2009 Dauin, Zambaonguita, Negros Oriental, Central Visayas, The Philippines

When our room at Thalatta was needed for a previous reservation we moved to a resort in Dauin called Pura Vida (Pura Vida Beach & Dive Resort, Washington St., at km15.1, District III, Lipayo, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines, Tel. (63-35) 425-2284, e-mail: info@pura-vida.ph, web: http://www.pura-vida.ph/) which had been recommended by Chonda, a woman we met at the church luncheon for the Fiesta San Nicolas de Terlentino in Dauin.

The experience of negotiating the room rate at Pura Vida was one for the record books. It is the only time that we were given a rate less than the rate we offered to pay. We saw a room on the sand called Ghostpipe Fish. It was larger than our room at Thalatta. It had adequate storage and a sitting area (with comfortable enough chairs) where we could watch (cable) TV. There was a patio area with a sofa and coffee table as well as a chaise lounge. The rack rate for this room was Php 4200, including breakfast for 2. The resort had wi-fi internet that worked in our room, hot water in our shower and air conditioning--our minimum requirements. Since it was low season, we offered Php 3000 per day (all inclusive) and with breakfast. We were told by reception that they had to check on this. We left our e-mail address and cell phone number. Many days later (maybe 1 week) we went back to Pura Vida to find out why we hadn't been contacted. A person called Mary Ann came to the front desk. She didn't apologize for not responding to us. She said she could not possibly give us a rate of Php 3000 for that room. The most she could give us was a discount of 30%. Dimitri immediately realized that a discount of 30% was less than Php 3000 and we took the offered deal immediately. So we paid Php 2940 per day for our room at Pura Vida. And Dimitri was hopping around--he was so excited with his negotiating skills.

This is another resort with a sign posted in the room that No Food or Beverage from Outside the Resort is Permitted. Yeah, right. When we checked in we were carrying 2 bottles of wine in a plastic bag. We were told that they were not permitted (which we ignored with a growl). We were taken to our room and given a tour of the room and told the rules (at which point Dimitri recited our rules). We were not getting off to a good start at this place. But we unpacked and turned on the air conditioning (which worked but never cooled the room to less than 24 degrees C, even though it was positioned to 16 degrees).

Our room at Pura Vida, with Dimitri's computer all set up, our welcome sign: "Welcome Dimitri & Company" on the bed, and the seaside at our doorstep
This is also another resort with no free potable water (except at breakfast). A 1 L bottle cost Php 40 but they will refill that bottle for Php 20 (which is the same price as a liter bottle in the market). Audre is so annoyed when there is no free water to drink included in the price of the resort.

There were two tables in our room that were good for our computers. So both of us could both surf the net or blog on days when the weather was less than optimal. We had lunch at the table on the sand on our first day at Pura Vida and it was pleasant because it was shaded and not too hot. We ate most of our meals at Pura Vida during our week stay and the food was good. We met Gary, the resort manager, and he was very friendly. He offered to help us with the air conditioner but the staff told us nothing could be done (and added no one else had complained about it--a phrase designed to annoy). He stopped by to talk to us at meals and we appreciated his attention. In fact, we found that Gary was the only pleasant person at the resort and he had only been working there for 6 months or so. He has a job in store for himself when he starts to train his staff. (The owner of the resort was away during our stay; possibly the staff reflects his personality.)

During our stay at Pura Vida we learned that we didn't like to be at an active dive resort. There is too much noise from the dive center, what with filling tanks and all of the commotion caused by the dive staff. At Pura Vida, the Sea Explorers Dive Center was right under the restaurant where we would eat breakfast. Most annoying.
When we entered the restaurant at breakfast, we weren't greeted by the staff with "good morning" or anything else. There was no attempt at hospitality or warmth. It was not as if the staff was mean or offensive, however. Generally, they just did not make us feel welcome. We know we are demanding guests (who can be pains in the ass). What we truly appreciate is staff who view it as a challenge to make sure we are pleased. Generally, we will "settle in," then we will realize that an effort is being made to please us and we will actually be pleased!
The breakfast at Pura Vida did not include freshly brewed coffee. Since we were carrying our Fresh Press Coffee pot and coffee, and there was boiled water for the guests to make Nescafe, we brought our pot and coffee to the restauarnt to have freshly brewed coffee in the morning. No one confronted us about our breach of the rules. There were fruits and cereal for breakfast but no skim milk. We like skim milk so we brought our own to the restaurant. No one confronted us about that breach either. The staff at breakfast made eggs and pancakes on request which were good. There was a toaster and the toasted bread was good too. So, with a little "tweaking," breakfast at Pura Vida was acceptable (although, because of the dive center below, noisy).

We went swimming off of Pura Vida in the designated Marine Sanctuaries but the coral and fish were under-welming and we were stung by the tiny jelly fish. We thought we might go back to Apo with a dive boat, but the weather wasn't good enough (Typhoon Ondoy was hitting Luzon in the north). Because the trip to Apo from Pura Vida was an all-day affair, we would have ended up waiting for the divers on the pumpboat. That would not have been pleasant.



We took long walks on the beach at Pura Vida and went to the town center of Dauin too. One day in the Dauin Public Market we noticed Ren's Shoe Repair. Audre's sandals needed repair because the straps were too long (it required cutting off some of the straps and machine sewing them together again). We had them repaired while we waited and it cost Php40 (under US$1). We also found a tailor to alter some of Audre's shorts in the Dauin Public Market . (Audre had lost weight in 2008--click here to read about that--and our Visayas beach vacation was the first time she had worn them since then). The tailor charged Php 80 to fix the two pairs of shorts (redoing the waistband entirely) and the job was very well done.
We saw that the Gloria T. Alaban Eatery in the Dauin Public Market had a lentil dish which looked good and a vegetable dish that looked good too. We had not tried a local eatery in the Philippines and were a bit concerned. Since Anthony Bourdain seems to survive these types of places, we took the risk. We were fanned while eating to keep the flies away and enjoyed the entire experience--not getting sick afterwards either.
We went to Dumaguete, the large town on Negros Oriental, a couple of times during our stay in Dauin. The easiest and most convenient way to get there was to take the Ceres bus by flagging it down on the National Highway. It cost Php20 each (or under US$1 for the both of us). It was comfortable and took about 40 minutes. Once, on the way back, we were lucky once and caught the air conditioned Ceres bus. It was very comfortable even when we had to stand because it was full.


Another day in Dumaguete we had lunch at a new restaurant called Sultan's Palace (Turkish and Mediterranean food), San Jose, St. (next door to Nicanor Hotel), Dumaguete, Tel. 422-5423. Tanner of Turkish descent is the owner; he grew up in the UK and was fun to talk to. We had his hummos and chachik (the Turkish equivalent of tzatziki), pita bread, dolma (stuffed grape leaves), a Turkish coffee and a mango shake. We enjoyed it and even took some hummos and chackik back to Pura Vida for aperitif with our bread sticks. The lunch cost a reasonable Php 380.



Our best lunch in Dumaguete was at Lab-As (it means freshness or flavor) Seafood Restaurant, 201 Flores Ave., Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines, Tel 225-3536. It is owned by the Fuentes family. It opened in 1987 and had its 20th anniversary in 2007. (The Fuentes family also owns Orientwind Travel and Tours, 201 Flores Ave., Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines, Tel (63-35)422-5298, e-mail: info@orientwind.com.ph and web: www.orientwind.com.ph which is next door, as is a popular bar called Hayahay.)



Our lunch cost Php 1175 plus tip and was one of our best crab meals we've had in the world. We had 2 chili crabs that we chose from the tank for Php450. They were prepared perfectly; they were suculent and the spiciness of the sauce was just right. We even had enough leftover to take home for a light lunch the next day! We also had 10 fresh, raw oysters for Php 125 to start. While they weren't the best oysters they were pretty, pretty good. We also had 2 Filipino vegetable dishes that we thought were excellent. They were Pinakbet (an eggplant, squash, and bitter gourd combination, sautéed in shrimp paste for Php140) and Steamed vegetables ala probinsya (which was talong, ampalaya, kangkong, okra (choice of bagoong or ginamos) for Php90). Finally we have found Filipino vegetable dishes that we think are terrific. With our lunch we had 2 beers and 2 glasses of wine and all for about US$25. Not surprisingly, we did not have dinner after that lunch!




A couple of times while we were at Pura Vida, we went to the resort next door for dinner; we had very good meals with delightful service at El Dorado Restaurant. (El Dorado Beach Resort, Washington Road, km 15.1, Lipayo/Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines, Tel (63-35)425-274, e-mail: info@eldoradobeachresort.com, web: www.eldoradobeachresort.com). We would highly recommend it. We had checked out staying at El Dorado but Markus, the owner, would not make us an offer we could accept. It turned out to have a silver lining: the beachfront room we wanted is right next to El Dorado's dive center and would have been noisy.



After a week at Pura Vida, we took a 20 minute ferry to the southern end of Cebu to a tiny town called Liloan, near Santander, for the next segment of our Central Visayas experience.
In Dumaguete, we liked to have a light lunch at Sans Rival on San Jose Street. They also had a bakery where Dimitri found all kinds of sweets he liked. They even sold garlic bread sticks which were crisp and really, really good. We would stock up on them to have them on our patio at Pura Vida with our aperitif (violating all kinds of rules).
Eating lunch at a local eatery at the Dauin Public Market and being fanned