Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tips and Reminders for your Balesin Trip (Villas, Food, Transportation, Airport, Activities, Etc)

Your Balesin trip is near! Are you planning to do some sports? fun in the sun? or simply jetset via golf cart to different famous cities like St Tropez or Toscana? It doesn’t matter whether or not this is your first or tenth trip to Balesin. We’ve compiled some tips to make the most out of your stay there to make sure you don’t forget anything OR you do not over bring stuff you might not need at all.

Airport / Hangar
They recommend that you arrive one hour before your scheduled flight. You will go to the Alphaland Hangar and not in any of NAIAs terminals. Upon arrival at the hangar, you will state your name(s) and leave your luggages upfront. The next time you'll see your luggages will already be inside your villa in Balesin. Upon entering the lounge, you'll need to present an ID and sign up some forms and you can sit back and relax while waiting for your flight.

Snack are provided in the hangar -- crackers, bread, coffee, cookies, and some cakes. The lounge has a relaxing atmosphere but when it gets crowded, you might be stressed out not being able to find a place to seat. The most people I've seen in the hangar would be last Holyweek 2015 where we were 80 in the flight. I believe that it is not yet that crowded that time because a lot of guests cancelled their Balesin plans because of an upcoming typhoon which never came, by the way.

If you are a breastfeeding/ pumping mom, there's no pumping room in the lounge. You can either occupy the corner most area of the lounge (which my wife did) or just pump in the washroom. Outlets are also available in the lounge for your pump or charge your laptop while waiting for your flight. WiFi is also provided.

Your plane would depend on the number of passengers booked on that flight. We've tried flying on a plane as small as 9-seater to as big is 80 seater. The smaller the plane, the noisier it can be because their small planes are the propeller types so bring noise cancelling headphones for increased comfort. You won't have seat numbers -- first to go in the plane gets to choose the seats first. Upon boarding time, your names will again be called one by one to double check on their list. Flying time is just usually 20-25 minutes but upon boarding, take off time will depend on the air traffic. Also, based on previous experiences, our flight schedule is usually confirmed a day or two before the flight. On our Holyweek 2015 trip, our 12nn flight was confirmed 8pm the night before.

Balesin Island
Upon arrival, welcome drinks would be waiting for you at the arrival area. First-timers would be then asked to listen to a quick and informative briefing about the island. Check-in would be at the VERY nearby Balesin Island Clubhouse. You can either walk or ride one of their modes of transport -- van, jeep, golf cart. Upon checking-in, your room key cards will be given to you and you're free to do whatever you want.

My recommendation upon arrival would be:
> To book a tour of the island if you are a first-timer
> Check out the activities available and sign-up before heading to your villa as some activities tend to be fully booked on peak season. Spa is one of them as they have limited spa rooms. I'm also blogging about all the activities available in Balesin Island in a separate post.

Modes of transportation around the island
You have several options to choose from. When the island was just newly operating, there were only jeeps and battery operated golf carts. The golf carts caused some #FirstWorldProblems because the battery takes a long time to charge and it discharges quickly when used. One time, we were stuck near the Balesin Spa area at around 9-10pm with only the moon as our light because the battery in our golf cart died. That is now a problem of the past. Golf carts are now gas powered and they added vans as a mode of transport during peak season.

On peak seasons like Christmas, Holyweek, and other holidays, they hire extra help from the Quezon island nearby. Most of them are restaurant wait staffs (the one that probably served Maggie Wilson), and drivers. As I was talking to the driver, he said that the island uses the vans to help lessen the waiting time during peak season. Vans are usually available only during 8am to 10 or 11pm at night (my estimate) during peak season.

You can also rent your own golf cart which you can drive around the island at your convenience. You can also rent bikes as a mode of transport but is more for recreation as it can only carry a person. People reserve their own golf carts to eliminate waiting time when calling for a ride.

Waiting time usually varies. During peak times of the day which are lunch and dinner where everyone is trying to get a ride to transport them to their village of choice for a meal, waiting time can be as long as 20-30minutes.  Reserving a ride in advance also doesn't work well because I tried doing that several times and when the time came, the ride was still not there so I had to call a ride and wait. To call for a ride, simply lift up the intercom phone in your room and an operator will be assisting you whatever your request may be.

Which Village to Stay in Balesin?
If you are a first-timer, I highly recommend that you stay in Bali or Phuket. Those 2 are identical to each other in terms of layout and just differ on design and motif. You'll love the privacy provided in these villas as you have to walk a certain (short) distance going from one room to the other. Unlike in hotel type rooms such as St Tropez, Costa Del Sol, Toscana, where the next room is just a few steps away. Bali and Phuket are literally standalone villas. Mykonos is somewhat standalone too but the white walls might not be the best sight to see for migraines sufferers.

Mykonos (2nd level outdoor), Bali (Outdoor by the porch), and Phuket (Indoor) has private jacuzzis while others either have none or I may have not seen it yet. Please do contribute by commenting on the comment section at the bottom of this post.

The Royal Villa is the grandest villa of them all having 14 rooms which can more or less fit around 56 pax. It is said to house its own restaurant but only occupants of the Royal Villa can dine there. It's rooms are also hotel-type but might be bigger compared to other hotel-type rooms in the island. You can either rent out the entire Royal Villa at 250,000 per night or a suite for 20,000 per room per night. In case you want to stay in the Royal Villa, a minimum of 5 rooms should be rented out to be available for use.

Inside the Room / Villa
If you ask me, pretty much everything you might need is provided already and more. Forget your 3-in-1 coffee. A CBTL coffee machine is provided for your benefit and they also provide the coffee capsules. If you plan to pull an all-nighter, just request for more coffee capsules and they’d be glad to bring you over more! You can also use that coffee machine to boil water. Just not put any capsules and you're good to go. Balesin Island water is also potable but they do provide each room with bottled water.

Towels are generously provided like any other 5-star resort. Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap bars are too, as well as vanity kit, sanitary bag, shaving kit, shower cap and dental care set. What I did not find was a bubble bath bottle. Am I asking too much? Well, depending on what villa you are in, you have a private jacuzzi and maybe you can just use the shampoo as a substitute. No need to bring your own iron as it is already provided with ironing board. Rubber slippers and in-room slippers are also provided. There's also a flashlight but I suggest that you bring your own as well.

Entertainment-wise, leave your portable speakers at home. Each room has a speaker with iPod dock (old iPod connector) and it also has AUX-in with AUX wire. Want to watch some TV? Each room is also equipped with a Cignal HD cable with FM radio, DVD player with mic-in and a flat screen TV.

If you plan to bring your baby, they can provide you with a crib, baby bath tub, sterilizer, bottle warmer for a small fee of P500 a day. Take note though that the crib might not be that clean so make sure to bring your own cover and pillows for the baby.

It's sad though that you can already see some wear and tear inside the room but you can't blame them because that's part of the island life! Salty sea water contributes a lot to that but nevertheless, everything is still maintained the way you expect a 5-star resort should be.

(If you want to see the different rooms/villas per village, check out the bottom of this post)

Things to bring for activities
Don't forget to bring your jogging shoes or comfortable walking shoes. It's nice to jog/walk around the island. Also bring swimming gear as each village has their own pool. The best pool for me is in Balesin Village. If you want a semi-covered pool, go to Mykonos. To do wall climbing and other sports, proper attire is needed. Same with restaurants, you must follow proper decorum.

Since there is no room service (food), you can bring your own snacks and drinks but will be charged corkage if you bring the drinks into restaurants. It is also said that there are lots of unique birds on the island as they have only touched less than 10% of the entire island.

List of things to bring (Summary):
- Swimming Gear
- Jogging / Running / Walking gear
- Proper sports Wear for your preferred sports (You cannot wear slippers when wall climbing etc)
- Snack and drinks
- Sunblock and mosquito repellant (not as needed compared a few years back)
- Noise-cancelling earphones for added comfort (In case you will ride the propeller type plane)
- 2-way radio for communication

For weather advisories, not to worry. If the island is expecting a typhoon, you'll be updated daily, either via in-room pamphlets or given during lunch or dinner. On our recent trip, we were already informed prior to departure from Manila that in case we will only fly out of the island if it is safe. You will be granted FREE extended stay if needed. You can also fly out prior to the expected hit, again, provided if it is safe to fly.

WiFi is provided in all the village clubhouses for free. Both networks have signal in the island now compared to before where only Smart has signal. We also brought our own 2-way radios for easier communication but the lush forest somewhat makes transmitting and receiving signals harder.

Upon arrival in Manila
Once landed and disembarked, you will go through the same lounge you were in and luggage collection will be right outside the lounge where you first dropped off your luggage. No overnight parking allowed on the hangar as the parking is only for departing/ arriving passengers (short time parking only).

Lastly, bring a heart that cares for the environment because even as a guest, you need to be responsible in preserving the island (not to throw litter around etc). Also, don't forget to enjoy and relax as this is one of the best islands to be in the Philippines (among others like El Nido, Aman Pulo etc)

If you want to add any tips, feel free to comment below and I'll gladly add your contribution in this post.

Other related Balesin articles:
Mykonos Village
Phuket Village
St. Tropez Village
Costa Del Sol Village
Balesin Village: Clubhouse
Bali Village
Balesin Spa & Sports Center
Introduction to Balesin

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