las vegas get-away day 3

fountain at the bellagio

fountain at the bellagio

We planned to drive to Hoover dam that day after our mandatory meeting with the Diamond Resort staff to brief us about our account.

Do you know Murphy? Well you should know him. If you think that nothing will go wrong, there will. That’s Murphy’s law. Well anyway, we got ourselves ready for breakfast and then one of the staff was assigned to us to talk about our account with Diamond Resort. We actually stated in the get go that we were not interested in buying more of what it was they were offering but it was a tough battle since it took us way past lunch time to get out of that meeting.

Our Hoover dam plan seemed to be not happening. My wife and I decided to eat at Goldilock’s (another one of the known food places in the Philippines). To our surprise they had a nice spread for lunch and we ordered the lunch package for 4 and yet we were able to almost finished the entire thing, actually hold that, we actually did. We also found out that they serve breakfast (buffet style).

My wife decided to buy some pastries at Goldilocks’ since they’re famous for that anyway. She also decided to buy more at a local Filipino bakery close to Jollibee. I decided to stay in the car and wait for her, wrong decision. She came back after a long while with a lot of plastic bags and it filled up the back seat of the Yaris. I got surprised and told her that how will those things fit in our hand carry, long story short we were not able to make to the Hoover dam because it was close to 5 PM and I did not want to drive there and did not want to chance getting stuck somewhere out there in the dark. However, we did buy a box to put all that she bought. We went back to the resort to pack up our stuff and I disagreed with her when she bought all those stuff.

At night, we decided to eat dinner somewhere at the strip. We parked our rental in the Bellagio parking and started to walk around. It was pretty crazy walking at night along the strip because there were a lot of people and traffic was crazy. We decided to try to eat at Paris and then went back to Bellagio to watch the fountain show, twice. Then just before midnight we drove back to our resort. Click the picture above or just click here to see other pictures.

las vegas get-away day 2

welcome las vegas

welcome las vegas

Woke up and found that I slept well, I usually find it hard to sleep for a day or so in a new place, probably because of the flight and was just flat out tired. Went out the balcony and saw that there were already a lot of people in the pool below.

We had a full day a head of us and we need to get a good breakfast to start the day. My wife suggested Jollibee, I guess she missed eating the traditional Filipino breakfast, TAPSILOG (cured beef, fried rice and egg) or LONGSILOG (Filipino sausage, fried rice and egg). As for myself, it does not matter.

After breakfast, we planned to park our rented car in one of the hotels and just leave it there and walk around. We went to the Venetian and parked the car, it was really difficult to navigate at first but I got the hang of it after one wrong turn. We started our walk around tour using the app I downloaded. Being inside the hotel/casino, you will lose the sense of time and that was the design, I supposed. we were walking inside the Venetian for a long time and I found out that it was connected to the Palazzo as well. We decided to take the gondola ride inside the Venetian. We opted to share the ride with another older couple from Delaware, it’s cheaper that way compared to having the gondola just by ourselves. After, my wife went window shopping, and the trouble with that was, you are going to buy something, regardless.

Went out of the Venetian to walk to the other hotels, as soon as we got to the the exit the heat from outside was just too much. It was a dry heat, you don’t get sticky as much as you get in Miami or Manila. We stopped by a shop and bought a large piña colada with alcohol of course and we shared it. We were drinking while walking at the same time, I guess this was the only place you can drink alcohol and not hide it and not get citation.

We went to Ceasar’s next, but we were taking a lot of pictures using my Sony Alpha 99 and taking videos using my GoPro Hero. At the back part of Ceasar’s there was a huge aquarium and on top was some sort of statues that move. Apparently, these statues stay hidden at first and comes out during the scheduled show. The show was about how the Atlantis disappeared. It was okay for a free show.

Before we headed back to Cancun Resort, we stopped by the famous Las Vegas sign and the White Chapel. Got back to our room and we had to get ourselves ready for the show we booked for the night, Cirque Du Soleil – O. Since the show was not until 10 PM we attended a dinner/presentation for the time share owners.

The show was at the Bellagio and we got there just in time. The stage in the show was water and the platform appears and disappears. It was nicely done and choreographed. After the show, we missed the water fountain show outside the Bellagio, instead we went to the old strip at California Hotel and Casino. My wife’s friend suggested to try “bulalo” in a restaurant inside that hotel. It was a different experience at the old strip, the parking was paid and it was outside. Inside the hotel were mostly Filipinos and I was surprised that there was still a queue in the restaurant. My wife loved her order but I ordered steak but I could not eat it. I have to say that it was not appetizing to eat there, don’t know why but I guess it’s just me. I thought I was eating at Denny’s or IHOP, LOL.

It was early in the morning and we decided to go back to Cancun and end our second day at Vegas. Click here to see the pictures I took or click the picture above.

 

 

las vegas get-away day 1

cancun resort

cancun resort

My wife called me one afternoon on my way home from work and told me that the seminar she applied for at work was granted and she was flying to Las Vegas for a two day seminar. I suggested that I can fly over to meet her there if she can extend her flight back until Sunday of that seminar week.

That night, she told me that her request had been granted. I hustled to book a flight with the same return flight as hers, found one and booked it. I contacted Diamond Resorts, our time share resort, and asked for an availability in Las Vegas on the said dates. I was told that there were a couple, I chose Cancun Resort and booked it using our banked points, no cash out. The only cash out was the plane ticket and the car rental, Hertz.

Heck, this was my third time this year flying: Philippines; then Dominican Republic; and Las Vegas. And I am not fond of flying. My wife flew out on a Tuesday and followed that Friday. My son dropped me off at the airport early in the morning and I did not want to go later because of the security. I only had one hand carry and my camera bag.

The flight was great and my experience with Delta Airlines was so much better compared to US Air. I was seated close to the front of the plane because I find it better compared to the tail section. I had a nice chat with an elderly lady (she was with her husband) who were attending some sort of a reunion with their children in Idaho. I saw her reading the daily bible reading and asked her if she was a Catholic and she nodded. I showed her my daily reading application in my tablet and told her that this was handy and it contained so much more, she countered that she finds the book better. We had a small chat and got to know something about each other. I told her about my kids and she did the same. She also mentioned that her kids were not her biological children, they were her husbands from the first marriage. She told me that she used to be a nun and was teaching were her husbands kids were going. She was friends with her husbands first wife. She moved back to Pennsylvania when her husband’s first wife died. Her husband and kids would visit her in Pennsylvania and after several years they fell in love and she left being a nun and got married. I would think that they were already older when that happened since she did not have any biological child of her own.

The pilot announced that we were passing Salt Lake and I opened the window shade and saw how magnificent the lake was. We landed at Salt Lake and we said our goodbyes and wished each other a nice time. I had to hurry out since I did not have much layover time at that airport. I quickly bought some quick lunch that I can eat inside the plane or probably while waiting for boarding.

It was just an hour flight from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas and I thought that I was going to be bumped for the next flight because I over heard the ground stewardess that it was booked flight. My ticket did not have a confirmed seating assigned. I was given a seat at the last row of the plane, but I was lucky enough that my seat was by a mother separated from her daughter who was seated in row 16. The mother asked me if I mind to switch place with her daughter, I said I did not mind but in my mind I was so happy I did not have to seat at the back. Looking out at Las Vegas from a window plane, you will find out that the whole city’s surrounded by solid rock mountain ranges and no trees in sight except for the palm trees they probably brought from other places.

Landed at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, the first thing that will hit you was the presence of slot machines all over the airport terminal. Welcome Las Vegas! Walked out of the airport, it was a breeze since I did not have any checked in baggage, and the dry heat was so overwhelming. Got in the shuttle to the rental car place and picked up my rental car. All I can say was that I will not be using Hertz next time. I was told the only thing they can give me was Toyota Yaris, thinking at that time that it was comparable to what I booked online I accepted. When I got to the car,I found out that the car was much smaller than I booked and it did not even have a power windows and it did not have a remote control lock (I had to use the key to open and lock that damn car). Heck, Budget rental was cheaper and they usually upgrade you without additional charge. I also found out that I was spoiled, and those small features in the car I cannot live without.

Drove to Cancun Resort and I found out that it was not that far from the airport. I checked myself in and went to the room which was outdated. What struck me was the swimming pool and the massive Aztec pyramid. The resort was along Las Vegas Boulevard (the strip), and about a couple of miles or so away from the famous Welcome Las Vegas sign.

Grabbed my camera bag and drove to the closest IN-N-OUT burger joint. I ordered a double and milk shake, I was surprised that it only cost me less than $5. I then stopped by Target which was in the same location of the burger joint, to buy some water and velcro as well as car charger (i forgot mine, or the one I had did not work).

Talked to my wife and she told me that I can pick her up. They were staying at Red Rock Resort which was more than 10 miles away from the strip. I find it easier to drive in Las Vegas compared to New Jersey, however, their roads were not painted but rather used the reflectors. I would think that it would be a challenge driving in the rain. Picked up my wife with her new found friend who asked for a ride back to the airport.

Since it was still early for her friend’s flight, they suggested to eat something at the nearby Jollibee and Chow King. Then we dropped her friend at the airport and we headed back to Cancun Resort.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Click here to see other pictures or just click the picture above.

 

ocean city 2014

boogie board

boogie board

The Alliance of the Two Hearts prayer group at Infant Jesus Parish usually plan beach outing each summer and this year we went back to Ocean City, NJ. The beach was just an hour away from us not to mention this seemed better than Wildwood. The group went to beach after we came back from Dominican Republic, which was great because we got to join them, coming from me who disliked the ocean or the sea. I guess, my reason going to the beach was my family first and then I got to relax and enjoy people watching.

We got to the beach early to get cheaper parking and to get a prime spot on the beach. We put up our umbrellas and tables, yes tables, for our food. If you could have seen our group carrying coolers and other stuff one would think that we were going tailgating.  The beach was not crowded when we got there but it did not take long. Click here or just click the picture above to see other photos.

 

marriage enrichment weekend class 8

marriage enrichment weekend class 8

marriage enrichment weekend class 8

This past weekend, we assisted in the Marriage Enrichment Weekend for the class 8 couples who attended at Hyatt House in Norristown, Pennsylvania. This event was hosted by FIAT-ME Ministry of Pennsylvania, there were also others like in North of New Jersey (North Jersey for short). Some members of the North Jersey ministry were also present to assist last weekend.

This event was made possible by the shepherding couple Armand and Minda who has supported the marriage enrichment weekends from day 1, financially as well as opening their home hosting the first events before moving to Hyatt House. Their home has been front and center in the organization of the said event, from holding various meetings and gatherings, staging of materials needed or even just a meeting place. They have built extensions to their home to accommodate such activities.

The weekend event was a long process starting from the creation of committees who will be responsible to make the different parts during the meeting a success, from logistics to food and others. Each committee was headed by a couple and backed up by another couple with the assistance of several couples who had attended previous marriage enrichment weekends. An overall coordinator oversaw everything and were advised by Marriage Enrichment director who informed the committees of the requirement as well as their various job responsibilities.

As you would have probably noticed, couples. In everything, it’s always couples because two married individuals should always act as one.

There were 12 candidates who were selected, or the better term was invited. In the past couple of months we have had about 16 couples going to the event, however, the number went down because of unforeseen reasons why couples could not make it.

The couples who attended need only to bring themselves and change of clothes for the duration because everything was provided to them: rooms; food; drinks; materials and other things that they may need during the event even cater to their dietary concerns. Writing what has transpired and even trying to describe them will not do justice, one has to be there to experience the joy and emotion of that weekend. Need I say that the event was free of charge!

We are seeing everywhere the deterioration of families that may be the cause of so many problems we’re facing and even the decay of our communities. Communities are built by families. Families start with a husband and wife. The weekend event centers on the husband and wife. A priest was present during the duration who provided spiritual advise and to moderate during inspirational talks of several invited couples who shared their life changing experiences. And as you may have guessed, this event is God centered.

You may be saying: “I am happily married”; “there’s nothing wrong in our marriage”; “we go to church whenever we can”; “we don’t need this”; and so on and so forth. Then I will say: “good for you, but wouldn’t you want to make it better?” In the world that we live in: we always want to be ahead; we always want to give our family a big house and lots of cars; we wanted to give our family so many material things. Nothing wrong with that, but most of the time these things cause us to lose focus on what is really important and what is really needed.

I attended in class 7 three years ago at the same location. I attended but I was skeptical. There was nothing wrong with my family much more with my marriage. I attended because I don’t want to have a disagreement with my wife because we were invited. It was free and the only thing I can never get back was the time lost. After an hour in the event my whole outlook changed and it has gotten better and better as it progressed. There was even one couple who attended, the wife tricked her husband: they just came from a week long vacation and instead of going home they went straight to the event. Both of them did not know what’s going to happen, the wife did not know how her husband is going to react. But the husband stayed. They were the head of the committee that my wife and I belonged.

punta cana DR day 5 vacation

sunrise at punta cana

sunrise at punta cana

Our last day in Grand Palladium at Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, had come to an end. It was a nice vacation, it was not long and it was not short either. It was just right. Yes we were going to miss the open bar and the smorgasbord but we had to go back to our daily grind and start saving for the next vacation.

Since we had packed most of the stuff the night before, they had time to go to the beach one last time and enjoy. I still did not swim and all I did was just to be their personal photographer. I enjoyed the sunrise and the nice cool weather.

After the swim, we headed back to our rooms and gotten ready to checkout. But before we checked out we went for breakfast one last time, picked up our luggages and settled everything at the front desk. We waited at the lobby for our shuttle ride back to the airport.

Goodbye Dominican Republic, it was a great time and we hope to be back soon. Click the picture above or just click here to see other pictures.

punta cana DR day 4 vacation

zip line

zip line

Our last full day at Grand Palladium Punta Cana in Dominican Republic. It was a busy day for us, zip lines in the morning then spa in the afternoon.

After breakfast we had to travel about an hour and a half to Anamuya Mountain where the zip line adventure was located. The travel was okay except for the last half an hour because the mountain road was not exactly a paved road. It was a bumpy ride. Our guide was so informative by sharing things about Dominican Republic. He said that they have the largest gold deposit in the world. Their share the island with Haiti. The gasoline price is outrageously high and they use motorcycles as some sort of taxi. They have rolling blackouts except for tourist spots and they use bottled water for drinking and cooking and rain water for everything else. You will see tanks on top of their houses for collecting rain.

The zip line adventure was awesome. There were 12 stages and the crew were so helpful, they even rigged my goPro to my helmet. However, the videos did not come out the way I want them because instead of pointing level or down it was pointing upwards, bummer. You can click the zip line adventure to check out their website and additional information.

When we got back to the resort, the girls have a spa schedule while mine was still 7PM for a massage. But I had a duty to reserve for the elusive Japanese restaurant. I chilled in the room and decided to stop by the restaurant by 530 PM. When I got there, there was a great number of people in line. I was able to reserve for 830 PM dinner. Went back to the room to get change for dinner but need to stop by the spa for my massage.

We had dinner at the Japanese restaurant, hibachi style, and it was actually a let down. It was not even close to what we were accustomed to back in the States. I really could not tell why it’s always booked every night.

After dinner, we went to lounge in the lobby and had a couple of drinks before heading back to start packing up and sleep. Click the pictures above or just click here to see other pictures.

 

punta cana DR day 3 vacation

stingray bay punta cana

stingray bay punta cana

The scheduled activities for that day was swimming with the sharks and snorkeling in the afternoon. That morning we were free to do anything after breakfast and I suggested to rent a speed boat as was suggested yesterday. We went to the beach to rent a speed boat, it was $100 for two hours, and we needed two. However, we were not told to make reservation, hence, we were not able to do so.

Why the heck did I suggest the banana boat instead? What was I thinking, I don’t like the water because I cannot swim. Minutes after into the banana boat ride, the guy running the boat made a quick turn then the banana boat being pulled by the boat tilted and down we went. We were all wearing a life vest but mine was a tad bigger and I thought i was still sinking. Panic set in and I was so afraid. The guy did not even know that we were already in the water. Got back to the boat and my wife, daughter and sister-in-law decided to go back again to the banana boat and I stayed in the boat. Again, minutes later the guy did the same mistake again and they all fell in. I decided to just go back to the shore and ended the ride.

That afternoon, we went to go swimming with the sharks but I told them that I will not join them snorkeling nor swimming with the sharks. We boarded the party boat and brought us in the middle of the ocean where they have this huge fenced in structure where they kept nurse sharks as well as sting rays. I only went to touch the sting rays and went into the water (it was just shallow). The belly of the sting ray was so smooth and slippery and it was the direct opposite of its top part which was rough (like sand paper). They went to another tank where they can snorkel while the sharks swim under them. I was just taking video of them  as well as submerging the goPro to get a look at the sharks.

Before the party boat went back to the shore, we stopped in the middle of the ocean and most of the people were led back to the open sea to snorkel. Then afterwards, the crew host announced it was an open bar and gave us some food to snack on. They opened up this big bottle of Mamajuana for us to taste. It was a mixture of rum, wine and honey, and it was strong. They claimed that it’s some sort of aphrodisiac. There were a lot of dancing while going back to the dock.

Click the picture above or just click here to see pictures taken during that day.

punta cana DR day 2 vacation

macao public beach

macao public beach

The second day was our first full day at the resort. I needed to give my resort voucher to the manager which I had to contact my travel agent. She was kind enough to email all the things I needed: the voucher for the resort and the voucher for the shuttle transportation from/to the airport. Went to the front desk after breakfast and sorted everything out.

We also talked to a travel agent at the lobby for other things we may want to do outside the resort. My wife and sister-in-law booked us for an adventure buggy ride that same day, swimming with sharks and snorkeling the following day, zip lining the next and for the last day a spa.

While waiting for the adventure buggy, they spent their time at the resort beach and used the kayak (included with the resort stay). After their kayak, they spent more time swimming and I just enjoyed my mojito strolling along the beach. If you want to save a lot of money, all you need to do is stay in the resort and avail of all that is included. All food, all drinks and all shows. Well you can eat the whole day and get drunk from sunrise to sunset if that’s what you want.

We ate lunch and grabbed some take out just in case we get hungry doing the adventure buggy. We got picked up outside the main lobby and we went out the resort and picked up several more people from other resorts nearby and we drove for half an hour. This was a case of getting something different from what was pictured or even stated by the travel agent. The buggy we used were not as great as in the picture, we thought we were able to get a decent buggy and drive it along the beach but no. We got to drive a crappy buggy and drove it along the DR public roads. Our first stop was the public beach called Macao. The beach was gorgeous, better than our resort beach. We parked the buggies and got to spend half an hour there, most of them swam. Then the next stop was the tobacco and chocolate plantation, we got to listen to a presentation then purchase some of their products. Then the last stop was to their self proclaimed best attraction, the underground river. This was a photo opportunity because they took pictures of you while you dove into the water which was dark and cold. Then we head back to where we started and board our shuttle back to our respective resorts.

We then prepared ourselves for dinner and it was an experience. There were buffet restaurants that you just need to walk-in while there were other restaurants that were sit-down, where you need reservations. The reservation was tricky, you needed to fall in line around 5:30 PM at a restaurant you wanted to dine in to get reservation. If the restaurant was popular then you need to be there earlier otherwise you will be fine.

We were unlucky to get seated at a Japanese restaurant hibachi style, it was one of the popular restaurant there. We just got lucky to dine in at a Greek restaurant, all of us in our group agreed that the only dish worth eating was the ceviche.

After dinner we went to the resort main lobby to listen to music and grabbed a few drinks before calling it a night. Click the picture above or click here to see other pictures. All the pictures were shot using GoPro Hero +.

punta cana DR day 1 vacation

grand palladium beach resort

grand palladium beach resort

This vacation was some sort of a gift for our daughter’s 18th birthday as well as high school graduation. We have planned this way ahead of time since she does not like to have some sort of an 18th birthday party like most of young ladies do. At first it was a trip to Rome or something but it proved to be expensive for five people (including their auntie).

My wife found a deal at groupon.com.  It was unfortunate, though, that our son was not able to make it due to summer class and we have to eat the cost even though we purchased travel insurance. The insurance did not include such excuse, contrary to what was explained by the travel agent.

This was my second air trip this year considering I don’t like flying a lot or should I say I don’t like flying at all if all possible. The flight was okay compared to the 14 hours flight from Chicago to South Korea.

Touching down in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic was an experience. After the plane touched down and parked we were ushered down the steps and waited for a bus to bring us to the terminal for customs and luggage. Lucky for us, I was able to convince my wife to travel light and just had one hand carry per person. But I always need to carry my camera bag with me regardless.

As soon as we cleared customs, which by the way we need to pay $10 per person, I realized that I made a mistake. I did not have any travel documentation from the travel agent, I found out that they were supposed to email those to me two weeks prior. We were able to talk our way through getting in on our shuttle as well as getting admittance at the resort.

After we settled in our rooms, well the ladies went to check out the beach before dinner. I went along and took some pictures, click here to see other pictures or the picture above.