Colours of dawn 31 May 2014

31 05 2014

Colours of dawn, 6.31 am, 31 May 2014, as seen at the unmanicured beach of Kampong Wak Hassan.

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Heaven isn’t just one place on Boracay

21 08 2013

Heavenly places to stay at to have that complete experience of Boracay

[Do also visit my post on omy.sg’s Boracay Island Escapade and also my set of posts at that same site.  Do also cast a vote for me and stand a chance to win a trip 5D4N trip for 2 to Boracay at Boracay Island Escapade on omy.sg (you may cast one vote a day and voting ends at 12 pm on  2 September 2013).]

Boracay has probably got everything for an island holiday. While its immense natural beauty alone will no doubt cast a spell on anyone who visits it, the island does boast of some truly wonderful places to stay at to provide a complete island holiday experience one from magical resorts which will take one’s breath away (such as the Shangri-La Boracay Spa and Resort which I last posted on) to places ideal for that beachfront party getaway.

Boracay has some accommodation which would make one want to run back from the beach to.

Boracay has some accommodation which would make one want to run back from the beach to.

Together with nine other bloggers on Tigerair Philippines inaugural flight from Singapore to Kalibo Airport in July, through the Philippine Department of Tourism, I got to have a look at some of them – all of which deserve consideration when planning a trip to the island paradise which was named as Travel + Leisure Magazine’s World’s Best Island in 2012. The ones I did get the opportunity to look at or have an experience of are:

Boracay's Puka Beach.

Boracay’s Puka Beach – the island was named by Travel + Leisure Magazine as the World’s Best Island in 2012. 


Fairways and Bluewater Resort

A super gorgeous view of the exclusive coves at Fairways and Bluewater.

A magical view at Fairways and Bluewater.

One property that does also offer some magnificent and equally magical views is the Fairways and Bluewater Resort, where one of my favourite scenic spots on the island is. Located on the island’s northeast, it is spread over a 150 hectare site and deserves mention for its three very exclusive coves and its golf course – an 18-hole course which is the island’s only one (it is also where guests at Shangri-La head to for a game of golf).

Fairways and Bluewater features an 18-hole golf course.

Fairways and Bluewater features an 18-hole golf course.

We experienced great hospitality at the resort - with yam ice cream served after coming down the zipline.

We experienced great hospitality at the resort – with yam ice cream served after coming down the zipline.

Perhaps why Paradise Cove did seem like paradise.

Finding out why Paradise Cove in Fairways and Bluewater is indeed paradise.

Paradise Cove.

Paradise Cove.

Beyond golf and the pretty views, there is lots more on offer at the resort, including accommodation and a wide range of activities for the entire family. The activities range from ones in and on the azure waters fronting the resort’s white sandy beaches, to kid friendly ones, as well as activities that would appeal to anyone with a sense of adventure. These include All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) rides, zipping high above the treeline on a zipline (the resort does have the longest and fastest zipline on the island) and ones that are less vigourous ones such as horse and segway rides on the beach. Water activities range from getting high or up to speed with jet-skis, speed boats, jet boats, banana boats and parasails as well as popular must-do activities such as island hopping, helmet diving, fly fishing and scuba diving.

There's a range of sea sports which will have a huge appeal to guests with a sense of adventure.

There’s a range of sea sports which will have a huge appeal to guests with a sense of adventure.

Bloggers who did have a very different sense of adventure.

Bloggers who did have a very different sense of adventure (not available of course to guests) on a tour of the resort’s facilities.

Christina with a new found friend.

Christina with a new found friend.

Atsuko horsing around.

Atsuko horsing around.

Valyn all geared up for the segway.

Valyn all geared up for the segway.

William on a horse.

William on a horse.

Lots also to do on and above the water.

Lots also to do on and above the water.

The Maris Spa at Fairways and Bluewater.

The Maris Spa at Fairways and Bluewater.

A look inside one of the spa's treatment rooms.

A look inside one of the spa’s treatment rooms.

A reflection of the beach on the windows of the spa's rooms.

A reflection of the beach on the windows of the spa’s rooms.

The resort’s accommodation ranges from comfortable family rooms to luxurious suites and villas – a total of 300 rooms are available. More information can be found at the resort’s website.

A bedroom in one of the resort's suites.

A bedroom in one of the resort’s suites.

Out on the terrace.

Out on the terrace.

Inside a suite.

Dining area inside a suite.

The Villa Catalina.

The Villa Catalina.

Another bedroom inside a suite.

Another bedroom inside a villa.

A lounge area inside a suite.

A lounge area inside the villa.


7Stones Boracay Suites

7Stones Suites at Bulabog Beach.

7Stones Suites at Bulabog Beach.

I have mentioned the 7Stones Boracay Suites previously as a choice of where I would stay on the island. While it does not come with the stand-out magical views of the Shangri-La and Fairways and Bluewater, its draw to me is its very convenient location. Located on a 4000 square metre plot at Bulabog Beach on the island’s east, the luxury boutique beachfront hotel, is sufficiently far enough from the hustle and bustle of White Beach where most of the action takes place, and yet close enough to it to quite easily get to its powdery white sands and the excitement it offers – being just a short tricycle taxi ride away. I also like the more personal feel it has on offer with only 28 rooms and suites, and its restaurant.

Bulabog Beach near 7Stones Suites.

Bulabog Beach near 7Stones Boracay Suites.

It was at the hotel’s restaurant, the 7th Note Café, where we did have lunch at on the second full day. The cut of premium Australian steak which was served with a huge prawn from the grill that we had was to me the stand-out culinary experience I had on the island! 7th Note Café is definitely a must eat at place if you do ever find yourself on Bulabog Beach.

Lunch at 7th Note Café.

Lunch at 7th Note Café.

Tropical fruit shake.

Tropical fruit shake.

Ice cream!

Ice cream!

Someone was naughty - fortunately Christina had already had lunch!

Someone was naughty – fortunately Christina had already had lunch!

Accommodation at 7Stones ranges from Superior Rooms to large suites with up to three bedrooms to accommodate a family of six. More information can be found at 7Stones’ website.

The children's swimming pool.

The children’s swimming pool.

A suite at 7Stones.

A suite at 7Stones.

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Boracay Regency Beach Resort and Spa

The resort we did put up at was the Boracay Regency Beach Resort and Spa, a beachfront property at White Beach’s Boat Station 2. It is perfectly placed, along with the next resort I will introduce, the Mandarin Boracay, to be close to where the bulk of the action in Boracay is as well as having the powdery white sands White Beach has a reputation for, right at its doorstep.

White Beach Boracay - where mcuh of the action takes place.

White Beach Boracay in front of the Boracay Regency.

The Boracay Regency is also one which is very well equipped, offering guests of its 285 rooms a range of facilities which include three very nice swimming pools – all conveniently located to serve each of its three wings. It does offer some wonderful places to dine at including a café right on the beach – the  Seabreeze Café which by night transforms itself into a spectacle with its live band and dancing cooks. Another place to have a meal at which has a very pleasant setting is Christina’s which offers a mix of Filipino and Italian cuisine – it was where we did enjoy our breakfasts at.

The Boracay Regency.

The Boracay Regency.

The stairway to heaven - from the beachside Boracay Regency to the beach at Boat Station 2.

The stairway to heaven – from the beachside Boracay Regency to the beach at Boat Station 2.

Christina's.

Christina’s.

Breakfast at Christina's.

Breakfast at Christina’s.

Accommodation at the Regency ranges from twin bedded Superior Rooms to larger suites and once again, more information can be obtained at the resort’s website.

The three bedded Deluxe Room at the Boracay Regency.

The three bedded Deluxe Room at the Boracay Regency.

Inside the Deluxe Room.

Inside the Deluxe Room.

The balcony of the Deluxe Room.

The balcony of the Deluxe Room.

The Boracay Regency.

The Boracay Regency.

One of the three swimming pools.

One of the three swimming pools.


Boracay Mandarin Island Hotel

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The Boracay Mandarin Island Hotel is another one which is very conveniently located at White Beach’s Boat Station 2, being just a stone’s throw from the Regency. Besides being close to the action, it is very close to D’Mall which is probably the best place to do a bit of shopping in Boracay. Being smaller than the Regency with 52 rooms, it does offer a more personal setting. There’s also a great place to dine at in Don Vito, the hotel’s highly rated Italian restaurant with its offerings of a fresh catch from the sea and the opportunity to also dine on the beach in the evenings.

The Boracay Mandarin's Swimming Pool.

The Boracay Mandarin’s Swimming Pool.

The Boracay Mandarin.

The Boracay Mandarin.

Accommodation ranges from Deluxe Rooms with beds for three to larger rooms and suites. We got to have a look at one of its very nice suites – the Penthouse Suite, perfect for a romantic getaway.

The suites are perfect for a romantic getaway.

The suites are perfect for a romantic getaway.

A King-sized canopy bed.

A King-sized canopy bed.

Inside the suite.

Inside the suite.

The separate bath area.

The separate bath area.

More information can also be found on the hotel’s website.

The entrance to Don Vito.

The entrance to Don Vito.


Discovery Shores Boracay

Discovery Shores.

Discovery Shores.

The last property we did visit, Discovery Shores Boracay Island, is also one which did leave a sizable impression on me. Our introduction to the resort, which is highly regarded being in Travel + Leisure Magazine’s list of World’s Best Hotels, was through dinner on our last evening. Also on the Small Luxury Hotels of the World Collection, its location is without a doubt one of the resort’s key selling points being on the beach right at the top end of White Beach’s Boat Station 1, where the beach is at its widest.

The Indigo at Discovery Shores.

The Indigo at Discovery Shores.

The swimming pool at Discovery Shores.

The swimming pool at Discovery Shores.

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The resort’s 88 rooms (all suites) are all ones to drool over and range from 40 to 45 square metre Junior Suites to Premier One and Two Bedroom Loft Suites of up to 120 square metres in area – some equipped with a Jacuzzi on the balcony. The balconies are ones which do offer wonderful views of the sea – even in the dark of night when we did get to see it. More information can be found on the resort’s website.

The nighttime view from Discovery Shores.

The nighttime view from Discovery Shores.

Through the bedroom window of one of the suites.

Through the window of one of the suites.

Inside the suite.

Inside the suite.

A bedroom inside a suite.

A bedroom inside a suite.

Inside a suite.

Inside a suite.

A bedroom in a loft suite.

A bedroom in a suite.

Inside one of the loft suites.

Inside one of the loft suites.

Another view inside a loft suite.

Another view inside a loft suite.

A view from the loft.

A view from the loft.

Another view from the loft.

Another view from the loft.

The balcony of one of the loft suites.

The balcony of one of the loft suites.


The trip to Boracay was made possible by Tigerair Philippines and the Philippine Department of Tourism. Tigerair now flies direct to Kalibo Airport – for more information on flights to Kalibo, do visit http://www.Tigerair.com/ph/en/.

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Getting there:


Location information:


Accommodation mentioned in this post:


This is a repost of my post on Boracay Island Escapade. Do cast a vote for me and stand a chance to win a trip 5D4N trip for 2 to Boracay at Boracay Island Escapade on omy.sg (you may cast one vote a day and voting ends at 12 pm on  2 September 2013).






Colours of independent Singapore’s 48th birthday

9 08 2013

Colours of the new day breaking at 6.51 am on the occasion of independent Singapore’s 48th birthday. Happy National Day Singapore!

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Colours of the morning, 24 July 2013

25 07 2013

The colours of the sunrise seen at 6.47 am from a wild and forgotten shore along which I find quiet moments on many a morning.

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Monoscapes: Dawn of a new world

19 07 2013

Seen against the light of dawn by the Tebrau or Johor Strait is a fence at the beach in Sembawang. More recently erected, it marked, for some reason, a long discarded boundary between what used to be a huge British naval base, vacated in 1971 and the area to its east, once occupied by coastal villages, the last of which was cleared in the later half of the 1990s. The fence came down two weeks ago, coinciding with the completion of “renewal” work at Sembawang Park which was developed at the end of the 1970s on the eastern edge of the former base. For long spared from the huge wave of development that has swept across much of the island of Singapore, the Sembawang area is in the midst of change as new public housing and luxury private residential developments in the area will transform what was an area with a well known laid-back feel and old world charm into another well populated and overly manicured neighbourhood in new Singapore.

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Jumping off in paradise

15 07 2013

Believe me or not, jumping off a cliff from a height five storeys up, has been something I have always dreamt of doing – especially into the crystal clear waters of a far-off tropical island paradise. Doing what does seem like a crazy thing aside, there are many other reasons why, heading to Boracay might seem like waking up to a dream for me.

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While diving off a cliff may be an attempt to regain some of a long misplaced youth – the trip to Boracay, despite it being associated with a young crowd, does hold much for me. Who after all can resist relaxing by a sun drenched white sandy beach, bathing in its emerald tinged waters, and the promise of a golden sunset listening to the soothing song of the sea.

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Dreams do sometimes come true, even if it does involve jumping from five-storeys up. And thanks to the dream-makers in the form of Tigerair Philippines and the Philippine Department of Tourism as joint sponsors and omy.sg as organisers, I will find myself waking up to that dream on Thursday, when I join nine other bloggers on Tigerair’s inaugural flight to Kalibo Airport for a 5 day / 4 night trip.

Boracay

The maiden flight is one which does open up a new route from Singapore – making it a lot easier to get to that dream destination, which would previously have required passengers from Singapore to make a transfer to be made either in Manila or in Cebu. What it does take now is a 3 hour 40 minute flight to get to Kalibo, which is on the island of Panay, a transfer to Caticlan Port, and a boat ride over to Boracay which lies off the north-western tip of Panay in the Western Visayas.

What does make Boracay, which measures some 9 kilometres in length and 1 kilometre in width, especially attractive especially to beach lovers (and the beach bum I sometimes imagine myself to be), has to be its famous White Beach – a 4 kilometre stretch of pristine white sand running down its western side. This combined with the draw of its clear waters, sea activities and it numerous resorts and its famed nightlife, has earned the island the accolade of being Travel+Leisure Magazine’s World’s Best Island Destination in 2012.

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What I do have in store for me, besides the chance to lose my senses off a cliff (I might just be crazy enough to do the 15 metre dive), is a host of other activities to revisit my lost youth, both in or on the water, and on land. There is that opportunity to snorkel, ride a banana boat, and go on a helmet dive, hopping island to island. A cruise on a paraw, will hopefully be one which will be accompanied by a breathtaking sunset.

Boracay Sunset

On land, there will be lots of free time to have a feel of the place as well as to participate in planned activities which include a ATV tour to Mount Luho, horseback riding and a Zorb. There would also be dinner entertainment to look forward, including watching the Amazing Show and a chance to catch fire dancers by the beach.

Through the trip from 18 to 22 July 2013, the bloggers including myself will be providing updates through feeds on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. That will give all of you back home the chance to see not just what the ten of us would be up to, but also to find out who amongst us did take that 5 storey plunge from Ariel’s Point.


Getting to Boracay

Tigerair Philippines flies three times a week from 18 July 2013 on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Kalibo on Panay Island. The flight time for the route is 3 hours and 40 minutes. Getting across from Panay involves a 1.5 hour transfer to Caticlan Port and 15 minute boat ride.

More information on Boracay can be found at the Philippine Department of Tourism website.


All images: Philippine Department of Tourism Philippine Department of Tourism


This is a repost of my post on Boracay Island Escapade.






The Bench through the rain

11 07 2013

A view of The Bench through the rain with the colours of the rising of the sun in the backdrop at 7.06 am on 9 July 2013. The Bench is very much a part of the scene along the top of an old seawall that used to belong to Kampong Wak Hassan at the end of Sembawang Road. That it is there, under the cool shade of a tree, is a mystery. Nobody does seem to know why it is there or who it had belonged to. It does serve to connect us with the kampong (now spelt kampung) or village which might otherwise be forgotten. The village was one of the last of the villages which one featured across much of rural Singapore to be cleared in 1998. More information on the village can be found on a previous post Monoscapes: Kampong Wak Hassan beach. The beach along the seawall is also one of the last natural sandy beaches left in Singapore and serves as a welcome escape for me from the overly urbanised landscape of modern Singapore (see: The song of a forgotten shore).

A view through the rain, 7.06 am, 9 July 2013.





Black under blue

18 06 2013

Another part of the former Portuguese colony of Macau which I was quite happy to discover was Hac Sa Beach ( 黑沙海灘), which translates into “Black Sand Beach” – so named because of its black volcanic sand,  on the island of Coloane. I visited it not so much for the beach but for lunch at a Hac Sa Beach institution, the Portuguese Restaurant Fernando’s, on a rain washed Friday during which the Tam Kong Festival was being celebrated on the island’s main village, Coloane Village. On what was mostly a grey day, the sky momentarily cleared to provide me with the gorgeous sight of the beach as it is best seen – under a bright blue sky.

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A song which soon will be forgotten

18 04 2013

For me, one of the most difficult things about being at home in Singapore is how little there is of what ties me to it that I can hold on to. The Singapore of today is one which bears little or no resemblance to the Singapore I grew up in, and one which I am very much attached to. I often find myself overcome with that sense of longing and sadness that accompanies a realisation that I can never return to that Singapore I fell in love growing up in.

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I find myself wandering through many of the altered spaces, in search of the little reminders that remain of those times forgotten, often leaving only with regret. Many of these spaces, now devoid of a way of life it once supported, are empty except for the clutter of ornaments inherited from the modern world.

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There are but a few spaces which have been spared this clutter. It is in the echoes of these spaces left without their souls, that I sometimes hear the singing of a song the lyrics of which might once have familiar.

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A familiar tune is still heard along the northern shores. Spared thus far from the interventions the modern world is too fond of, it is where the memory of naturally formed beaches, now a rare find, has been preserved. It is where perhaps a memory of a way of life we have forgotten can also be found in the casting of nets and rowing of sampan–like hulls.

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Alas, the familiar tune may soon be one we are to forget. The advance of a world in which it is hard to find sanity, has reached its doorstep. We see swanky beach front units that reek of the smell of money sprout in an area in which the smells would have been that of seawater soaked wood, of fishing nets drying in the sun, and of the catch from the sea. For how much longer will I be able to hear the familiar tune in my ears, I do not now know, but it is a tune I am determined to try to hear for as long as I am able to.

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About the beach and the former coastal villages :

The beach in the photographs is one of the last natural stretches of sandy beaches left in Singapore. It stretches from the seafront of Sembawang Park eastwards past the seawall at the former Kampong Wak Hassan and past the seafront area of the former Kampong Petempatan Melayu or Kampong Tengah, where it is broken by the mouth of a diverted and canalised former tributary of Sungei Simpang, Sungei Simpang Kiri. It would have run further east towards Tanjong Irau at the mouth of Sungei Simpang – that area, currently used as a military training ground and is inaccessible, is a reserve site for public housing and will be the future Simpang New Town – the coastline of which will be altered by land reclamation based on the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Master Plan 2008.

Kampong Petempatan Melayu or Kampong Tengah was a Malay Settlement which was established in the 1960s on some 16.5 ha. of land acquired by the Government from the Bukit Sembawang Group. It was a group of three coastal villages just east of the Naval Base which also included Kampong Tanjong Irau to its east and Kampong Wak Hassan to its west. A mosque, touted as the “last kampong mosque in Singapore”, the Masjid Petempatan Melayu, was built in Kampong Tengah which still stands today, despite the disappearance of the village.

Coming a full circle, the land fronting the beach is currently being developed by the Bukit Sembawang Group as a luxury development, Watercove Ville which will see some 80 strata houses built, and in all probability, the beach and beachfront will soon have to be made over.






Monoscapes: Kampong Wak Hassan beach

2 04 2013

What is possibly one of the last natural accessible stretches of sand along the coastline of the island of Singapore lies along the northern shoreline off Sembawang Park, stretching to the area off the former coastal villages of Kampong Wak Hassan and Kampong Tengah. Except for the attempt to “renew” the area around Sembawang Park which will result in it losing much of its previous charm, the shoreline in the area is one that is relatively untouched. Left in an almost natural state, the beach is one rich in character and in which the memories of a world that has ceased to exist can still be found. With property developments gaining pace in the area, it probably will not be long before the memories provided by the old but falling seawall and the natural beach, are paved over in the same way much of our previously beautiful coastline has.  Until then, it is one of the few places close to a world I would otherwise find hard to remember, in which I can find a rare escape from the concretised world that Singapore has too quickly become.

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About the former Kampong Wak Hassan:

The former village (kampong or kampung as it is spelt today), was one of several coastal villages that were found just to the east of Sembawang Road and the former British Naval Base, running along the coastline to Tanjong Irau at the mouth of Sungei Simpang. While the coastline played host to the nomadic inhabitants of the Straits of Johor, the Orang Laut, specifically the Orang Seletar, the kampong, stands as the oldest of the settlements in the stretch.

The village came to the location after work to build the huge naval base which ran along the northern coast from what is today Sembawang Road west to to the Causewayin the late 1920s displaced the the original Kampong Wak Hassan which grew from a coconut grove founded by Wak Hassan bin Ali at the original mouth of Sungei Sembawang (the area just west of what is today Sembawang Shipyard) in the 1914 (being granted rights by the Straits Settlements’ Commissioner of Lands to the use of the land stretching from the mouth of the river to Westhill Estate – which became Chong Pang Village).

While the base did provide residents of the village with employment opportunities, most of the villagers who may have originally been employed in rubber plantations which once occupied the lands around the coast and in the coconut groves, were involved in fishing.

The village besides being the oldest in the area, was also the longest lasting. While most of the inhabitants of the other villages were resettled at the end of the 1980s, the last inhabitants of Kampong Wak Hassan only moved out as recently as in 1998.


Previous posts related to Kampong Wak Hassan and the greater Sembawang area:

A place to greet the new day:






The sun rises on independent Singapore’s 47th birthday

9 08 2012

Photographs of the spectacular break of day I was very fortunate to have witnessed on the morning of Singapore’s 47th birthday. The first photograph was taken at 6.41 am and the last at 7.15 am and were taken at a natural beach along Singapore’s northern coastline that I hope will be left as it is …





Varying moods of a most beautiful place

2 08 2012

The varying moods of a place that in being left behind (at least for now) by the rest of Singapore, that in its imperfection holds a beauty we seem to have forgotten how to appreciate …