CHINESE NEW YEAR 2018: Family Reunion Dinner Ideas!

Usher in the Lunar New Year with a bountiful feast prepared by Manila’s top hotels. Indulge in a gastronomic journey featuring specialties that celebrate felicity and great happiness as we celebrate the Year of the Dog.

Dinner with family is one common thing that we do in the new year. For all our Chinese friends, we have some of the best Chinese new year dinner ideas that will make the night memorable.


Shang Fort

To celebrate the Lunar New Year, Shangri-La at the Fort is delighted to present a sumptuous spread featuring regional Chinese specialties prepared by Executive Chinese Chef Wang Wei Qing.

Such as the traditional Norweigan salmon “Yee Sang”, Ming dynasty roasted Peking duck and Canton Road’s original roasted suckling pig, to name a few. The Spring menu is priced at Php 29,888 nett, Php 32,888 nett for theLongevity menu and Php 38,888 nett for the Prosperity, these special menus are for a table of 10 persons and are inclusive of a non- alcoholic beverage package.

Shang Fort

Learn how to make Dim Sum- Canton Road stages 2-hour dim sum making classes on January 30, February 6 and 13 from 10:00 am to 12nn. Learn the secret behind Canton Road’s dim sum and play chef for the session.

The class includes a dim sum feast at one of the restaurant’s private dining room. The dim sum experience is priced at Php 2,988 nett for adults ages 18 years old and above, Php 1,888 nett for kids, ages 8 to 17 years old.


30th Street corner 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

Telephone: +632 820-0888



FacebookShangri-La at the Fort, BGC




Man Ho

Marriott Manila celebrates the most important festivity in the Chinese calendar, the Lunar New Year, by bringing traditional feasts to its Chinese restaurant, Man Ho. Since this is the best time for reunions, they created a lavish 10-course set menu fitting for 10 persons at Php 33,880++.

Man Ho is the signature Chinese fine dining outlet of Marriott International. It came to Manila last November 2016 bringing authentic flavors and ingredients from Hong Kong and China.

Some of their highly favored dishes come together in this special set menu that are said to attract luck and abundance. Top of the list is Barbecue Combination that is already lavish on its own. It has roast duck, barbecue pork, soya chicken and century egg. Other light choices for appetizers are Fresh Scallop Salad and Celery with Prawn X.O sauce – that still remains to be a heavenly secret recipe.

Pan Fried Beef Fillet with black pepper sauce really does melt in your mouth and will keep one speechless. But the sounds of crisp bites can be heard from the Hong Kong-style Fried Chicken. Indulge also in luxe plates like Braised Bai Ling Mushroom, labeled as “prince of edible mushrooms” for its very tender quality, with assorted fresh vegetables. Speaking of fresh, Lapu-lapu cooked fresh from their aquarium is steamed in light sauce, and served straight to you.

Man Ho

Aside from the set menu, Man Ho also offers a Lunar New Year trademark, Poon Choi. Literally means, “Chinese casserole in a basin”, Poon Choi is a one-pot communal dish good for at least 10 persons signifies prosperity and affluence with over 8 items in it. An elaborate dish like this is made to order at least 2 days before. For only Php 15,888++, sink your fork into abalone, prawns, sea cucumber, dried fish maw, sea moss, marinated duck, dried scallops, taro and assorted vegetables. It also goes best with a whole lobster (cost of which varies depends on its seasonal price).

Furthermore, more auspicious Cantonese dishes are available in a la carte like the very rare Roasted Goose. There are also good fortune givers are luxe items like abalone, peking duck and variety of dumplings or dim sum

These auspicious treats are now available at Man Ho until February 16, 2018. Marriott Manila also invites you to join their Lion and Dragon Dance ceremony on February 17 to close the festivities on a high note.


2 Resorts Drive, Pasay City, 1309 Metro Manila

Telephone: (02) 988 9999

Facebook: Manila Marriott Hotel







Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila ushers in the Lunar New Year with a bountiful feast prepared by Spiral’s resident Chinese Chef, Chef Michael Tai. Indulge in a gastronomic journey featuring specialties that celebrate felicity and great happiness as Spiral celebrates the Year of the Dog.

The featured menu showcases recipes popular in China, Malaysia and Singapore and have been served to royalty in Imperial China. Enjoy dishes for overflowing felicity with the Double-Boiled Mini Buddha Soup, a shark’s fin soup of Chinese Fujian cuisine; Manchu Hot Pot popular in Mainland China and composed of pork, mutton, dried chilli and pink peppercorn; the luxurious Braised Abalone with Goose Web, a popular dish served during Chinese New Year and signifies abundance and wealth; Beijing-style Peking Duck Wrap served to the Mongol emperor of the Imperial Yuan Dynasty; Dezhou Braised Chicken, a traditional delicacy from China’s Shandong Province created during the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty; Sha Qui Ma, a meticulously-made delicacy of Manchu cuisine popular in mainland China and rarely available in the Philippines; and the Double Boiled Bird’s Nest with Rock Sugar made with premium sweetened bird saliva sourced from Indonesian wild edible-nest swiftlets and considered the “Caviar of the East.”


Spiral welcomes the Year of the Dog in festive style with a traditional Dragon Dance and breathtaking performances from featured Chinese acrobats. Get a glimpse of what the future has in store for you with Spiral’s special fortune cookies.

Celebrate Chinese New Year with family, friends and loved ones at Spiral available at the following rates:

February 15 – 16, 2018: Php2,850 nett per person for lunch and Php3,450 nett per person for dinner

February 17, 2018: Php3,600 nett per person for lunch and Php3,900 nett per person for dinner

February 18, 2018: Php4,650 nett per person for lunch and Php3,500 nett per person for dinner

Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila

CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard 1300 Pasay City

Landline:++63 (02) 832.6988






#4 CITY OF DREAMS: Crystal Dragon

City of Dreams Manila

Crystal Dragon’s Lunar Chinese New Year a la carte menu highlights the Prosperity Abalone and Salmon “Yu Sheng” salad and a unique variation: Shredded Roasted Duck with Fresh Fruit Salad in Sesame Dressing.

For the prosperity toss, guests gather before the table, use their chopsticks to mix the ingredients together and then toss them up while saying “Lo Hei!” and well-wishes out loud to bring in good luck.

For groups of four to six, the “Happiness” and “Abundance” set menus at Crystal Dragon are ideal for celebrating with family and friends. The “Happiness” menu includes Prosperity Salmon “Yu Sheng” with Fruit Salad; Braised Eight Sea Treasure with Shredded Abalone Broth; Steamed Hong Kong Style Cod Fish with Baby Cabbage in Supreme Soy Wok-fried King Prawns with Supreme Soy Sauce Reduction; Wok-fried Cantonese Rice Cake Sliced with Air-dried Preserved Meat; Chilled Mango Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream; and Pan-fried Crispy Nian Gao with Kumquat Compote.

City of Dreams Manila

The “Abundance” menu starts with Prosperity Abalone & Salmon “Yu Sheng” with Rock Melon Salad followed by Double-boiled Sea Treasure with Baby Abalone in Cordycep Flower Soup; Steamed Sea Grouper with Shredded Ginger in Homemade Soy Sauce; Oven-roasted Manuka Honey Marinated Kurobota Pork Slice with Pork Liver; Stewed Pork Belly with Sea Cucumber, Bean Curd and Green Vegetables; Wok-fried Cantonese Rice Cake with Air-dried Preserved Meat; Warm Sweetened Eight Treasures Tea with Ginseng and Honey; and Double-flavor Chinese New Year Nian Gao Platter.

The “Happiness” and “Abundance” set menus are at P3,680++ and P6,680++, respectively. Crystal Dragon’s Chinese New Year a la carte and set menus are available for lunch and dinner from February 5 to 20.


Asean Avenue corner Roxas Boulevard,

Entertainment City, Parañaque 1701, Manila, Philippines


Telephone: 800 8080






After welcoming 2018 with the grandest party at the Marriott Grand Ballroom on New Year’s Eve, the country’s premier entertainment and tourism destination Resorts World Manila (RWM) now gears up for its annual Imperial Festival celebrations to usher in the Year of the Earth Dog.

Highlights lined up for this year’s festivities include the traditional Lunar New Year Lion Dance on February 16 at the Newport Mall, and a Feng Shui and Chinese Metaphysics seminar by one of the authorities in the field, Dato’ Joey Yap on February 7, 8:30 a.m. at the Manila Ballroom of Marriott Hotel Manila.

Joey Yap is a best-selling author of 162 books and is chief consultant of the Joey Yap Consulting Group, which is the world’s largest and most successful Feng Shui consulting firm that works in partnership with Fortune 500 companies and A-list clientele.

Passion for Feb

Get the Year of the Earth Dog off to a good start by treating yourself and your loved ones to a taste of Oriental paradise with Passion, Resorts World Manila’s (RWM) signature Chinese fine-dining restaurant.

Widely regarded as one of the best authentic Cantonese restaurants in Metro Manila, Passion at Maxim’s Hotel brings luck to the table with its Lunar New Year Set Menu, available for the whole month of February as part of RWM’s Imperial Festival 2018.

For only Php1860 nett per person, diners will be treated to an eight-course meal, starting off with a ceremonial Prosperity Toss or Yee Sang Lo Hei – a traditional Cantonese-style salad that is known as a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor.

Passion’s Lunar New Year Set Menu also features its signature Lucky Five Blessings (Wufu Lin Men), Braised Crabstick with Gold Soup, Wok-fried US Scallops with XO Sauce, Steamed Garlic Prawns with Rice in a Bamboo Basket, and its signature Steamed Live Garoupa with Sour Plum Sauce. Dessert is a double delight with Passion’s House-made Masachi and Steamed Mini Fish Tikoy.

For more on RWM’s Imperial Festival celebrations, visit or call the Tourist/Visitor Hotline at (632) 908-8833.




Makati Shang

Makati Shangri-La, ushers in the Year of the Dog with exciting festivities, exquisite dining offers and treats and a Wonderful Weekend staycation for the family.

The hotel welcomes the Chinese New Year with a traditional lion and dragon dance on February 16, 2018.  Guests can witness a breath-taking performance and an outstanding firecracker display in the lobby driveway.  The performance will starts at 12:30 p.m.

Guests can gather their family and friends at Shang Palace for a luxurious festive lunch or dinner menu to celebrate the occasion.  Diners can indulge in Garoupa Fillet with White Peppercorn and Salted Vegetable in a Clay Pot, Deep-Fried Shrimp Patties with Thai Sauce, Crispy Fried Nian Gao and other traditional dishes.  A special set menu is available on Chinese New Year’s Eve at P2,588++ per person for the Gold menu, P3,888++ per person for the Jade Menu and P6,688++ per person for the Diamond menu.

Makati Shang

Guests may also enjoy the auspicious season with a perfect family staycation with the hotel’s Wonderful Weekends room offer.  The package includes a delightful breakfast feast at Circles Event Café for two adults and two kids below 12 years old, P1,200 dining credit, a tipi tent setup, complimentary kids’ mini bar and more.

Makati Shangri-La, Manila

Tel: (63 2) 813 8888 extension 7022

Fax: (63 2) 814 2534





Marco Polo

Discover the excellent Cantonese cuisine as you experience new possibilities this Lunar New Year, with fine and exclusive dishes for the season, from Hong Kong native, Chinese Executive Chef Terry Lai.

With the coming of the Year of the Earth Dog, the award-winning Cantonese restaurant, Lung Hin, is bringing special dishes to the table, available only for the season. Experience the restaurant’s fine flavours that make each celebration worthwhile starting with the Prosperity Toss with Salmon Yu Sheng for an abundant year. The traditional salad is available for take away, for small and large orders. Season exclusive dishes such as Poached Hong Kong Sesame Chicken, Sautéed Imperial Tiger Prawn with Supreme Stock, Signature Marinated Pork Knuckles, and Poached Yellow Croaker Fish with Tofu, can be enjoyed, together with the classic dishes from Lung Hin’s well-curated and new a la carte menu.

Marco Polo

Have a feast with the family with special set menus to indulge in. Choose between Double Prosperity, which includes the classic Barbecued Roasted Pork, Crispy Roasted Hong Kong Chicken, and Sauteed Fresh Scallops with Fresh Squids and Broccoli; and the Endless Fortune, featuring Steamed Fresh Lobster with Glutinous Rice in Bamboo Basket, Half Crispy Roasted Suckling Pig, and Steamed Live Abalone with Minced Garlic.

The exclusive dishes and set menus are available from the 8th to the 21st of February.

Marco Polo Ortigas Manila

Meralco Avenue and Sapphire Street, Ortigas Center, Pasig City 1600

Tel: (632) 720 7777




#8 CONRAD HOTEL: China Blue


The iconic Conrad Manila ushers in the Lunar New Year with a fiery lion and dragon dance performance auspiciously paired with a mouth-watering selection of authentic Chinese delicacies at the multi- award-winning China Blue by Jereme Leung for the special date on February 16 for lunch and dinner.

In celebration of the momentous occasion, Executive Chinese Chef, Eng Yew Khor presents specially-crafted premium set and a la carte menus, highlighted by an array of propitious entrées such as the steamed stuffed crab claw and dried oyster money bag in crab roe sauce to welcome “money in the bag”; wok-fried king prawn and mini abalone sea treasure in an imperial hot pot for financial prosperity and business success; stir-fried king prawn with crispy oat flakes and salted egg to attract wealth and happiness among others.


This highly-anticipated feast is made extra special with live musical entertainment and a modern take on the traditional Yee Sang toss, a customary practice also known as the ‘Prosperity Toss’. China Blue by Jereme Leung’s version includes a myriad of symbolic Chinese ingredients of the highest quality and is considered to be a must-have dish in celebration of the Chinese New Year festivities. Diners may choose from the ala carte signature dishes, but the showcase Chinese New Year set menu is a must for a group of ten

diners for P29,888+++.

For reservations and inquiries, please email or kindly call +632 833 9999. To learn more about Conrad Manila’s promotions and offers follow us on Facebook (ConradManilaPH) and on Instagram (@conradmanila).


Live an Awesome Life,

abi signature

ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet

Disclosure: We were media guests of the hotels. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights. 

The post CHINESE NEW YEAR 2018: Family Reunion Dinner Ideas! appeared first on Our Awesome Planet.


Dragon’s Back Hong Kong: The Best Hike In Asia?


Dragon’s Back Trail is an award-winning hiking trail that has been voted the best urban hike in Asia by Times Magazine. The 4-hour hike is a popular draw for tourists and locals, who flock to the mountain to escape the frenzy of Hong Kong.

Seeing Hong Kong from the peak of Dragon’s Back offers a different perspective that helps you appreciate the beauty and complexity of Hong Kong and the surrounding islands.

(Dragon’s Back gets its name from the winding and twisting paths along the peak of the mountain.)

First Things First


Getting around Hong Kong can be a bit daunting for first-timers. Finding and even planning activities can be pretty time-consuming especially if you’re on a tight schedule.

We booked our Dragon’s Back Trail via Klook to save time.  Since it was our first time to Dragons Back booking a tour made sense.

For best rates check out Klook: Dragon’s Back Trail 

How To Get There


It’s best to take advantage of Hong Kong’s highly efficient MTR subway system.

Go to Shau Kei Wan Station, get out at Exit A, and there you will see a bus terminal directly in front of where you exit.  Catch the #9 Bus heading to Shek O.


Look for the Number 9 Bus at the terminal right in front of the MTR station.

After a 30-minute ride, the Bus will drop passengers at the start of Dragon’s Back Trail.

Saftey Tips


Our Guide Rory explained a bit of about the history of the trail and what to expect.

He has been touring visitors around Dragons back for a number of years now and knows the trail like the back of his hand. He advised us to stay hydrated and walk at a comfortable pace.



There are maps and signages that help hikers find their way.



Also, emergency call boxes can be found on the trail.



Use the toilets at the entrance to the hike as we hadn’t come across anymore on our trip.



The steepest part of Dragons Back is the First 30 minutes which is the most challenging – but not that difficult.

Beginners, and children could easily make the climb.



The rest of the hike is made up of small hills that lead to the peak.



The Highest point on the trail is Shek O Peak where you will have a stunning 360° view of Hong Kongs amazing coastline.



The views are absolutely gorgeous.



Tourist and Locals flock to the peak to enjoy a number of outdoor activities.



Along the way down you’ll have one of the best views of Hong Kong.

(Pictures don’t really do these views any justice.) 



Your final stop on the 3-hour hike is at Tai Long Bay / Big Wave Bay.



The small, white sand beach is a nice way to end the hike. You can kick back and relax.

(Tai Long Bay / Big Wave Bay can also be reached by minibus directly from Shau Kai Wan Station)



The beach is also a popular draw for surfers.

Final Thoughts


A perfect hike for beginners, and some of the most breathtaking views in all of Hong Kong.

Dragon’s Back Trail is a perfect outdoor activity that almost anyone can enjoy.  The 3-hour hike was worth it!

The hike itself isn’t so bad, the first 30 minutes are the most difficult, but after that is was pretty mild. We were taken in by the beauty of the Hong Kong countryside, and the landscape itself almost seemed like it was painted.

We recommend the hike for anyone who loves the outdoors and nature, it’s perfect for families but very small children might have a hard time so plan appropriately.


Live an Awesome Life,

sean signature

SEAN NOLAN of Team Our Awesome Planet

Disclosure:  Our Dragons Back Trail Hike was courtesy of Klook. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights. 

P.S. Getting Back To Civilization


From Tai Long Bay / Big Wave Bay, you can catch the Mini Red bus directly to Shau Kai Wan Station.

The Mini Red Buses run from 8:30-am to 24:30-pm daily.

Fare: 10.00 HKD 

The post Dragon’s Back Hong Kong: The Best Hike In Asia? appeared first on Our Awesome Planet.

What It’s Like to Travel to East Timor

Wandering Earl

Travel to East Timor - view from Cristo Rei statue

As time goes on, it takes more and more for me to get excited about a destination. Yes, after 18 years of constant travel, I have seen a great deal. And just like anything we do over and over again, travel has just become the norm.

So, to combat this, I need to head beyond every now and then, I need to cross borders that for one reason or another, feel a little different.

This was the case with Yemen and even with the Seychelles and with Kyrgyzstan.

Recently, it was the case when I decided to travel to East Timor (Timor-Leste).

Travel to East Timor: The Good

A lot of people have never heard of this country, but…

East Timor sure is a beautiful place. Mountains, beaches, coffee plantations, lush tropical forests…check, check, check and check.

East Timor also has some of the friendliest people I’ve encountered anywhere on this planet. Almost everyone we walked by or came across gave us a wide smile or an enthusiastic thumbs up or quick “hello” or “bon dia” or a handshake. There are many ‘friendly’ countries out there but this was WAY over the top.

Travel to East Timor - market vendor and me

The capital city, Dili, offers grand sunsets from the waterfront, a laid-back vibe and an immediate glimpse into Timorese life. It’s not the prettiest of towns but it was real and raw. There are no ultra-fancy shopping malls or built up waterfronts designed just for tourists, that’s for sure.

When we hailed taxis, not a single taxi driver tried to overcharge us. I don’t think I’ve been to any city where taxis don’t use meters yet they still offer foreigners the normal rate. Of course, the drivers almost never knew the street names, even the main avenues, but we always figured it out with some fun back and forth chatting.

The drivers also didn’t seem to know that being able to see out the windshield of their vehicle should be a priority…

Travel to East Timor - taxi driver

During our stay, we also ventured out of Dili. We took a trip, with a local guide, to the town of Gleno, set in the mountains. We drove down the coast to the tiny communities of Liquica and Maubara. We also visited museums, the famous Cristo Rei statue, beaches, markets and a variety of places to eat. And of course, we tried to interact with people wherever we went.

And to top it off, we didn’t see any other tourists during our stay.

Yes, when you travel to East Timor, it can indeed be fascinating.

Travel to East Timor - Maubara

Travel to East Timor: The Reality

This is where tourism gets confusing.

Sure, I could say ‘travel to East Timor, it’s great, everyone should visit!‘. But I wouldn’t mean that in the usual way.

Despite the fact that we did have a good time, that we did meet some wonderfully friendly people, the truth is that going to this country without an interest in digging deeper, without an interest in venturing beyond the beaches, mountains and sunsets, would be a real injustice to the people that call East Timor home.

As travelers, we tend to avoid this deeper digging. We tend to be quite satisfied labeling destinations based only on our limited experiences and what our eyes, or camera lenses, see. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that it is our pure lack of interest that prevents us from learning what life is really like in a place. We just don’t care enough to learn about the reality behind the sights and food and cafes and cool activities.

Usually, we just want to have a good time and leave it at that.

When it comes to East Timor though, I found that it wasn’t possible to just leave it at that.

Alongside those sunsets and lush mountains were towns and villages full of people without any work. Over 40% of the Timorese population survives (or tries to) on less than $1 USD per day.

Travel to East Timor - streets of Dili

Everywhere we went around Dili and its surroundings we saw and learned about massive, yet failed, projects – failed resorts, failed harbors, failed attractions, failed development schemes – that are now sitting ‘temporarily’ abandoned, billions upon billions of dollars possibly having been wasted.

All the while, in comparison, the rural communities supposedly receive little attention or assistance, there are slums around Dili without any electricity or sanitation and things such as healthcare and education don’t seem to be high up on the agenda. Locals we spoke with pointed out that the population is being neglected while the government pins its hopes, and the economy, on large-scale, quick-fix solutions that rarely seem to work out.

The infrastructure is poor at best, trash is piling up, too. Believe me, that stunning white sand beach in the photo at the top of this post has its fair share of plastic bottles scattered all over it.

Markets were full of stalls yet barely any shoppers. Everywhere you went people were just hanging around with nothing else to do. This is East Timor, too.

Travel to East Timor - Taibesi market stalls

Travel to East Timor: The Challenges

With a history that involves Portuguese rule starting in 1702, Indonesian occupation from 1975 – 1999, brutal massacres and starvation thrown in, as well as literally being far removed from the rest of the world, it’s understandable that this relatively new country is struggling to get on its feet. It’s only been fully independent since 2002.

Spending an hour in the Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum (their website is quite barebones) is enough to leave anyone overwhelmed with grief at what the people of this country have had to endure. It’s not pretty.

Also, the population of just over 1 million people speak a couple of dozen different languages. I imagine it’s quite difficult to create a strong sense of unity or a real identity to build upon when everyone isn’t on the same page in terms of general communication.

Imagine walking through your capital city. One sign is in Portuguese, the next in Tetum, the next in English and then there’s one in Bahasa Indonesia. Now imagine that you can only speak one, maybe two of those languages, at best. I only met one person, who had the good fortune to be educated in Portugal, that spoke all of the main languages above. There are 14 languages with at least 10,000 speakers and while Portuguese is one of two national languages (the other is Tetum), it’s the first language of only 600 people.

That’s a challenge.

Travel to East Timor - lookout point

Travel to East Timor - market scene

It was tough to see so many people struggling in this current situation. A great deal of work needs to be done for it all to improve, however, most Timorese I met were not too hopeful.

Anyway, this is not a political post. I wanted to travel to East Timor, I went and this post is the first result.

Travel to East Timor: The AMAZING

So, I’ll now say this.

What really is fascinating in this country is not the beaches or mountains or colorful fish swimming around the reefs. It’s the fact that despite all of the above, somehow, almost everyone we met showered us with those beaming Timorese smiles and enthusiastic thumbs up that I will never forget.

I can barely crack a smile when I feel a little tired or I need to spend an hour sending emails. Quite pathetic when I think about it, I know.

The word ‘amazing’ is quite overused these days but I really don’t hesitate for a moment to use it in order to describe the kindness and warmth we experienced as we wandered around.


Travel to East Timor - women's cooperative

Travel to East Timor - man in Gleno

I’ll end the post with this. Go and travel to East Timor. Really.

Enjoy the beaches and mountains and snorkeling and markets and all that. Buy the handmade crafts. They are colorful and impressive and they cost so little. The people need it. They need the money, the jobs, the infrastructure and perhaps even more importantly, they need the awareness of their story.

The only way to help with that last part is to remember that, wherever you venture in this country, the people all around you have gone through quite an ordeal and are struggling more than you could possibly imagine.

So be sure to smile back, give a thumbs up, too, introduce yourself and get to know as many people as you can. They are wildly friendly and they would love to interact with you, in whatever combination of languages you can.

Believe me, it’s these interactions, and what you will learn from them, that will turn your trip to East Timor into a trip like no other. Digging deeper is the key and it should be on every traveler’s itinerary.

Have you ever thought about traveling to East Timor? Any questions?

(More details on how to travel to East Timor, getting around, where to stay and more in my next post.)

LIO El Nido: Hotel Covo or Balai Adlao Palawan Staycation?

by Juanico & Abi

Hailed as the best Island in the world, Palawan is home to some of the most magnificent beaches in the Philippines. That’s why it’s only fitting that we must do our best to preserve the natural wonders of this amazing Island.

Lio Tourism Estate

Lio Beach, Bacuit Bay, El Nido Palawan


Facebook: Lio El Nido

Instagram: @LioElNido

Check out Hotel Covo and Balai Adlao low rates and availability from Booking and Agoda.

Related Blog Posts:

• LIO, EL NIDO: Family Staycation and Lio Beach Festival Guide!

 LIO El Nido, Palawan: A Hidden Eco-Tourism Paradise! (Casa Kalaw)


Lio Tourism Estate in El Nido Palawan is an ongoing eco-friendly project by Ayala Land.

This 325-hectare land area is being developed to spearhead the first eco-friendly community on the island.



Designed to be an ecologically sustainable tourism destination, Lio is now home to two new world-class estates built for different types of tourists.




One of the newest additions is Hotel Covo, a hip and modern-looking estate built for backpacking millennias.



Hotel Covo is a small and straightforward estate that has all the modern amenities that you’ll ever need within arm’s reach.



Carefully designed to generate the lowest impact on nature, Hotel Covo is built with an open roof design to maximize the use of natural light.



The estate merges modern aesthetics and nature effortlessly, so you get both comfort and relaxation every time you enter the building.



Rooms are compact and are elegantly designed with all the modern amenities.



Each room even has their own unique Palawan inspired headboard, all beautifully curated to give you that homey feeling.



One nice touch is the protruding pipes on the wall, which can be used as storage for pocket items. They also serve as wall speakers that amplify the sound coming from your phone.



The rooms in Covo only serve the bare essentials so as not to create disposable trash.



Lio Tourism Estate

Balai Adlao is a 3-star boutique resort envisioned to be a relaxing holiday accommodation for young couples who want a quick, intimate, get away from the city.

Architect Conrad Onglao decorated the rooms to feel like a welcoming Filipino home filled with modern, earth-toned interiors and touches of native weave and fabrics.


Lio Tourism Estate

You’ll probably spend most of the day on the beach, exploring Bacuit Bay’s iconic natural attractions by boat, mountain biking or hiking through the nearby pandan beach forest and other land-based attractions of the Lio Tourism Estate.

At the end of the day, we loved the well-appointed rooms where we can comfortably sit back, read a good book and recharge.


Lio Tourism Estate

The Best-of-the-Philippines design theme is seen throughout the guest rooms with locally-made furniture adapted from the perspectives of Onglao. In the rooms, the most captivating pieces are the wooden carvings from the workshop of Ricky Baylosis over the headboard. Made of local and repurposed wood, the carved replicas of various leaves are made by Calatagan, Batangas artisans.

It’s spacious at 20 sqm, with a queen size bed and a lot of room for the luggage.


Lio Tourism Estate

The safety deposit box is small–enough for your pocket-size valuables.


Lio Tourism Estate

There’s also a private balcony where you can dry your wet clothes.

You can see the nightscape of Northern Palawan on the second-floor al fresco deck.



The bathroom is small, but can fit two people using the toilet and bath all together. There are free toothbrush and toiletries upon request. (Like Covo, they only serve the bare essentials so as not to create disposable trash.)


Lio Tourism Estate

The bathroom is clean and simple with their own liquid soap and shampoo in cute little containers.


Lio Tourism Estate

The glass-paneled breakfast café is an air-conditioned restaurant that can comfortably seat 50 persons. The cafe serves a few international and local specialties. (The breakfast offering in Balai Adlao and Covo’s buffet are almost the same.).

I love the view of the beach and the touch of sunlight in the morning.

In addition to offering breakfast, the restaurant also highlights design ingenuity through various sets of fishermen’s baskets transformed into striking overhead lighting fixtures.


Lio Tourism Estate

For the Pinoy selection, try the “lamayo” that’s very famous in Palawan. Best paired with garlic rice.

The danggit is freshly marinated in vinegar, pepper, and garlic. It’s pretty much bigger in size compared to the ones you get in Cebu. You can find this mostly at every breakfast buffet table of every estate.


Lio Tourism Estate

For something hot, try the lomi, which is also good.


Lio Tourism Estate

They also serve infused water and yummy fresh watermelon juice.


Lio Tourism Estate

For the international selection, they have waffles, fresh salad, and an egg station.


El Nido Grill

Lio Beach Festival Day 3-94.jpg

A trip to the beach wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local seafood of the island.

The owner, James Aquino, serves basic Pinoy favorites from grilled squid, liempo, mussels, shrimp sinigang, and crabs soaked in coconut sauce, just to name a few of their bestsellers.



Butter Garlic Shrimp (P390)Sinigang na Hipon (Medium for 1-2 persons (P440)

For the seafood, we liked the garlic shrimp and sinigang soup.


Lio Beach Festival Day 3-107.jpg

Liempo (P320)

Their smoky, juicy grilled liempo is the bestseller. The pork BBW was just OK. The meat dishes were a bit pricey.



Manille Beach Bar

Lio Tourism Estate

Imagine a bar where you can spend the afternoon bathing on the sands, drinking their signature cocktails, and having a front-row seat to El Nido’s glowing sunset–that’s what Manille Beach Bar is.

The bar is known for showcasing their distillery’s bestselling products by creating signature cocktails with a local twist.


Lio Tourism Estate

Manille Basil Smash (P250)

Mojito fans would love their refreshing Manille Basil Smash, a drink mixed with their own Liqueur de Calamansi.


Lio Tourism Estate

Martini Flights (P400)Yuzu Good To Me, Aloe- Haaa!, Lio Sunset, and Old is Gold.

If you want a bit of flair to your drinks, order the Martini Flights where you’ll catch couple Larry and Sharleen show off their cocktail mixing skills with a few acrobatic tricks.

It features four signature cocktails. We liked the Yuzu Good To Me for that citrusy and slightly sweet drink made with El Hombre Silver tequila, and the Lio Sunset’s sweet mango nectar.


Lio Tourism Estate

Sizzling Pork Sisig (P300) | Sizzling Gambas (P380)

They also serve good food and bar chow here. We liked the pork sisig and gambas.


Lio Tourism Estate

If you want a laid-back escape from the buzzing El Nido Town, Lio Estate is perfect for providing that privacy and convenience you’re looking for.

There are regular trips from Lio to El Nido Town. It takes around 15 minutes to go to the town via shuttle. We love how you can just easily go and enjoy the vibe of El Nido Town from here. Cheers!


Lio Tourism Estate

Lio Beach, Bacuit Bay, El Nido Palawan


Facebook: Lio El Nido

Instagram: @LioElNido

Check out Hotel Covo and Balai Adlao low rates and availability from Booking and Agoda.

Related Blog Posts:

• LIO, EL NIDO: Family Staycation and Lio Beach Festival Guide!

 LIO El Nido, Palawan: A Hidden Eco-Tourism Paradise! (Casa Kalaw)


Live an Awesome Life,


NICO & ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet

Disclosure: Our Lio stay was courtesy of Lio Tourism Estate. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.

P.S. Check out Kalye Artisano, an artists’ village that will serve as a platform for various forms of visual and performing arts, and showcase crafts and creations from local Philippine artists. 

Lio Tourism Estate

P.P.S. Lio Beach Festival is happening on March 16, 2018 to kick-off the Summer 2018 season!

Check out: LIO BEACH FESTIVAL: The Inaugural El Nido Music Festival!

The post LIO El Nido: Hotel Covo or Balai Adlao Palawan Staycation? appeared first on Our Awesome Planet.

Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa Palawan Experience! (Photo Essay)

Puerto Hotel 32

The flourishing city of Puerto Princesa is the beloved capital city of Palawan and is said to be the gateway to the last frontier and best island in the world.

Famous for its beautiful Honda Bay and the world-renowned Underground river, Puerto Princesa is one of the best go-to summer destinations in the Philippines.

Equipped with a new airport and a fast-growing city, there is something for everyone in Puerto Princesa City. And if you’re looking for the perfect staycation resort, then Princesa Garden Island Resort & Spa has you covered.



Caniguiran Street, Barangay Bancao-Bancao

Contact: 0977 194 5105 | 0920 822 7443 | 048 723 1356



Facebook: @PrincesaGardenIsland

Instagram: @PrincesaGarden

Puerto Hotel 14

Located just 10-15 minutes away from the airport and 3.5 kms away from the city center, Princesa Garden Island Resort & Spa is the perfect holiday getaway for your family, friends, and loved ones.


Puerto Hotel 20

Beautifully designed with an Asian themed wooden architecture, it blends well with its surrounding environment and is perfect if you want to immerse yourself in nature.


Puerto Hotel 16

Speaking of nature, Puerto Princesa brings you even closer to it with their floating glass villas on stilts, which also give you that much-needed privacy.



Upon entering the Princesa Garden Island Resort & Spa, it already becomes apparent how the luxury resort architecture completely blends with the untouched beauty of its surroundings.



Staying true to their “green is the way to go” campaign, the resort even has its own wastewater-treatment plant and desalination system.



Combined with the use of solar panels and local natural materials, this extra step helps lessens the resort’s overall carbon footprint and impact on the environment.



Aside from the lush, beautiful scenery, this 4-hectare resort is also great for different kinds of land and water activities for your family and kids.



Check-in guests can enjoy an outdoor jacuzzi and an enormous lagoon pool where they even have a full-size water slide built just for kids.



All rooms have balconies, while others have pool access balconies that let you walk out directly into the main pool from the comfort of your bedroom.



On top of that, they also have premium rooms with shared private pool access that also connects to the main pool.



Other features of the resort include an entertainment & kiddie room, gift shop, a lovely gym, and 1-hour free use of bikes and non-motorized water sports.



In total, the resort has four bars and restaurants with international and local cuisine, a full-size ballroom, and a Catholic church.



But what sets the resort apart from the many other resorts in Palawan is its unique location.

Its combination of lush palm greenery and oceanfront mangrove is where the island resort really stands out.


Puerto Hotel 31

Nestled directly in front (and above) the ocean is their water villas on stilts, the first of its kind in Puerto Princesa Palawan.



Lucky enough, we got the chance to experience and stay in one of their coveted water villas for two nights.



Before you even enter the villa premises, you first have to go through a gated receiving hall, complete with its own reception, lobby, and snack bar.


Puerto Hotel 2

In total there are ten floating villas, each with their unique design and perfect for couples or honeymooners who want their privacy.



Inside the villa you’ll be greeted by a 180-degree floor to ceiling glass wall with an undisputed sunrise view of the ocean.



The villas are very spacious and well equipped with all the modern amenities that you’ll ever need during your stay.



Each villa has its outdoor wooden deck with daybed and hammock.



Did I mention that each villa has its own outdoor Jacuzzi with an excellent view of the ocean?


Puerto Hotel 4

Also, just a few steps away from the villa residences is a wooden walkway that leads up to a sandbar that only appears during low tide.


Puerto Hotel 7

What better way to end the relaxing day than with a sumptuous meal at the Golden Elephant seafood village.



Golden Elephant is a floating restaurant within Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa that serves different types of Asian fusion and seafood dishes.



Among our favorites are the live seafood and freshly caught spicy crab.



And of course, the Thai style classic chicken tom yum in coconut soup for the meat lovers out there.



All in all, the food was excellent. Even though I’m not a fan of seafood, I still I enjoyed most of the dishes we ordered, especially the relaxing ambiance of the restaurant.

As for the whole resort, I can’t recommend this place enough. I fell in love with the spacious rooms, big swimming pools, and the overall “close to nature” feel of the resort.

I also liked the small and private boardwalk that leads up to the sandbar. I had a short walk in the morning and saw a lot of starfishes, and along the way, I was greeted by the friendly staff of the resort that was more than happy to help.

The Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa is indeed a paradise tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city and is the perfect getaway for you and your friends, family, and loved ones.



Caniguiran Street, Barangay Bancao-Bancao

Contact: 0977 194 5105 | 0920 822 7443 | 048 723 1356



Facebook: @PrincesaGardenIsland

Instagram: @PrincesaGarden

Live an Awesome Life,


NICO of Team Our Awesome Planet

Disclosure: Our stay was courtesy of Princesa Island Resort & Spa. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.

The post Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa Palawan Experience! (Photo Essay) appeared first on Our Awesome Planet.

Thoughts from a life of travel: Day 6251 – Bali, Indonesia

Wandering Earl

The island of Bali, Indonesia - beautiful

It’s January. It’s Monday. I’m on the island of Bali. It’s my 6251st day of travel.

I’m sitting here at a nice wooden table, with a ceiling fan whirling above my head and a mosquito whizzing around my left ankle. To my right I hear the occasional churning of an espresso machine. Behind me I hear some chatter in accents ranging from Australian to German to American to others my brain is not able to recognize.

In front of me is a wall with a painting of a man with a unicorn on his head. It says “I believe in unicorn” in blue writing. Behind that wall is the rest of the Dojo Bali co-working space that I’ve been hanging out at lately.

There’s a swimming pool in the back, a loft, a water dispenser, tables everywhere and some good people working away on their laptops. I think they’re good people anyway, I don’t really know.

I’m a bit jittery this morning. It’s not the coffee though, as I’ve only had one sip. Maybe it’s because I haven’t done as much exercise lately as I was planning on doing.

Either way, I need to get some work done.

Let me check my to-do list for the day:

– answer emails

– look at new ways to promote this year’s Wandering Earl Tours

– clean my flip-flops

– order a birthday gift for my mom (important!)

– update my How to Work on a Cruise Ship eBook

– create a presentation for the workshop I’m giving on Thursday at the co-working space

– 2pm: Skype call with a travel startup based in Dubai about possibliy becoming an advisor

And write a blog post. I didn’t actually put that one on the list for some reason.

Shrimp burrito, please. That’s what I’ll have for lunch. A bunch of people from this co-working space are going to a nearby Mexican restaurant at 1pm. My girlfriend and I will join them. I just pre-ordered a shrimp burrito.

The island of Bali, Indonesia - temples

Oh shoot, speaking of burritos…I need to purchase flights to Dili, East Timor for next week. We need to do a visa run as our current 30 day visa for Bali ends on the 15th of January. The plan is to take the short flight over to East Timor, stay there for 5 days and then come back to the island of Bali for another 30 days afterwards.

East Timor. Here’s an odd story for you.

Back in 1998, I ate dinner one night at a Tibetan restaurant on Main Street in the town of Northampton, Massachusetts, USA. There were five of us at that dinner. Two of us were university students and members of the local Students for a Free Tibet chapter, one was a Tibetan woman and the last two were Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos-Horta. If you’re not familiar with Xanana and Jose, they would both end up becoming Presidents of East Timor after the tiny nation achieved independence later on, in 2002.

I don’t even know how I ended up at that dinner. But there was I, eating Tibetan momos and noodle soup with two future presidents of East Timor.

And now I’m actually going to visit their country. Maybe I should look them up.

[5 minute break]

I’m back. I just sent a message to Jose Ramos-Horta through his Facebook page. Let’s see if he remembers that Tibetan dinner way back then. I doubt it, but you never know!

[2 hour break]

That shrimp burrito was good.

During lunch I also had a nice conversation with a guy from Belarus and a soft spoken gentleman from Turkey, both of whom have lived in Chicago and are passing through Southeast Asia. This island of Bali sure is a popular place. We were also invited to a BBQ this weekend by a Lithuanian fellow sitting at our end of the table.

I’ll tell you this about travel. Once you get out there into the world, it doesn’t take long to realize that everyone is just looking for a place to fit in. Travelers certainly feel joy and belonging just from becoming part of that cool global gang known as, well, travelers.

After all, there is no initiation or application – as soon as you get on a plane or train or bus, you’re part of the group. You can actually be part of the group before then too, why not?



You like to travel?

Yes I do.


– (High five)

Boom, we’re travelers!

But here’s the catch…

Through my travels, I’ve also realized that fitting in doesn’t really have anything to do with other people at all. Fitting in is more about feeling comfortable with yourself and not deviating from who you are at your core. When we don’t need to alter our behavior and we can stay true to ourselves, that’s when we actually fit in…everywhere.

The island of Bali, Indonesia - jump

And travel does allow us to feel comfortable with ourselves.

As we constantly interact with people of different nationalities, beliefs, perspectives, interests and personalities, we learn that there is no need to pretend to be someone else or to put on a show or to do anything apart from being who we really are and want to be.

When we travel, we quickly learn that nobody cares. Nobody cares about our faults and defects and quirks. Most humans just want to meet and interact with genuine people – whether it’s for a few seconds, a few weeks or more – and most people are more than happy to accept anyone just the way they are.

My coffee is getting cold. Let me take the final sip because here on the island of Bali they love clearing your cups away before you’ve finished.

I just looked up and noticed that man with the unicorn on his head again. It puts a smile on my face, even though I don’t believe in unicorns.

Anyway, my conclusion is this – the only group we need to belong to is ourselves. It’s that simple. That’s really how we belong everywhere else.

I’ve learned this from my travels, through long talks with my girlfriend and in the pages of certain books. And it repeatedly proves itself to be true. The more comfortable I am with myself, the more comfortable I am with everyone else.

So this is me, Derek Earl Baron: 40-years old, American, long-term traveler, currently on the island of Bali, slightly goofy, not so comfortable dancing, patient, don’t take things too seriously but can be cynical at times, bored easily, curious, always need to strive for more, analytical mind, sometimes talk too much, very part-time yoga practicer, enjoy being around people but prefer meaningful conversations over polite chit chat, vegetarian most of the time, armpit shaver.

Who are you? Does travel help you be that person? Please share below.

*Oh, Jose Ramos-Horta (or one of his staff) has read my Facebook message. But no reply yet. Oh well.