Friday, 15 February 2019

Returning home - Singapore to Perth

Friday, 21 December/ Saturday, 22 December 2018

We landed in Singapore Changi Airport, Terminal 4 at 8,30 pm and on exiting the plane were surprised by a nice garden and a "heart tree".

Heart Tree Sculpture at Terminal 4

After coming down an escalator a stewardess asked passengers if they had connecting flights and where to. She checked our ticket, gaves us a T2 sticker to put on our clothes, and we were told to go to a small lounge on the side, and get on the next bus that would take us to Terminal 2 and in Terminal 2 take the skytrain to Terminal 1.

Image result for singapore airport map
Singapore Airport terminals (photo from net)

The bus took a route outside the Airport but deposited us in front of a back door to Terminal 2. From here we boarded the skytrain to Terminal 1.

Out of the bus into Terminal 2

We walked until we found an Information counter as we didn't have boarding passes for our flight. The lady asked if we had arrived via a Low cost flight (yes) and she told us we would have to exit the terminal via passport control and re-enter and go through security!

We weren't happy, so she directed us to a Qantas counter nearby and we were asked the same question. We told the lady we had been directed to Terminal 2 and 1 by a staff member at Terminal 4 who even gave us a T2 sticker, so we were obviously upset at the wrong information in Terminal 4, and at having wasted so much time and the possibility we might even miss the flight if we had to exit and re-enter.

She was adamant that she couldn't give us our boarding passes as it was the Singapore Airport policy that all passengers coming in from Terminal 4 on low cost flights would have to go through passport control and security! Damn low cost flights!!!

It had taken us 1 hour to get to this point and Jose was furious saying he would never fly via Singapore Airport again!
While we walked to Passport control at high speed I would stop to take some photos along the way and then run to catch up to Jose.

Singapore Rose heart, and Christmas sculptures

In terminal 2, this interactive "Enchanted Garden" comprises 4 giant glass topped bouquet sculptures decorated with mosaics and stained glass. Within the bouquets are a variety of fresh flowers and ferns. It comes to life with sound when you weave through it.

A bouquet of flowers among the palm trees at Terminal 2

Before Passport control we had to fill in an Exit form, but we weren't leaving the airport, so we explained the situation and the officer was quite understanding and directed us to where we should exit and then re-enter the airport at Terminal 1.

Back in Terminal 1 by the Qantas counters a staff member tried helping us get our boarding pass in one of the electronic machines. It wouldn't accept Jose's details saying he didn't have a booking, ggrrrr... My details were accepted, but we told the lady it would be better if we queued and got our passes together or otherwise we might not sit together.
After about 20 minutes we finally got attended and given our boarding passes and we rushed to our departure lounge.

Even though there were wi-fi areas in the lounge and along the way I didn't manage to connect as it asked for my Passport number and an identity number, which I didn't know what it was. I later learned that at the Information counter and at specific points you can get a password to log in valid for 3 hours.

The Kinetic Rain sculpture, made of 1216 bronze droplets measures 9,8mt by 4mt.
The sculpture can form 16 different shapes through slow movements travelling a maximum distance of 7,3mt from the ceiling to the lowest point of the pattern.

Kinetic Rain at Terminal 1

About 20 minutes after arriving at the departure lounge at 11,30pm we boarded the Boeing
 737 to Perth! 
Oh, what luxury - comfortable seats, a pillow, blanket, dinner and entertainment.... But not all was 100%, unfortunately my TV didn't work and would switch off a few seconds after my movie started! After a few tries, I gave up and went to sleep.

Flying over Rottnest Island near Perth

Five hours later we landed at Perth International Airport at 5am, and because we just had hand luggage were almost the first people out the door. A few taxis awaited and we caught a taxi home.
It was quite hot already and the driver informed us that it was already 28C (82F)at 5am and the maximum temperature would go up to 40C (104F).

Finally home, we unpacked, put clothes in the washing machine and went to be for a few more hours to recover from the overnight flight.

A couple of days later we were talking about laptops and Jose went to get his laptop which he thought was in the bedroom. It wasn't, and he started retracing his steps and try to remember when he had last seen it - on the flight to Perth!!

I searched for the Lost Property phone number at Perth Airport, he called them and after having to describe the laptop with many details I wouldn't have noticed for sure, the man told him to collect it the next day. We were relieved!

And with just two days to prepare for Christmas lunch at our place, there was lots to be done - shopping, wrap presents, clean the house...

And I still want to visit Singapore, it's on my bucket list, and I'm sure Jose will come too even though he was so upset with the bad experience we had at Changi Airport.
The airport itself is beautiful, has so many beautiful sculptures, gardens, etc so it's an experience within Singapore too.
Have you had any bad airport experiences?

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Philippines - Farewell - Panglao to Mactan island

Friday, 21st December 2018
After breakfast at the Events Cabana as the Restaurant Cabana was being cleared up from a wedding the night before, Jose and I checked out at 9am and after farewelling our family we were driven to the airport in the Resort's van.

Karina, Thomas and rest of the family would check out at 11am as they were taking the ferry to Cebu, where they would stay for a day before departing to their house in Batangas (south of Manila) and Thomas's parents and brother back to France.

The events cabana

Our option to leave the island of Panglao to the island of Cebu was either take a 2 hour ride on a ferry at 12pm and then a taxi ride from the Cebu Ferry terminal to the International Airport, which depending on the horrendous traffic could take from 20 min up to 2 hours, and we could risk missing our 4,45pm flight.
A more reliable choice was a 20min flight on a tiny Cessna Caravan.

At the Bohol-Panglao airport we were directed to the Air Juan counter and after checking our passports the lady they were expecting a Filipino couple because of our surname. 
Karina had already mentioned that when she says her surname everyone says it's a Filipino surname. The name comes from a Portuguese explorer who worked for the Spanish Governor of the Philippines in the 16th Century, he might have had some kids there ...  

Before departing we had a chance to take a photo with the pilot and pretty young co-pilot, and the 2 kids from the Korean couple flying with us were even invited to sit on the pilot seat and have photos taken. Friendly team 😊

Right to left - Air Juan pilot, Jose and I and the young female co-pilot
A kid on the pilot seat, Jose and I inside, me in front of the Cessna
Our carry on luggage had been taken in to the rear of the plane and the 6 of us took our seats. 

Leaving Bohol Airport and flying over the island

The scenery below us was breathtaking and I moved from one side of the plane to the other snapping away, while Jose filmed a few bits.
I really didn't know what to expect, but it was such a fun trip seeing the azure waters below, the small islands, the seaweed mangroves ...

Seaweed mangroves (top left), azure waters, small islands

From the Seafood restaurant sign (below, bottom left) I managed to find that the small island is Gilutongan Island which can be reached by ferry from Cebu island.

We had to circle three time above Mactan island before landing and I was able to see this fabulous resort with an enormous pool, which from google maps I gather is Plantation Bay Resort. Below you can find a video of from us circling Cebu and landing in Mactan.

Plantation Bay Resort and Spa pools in Mactan island 
The domestic airport is located in the 65kms2 Mactan island across the channel from Cebu City on Cebu Island.
It was here that in 1521 during the Battle of Mactan the Portuguese born explorer Ferdinand Magellan (Fernao Magalhaes) was killed by the Mactan chief Lapu Lapu and his men. 

At Mactan Airport and the Waterfront Airport Hotel seen from the airport

We landed around 10,30am and shortly after we exited the airport and crossed the road to the Waterfront Airport Hotel & Casino Mactan.
We had a few hours to spare as the International terminal was only a 15 min bus ride away, and again thanks to an internet search of what we could do on the island during our 5 or 6 hour stay, I came across a blog where someone mentioned that the Waterfront Hotel was the ideal place to relax by the pool, shower, get wi-fi and eat a good buffet meal at the Uno Restaurant for the sum of Php1000 (Aud27) each. And that is what we chose to do! 

Waterfront Hotel - Restaurant (top right) Lobby, Christmas gingerbread house bakery
We checked in our luggage and decided on having an early lunch as we had eaten breakfast at 7am. 
The food offering at the Buffet was fabulous, and we helped ourselves to various foods and salads.
The desserts looked mouthwatering and the chocolate fountain, wow, but we had already eaten too much, so we shared a plate with 3 or 4 desserts.
Coffee, juices and water were all included, but alcoholic drinks ordered from the bar have to be paid for, and they are expensive.

One side of the Uno Buffet Restaurant
Buffet, dessert area, a castle cake and chocolate fountain

After lunch we went down to the basement and sat reading on the chairs by the pool.
It was quite humid and we could have put our bathers on to swim but after a huge meal we didn't feel like it.

Hotel Pool and me on a lounger

About 2 1/2 hours before our flight departure we collected our luggage and crossed the road to the Domestic airport to catch the shuttle bus to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, which is the Philippines second busiest airport. It opened in July 2018 and will have the capacity to handle 12,5 million passengers a year. 
The old International airport is now just used as the Domestic terminal.

The modern Mactan-Cebu International Airport

We joined the line for Security and were asked for our airport tax receipt.
Back we went and joined a long line behind a counter with only 1 assistant!
Some people started complaining, one "clever" lady tried to jump the queue and was told off by the person who was then behind her, and she said she didn't realize that was a queue to pay the Airport tax 😡.

The tax was Php850 (Aud23) per passenger on international flights, and the Php300 for domestic flights, is always included in the ticket price.

After paying, we joined the long queue for passport control and security checks. There were dozens of counters but only 3 people working and time was ticking by. Once again people were complaining and some were asking the people ahead if they could jump the queue or they would miss their flight.
Eventually the person in charge requested another 3 people  go to the counters.  Two started straight away but one of them took her time by first connecting a small fan, going through her bag, dusting the counter, etc before she finally called someone from the queue. 
Everybody was fuming...and then at security they made people remove shoes, and men had to remove belts, anything in their pockets, etc.

Finally over, we ran to the departure gate as they were calling passengers to board the Air Asia flight.
Jose and I were sitting in different rows, but it was only a 3,30h flight to Singapore.
With no entertainment I tried to read my book, but in the middle seat next to me was a 6 or 7 year old boy watching movies on his tablet without his headphones on, so the sound was distracting. His mother on the aisle seat had her own tablet and headphones so the noise didn't bother her for sure!!

And after a short delay due to late passengers (not us) we were on our way to Singapore.

Image result for panglao to mactan
From Panglao (little island below Bohol) and Mactan (the little island across Cebu) (photo from the internet)

A 2 minute video I made of our little plane circling above Cebu and landing in Mactan island.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Monday Mural - Sunflowers

I took these photos in November 2018 when I joined friends for lunch in East Fremantle. I got lost, turned into this street to turn around and found this mural. 
I was no longer lost 😉, parked the car and grabbed a few photos before getting back on the way to the restaurant. Painted in 2018 by Perth artist Brenton See.
He's signature style is birds and flowers, and you'll find a bird among the sunflowers too.

I spotted one of his recent murals on Sunday 3rd on the way home from a picnic on the beach, which reminded me I had yet to publish this one. On Saturday 9th I found another 2 of his recently painted murals.

If you like murals or have a mural you'd like to post, this meme is for you; 
Just follow the Linky steps below.   Be sure to link back to this blog and visit your fellow mural bloggers.  Looking forward to your mural finds this week.  Thanks, Sami. 

Other murals that I've posted from from Brenton See:

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Philippines - Cave Swimming and visit to Bohol Bee Farm Resort

Thursday, 20th December 2018 -
Sadly this would be our last full day in Panglao Island.

Our usual driver/tour guide Reynaldo was meant to pick us up after breakfast and take us to a waterfall and then to some caves in the north of the island. 
During the night I was woken up by the sound of heavy rain, and in the morning the rain continued.
Karina called Reynaldo and arranged that he would still pick us up, but we would only go to the  caves. 
Isabelle wasn't feeling well with a bit of a cold and stayed in the Resort to sleep.
We "borrowed" umbrellas and towels from the resort and boarded the van.

Hinagdanan Cave (Ladder cave) was discovered accidentally many years ago, when the owner of the area was clearing the land for farming and found 2 holes. He threw a stone and heard a splash. Then he built a ladder to get into the cave, hence the name. 

We paid 50 Pisos (Aud 1,30) and a further 75 (Aud 2,00) for swimming and were allocated a very funny guide who offered to take photos of our group and even showed me how to adjust my camera settings to take photos in the dark cave.

The whole family, minus Isabelle

The 100mt long cave has many stalactites and stalagmites and is lit by sunlight from holes above on the ground and is accessed via steep steps with a rope railing.

The holes above the lagoon, from where light enters the cave

There are no changing facilities in the cave, so for those of us who didn't have our bathing suits on we went behind some rocks, and with someone holding a towel around us we changed.
The large lagoon with transparent water was quite inviting but we didn't wander far from the edges.
We swam for about 20 minutes or so, then changed back into our clothes and went back above to browse the little markets where we bought a couple of souvenir t-shirts.

Swimming in the cave lagoon

On the return trip the driver was keen on showing us the Bohol Bee Farm Resort where we could get a coffee and visit the bee farm.  Apparently because of the rain we couldn't visit the bee farm as bees get aggressive with rain.

The resort pool, the Ice-cream kiosk and bottle lamp shade
We stayed a while and had a drink while listening to a piano player singing old songs. Reynaldo (driver) was even given lunch for bringing in customers.

In the complex we visited the Bee Shop where they sold honey, creams, and other local crafts. They had a bakery on site too, an ice-cream kiosk, a restaurant and even a well cared for vegetable and herb garden.

The piano player sang while we had our drinks

The sitting area and piano player, the restaurant with views of the sea and the wet deck leading to the beach

The herb and veggie garden and other small cosy seating areas around the Resort
This would be a nice spot to sit and watch the sea if it was a sunny day (deck by the restaurant)

I thought the toilets re-purposed as plant pots in the garden were funny.

We decided not to have lunch at the Bohol Bee Resort, so when we got back to the Panglao Bluewater Resort around 2pm we headed straight to the Restaurant Cabana.

It was still raining and the little birds that inhabited the thatched roof were flying from the pool to the empty tables picking on the leftovers.

We had to eat just under the eaves as the staff were setting the tables for another wedding later in the afternoon. 
With the cool weather and a breeze it wasn't too comfortable but we enjoyed a prawn curry  (3 or 4 big prawns only, but it was enough) and later had a slice or two of  Karina and Thomas Carrot wedding cake that the had been stored in the kitchen's cool room. 
The serving staff was also given a slice, as they were always so friendly, but there would have been plenty of cake left over ...
We all realized how lucky we were with the weather on the wedding day just the day before, perfectly sunny and warm.

Preparations for another (big) wedding and 2 staff members carry the wedding cake
Prawn curry and Karina and Thomas wedding cake from the day before

After lunch we went to our room to get our bags ready for our departure the following day.

Later Karina, Thomas, Jose and Benoir played cards by the bar while I read one of the books Karina had lent me - "Blink - the power of thinking without thinking" by Canadian writer Malcolm Gladwell. Brilliant book by the way!

We had our usual Happy-Hour cocktail at 7pm, then caught 3 tricycles to the village to have dinner at the Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant at Alona Beach (a branch of the one we visited in the morning), where we had already eaten 2 days before. 
We had enjoyed the food and they were on board with Isabelle's gluten allergy so it was an easy choice.
They had this tiny cat who took a shine to me, I think they know the weakest lady of course! Compared to my huge cats, all Filipino cats I saw were really tiny. 

Alona Beachfront restaurants, the tiny cat at the Bee Farm restaurant and Thomas drew a K&T loveheart on the sand
And this would be our last night at the resort with wonderful staff who made sure guests enjoyed their stay and had a relaxing time. A fabulous 5 days with great adventures, my daughter's wedding, hours sitting by the pool, family time...

The infinity pool at dusk

The following morning we would be leaving the resort and flying to the Island of Mactan, across from the island of Cebu. Another adventure on a tiny Cessna Caravan plane.  I'll tell you all about it next week.