Mike’s Dauin Beach Resort in Dauin, Negros Oriental, South of Dumaguete

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20 minutes or 12 km from Dumaguete City is the town of Dauin, famous for diving and as the jump-off point for Apo Island. We decided to stay here to enjoy the ocean view.

Mike’s Resort is a small, well-run resort run by Mike Feeney, an American transplant who’s been living in Dumaguete for 9 years. He fell in love with a local girl, decided to settle in, in his words, “Paradise”, and opened his resort 3 years ago.

Mike is an affable guy, who is extremely hands-on in running his small resort. He makes it a point to meet all the guests, and is always happy to strike up a conversation. His commitment to customer service is also very evident by his personal involvement in his guests.

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Today Mike’s Resort  is rated #1 of all 6 resorts in Dauin in Tripadvisor.

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Mike’s Resort only has 8 rooms, spartan but very clean and fresh-smelling, which is more important to me than a luxuriously furnished yet musty room. Local wicker furniture, bamboo stands, a basic mattress is all that is needed, because one doesn’t really expect to stay indoors here.

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The bathroom is surprisingly large, and is generously stocked with 3 rolls of toilet paper, and 3 complete sets of towels. I’m not sure if this is their regular set-up, since we were only 2 in the room. The water pressure, unfortunately, wasn’t too strong, and it took a while to finish a shower.

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TV with cable is also available, and a surprisingly FREE and FAST wifi. A comfortable, cozy resort with technology at your fingertips. Nice.

Mike also has a bar and restaurant in the resort, so you don’t have to go far to get a bite to eat. Dinner was buffet style, with an enormous grilled fish (a dorado, or mahi-mahi in the local language), with pancit (noodles), salad, rice, and fresh fruits.

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The pool is  well-kept, and a nice size for just lazing around, with a kiddie pool at the side.

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Like all resorts in this area, Mike’s caters mostly to divers (though other sports like mountain biking and hiking are available), and PADI Dive courses are available. They promise to “have you in the water in no time”. Apo Island is only 45 minutes away, and Mike’s is equipped with a private boat to take you there.

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To visit his website, go here.

IMG_2672As a final anecdote illustrating Mike’s hospitality, Mike lent us his very own car to bring us to the airport when the taxi we hired showed up 2 sizes too small for our family. Mike was there to see us off, and to make sure all was well.

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Dumaguete Jan. 2013

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DH’s mother hails from Dumaguete City, on the island of Negros, in the province of Negros Oriental, the eastern side of the island, and she still has a few (ok, more than a few) relatives living there. This year his whole family decided to go to Dumaguete on a family trip just for the weekend to relax by the sea, visit some relatives, indulge in fresh seafood, and have some quality-time with each other.

Dumaguete City is a beautiful seaside town. It is the capital of  Negros Oriental, in the southern part of the Visayas of the Philippines.

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Just to show you where Dumaguete is in relation to the whole Philippines….dumaguete map

Normally this area of the Philippines is blessed with fantastic weather, shielded from most of the typhoons, but with the effects of global warming, unfortunately Dumaguete suffered from the last 2 major typhoons last year.

Dumaguete is only 1 hour away by plane from Manila, and flying here is convenient and painless. There are daily flights, and the airport in Dumaguete, while small, is clean and efficient.

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Tourists fly to Dumaguete mainly for diving. The famous Apo Island, which is a reknown marine sanctuary (I even visited a huge exhibit on Apo Island in Chicago!), is nearby, and many tourists land in Dumaguete for a week of snorkelling and diving.

The thing I like most about Dumaguete is what they call The Boulevard. Its official name is Rizal Boulevard, but every local refers to this beautiful avenue beside the water by this generic name. It was designed by Daniel Burnham, the same architect and urban planner as Baguio, the Philppines’ summer capital, and, more famously, Chicago and downtown Washington D.C. (as per Wikipedia). Wow, it’s nice to say those cities in the same sentence. 🙂

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For those of you who are familiar with Manila, the capital of the Philippines, Burnham is also the architect of Roxas Boulevard. Roxas Boulevard and The Boulevard look very similar, but The Boulevard has the edge because it has retained its classic look, whereas Roxas Boulevard kind of looks worse for wear (for me) because of the modernization (or so they say) and land reclamation around it. In fact, The Boulevard kind of reminds me of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, which Roxas Boulevard could have looked like, if they took better care preserving its original design.

Bit of trivia: Burnham may have designed The Boulevard, but unfortunately, never got the chance to visit it.

A walk down The Boulevard is refreshing to say the least. The boardwalk right beside the shore is well-maintained, wide, and comfortable for a leisurely stroll. The fresh breeze from the ocean feels like it can cure any respiratory ailment. On a warm, sunny day, it is SUCH a delight to walk. And, if you get hungry, there are many food establishments, from casual family fare to bars, along the other side of the road.

Speaking of food establishments, I must mention this one restaurant whose fame has reached Manila’s foodies. Sans Rival is a Filipino rich dessert of layers of meringue, cashew nuts, and rich buttercream (more butter than other buttercreams I’ve tasted!). I still haven’t found out why it carries a French name (meaning, without rival). Anyway, there is a restaurant along The Boulevard named Sans Rival, who’s specialty is, you guessed it, a deadly sans rival. As I said, Manila foodies have long waxed rhapsodic about this particular Sans Rival. So much so that I had at least 2 requests to bring back some sans rival from Sans Rival. Definitely if you find yourself in this part of the world, this place is a must-try. At least the sans rival, or its cookie version, the silvana, is.

A very efficient and modern counter graced the entrance.

IMG_2739But the star of the restaurant is the fully decked-out pastry showcase!

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The dining room is warm and inviting.IMG_2741With interesting design details such as birdcage chandeliers….

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Wooden lattice work…..IMG_2743

And interesting knick-knacks.IMG_2744

Here’s a slice of the famous Sans Rival. Look at all that butter! IMG_2745

For those who want more traditional desserts, they also carry a long line of cheesecakes, such as this Salted Caramel Cheesecake.IMG_2746

Sans Rival’s Sans Rival and Silvanas are popular gifts for people back in Manila, and a lot of my friends asked me to bring some home for them (called “pasalubong“, or a gift from one’s travels). Sans Rival has smartly started selling their goodies at the airport’s departure area, so in case you forget to buy a pasalubong, you can just make a snap purchase of a delicious box of Silvanas. Oh, small catch: they are slightly more expensive in the airport.

As for the other food places, you can’t really go wrong with fresh seafood, hot of the grill. We had dinner at Lab-As (“fresh” in the local dialect), and feasted on fresh oysters, fresh maya-maya (red snapper), fresh stuffed squid, and….frozen yogurt.

Lab-as is a great restaurant, but its sister-bar, Hayahay (which means “chillax”), is right beside for some after-dinner entertainment. Live bands play nightly here.

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Here is the reason for dinner!! IMG_2712

Fresh oysters……..IMG_2713

….make great appetizers!
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Where the action is…..the grilling station!
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While we opted to stay outdoors to enjoy the fresh air (Lab-As is located beside the Boulevard, so it gets very windy), there is an indoor air-conditioned dining area available.IMG_2731

Dumaguete is a small city with all the creature comforts of a tourist destination. While there are no big chain hotels here (yet), there are dozens of small, charming hotels around the town that are great stopovers for tourists on the way to their dive resorts. There is also a mall with all the usual fastfood chains (I would assume. I personally didn’t go inside the mall) for those foreigners who are looking for familiar food like McDonald’s.

Around Boracay

While most of my posts about Boracay (fondly referred to by Filipinos as “Bora”) have been about Discovery Shores, Bora has SO much more to offer in terms of dining, entertainment, and other activities. It just so happened, to your misfortune, that DH and I are really lazy lankers at heart. But we did go around a few times, and here’s just a taste of what’s around Boracay.

White Beach has a little strip mall in the middle of Station 2. It’s called “D’Mall”, a typical Filipino joke playing on the word “the”.

D’Mall has a bunch of restaurants that cover a diverse array of cuisine. There’s a Greek restaurant called Cyma (very good! Complete with the “Ooopah!”), and this Italian restaurant Aria. Both these restaurants started in Boracay but did so well they opened a branch in Manila.
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Then you have a bunch of grilled seafood restaurants like this one (sorry, didn’t eat here, so can’t tell you anything about it). But fresh seafood abound in Boracay, and the simpler restaurants usually grill them over charcoal. What can go wrong? Just make sure that you’re eating REAL fresh seafood, and take special care with the shellfish (especially oysters). To be safe, eat oysters on a full stomach.IMG_2336

For REALLY fresh and cheap seafood, go to the Talipapa (known as D’Talipapa, owned by the same people as D’Mall), or the wet market. There you can buy your fish fresh, and have it cooked the way you want it (grilled, steamed, wrapped in banana leaves, etc.). As long as it’s relatively simple, they’ll be able to do it. (Again, my apologies, no pictures).

Of course, the coffee craze has also reached Boracay’s shores, so you will find coffee hangouts. IMG_2337

One of the more popular places to eat is Kasbah, which serves Mediterranean food. Again, like Cyma and Aria, it did so well in Bora that they just opened a branch in 2012 in Manila.

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Unlike their Manila counterpart, their Boracay restaurant has that distinct island feel. The whole restaurant is open-air (actually, I don’t know of any enclosed, airconditioned restaurant in Boracay).IMG_2377

The decor is quite distinctive though. They did make the effort to have some Mediterranean touches. IMG_2379 IMG_2382

They had good kebabs, curries, and tagines, all presented in earthenware.

DH and I also tried Friday’s, the resort beside Discovery Shores. Years ago, Friday’s was THE best resort on the island, by virtue of its location. Just look at the view they have!IMG_2395

While Discovery Shores has a modern design, Friday’s went native. We had breakfast here one day.IMG_2392 This is their central restaurant. IMG_2394 IMG_2396

And of course, there IS Discovery Shores. This was our lunch. A seafood platter, good for 2. Can’t really go wrong here either.IMG_2419

With 3 kinds of sauces!IMG_2418
A side from restaurants, there is a whole slew of water sports, from the technical (diving, sailing) to the just-plain-fun (ask for the Banana Boat). On the other side of the island (which isn’t far) is kite-boarding. And for the landlubbers, there is an outfit that rents out ATVs to explore the island.

As for DH and me, we were just happy basking in the sun and feeling the sand between our toes.

Dos Mestizos in Boracay, Philippines


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DH and I decided to go to a well-reputed Spanish restaurant for dinner in Boracay. Friends in Manila have told me about Dos Mestizos, and I am fortunate enough to befriend the chef-owner, Binggoy Remedios , but I have never eaten there. Aside from the glowing reviews from fellow foodies, it got a good rating from tripadvisor (#6 out of 147 restuaurants!).

Frankly, I don’t really expect much when I dine in Boracay. I come here not for the food, but for the beach experience: the fine sand, the lounging in the sun, the lazy life. Also, I do understand that fancy ingredients are hard to come by in the island. It distresses me when I eat food that tries hard to be “haute cuisine”, but falls so short because they’re trying so hard to be something they’re not. I like sticking to the best ingredients of the island: simple, fresh seafood, without any complicated sauces or preparations masking their natural sweetness.

Dos Mestizos looks like a rustic Spanish restaurant, with earthy colors and dim lights. A large window to their kitchen dominates the dining room, emphasizing the chef’s pride in his kitchen’s cleanliness and orderliness.

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Dozens of magazine articles decorate the wall: a testament to Chef Binggoy’s talents and marketability.

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This mural of a nude maja shows Binggoy’s artistic leanings. IMG_2450

Their bar is in the middle of the dining room, inviting solo diners to sit and just people watch from the best vantage point of the restaurant. We’re lucky enough to see Binggoy by the bar, and say hello.

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After we order, Binggoy takes us around, showing us his wine room, his deli, and his bake shop. He proudly says that they make their own bread. I see ciabatta, baguettes, and gorgeous whole wheat sandwich bread.

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Two tempting legs of jamon serrano hang temptingly at the deli window, and his deli showcase displays an assortment of cheese. The deli is bright and inviting, and Binggoy says that his sandwiches are quite popular. I surmise the fresh bread has something to do with it.

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But we’re here for dinner, and so Binggoy settles us in a table and gives us a complimentary carafe of sangria. Since we’re only 2, we can’t order our usual array of tapas, so we settle for two: their homemade chorizo and slices of manchego. The chorizo was excellent! Packed with flavor of the pork and paprika, they sizzle deliciously in the  traditional earthenware dishes. They’re served with pan-fried,  diced potatoes and whole garlic cloves, both cooked perfectly. The garlic was sweet and mild, and the potatoes were crisp on the outside, adding to the textures. But the best part of the chorizos? The bits of fat in the sausage! They’re large enough that you can taste the fat.

Here’s a shot of the tapas menu, just so that you have some idea of their offerings and prices. Exchange rate was 1USD = 41PHP.
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For our main course, we order their assorted seafood platter: a combination of fish and shellfish, with a light beurre-blanc sauce. We had Aklan clams (large, sweet clams), mussels (tiny ones, so they weren’t rubbery), native scallps, grilled shrimps, and salmon. Of all the seafood, only the salmon wasn’t freshly caught (salmon isn’t a local fish of the Philippines, and are brought in frozen). While the salmon was still excellently cooked (crisp skin, and medium-rare), I felt that it didn’t belong in this platter of mostly local seafood. But, all the seafood was delicious: lightly seasoned, letting the natural flavors shine.

Sorry, but we were so excited by the food that I forgot to take pictures!

For postre, or dessert, we had the warm bread pudding with natilla, or condensed milk, and liquored ice cream.

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Getting Married? Have It At Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines

IMG_2431I promise this is the last post on Discovery Shores, lest you think I’m on their payroll. 🙂

Most people dream of a destination wedding, and if you want a beach wedding, I don’t think there’s a better beach than Boracay, Philippines, and Discovery Shores is one of the best hotel/resorts to have it in. As I said in a previous post, Discovery Shores is not only a beautiful hotel, but is also located in one of the best beaches in Boracay.

While lounging on the beach, we saw a lot of activity in front of the hotel: tents, tables, a stage, a sound system, flowers….what was going on? “We have a wedding at 4pm.”, we were told. So we saw firsthand all the preparations that went into a Boracay wedding.

The engineering staff of the hotel was a flurry with activity setting up the tents in front of the hotel. Apparently the ceremony was going to be on the beach (timed with sunset. How gorgeous!!), and the reception (dinner and dancing) was going to be on the beach as well, right in front of the hotel.

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Nearby, a gazebo was being constructed. The top photo shows the finished product (with DH and I posing for our anniversary picture).IMG_2398

Simple monoblock chairs were set up facing the water. This was around 1pm, and the ceremony was set for 5pm.IMG_2399

Underneath the tents, the presidential table was being set up. Fine linens and sturdy chairs were used, so at least the monoblock look was only for the outdoor ceremony.IMG_2403

The wedding party hired a band to play, and a stage was also being set up.IMG_2404

Part of a Boracay wedding is a sandcastle made of the famous sand, with the newlyweds’ names on it. Here you see the start of the sandcastle.IMG_2401

Carefully block letters are “carved” out of firm sand.IMG_2405

And the finished product! A very personalized sandcastle.IMG_2409

Stylish buffet tables, ready to be dressed up.IMG_2411

The reception area is cordoned off to ensure no “strays” wander in.IMG_2414

Almost done!
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The wedding attendants and coordinators get ready! The sun is starting to set.

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All waiting for the bride to arrive!IMG_2439Inside the tent….the finished scene! All lit up and ready to party.

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Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines Part 4: Facilities

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Well, just in CASE you’re the type NOT to hang out on the beach, Discovery Shores does have some facilites that give you alternatives to sunbathing. Firstly, the pool and jacuzzi (shown above) is shallow enough for easy wading. PLUS it’s beside the bar, so really nice for night swimming and hanging around the bar action. There’s a small side pool just for kids.

Just as an aside, Discovery Shores really took a lot of pains in landscaping their property, and making sure that their place looked nice both during the day AND night. Just look at the different colored lights, just for different moods.

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This is their cafe/breakfast restaurant. Unfortunately I took these pictures at night, so you don’t get to see it humming with activity. Or maybe that’s a good thing.
IMG_2464 Their front desk and reception table. During the day, there’s this big jar of cookies just sitting there on top of the counter, welcoming any guest to dive in and grab some. Rest assured I made myself at home here.IMG_2463

Their convenience store and sundries shop. Just in case you forgot your swimsuit or tanning lotion. Or are need a gift to give.IMG_2462 A children’s playroom.

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A library, for the bookworm in you. Don’t forget the stack of books in your room as well.IMG_2458

And, for the traveller who JUST has do get some work done, here’s a business center. Oh, before I forget, there’s free wifi available all over the resort, even at the beachfront. So you CAN work and tan at the same time.IMG_2459

Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines Part 3: Night Life

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Discovery Shores makes sure it has something special on weekend nights.  They remove most of the lounging beds to give the resort a feeling an openness at night. Warmly-lit, and music-filled, the resort’s entrance looks very inviting.IMG_2367

 

 

Facing the beach is an expansive bar.IMG_2372

Discovery Shores serves all sorts of bar chow, like croquettas……
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…….fried spring rolls…..
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……and lamb ribs.

DH and I took advantage of their happy hour offer: buy one, take one on margaritas! We had them frozen, since it was a very warm night.

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Discovery Shores also had a full, international buffet on the beachfront. Such a lavish spread!IMG_2499

And fancy dining tables! All on the beach, so you can eat here bare-footed.IMG_2501
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Roast beef on the beach!
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And paella! IMG_2503On top of all this, there was a really entertaining band that played 3 sets, so it was a great night under the stars, live music, cold drinks and never-ending food.