Category / Travel
March 11, 2013
This is the follow up to the previous post on the first set of underwater photos taken at Anilao. I also talked a little bit on the accommodation and food while we were there.
Here are another set of 10 underwater photos taken during the trip that I thought worthy of sharing. Your comments and critics are very much welcomed.
a pair of Coleman Shrimps, Mato Point
We saw this pair of Coleman shrimps resting in the middle of a fire urchin. These creatures are pretty difficult to spot since they camouflage so well with the surrounding. The bigger shrimp is female, and from what I heard they might provide manicure service if you place your finger closer to them. We did not try that.
yellow frogfish, Basura
This was the first frogfish we saw at the dive site Basura, the little bugger is about 3-4 inches in length. The yellow submarine did not like to move much, and when it does it was a very awkward walk. Very fascinating.
a very tiny clown frogfish, Basura
Not far from the spot where we found the yellow frogfish sits this really tiny clown frogfish, a juvenile that was no bigger than 2 centimeters. If this thing isn’t the definition of cute I don’t know what is.
leaf scorpionfish, Mato Point
The leaf scorpionfish is another master of disguise. They don’t move much and blends very well with the surrounding and apparently can eat preys as big as half its body length.
porcelain crabs on coral, Basura
A pair of porcelain crabs making an anemone as their home. They are not actually “true crab” but shares the same body plan as squat lobster. True crabs have 4 pairs of legs, these tiny crustaceans have only 3. They were about 2-3 cm in length and rather active.
red lionfish, Dead Palm
Lionfish are found all on pretty much every dive site we went to in Anilao. While its venomous spines can be pretty intimidating, lionfish are usually quite shy and will try to swim away if you go close.
red lionfish, Arthur’s Reef
Another closer look at the red lionfish.
Pufferfish is another family of fishes that’s widely found here. This one was trying to hide itself by ruffling up some sand, camera shy I guess?
pygmy seahorse, Dead Palm
This little bugger is one of the hardest creatures to find and photographed. They’re only about 1 cm in length and looked almost exactly like the coral in which they hide. To make things even more interesting, they are usually found pretty deep, this one at 28-29 meter.
purple tip tube anemone, Arthur’s Reef
A common species of anemone found at most sites at Anilao, staring at one top down and close up gives me a pretty surreal feeling. (reminds me of the plastic bag scene in American Beauty)
Till another dive trip! Hope you enjoy these photos.
March 7, 2013
As promised, here are some photos taken from our diving trip to Anilao last Junuary (post on accommodation). These pictures were taken from the first two days of diving.
For anyone who’s interested, these is my underwater set up:
- Olympus EPL3
- PT-EP05L underwater housing
- Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes x 2
- Inon UCL-165 M67 macro wet lens
- Ikelite tray & i-Das arm system
blue ribbon eel, Sombrero
I did a total of 11 dives over 4 days. We visited a number of dive sites but also went back to a few that we really liked.
Anilao really has quite a lot to offer. On the surface it is quite an unassuming peninsula. There isn’t any great beach nor excellent landscape, but underwater it’s a very different story altogether.
clownfish in anemone, Sombrero
While lacking bigger marine life such as turtles and sharks, Anilao is teeming with huge variety of smaller underwater creatures. You can always expect a big variety of fish, shrimps, crabs, cephalopods (octopus/cuttlefish/squid), searhorses and various types of nudibranches basically in every other dive.
juvenile cuttlefish wasn’t very pleased
Underwater landscape at most of the dive sites aren’t spectacular either. Arthur’s Rock by the resort offers perhaps the best seascape with more hard corals and rock formations, while sites such as Basura is shallow with sandy and at some parts, grassy bottoms.
It is when you look closer that you’ll start to marvel at what Anilao has to offer. Hidden amongst the corals, rocks, or sea fan are tiny creatures such as emperor shrimps, transparent shrimps, and and nudibranches.
play time with an octopus in a half bottle
Here, even what looked like floating debris could turn out to be ghost pipefish and other creatures. We were lucky as our guide Richard was great in spotting these and pointed them to us.
an unsuspecting scorpionfish
One of the strangest creatures I saw was this (I’m assuming) algae octopus that went bipedal and started walking away on the sandy seafloor with two tentacles acting like legs. It was both weird, wonderful, and slightly scary, like something you’d see in a B-grade sci-fi. Luckily it was no bigger than a tennis ball.
algae octopus going bipedal
As for diving condition, there is usually very little current underwater. Other than the sites involving pygmy seahorses (maybe on another photo set), dive sites are generally rather shallow, which meant relaxing dives.
the elusive ghost pipefish
The only little problem we had was that the temperature can get a little chilly (about 25-26 C), having thicker neoprene or extra hoods/gloves should solve this problem.
Now this is making me miss diving again. We have a trip scheduled this October, but lets see if there’s a way we sneak one in between.
nudibranch – Nembrotha kubaryana
March 3, 2013
Two months ago, from the 1st to the 7th January, Haze and I traveled to the Philippines for a dive trip at Anilao. The week long trip includes two nights at Manila and four nights at Anilao, Batangas. In this entry I’m going to talk a bit about the journey and Arthur’s Place, the resort we stayed while at Anilao.
Anilao is a pretty popular diving destination in the Philippines due to its proximity from Manila, as well as the myriad of underwater creatures the various dive sites has to offer. If you love macro (those small stuff like nudibranch, crabs, shrimps, etc), you will love Anilao.
I’ll be posting plenty of underwater photos on subsequent posts.
all smiles, driving to Anilao took about two hours
We flew Cebu Pacific and spent New Year’s day at Rich, my ex-colleague’s place at Manila.
On the next day, we drove about 2 hours to Anilao on a journey that’s about 75% highway and 25% slow moving busy town-roads. Our destination was Arthur’s Place where we will meet up with Dave, Caterina and others diving buddies (we dove together at Similan Islands and Tenggol Island)
Arthur’s place, love the lawn and the gazebo
Arthur’s Place has about a dozen rooms facing a lawn with a gazebo in the middle. The restaurant is located “upstairs”, while the dive center is half a level down, right next to the beach. It isn’t exactly luxury, but the rooms are clean, and comes with hot water and air conditioning.
Once we have our equipments set up for the first day, the helpers at the resort made sure we had fresh tanks of air for every dive, and transferring of equipment from boat to dive center’s usually taken care of as well. The level of service is excellent.
Dive center at Arthur’s Place
Our dive guide was Richard, the guy knows practically everything about dive sites at Anilao. All we had to do was telling him what we wanted to see, and he’ll know exactly which dive side and be able to locate that particular frog fish that’s only 2cm across, or the one sea fan with pygmy seahorse out of the hundreds of sea fans underwater.
If you are going to Arthur’s Place, I highly recommend getting Richard as your dive guide.
the pebble beach, not real sandy, but still a lovely view
The beach in front of Arthur’s Place isn’t exactly superb. The beach is made of broken corals, pebbles, and sand. A pair of booty is very useful if you want to take a stroll by the seaside. This is typical of beaches around Anilao and not limited to this stretch at Arthur’s Place.
Water is generally clear and you can snorkel or dive right from here.
awesome sunset everyday at Arthur’s Place
Arthur’s place faces west, which means post-card worthy sunset view every evening. We had the privilege of enjoying four golden sunsets here, and each time it takes your breath away.
some of the food we had, plenty of choices to last a week
Everything here is ala-carte basis, and that includes room, diving (per dive depending on number of divers, distance of dive sites), and best of all – food. The restaurant at Arthur’s Place carries a pretty decent menu offering traditional dishes such as steamed fish, chicken adobo, bangus (milk fish for breakfast), to Western entries such as their very delicious bacon cheese burger.
The prices are from around 80 to 200 Philippines Peso per dish, while on a slightly high side for Philippines, we had no qualms about how they tastes and looked forward to every meal.
KY, Haze, and Rich, partner in compressed air breathing
Over all we spent about RM 2,500 for 4 nights of accommodation, food, and around 20 dives for myself and Haze. It was money well spent and the trip was only made better by the excellent hospitality by Rich and San San.
Looking forward to doing this again. Underwater photos coming soon.
February 28, 2013
First of all, if you’re planning a visit to Australia, head to australia.com right now! It is the single most comprehensive site for travelers heading Down Under, in there you can find heaps of information on pretty much everywhere and everything Australia.
Here are some of the things you can find on the site:
- travel by destination – cities
- accommodation – with links to hotels, ratings, etc
- restaurants and where to eat
The information is laid out well, with photos, guides, videos, tips, and even special offers. It is the single most amazing tourism site I’ve seen.
australia.com website, everything you need to plan a trip
Personally, I’ve been to Australia twice, both times to Melbourne and I really enjoyed my visits. There’s plenty to do, I went skiing at Mt. Buller, visited Chinatown, ate at little Italy, traveled to St. Kilda by tram, walked around Melbourne University, and shopped at Queen Victoria Village.
And since this blog is primarily known for food, lets explore a little bit on what you can expect to find while in Australia. These are just some of the places I went to in Melbourne, but you can find many a variety of dining choices in pretty much every city in Australia.
Food lovers will never be disappointed.
MART 130, excellent breakfast place
There are many awesome breakfast places in Australia, and MART 130 would be one of the excellent examples if you’re traveling to Melbourne. The place used to be a TRAM stop, but it is now serving one of the best breakfasts you’d find anywhere. Yes, you can get there on Melbourne’s well known tram system.
07A Canterbury Road,
Middle Park 3206,
coffee at Brother Baba Budan
For those who love coffee, the caffeinated culture is mature and sophisticated. Coffee houses are among the hot spots where people hang out, and one of the places you should check out would be Brother Baba Budan, the coffee here is one of the best you could get anywhere and consistently praised by critics. I certainly loved it.
Alternatively, chocolate lovers should check out Max Brenners chocolate bar at QV, they serve pretty awesome chocolate drinks, and rather decent coffee too.
Brother Baba Budan
359 Little Bourke Street
real hearty burgers at Grill’d
There are fast food joints all over Australia, but if you’re into hearty, thick-pattied burgers, Grill’d would be one of those places you want to stop by. Australia produces premium quality beef, which you can enjoy in their burgers.
Grill’d is available at more than 30 locations.
Grill’d (opposite Max Brenners)
210 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
authentic as you can get Vietnamese pho, even has coagulated blood
Since Australia is a melting pot with various cultures and immigrants from different parts of the world, you get many authentic ethnic cuisines.
One of my favorite Asian dishes is Vietnamese pho (soup noodle), so we went all the way to Richmond, the “little Vietnam” near Melbourne for a meal. Pho Dzung did not disappoint, they even have coagulated blood on the menu, something I haven’t seen from anywhere else outside Vietnam!
Pho Dzung Tan Dinh
208 Victoria St
Richmond 3121 VIC
Korean food? you’re covered at Oriental Spoon
If Korean food is your choice, there are plenty to choose from as well. We went to Oriental Spoon while I was in Melbourne, the bulgogi was huge and yummy, the only small problem over there is that you might end up waiting for a bit to get a vacant table.
254 La Trobe St,
Melbourne VIC 3000,
Japanese food? No problem, Shoya is more than satisfactory
Shoya is an established high end Japanese restaurant that calls Melbourne home. If you’re on a bit of a budget,a great way to try high end restaurants would be to go for their set lunches. The photos above are some of the dishes we had for the two sets ordered. The meals ended up with two satisfied customers.
25 Market Lane, Melbourne.
Victoria, Australia, 3000
Ying Thai 2 offers one of the best Thai foods around
Fancy some spicy food that’ll leave a burning sensation in your very own down under? Ying Thai 2 is one of the many Thai restaurants in every major Australian city. Tomyam, green curry, minced meat with basil, and even chicken in pandan leaves, they have it all. Prices are very reasonable as well, a very popular place among students and working adults alike.
Ying Thai 2
110 Lygon St,
Carlton VIC 3053,
Italian cuisine? Plenty of those at Lygon street, pics above from Tiamo 2
There are plenty of Italian restaurants in Australia, and the popular place to go if you find yourself at Melbourne would be Lygon Street. We’ve been to Cafe Italia for authentic Italian food, Il Dolce Freddo for some of the best gelati, and Tiamo 2 Cucina E Pizzeria for hearty pizzas.
305 Lygon St
Carlton 3053, Victoria
seafood at Claypots, St. Kilda
For seafood lovers, most of the major cities in Australia are along the vast coastline of the country. When I was in Melbourne we traveled to St. Kilda for this purpose. Here you find quite a few restaurants that serve fresh seafood, and we had a great dinner at Claypots. The fish was fresh, and prawns were scrumptious. It was indeed very yummy. I remembered ordering a fish that I’ve never tasted before, though the name of said fish escapes my mind right now.
213 Barkly St,
These are some of the places I personally visited from the two trips in Melbourne. There are plenty of great food experiences to enjoy in Australia, and you don’t even need to limit yourself to restaurants as there are also fresh produce markets, fruit picking, cheese farms, and many other delicious places to visit for a complete gastronomic journey Down Under.
January 21, 2013
I’m by no means a philanthropist or a super passionate volunteer, but I do believe that every one of us should try to give back a little bit when there are chances to do so.
So when Dr. Melissa from MyDentist (where I get my Invisalign braces and my ongoing dental treatment) told me about Operation Smile missions in the Philippines, I jumped on the opportunity to go on my first volunteer trip.
Sta Ana Hospital, with Dr. Foo, Dr. Melissa, and our most friendly driver
First off, what is Operation Smile?
“Operation Smile is an international children’s medical charity that heals children’s smiles, forever changing their lives.”
Founded by Dr. William Magee and Kathy Magee in 1982, Operation Smile provides free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities through the help of dedicated medical volunteers.
Dr. Melissa showing the device they use for cleft palate patient
The volunteers consists of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room nurses, dentists, pediatricians, speech therapists, medical equipment specialists, photographers, and more.
There were four missions in Philippines from running from the 22nd November to 1st December 2012 happening at Manila, General Santos City, Cavite, and Cebu City. We went to Manila on the 26th November to participate in the mission as first week is usually the screening process and thus have less use for dentists.
every morning starts with a briefing
The mission at Manila was held at the Sta Ana Hospital, one of the government hospitals located at greater Manila. It was about a 20-30 minutes van ride from the hotel at Makati.
Morning briefing starts at around 7 am everyday, so we had to get up by 6 am to have breakfast and catch the shuttle service to the hospital. The last operation usually doesn’t end before sunset. These are marathon sessions in surgery, but no one complain.
mission at De La Salle hospital, Cavite
I asked a local nurse where she resides, and her answer was “6 rides away”.
“Huh?” was my reaction. Then she explained that in order to get to Sta Ana hospital, she had to catch a jeepney, a bus, tricycle, then 2 more jeepney trips, and another tricycle. The journey takes something like 2 hours and she had to travel back and forth everyday to volunteer for the operation.
This is just an example of the dedication shown by the volunteers.
these kids will have a much improved life after operation
As for the international volunteers, Operation Smile provides hotel (decent 2-3 star accommodation, twin sharing most of the time), breakfast, and some food at the hospital pantry throughout the day. The volunteers paid for their own flights and other expenses.
This is very far from a “free leisure trip with some volunteer work”. A huge chunk of money collected by Operation Smile is used directly to pay for the surgeries of the kids who need them.
2 OR nurses and a dentist
On the third day of our stay, we moved to Cavite City to join another mission as the need of dentists were more pressing at that location.
The group at Cavite operates at De La Salle Health Sciences Institute, Dasmariñas. The private hospital donates the usage of two operating rooms for Operation Smile and there were five plastic surgeons paired with anesthesiologists and operating nurses.
The mood in the operating rooms were usually quite relaxed and carries almost a celebratory mood. Everyone worked tirelessly but were always in a good mood.
then we had a gala dinner to end the mission
At the second to last day of mission, the Vice President of De La Salle University hosted a dinner at his residence to show appreciation to the volunteers, and there was a gala dinner a night after the missions concluded where volunteers from all four sites gathered at Manila to celebrate the success of the missions. Over 500 children benefited from Operation Smile across the four sites.
gala dinner at Manila
This trip opened my eyes and showed the better side of humanity that we seldom see. I felt embarrassed by the lack of help I could give to the mission other than spreading awareness through this space and other social media platforms. Perhaps I could be a imaging specialist or something next time.
Check out www.operationsmile.org for more information. If you are think you can help (especially medical professionals), contact Dr. Melissa from My Dentist and make a difference.