Lapland Hotel Oulu - relaxing and pleasant oasis!

My dear friends,

I am going to introduce you a 3-year old Lapland Hotel Oulu, which is part of the hotel chain called Lapland Hotels. As you can guess, it got started by having hotels only in Lapland but now, it's getting its newest addition to Helsinki at the beginning of next year, Lapland Hotel Boulevard. But now, let's talk about Lapland Hotel Oulu.

Outside the hotel in September 

Outside the hotel in December

If you ask someone who lives in Helsinki if Oulu is part of Lapland, they say Yes! If you ask the same from someone who lives in Kittilä, they say No!  Don’t let the location fool you. Oulu is near Lapland in any case. More importantly, Lapland Hotels bring Lappish vibes to where ever they are. You get to experience Lapland by staying in this beautiful, historical hotel, located next to Cathedral and the historical Ainola park. I've stayed here already 3 times simply because it is such a lovely place and its location is perfectly situated between Helsinki and Rovaniemi, the 900 km route that I drive many times a year.

Brief hotel introduction

Lapland Hotel Oulu has 160 rooms all designed and styled with high-quality Lappis products and design elements. The moment you step into the hotel’s yard, and especially into its entrance hall, it is very obvious that Lappish nature has had great influence when designing and accessorizing the hotel. There are elements there that literally radiate mystical Lapland vibes and if you have not experienced an authentic Lapland before your stay at Lapland Hotel Oulu, I’m pretty sure you will end up booking a trip to Northern Finland to experience that original, authentic Lapland’s nature as well – because being in this beautiful hotel makes you want more!

Location is very easy to reach and for a small fee of 25 euro, they also provide guests with convenient parking space in their garage (underneath the hotel) so that you have direct access to reception as well as to your hotel room floor by the lift. However, please note that since space is limited I recommend booking the spot prior to your arrival, in connection with your room reservation.
And since being all about nature, they of course also have Tesla Destination Charger & Tesla Wall Charger in the garage as well

And not to worry, in those rare cases that the hotel garage happens to be full, there's also a public garage building the hotel cooperates with called Auto-Heikki, which you find only a block away from the hotel. At Auto-Heikki you can park your car for 15 euros/night - just remember to bring your parking card to the reception and they'll give you a replacement card that gets you out of there.
There are only a few free parking spots within a short proximity from the hotel. If you arrive by train, the hotel is about 500-600 m from the train station, walkable if you're not carrying plenty of luggage, and if you are like me, meaning you do have multiple suitcases where ever it is that you're going, just take a taxi, it won't be more than maybe 15 euros.

Check-in begins at 15.00 / 3 pm and check-out is at 12.00, however, late check-out is available subject to availability at the price of 10 €/extra hour, which I think is fair. Also, in case you are arriving for example on a morning train, you can always either just leave your luggage to the storage room and explore the city until your room is ready or you can give the reception a call and ask in case you're lucky and your room happens to be ready.

Although, if you do have to wait just for a while, there is a beautiful seating area right next to the reception and a very pleasant, comfortable lobby bar on the other side of the entrance hall. 

The entrance hall itself gives you immediately that impression that ok, I'm in Lapland, you cannot think of any other location. On your right, you see the reception area with two separate working areas for receptionists, which means there are rarely long lines here as it is possible for two receptionists to check you in and out simultaneously. In the end corner of the reception, there is a small shopping corner with some local and Lappish products as well as some snacks and drinks that you can purchase, this shopping corner is open 24 hrs, excluding the alcoholic drinks which have limited selling time due to Finnish alcohol regulations (9 am - 01.30 am).

On the right-hand side there is the lobby bar and at the end of the left-hand side, there is the
Kitchen & Bar Oula along with the breakfast area. Also, I would like to point out that there is an amazing space divider on the left, a square-shaped shelf structure, wherein you can find all types of wonderful handcraft and other souvenirs that you can purchase, you will remember this place and the vibe forever once you take some of these products at home with you!

You can enjoy the tasty, exotic drinks and/or those delicious meals whether you're a local and just want to relax for a moment alone or with your friends or your a hotel guest that wants to feel that warm, pleasant Lappish vibe.
The menu of the restaurant features fish from the lake Inari, reindeer, game, almond potatoes, fried lichen, Nordic mushrooms, and berries - all products of fresh, pure, Lappish nature.
If you plan on dining on the weekend, I'd suggest you book your table upfront as this is a popular restaurant due to its tasty, unique menu and in order to make sure that you get the table at that specific time, book one upfront and you have nothing to worry about, just show up and enjoy, let the aromas take you to the wilderness of Lapland!

Lapland Hotels Club
Like I told you, Lapland Oulu is a part of Lapland Hotels chain, although you couldn't tell just by relaxing here (as some people seem to think that it is a bad thing to be a part of a corporate hotel - well, I can tell you, in this case, it is good thing and can be very beneficial for you as a guest)!

If you consider staying here, may I refer you to their website and make a direct booking or contact the hotel!
Lapland Hotel Oulu (click here to open the link!)

Below you find a link, via which you can join Lapland Hotels Club and get all the great benefits of the member, such as parking half priced, a voucher of 10 euro/night which you can spend in the restaurant or at the corner shop by the reception...
After joining and staying you can use your accumulated points in different ways, please read the further info below - and join! (As I think, if you travel a lot in Finland, after staying in one of the Lapland hotels, you may find it hard to choose any other hotels after that so why not just benefit from it as well!)

You can read more about the club here:
Lapland Hotels' Club (click here to open the link)


Naturally, this being a modern hotel, there is a free wifi in every room.

Extra beds are available for certain room types for the charge of 25 euros/night, kindly book prior to your arrival. Baby cots can be set to all rooms. This is a pet-friendly hotel, thus, some of the rooms are available for guests with pets, the extra charge is 20 euros/stay.

The hotel and some of its rooms are also wheelchair accessible and there are also allergy-friendly rooms available, kindly request upon your booking.

There are 6 different room types;

Comfort Twin
This room type, just like them all, have a warm Lappish vibe, very relaxing atmosphere, suitable for both for holidays or a working trip. The room of this particular type has two beds, sizes of 90 x 205 cm that are very high in quality and mattresses adapt to your body which makes sure that you sleep well and wake up well rested. And, naturally, a good selection of pillows is also available and I have to say, for me a good pillow is worth gold!
The room has 40 " flat-screen TV with a wide selection of channels.
Naturally, there's also a bathroom with shower, towels and a hairdryer.

Comfort Twin Plus
This room type has similar amenities to the Comfort Twin but in addition, this one has a bathtub and some of the rooms have views and balconies facing the fabulous hotel atrium. I enjoyed sitting there and watching what was going on downstairs, quite a lovely experience in particular at winter time when it would be cold to sit in a balcony outside!

On the left, there is a small surprise complimentary gift from the hotel manager. Finnish vodka, small kuksa (the small wooden cup that according to folklore you're not supposed to buy, you can only get one as a gift and it brings you good luck) and a small box of Finnish candy, salted licorice called salmiakki, which I absolutely love!
The Atrium
Comfort Queen
This room type has, naturally all the basic elements similar to previous ones, but this one has a single queen size bed (160 cm x 205 cm), along with high-quality bath products and a hot beverage selection.

De Luxe King
This room type is excellent for some pampering due to superb materials from the selection of pillows to the adaptive mattresses and all those beautiful decor items along that make you feel like you're right at home in Lapland. It is very easy to get that luxury feel on the king size bed (180 cm x 205 cm) while watching that large 48" flat screen TV, and naturally you'd be wearing comfortable bathrobe and slippers after you've just taken a lovely hot shower or a bath and made yourself a hot cup of tea or coffee with tea maker or that specialty coffee maker. There is also a minibar, a high- speed wifi and APPLE tv in De Luxe room types.

Premium De Luxe King
This room type is a premium version of De Luxe King room, meaning this one has its own lovely sauna as well as a private balcony - I absolutely loved the room 539 with views to the cathedral - my favorite room type of them all! There is also, of course, your very own mini bar in the room with some lovely, quality products in it, and let's not forget its specialty coffee maker!

Premium King
This room type has, of course, all the basic, high-quality amenities as every other room type but on top of that, it has an individual sauna, bathrobes & slippers, a minibar, a 48" flat-screen TV and APPLE TV along with a minibar and a specialty coffee maker.

The Suite of the hotel is perfect whether you want to just relax and pamper yourself or maybe you're on a business trip and you also need to get some work done. Materials in this beautiful corner suite are luxurious and, naturally, the entire design is affected by Lappish stories.

It has its own sauna, spacious bathroom along with bathtub. The TV is an impressive 55" flat screen TV that provides you with a watching experience like no other. Naturally, there's also APPLE tv as well as a high-speed wifi.

This suite truly means luxury. It is spacious with great views and high-end amenities and is certainly worth it for example for a honeymoon night or if you just want to pamper yourself properly!

Breakfast is being served Mon-Fri from 6.30 until 10 am and Saturday & Sunday (and public holidays) 7.30-11 am, which I found very convenient as on my first trip I had to get going early in the morning and I appreciated the early breakfast whereas on my last visit it was Saturday and I enjoyed the fact that I got to sleep a bit longer, until 9.30 before even getting up and I still got enough time for my breakfast. 

Fruit & berry shots!
The breakfast is included to all room rates. Also if you just want to enjoy this delicious breakfast even when not staying at the hotel, you can do that, it costs 19 € / adult and children under 12 years, -50 %.

I can warmly recommend this breakfast! In particular, as someone with food restrictions, I was very happy with the servings, I don’t think I could have asked for more. There is a separate mini fridge in the corner that has various foods for those with allergies and restrictions; vegan, gluten-free, milk-free etc. - much appreciated! 

There were all kinds of cold dishes, yogurts, jams, bread, cheese, ham, turkey, a variety of cereal and muesli along with local delicacies such as Lapin leipäjuusto i.e. squeaky cheese which I absolutely love, especially with cloudberry am! You have probably never tried anything like it and some people just don't get it and others are like me and simply love it!

Naturally, they serve also fresh fruits and all sorts of berry products, after all, ingredients from Lapland’s nature are its specialty.

They also serve many types of bread, basic white bread, dark rye bread (very good!) and I, once again, was very impressed of the fact that they have taken into consideration also people with special diets, and I even got to choose instead of just having one option - kudos to you!

There was a good variety of hot dishes as well, bacon (proper, crispy bacon!), scrambled eggs and there’s also a chef’s corner, wherein you can order your own omelets, (very important for me as I only eat egg white omelets so YAY!), porridge, fried potatoes, veggies, and reindeer sausages, which are a true Lappish delicacy and pretty much everyone who has ever tried them, loved them!
Oh, and let's not forget that smoked salmon they serve on their breakfast buffet, that, if any is a true Finnish delicious dish, if you are a fish lover, you will love this!

Lapland Hotel Oulu also served a great selection of juices on their breakfast buffet, starting from orange juice and other regular beverages to local juices, which vary and I strongly recommend to try them! Blueberry juice seemed to be particularly popular. Also, of course, there were different types of coffee and tea to choose from.

I couldn’t fault the breakfast, which is a lot said from me who due to my special diets, in most cases skips breakfasts as there's nothing special for me - but here, that was not the case, there were so many ingredients I enjoyed that I could have easily gathered even my lunch from their tasty breakfast selection!

They naturally also serve all types of coffee there as well as teas but the cherry on top was definitely that "Kuusenkerkkä" Sparkling wine that anyone was welcome to try!

What else can you do here other than relaxing, sleep and eat breakfast?

Well, there is a small activity room on the basement floor before the sauna department. The hotel also cooperates with an excellent local gym called Fressi, you pay your gym session, 5 euros at the reception (or put to your room invoice) and you get the key to get in - easy and a healthy option for entertainment!

Further, the hotel's lovely pool area is at your disposal (free of charge) from 7 am until 9 pm and saunas are warm from 5 pm until 9 pm (there are separate saunas for men & women or you can book your own sauna from the reception for a certain fee, if you want to experience it privately with your spouse or for example with a small group of friends, you can also order some refreshments there, and that is something that we, Finns, love to do and I could easily imagine booking one of the smaller sauna areas for myself and invite e.g. my cousins who live in Oulu to join me, that would be such a fun experience!)


There are in total of 12 different types and sizes of the meeting rooms all the way up to 180 seat conference room. The actual part of the hotel in which the meeting areas are is called Ynninkulma ("Ynni's Corner). The history behind the name comes is based on the location; next to Frenzèn park and Oulu Cathedral. This fabulous, historical wooden house of OYMCA (= Ynni's Corner, corner referring to 4 centuries that OYMCA was there) still stands there, has done so ever since 1825 when it was built. The oldest of the three vaults on the grounds was built in the middle of the 17th century so you certainly get that history vibes in these meeting areas. I personally find it very fascinating that this hotel has two totally different sides to it; that charming Lappish hotel side and then this historical meeting rooms' area, which certainly is part of the most authentic Oulu, after all in the wine cellar there used to be a pharmacy already back in the 1700s - oh and by the way, that wine cellar is a perfect spot for wine tastings with your friends or colleagues, trust me, your mind starts to wander back in its roots when you look around in that basement while sipping your wine... If those walls could talk...

You can make your meetings more than just a meeting by ordering some delicious refreshments, snacks or even full course meals from Kitchen & Bar Oula and that will turn your meeting into a Lappish mouthwatering experience!

The history of these rooms is so fascinating, it would be interesting to be able to time travel just for a moment to see what was going on, say, for example 1835...

You wouldn't believe all the stories this building has inside of it, when you walk the corridors of the Lappish hotel as the meeting area is totally from a different era. These banquet rooms literally radiate that old charm and history, I was mesmerized by the place!

Restaurant Oula
Oula restaurant has a very calm, relaxing vibe to it and once you get to taste the flavors of its out-of-this-world menu, you are sold, I promise! The hotel chain's head chef, Tero Mäntykangas is a true Lappish food guru and a magician, he brings the nature to your plates and you get to taste things you probably didn't even know existed. Dining here is not just eating, it's an experience. 

If you want to explore the city more, you can rent a bicycle (available on summertime), it is only, 15 euros/per day and free of charge for guests staying in Deluxe Rooms or Suites and what an fun and fabulous way to see the city! Especially
 on summertime Oulu is such a lovely oceanfront city and the views are stunning, just rent a bike and you get to see way more than just wandering around by walking.

Oulu Cathedral & a rental bike
Hope you get to experience that warm hospitality of Lapland Hotel Oulu, it certainly is worth it! Welcome to Finland and in this case, in particular, to Oulu, you know where to stay in this city and that is of course the historical, beautiful Lapland Hotel Oulu, wherein its kind and caring staff will show you what Finnish hospitality means. You will be happy here!

Oulu Cathedral and Ainolan Puisto (Ainola Park) - right next to the hotel!


Mia's Adventures at Palawan & El Nido and 12 Useful Tips!

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, I spent last October traveling around the Philippines.

Originally, I was supposed to go to Bali, but due to the sudden activation of the volcano, we had to cancel our trip and change our plans only less than 2 weeks before the departure.
We already had our first leg; Helsinki-Bangkok by Finnair (lovely business class of A350 of course) booked. It's the only pleasant way to travel long-hauls and especially if you have 2 more connecting flights after your flight!

We decided to book flights from Bangkok to Manila and from Manila to Puerto Princesa, in Palawan, of which we basically knew nothing about.
As if it would be as simple as that...

After the arrival at Bangkok, the 2 consecutive flights were both delayed for hours, in the end, it actually took 28 hrs to get to our hotel, which was way more than we anticipated. However, the funny thing is, we didn't even have a hotel until we were waiting at the Manila airport... Now that I think about it I can't believe we left it so last minute!
Well, we were going to be in the Philippines for the entire October so we figured we'd have time...

Tip No 1. 
When you fly in Asia during the monsoon season, prepare yourself for delays, they are inevitable.
(There was a major thunderstorm in Manila, for which reason all flights were delayed), which leads us to

Tip No. 2. 
Buy local SIM cards at the airport. Buy 2 separate cards from both operators as it depends on the area which car has coverage. It was really cheap so we ended up buying multiple cards during our stay.

First Accommodation

So, we simply just took a leap of faith, which ended up being a good one. We booked our first night to Canvas Boutique Hotel  (Link to the hotel's website:  CANVAS BOUTIQUE HOTEL (click here) which is only 3 star hotel but seemed like a good bargain. Yes, you know me, not very typical of me, but this trip was going to be different, I wanted to experience shabby beach bungalows as well as 5 star hotels, so I reckoned 3 star was a good start...

Hotel's exterior and the pool area

It was actually a very nice hotel considering it was only 3 stars. The service, or at least the willingness to serve us well, deserved 4,5 stars for sure! For example, I didn't book any pickup service from the airport so you can imagine what an amazingly lovely surprise it was after traveling for 27 hrs to see a sign that says Mia when we arrived at the airport - they just decided to pick us up! Wonderful!

Our room was surprisingly spacious and the pool area was nicer than in many 4 star hotels, which was a great bonus and yes, of course, I jumped in as soon as possible!

I loved all the artistic details they had in the hotel, in particular, all the murals they had all over the walls. We were told that they actually tell stories of villages and villagers' lives, how fascinating!

Hotel's breakfast was really versatile and even though I have food restrictions I was able to have all the food I needed, much appreciated, which was also a pleasant surprise was the fact that the staff had relatively good English skills. 
The bar in the restaurant and our breakfast & dinner table

The reception and the restaurant patio

It was time for us to plan our next adventure, which was to rent a car and drive to the small local town of Sabang, which, based on Google Maps was only less than 50 km away...
The receptionist was kind enough to connect us with his friend who rents cars and I insisted that we take the strongest and biggest car available - don't ask why, I just did, and that was the saving grace for us as it turned out later! So we chose to rent Mitsubishi Montero Sports GLS, which was huge, I didn't realize how big it was until I saw it. Its roof was above my head when I stood right next to it and I literally had to climb in, cool, this is going to be fun I thought. Oh, well, there's different types of funness... I bet that's what my friend, Charles McCool would say.

Tip No. 3 
Don't even think about a road trip in Palawan without a four wheeler!

Our route map, white spot on the left lower corner was our departure spot, Puerto Princesa & our car 

The Road Trip Begins

While trying to navigate out of the city of Puerto Princesa...

While in town, navigating the SUV among the local transportation.
After exiting the town area enjoying the first part of the drive; lush greenery.
we knew we have to make a pit stop at the local mall (which was huge, by the way) to get all kinds of necessities as we figured it may be our last chance to get some and thank God we got them, that was the only proper shopping mall we saw during the entire trip!

After we had done our last chores we took off around 4 pm and thought we'd reach our destination by 6 pm aka around sunset. It didn't take long to see that the jungle was right out there. That trip that was supposed to take about an hour turned out to be a 4 hour trip including a visit to a local, very small fisherman village and driving at times very carefully as there were so many dogs running around and they were like reindeers in Finland's Lapland, they couldn't care less if there was a car coming down the road - as if it was their kingdom and it's the driver's duty to give road to them. I am still up to date amazed we didn't hit any of them!

Tip No. 4
If you think it takes an hour to reach your destination, add two hours and that's more likely what it takes and always, always WATCH OUT FOR THE DOGS!

Again, we were naive and thought we can google a hotel while driving. Ha! After 20 min drive, we lost all our WIFI connections and we basically just had to trust our luck to find a hotel once we get to the town.

It was a lovely ride though, I love watching locals in their very own environment and that local fishermen's village, oh, so authentic and peaceful, filled with tiny, mean mosquitoes tho as the place was surrounded by mangroves, which apparently mean you get eaten alive unless you spray plenty of repellents - which I should've known, after all, we do have the insane density of mosquitoes in Lapland - but the difference is, you can see and hear them, these ones, you can't!

Tip No. 5
Make sure that you carry some mosquito repellent spray with you at all times! Where there are mangrove trees, there are sneaky little mosquitoes, that bite without you even seeing of feeling anything, but you'll feel it soon, trust me..

On the left:Arriving at the village - On the right: Some gigantic roots!

A local fisherman (and his friend in a 3-wheeler) who insisted I take a photo of him and his fish,
and how about that, the bird decided that it wants to have its photo taken as well!

We also got to see first Filipino sunsets along the way, too bad that lush jungle covered most of it.

Tip No. 6
Every now and then, take the Road Less Traveled #TRLT - you'll never know what you'll discover!

I do have a somewhat photographic memory though, so I remembered for example wherein the national park area begins, so when the sunset was over and the darkness came (which by the way caught us by surprise, it was pitch black dark, the only light were the lights of our car) we had no idea where we were other than that when I saw that really lush jungle and some mountains I knew we were around the national park area and that it wouldn't be too long now.

We also got our WIFI back about 3 min before we got to the town, which meant we were able to google some hotels. Well, it turned out that there were only say, 3 hotels that I accepted at that point.
Once we got to the town we realized that it's not actually a town, it's a small village with only a few street lights and a tiny little harbor for people to go to their underground river excursions.

The first hotel we saw was the Sheridan hotel (Here's a link to the hotel's website: http://www.sheridanbeachresort.com/

I've already written a blog post of the hotel, which you can read here:
My Lovely Stay at the Sheridan (click here)

Sheridan turned out to be a wonderful hotel and we stayed there for two nights. I actually partnered up with them for which reason I only paid media price for the room.

Next stop - who knows?

After Sabang we only knew that we need to get back to the main road, and it was actually quite lovely to see the surrounding area in the daylight, it is surrounded by beautiful, rocky mountains. And that approximately 50 km was heaps faster now as we were actually able to see the road and all the animals on it: Dragon sized (like Komodo dragons) lizards, snakes, water buffalos, cows, chickens, dogs, a monkey... it was like driving around in a zoo - WOW! Cool!
During our ride, we also saw some interesting looking local transportation vehicles...

Now we reached the main road again, which was kind of a relief, to be honest, driving there is so much easier, after all, there were at least some type of lanes there.

Tip No. 7
Don't rely on WIFI when driving around on an island, you may either have it or not!

Once again, we just went for it, no plans, no hotel booked, we just decided to keep on driving once our WIFI is on and then google the next hotel. We went to check out one hotel alongside the main road but no, I didn't feel it. So off we go to the next one. It was called Astoria Palawan Astoria Palawan's website (click here) which turned out to be one of, if not the best decision of the entire trip.
Once we went to the reception, I already had a good feeling about it. Hotel's GM, Joy Suarez showed up, I introduced myself, we made a deal (which lead me to cooperate with also 2 other Astoria hotels during our trip, those are in the island of Boracay, which is currently closed, but will open again soon, please read about them from my blog - you'll love them!) and we decided to stay there for 3 nights.

Check out my enjoyable Astoria Palawan, Astoria Current & Astoria Boracay blogs here:
(By the way, Astorias in Boracay had the most amazing sunsets I've seen in my life!!)

BE WARNED THOUGH, you may find yourself booking a trip to the Philippines...

ASTORIA PALAWAN's blog post (click here)

Astoria Hotels in Boracay:
ASTORIA CURRENT blog post (click here)  & ASTORIA CURRENT's website (click here)

Whitebeach by Astoria Current
ASTORIA BORACAY'S blog post  &  ASTORIA BORACAY'S website (click here)

Astoria Current served the best food (night after night) I've ever eaten, delicious!
Tip No. 8
No need to plan everything ahead, sometimes just going for it, letting go of all the preparations may lead you to wonderful experiences and meeting beautiful, kind-hearted people, such as Ms. Joy, whose wonderful personality I will always miss and hope truly that our paths will cross again one day.

Next stop, Port Barton - let the next adventure begin..!
It was about 3 pm we finally got to take off, and we figured, we'd make it around 6 pm to Port Barton.
Since basically, the only places that popped up during our search of Palawan were Puerto Princesa, Sabang and Port Barton (and of course El Nido) we decided that we want to explore those places. So, this time we decided to be smart (yeah, right, as if!) and book our stay in advance. So we browsed hotels and bungalows on the web and we agreed that after staying in lovely 3, 4 and 5-star hotels so far, it was now time for something different. So we decided to book a one night stay at a beach bungalow resort called Sunset Colors. We paid for it and got the confirmation but boy oh boy, we had no idea...

Tip No. 9
Check out the actual location and how to get to get to your hotel when you book your stay, don't trust OTA's info!

Again, huge mistake, we trusted a) the location b) the driving time estimation given to us by Google Maps. Since it was a monsoon season the condition of this road was unreal, however, I'm pretty sure it may be even worse at times, which we thought was crazy, and we seriously wondered how an earth locals got through the thick, sticky mud with their tiny little mopeds!

There were so muddy spots on the unpaved parts of the road that I literally didn't know whether to cover my head from hitting the roof of the car or hold on to my dear life so that I don't hurt my head while going sideways when the car was just going everywhere uncontrollably (well, it wasn't but it certainly felt like it as you just couldn't drive slowly in those muddy spots otherwise the car ended up being stuck so all I could say was, hell yeah, step on it!) and you wouldn't believe how bumpy a soft, muddy road can be. I thought I could tell but no, nope to the nopest nope. Now I know.
Well, I wanted adventure, and that I certainly got!

At least the road was wide here, there were spots our SUV barely could fit in as the road was so muddy & narrow!
Expect the unexpected and you'll be fine. Yes, it was one adventure on top of the other, however, we were literally in the middle of NOWHERE so had we been stuck, it might have taken hours, even a day before someone showed up to rescue us...

Ok, so it started to feel like we may be heading to town... and reading the famous Port Barton.. and based on Google Maps, the road to the Sunset Colors would actually go past the "town" (village,  in my opinion) so, naturally, that's where we went. However, we ended up to the point where the road so narrow that I couldn't stay on it with a scooter, so there was no chance for us to go there with our SUV. Now what? There was no room to make a U-turn. For some reason, I love reversing cars and I'm actually really good at it, so we made it back to the spot wherein we were able to turn around and head to town, wherein we actually got our mobiles up and running again.

We decided to call the resort and turned out that we should have known to be there at the certain time, and they would have picked us up from the village's pier. It was already way beyond sunset and we had no idea where we were.

Well, we knew we were in the middle of the Port Barton village, a place that had maybe 20 "houses" (here they would be called something else, maybe a hut or something), a couple of bars (fit maybe 5 people), no supermarket, just some locals wandering around.

We were told by the resort manager (on the phone) that they would send someone to pick us up, and hey, we got lucky! That person who was supposed to pick us up with the earlier boat, had seen us and since our SUV was somewhat unusual sight there, he guessed that it was us! So we just decided to leave our car behind, trust this man with no English skills, and take our small bags (for 1 nights exotic stay) with us, and leave everything else behind into the car. So we followed him through the pitch black night with no idea what you're stepping on... My imagination was running wild, no denying.

Next thing I see (barely) was a tiny pier and a boat next to it. Ok, that's our ride but how do we get there? By taking our shoes off, walking there - and let me remind you, it was truly dark, for all I knew there could be any type of creatures on the bottom of the ocean, I can't believe I was so calm when walking there, I was the only one that had to take my shoes off as they were not meant to be used in water.
That boat ride, about 15 min in the middle of the night, in a moonlight was something I NEVER forget. At first, it was a bit scary but it soon turned into a fascinating adventure and I got excited. This was what I came to the Philippines for - to experience some real, local life. Boat rides in the middle of the night on a fishing boat, when we arrived at Sunset Colors, again, barefoot walk to the beach and to the "reception" which was also their "restaurant". This place was something else. It was literally just a two-storey hut made out bamboo and that's it. They had electricity on only twice a day when they prepared food, other than that, we were on our own. Quite a strange feeling to go to bed not knowing what's around you and not even a mosquito net around you. You were able to hear all the sounds of the jungle - WOW! And the room temperature was around 30-35 C - but to my great surprise, I slept pretty well.

On the left: Single/double hut - in the middle: the OCEAN VIEW from the 2nd floor!
On the right; "main house; the restaurant & reception downstairs and two rooms upstairs.
And that view I was lucky enough to wake up to was something I never forget - so peaceful, surrounded by a lush garden and only maybe 9 people in total in the entire area... Jungle sounds were so strong, lovely ocean breeze... This is what I call a paradise!

Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to just chill, maybe two hours as we had to continue our road trip as we only had one more night left with our car. Had we known what type of lush, isolated paradise it was, we would have booked it for at least 2 nights, despite the brutally basic (but calming) room.

The stars? Don't know about the official rating but the way they showed hospitality and took care of us was 4 stars (I wish there were separate ratings for service & premises). Price? I think it was 25 Eur/night, so not the cheapest beach hut, but certainly the cheapest hotel night for me, probably in my life. (well, it's up to you if you want to call it a hotel, I don't really care. I'm just pleasantly surprised how much I loved this living right in the middle of nowhere. Stunning!
(Oh, by the way, this place is not in Port Barton, it's a bit further north, in a place called San Vincente, which again, we didn't know until the day we were leaving. Irrelevant for us at this point, but relevant info to you who may want to visit it one day!

Website? Well, couldn't find any, but just google Sunset Colors and you'll find plenty of info.

So above is a photo of our room, as I said, it was just a bamboo room with a double bed (with pillows and sheets) and a bathroom and that's it. There was a fan but didn't work. It might have been more pleasant if it was turned on, but we didn't bother, especially since the electricity was turned off, I think around 9 or 10 pm. That alone makes this a perfect place to enjoy outdoors, the ocean and just to get proper rest!

Port Barton
El Nido is calling!
I have wanted to experience El Nido's islands for as long as I can remember. I've seen photos on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and I knew they were my travel goal.

So, once we got to Port Barton we got to our car, and started heading back to the main road, meaning we would have to drive that muddy, bumpy road again! Luckily now it was a bright, sunny day so the road was more dry, less muddy and it was easier to see as the sky was clear. We were able to actually also focus on the surroundings a bit and we didn't even realize that the road was circling along the mountain's side. Now I realized why the road was the way it was. When it rains, all the water comes down the mountain, goes across the road, makes those unpaved legs muddy (and quite dangerous).

On our way we saw local kids walking home from school, they were all waving their hands, I heard "Hello" multiple times while we drove by. I started to film them and wave back, and what a joy it was for them, they were jumping up and down, I was able to see that from the rear mirror. Everyone seems really enjoying their lives here, which was nice to see as these people certainly don't have much, they work very hard, kids walk kilometers to get to school and back home, and the humidity is high as is the temperature. Their positive, happy, grateful attitude is something I certainly picked and want to carry with me every day for the rest of my life.

On this leg from Port Barton to the main road and then on our way to the north, we learned that weather can change here, on this island very rapidly. One minute the sun is shining and all of a sudden, you see dark mass of clouds approaching and you can sense the pressure, and you know it, winds will pick up, the sun disappears and the next thing you know it's raining cats and dogs....

You know how much I love the sun so what do I say?
I say Yay! Adventure!!
Nature's phenomenon is something I've always enjoyed, whether it's a storm, northern lights, thunder, typhoon...

Thunderstorm on its way...
On our way we also saw some pretty spectacular ocean views that we just had to stop to admire and, of course, photograph. Oh my days, the amount of beautiful things on this island is endless!

It was amazing how the colors of the ocean and the sky changes depending on the location, the number of clouds, the depth of the water, reflections... When I was watching photos that I took, I couldn't find two photos with ocean or sky having the same colors - literally, wonders of nature!

Finally, after driving hours and hours (felt like it), up and down the hills, we noticed that we are approaching our last hotel in the island of Palawan. This one we booked already while still at Astoria Palawan, and this one was basically booked only to stay overnight as we would get picked up in the morning from the El Nido pier and we'd get a boat ride to our next hotel. Wow, what an adventure that turned out to be. Well, I wished for adventures.

Tip No. 10
Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it!
On the left: Our construction site view from the hotel
On the right: Our paradise-like view from the boat the next morning

The hotel was called Swiftlets Inn.

Tripadvisor says it's 4 star - well, I would've given it 2. First of all, the construction site noise is 24/7. Secondly, there were power failures all the time and it was very important for us to get all the appliances (phones & laptops charged, I'm a travel blogger, I can't work without them, although this trip was a combined work & leisure). Further, the humidity in our room was so bad that even our sheets were wet and we were told that there's A/C in our room - well, doesn't help much if there's no electricity. Despite the somewhat odd vibes that I got there, and despite all the fatigue, the positive side was, everyone tried to serve us to their best abilities. 

It was time to return our rental car, which meant we had to carry all our luggage up to the top floor along those very steep, very narrow stairs. I'm quite short and those steps were literally up to my knees! Which would be fine without luggage...

We slept ok, after a long day and in the morning the sky had cleared up and it seemed like we were going to have an awesome weather for the boat trip to our next resort.
Again, all kinds of mix-ups... but finally, someone showed up and picked us up with a minivan. He drove us to the pier and told us to wait there with our luggage. This really started to show us that we are NOT in a well-organized place. I'm very well organized and always plan things ahead and one of my fortes is to take care of a hundred things at once, so for me, this was somewhat a culture shock. However, it was a nice day so no problem, we just wait and they will come - and they did, it just took a bit longer than expected...It was a long boat ride, probably about an hour, luckily the weather remained relatively nice until we got to our destination, Seahorse and Mangroves hotel's pier platform.

Seahorse and Mangroves
The first form of action, how to get safely to the platform as the sea was getting quite rough? Well, I jumped while one of the boat guys pulled my hand, and I ended up having quite nice bruises - yes, that was an accident but it (slightly) pissed me off because I asked them not to touch me as I knew that I'd be fine as long as I do it myself.
Not a good start... ok, let's stay positive, they were young blokes, maybe they are just inexperienced.

Nothing could have prepared me for what was yet to come. Talking about the inexperienced staff...

There was a very long pier to walk to get to the hotel, which would be lovely if only it felt safe. It was wobbly and felt like it's going to give in any minute.

(But I had to admit, it was very picturesque!)

It was a jungle island with a hotel on it, no beach, no entertainment, but it looked like it has a nice patio/deck where one could relax, play cards, read a book and have some cocktails... Little did I know. Dream on, Mia, dream on - not happening in this place.

We had a welcome snack (I think it was pineapple and some juice) waiting for us, which was a pleasant surprise, except that we had to share them with flies and ants. Ok, now this is starting to feel like the tv show Naked and afraid, except that we weren't naked - thank goodness for that as those mosquitoes would have eaten us alive. They were just brutal. After the first day, I was unable to go outside, I was so badly bitten.

We were greeted by Layla, the resort manager and quite honestly, I think it's just simply too much for her to handle - she is kind but she lacks skills and authority, as well as energy and determination.
I can tell she tried, but it became obvious within the first 5 minutes that she is not trained and skilled to run a hotel.

I don't often do this but now I do:

+ When the weather is beautiful, the view is stunning and it's fun to go kayaking and to snorkeling tours around El Nido
+ Beds were quite comfy
+ Stunning sunsets
+ when in luck, they provide guests with fresh fish, which I heard was delicious (I don't eat seafood)
+ it has potential (but not until someone else owns it and a professional staff runs it)
+ the furniture and woodwork was beautiful, truly looked high quality and expensive, loved it

- The transportation process was very confusing both arrival and departure
- On stormy weather, the sewer system was not draining, on the contrary, and the smell in the bathroom was disgusting
- There's no bar or an actual restaurant, just some tables out on the deck (again, would have potential to be heaps better under a proper management and some major investments)
- got a stomach bug/food poisoning there (many guests have had that)
- when it's raining there's nothing to do there
- you can't get off the island without asking the staff to take you to other islands i.e. to Palawan
- communication is not working

Our room was relatively spacious, in particular, due to its separate dining space right when you step into the room. It had a separate sleeping area from which you have access to the bathroom.
At first, it seemed to be ok but once that horrible smell spread everywhere when there was a heavy rain outside I realized things aren't all right. After dinner that night I got a different type of adventure, a long night in a smelly bathroom, that was absolutely horrible, the worst experience of the entire trip! Thank god I didn't see that giant cockroach in the bathroom until later!
Had I seen that I would have probably swum my way out of there!

On our second day the weather was beautiful again, in the morning, however, in the afternoon I felt the thunderstorm of my life! I mean, I was sitting on a wooden deck built on a giant rock that basically covered half the island and a lightning struck somewhere behind me - that sound, I will never forget it, it literally scared the living daylight out of me!! I have always respected mother nature and its signs and I reckoned, this was a strong sign for me to get back to my room and stay there...

On the left, minutes before the storm - On the right, sunset in the evening, after the storm had past.


So we booked a snorkeling tour around El Nido area for a day and that was a superb experience.
El Nido Tour A (click the link open) - which was exactly what I was hoping to experience while on El Nido area. Unfortunately, I didn't have back then a waterproof camera so I don't have underwater photos. However as you can see, I have photos of some spectacular scenery along the route. Snorkeling was fun, the only downside was that the Big Lagoon had way too many people with kayaks in it, you really had to be careful as they seemed to be thinking that ones in the water should give them the way, which is totally odd as when you snorkel you watch the water, not above the surface! But overall, worth every penny, I absolutely loved it and can't wait to go on a snorkeling trip again in a place where they have warm, calm waters!

Tour A included masks, snorkel, fins, lunch, soft drinks and transportation and some guidance along the way. We got to see the Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon (which literally was huge!!), Secret Lagoon and the Commando Beach, which I particularly enjoyed as it was all for our group of 3 for a while before another boat showed up (the photo in the middle). Loved the calm water and there were so many fish there, just beautiful, I wish I could stay in a place like this one day. (It actually reminded me a bit of the place in Koh Tao, about 10 years ago.)

After all of this, we were quite ready to leave and pamper ourselves with a nice, luxury hotel, so we booked a night at Matinloc Resort, located on Matinloc island.

On the day of our departure, there were some problems with our invoicing, which is not uncommon in this place based on other people's experiences. We got that sorted though, finally and then we (so) ready to check out.

We got driven to a different beach than where we got picked up, which totally confused us, especially since we had set up a pick up for our next hotel already. The staff (aka boys) took our bags and led us to walk across the muddy wasteland to the side of a very busy road, from which we had to drag our bags to the car, which would supposedly take us to this El Nido beachfront hotel, Matinloc's pick up spot. Thank goodness it actually happened.

I was pretty much done with all the next to none communication, I don't mind walking around, I don't mind taking care of my own belongings, I don't mind the adventure etc. - on the contrary. But what I mind is when things don't happen how they were said to happen or when someone tries to charge us extra for pretty much everything.

Anyway, that was it, we were waiting for our Matinloc boat to arrive, and once we got into that one it immediately felt like luxury. It was a speedboat so it only took like 15 minutes to get to Matinloc, YAY! Service, luxury, proper food, clean environment, beautiful beach and pool area... The sad part was that the weather wasn't that good on the day of our arrival but of course it was perfect when it was our time to leave on the following day!

Matinloc Resort

This was a beautiful resort, we could tell. Not quite the 5 star luxury I experienced, for example at Astoria Hotels or Grand Hyatt's etc. but certainly luxury compared to what I had just experienced for the last couple of nights! MATINLOC RESORT's website (click to open)

Arrival pier of Matinloc Resort

On the left, reception desk & on the background the restaurant
On the right, the building wherein our room was
There were some constructions going on during our visit, which we didn't know of, that was a bit disappointing, for example, the other pool was closed and some noise existed. Further, considering the fact that it is a luxury resort, they should know what gluten-free meal means, but I had to order even French fries (which I don't even normally eat, but graved for some reason that day) three times before I got the ones that were not covered with breadcrumbs.

Well, that was basically the only downfall at that point, I was so happy we got out of the smelly place. I had to wash some clothes as even my clothes had an unpleasant odor in them!

It was a lovely resort to wander around, take photos, just enjoy the view and lush gardens. Its beach was nice, beautiful sandy beach and the water was excellent for snorkeling during the high tide, a lot to see in the sea!

Tip No. 11
Always check if there are some construction work happening at the hotel, as they often do that when it's not the peak season!

I wish we had more time there but unfortunately, it was only one night, as the following day was our time to leave El Nido and the island of Palawan and head to lovely Boracay, which turned out to be much more stunning than I ever anticipated!

Tip No. 12
Don't bring your fanciest suitcases, you'll never know how they get treated, my brand new suitcase was carried most of the time but this last drop off was a completely different story, those guys literally dragged it in the sand!! Those wheels didn't roll at all after that, I had to rinse them before trying to use it as a rollable suitcase. (It was heavy, about 25 kg so I couldn't carry it and there was a reason I bought a suitcase that can be easily rolled around.)

Our plane to Caticlan from which we had boat transportation to Boracay
Overall, this was just a fraction of everything I experience in Palawan and El Nido areas and even though the lady luck was not always on our side and everything wasn't perfect all the time, I wouldn't change this experience for anything else! There is a lesson to learn in every misfortune and they certainly show that there are so many things to be grateful for. My wanderlust is incurable and I feel so happy to be able to do what I love the most; travel!

I felt so blessed that I got to do this trip, it was one of my long-time dreams, now I can tick that off my travel goals list and start to plan my next adventure!

The most important tip of all:

ENJOY THE MOMENTS, they are always over sooner than you can imagine

Thank you my dear #TravelTribe for reading and sharing the link to my blog to your followers, your support means a lot!
I hope you enjoyed my Asian adventures!

Live, love, laugh and get connected, the world is filled with wonderful people! 


P.s. Have you been to the Philippines? What did you like most about it?
If you haven't, would  you like to? What in this blog was the thing that makes you wanna go?
Feel free to comment, would love to hear your input!