Gumaca, Quezon

Gumaca lies in the middle of the Quezon Province along the coastline of Lopez Bay. Most travelers wouldn’t stop here because most of the buses going to Bicol have a stopover in Lucena or Atimonan, and the next stopover would be in Calauag or Tagkawayan.

Lopez Bay in Gumaca

The major attraction of Gumaca is the Gumaca Cathedral or the Cathedral of San Diego de Alcala, one of the oldest and biggest churches in the province of Quezon.

San Diego de Alcala

Other notable areas to explore in Gumaca is the Museo ng Gumaca, to know more about the Gumaca Heritage District due to the ancestral houses and old structures and the San Diego de Alcala Fortress or the Kutang San Diego, the only surviving fortress in Gumaca. The fortress is also recognized as a national treasure since 1981.

We went to a nearby public spot of the beach, in which my best friend and I decided to have a late afternoon stroll. And my trip to Gumaca was the start of our summer getaway in which we focused in Quezon Province and Bicol Region.

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Pearl Watch

A Fairytale Life Underwater

In the world of imagination, children dream of living a fairy tale. In reality, there’s the mermaid academy. Yes, there are swimming schools for those who want to be like Ariel, the heroine of the movie The Little Mermaid, or, closer to home, Jezebel.

Being a mermaid is not all about carousing in the water among the coral reefs and schools of fish, as Ariel does with her long colorful hair trailing her. It also means learning the basic strokes of gliding and moving underwater with legs enclosed in a 2-kg mermaid tail, movements that also happen to work out the core abdominal muscles, the lower back, legs and entire upper body.

That is why being a mermaid takes training, and an aspiring mermaid or merman, as the male counterpart, can enroll at the Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy which was founded in Boracay but also has sites in Manila and Cebu.

Indeed, mermaid training is challenging work. At the PSMA, the different lessons last from 90 minutes to five hours long, depending on the level. The first lessons include familiarization with the mermaid tail, a safety briefing, learning the four basic swim strokes and breathing techniques and also practicing these skills in three-meter deep waters.

Scuba Mermaid – Photo by Paulo Violas, permission granted by PSMA

Advanced swimming lessons specialize in breathing and equalizing techniques, rescue exercises, various underwater mermaid tricks, bubble and blowing in a depth of 10 meters of water.

A certificate card from the International Mermaid Swimming Instructors Association is given during the introduction and the advanced levels.

Other lessons include free-diving basic techniques, performance mermaid and scuba mermaid. These three require a Professional Association of Diving Instructors Certification or a Free Diver certificate from the International Association for Development of Apnea.

For those who are afraid of the water but still want to capture a perfect mermaid moment, the Academy offers a mermaid photo opportunity. For 30 minutes, PSMA teaches the student how to pose like a pro. Fees include the tail rental and directed photo shoot on dry sand and in knee-deep sea water.

The growing number of mermaid and merman enthusiasts has prompted the celebration of the first-ever International Mermaid Day on March 29 and March is the mermaid month.

All photos were granted permission from PSMA. For inquiries, you can check the website:

Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy 

Pearl Watch

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Phuket Attractions

Here is the list of famous beaches and landmarks in Phuket, in the southern part of Thailand. The different Phuket attractions are mostly in Kathu and Mueang District.

Kathu District

Patong Beach

The most famous and largest beach resort town in the province of Phuket. The beach is almost 4 kilometers facing the Andaman Sea. It is the center of wild nightlife and crowded beach. You can also dine, shop, have a Thai massage or eat local street foods because it is near the famous Bangla road.

Water activities were being held around like kayaking, parasailing and others. Tourist and locals enjoy the beach, sleeping, sunbathing, enjoying some sports activities, taking pictures, strolling, watching the sunset, eating and having fun in the sand.

Bangla Road

The heart of wild nightlife is along Bangla Road where you can see the Bars, Live Music, Night Clubs, restaurants and shopping malls and the famous Go Go Bars.

Jungceylon Shopping Complex

Located near Bangla Road, Jungceylon is located in the center of Patong. It is the most modern mall in Phuket.

Other areas for shopping and night markets are OTOP Shopping Paradise, Banana Walk Shopping Mall, Basaan Market, and China Town.

Mueang District

Karon Beach

The second largest beach with a 3 kilometer long and broad sandbar. There small restaurant on the beach but the beach is also surrounded by nearby hotels, shops and restaurants across the street. There are nearby parks across the street.

Kata Beach

A small island called Poo island is visible around Kata Beach. Kata is one of the small beach of the three popular beaches – Patong and Karon. This area also has lessons for surfing. There are restaurants and hotels across the street from Kata Beach.

Karon View Point

Between Nai Harn and Kata Noi beach is a landmark on top of the hill with the view of the three beaches in Meuang District – Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches and the Poo Island. It is locally known as “Khao Saam Hasaad” or Three Beaches Hill. It is also a good site for a picnic as there are gazeebos in the area. The nearby Kata Noi is accessible if you book a hotel near the beach.

Rawai Beach

Rawai, located at the southern part of Phuket, is a traditional fishing village and the home of sea gypsies. The local fisherman goes fishing and you could buy freshly caught fishes in the market. Authentic Thai dishes are available in some few restaurants especially the one on the beach front. Rawai beach is less crowded but is not good for swimming and the beach is the docking port for the long tail boats. Coral and Bon islands in front of Rawai.

Nai Harn Beach

A small beautiful beach area near Phromthep which is also less crowded. You can also see the windmill viewpoint near Nai Harn beach.

Phromthep Cape

One of the best spot to see the Andaman sea and a beautiful sunset. There are shrines for elephant statues. It is the end point of Phuket = Pearl of Andaman Sea. Racha Yai island, Noi, island and Phi Phi islands can be seen in the distance.

Buddhist shrine with the brass of elephants and a lighthouse called Kanchanaphisek Lighthouse are also the most visited in Phromthep.
Other landmarks near Rawai are Yanui Beach, Laem Ka Beach and Maithon or Honeymoon Island. Rawai boxing stadium is also located here.

Wat Chalong Temple

One of the most visited temples is Wat Chalong Temple located in the Chalong, Mueang Phuket District. It is also called Wat Chaiyathararam and among the 29 Buddhist temples in Phuket. Locals pray at the temple and foreigners also learn about Buddhism. There are dress codes and restrictions when entering the temples.

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A Mermaid’s Tale

The best part of traveling is meeting new people. As I was solo traveling in Moalboal, Cebu, I met a mermaid, Odessa Bugarin. She left her city life and became a scuba and freediving instructor, a professional mermaid, producer and conservationist.

In 2013, Odessa, a divemaster certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), joined a group of mermaid performers in the beautiful aquarium in MGM, Macau.

Odessa opened her own school, Mermaid Odessa Swimming Academy, in Anilao, Batangas and Moalboal, Cebu in 2015. That same year, she focused on her free diving and also gained her certification from the International Association for Development of Apnea Level 3.

In 2016, Odessa was one of the real-life mermaids who performed in the ADEX: Meet the Mermaids in Singapore and has been continuously invited to the event. ADEX is the longest-running and the largest dive expo in Asia.

Her mermaid swimming skills became polished with training, and she has become comfortable using her mermaid tail, which she admits could be arduous and uncomfortable. “A mermaid coach will guide you and provide safety while you’re overcoming the discomfort coming from the fact that the tail binds your legs together. There are ways to make things easy.” She said.

The Conservationist

“As a real-life mermaid, I can use the fantasy of the wonderful mermaid world to reach out to people and spread my causes and advocacies. I started to meet people with the same passion. I realized that I could actually buy or get my own tail and so I did and I was addicted to it. I brought it everywhere with me which led to my rendezvous with underwater photographers. I then discovered that I could also do underwater modeling to promote marine life awareness and conservation.” Odessa said. As a diver, she calls herself an ambassador of the oceans, sharing her own deep and intimate connection with marine life.

Odessa joins clean-up drives and picks up trash from beaches and sea. She also volunteers to care for rescued dolphins.

Photo by Michael Aw, permission granted by Odessa

Her ease in the water has gotten her some plum assignments. Michael Aw, the founder of Ocean Geographic, said he worked with Odessa for a campaign against the use of crocodile skin and meat, and she even posed and swam with the crocodile. She also had a photo where she was dancing with the sharks. She conquered in diving the Avalon Jardines de la Reina – Gardens of the Queen and met notable persons sharing her advocacy to protect the marine environment.

Photo by Michael Aw -Dancing with the Sharks

Odessa’s message to would-be mermaids: “I hope that you do know that being a mermaid is not all about being beautiful or it’s not all about fantasy. It’s not all about cool photos and videos. Please use that beauty and fantasy to reach out to people. Be a mermaid, servants of the world’s oceans. Keep diving, exploring, and discovering. Share everything you know about the magical big blue. LOVE Mermaid Odessa.”

And behind the pretty face, perfectly-shaped body and synchronized dolphin kick swimming of a mermaid is a woman with a genuinely big heart for the ocean.

You can also check out her Youtube Channel: Mermaid-Odessa

Updated on July 22, 2020.

One Day Tour at James Bond Island

Ao Phang Nga is located in the southern part of Thailand. It is notable due to the Ao Phang Nga National Park which includes the famous James Bond Island or Kao Phing Kan. Most of the parks are set on the coast of the Andaman Sea from the west and Phang Nga Bay to the south. Ao Phang Nga National Park is a 40 km sq park which includes 40 islands of numerous limestones tower karst islands. There are native mangroves forest in the park.

James Bond Island or Khao Phing Gan

The tour is known as James Bond Island Tour because the island used to be a location in one of the movies of James Bond, Man with the Golden Gun. It takes 1 hour and 30 minutes from Ao Por Pier to Khao Phing Khan.
The famous islet on the island is called Ko Ta Pu. You can only take a picture of Ko Ta Pu because it was prohibited to go to the islet to prevent its erosion. Koh Tapu is also known as Nail Island.
The island Kho Phing Khan has a few caves with two sandy beaches. One of the sandy beaches is used as the port for long tail boats. There are souvenir shops and coffee shop, toilets. The docking port is already cemented for the tourist. If you go to the rocky stairs, you will see the other one of the sandy beach with an open cave having stalactite formation.

Koh Hong or Hong Island

The whole group of tourist boarded the ferry for a sumptuous seven-course Thai lunch.
After lunch, the next activity is the sea cave adventure to Koh Hong or Hong Island. The island is known for canoeing, kayaking and swimming. Koh Hong also is known for the different rock formations and limestone karst. Hong in Thai is room, and it’s called Room Island where there is a hole opening up in the sky. Different caves surrounded the island but due to high tide, there are caves full of water.

Panak Island

Another sea cave adventure is the Panak Island where you can also see a hidden lagoon.

Lawa Island

The last activity is swimming is Lawa Island. Others do kayaking here also.

How to get there

Go to Ao Por Pier in Pa Khlok at the northern side of Phuket. The pier is a startup point going to nearby islands. This is an organized tour, you can find information on the internet and the travel shops in Phuket.

For more information about Thailand, you can check out the following links: Things to do in Koh Lipe, Thailand Koh Phi Phi; Phuket Attractions

For James Bond Island tours click here.

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Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi or Phi Phi Island is situated in the Andaman Sea in Krabi, Thailand. It is a part of the Hat Noppharat Thara–Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park. The group of six islands is located 46 km from Phuket and almost the same distance from Krabi. The two big islands are Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley.

Going to Phi Phi Island

From Phuket International airport go to Sea Angel Port. Board a ferry or speed boat going to Phi Phi island.

There are other ferry ride going to Phi Phi Island from the different parts of Thailand. The ferry boats are available in Ao Nang, Ao Nang Railay, Koh Bulon, Koh Kradan, Koh Libong, Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta, Koh Nga, Krabi and Trang.

Touring Koh Phi Phi Don

Monkey Island

Monkey Island which is known by its name is inhabited by monkeys. A small boat will allow you to swim in the area and to see a closer look of the monkeys. The stunning rock formation, towering limestone cliffs and breath-taking beaches are seen before your reach the Tonsai Pier.

Tonsai Bay

This is where boats docked and where the pier is located. Ferries and long tail boats lined up in the beach. Information booths are seen around the pier. There’s a small park with a fish statue. Most of the hotels, restaurants, night bars, shops and massage centers are in Tonsai Village.

Loh Dalum Bay

The long sand bar and the view of the Loh Dalum Bay is parallel to Tonsai Bay. During low tide, a sand bar on the far right side appears and locals are playing football in the sand bar. Beach front hotels and restaurants are also in the area.

Long Beach or Hat Yao

The Long Beach or Hat Yao is a long stretch of the sand bar and much longer compared to Loh Dalum. The resorts and hotels along the sandbars of Long Beach are expensive from the ones near the pier. Hat Yao is also a village for the locals.


The highest point in the island and the only inland attraction. You will see an isthmus that is sandwich between Tonsai Bay and Loh Dalum Bay.

Other areas

These are the more reclusive area in Phi Phi Don: Way Long Bay, Yong Kasem Bay, Nui Bay, Loh Lana Bay, Loh Ba Kao Bay, Phak Nam Bay, Rantee Bay and Loh Moh Dee Bay. Another village on the tip of the island is called Laem Tong where you can also see the Sea Gypsy Village

Phi Phi Ley

Consists of the different popular destination: Maya Bay, Loh Sama (Sama Bay), Palong Bay, Pi Ley Bay and Viking Caves.

Where to Stay

Phi Phi Banyan Villa

For Koh Phi Phi tours click here.

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Things to do in Koh Lipe, Thailand

What is the best thing to do during your stay in Koh Lipe aside from exploring the three different beaches – Pattaya, Sunrise and Sunset and also walking along Walking Street? Here are some useful guides in discovering the stunning island of Koh Lipe, Thailand.

How to Get There/Getting Around:

From Langkawi, Malaysia:

Ferry tickets are available at Kuah Jetty Pier or in Telaga Harbor Park. Ferry’s going to Koh Lipe are scheduled at 9AM, 11AM and 2PM. To avoid any inconvenience, be at the ticket office 1 hour ahead for Visa processing.

From Krabi, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi:

Different Ferry boats are from Krabi, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi going to Koh Lipe.


The speed boats will stop near the beach area of Koh Lipe, and long-tail boats will transfer passengers to get to the beachfront. There are motorbikes taxi with sidecar in Walking Street. Another means of getting around the island is by longtail boats in the Taxi Boat station. The island is small, another way is also by foot.

Island Activities

Snorkel Trips

1. Snorkel in Sunrise Beach – Koh Kra, Koh Talak, Koh Usen
2. Snorkel Discovery in Jabang, Koh Hin Nam, Koh Rawi, Koh Adang and Koh Yang
3. Far Island Explorer in Koh Hin Sorn, Koh Lugon, Koh Pulong, Koh Bulu, Jabang


Here are the different diving spots in Koh Lipe: Pattaya Corner, Koh Kra, Koh Taru, Koh Pung, Koh Talang, Koh Adang Stone Henge, 8 Mile Rock, Far Islands, Sail Rock, Seven Rocks and Lipe Shipwreck.

Other Activities

1. Boat trip around the Koh Lipe
2. Hiking in the mountains of Koh Adang
3. Kayaking

Where to stay

Pattaya Beach

Bella Vista
Family Song Resort
Sea Side Resort

Sunrise Beach – Hat Chao Ley

Gipsy Resort
Mountain Resort
Kathalee Beach Resort and Spa
Lipe Beach Resort

Sunset Beach – Hat Pramong

The Hut

While walking along Walking Street, I saw a sign that says Gypsy Resort. It was a resort along Sunrise Beach. I found out that there are sea gypsies in Koh Lipe or what they called Chao Ley in Thai. I pass by the local school and Hat Chao Ley Village, the community where the Chao Ley resides.
Chao Ley or Urak Lawoi are aboriginal Malay people in the east Andaman coast. In preserving the heritage and helping the Chao Ley faces extinction, Project Urak Lawoi was launched. The project aims to raise awareness about Chao Ley’s heritage, culture and conservation of their traditional way of life.
Project Urak Lawoi; Koh Lipe’s Heritage

For Koh Lipe tours, click here.

For more information, you can also check my experience about Koh Lipe