Cheap and artsy place to stay in Panglao, Bohol

Being a Boholana, I’ve traveled to Panglao island in Bohol several times mostly on day-trips to the beach, though on several occasions I stayed overnight and paid over a thousand pesos for accommodation. After living abroad for over 7 years, I found that the island has significantly changed. There are more hotels, restaurants and shops now. I always had this perception that accommodations there are all expensive because it is one of the most famous beach destinations in the country with its very fine white sand. Little did I know that there already exist cheaper options for backpackers.

A friend who traveled with me to Panglao suggested D’ Backpackers’ Barn; what I shame though coz I’m the one who’s from Bohol yet I don’t know much information. I was hesitant at first because it is so cheap – at 400 pesos (approx. 8 USD) per person for a dorm-type room for 4 people. I imagined a poorly maintained place with dirty toilets. I thought I’d stay somewhere else but got lazy to do the research myself and decided to stay there.

I fell in love with D’ Backpackers’ Barn right away. It’s definitely my kind of place, totally opposite to what I had imagined. It’s a place that has a ‘character’. I loved how artistic it is, with life quotes spread all over which got me all pumped up. I even asked the receptionist where they got their decorations and who did their lettering so I can get some for our house. I particularly loved the mini-living room. We spent the night talking there with my friends. It felt so comfy; the rustic feel of the decors added good vibes because I love anything vintage-like. Most of all, I loved having breakfast there and sipping my coffee while looking at the plants at their backyard. Oh, and their toilet is clean too!

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Totally forgot to take a photo of the room itself but you can check their Facebook page here.


What a weekend with a meditation guru looks like

Sometime back I wrote on how it’s like to be in a room with meditators and how I learned to let some battles go from a meditation teacher who used to be a monk. That meditation guru is Australian and I was lucky to catch him at home after years of traveling to teach meditation while I was doing my graduate studies in Sydney. He and his sister were very kind to welcome us in their home in Gosford and his friend who is also a meditator was very kind to drive us around.

It took me and my friend about an hour and 30 minutes by train from Sydney Central station to Gosford. I enjoyed the relaxing view on the way from the thick greenery to the distant mountain tops, wide flowing river and the vibrant blue sea; such sweet respite from the concrete jungle of Sydney. Though I haven’t had enough sleep the night before I was wide awake on the train to savor the natural scenery. Oh how I love long train rides.

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From the station we headed straight to Somersby Falls. I forgot I will be spending the weekend with a meditator and nature lover so instead of wearing pants and running shoes I wore a dress and boots which made it so hard to walk on slippery tracks that was about 250 meters long. The waterfalls wasn’t as huge as I expected but it was pretty. After we set our picnic we meditated for a few minutes. How lovely it was to meditate in a rainforest while listening to the sound of the waterfalls, the chirping birds and rustling of the leaves. It was made even sweeter by a cup of coffee afterwards. It was one of those moments when I wanted to scream, “I love my life!!!”

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After the picnic we drove around to see more of Gosford, headed to the farmers market to grab food then proceeded to a nearby park to eat our lunch. I haven’t taken much photo because being with meditators reminded me to disconnect from technology and be in the moment. I felt ashamed to be using my phone a lot, though I took some snaps while we rested for lunch and played with Australian pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus). Lying on the grass felt so nice. We talked a lot but there were also times when we just stayed silent to meditate and be more aware of our environment.

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Our last stop before heading home was Wyrrabalong National Park which offered a stunning view of the ocean below. At the Crackneck lookout we could see Shelly beach, which we visited the following morning. The Crackneck lookout has a picnic area and is a great spot for whale watching, too bad we didn’t bring binoculars! We walked deeper unto the park and climbed on a tree. Before leaving we did standing meditation guided by our guru surrounded with the lush vegetation.

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In the evening we cooked a healthy vegetarian meal, pasta with veggies. After we had eaten and washed the dishes, we stayed outside of the house to gaze at the sky. The light pollution wasn’t so bad in their village so we could see more stars. Our guru realizing we loved stargazing decided to take us to the nearest golf course. It was so dark on the way, I could barely see what I was stepping on but he walked that area with mindfulness several times so he knew where to go even if we couldn’t see much.

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When we reached the edge we laid on the ground and looked at the stars silently. We could hear the sound of the waves splashing on the shore below us. It was freezing cold but I didn’t mind. The moment was a wonderful reminder that whatever we are going through, life is beautiful and sweet if we just know how to slow down to appreciate it.

The next day we woke up before sunrise and walked to Shelly beach passing through the golf course we went the night before. We stood at where we laid before for a few minutes of meditation or to simply take it all in and take mental pictures of the natural beauty around us. We then descended to Shelly beach as the sun began to rise. Our guru shared memories he had of the place while growing up. He also brought to our awareness the sound of Kookaburra birds. The beach had fine sands but there were rocky areas too. I stood on one of the rocks to do standing meditation while the waves passed by me. We walked barefoot until we reached the foot of Wyrrabalong National Park. We threw stones to the sea and competed which one could throw the farthest. I laid down on the rocky shore and meditated for a long while until we left.

The spot we laid down the night before to stargaze

The spot we laid down the night before to stargaze

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When we walked back, the sun has gotten hot and the beach was crowded with people. It was a pleasant weekend and I loved seeing families, especially those with kids, enjoying it. When we arrived home, I baked a muffin for the first time. It wasn’t rocket science of course but being someone who is scared of burning the kitchen, I was happy with that little achievement. We traveled back to Sydney in the afternoon and luckily since it was Sunday, we only paid $2.5 for the train ride. We brought back with us lots of happy memories and a book that our guru wrote himself.

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It was a weekend of fun and many activities but above all it was a weekend of friendship, of being still and living in the present moment.


Blue hour at Chocolate Ville

I was going through old photos and found these, taken four years ago at Chocolate Ville, Bangkok during blue hour. “The blue hour, from the French expression l’heure bleue, is the period of twilight each morning and evening where there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness. The time is considered special because of the quality of the light.” As the term suggests, when you take a photo during blue hour the result is a stunning deep blue sky.

We were at Chocolate Ville for dinner; I went around to take photos while we wait for our food. I have been wanting to try blue hour photography but since it has to be taken at specific time of the day — during twilight — I was not able to execute that plan and I have no idea why. Nonetheless, when I saw the photos I’ve taken at Chocolate Ville I was thrilled to realise that I’ve taken them at blue hour! So much about making plans when things can be accomplished at the least expected moments. Unfortunately, I started a bit late as the night began to deepen so as you can see the color of the sky in some of my photos are too dark.

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Chocolate Ville is a theme park restaurant in Bangkok though located a bit far off from the city center. The best way to get there is by taxi which will cost from 100-200 Baht. Don’t be mistaken by its name though, sorry to break it to you but the place isn’t about chocolates; I haven’t found a shop that sells chocolates there either. Contrary to most restaurants in Bangkok, Chocolate Ville offers a European vibe so if you are a westerner wanting to experience Thai culture, it’s probably not the best place to go.

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The best part is there is no entrance fee and you can take as many photos as you like. If you’d want to dine there I would suggest making a reservation to make sure you get a seat after that long trip by taxi; it took us an hour to get there! Also note that they are open from 4PM-12AM so don’t go there too early since it’s far from the central district and there is nothing else to do to kill time.

Chocolate Ville
Soi Nawamin 74, Yak 3-8, Kaset-Nawamin Road, Klong Kum Subdistrict, Bueng Kum District.
Bangkok, Thailand
+66-83-077-3738 or
+66-81-921-2016 or
+66-81-921-0661
http://www.chocolateville.net/