2016 | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

Dec 14, 2016

The Sweetest Escapes of 2016

So, 2016 is nearly over! What? Where did the time go? 

It has been a good year for this food and travel blog. I've been spontaneously productive, and honestly, I'm quite not ready to say goodbye to the magic 2016 has brought into my blogging routine. Magic or mojo or whatever you call it, I hope it's here to stay as I love doing this... blogging, sharing travel tips and making my readers happy!

Looking at my 2016 blog archive, I realize how this year was sprinkled with surprises. Most of the sweet escapes that we had were totally unexpected!

Join me in the memory trail, will you?    

sweetest escapes of 2016

Dec 12, 2016

Sunset Stroll along Dubai Water Canal

Three years ago, I woke up to a news about the expansion of Dubai Creek that will make Bur Dubai an island. Then, last year, I realized it was slowly taking shape as Sheikh Zayed Road already has a bridge! And this year, my Facebook feed was flooded with updates on the mega-project that is now known as the Dubai Water Canal

The newest Dubai wonder was three years in the making. It was finally inaugurated last month with a BIG celebration... so big and so grand that they actually had to close a portion of Dubai's busiest highway during the ceremony!

I didn't get to witness the spectacular fireworks during the inauguration. In fact, life has been pretty busy that I only had the chance to see Dubai's latest attraction a month after it opened! I guess I'm the last person to visit Dubai Water Canal for the first time, but let me share my experience anyway! :)

Dubai Water Canal

Dec 7, 2016

7 kinds of People who will definitely love Armenia

Armenia is not in my 20 before 2020 travel list. In fact, I didn't know anything about the country two years ago! I first learned about its potential to be a good travel destination for Filipinos based in the UAE when a family member mentioned that she's heading there for a visa run, but it was only this year that I realized how gem of a country Armenia is!

During our 4-day travel in Armenia, I fell in love with its history, humility, strength and scenery! And I know 7 types of people who will feel the same way.

Kinds of People who will Love Armenia

Nov 27, 2016

Travel Video: Sweet Escapes in Armenia

Ed and I were blessed with an unexpected trip recently. We had no plans of going out of the country this month since we just came back from our anniversary trip in Paris and we're going home for Christmas, but it's amazing how things fall into place when it's really meant to be!

It was early November when I received a message from Dubai OFW team. They asked me if I can join a familiarization trip to Armenia hosted by Air Arabia. I was ecstatic! I have missed several press trips in the past because of my work schedule and this one came just right on time, when I had enough compensatory time off from work!

And so it happened! 

We were whisked off to Yerevan on board Air Arabia's Airbus 320 last Tuesday!

Armenia Travel Video

Nov 21, 2016

5 Days in Paris Itinerary and Expenses

Paris on a Budget sounds impossible that I, myself, was shocked when I laid out all the possible itinerary and expenses to my husband. We were both in disbelief when we realized that traveling to one of the most romantic cities in the world could only cost a little more than our expenses in the Golden Triangle of India!

Yeah, I know I have been talking about this budget trip for quite awhile now and a lot have been waiting for me to spill the beans. So, here we go!

How much can one budget traveler spend for a 5-day trip to Paris? Roughly 3,500 AED or even less! 

Nov 17, 2016

Yellow Cab Pizza in Dubai

First, there is Max's. Then came Jollibee. And now, Yellow Cab!

Ahh! My foodie heart!

Yellow Cab, UAE's newest import from the Philippines, is a well-loved pizza chain back home. I have been a fan ever since a branch opened in SM Bacolod, which apparently became a constant date night venue for me and Ed. 

You can tell how excited we were when we first heard about the opening of Yellow Cab in Dubai. The first branch is located in Satwa, quite far from home and not accessible by metro; hence it took us awhile to pay a visit. Early this month, we came to know that we don't need to go to Satwa to grab our fave New York's Finest signature pizza as the branch across in BurJuman Centre has finally opened its doors!  

Yellow Cab Karama Dubai

Nov 14, 2016

Sightseeing Boat Tour at The Palm

The great outdoor is pretty inviting as summer draws to a close. We have been frolicking from one beach club to another since October; the very reason why I'm super tan as of the moment. And last weekend, we soaked up the sunshine as we cruised around Palm Jumeirah on board an RIB boat. 

sightseeing in The Palm Jumeirah

Nov 8, 2016

My Top 10 Must-Eats in Paris

During our short trip to Paris, I was only able to scratch off the surface of the wonderful world of French cuisine! Five days are not enough to scout for the best of the best, especially in a city that is known to be a foodie destination!

I had to narrow down my list of food to try; from an exhaustive gluttonous list to a more reasonable one! With so many options, I honestly think that I missed a lot, but I left Paris with a happy heart and a happy tummy.

where to eat in Paris

Nov 2, 2016

How to Save Time and Money in Paris

Paris has been in my bucket list for so long, but it took me a couple of years to pursue my Parisian dreams. One, because of the strenuous Schengen visa application procedure. Two, because it is known to be a very expensive city. 

Early this year, I felt that October 2016 is the right time as Ed and I wanted to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary somewhere special. I was ready to handle the visa stress, not the splurge though. So, I did my online research, asked some friends who have been there, and it turned out that there are several ways to enjoy The City of Light on a budget. 

Here are some tested and proven travel tips:

Paris Budget Tips

Oct 30, 2016

10 Romantic Things to do in Paris

It seems like a love spell was sprinkled all over Paris! Romance is everywhere... in the streets, in the landmarks, in the gardens, in the walls! For those who'll find this sappy, sorry, but the city is filled with love traps!

You can't escape romance in Paris!

Something in the air will make you want to cuddle, to kiss, to say Je t'aime countless times even if you can't pronounce it right! :) There are several ways to celebrate L-O-V-E in Paris. Here are 10 of our favorites.

Romantic Things to do in Paris

Oct 20, 2016

How to have a Perfect Parisian Picnic

Days after our trip, a friend asked, "What experience did you enjoy the most in Paris?" For a few seconds, I struggled for an answer because the whole trip was amazing. It's hard to pinpoint one out of the hundred beautiful memories

But after much thought, I told her "It's the Parisian Picnic!"

Parisian Picnic

Oct 18, 2016

Schengen Visa Application for Filipinos in Dubai

When planning for a trip, there are several hurdles to jump through. One of which is applying for a visa! Ed and I have been traveling once or twice a year, but we still dread visa applications - the stress in gathering all the requirements, the agony in waiting for the visa to be released, and mostly, the fear of receiving a refusal letter instead of a visa stamp!

That's why it took us awhile to visit Paris... because first and foremost, we needed a Schengen Visa! 

Schengen Visa Application for Filipinos in Dubai

Oct 16, 2016

Sleek Budget Hotel in Paris

Paris is an expensive city. 

I heard that all the time, but still, Ed and I were keen on traveling to Paris on a budget. We believed that it's not impossible, we just have to make smart choices. So, when  I started looking for a place to stay for our 5-day trip, I let go of the thought of waking up a stone's throw away from the Eiffel Tower and focused on essentials - comfort and convenience at a cheap rate!

Budget Accommodation in Paris

Oct 12, 2016

Little Manila in Dubai

Little Manila captured everyone's attention when it opened in Deira last year. I was also drawn to it, but I somehow lost my interest when I saw photos of the queue outside the restaurant during its first opening week. I waited for the hype to die down, but came a downpour of negative reviews. So, I waited again. 

Now, it has been a year since Little Manila opened its doors. Most of my friends have already been there, and lately, the feedback has been good. So, a few weeks ago, I finally found myself walking in the lively Muraqqabat Road, searching for Little Manila, hoping not to be disappointed.    

Little Manila in Dubai

Oct 9, 2016

Dear Paris: A Photo Essay and A Love Letter for the City of Light

Dear Paris,

I have loved you ever since I was 10 - the first time I ever laid my eyes on you.

I was too young to know where you are exactly or how many miles you are from my little town. But, I promised myself that one day, I will be staring at your famed Iron Lady not just in my world atlas book but in real life.

I loved you more when I turned 18, when I embraced the fact that I'm a hopeless romantic and then I came to know that you are the most romantic city in the whole world.

A Love Letter for Paris

Oct 5, 2016

My Paris Bucket List


I'm in Paris! Wahhh! I'M IN PARIS! 

Sorry to sound like a broken record. I just need to type that again in all CAPS to remind myself that I'm here... for real! Ed and I arrived in The City of Light just in time for my birthday. We'll be here until our 5th Wedding Anniversary, which means we only have four days and a half to explore the city!

Honestly, I thought fours days are more than enough for Paris. But when I started researching for this trip, I realized that there are so many things to do other than seeing the Eiffel Tower and Mona Lisa! Hence, in order to save time, I created a wish list which only includes the activities I'm interested in.

Paris Bucket List

Sep 30, 2016

Danat Al Ain Resort: Weekend Retreat in The Garden City

Known as The Garden City, Al Ain has been one of our favorite destinations for holidays and quick breaks. We have been frequent visitors, especially during our first few years in the UAE when one of our friends lived there.

Al Ain is breathtaking. The lush greenery, rugged mountains and mineral springs are the reasons why we always welcome the possibilities of spending long weekends in the laid back town. Hence, last week, when Ed and I had another opportunity to have a quick break from work, we head back to Al Ain.

And this time, we stayed in a resort nestled in the heart of the oasis.

Danat Al Ain Resort

Sep 22, 2016

Friday Brunch at Giardino in Palazzo Versace

With a name that exudes sophistication, I expected nothing less from Palazzo Versace. The 5-star hotel is Dubai's newest luxury gem tucked on the bank of the creek. I was in awe as soon as I saw the striking Neoclassical facade, and even more when I was welcomed at the foyer with an intricate Pietra di Fiume design of Medusa.

My eyes widened at the sight of the exclusive designs and fabrics from the House of Versace. You don't need to be a high-end fashionista to appreciate such splendid details! I was amused, but at the same time scared to be near the breakable pieces as I'm pretty sure it would cost me an arm and a leg! Hahah!    

A staff warmly asked how can she assist us. I wish I could tell her that my husband and I are there for a one night luxury retreat, but that's just me day dreaming! I cleared my throat and inform her that we're there for the International Friday Brunch at Giardino. 

Friday Brunch at Palazzo Versace

Sep 18, 2016

What to Pack for an Autumn Trip to Turkey

Last year, around this month, I was totally confused on what clothes should I bring for a 12-day travel in Turkey. It was the first time that we're heading out for an Autumn Holiday. And since we're flying on a budget airline, I had to squeeze everything that I wanted to wear in my carry-on... which is clearly impossible!

I wasted hours googling what to pack, how to create a travel capsule wardrobe and the like. All because I'm OC when it comes to travel outfits! Uhhm. I'm not a fashion blogger and I don't see myself venturing into the fashion scene, but hey I'm a girl! I love to dress up! 

Yep, this post is focused on travel wardrobe; a topic which I should have included in this blog way way back! :)
What to pack for Turkey

Sep 14, 2016

Kabayan Fiesta at Four Points by Sheraton Downtown Dubai

Let's talk about Filipino Food! 

The Eatery restaurant in Four Points by Sheraton Downtown Dubai recently introduced Filipino Food in their all-you-can-eat themed night buffet. I get kilig every time Pinoy cuisine is highlighted in International restaurants; hence, I was so excited to check this newly launched offer.

Kabayan Fiesta at Four Points by Sheraton

Sep 12, 2016

6 Outrageous Drinks to Try in Dubai

It looks like extraordinary beverages are the next big thing in Dubai's dining scene. Whenever we dine out, I have noticed that some drinks can easily take the spotlight away from our food! So far, I have come across glorious mocktails, gravity defying milkshakes and marvelous hot chocolates!

I love 'em! So, I thought, why not share a round up of the insanely outrageous drinks I have tried. Here are six of them!   

Outrageous Drinks in Dubai

Sep 8, 2016

Sugar Factory: Dubai's Newest Sweet Spot

Sugar Factory - the ULTIMATE candy la-la-la-land in the USA - is now in Dubai! The first ever branch outside the US is tucked in the newly revamped Dubai Festival City Mall. Of course, this lady with a sweet tooth must see what the fuss is all about!   

Sugar Factory American Brasserie is a candy shop cum restaurant. It started as a sweets store in Las Vegas in 2009, but a few years later, it was turned into an American Brasserie serving contemporary American fare and signature cocktails alongside the famous sugary treats. 

It's the first of its kind, so you can't blame me for being too excited. :)

Sugar Factory Dubai

Sep 5, 2016

HintHunt Escape Game in Dubai

Guess what I did last weekend? I escaped the summer heat and a crime scene! Yep, you read that right, except that the latter is a mock crime scene in a challenging game! 

I was at HintHunt, an indoor game at Times Square Center, solving a mystery and breaking locks. If I have to make a list of exciting activities to try in Dubai, HintHunt would definitely be in it! Read on to know why. :)    

HintHunt Dubai

Sep 3, 2016

How We Save Money for Our Travel Fund

Ever since Ed and I got married, traveling has become an essential part of our life. We have different personalities, yet we share the same perspective when it comes to travel. 

Traveling, for us, is more than seeing new places, more than learning about the world we live in. It has been our favorite way to bond and get know more about each other. When we're out of our comfort zone, our strengths and weaknesses are revealed. When we're on the road, we learn how to communicate better. And when we share wonderful moments, we appreciate our marriage even more! 

That's why we make sure to go somewhere we have never been once or twice a year. But how do we make our travels happen? 

How to save money for travel

Aug 29, 2016

Carnival by Tresind: A Showcase of Postmodern Indian Cuisine in Dubai

Chic presentation, whimsical colors and state-of-the-art food theatrics made me a serial stalker of Carnival by Tresind on social media. The restaurant has not opened its doors yet, but already gained quite a number of excited fans. That includes me! And - surprise, surprise - I got to have a sneak peek before the restaurant officially welcomes Dubai's foodie population on the 3rd of September! 

Here's what to expect at the highly-anticipated Carnival by Tresind. 

Carnival by Tresind Dubai

Aug 24, 2016

Rasa Sayang: Malaysian Restaurant in Dubai

Food has always been a part of our weekend conversations, especially when we're stuck at home without a scheduled activity and with an empty fridge. While having the usual talk last weekend, Malaysian food came in to the picture.  

Ed and I have heard about this Malaysian restaurant called Rasa Sayang in Oud Metha a couple of years ago. We were interested back then, but because it is located quite far from the metro station, we totally forgot about it.

Since we had the time in our hands last Friday, we finally decided to go on a Malaysian food hunt. 

Rasa Sayang restaurant Dubai

Aug 22, 2016

Amazing Street Art in Karama

Ed and I were residents of Karama for the longest time before we decided to relocate in Deira last year. If not for the convenience of living near my new workplace, we could still be in K-town (as my blogger friend Ken Surat fondly calls Karama neighborhood).

Karama grew so much on us. Hence, we are always ecstatic every time we hear developments in the district we previously called home; like the opening of Carrefour, Vox Cinema and Jollibee (Hahah!) in a shopping mall nearby! 

Recently, we were surprised with the unveiling of the street art installation in Karama Souk! I have to admit, the souk area is not my favorite in the neighborhood. But the impressive murals made me want to revisit the narrow alleys of fake designer bags and clothes. So, off we went!   

Street Art in Karama

Aug 18, 2016

A Gastronomic Journey at Fairmont Ajman's Friday Brunch

Ed and I frequently visit Ajman because of the beach. The smallest Emirate has the best shoreline in the country! But last weekend, I came to know that I have another reason to spend my weekend in Ajman.

We traveled all the way from Dubai to experience the enhanced Friday Brunch at Spectrum in Fairmont Ajman. The brunch concept "Eat, Drink and Take a Journey" got me! I absolutely love gastronomic journeys!

Friday Brunch at Fairmont Ajman

Aug 15, 2016

Travel Video: Sweet Escapes in the Philippines 2016

So, our YouTube channel has been on a hiatus for three long months! Sorry for that. But, today, we're making a comeback with a new travel video. And it's not just another video, it's a special one! We are happy to finally share the videos that we took during our homecoming in the Philippines last March. Yay! 

Philippines Travel Video

Aug 11, 2016

4th Blogversary Giveaway: Your Next Dinner Date Could Be On Us!

It's our 4th Blogversary!

Because you are the reason why Lady and her Sweet Escapes still exists, here is my little way of saying THANK YOU. I'm giving away three meal vouchers for two courtesy of Danat Hotels and Resorts. Yay! Three lucky blog readers will get to experience what Ed and I truly love...

Lunch or Dinner Date in a Danat property! :) 

4th Blogversary Giveaway

Aug 10, 2016

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Blogging

On August 11, 2016, my little pink blog will celebrate its 4th year! Yey! ** confetti *** Hahah! Before the celebration, let me tell you a little secret. 

I started Lady and her Sweet Escapes wrongly. And it was not a walk in the park in the last four years! Yes, blogging is not that easy!

To celebrate the journey, let me share something precious - some lessons that I think can help those who are planning to start their own blogs. Because for a blog to grow, there are several important things to keep in mind.

Things I wish I knew before I started Blogging

Aug 7, 2016

YaSalam! Fresh Foodie Find in JLT

Last weekend, Ed and I went to Jumeirah Lake Towers to try something fresh! We heard a casual Middle Eastern restaurant that is originally from Bahrain is now in the UAE. Since I'm always excited to discover new flavors, we ventured out to a neighborhood miles away from ours and searched for YaSalam!

Yasalam restaurant Dubai

Aug 4, 2016

Downtown Dubai Do-It-Yourself Tour

Downtown Dubai is the most vibrant district of the fast-growing megacity! Aptly called "The Centre of Now", it is a tourist and commercial hub dotted with marvelous attractions. If Old Dubai showcases the city's humble past, Downtown Dubai flaunts its awe-inspiring present and promising future!

Downtown Dubai DIY Tour

Aug 2, 2016

10 Places To Visit In Oman Beyond Muscat

I have always considered Oman as a perfect destination for a spontaneous out of the country getaway. It's only a bus ride away from Dubai and Filipinos with UAE Residence Visa can obtain an Oman Tourist Visa on arrival. I have been there twice, and still, I'm on the look out for more long weekends when I can squeeze a trip to the fascinating Sultanate.  

There are so many things to do in Oman. One can start exploring in the laid-back capital and if time permits, a day or two can be spent in the outskirts! The country has a lot of surprises; from rocky mountains to golden desert to quaint villages!

With the help of my blogger/instagrammer friends who are based in Oman, I have compiled 10 places to visit in Oman beyond Muscat. So, if ever you find yourself in the "jewel of the Arabian Gulf", here are the attractions to keep in mind.

Must-see attractions in Oman outside the Capital
Must-see attractions in Oman outside the Capital

Jul 26, 2016

8 Things To Do in Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Floating Market is the first thing I have associated with Thailand; hence a trip to Bangkok would be incomplete without paying one a visit.  

We booked a Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour in a local agency for 800 Baht per person. I don't know if that's a steal or I got scammed. Hahah! But the fee seemed reasonable to me, so I gave it a go! The agent offered a hassle-free half day trip with pick up and drop off, and a longtail boat ride from a village to the market. Paddle boat rent and food are not included in the package. 

Damnoen Saduak is the most popular floating market and I bet it's the most touristy of all the tourist traps in Bangkok! But honestly, I had so much fun! I think it really depends on how you look at it. There are traps for sure, but there also fun and cheap things-to-do. Here are 8 of them!

Things to do in Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Jul 23, 2016

Signature Travel Poses To Love

What do you collect when you travel?, a blog reader once asked. I laughed on the inside as I typed my reply because, honestly, I collect nothing but memories. I buy things - fridge magnets, Starbucks' tumblers and whatnot - but I tend to give all those to my family and friends when I get home. Hence, I only have photographs encrusted with good ol' memories for myself and I'm totally okay with it.

But last year, I noticed something with my travel photos. They all look so basic! It's either I stand straight in an overly photographed spot or I pinch the tip of a famous monument. Take for example my photo op with Taj Mahal! Arrrgh! How cliche! I couldn't help but tell myself, "You can do better than that!"  whenever I see it. 

I thought it would be nice to do something unconventional next time. I want to make my treasure trove aka travel photo collection more visually appealing. And it turned out that a sprinkle of creative dust is all I need. Thus, a signature travel pose was born!

Signature Travel Pose

Jul 19, 2016

Old Town Bangkok DIY Tour

After 3 fantastic days in Phuket, our family of four flew to Thailand's bustling capital via a local budget airline. Being the focal point of a popular Southeast Asia travel route, I was pretty excited to see Bangkok for the first time. 

I think, there's no better way to make the trip more distinct than having a glimpse of the local culture! I'm super happy that I stumbled on to Big Boy Travel's Old Town Bangkok Walking Tour while I was doing my research. The self-guided trail came in handy. I got spoon-fed, I must say! 

So, I laid out a DIY tour plan; not as detailed and as packed as Big Boy Travel's itinerary, but a simplified version that includes the 3 must-see Wats in Bangkok. Thankfully, my parents were game with it! 

Old Town Bangkok DIY tour

Jul 16, 2016

25 Travel Quotes That Will Spark Your Wanderlust

Wanderlust (noun): a very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.

I am suffering from that thing called WANDERLUST. I'm not going anywhere as of the moment, but I can hardly wait to book that plane ticket for another sweet escape. I'm currently armchair traveling, getting all the inspiration I need from Pinterest, Instagram, my friends' travel blogs, and my fave travel quotes.  

Ohh, travel quotes! Admit it or not, we sometimes need a string of inspiring words to make our travel plans work out. So, I decided to share my 25 favorite travel quotes here on the blog. 

Warning: These quotes will make you want to pack your bags! 

25 Inspirational Travel Quotes
Ready. Get set. Be inspired.

Jul 12, 2016

Unli Breakfast at Little Bangkok

Ed and I rarely wake up early during weekends, but when we do, we take it as an opportunity to check out the top breakfast places and promotions in the city. One of the best brekkie deals that we have stumbled on to is Little Bangkok's unlimited breakfast.

Unlimited Breakfast in Little Bangkok

Jul 10, 2016

Street Style Dining at Bodega Streetfood

Filipino restaurants with unique concepts never fail to make me happy and proud. I was super excited when I heard that the team behind Dampa is setting up a new Filipino restaurant, Bodega, which is focused on street food! 

It opened last year and I immediately gave it a try. Bodega was still on dry run that time that's why I decided not to blog about it yet. The menu already had the exotic Pinoy grilled items like chicken feet and ass, but it wasn't really focused on Filipino food. They were serving street food from around the world (Pho from Vietnam, Tacos from Mexico, Satay from Indonesia) which I actually liked. The concept did not create a major buzz though. 

During my third visit, I was surprised to know that Bodega is temporarily closed. The staff said Dampa has to use Bodega's kitchen for some reason. I never had the chance to check it out again until I heard that Bodega Streetfood was relaunched. And it turned out to be better than ever!
Streetstyle dining at Bodega Streetfood

Jul 8, 2016

Breakfast at the Cocoa Room

I have heard so much about the Cocoa Room ever since it opened in Dubai last year. I was actually invited to have a sneak peek prior its grand opening, but missed the opportunity as the event coincided with an out of town trip. You can imagine how devastated I was when I got to see the foodie photos on social media a week after! I am not exaggerating! Please continue reading and you'll surely understand. :)

Heavenly Breakfast at Cocoa Room Dubai

Jul 5, 2016

Summer Weekend in Al Raha Beach Hotel

A week before Eid Al Fitr holiday, we sneaked in a relaxing hotel stay in Abu Dhabi. We were actually a bit hesitant to go on a trip outside Dubai during Ramadan, but when I realized how things fall into place - the shortened work schedule, Ed's compensatory time off, Ferrari World's Ramadan free view offer, and an invitation to stay in a beach hotel - we immediately gave it a go.  

Our sweet escape destination? Al Raha Beach Hotel!  

Al Raha Beach Hotel

Jun 29, 2016

7 Dishes to Try in Din Tai Fung Dubai

I guess Din Tai Fung needs no introduction. The Taiwanese restaurant rocked Dubai's dining scene last year and this blog post is very much long overdue. At one point, I have actually decided not to write about it as it has already been getting the rave it deserves. I felt that my little voice in the blogosphere wouldn't give justice to this world-renowned dumpling place. 

But every after meal in Din Tai Fung in Mall of the Emirates - the first branch in the UAE, I always get the itch to share its goodness! So, today, while looking at a photo of the yummy XiaoLongBao on my phone, I decided to finally sit in front of the computer, gather all the photos that I took in DTF, and choose 7 dishes that I can recommend (based in my humble point of view) for your next visit.   

Din Tai Fung Dubai

Jun 24, 2016

Island Hopping in Koh Phi Phi

It was a beautiful sunny day in Thailand when I ticked off Wish #8 in our 20 Before 2020 list. It is the wish that I have wrongly written as "island hopping in Phuket" when I meant "island hopping in Phi Phi". Shame, I wasn't that familiar with Thailand's geography when I wrote down the travel bucket list. :) 

The breathtaking islands of Phi Phi administratively belong to Krabi Province, not to Phuket like I initially thought.  Full-day excursion can be arranged as it is located only 40 km away from Phuket. There are plenty of travel agencies offering the island hopping tour, lots of package options to choose from as well. After much thought (and email conversations), I settled with Phuket SRC's Phi Phi Maya Khai Island Premium Service.      

Phi Phi day tour

Here's how our day in Phi Phi went:

8:00 AM - Pick up
Our tour came with  pick up and drop off from our budget accommodation in Patong. The shuttle arrived a few minutes late than expected, probably because we were the last four passengers to be picked up.

8:30 AM - Royal Phuket Marina
We were taken to Royal Phuket Marina where most boat tours commence. We signed a trip document and the staff gave us wristbands to wear. The color of the band corresponds to the tour package booked. Ours were blue while others had orange and pink.

After the registration, we helped ourselves in the breakfast table. Bread, cookies, coffee and Thai Iced Tea (Yay! I LOVE!) were served. Pre-tour briefing followed. Dos and don'ts were said and anti-seasick tabs were handed out.    

tour briefing in SeaStar office in Royal Phuket Marina
tour briefing in SeaStar office in Royal Phuket Marina

9:00 AM - Departure to Phi Phi
Day trippers were gathered according to the color of the wristbands. We followed the staff, there were six of them if I remember correctly, assigned for our "blue" group. They led us to the quay where a speedboat is waiting to whisk us to Phi Phi.     

Royal Phuket Marina
Royal Phuket Marina
Phuket island hopping via speedboat
So, this is what the premium tour looks like. Just a little space to wiggle around, still it was comfy ride. 

10:00 AM - Maya Bay
After almost an hour speedboat ride, we entered the semi-enclosed lagoon of the world-famous Maya Bay. It is a stunning beach cove made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio's movie The Beach. It is actually the main reason why I wrote down Phi Phi on my travel list. Blame Leo! Hahah! The towering limestone karst surrounding it seems to protect a mystical paradise, just like what it portrays in the Hollywood film. 

But... yes there's a but, a big one in this case. The moment our speedboat docked on the shore, I noticed the harsh reality. The beach is too crowded. There's no way a couple can have a Richard and Francoise moment here! It is also not the quiet hideaway that I expected. Sal wouldn't like to stay for good if she saw the island this way. Sorry, only those who have seen the film would understand me right now. If you haven't, please watch and I bet you'll agree with me. :) 

Okay, enough with the expectations. In reality, Maya Bay is a sight to behold despite the crowd. It has the finest white sand that I have ever stepped on, clear blue waters and impressive rock formations.  

Maya Bay tour via speedboat
Oh hello there Maya Bay!
crowd at Maya Bay
And so, The Beach has been discovered! 
Family at Maya Bay
Family photo at the beautiful and TOURISTY Maya Bay
Longtail boat in Koh Phi Phi
Longtail boats are used by visitors coming from the nearby islands.
Day trippers from Phuket can only go to Maya Bay via speedboat or cruiser.
Lady in Maya Bay
Sing with me? I've crossed the desert for miles. Swam water for time...
The Beach in the The Beach movie
...Searching places to find. A piece of something to call mine.  :)  - Pure Shores (The Beach soundtrack)
Maya Bay snorkeling area
at the other side of Maya Bay lies this snorkeling area

11:00 AM - Viking Cave 
Our speedboat sailed to the northwest tip of Phi Phi Leh where the Viking Cave is located. It is also known as the Birds Nest Cave because it is inhabited by swiftlets, the type of bird that makes edible nests popularly used in Chinese soup. The boat simply passed by the mouth of the cave, just for us to see bamboo scaffolding that the locals climb on to during harvest. 

en route to Viking Cave
en route to Viking Cave
Birds Nest Cave in Phi Phi
scaffolding used during harvest of bird's nest at the mouth of Viking Cave

11:30 AM - Monkey Beach
Next stop was at the Monkey Beach. It is called as such because it is literally a home to a colony of monkeys. We were not allowed to walk in the shore, not allowed to give food or play with the monkeys while in the boat either. The staff were kinda overprotective of us... or maybe of the monkeys. Hahah! I heard some stories of monkey bites, so I guess staying in the boat was for our own good. 

quick stop at Monkey Beach
quick stop at Monkey Beach
monkeys in Monkey Beach Phi Phi
Kings of the Island

12:00 NN - Lunch at Phi Phi Don
We never went hungry in Phi Phi. Fruits, biscuits and drinks were overflowing on board the speedboat. And during lunch time, we were taken to a beach in Phi Phi Don for a delicious lunch buffet. 

Phi Phi Don
Phi Phi Don
Phi Phi island hopping lunch
my lunch: some of the choices in the buffet, not in the photo are the pasta dish and some mains
the lunch area in Phi Phi Don
the lunch area in Phi Phi Don

2:00 PM - Snorkeling
After lunch, we headed to a snorkeling area. We took out the snorkeling gears which were given to us earlier at the marina and dived into the deep blue ocean! I wore my life vest of course! I am a weak swimmer, but it was the activity that I enjoyed the most during our Phi Phi island tour. The water is so clear! I could see the fishes and corals without even diving deep down the sea.  

snorkeling in Koh Phi Phi
Snorkeling time!
Lady in Phi Phi island
me and my Mama treading in the turquoise water of Phi Phi 

3:00 PM - Khai Nok
Our last stop was at Khai Nok. It is a lovely little island with white sand beach and huge granite rocks. But I must say, this island is completely swallowed by commercialism. There are souvenir shops, food stalls and vibrant parasols for rent. Ed and I attempted to sit in the sun loungers and we were asked to pay 150 Baht. Nooo way. I laid out my sarong by the shore and sat there instead. 

Thankfully, we didn't have to buy food as the tour agency has a stall in the island where we can have snacks and drinks for free.    

Beach life in Khai Nok
Beach life in Khai Nok 
huge rocks in Khai Nok
I sought refuge from the sun in the huge rocks by the shore.
white sand beach in Khai Nok
white sand beach in Khai Nok
Parasols in Khai Nok
the very inviting parasols, but resting under the shade comes with a price

4:30 PM - Back to Royal Phuket Marina
We called it a day in Koh Phi Phi and sailed back to Royal Phuket Marina. It was a long fun day. Despite the case of expectation vs reality in Maya Bay, I did not regret having Koh Phi Phi in my 20 Before 2020 list.

5:30 PM - Drop off at the hotel
This day trip, just like all the other options I found, have highs and lows. A disadvantage is that I didn't get to enjoy the powdery sands of Maya Bay that much because of the limited time. But, looking at our travel schedule, seeing several islands in one day is the best option that I have. We were back in the hotel at 5:30 PM. I had time for a quick shower before we rushed to Patong Beach to catch the sunset.

Tour Price as of March 2016: 1,800 Baht per person

What else did I do in Thailand? Check out these blog posts:

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