Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best of a Travelife 2013: Balesin for three hours -- for lunch and a bit of an aerial view


As 2014 approaches, we look back on the amazing year that was and remember the best of 12 months of truly wonderful travels and fabulous adventures. 

Thank you for following us on our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

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MY SHORTLIST FOR 
THE BEST LUNCHES OF THE YEAR

I had many interesting lunches in 2013, all over the world, living a Travelife. So it was quite difficult to pick one that was a cut above the rest.

Anyhow, let me share with you my shortlist of favorite lunches for the year:

1) Truffle risotto and fresh white asparagus at the Le Relais restaurant 
    of the Plaza Athenee in Paris (June 2013)
2) Lobsters, ceviche and California sushi at Cape Town Fishmarket 
    in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (October 2013)
3) Hummus and a mezze platter at the 
     Four Seasons Serengeti in Tanzania (October 2013)
4) Kaiseki lunch at Kien in Tokyo (August 2013)
5) Beef cheeks at La Fabula in Madrid (September 2013)
6) Easter Sunday Indian lunch at the Park Hyatt Hyderabad (April 2013)

The Park Hyatt Hyderabad

MY CRITERIA FOR MY FAVORITE LUNCH, 2013

My criteria for choosing favorite lunches is not based solely on the quality of the food, although that's important. 

When thinking about my picks, I also took into consideration the company, the atmosphere and my memories of my feelings on that day

The Four Seasons Serengeti

In this sense, my hummus and mezze lunch at the Four Seasons Serengeti almost made it to #1 because it was a really nice, delicious and happy lunch.

I have really happy memories of my lunches at the Four Seasons Serengeti. We each ordered the same food and we also ate exactly the same thing two days in a row.

I loved it.

A THREE-HOUR VISIT TO BALESIN

But in the end, a three-hour visit to Balesin for a really healthy lunch, with very nice company and great conversation with two movers and shakers, won out.




On that day, I was in Balesin for all of two hours, for a very nice and healthy lunch.

We journeyed by private helicopter, and it was about 30 minutes per way; so with travel time factored in, the entire lunch was all of three hours.

I didn't know we were going to Balesin until just before we took off.


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January 17 - 19, 2014
for some fantastic travel bargains



TOSS A COIN AND FLY...

When I woke up in the morning, this friend who'd invited me to come along had sent me a BBM with about four or five destination choices for a short flight and lunch.

Everything depended on the weather, and he would decide just before taking off, he messaged.

Blue waters on one side of the island...

So I was at his office at the agreed-upon time, dressed very casually for wherever we were going to find ourselves at. I was up for the guessing game, and all I knew was that we were going somewhere in the Philippines.

Talk about an interesting Travelife here.

But, yes, he actually is the original Travelife perhaps -- because he's been living the Travelife ever since I first met him an entire lifetime ago. I don't know anyone else who traveled the way he did back then, and who travels the way he still does now.

In fact, I probably got the travel bug from him over 20 years ago...



A MERRY PARTY FOR LUNCH



My friend was taking his staff, and he had one other guest -- an ambassador of a pretty important country. I thought the ambassador's wife was coming too, but it was just the two of us as his guests for lunch on Wednesday.

Then we hopped into a vehicle and drove to the heliport at the Fort, as this was where he'd decided to take off from.

He could have taken off from his own building, as he has a heliport on top of one of his buildings too. But maybe the wind was too strong, as he decided to fly from ground level instead.

A PLEASANT 30-MINUTE FLIGHT



It was a very pleasant flight in his state-of-the-art helicopter.

I so enjoyed looking at the city and the countryside from up high, especially as it was not too high that everything below was just a blur.

When we passed Caliraya, my friend began pointing out people's weekend homes.



I saw a couple of really gorgeous properties right by the lake.

This was also the first time I realized how beautiful the topography of Lake Caliraya is.

A 360 OF BALESIN



Finally we reached Balesin.

The nice thing about having your own plane or chopper is that you can do what you want.

Balesin's Mykonos complex


So my friend took the radio and said: "Balesin, we're going to do a 360 of the island before landing, if that's okay."

So we didn't do the usual golf cart tour of the island. Instead, we did a close fly-by of the entire island from the air.

This really gives you a nice perspective of everything, especially as we could fly very close to the structures and inspect everything.

Balesin's St. Tropez complex


Eventually we landed on the airstrip, and there was a welcoming committee to greet us.

TWO ROOMS OF GUESTS ON THIS BIG ISLAND

Balesin's Phuket complex


"How many guests do you have today?" I asked the manager.

When we'd done the fly-by around the island, you see, one of the things I'd noticed is that there were no people in the pools or on the beaches. 

It may be hard to notice this on a plane, but when you're in a helicopter flying close and slowly, you certainly see everything.

And everything was quiet like a cluster of model villages.



The manager replied very candidly: "We have two rooms occupied right now."

Yes, you heard right.

This island can have about 700 guests on weekends, and on that day, there were two rooms of guests.

My friend said: "Well, we've just doubled your occupancy rate. Even just for a few hours."

This village is under construction


WEEKDAYS SOUND LIKE A GREAT DEAL TO ME

And talk about a good deal here.

If you go to Balesin on a weekday, you basically have the entire island to yourself for the price of a luxury hotel room in Manila.

As I told another friend last night, a weekday stay in Balesin, having practically the entire island and staff to yourself, is probably the best deal in town.



Unfortunately, we flew out of Balesin after about two hours of a very nice and relaxing lunch because we wanted to avoid cloudy weather.



And in less than 30 minutes, I was back at the Fort and in my car, on the way back to work, after just another short and delicious trip in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.



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