Tag Archives: beach

Labor Day at Velassaru (Maldives)

For this year’s Labor Day weekend, I joined a group of friends traveling to the Maldives. We’ve planned this trip for several months now so we’ve been waiting for quite some time before the actual trip happened.

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Our airline of choice was via Tiger Air. This meant a stopover at Singapore‘s Changi Airport. It was night time when we left from Manila and we arrived in Singapore around 1:45 AM. Our layover was almost 8 hours and our next flight was scheduled at 9:35 AM that same day. While most of us slept the whole time, I wandered for the most part around Terminal 2. Apart from the food court that’s open, there’s also several things to do like watching a film in their movie theatre or enjoying the open-air Sunflower Garden located nearby. As the sun was about to rise, you can see the airport slowly turning into a bustling hub.

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We departed Singapore around 9:35 AM and arrived at Male‘s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at 11:20 AM. There’s a time difference of around 3-hours so our flight was almost five hours. I was honestly surprised with how their airport looked. It was better than I expected. Then again, it really should be that way if Maldive’s main source of revenue is their tourism.

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From the airport, we immediately headed to the docks as were going to be picked up by our resort. The moment, I stepped foot out of the airport, you can already see the turquoise green waters. We haven’t even reached the islands. Imagine that!

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To get to the resorts, which are located in their own island, you must ride a speed boat. While traveling by water, one can witness the city of Male from afar. Too bad, I didn’t get the chance to go around the capital. We also passed by several island resorts which gave us a preview of what we are to expect.  After only 15-20 minutes, we finally reach our resort – Velassaru Maldives.

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Upon reaching shore, we were all welcomed by their wonderful staff. We were each given a welcome drink and cold towel while waiting for the check-in process. Our group booked a total of two rooms: Deluxe Bungalow and Beach Villa.

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I was with the group who booked the more budget friendly Deluxe Bungalow. I was honestly okay with the room we booked and it was already huge by normal standards. The room had a split-style to it so you feel like you even have more space. Our bathroom was spacious enough and it also featured a separate outdoor shower. There was a sitting area outside and access to the beach will take you around 20 steps at least. Not too bad for the most basic room type.

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We also checked out where the other half stayed. Their Beach Villa has a more intimate-style where the centerpiece is the main bed. This room boasts of a larger bathroom which also featured a bathtub. Their veranda was located behind the room which had direct access to their own private beach at the back.

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The staff was also friendly enough to give us a peek of their Water Villas. The rooms were located on the shallow waters. Should be a perfect spot for catching the sunset in your own room as it also featured a private terrace.

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For the most part, we stayed in the island the whole time. The resort features six different restaurants. We tried several of those such as Vela where we had our daily breakfast buffet. We also went there for dinner during our first night which also featured a buffet spread. The Japanese restaurant called Teppanyaki was a favorite by some of our friends while I personally preferred Sand which featured European dishes in an outdoor by the beach setting.

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If you’re looking for places to chill, you can head to Fen Bar which is also near the infinity pool. For unobstructed views of the sunset, you can head to Chill Bar located midway around the resort. My personal preference was to hangout at Chill Bar and wait for the sunset which we did on two occasions. You just can’t get enough of a good sunset!

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For the adventure seeker, the resort also offers activities such as diving and water sports. Since we weren’t adrenaline buffs, we only tried their snorkeling expedition. The boat brought us around 15-minutes away from the resort. I was able to see lots of corals and marine life underneath. However, I wasn’t able to see any rare marine creatures. Another friend stayed at a different resort during the same time and they were able to see some baby sharks. The waters were quite clear but I had a difficult time snorkeling underneath due to the strong waves at that time. Apart from our snorkeling excursion, we spent most of our time lounging and swimming at the resort’s beach. It’s either that or we grab some drinks and take a plunge at the pool.

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Velassaru also offered a free photo session from a photographer. This package can be availed per room booking. Since we were in a large group, we all decided to take group shots. The catch here is that you have to avail of certain packages if you would like the photos to be printed or have the copy of the files. I suggest that you grab the digital files since the final results were really nice. I’d like to give a shout out to our photographer whose name I forget.

(Tip: I strongly recommend that you request for our photographer. She’s probably the only Asian in-house photographer there)

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At night, the resort also hosts certain events for their guests. Our first night featured a live band playing famous songs at Fen Bar. During our second night, there was a movie night by the beach. Too bad we ended up finishing late for dinner and we were only able to catch the last 20 minutes of the movie.

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The last night was probably one of the highlights of the trip. We were lucky enough that they were hosting a Full Moon Party which only happens once a month. There was a live DJ playing by the beach, lots of guests dancing (us included) and even a dessert spread for guests who have just finished their dinner.

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Overall, my initial thoughts about Maldives proved to be true and then some. I cannot say much about the city’s capital since we headed straight to the resort. Though we had plenty of fun during our stay, the resorts largely cater to families and couples. Certain activities are free-of-charge such as equipment rental and all. However, you need to spend a hefty sum if you would like to do certain activities such as island hopping, diving or visiting the Baa Atoll which is a UNESCO site. As a tip, make sure you have your expenses covered if you’d like to maximize your experience here. Also, getting to certain resorts farther away from Male requires taking a charter plane so be mindful where you will be staying if you don’t want to be surprised with the charges. You will be spending most of your time at the resort of your choice so choose wisely!

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Since the country is Muslim dominant, bringing in alcohol is prohibited. The resorts are the only ones allowed to import these for tourists. I did hear that there was a black market for these things but don’t even bother trying.

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Despite the certain setbacks and things we weren’t able to see or do during our stay, I’d still recommend visiting the Maldives at least once during your lifetime. By far, one of the best beaches and beautiful waters I have seen. If you enjoy the beach, the sunset and the sea, then there is a place for you here.

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P.S. I’d like to give a shout of to the resort’s GM Marj who made sure we were taken care of during our stay. I hope to return to Velassaru someday! Thank you!

– The Tourist Pao

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Cebu (Part I: Bantayan Island, Virgin Island)

Bantayan Island has been dubbed one of the best beach places you will see in the Philippines. It is also said that it can rival that of Boracay with the perks of having a non-existent commercial vibe to the island. I’ve been planning for years to visit this place but there was always something that hindered me from getting here. Case in point was the tragic typhoon that struck our country last 2013 which largely affected the Visayas region. As a result, we took it off our list and went elsewhere.

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Come by 2014, we again re-considered coming back. I already had an itinerary (for years) but the trip just never materialized. After a few inquiries here and there, we were assured that the island has recovered. Finally, we were set to visit one of the must-sees in my bucket-list!

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Getting there: Take a flight via Cebu Pacific from Manila to Cebu. (Like 70% of the time, our flight was again delayed which added much to our frustration). Once you reach Mactan Airport, take a cab and head straight to the North Bus Terminal near SM. Get the bus headed to Hagnaya Port. It will take between 4-5 hours before you reach the port. Once you’re at the docks, take a ferry headed to Santa Fe (in Bantayan Island). This will take another 45 minutes to an hour before you reach the island.

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Once we reached the island, the staff from Anika Island Resort picked us up from the pier. They have been in contact with us even before we boarded our plane. Those simple gestures really made a big difference. Since we were here for the beach, we booked their Ocean View Room. Best view in the house!

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Our first day was more of a relaxed day. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived so all we did was check the beach and chilled by the veranda at night. We hanged out by the veranda until it was time to rest.

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We didn’t catch the sunrise during our second day because the weather was quite gloomy. From morning until afternoon, the rain was pouring really hard. Since we were already at Bantayan Island, we tried our best to make the most of this trip. When the rain subsided a bit, we pushed through with our trip to Virgin Island. We brought our rain gear and a few bottles of beer to keep ourselves dry and warm.

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Contrary to its name, Virgin Island is privately owned. The island has an entrance fee and you have to pay if you want to use any of their amenities. Though we would’ve preferred the island to be more bare, it is quite well-maintained.

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It rained throughout the whole day (but the rain did stop for a few minutes) when we were at Virgin Island. Due to the mostly bad weather, we had the whole island to ourselves. After our island excursion, we were so tired that we didn’t even make it to dinner time.

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During our last day, the weather was better and we were lucky enough to catch the sunrise. I wasn’t able to take a lot of photos since I took a video of the sunrise. The sunrise is absolutely more stunning in person.

Our island trip ended with an early checkout after breakfast as we still had one more night in Cebu City. The ride going back seemed to take longer and it was not as comfortable as getting to the island. And yes, it rained again when we reached Cebu City. I guess this was part of the whole experience. Hate it or love it!

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Bantayan Island is what I exactly expected. I wish we could have stayed longer as we did not really wander around due to the bad weather. Maybe next time!

Head to Cebu (Part II: Cebu City, Henry Hotel)

– The Tourist Pao

Bali, Indonesia (Part VII: Ossotel, Boron Blue Driver)

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As mentioned in Part VI, our stay in Legian would not have been complete without Ossotel. Our stay here may have been short-lived but I’ll try my best to feature as much about this place.

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Located in the busy area of Legian, Ossotel is a fairly new establishment catered to the young crowd. Just like our stay in Brown Feather, this was an awesome find for us. We have read a lot of negative reviews about the Legian and Kuta area so we had to make sure that we stayed in a good place.

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From the moment you step foot, the place has a very hip but cozy feel to it. This can be seen all throughout the establishment.

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Apart from their suites, all rooms are streamlined with the only difference that the rooms located in the first floor provide direct access to their pool. Since it was already our last day, we decided to get this room type. Access is literally a few steps away.

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If you want to hit the beach, they have a direct access at the back. You have to walk through a small alley for around 5-10 minutes before reaching Legian Beach.

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Since we had to leave before sunrise the next morning, their staff was nice enough to pack our inclusive breakfast. They even called us during our wake-up time. These small touches really made us want to stay longer at this place.

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Before I forget, I would also like to give a shout out to our driver Boron who made our Bali trip awesome! He made our trip very convenient and would often go out of his way. The small chit chats were also a big bonus as we learned more about Indonesia and Bali from a local standpoint. Again, thank you and we hope to see you again in the future!

For those who would like to contact Boron, just search Boron Blue Driver on Facebook.

– The Tourist Pao

Bali, Indonesia (Part V: Potato Head, Ku De Ta, Pandawa Beach)

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Day 3 means a more relaxing day for us after two days of temple touring. Our first stop was Potato Head Beach Club. Contrary to what I thought it would be like, this place has a laid back vibe to it. People were casually lounging around pool beds. We were hoping to stay around that area but it was full when we arrived.

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Right at the back of Potato Head is Seminyak Beach. It is a long sandy beach connecting Legian,Seminyak and Kuta. Unlike other beach lines, you can only see a few resorts along the front. There were only a few tourists along the beach. The sand is more on the darkish-grey color and the water is bluish-green.

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Afterwards, we decided to go to a beach that our driver, Boron, has been mentioning about – Pandawa Beach. We headed to the southeastern-most part of the island to reach our next destination.

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Before you reach the beach, you will pass by a road that cuts straight through the mountain. I am not certain but this seems like a quarry before the beach was discovered. Looks like it!

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We stayed at the far end of the beach as there are less people here. The place is not yet that well-known to tourists as majority of the visitors are locals.

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The sand is soft and almost-white in color. Water is clearer compared to the one in Seminyak Beach. We keep seeing signs not to swim though. The beach gets rocky along the shore during low tide.

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Because this was more of a chill day for us. We decided to head back to Brown Feather after our beach excursion. For dinner, we went to a nearby place called Crab Bar. As their name suggests, they specialize in crabs cooked the way you want.

To cap off our night, we headed to Ku De Ta. Bali has really been great to us so far!

Head to Part VI for our last day in Bali.

– The Tourist Pao

Boracay: Fifth Time Around

It’s my fifth time in Boracay when I visited last November 2014. I’ve been back almost every year since 2009. Whatever you heard about Boracay is true. Whether it be the good or the bad. Bottom line is, you have to visit the place yourself. I’ve been here during the summer months, rainy season and off-season. Each season means a whole different vibe to the island. I somewhat prefer the weather this time when we visited. It wasn’t rainy at all and was sunny during day time but cool at night.

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I won’t be thoroughly reviewing the must-sees as there are numerous blogs about this already. Our trip was mainly composed of beach bumming in the afternoon and lounging with drinks at night. Here are the place we visited during our short weekend stay:

1) Dos Mestizos

(Address: Remedios street, Sitio Manggayad,, Boracay Island, Sunset Road, Malay, 5608 Aklan)

One of the places I’d like to recommend is Dos Mestizos – a Spanish restaurant located near La Carmella Boracay bordering Station 2 and 3. Food was great and I recommend that you order their Salpicao de Vaca and Ensalada de Pulpo. Don’t forget to try their Paellas as well. They come in different portions depending on your group size.

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We were fortunate enough to catch their Rockaoke Night. Our group participated and jammed to the tunes of Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

2) Real Coffee

(Address: Station 2 2/F Sea World, 5608 Boracay, Aklan, Philippines)

A must-try when you are in Boracay. Their calamansi muffins is a staple pasalubong among fellow local travelers. Don’t forget to order at least a day before if you’re planning to take some back home. Real Coffee has since moved (to the address above) and this was my first time to visit their new location. There’s also another branch along Station 1.

3) Jonah’s

(Address: Aklan Brgy. Balabag, Boracay Island, Malay)

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You will easily locate this place heading towards Station 1 from D’Mall. Jonah’s is another staple in Boracay who’s best-known for their fresh fruit shakes. You can make your own fruit shake mix or order straight from their menu. Very affordable!

4) Aria

(Address: Beachfront, D’ Mall, Station 2, Boracay Island, Boracay)

Situated just in front of D’Mall (and beside Epic), Aria is one place that you will not miss spotting in Boracay. The place gets packed each time I visit the island. They offer Italian cuisine much to the delight of everyone. They branched out a few years back in Metro Manila but has since closed. Aria is one of those good-eat places in Boracay but only in Boracay. Yep, you read that correct!

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Our trip was cut-short as we had to return back from a long-weekend holiday. Other than the one’s we went to, we were hoping to try the much raved Tilapia ‘N Chips (a local version of Fish ‘N Chips) but failed to do so.

I will definitely be back for the 6th time!

– The Tourist Pao

Subic – Olongapo – Zambales (Part III: Anawangin Cove and Talisayin Cove)

It was officially January 01, 2015 at this point. What better way to spend the first day of the new year than to be spontaneous. After brunch, I invited my brother to try to reach Anawangin Cove. Prior to this trip, I have already researched a few details on how to get to this place. I also inquired with the hotel staff and they said that it’s doable. It was raining hard in Subic at that time but the staff said that there might be less or no rain at all in nearby areas. It was oftentimes like that around the area.

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Due to our persistence and new year good vibes, we decided to push through with our trip. We took the same path exiting through the Kalaklan Gate heading north via the RH5 National Highway. With the simple help of Google Maps, we followed the route towards the port town of San Antonio. Before reaching the destined port town, you will pass by the towns of Castillejos and San Marcelino. It took us around 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach San Antonio. We were lucky that there was no traffic and the rain subsided as we headed further north.

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From the port town, you will easily pass by several properties offering parking spaces. We were charged P50 to park our vehicle. On the same spot, there were several locals there that we approached and inquired about getting a boat ride to Anawangin. Because it was almost sun-down and we were very impromptu about our whole trip, we agreed to pay P1500 to get us to both Anawangin and Talisayin Cove and return us on the same day.

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To reach Anawangin, you will pass by several rock formations and Agnain Cove. It probably took us around 20-25 minutes to get to Anawangin Cove. As a reminder, you will experience dead spots to zero signal once you head out of the port town.

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We only had the chance to stay in Anawangin for around 10-15 minutes as it was nearing sun-down. The weather was also gloomy so we had to take that into consideration as the waves might grow stronger. Since we didn’t stay long, we only caught a glimpse of the forest trail in Anawangin.

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As it was nearing dark, we were still able to navigate through to reach Talisayin Cove. The boat ride took another 15 minutes from Anawangin.

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Talisayin is a quitier version of Anawangin. One of our boat men owns several huts in Talisayin. He boasts that unlike Anawangin, tourists who stay in Talisayin have the privilege of a generator. In addition, there are less tourists around this area if you want more privacy.

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After our visit to Talisayin, we headed back to San Antonio. It was already nighttime when we navigated back (with only a flashlight in hand). Luckily, our boatmen knew what they were doing and getting back at night was not a problem. We arrived in Subic around 8 in the evening.

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All I can say is, we will definitely be back for sure and will do an overnight camping in one of the coves. Whatever you’ve read or seen in other blogs are true. Anawangin and Talisayin (and the rest of the other coves) are a must-visit. Soft white-sand, clear waters, fresh air, secluded, no cellular signal, pine trees…paradise within reach…it’s all true.

Our trip ended on a high note with this one!

– The Tourist Pao

Subic – Olongapo – Zambales (Part II: The Beaches, New Year’s Eve)

Yesterday, we just arrived in Subic late in the afternoon. There was nothing much to do so my brother and I drove around later that night and drank some beer at The Lighthouse. Contrary to yesterday’s mood, we wanted to make the most out of this trip since today was New Year’s Eve. It’s the last day of 2014 already!

After grabbing some late lunch, my brother and I decided to check the beaches north as we have never gone further up before in Subic.

The Beaches

1) Half Moon Beach

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Our first stop was Half Moon Beach which took us around 15 minutes to reach. Beach was almost empty when we visited. There was only one family and a group of friends.

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The beach has a dark-grey sand and the water is fairly clear. You can see the mountains from the other side which is already part of Zambales (if I’m not mistaken).

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2) Sierra Beach

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From Half Moon Beach, we headed up north to Sierra Beach. Travel time was around 8-10 minutes. If the previous beach was almost empty, this one was totally empty when we visited. There was probably just one fisherman on his boat.

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The sand in Sierra is a bit whiter than the one in Half Moon. You almost get the same view from the previous one since their distance is only around 1+ km away.

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3) Baloy Beach

Our final stop was Baloy Beach. It took us around 10-15 minutes to reach from Sierra Beach. Contrary to the first two beaches where you enter the beach grounds right away, you had to enter a small town. The town is heavily populated by Western expats.

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Compared to the first two, Baloy is more of a long sandy coastline bordering the said town. The water here is more on the bluish-green shade while the sand (like lava ash) is darker but fine.

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We didn’t expect the beaches to be that easily accessible. Once you exit the Kalaklan Gate towards the RH5 National Highway, you just follow this main road and you will easily pass by all three. There are also other beaches along the way. All three beaches charged us entrance fees per person. Since we didn’t intend to stay long or use any of their facilities, the operators from all three beaches gave us a good discount.

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New Year at Subic

There wasn’t really much going during New Year’s Eve in Subic. Much of the celebration is concentrated along the Boardwalk. Just before it hit 12mn, we drove around the area to witness the fireworks display.

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The fireworks display lasted around 15 minutes. Too bad I wasn’t able to catch any good shots of the display. Establishments like The Lighthouse also had their own fireworks display but wasn’t open to the public. You had to avail of their New Year’s Eve package to enter their grounds for this night. You can still witness it from afar though. The one for the public is much better!

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I am not sure what happened afterwards as there was a stage upfront with live performances. A lot of the crowd dispersed after the fireworks display and so did we.

Part III is the most exciting leg of our trip!

– The Tourist Pao