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    Philippines: Moalboal

    The fourth week of March was spring break and we traveled to the Philippines! I was a little nervous; it was our first East Asia trip outside of Korea. I shouldn’t have worried. The Philippines was a dream and just the escape we needed. We chose there because it had the cheapest airfare and the beach.

    When it came to planning, we had no idea where to start. Fortunately, some friends were traveling there too and let us crash their digs. We flew into Cebu City and spent five nights at Tipolo Resort in Moalboal. (We spent our last two nights in Panglao. More on that in another post!) Tipolo was the best. The restaurant had delicious meals, $6 hour massages, kayaks and gear to rent, and it was quiet and right on the beach… we would absolutely go there again!


    View from Tipolo resort


    We took a late flight out of Seoul and didn’t land in Cebu until 1:25 am. We booked transport across the island to Moalboal through the resort, which worked out great. It was a long drive, maybe 3 hours or so. Because we booked the room for that night, we crashed as soon as we set down our bags.

    Seoul’s pollution did a number on me before break and a small cough turned into a full on infection. I lost my voice, was hacking up a lung, and I knew I needed antibiotics. In the morning, we took a motorbike taxi into town and stopped at a pharmacy. The pharmacy required a prescription, and after a couple of hours, I was able to see a doctor (pediatrician) and get the meds I needed. I was nervous that the visit was going to set us back on cash, but it cost $6 to see the doctor. SIX. DOLLARS. That’s it. And then around $25 for meds. With z-pack in tow, we took a motorbike taxi back to Tipolo to enjoy our vacation.

    Motorbike taxis were a hoot:


    Philippines bike taxi


    Leah in a Philippines bike taxi


    We had a blast playing in the water, checking out White Beach, searching for colorful coral, and riding around the area. Renting a motorbike for a day cost just under $9!


    David riding a motorbike


    Planted palm trees


    Beautiful view on side of highway in Philippines


    Tropical flowers in Philippines


    Man climbing palm tree for coconuts


    David kayaking in Moalboal


    Coral beach


    I’m obsessed with the colors of our beach finds. I called this our handful of Frutti Pebble confetti:


    Philippines beach finds


    Another dream fulfilled: fresh coconut!


    Leah with coconut vendors


    David drinking out of a coconut


    Moalboal is famous for scuba diving. We didn’t, but David snorkeled and saw some amazing fish and coral:


    David snorkeling


    Fish and coral in Moalboal


    Coral and blue fishes


    Most of the signs we saw were hand painted. Swoon!


    Handpainted signs


    Bright, purple flowers


    San Juan Nepomuceno Church


    Sunset at Tipolo resort


    Jumping on the beach at sunset


    Where we ate:

    • The Last Filling Station at Tipolo. The French breakfast was my favorite. And all of the mango and fruit juices. And the mango dream ice cream dessert. The pizzas were good too. Did I mention the mango?
    • Blue Abyss Dive Resort Restaurant. Food was decent.
    • Veranda on Panagsama Beach. This was our favorite meal, maybe because we were so hungry that night.
    • A fish restaurant close to the Chilli Bar Restaurant. I didn’t catch the name of it. Overpriced, slow service, but the tuna was really yummy.

    Where we stayed:
    Tipolo was great. The meals at the restaurant and gear rentals were added to the room tab, which was convenient. The ladies who worked there were all kind and helpful. The rooms were a good size and clean. The showers had no water pressure, but the water was hot. Wifi didn’t reach to our room, but was fine in the dining area. It was not a fancy hotel resort, but was perfect for our needs. We recommend it!


    I’ll share soon about our canyoneering adventure in Badian!



    SB14: Krk, Croatia

    After exploring Škocjan Caves, we drove 70 miles south to the island of Krk. I heard some great things about Krk, and it was a good mid-point stop. It was just turning dark when we got to the island. We had a list of hostel and hotel options, but our lack of pre-booking gave us a big headache here. Because we were there during off-season (beginning of April), very few restaurants, shops, or hotels were open. We found one hotel, but the cost was ridiculous. We even considered sleeping in the van. We were all tired, hungry, and irritable. I started to feel like I ruined David’s birthday by suggesting Krk.

    A man from one of the few places open helped us. He knew a little English and said there was a new hostel and pointed in a general direction. Krk was a maze of tiny streets and David and I set out to find it while everyone else stayed with the van. A few people were out walking, but none of them spoke English. Fortunately, a man knew where it was and walked us directly to the place.

    Where we stayed
    I don’t think Hostel Krk was actually open. The owner was in the middle of renovations, but he said we could stay in a room. The whole situation was laughable… I mean, we used our sheets for towels in the morning. I’m sure this place is awesome when it’s not under construction. The owner was super nice, and it was a deal. We paid $20 per person for the night. (We probably would have paid more just for a place to stay!) This is what we walked through to get to our room:


    Hostel Krk


    Where we ate
    Our next challenge was to find a restaurant for David’s birthday dinner. After our luck in the previous cities, we weren’t hopeful, especially since it was around 10pm. I would have been happy with a McDonald’s. Instead, we found a pizza place called Volsonis. Volsonis was one of those happy surprises. The history behind the restaurant was fascinating. A couple bought a house and decided to renovate. In the process, they found an old stone brick. They had someone analyze it and soon after did some archeological exploration. They discovered the house was built on top of an old town. Not only that, but they found the tombstone of Volson, one of the city rulers of Krk. (It was creepy to go to the bathrooms – the basement was the tombstone area!)  And the pizza there  – delicious. I was so glad I didn’t ruin David’s birthday after all. If you visit Krk, you must eat at Volsonis. And check out the basement. (Sorry no photos, but check out their website.)

    We spent the next morning walking around the island. We saw one tourist group, but other than that, Krk city was pretty quiet. I loved the narrow stone streets. We bought some pastries for breakfast and did a little shopping. I’d be okay with living on an island one day.


    Krk Island Streets


    Beautiful teal door


    Building on Krk Island


    Tomos Scooter against yellow wall


    Being by the Adriatic Sea was a literal breath of fresh air. Even though the water was too cold for swimming, I was in love with this little island.


    Krk Island


    We grabbed lunch by the boardwalk. I got scampi and David got a massive hunk of tuna. There’s nothing like seafood by the sea!


    Croatian Scampi


    Krk Tuna


    Being near the water puts me in a happy place:


    Krk Lighthouse


    So many shades of blue!


    Water off of Krk Island


    Krk Waters


    It would have been nice to have seen some of the other cities around Krk (the island is only 156 square miles), but we needed to get going to our next city. Here we are crossing over the bridge that connected the island to the mainland:


    Krk Bridge


    The Croatian coastline is insanely beautiful. One of the best things about having a rental vehicle is that you can stop whenever you want. Here’s the only photo I got of our massive van:


    Big van rental


    Dear Croatian Coast – I’ll never forget you!


    Croatian Coastline stop




    Here’s a recap of the trip:
    » Day 1 & 2: Zagreb, Croatia
    » Day 3: Bled, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Ljubjlana, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Škocjan Caves Park, Slovenia
    » Day 5: Krk, Croatia
    » Day 6: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
    » Day 7: Split, Croatia


    SB14: Lake Bled, Slovenia

    After our first two days in Zagreb, we picked up a rental van and drove about two hours northwest to Bled, Slovenia. Our first stop was Bled Castle. See it in between the houses up on the cliff?


    City of Bled and Bled Castle


    Sadly, the castle was less than impressive. Part of it had been converted into a museum. The museum didn’t have much worth seeing, and I was disappointed how heavily renovated everything was. The interior didn’t feel authentic at all.


    Bled Castle Courtyard


    But the view? So worth it.


    Bled Castle and mountains


    View from Bled Castle


    If we had extra time, we would have checked out this alpine slide:


    Alpine Slide


    The castle overlooked Lake Bled and Bled Island:


    Bled Island


    Bled Castle and lake


    Small flowers


    After a while at the castle, we drove down to the lake. We rented a rowboat and took it out to the island. (If you visit, give yourself at least 2 hours to row out, explore the island, and row back.)


    On a rowboat


    Lake Bled is a natural lake formed from glaciers. There were a couple of buildings on the island with the main attraction being the church.


    Bled Island


    Row boat on Bled Island


    Mallard ducks




    Bugs and moss


    Though the sanctuary was small, the inside of the church was ornate. There was a rope near the front you could pull to ring the church bell.


    Bled Church


    We really liked the gift shop here. And it was so peaceful to sit outside and enjoy the scenery.


    Bled Church


    After a row back to shore, we headed into the capital of Slovenia Ljubljana for the night!


    » Read about day 1 and 2 in Zagreb here.



    Here’s a recap of the trip:
    » Day 1 & 2: Zagreb, Croatia
    » Day 3: Bled, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Ljubjlana, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Škocjan Caves Park, Slovenia
    » Day 5: Krk, Croatia
    » Day 6: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
    » Day 7: Split, Croatia


    Eastern Turkey: Van & Akdamar Island

    Before our flight back to Ankara on Sunday, we visited Akdamar Island in Lake Van. Our travel book said the best deal was to ferry with a group of 15 people. We didn’t have enough time to wait for more people, and we found a “private” ferry that cost 130TL for 8 people round trip (that’s about $7.25 USD a person).

    It was foggy out, but we could still see the island ahead of us and the mountains behind us.


    Sailing to Akdamar


    Akdamar Island


    The Church of the Holy Cross sits on the island. I don’t know all of the history, but it was an Armenian church.


    Akdamar Island


    There’s a legend behind this island. The story says an Armenian girl named Tamar fell in love with a boy on the mainland. He would swim to the island to meet with her every time she lit a lantern. Her father found out about it and lit a lantern during a storm. The boy never made it to the island. Before he died, the last words he said were “Akh, Tamar” (Oh, Tamar). Hence, Akdamar Island.


    View from Akdamar Island


    Entrance to the church and island cost 3TL or was free with the Müze card. There were many preserved frescos inside the church:


    Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross frescoes


    Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross ceiling


    The exterior of the church was as elaborate as the inside. There were several depictions of Bible stories: Adam and Eve, David and Goliath… This lamb on the outside made me laugh. He looks like such a cartoon:


    Funny lamb on the church


    There weren’t many people on the island with us. It was very peaceful. There were a few buds on the trees and I can only imagine how beautiful it is when it’s in full bloom.


    Akdamar mountain view


    Our friends found a hole in the fence, and we hiked up the rocky hillside for a great view. (If you visit, the hole is quite large – just walk up to the fence. You’ll see it!)


    Overlooking Akdamar


    The ferryman let us stay for an hour, then we headed back to shore.




    Back in Van, we stopped by the Kedi Evi (Cat House). Basically, it was a small building with windows and fences around the cats. Van is famous for their two-color eyed cats. Most of the cats weren’t in too great of shape. We guessed there was a lot of inbreeding.


    Van Cat House


    This little guy was a cutie, though!


    Van cat two colored eyes


    We grabbed some coffee from Kahve Diyarı  and then found a cheese market. Van is known for its otlu peyniri. We had some at our hotel’s breakfast. It was good, but it is a STINKY cheese mixed with herbs. It tastes stronger than blue cheese and it’s oh, so salty! We didn’t buy any, but one of our friends did. We did, however, pick up some Iranian tea and Iranian rice to take home.


    Otlu cheese


    From there, we went to the airport and flew back home. Visiting eastern Turkey was quite an experience!


    » Read about our first day in Van here.
    » Read about day two in Doğubeyazıt here.


    An Afternoon on Mackinac Island

    Since we were so close and it’s probably Mom’s last summer in Michigan, we decided to do a quick day trip to Mackinac Island. We were there last year for the Lilac Festival 10K.

    It’s about a 15 minute ferry ride from the mainland to the island. We passed the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the lower peninsula of Michigan to the upper peninsula. (We drove across it last year with David’s family while on vacation!) The Chicago to Mackinac sailboat race going on that day:


    Mackinac Bridge


    As you approach the island, you can see the Grand Hotel. It’s the setting for the movie Somewhere in Time:


    The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island


    We spent the afternoon walking around and looking at the cute shops. Mackinac is unique because no cars are allowed on the island. I think they might have a fire truck and an emergency vehicle, but other than that, you get around by foot, bike, or horse.


    Mackinac Shops


    Mackinac bikes


    You have to watch out for horse pies when you walk across the street!


    Horse drawn carriage


    Mackinac Island is known for its fudge:


    Fudge Makers on Mackinac Island


    We had lunch at Mary’s Bistro:


    Mary's Bistro on Mackinac Island


    David got a lamb and bleu cheese burger, I had a crab salad sandwich, and Mom had crab cake sliders. Yum!


    Mary's Bistro Lunch on Mackinac Island


    The island is absolutely beautiful! It was a gorgeous, sunny day.


    Mackinac Island


    We walked up to the Grand Hotel. Mom, Mary, and I have stayed at the hotel before. It’s very fancy and formal. After 6 pm, they require women to be in dresses or skirts and men to be in suits. There’s a fee to look inside if you’re not a guest.




    However, there was no fee to eat at the new Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor connected to the hotel!




    More Hudsonville Ice Cream! Mmmm!




    Mackinac Island is one of my favorite places in Michigan!


    Kites on the Mackinac Island pier