A Corner of Paradise – Cidade De Goa

It’s beautiful seaside 40-acre sprawl, just 10 minutes from Panjim, has captured many exuberant moments of holidaying families down the decades.

An evergreen favourite, despite the growing competition, Cidade offers holidaymakers the quintessential Goa experience — sun, sand, sea… the promise of delicious food and entertainment — all wrapped up as an enticing pack age of traditional Goan “susegad” —a spirit and passion for life.

Designed by renowned architect Charles Correa the resort, punctuated by cozy alcoves overhanging balcaos and vibrant murals, features beautifully furnished rooms and suites opening up on sea views.

Meals here are special here too…after all its easy to fling aside diets and the like when you are on holiday… and Cidade’s array of restaurants know just how to indulge you with their signature haute-cuisine specialties, inventive take on local favourites, the finest of wines and spirits.

Tuck into beachside barbeques and savour the drinks as theme night entertainment add their own measure of charm to the Cidade experience Time for one more indulgence— the Clube Saüde with its line — up of Swedish body mas-sages, holistic ayurvedic treatments and an art gym.


Scuba Evolution – India

Located near Candolim Beach, this Scuba Diving Re sort offers exceptional scuba experiences and also conducts PADI and SSI Certification Courses. Scuba Evolution India is the first dive resort on mainland India to offer accommodation and diving under the same management.

Learning to dive here is a phenomenal experience. If you are not quite ready to take the plunge into a certification course you can begin with ‘Discover / Try Scuba Diving’ program.

This begins your introduction to this thrilling experi ence. It includes a little theory and briefing on the dive, after which you get your first scuba dive in a pool that will help you get used to being underwater.

During the pool dive, you will learn some underwater skills, and get comfortable in the dive gear. When they feel you are ready to venture out into this cosy world they’ll take you on a boat and head out to the local dive sites around Grande Island.

The dolphins you might see playing around and the beautiful coastline views, during your boat ride are a sweet bonus.

Charges are: INR 5,000 which includes equipment rental, pool training, sea dive (of 30 to 40 min), underwater photographs, boat charges, snacks and water, and certificate of completion.


Devaaya Ayurveda and Nature Cure Center – Goa

Combining a vacation with a bit of care taking of one’s health has become a big trend—especially if you need to take time out from the stress of running a business or your home.

Goa, reputed for its sunny disposition, is just the place to go for that much needed ‘Wellness Holiday’. Located on the serene Divar Island, 10km from Panjim, the Devaaya Ayurveda and Nature Cure Centre, a unit of Goa’s Alcon Victor Group is set on a verdant sprawl of five acres and features 60 luxurious rooms built in traditional Goan-style cottages with river view or garden views and a swimming pool.

Apart from offering authentic Ayurveda and Naturopathy treatments and therapies, to help rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit Devaaya also provides advanced yoga courses.

Meals served here are designed by a team of doctors and executed by professional chefs. You can opt for one of their attractive treatment packages (7N /min) to get the best benefits of the wellness programmes.


Welcome to Grand Hyatt Goa – Grander Than Ever

Culture, cuisine, festivity and a collection of unique experiences—Grand Hyatt Goa is about all this and more. A truly enchanting destination resort and spa, it is set along the calm waters of the Bambolim Bay; and is conveniently located between North and South Goa amidst lush green lawns.

Lavishly spread across 28 acres of tropical gardens and lush lawns that roll down to the water’s edge of the bay, Grand Hyatt Goa is a contemporary resort and spa built in the quintessential architectural style of a 17th century Indo-Portuguese palace.

Grand in scale and design, the resort is a destination spa with 19 treatment suites offering Thai, Balinese and Indian treatments and boasts of the largest banquet facilities in Goa.

The splendidly appointed rooms and suites in the resort blend spectacular water views with the grand elegance of Indo-Portuguese architecture and the warm hospitality of a traditional Goan residence offering you the perfect ambience to relax in the chill shores of Goa.

With a selection of seven restaurants and bars, an extensive spa, a versatile recreational menu, a sailing centre and casino, there is no dearth of the things you can do at Grand Hyatt. Begin the day with yoga and live music at the Lifestyle Studio, followed by activities like sailing, wall climbing, aqua zorbing, zoccer, archery, scuba diving, Zip-line, Flying Fox, Wild Web Rope Course and so much more.

There are plenty of family friendly activities and Camp Hyatt ensures children never run out of fun things to do under the supervision of our trained staff when staying at this resort.

With all the facilities that Grand Hyatt Goa has to offer, this exclusive property is the perfect backdrop for anyone to take a step back in time and indulge in endless luxury under the starry skies of Northern Goa.

Details:

Living the life of leisure on a grand scale is best experienced in one of Goa’s top hospitality establishments.

The Grand Hyatt Goa brings to the experience the full measure of its expertise in pampering guests—be it in the kind of rooms and in- facilities-and-service it provides, the food, the leisure activities, the fitness facilities—add to that a wonderful location—in this case— overlooking the Bambolim Bay, mid way between South and North Goa.

This luxury hotel features whitewashed walls, stuccowork details and modern amenities. The beautifully appointed rooms and suites open up on delicious bay views, urging you to linger a bit for some rejuvenating me time, before joining the world in the hotel’s public spaces.

Meals are a rare indulgence, with a range of delectable options, served with impeccable service in their select restaurants and bars.

The Shamana Spa tempts you to indulge in one of their signature body and face treatments; in fact they have spa packages on offer which provide a combination of massages, traditional body scrubs and facials— all prepared using fresh ingredients. An inviting pool and lush gardens round out the hotel’s offerings.


Montego Bay – Beach Village

Set in the picturesque environs of the serene Morjim Beach, overlooking the historic riverside Chapora Fort, Montego Bay Beach resort offers visitors some unique holiday experiences. Its beachside location is also famed for the annual nesting of the Olive Ridley turtles — giving the beach another name— Turtle Beach.

Not only the resort ideal for experiencing this phenomenal event, it’s also a great haven for birding enthusiast. Just 20 minutes away from Calangute and half an hour from Panjim, it’s the perfect base for exploring Goa’s iconic attractions and an ideal getaway resort for couples and families.

The choice of accommodation is great— there are log cabins, luxury tents, Casa de Mudanc’a, and a beach villa set on an expanse of 100,000 sq ft of beachfront cocooned in a coconut grove. Culinary indulgences are another adventure at Montego— Continental, Indian, Chinese, BBQ’s, Seafood and local Goan specialties.

Also have a yogic instructor for those interested in practicing yoga on the beach while staying. Ayurvedic massages and treatments are also provided to release body aches and pains. Sunday lunches here are accompanied by a live band.

This pet-friendly resort also arranges dolphin viewing and fishing trips. A sanctuary for the discerning traveller it is also a venue for creative weddings, theme birthday parties, corporate dinners and social gatherings.


Discover the New with Cosmos

For over 5 decades, Cosmos has been turning travel dreams into reality with over 100 vacations to destinations around the world. This year, choose to travel to those undiscovered destinations that will inspire you to experience the new.

Indulge yourself in a kaleidoscope of architectural delights on our tour of BEST OF THE BALTICS; visit the stunning coastlines at COAST & CITIES OF CROATIA; get blown away by the spectacular beauty of Iceland in ICELANDIC ADVENTURE; explore the most vibrant cities in the southern hemisphere in the BEST OF BRAZIL vacation; visit the captivating country of Cuba with its unique colors and culture in our tour of CUBA DISOVERY!

And for the value conscious travelers, Cosmos has also unveiled its collection of 9 great vacations under $1000 that include accommodation at smart hotels, touring by deluxe coaches, sightseeing with local guides, services of a professionally trained tour director, breakfast and some additional meals.

Globus provides a richer vacation experience with 4 star or higher category hotels and more included sightseeing; Monograms offers independent vacations without the hassles faced while traveling without a group. Avalon Water ways offers unrivaled river cruising in Europe, Asia, Amazon & the Galapagos Islands with a more intimate destination experience.


Royal Orchid – Brindavan Garden, Mysore

Set along the sacred Cauvery River the gorgeous Brindavan Gardens gives holidaymakers the perfect excuse to check into the nearby Royal Orchid Brindavan Gardens hotel.

Dawns of deep serenity and fragrant delight are just the enticements to rise early and savour these glorious environs to the fullest. Just a 30 minute drive out of Mysore city brings you to this haven which shares its delights with guests from both home and abroad.

The spanking new Laya Spa gives you even more reason to linger awhile just to cash in on its rejuvenating treatments and therapies. On offer are a wide range of therapies— Swedish, Japanese, Deep Tissue, Aroma therapy, Balinese massage, Shiatsu massage, Signature treatments etc.

In fact because of the won drous enticements of the Laya Spa there are guests who find the spa has packages so alluring they convert their holiday into the perfect spa break. Excursions ca be enjoyed to the nearby Ranganthittu bird sanctuary, a beautiful un crowded birding paradise.


New Niraamaya Retreats – Cardamom Club Thekkady

Its summertime and the living is easy as schools close for their long summer break and gives families the perfect opportunity to bond and indulge in leisurely pursuits, which can even take them to thrilling new destinations…or even old favourites.

The beginning of the long summer holidays is like a huge blank canvas…waiting for you to fill it with the colours of a fabulous treasure trove of brand new memories you are going to create for yourself.

Sometimes the journey is the destination in itself and sometimes the wondrous experiences of a destination can drive out the mundane and the boring with that one stroke of the brush with an exciting new place to explore and enjoy.

South India spoils the holidaymaker for choice with its fantastic range of beaches and high mountain grandeur… its serene lakeside retreats and its rejuvenating riverside resorts. As you travel deeper south you’ll be astonished by the richness and the variety of the natural beauty, the friendly people and the impeccably run hotels— all of which conspire to make your holiday a joyful adventure of fun and laughter.

Guests who have enjoyed the superb hospitality dispensed with a lavish hand at a Niraamaya resort (there are several spread across Kovalam and Thekkady) can now look forward to an even more enticing experience with the spanking new enhancements of their most popular boutique resort —New Niraamaya Retreats Cardamom Club, located in the biosphere environs of Thekkady in Kerala.

Part of the make over here is the welcome addition of the new guestrooms, which are built on stilts (kids will love these) to open up on even better views, from its great big picture windows, of its mountainous surrounds. Another allurement is the air-conditioning – a feature exclusive to only few properties in the region. Yes — there is wi-fi too.

And you’re sure to savour the pleasures of the new Niraamaya Spa, built on stilts and made from Bangkirai wood. Set upon an expanse of 1200 sq. ft., it’s equipped with Ayurveda and International therapy rooms with private outdoor sit-outs. Look forward to cocktails by the new infinity pool accessed from the Café Samsara.


Nomad’s Land – Ras Al Khaimah

Skyscrapers, man-made islands shaped like curvaceous palm trees and enough shopping and entertainment hubs to last you a lifetime…This is how I had visualised Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) when I heard about it. Dubai is like that, at least the photographs say so. But surprisingly, RAK, the northernmost emirate of the UAE, turned out to be a quaint emirate with just the right amount of modernity.

There are pristine beaches, undisturbed sand dunes, and under the golden desert sun lie memories of days before oil was struck and hints of Bedouin and Arabic cultures that haven’t been engulfed by the passage of time. And I spent four days in this little emirate, soaking in the breathtaking view from the Dhayah Fort, watching the landscape change colour every minute, and shaking as the bone-chilling wind at the Jebel Jais peak swirled around us.

The fort is inconspicuous, to say the least. We climbed the stairs as the sun set, and at each bend saw the surrounding hills being painted and repainted in a different blend of light and colour. We reached the top, and that’s when it hit us—Dhayah is in the middle of an oasis — a lush land settled in for the past five millenniums.

The British cannons did turn it into a ruin in 1819, but it was restored to become RAK’s only surviving hilltop fort. There’s also an inn with a shop below — my key purchases there included a strawberry-flavoured Fanta, the super-sweet far d variety of dates. and the very dry lulu variety.

Jebel Jais, the tallest peak in the UAE and a part of the Al-Hajar mountain range, is a different story. No lush vegetation, not a tree in sight. As our car drove up the hairpin bends, foggreeted us. Nothing seemed cheerful about the bone-dry bronze-hued surrounding mountains. Here, unlike Dhayah, colour seemed to gradually fade away. Yet, the top was unconventionally beautiful — even panoramic.

With a rich and varied terrain, RAK does manage to offer an experience to remember. And it has started focussing on attracting tourists in a big way quite recently. So, there is a golf resort, a water park and even a man-made archipelago. And the emirate has incorporated its ethnic Arabic and Bedouin cultures into most of its attractions.

Our road trip to RAK had begun from the Dubai International Airport. After about an hour and a half, we had arrived at a place where the roads were relatively empty, the shops spread out and the crowd limited. We had reached Ras Al Khaimah — about the size of India’s National Capital Region, but with only one-eighth of the population.

Getting off the main highway, we found a sprawling structure surrounded by hills in the backdrop, an ocean in the front and a garden all around — Waldorf Astoria.

The Waldorf Astoria is a, well, Waldorf Astoria, which means unmistakable grandeur and breathtaking opulence, but with a local touch. The hotel’s facade resembled a desert castle. There was the spacious teal and cream-themed lobby and a grand clock designed to reflect the hours of Islamic prayer.

The decor was a reflection of the region we were in. There were Arabic-themed paintings such as Kufic Arabic calligraphy next to the Qasr Al Bahar restaurant and the signature Peacock Alley lounge had Arabic-style seating.

The rooms, once again cream and teal-themed, but with elaborate glass chandeliers and patterned carpets, were comfortable. At the Waldorf, we spent a lot of time walking on the beach and hijacking the most secluded of the myriad cabanas.

It has nine restaurants, including the beach facing Qasr Al Bahar, where we had breakfast. The decor at Marjan was contemporary and on our plates were Middle-Eastern delicacies. Azure was the Mediterranean restaurant, mostly al fresco.

We also stayed at the Hilton Al Hamra Beach & Golf Resort which provided access to an 18-hole golf course and offered some lovely villas and suites. The velvet-themed lobby lounge and restaurants such as Al Jazeera (for Lebanese) and Samakmak (for seafood) had a contemporary look and feel.

We also visited the Cove Rotana Resort which had dozens of villas built on a hill overlooking the sea, each with a view more breathtaking than the last and connected with beautiful flower-encased alleyways. How I wished we had stayed there too.

Different hotels, different restaurants and different delicacies, I just couldn’t assimilate enough. There are some unforgettables though — the mixed grill “Arabesque” (many kinds of marinated meats and kebabs with saffron rice) at Waldorf’s Azure was mouthwatering, while their Middle-Eastern restaurant Marjan offered some flavourful cold mezzeh (with hummus in four flavours including blackberry) and hot mezzeh (batatabil kizbara and sautéed chicken liver).

I also enjoyed the breakfast at Waldorf Astoria’s Qasr Al Bahar, where meats such as turkey and gazelle tasted best with the many kinds of cheese—the Syrian paralysis cheese, the Levantine Shanklish cheese and the yogurt cheese, Labneh, to name a few.

At the standalone Emirati restaurant Al Fanar, among RAK’s authentic culinary experiences, we had some amazing Saloona Laham Badaweyah (mutton stew with potato, tomato and dry lemon).

Besides good food, you also find adventure in RAK. A local came to pick us up in a Land Rover, which he also happened to own, and drove us to the edge of the desert. He stopped the vehicle and got off to lower the tyre pressure. Soon enough, we knew what this was about—it was dune-bashing time.

We found ourselves ascending, descending, bouncing, flailing, swerving, zigzagging and seemingly defying gravity across the dunes. Eventually, and without injury, we arrived at the Bedouin Oasis camp.

It replicated the life once led by the nomadic Arab Bedouin tribes but catered to the needs of current times. A stone walkway surrounded by luxurious tents, camel ride and quad biking facilities and a central courtyard area filled with souvenir shops, a shisha smoking tent, henna painters, sand artists and rows of Bedouin-style seating.

And then we were treated to a round of tanoura dance, or sufi whirling. The performer, Mahmoud, whirled, decked with a couple of skirts decorated in LED lights. I got dizzy just looking at him swerve and rotate for minutes on end, as the light formed amazing patterns.

But my favourite attraction at RAK was the Al Wadi Equestrian Adventure Centre. The centre is located among the dunes, but has some exhibits and stables where you can pet a variety of animals.

But more than that, it was meeting the bubbly stable manager, Yasmin Sayyed, that enthused me. She introduced us to her rams, Mr. Me and Mr. Me Me. Whether they were camels, horses, ducks or even the ferocious ibex, Yasmin was their friend.

There were contemporary attractions too — Ice Land Water Park boasted of dozens of ride. Al Marjan is RAK’s own group of artificial islands, much like Dubai’s Palm Islands. It is currently in the midst of many real estate, hospitality and development projects.

And then there was shopping, that too pocket friendly. One market that suited us to perfection was RAK’s traditional bazaar, the Old Souq. Among the three of us, we purchased Turkish coffee, Arabic coffee, date chocolates, dried lemons and an assortment of unpronounceable local spices. Altogether, we had not spent more than AED 50. Nothing beats the pleasure of shopping which is light on your pocket and easy to carry back home.

 Time Travel

The New York Times aptly labelled Ras Al Khaimah as the emirate with ‘history, not oil’. And we got our chunk of history at Jazirat Al Hamra—the last of its dwellers abandoned the fishing village in 1968. It has remained uninhabited and untouched ever since.

This withering-away relic may have outlived its initial purpose of being a pearl fishing centre, but now serves a fresh one—a fossil depicting pre-oil life.

The Arabian Peninsula, scorched by the desert sun that made life difficult and agriculture bleak, had its coastline come to the rescue. So, pearl diving and fishing became some of the primary occupations and RAK, with its 64km of coast and islands, was a hotbed. But then oil was found in the early 20th century and by 1968, almost every traditional source of revenue was forgotten.

Earlier, the village was mostly inhabited by the Zaab tribe, which fought alongside the Qawasim tribe (from where today’s ruling family of RAK originates) in resisting the British colonisers.

But that’s only recent history—there’s evidence that shows RAK being home to the Umm al-Nar culture of the third millennia BC, depicted through ancient tombs. The RAK National Museum is the place to see more evidences of this.

Local Knowledge

  • Right next to the Waldorf Astoria, you have the Al Hamra Mall. While we were gawking at the immense discounts, we heard some thumping music. Following the beats, we found two rows of Arabs facing each other and performing a certain ‘dance’.
    Everyone had a stick in one hand. They hopped around nonchalantly, and one or two would often break the formation and give the stick a spin. The ayala is performed with so much calm; one might think the dancers are lazy.
  • The Bedouin Oasis Camp is where you find sand art in a bottle. Sand coloured in many shades is put into a bottle to create an intricately detailed painting — often of a camel in the evening desert.
  • The emirates are known for their flavourful shishas. But lesser known is the dokha tobacco and the medwakh smoking pipe. The former is a traditional Arabic tobacco with a history of over 500 years. A small bottle costs anything between AED 10 to AED 20. The pipe is a slim filter-pipe mostly made of wood and costs about AED 18 to AED 20.
  • In the more commercial area of Ras Al Khaimah, we found a dessert parlour called Ashuk Ice Cream. The mango and strawberry Ice (AED 12), had fresh fruits and nuts. The Ashuk Ice Cream, their speciality, is worth a scoop or two as well.

Beyond Good – Philippines

Manila is not the most prepossessing of tourist destinations—on the face of it. The city is a hodgepodge of neon glass and steel towers that peer over older quarters and barrios; of stifling traffic that make the snarls of Delhi or Bangkok look like a Sunday morning drive; and hordes of fun-loving Manileňos thronging those crowded roads.

On a previous trip to Manila, I experienced the city’s vibrant contemporary art scene and live music, partied at its many karaoke dives and speakeasies and indulged in the favourite Pinoy pastime—shopping. So, when I revisited the city recently, I figured I was duty-bound to delve deeper into its history.

American and Japanese bombs flattened most of Manila’s prewar neighbourhoods and Spanish colonial buildings during World War II. Only Intramuros, Manila’s oldest district, by and large withstood wars, fires and natural disasters. The Spanish built the 64-hectare walled city in 1571. A stroll through the leafy cobblestone boulevards is a lesson in the city’s history.

My first stop inside the walled city was Fort Santiago. Once a seat of Spanish colonial power, today the fort is a memorial to Dr Jose Rizal, the father of Philippines’ independence from Spain. He was imprisoned in the fort before his execution in 1896. It was sobering to walk along brass footprints in the pavement that mark Rizal’s final steps to the firing squad.

The beautifully maintained gardens and plaza of the fort are at odds with centuries of horror. “During the brief period that the Japanese occupied Manila, thousands died in the prisons here. There were only two options for getting out of these prisons — either you died of disease and starvation or you drowned to death,” my guide for the afternoon, Boyet Sayo, said, pointing at the dungeons under the fort that Japanese jailers would flood with waters from the Pasig river.

A short horse-drawn kalesa ride away are two Spanish churches that survived the depredations of time. The Manila Cathedral is the eighth avatar of Manila’s first cathedral that was first built with bamboo and palm leaves in 1581.

Destroyed variously by typhoons, fires, bombings and earthquakes over the centuries, its present Romanesque facade was built in the 1950s. Just around the corner from the Cathedral is the San Agustin Church. The baroque building is the only one in Intramuros to have survived the Battle of Manila at the end of World War II. Inside is a beautiful collection of centuries-old hand-carved wooden saints.

I love big cities and big city Manila most certainly is. It’s afrantic metropolis where the native Filipino heritage is mixed with substantial dollops of American, Chinese and Spanish cultures.

Like many capital cities, Manila bears little resemblance to the rest of the country. In the interests offurthering my understanding of the country, I took aflight south of the city to experience three different Pinoy destinations, each offering something different.

“It smells like hell but tastes like heaven,” is how my guide Sherwin described durian, SoutheastAsia’s favourite fruit. He quickly recommended that I don plastic gloves before I ate apiece of the thick, custardy, off-white flesh of the fruit. Apparently, all the perfumes of Arabia couldn’t make my hand smell better if I touched durian without gloves.

Singapore might have a durian- shaped building but few places in the world love the stinky fruit as much as Davao. Now that I’ve tasted the ‘King of Fruits’, I am happy to have ticked it off my list and hope that I never have to do so again. Much like the other Pinoyfavourite, balut—the 17-day-old duck embryo that is boiled, served with rock salt or spicy vinegar and eaten often with beer.

But Pinoy cuisine is more than just potent smells and flavours. It might not be as famous as its Thai or Vietnamese neighbours but the Philippines is home to one ofAsia’s most inimitable cuisines. Another true melting pot, Filipino food takes elements of Chinese and Malaysian cuisines and mixes in massive dollops of Spanish flavours.

An excellent place in Davao to get a taste of what the locals eat is Thrunks Place, a basic roadside stall. It also happens to be a favourite of the current president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte.

“He comes here on weekends when he is in town,” said the owner, Ermelita Garcia Castanieto, while dishing out portions of the president’s favourite foods — pork rib soup with taro, pinakbet (mixed vegetables in fish or shrimp sauce), pancit (noodles), gizzard and pork adobo and mongo with pata (mungbeans with pork leg). “This tastes like home food,” Sherwin declared to a beaming Ermelita.

The Pinoy love their meats and vegetarians will be hard-pressed to find dishes without meat or fish in some form. But if you eat pork, the Philippines is an excellent place be. Adobo (tender pork belly braised in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and oil), lechon (whole pig stuffed with herbs and vegetables and roasted), sizzling pork sisig (tiny pieces of pig’s head and gizzards boiled, then grilled or barbecued) or chicharon (deep fried pork skin) all go down well with bottles of chilled San Miguel, the country’s favourite beer. It is entirely possible that I ate a whole pig by myself during my seven days in the country.

Endless powdery-white beaches, happiest happy hours, hotels to suit all budgets and every imaginable watersport—Boracay is a party island. In just a few years, the island has made a giant leap from low-key tropical paradise to Southeast Asia’s newest hotspot.

It’s now a fixture on numerous ‘Best Beaches in the World’ lists.

The four-kilometre stretch of White Beach is the island’s most popular tourist haunt White Beach is home to beachfront resorts, spas and bars and is the perfect spot to enjoy Boracay’s spectacular sunsets. During the day, the beach is welcoming to everyone from beach bums to adventurers.

But a trip to Boracay would be wasted without partaking in any water activities. From jet skis to helmet diving, and the more laidback sundowner cruise in a traditional paraw—if a watersport exists, chances are you’ll find it in Boracay.

For me, a perfect day in Boracay started with aquatic adventures and ended at a bar. During the first half of my day on the island, I soared over the high-definition azure hanging off a parasail, ploughed through the surf on a speedboat and watched shoals of multicoloured fish through the porthole of a yellow submarine.

Back on land, I headed straight to the spa at The Lind for hilot, the traditional Pinoy massage. After along and much-needed R&R session, I stepped back on the beach just as the sun started its daily descent.

As the cabanas and white deck chairs are thrust into a rose-tinted world, the beach comes alive with candle-lit sand castles, cosy restaurants and lively bars. What’s under the water around Boracay is matched by what its nightlife offers. Bars open until dawn, fire-eating shows, karaoke singalongs and dancing chefs—Boracay has it all and then some!

The southern island of Mindanao is home to the largest number of indigenous ethnic groups in the Philippines. Commonly known as lumad (native), tribes such as the Sama, Subanen, Tenduray and T’Boli are distributed all over the island.

The university town of Cagayan de Oro (oro refers to the gold the Spanish discovered in the river here) is a great place to understand the people and culture of not just the island of Mindanao but of the whole country.

Museo de Oro, at Xavier University, is the first folklore museum in the country. The museum marks the cultural evolution of the region over centuries. Exhibits range from prehistoric fossils, folklores of the various tribes, stories of colonisation by the Spanish and the Americans to bottles of Pepsi and even a BlackBerry phone from the post-colonial period.

The third, and comparatively newer and smaller section, houses memorabilia donated by the museum’s founder, Fr. Francisco R Demetrio SJ. Look out for the rare copy of the menu from the dinner hosted by the Philippines’ first president Emilio Aguinaldo on September 29, 1898 to mark the ratification of the Declaration of Independence.

After spending a few hours at the museum, I headed out of Cagayan de Oro to the Malasag Eco-Tourism Village. A living museum of sorts, Malasag is also avenue to showcase dances and craft of various tribes that live there.

I was welcomed by troupes of dancers from different tribes before being quickly ushered into their makeshift craft shop to buy beaded jewellery and capuchin skull decorated with coloured glass. It did feel like a Disneyfied introduction to these ethnic tribes but Malasag is worth a visit, if for nothing else then the spectacular views of the city and the Macajalar Bay.