actually wanted to do Grandfinals Day 1 too, but I decided to leave it for tomorrow when I’m more awake.

In the meantime, take a look at the walk about video which I took earlier today of the Benaroya Hall.