Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Hotel and Inn Review: Grand Diamond Plaza Suites Hotel (Bangkok, Thailand)

Date of Stay: April 20-23, 2011
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: *******
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: *******
Other Amenities: *****
Value for Money: ******

The Grand Diamond Plaza Suites Hotel, in Pratunam, has 172 suites aside from 4 penthouse suites, ranging from 45  to 220 sq. m. in size, and a small and unprepossessing lobby flanked by a Starbucks outlet and baratillo stores.  Its apartment-like 2-bedroom executive suite has cable TV, phone and bathroom (the master bedroom has a bathtub).
One of Our Suites' 2 Bedrooms
Each suite also has its own stocked kitchen with refrigerator, microwave oven and a water heater plus a separate dining (with a round table for 5) and living area (with another cable TV set).
Dining Area and Kitchen
From its balcony, there are great views of the city’s skyline (beautifully lit at night), the setting sun, the traffic-clogged Petchburi Road and boats traversing a nearby khlong (part of the city’s elaborate network of canals).
View of Bangkok Skyline From Balcony
The 8th floor Ploy Restaurant, overlooking the small swimming pool, serves an international breakfast buffet of Western and Asian cuisine: sushi, misoshiru, congee, noodles, dimsum, etc..  There is even a halal section for Muslim guests. There is also a MacDonalds and KFC fastfood outlet near the hotel.
Ploy Restaurant
The hotel is probably the best place to stay if you are a shopaholic, being conveniently sandwiched between the  Platinum Mall and Panthip Plaza. Across the street is the Pratunam Market.  Other shopping malls area include the Siam Paragon, MBK, Central World Plaza, and Siam Square. The hotel is a 15-20-min. walk to the  Ratchathewi BTS sky train line.  The hotel’s other facilities include another restaurant (Tae Chew Shark Fin Restaurant), a bar, business center, meeting rooms, swimming pool, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and a fully-equipped gym.  It also offers the famous Thai House Massage.

Grand Diamond Plaza Suites Hotel: 888 Petchburi Road, Petchburi, Rajthevi, Bangkok 10400, Thailand.  Tel : (662) 656-6888-98. Fax : (662) 656-6899. Website: www.granddiamondbkk.com.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Resort Feature: Pineapple Island Resort (Daet, Camarines Norte)


Pineapple Island Resort

Boating and fishing lagoon
The premier water park in the province, Pineapple Island Resort sits on a sprawling, 5-hectare eco-tourism property surrounded by a lush plantation where sweet pineapples are grown.  

It has a uniquely-designed, 720 sq. m. swimming pool with water slides of various levels plus a 200 sq. m. kiddie pool with turtle slide and play station. 
Bamboo picnic huts (PhP300-400), tents (PhP250-300) and poolside umbrellas (PhP150-300) shade visitors from the heat of the sun. Entrance fee, per person, is PhP125 (day rate), PhP150 (night rate) and PhP250 (overnight rate).
De luxe family cabins

Orchid Hall
For meetings, seminars, weddings, reunions, conferences, team building activities and other special occasions, there's the indoor, airconditoned AAV (the initials of the owner) Hall and the outdoor Orchid Hall. 
The resort also has an orchidarium, greenhouse, a children's playground, videoke room and a Y-shaped, man-made boating and fishing lagoon. 
For those who want to stay overnight, the resort has native, economy and de luxe family cottages (PhP1,000-3,000) and 10-pax Raquel dorm (PhP1,500-3,000). 
Pineapple Island Resort: Brgy. Calasgasan, Daet, Camarines Norte.  Telefax: (054) 441-5006, 440-1356 and 571-2651.  Mobile number (0920) 9618236.  E-mail: pineappleisland.resort@gmail.com.  Website: www.pineappleislandresort.com. Open 9 AM-11 PM.

Restaurant Review: Chef Mama Grill and Resto (Pineapple Island Resort, Daet, Camarines Norte)

Chef Mama

Delectable morcon
Barbecued chicken
The airconditioned, classy, fine dining Chef Mama Grill and Resto, the in-house restaurant of Pineapple Island Resort, is owned by Ms. Arlene Abecina-Vergara.

A superb cook, Arlene operates a food chain in Naga City (Sienalou, ryers an Caramel) in Camarines Sur.

Laing
Tofu sisig
Here we were served a delectable array of great tasting and resonably priced dishes.

It included grilled chicken, tofu sisig, pumpkin soup, laing, morcon and blueberry shake with delicious leche flan and turon with sesame seeds for dessert. 

Leche flan






















Other bestsellers on its menu include ginataang bilo-bilo, crispy ube turon, and delicious chocolate cake.  A refreshing sight, while dining, is the  lush Butterfly Garden with its wild ferns, pond and mini-waterfall just outside.   

Butterfly Garden
One of the resident butterflies

Pineapple Island Resort: Brgy. Calasgasan, Daet, Camarines Norte.  Telefax: (054) 441-5006, 440-1356 and 571-2651.  Mobile number (0920) 9618236.  E-mail: pineappleisland.resort@gmail.com.  Website: www.pineappleislandresort.com. Open 9 AM-11 PM.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Resort Feature: Dasoland Family Adventure Park (Dasol, Pangasinan)

The resort's swimming pools

Flamingos at Zooland
The sprawling, 62-hectare Dasoland Family Adventure Park, a new eco-tourism destination set in vast and remote mango plantation, has a number of theme areas, around 3,500 mango trees plus a Japanese Garden, Cactus House, Bamboo setum (a showcase of different kinds of bamboo varieties) and Flower Park.  

It also has two authentic, pyramidal-roofed  Ifugao houses, knocked down from its original home in the Cordilleras, transported here and then reassembled.  For those who want to stay overnight, there are airconditioned cottages with bath and, for recreation, there are two swimming pools (adult and kiddie), a boating lagoon, gazebos, picnic huts, children's playground and mini-golf course.  You can also explore the resort through horseback riding and biking.   The Nativity and Santa Village has an enormous collection of Santa Claus bric-a-brac ranging from the life-size to the miniature.  Around it are life-size dioramas of Nativity scenes. 
The Villa
The resort also has a display of World War II memorabilia (Willys jeeps, trucks, ambulance, etc.), kalesas (horse-drawn carriages used in the Philippines) and farm implements (plows, carts, etc.). For animal lovers, Zooland has a collection of ostriches, pink and orange-colored flamingos, snakes, cassowaries, cockatoos, horses, a dwarf pony, etc.  while the Butterfly Garden, built to show the life cycle of butterflies, features some of them in free flight and swirling around us. The two-storey Villa, a faithful reproduction of an ancestral bahay na bato (stone house) with a fountain in front, sliding capiz windows, grand staircase and a showcase collection of century-old Philippine furniture collected from around the country. It is also a venue for painting exhibits and folk dancing and singing. 

Dasoland Family Adventure Park: Brgy. San Vicente, Dasol, Pangasinan.  Tel: 816-3875. Mobile number: (0917) 545-5343. E-mail: dasoland@yahoo.com.


Agew na Pangasinan Photo Exhibit (Lingayen)

The Impantekep na Apalabas tan Kaplesan ("Fusion of the Past and the Present") photo exhibit,  at the Pangasinan Training and Development Center in Lingayenshowcases a series of rare photographs taken by a team of 15 topnotch photographers chaired by master photographer Raymond Sto. Domingo of the Camera Club of the Philippines.  Sto. Domingo is backstopped by Mr. Meinard Sadim, president of the Federation of Pangasinan Photographers, and Mr. Alvin Dizon, president of the Camera Club of Pangasinan.  Other members of the photography team include photojournalists Mr. Cesar Ramirez of the Philippine Star and Mr. Willie Lomibao of the Sunday Punch. 

L-R, Mr. Bernard Supetran, Ms. Kara Santos, Mr. Mark Nunez, Ms. Malu Elduayan (Provincial Tourism Office), the author, Mr. Butch Velasco (PIO), Mr. Amadis Guerrero, Mr. Vince Lopez
and Ms. Cheska Layug

The photo exhibit showcases the rich culture and culture and heritage of Pangasinan, from the past to the present, including its major tourism sites and industries.  It also gives accent to the cultural renaissance of the province and its vast transformation that made Pangasinan as a major tourist destination, a venue for major national events and conventions as well as economic activities and one of the premier provinces in the country today.  


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

2011 ASNA Awards (Lingayen, Pangasinan)

Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino

Sison Auditorium
The Second ASNA Awards Night and Grand Ball, held at the Sison Auditorium, is one of the highlights of the 431st Agew na Pangasinan.  The award is the highest recognition given to outstanding Pangasinenses who have excelled, over a lifetime, in their respective fields of endeavor, who have established a reputation that cuts them above the others and, for this reason, have brought pride and honor to the province and to the country at large through their selfless dedication to their profession or vocationAsna is the old Pangasinense word for asin (salt) from which the name of the province was derived. Seven Pangasinenses were to be so honored. 
The 2011 ASNA Awardees are former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani (sister of former Pres. Fidel V. Ramos) for foreign service; Ms. Alma M. Quintans-Kern (a granddaughter of Don Daniel B. Maramba) for international community leadership; Mr. Marcelo M. Casillan, Jr. for community service, Ms. Joyce E. Bernal for arts and culture (film); and retired Lt.-Gen. Arturo B. Ortiz for humanitarian and military leadership. The Balitok (a Pangasinense word meaning "gold" or "treasure") Award, a special category for the truly outstanding sons of the province, was conferred to former 5-time House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia, Jr.  for Global Leadership and National Artist Salvador Bernal for Theater Design.  
ASNA Awardees (L-R), Ms. Alma M. Quintans-Kern, Ms. Joyce E. Bernal,  Lt.-Gen. Arturo B. Ortiz, Sen. Leticia Ramos-Shahani, Mr. Marcelo M. Casillan, Jr. and former House Speaker Jose de Venecia

Resort Feature: Solomon's Paradise (Bolinao, Pangasinan)


Solomon's Paradise main building

Native-style accommodations
Solomon’s Paradise Bar Grill Resort, along the 3-km. long Patar Beach, is operated by the nice and friendly Australian Brett Solomon and opened last March 2008.  This place truly lived up to its name, being located in a short but very private white sand cove between towering, wave undercut rock formations. Both rock formations have two sea-sculpted caves and each had small huts on top where one could do quiet contemplation while enjoying the invigorating sea breeze and admiring the huge South China Sea waves crashing against the rocky shore, a scene truly reminiscent of the movie “Wuthering Heights.”     
The resort has a main building with roof deck (where you can watch the sunset or dine al fresco) and a well-stocked bar.  Behind it are accommodations for guests consisting of a native-style rowhouse with 3x4 m. fan-cooled rooms (PhP1,600-2,000 for 2 people and PhP2,500-2,900 for 4 people) with common verandah.  In front is a beach volleyball playing area.  Common toillets and baths for guests are located at the main building.  The resort is a 3-min. drive from Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.  During calmer moments, guests can swim at private coral-lined "bathtubs" and explore the sea caves.  
Solomon's Paradise cove
Solomon's Paradise Bar Grill Resort: Patar Beach, Abrac, Brgy. Patar, Bolinao, Pangasinan. Mobile numbers: (0905) 398-1470 (Globe) and (0928) 474-8845 (Smart). E-mail: solomonsparadise@yahoo.com.  Website: www.solomonsparadise.multiply.com.

Resort Feature: El Pescador Hotel and Resort (Bolinao, Pangasinan)

El Pescador Hotel and Resort
The resort's swimming pools
After our visit to the town's Church of St. James the Great, we again boarded our van for the short drive to Bolinao Marine Laboratory.  Along the way we made a brief stopover at the El Pescador Hotel and Resort, strategically located just 1 km. from Bolinao town proper.  Built in 1992 by former town mayor Jesus Celeste, this resort, one of the best in town, has spacious airconditioned one, two and three-bedroom villas with bath, local channel TV and private balcony (PhP1,500-3,000). 
The resort also has two huge outdoor swimming pools, kiosks (PhP1,000) and conference facilities and offers boat rental and beach volleyball.  Because of its modern amenities, the resort has become a popular venue for fishing tournaments, sunset weddings, family outings, seminars as well as corporate retreats. In front of the resort is a beige sand beach.  Spectacular sunsets can be enjoyed while dining or sipping a cold drink at its native-style restaurant.
El Pescador Hotel and Resort: San Andres St., Geminal, Poblacion, Bolinao, Pangasinan.  Tel: (075) 554-2559.  E-mail:  elpescadorhotel@yahoo.com.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Restaurant Review: Park & Kim Korean BBQ Restaurant (Dagupan City, Pangasinan)

Park & Kim Korean BBQ Restaurant

L-R, Amadis, Howard, Vince, Mark, Bernard and me
At Dagupan City, about 15 kms. from Lingayen, we had dinner at the Park & Kim Korean BBQ Restaurant where we were welcomed by Gen. Manager Mr. Howard A. Chua Cham who treated us to a number of Korean barbecue dishes.  
Park & Kim's signature dishes also include Mool Naengmyon (cold noodles), Hoemul Pajoun (seafood pizza), Dolsot Bibimbap (literally "mixed meals") and Sanmgyeopsal (grilled pork belly). 
Howard, a member of the Pangasinan Council of Tourism Industries Inc. (PCTII), is very bullish about doing business in Dagupan City.  In fact, within the same building, Howard's family also operates Todd's Classic American Restaurant (Super Burgers, Grilled Baby Back Ribs with barbecue sauce and crispy fries, Oriental Salad, Blackened Cajun Tuna, etc.) and Club Fitness (gym with fitness classes such as taebo, yoga, etc.) plus Enso Sushi Bar (Tuna and Salmon Sashimi, Tofu Steak, California Salad, Tempura Udon, Enso Roll, etc.) at the Orient Pacific Center along Perez Blvd. 
Park & Kim Korean BBQ Restaurant: Eastgate Plaza, A.B. Fernandez East, Dagupan City, Pangasinan.  Tel:  (075) 515-7800. Fax: (075) 653-1155.

Restaurant Review: Hardin sa Paraiso Grill & Restaurant (Manaoag, Pangasinan)

Hardin sa Paraiso Grill & Restaurant
The Hardin sa Paraiso Grill and Restaurant, along the national highway, is said to be one of the best places to eat in the town.  Relatively unknown, they serve a tasty assortment of continental fare; from vegetables, steaks, grilled seafoods and native fare.  
Where it not for its prominent steel gate and sign board, you wouldn't notice it as the land where the restaurant sits is a few meters below the main highway.  Upon entering the gate, we went down a short flight of steps to a beautifully manicured garden.  
The main dining area, ideal for large gatherings, birthdays and weddings, is made of bamboo, wood and concrete, with a roof of anahaw leaves and netting.  We were not to dine here, however, as an al fresco gazebo was reserved for our small group.  While meals are still being prepared, you can quench our thirst with iced tea from a 2-liter tall dispenser. 
Grilled relenong bangus

Pinakbet: an Ilocano favorite
The delicious Filipino fare served include sizzling pork sisig (minus the raw egg) on a hot plate, grilled relenong boneless bangus (milkfish) stuffed with minced onions, garlic and tomatoes, the popular Ilocano dish pinakbet (vegetable stew) and sinigang na hipon (shrimps), all complemented with rice.  Dessert includes crispy turon (caramelized wrapped banana) topped with caramel sauce and sesame seeds. 
Aside from the gazebos or main dining hall, groups of four or less can cozily dine al fresco inside one of the restaurant's stylized nipa huts mounted on 7 ft. high stilts.  Its great food, plus its beautiful  garden setting, makes Hardin sa Paraiso Grill and Restaurant a perfect gustatory stop after a solemn visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag.  May she no longer be a secret.  
Hardin sa Paraiso Grill & Restaurant: Brgy. Lelemaan, Manaoag, Pangasinan.  Tel: (075) 541-5375.  Mobile numbers: (0917) 508-5710 and (0917) 844-3921. Open 9 AM-9:30 PM.