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.

3 may 2014

villa escudero

villa escudero

We planned to go to Villa Escudero last time we met at Cainta, Rizal. We were discussing about logistics on how to get there and who were going. On the day of, which was 3rd of May 2014, only the Aussies (7), Jhay and family (3), Theresa, JC, the Santa Rosa (4), and Cavite (3). All in all 19 people and can you imagine we all fit in one van.

The van came from Cavite then picked up the group in Manila (12) then picked up Santa Rosa (4). The drive that morning was not bad because we did make good time. We arrived in Villa Escudero (San Pablo Laguna) just before lunch time.

We parked the van and we went to get our ticket. For a day pass it was P1400 per person, which included the pool use and the raft use, the cultural show and lunch buffet, roughly $32 US. Jhay and I initially thought that it was KKB (kanya kanyang bayad), dutch treat, however, Tita Rosita told us that she will pay for everybody and gave Jhay the money. Thank you again Tita.

Of course even before we went inside the villa grounds we took pictures and I guess it was an experience for the Australians to ride in a cart pulled by a carabao (water buffalo). Don’t know if they noticed that the carabao walked towards the cart and positioned to where it should be to pick up the harness to pull the cart, it was pretty awesome.

It was my first time to go there and it was an experience to eat lunch where your feet are submerged in water. The water flows from a river above that powers a small hydroelectric plant.

After lunch we watched the cultural show and opted out from swimming. Instead some of us took the raft ride, it was a two person raft and you paddle around the body of water. I rode with my cousin Lolita, cousin Jhay was with his wife Bless, and my brother with cousin Charmaine.

The worst part of the trip was heading back home. It took us forever to get home because of traffic. It felt an eternity and when they dropped us home in Santa Rosa it was already almost 9 PM and they still have long ways to go.

Click the picture above to see others or just click here.

26 april 2014

sunset

manila bay sunset behind sofitel

It has been 22 long years since I have not seen my Tita Sita as well as my cousins Charmaine and Lolita. With my Tita was his husband, Bruce. With Charmaine were her husband, Peter, and two lovely kids, PJ and Serenity. Lolita was by herself. They all flew yesterday and they were all staying at Sofitel except for Lolita who was staying at another hotel nearby.

I arrived at the Manila International Airport close to midnight of the 25th of April 2014. I left Philadelphia 7:00 in the morning of the 24th of April 2014 then connected to Chicago to Seoul, Korea then Manila. The total flight time was about 20 hours. We have to circle for about half an hour above Manila before we landed. The landing could be better because the plane was trying to level itself until the touchdown. It felt like the plane would have tipped over during landing, either the pilot just got his license or it was windy.

Once you walked through the tarmac, the heat and humidity heats you. Damn! I was still wearing my hoodie from the flight and I had t quickly take it off. Then the dreaded crowd to the immigration, it took almost an hour to clear customs, I don’t know why but I guess there was just no organization or everybody just arrived at the same time. After customs was the baggage claim. Another hour or so was wasted. One of the passengers who was making the connection to Davao was yet to see his bags.

I was walking down the ramp to the exit around 2 AM. I was looking for my parents, who were picking me up that time. There was a mad dash to the parking exit and we were able to clear that ordeal after more than half an hour or so. We had to pay the penalty because my father misplaced the parking ticket and that was an automatic 500 pesos plus the 100 pesos parking fee (about $15 total), it was not bad but in the Philippines that was a lot of money.

It was still about an hour drive away to get home but we have to stop to grab some quick eat. When we finally got home, I unpacked and slept because a few hours later we will going to see my Tita and cousins from Australia at Sofitel.

The picture above was taken by the pool side of Sofitel hotel. The first thing I noticed was the stench of the bay (it was the smell of the bay plus the pollution). No hotel guests swam in the bay, as expected, but I could not say the same thing for others who reside near the bay.

The hotel was built on a reclaimed area where Imelda Marcos built the Manila International Film Theater back in their time (which I believe was no longer used). There were a lot of stories about this theater but that will be for some other time. I think they need to build in reclaimed areas because Manila is already crowded, they need to tear down a lot to build hotels like Sofitel.

Click here  or click the picture to see other pictures I took that day.

lady of czestochowa

our lady of czestochowa church

our lady of czestochowa church

This posting is long over due because I have taken this picture October of last year. Our prayer group suggested to visit the church of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA. Some were able to make it and attended the mass and afterwards ate at their cafeteria to sample the Polish dishes.

It was a huge place. They have a living Rosary, station of the cross in front of the church, a museum and cemetery. After lunch, I did take the obligatory shots with family and friends, then I went on my own to survey most of the church grounds. Click here to see other pictures.

 

jim thorpe

jim thorpe

jim thorpe

This is my second time to visit Jim Thorpe, actually the original name of this place is Mauch Chunk. The first time I visited this, my wife and I stopped by from Eagle Rock before driving home, we went to a small museum in the town and watched a video about the town’s history and how the name came to be. We just strolled the town for a little while and my wife did a little shopping.

The picture above was taken during a train ride which we were not able to do the last time we were there because it was closed for the season. It was not a perfect weather for the ride since it was cloudy and rainy but we we have to make due with what we had. I will probably go back there because there was so much picture opportunity, specially when you are on foot.

The picture was a composite of a single shot processed two ways. One was converted to black and white and the other was colored enhanced. Then used onOne software to process in Perfect Layers, I just did a simple mask to show the colored layer underneath. Click here or the picture to see the rest of the pictures I took.

 

bryn athyn

bryn athyn

bryn athyn

For this month, our photography club (Gloucester County Photography Club) opted to go to Bryn Athyn Cathedral in Bryn Athyn, Pennyslvania to shoot instead of our usual club meetings. It was a nice day to be outside and take pictures. However, we were a few weeks late because most of the leaves are gone and the fall colors were not as colorful as it was. But we still did manage to make the best of it because the Cathedral and the surroundings were wonderful.

 I brought my tripod and my wired trigger which proved to be helpful shooting landscapes. I also thought that setting up my camera on manual focus was great specially with the peaking feature in my Sony Alpha 99. What the peaking feature does is to display a color on the image you are trying to focus on (the color shows on the edges depicting the image in focus). It was really easier using manual focus with this feature. In addition, when using a macro lens stick with a tripod. Most of my handheld shots on shallow DOF are blurry and were not deemed to be shown.

The above picture was a combination of 5 exposures and merged in CS5. Though, I did not process them as HDR. After merging in CS5, I saved it and opened in Lightroom 5 and finished up the post processing using onOne software. Click here to see the other pictures (or should I say the ones that made the cut).

That day was my second time being there. My first time was by accident, when my family moved from Bensalem to Warminster (both town are in Pennsylvania) we were looking for a Catholic church one Sunday morning and we happened to go to Bryn Athyn Cathedral. We went inside the church in the middle of the service and we were surprised (i guess as well as the people inside). We immediately went out because I immediately recognized that it was not a Catholic church.

 

philadelphia

waterworks

waterworks

One Sunday morning, my wife asked me to drive her to work in Magee Rehabilitation in Center City, Philadelphia. Since it was early in the morning and the sun was just about to rise (the good thing about fall), I decided to stop by Arts Museum. I was not able to get parking in front of the museum because it was closed due to some preparation for an event, I parked at the Water Works behind the museum.

I took my bag, Clik Elite Pro Body, and my tripod. It was chilly that morning and already cars are piling up in the parking lot. The picture above was taken on a tripod using the following settings in the camera: F/32, 10 second exposure at ISO 100. I was able to take this long exposure because I used two ND filters. Oh by the way, I almost loved this bag, however, i returned it back because the opening for the camera compartment was too small for my taste. I later replaced it with Sony LCSBP3 which I adored (now I have a matching bag with my gears).

I continued to walk towards the front of the museum while looking for a better vantage point to take pictures. I had my ND filters mounted on the lens and the camera was mounted on the tripod. I did not know that walking from my car and back put a toll on my quads, I found out the next day.

Please click here to check the other pictures I took (as well as the other earlier pictures).

linvilla orchard

linvilla orchards

linvilla orchards

Linvilla Orchards is located in Media, PA. The place caters for birthday parties, public picnic areas, store for their produce, plants for your garden and you can also pick your own fruits and vegetables. I believe this Halloween there is a haunted hay ride or just plain hay ride.

We went there last month for a picnic and we picked our own fruits and vegetables. We got to ride on a trailer pulled by a tractor. We picked up peaches, pears, corns, egg plants and peppers. To our surprise, it costs more to pick your own than to buy them from the market or grocery store. It should be cheaper if you picked your own produce because you did the labor, I guess not in this case.

Above is the collage of pictures I took from the orchard, if you like to see other pictures you can click here or click on the picture. I did post processing using Lightroom 5 and used photobacks for the collage.