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.

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. 



Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines Part 2: The Room

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What’s a blog about a hotel without pictures of the room? Obviously the room is of great interest!

The room of Discovery Shores was tastefully done, yet not plush or overly luxurious. The bed was wonderful though. Firm, with beautiful sheets (I’m no expert, but it felt like high thread count) and fluffy down-filled pillows. So wonderful to crawl in after a tiring day on the beach.

Discovery Shores treated us to a complimentary foot spa when we arrived. That’s DH’s hairy leg, not mine, BTW.

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The requisite light reading on the beach. We asked to change rooms (our original room was too far from the beach), and I noticed a stack of books in the first room as well. Thankfully they were different titles. I actually picked one up (LA Times). Definitely light reading.IMG_2492

An ipod/iphone dock, to play your own music. However, with the new iPhone 5 using the new charger (and I assume, the next generation of iWhatevers will folllow suit), I suppose they’ll be changing this soon.

IMG_2491Discovery Shores gave us fruits or a native sweet every day. It was a nice way of sharing some local culture with the guests. I didn’t take a picture of the food though).
IMG_2490 And 3 jars of goodies greeted us on our first day, and were refilled every day. The empty one was filled with yummy oatmeal cookies, which I demolished.IMG_2489

Of course, the BATHROOM was very important to me, and here I must admit i was a little disappointed. It was a weird set-up: the toilet and shower inside the bathroom, while the sink was outside in the bedroom. Not something I expected from a world-class hotel. Plus the bathroom was quite spartan (no picture again…..all you’d see would be a tiled wall). The fixtures were nice though.

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And they do make cute towel animals (I mentioned their towel swan in the previous post).

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Here’s a picture of the rest of the room, though the day bed isn’t seen.IMG_2483

Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines Part 1

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For our 5th anniversary, DH planned a beach getaway to Boracay, a beautiful island less than an hour away from Manila. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are all levels of hotels in Boracay. We wanted one that was on the quiet side of the island, and one that would pamper us a bit. Discovery Shores was our choice.

Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines, was rated #1 Hotel Spa in Asia by Travel and Leisure (see here), one of the Top 5 in Travel and Leisure’s List of 500 Best Hotels in the World and ranked #6 in tripadvisor. And a lot of our friends have stayed there before, so we knew that it would be a great anniversary.

Discovery Shores took care us of the minute we landed in the airport. We were met by gracious and pleasant uniformed employees of the resort, who promptly helped us with our bags, and led us to an air-conditioned van to bring us to the waiting area of the boat (approximately 10 minute ride).

At the waiting area we were given bands to identify us as Discovery Shores guests, though it wasn’t really needed at this time as there weren’t too many people.

IMG_2311But retail is in the detail, so it was a nice branding touch.

We made our way to the boat. Now, 20 years ago the boat that took me to the island was a shaky, dinky, open outrigger. It felt adventurous and exciting, being exposed to the elements, chugging along the waters. 7 years ago it was a little more civilized, with a roof, large enough for more passengers, and LIFE VESTS. Today, Discovery Shores reassures their guests with safety and technology. 
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We were greeted by an attendant who passed out cool, wet towels, a bottle of cold water, and a pack of granola bars. All for a 7 minute ride to Boracay Island. This boat had a crew of about 4 people. Passengers totalled around 10.IMG_2315

Discovery Shores sits on a prime spot on White Beach, the best beach on Boracay. Actually, with such a great address, Discovery Shores can just offer mediocre facilities and services, and they will still be fully booked. Happily, the owners decided to put a world-class hotel and train their people with a “never-say-no” attitude.IMG_2412

The hotel was decorated for Christmas!
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The view from the cafe. This is where breakfast is served. Imagine having your omelet while gazing at this! BTW, there’s a full buffet breakfast every day. It’ll be hard to keep your bathing suit figure here.IMG_2323

It was great to see Discovery Shores take care of their beachfront. A crew of sweepers clean up the beach of any trash every morning, and comb through the sand to make sure no sharp objects (like broken glass or cigarette butts) remain as a potential hazard to bare-footed beach bunnies.
IMG_2322Our favorite spot every day. Gorgeous, isn’t it?IMG_2391

As I mentioned, pampering is Discovery Shores’ strong suit. Without us asking or even lifting a finger, attendants came over to our lounging beds and brought us a carafe of iced water. Ok, so MAYBE that might be a little expected. Serving water in a beach. Ho hum.

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Then a gracious lady attendant comes over with a bowl of cold Evian spray (or something similar), and offers to spritz our faces. Whoa!! Of course we accept! It was pretty hot by this time, and we were already quite greasy from all the suntan lotion. It felt great!
IMG_2423 Then to top it all off, there’s this guy that goes around offering to clean our sunglasses from all the greasy marks and sand. He’s equipped with a felt cloth and a glass cleaner. Amazing!

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Not pictured: there was another attendant who was going around with slices of chilled cucumbers and oranges for our eyes and cheeks. I felt like a salad. And another attendant that passed around various finger food like frozen grapes, chicken quesadillas, mini pizzas, corn dogs……

Talk about service beyond the call of duty. I even read in the papers that there was an incident where a lady lost her engagement ring on the beach. Urban legend has it that the staff combed through the sand, looking for it AND FOUND IT!!! Bravo, bravo Discovery Shores.

Of course, our own UNBELIEVABLE experience in Discovery Shores is how they move the sunbrella around the lounging beds, just so that we didn’t have to move as the sun moved. We never got burned, and was comfortably under the shade all the time, even as the sun went from east to west.

Discovery Shores also tries to personalize their services. For example, they found out that it was our anniversary, and decorated our room with a banner, rose petals, and towels formed into swans, and a chocolate cake! And we weren’t even honeymooners. My friends’ experience is that the staff actually put in their room framed PHOTOS of their family taken in previous stays in Discovery Shores. Wow.

Definitely a rave.

The Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong

Think of the words “Four Seasons Hotel” and immediately images of luxury, pampering, plush, and posh come to mind. At least to my mind they do. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that our girls’ indulgent weekend in HK was going to be spent at the Four Seasons. Indulgent indeed.

We checked in around 8am in the morning (rather groggily after a 5am flight), and the hotel lobby was rather quiet. The front desk was also free from any other guests checking-in or out, so getting our rooms was a breeze. The front desk clerks efficiently checked us in, gave us our keys, and took care of our bags, all with a smile.

The rooms looked like your average deluxe hotel room. I was a tad let-down, since, as I said, I was really expecting a lot from the Four Season. But well, you can’t REALLY complain when your room comes with fully loaded with these goodies:

But as I said, I’ve seen these amenities before in other hotels, so they weren’t such WOW factors. We DID abuse the Nespresso though.

Forgive the mess: I forgot to take pictures before we made ourselves at home.

So, all in all, so far my impression of the legendary Four Seasons Hotel is….well, it didn’t stand out. It was a nice hotel, yes. But as nice as the Four Seasons of my imagination? Far from it. Maybe I should have managed my expections.

On our last day, we discovered the spa of the Four Seasons.

It was a hidden sanctuary, tucked away behind a forbidding door, that opened into a shangrila (oops, sorry, wrong hotel!).

Well-stocked with (more) amenities, we made ourselves at home while waiting for our ride to the airport. I couldn’t take any pictures of the jacuzzi or massage rooms, as there were several women there pampering themselves.

As a bonus, there was a cute boutique that had swimming suits and other pool-lounging wear, just in case you forgot yours.

Lest I forget to mention, the service at the Four Seasons Hotel was superb: immediate, unobtrusive, courteous, and always with a smile. But then again, you’d expect that from a Four Seasons.