Day 1: Cebu–Bohol Getaway

Since we needed to travel from Baguio City to Manila and then Manila to Cebu we had to take the 11:00pm (September 17,2011) Victory Liner Bus in order to arrive just in time at the airport (NAIA Terminal 3). The expected time of arrival in Manila is around 8:00am, but to our surprise it arrived 2 hours earlier which was not part of our plan. So instead of heading straight to the airport, we decided to have breakfast at Jollibee which was located a few blocks from the bus terminal in Pasay. After breakfast we took a cab going to the airport which cost us about Php80.00; this is actually the first time that we got to ride a taxi wherein the taxi driver suggested a shorter route with less traffic because we got to the airport in less than 15 minutes.

Arrival at NAIA 3 in Manila

We arrived at the airport at around 7:30am and went straight to the web check-in counter. After checking-in we had 2 more hours to spend before the boarding times so we freshened up and changed our clothes.
Tip # 1: Always keep a set of spare clothing in your backpack or hand carry when travelling. This lessens the hassle of rummaging through your luggage in case you need to change.

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Reading our own share of books while waiting for the 9:10am boarding time.

Tip # 2: A good book is the best travel companion especially during those long waiting hours at the airport.

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Finally on board the plane bound for Cebu.

Tip # 3: Bring your own snacks and drinks when travelling. This can basically help you lessen your expenses.

Upon arrival at the Mactan International Airport, we were already planning on looking for a white taxi as our mode of transportation going to Shangri-la Mactan Resort and Spa. But then we saw a person holding a signage for Shangri-la Mactan Resort and Spa. Although we did not make prior arrangements for our transfer, since the personnel whom we talked to during our reservation for the “A Day In Paradise” Day Tour advised me to just take a cab going to the resort, we tried to push our luck by talking to the person in charge of the transfers going to the resort. Good thing there were available seats on their shuttle and we scored a  free ride.
Tip # 4: Never hesitate to ask for: directions, free transfers, cheap hotels, etc. It is in asking that you get answers, and it is in those answers that you’ll gain more information.

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On board the free shuttle going to Shangri-la Mactan Resort and Spa

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A View Of The Mactan Shrine From The Shuttle

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Arrival at Shangri-la Mactan Resort and Spa

Since we went directly to the resort from the airport, we still had our luggage on hand, but this was not really a problem because you can leave your baggage with the hotel concierge without extra charge. But don’t lose your claim stub.

After we left our baggage with the concierge we went to the shop called SENSES where we purchased our “A Day In Paradise” stubs. We already made a reservation two days prior to our arrival which made the process easier. Since we arrived at around 12:10pm, it was already time for lunch so we went directly to Tides restaurant for the buffet lunch which was included in the day tour package. Upon entering the restaurant we were overwhelmed by the food most especially the dessert section (which is featured in most of our pictures).
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Tides dessert section 1

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Tides dessert section 2 (there is supposed to be a third section but there were several people during that time which made taking a picture impossible)

It was a weekend (Saturday) when we went there so the place was packed with tourists and locals as well. The buffet consisted of many different dishes including Japanese, Indian, American, Arab, Chinese, and more. The lunch alone was already worth Php 2,500/ person which was the day tour fee.

Tip # 5: If you plan on taking this day tour, don’t eat breakfast, make room for the sumptuous food especially the dessert!

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HIS Plate # 1 and # 2

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HER Plate #1 and # 2

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DessertSSSS anyone? These were only some of the many choices found on the buffet counter; too bad we were not able to taste them all.

We were done eating lunch at around 1:45pm, we headed out to explore the resort. Places of interest include: Chi The Spa, Ocean Pavillion, The Marquee, Main Pool, Beach, Dive Center, Buko Bar, Cowrie Cove, and the Gym and Health Club.
Here are some of the photos taken all over the resort:
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Can you see the blue starfish in the last photo?

Here are some photos of the beach and pool area: (Take note that the other bloggers who experienced this day tour were not kidding when they said that there is an unlimited supply of towels in the resort. You can use as many towels as you want whether in the beach, pool, or spa area.)
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Fortunately we were able to take underwater photos even if it was not very clear with the help a “waterproof” bag. Note to self: invest on a durable waterproof camera in order not to miss all the underwater fun next time.

We lounged at the pool area until 5:30 pm and then decided to proceed to the Health Club to shower and enjoy the free spa amenities which are included in the day tour. Sorry but we were not able to take photos. However here is a rundown of what to expect: once you enter the facility you will be asked to write your name on a registration sheet and you will be given one locker each. The men’s and women’s spa area are separate. Inside your locker you will have one big towel, one small towel, one pair of rubber slippers, and a laundry bag. There is no need to bring your toiletries when you are inside the Health Club because they will all be provided including the shampoo, liquid bath soap, conditioner, cotton buds, tissue, body lotion, and deodorant spray; a hair dryer is also available.

From the Health Club, we went back to the hotel concierge to inquire about the shuttle service going to Cebu City, it was 6:30pm and we were just in time because the last shuttle will be leaving at 7:00pm. The shuttle service is Php 100/person and the slots are only limited which is why you need to reserve beforehand; good thing there were still slots available so we were able to reserve two seats. The shuttle destination: first, SM City Cebu, and next Ayala Mall.
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On board the shuttle going to Cebu City.

Our destination was Ayala Mall because is the area near our hotel. From the mall we took a cab going to Gran Tierra Suites, the taxi ride was Php 80.00. Upon arrival, we were given free pastries and then were led to our room which is featured on the previous blog post.
It’s time to rest and the next day we were off to Bohol for HIS birthday celebration.

A Sneak-Peek: The 4 Days- 3Nights Cebu-Bohol Getaway

View from the top before landing.
Travelling on a very tight budget can sometimes be devastating. We know this for a fact due to our first-hand experiences. And it actually found a seat during our Cebu-Bohol Escapade.
The Obstacles.
1. Airfare – Getting the best deal for airplane tickets can be challenging because regular fare rates can be quite expensive (plus never forget the terminal fees: Php200/person for Domestic flights), sometimes it will consumer almost 50% of your budget. Hence, it is advisable to book your tickets at least 6 months in advance in order to score cheaper seats. Also, last-minute bookings cost about 50-70% more. 
Another option, and the best so far, is to watch-out for ONLINE AIRLINE SEAT SALE. The prices can be cut from 70-99% off (other charges i.e. Fuel Charge, Seat Selector, and Web Fees are not included). This is common in many airline companies including Cebu Pacific Air. Visit their website regularly and sign-up for the latest seat-sale updates.
As for our ticket, we booked it 10 months ago from a SEAT SALE PROMO from Cebu Pacific Air.
2. Accommodations – This is the most common obstacle that people encounter when travelling to a new place. If you have relatives residing in Cebu for example it won’t be a problem, but if you are like us who are new to the place intensive research needs to be done. During the research process, we found other posts from various travelling bloggers very helpful which led us to Gran Tierra Suites.
PROs:
Affordable: The hotel rates range from Php 789.00 – Php 1,189.00 depending on the room type and the number of people who will be occupying the room. The price is very reasonable especially with the amenities that go with it. Based on our experience, the room where we spent two nights is very similar to hotels in Manila which cost about Php 2,500/ night.
Very friendly staff: From the time we called to make our reservations up until our departure the staff including the security guards made us feel very welcome.
Free pastries: We forgot to take photos but once you check-in you will be given complimentary pastries c/o Cebu Cardinal Bakeshop.
Unlimited supply of drinking water: Along the hallway, you will see two water dispensers which have hot and cold features. So you can just buy instant coffee or powdered iced tea and enjoy breakfast and snack time inside your room. (A cost-cutting option). Cups and glasses are provided in the room.
Clean room and bathroom: Considering that this is a budget hotel, we were very skeptical at first because honestly, it is impossible to get a decent room at the very cheap price. However, our point of view changed the moment we entered the hotel lobby.
The staff don’t expect tips: During our arrival, the hotel attendant helped us with all our bags as we went to the second floor where our room is situated. After he turned on the lights and the air conditioning unit, he was just about to leave when we handed the tip, he was somewhat puzzled, shocked, and thankful; then he said thank you and then finally left the room.
Convenient location: Gran Tierra Suites is only 5 minutes away from Fuente Osmena Circle, 10 minutes away from Ayala Mall and 15 minutes away from SM City Cebu.
CONs:
Unfamiliar hotel to many taxi drivers: As much as we would like to take the jeepney we found it a bit time consuming to learn the twists and turns in order to reach the hotel which was why we stuck to taxis. Since this is a somewhat new hotel, 2 out of the 3 taxi drivers were not familiar with the hotel name which is why it is best that you always keep a copy of the hotel address (particularly the street name).
No elevator: We did not really find it very inconvenient since our room was located directly in front of the staircase going to and from the first floor.
Here are some of the photos taken inside our room:

The bathroom was very clean with complimentary soap and shampoo. The shower provides hot and cold water.

This is their DOUBLE ROOM which is good for 2 (max. 3 pax). Additional Php 200/ extra pax with bed, Php 150/extra pax without bed.
It was really great that we found this hotel because we were able to save thousands of pesos, thus allowing us to splurge a bit on a pricey hotel when we transferred to Mactan Island during our third day. In Mactan, we were able to grab a great deal from Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort.
3. Tours – Many people especially international tourists spend 55-75% of their travel budget on tour packages and tour guides just for the convenience. But did you know that well planned do-it-yourself tours can cut your costs to more than 50%. During the planning phase of our Cebu-Bohol trip, we almost ended up signing for a package being provided by an online agency. But due to further research, we ended up following our do-it-yourself itinerary. The great thing about it is that it contained all the things that we wanted to do and all the places that we wanted to visit without going over the budget.
Tip: When planning your do-it-yourself itinerary, keep in mind the places that you really want to visit and start planning from there. But always remember to keep your plans organized. Print your itinerary and include the name of your contact persons, their contact numbers, and their addresses (especially for hotels/ dormitories/ resorts).
Those are the top three elements that travelers, including ourselves, find as very challenging to fulfill. But unlike any obstacle, this is the type that does not require years to solve; just be ready with your pen, paper, and computer/ laptop/ smartphone.
This is just a teaser of our Cebu-Bohol Adventure.

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