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Scuba Diving in the island nation of Palau

February 29th, 2016 No comments

Matt and I got certified for scuba diving at the beginning of August. We had originally planned a trip to go to the island nation of Palau in November during the APEC conference (Tue-Wed-Thu were declared non-working days by the city of Manila to accommodate the conference).

However, due to the fact that several national Heads of State were arriving in Manila, our flight was cancelled. We knew that we were repatriating back to the states at the beginning of January, so we had a very small window to be able to make this trip happen. Flights to Palau from Manila are only a couple of times a week. So we rescheduled for the last Tuesday in December, leaving around midnight and returned home Friday evening (New Years Day).

We had six dives and saw first hand what has made Palau famous as a world-class diving destination. We also felt like we were still in a part of the Philippines since there are so many Filipinos that work there. It is a slow pace of living there (island style), but that was a nice change and a relaxing time just before the craziness of moving started for us.

Day 1

After getting only six hours of sleep, we were on the dive boat with about a dozen other divers. A dive boat is full of dive tanks and gear. The people were really nice, friendly and helpful as well.

After getting only six hours of sleep, we were on the dive boat with about ten other divers. A dive boat is full of dive tanks and gear. All of the divers and boatmen were really nice, friendly and helpful as well.

Siaes Corner was our first dive site. I had problems with my mask fogging up, but Matt said that this was the best diving ever. Lots of fish and coral.

Siaes Corner was our first dive site. I had problems with my mask fogging up, but Matt said that this was the best diving ever. Lots of fish and coral.

We hooked in and watched the marine life for a time at Siaes Corner.

We hooked in and watched the marine life for a time at Siaes Corner.

So many sharks were here. This trip exceeded expectations on the first dive.

So many sharks were here. Six are easily visible in this photo, but there were more. This trip exceeded expectations on the first dive.

Siaes Tunnel was our second dive.

Siaes Tunnel was our second dive. Can you see the shark?

Outside of the tunnel we saw a bunch of other marine life.

Outside of the tunnel we saw a bunch of other marine life.

We found this turtle who looked like he was trying to hide.

We found this turtle who looked like he was trying to hide.

Third dive of the day was at Chandelier Cave. No marine life, but cool stalactites.

Third dive of the day was at Chandelier Cave. No marine life, but cool stalactites.

Our couple photo inside Chandelier Cave

Our couple photo inside Chandelier Cave

Day 2

First dive of the day was to German Channel. We were lucky enough to see this manta ray that was near the surface while we were below.

First dive of the day was to German Channel. We were lucky enough to see this manta ray that was near the surface while we were below.

This shark was not scared of us as long as we kept our distance.

This shark was not scared of us as long as we kept our distance.

We didn't know why there were sucker fish on the sand until we realized that there was a stingray buried there as well.

We didn’t know why there were sucker fish on the sand until we realized that there was a stingray buried there as well.

Second dive of the day was to Blue Corner. We hooked in and watched the sharks and other fish swim around.

Second dive of the day was to Blue Corner. We hooked in and watched the sharks and other fish swim around.

We went to another area and hooked in and watched more marine life.

We went to another area and hooked in and watched more marine life.

As we were making our safety stop we saw this huge school of barracudas.

As we were making our safety stop we saw this huge school of barracudas.

Our last dive was at Helmet Wreck. This was our first wreck dive and it was pretty cool to see a ship from World War II.

Our last dive was at Helmet Wreck. This was our first wreck dive and it was pretty cool to see a ship from World War II.

On wreck dives you need to be careful not to kick up the silk/sand that has settled on the wreck or else you can't see anything.

On wreck dives you need to be careful not to kick up the silk/sand that has settled on the wreck or else you can’t see anything.

Items from World War II

Bottles from World War II

Day 3

Since we were flying out later this day, we couldn't dive. Instead we did an island tour and saw these sting-less jellyfish.

Since we were flying out later this day, we couldn’t dive. Instead we did an island tour and saw these stingless jellyfish in a land-locked saltwater lagoon.

It took us about 10 minutes to swim over to the area that they jellies were at, but it was pretty amazing once we got there.

It took us about 10 minutes to swim over to the area that they jellies were at, but it was pretty amazing once we got there.

Matt decided to do a dance with the jellies.

Matt decided to do a dance with the jellies.

Our next stop was to see some giant clams.

Our next stop was to see some giant clams.

Once that you touch the clams, they close up quickly.

Once that you touch the clams, they close up quickly.

Our last stop on the boat was to a place called "The Milky Way". The water is a gorgeous milky blue color because of the limestone sediment that has settled on the floor of the water cove.

Our last stop on the boat was to a place called “The Milky Way”. The water is a gorgeous milky blue color because of the limestone sediment that has settled on the floor of the water cove.

The milky sediment that was on the bottom of the cove floor.

The milky sediment that was on the bottom of the cove floor.

A natural sunscreen and moisturizer that makes you look like a swamp monster.

A natural sunscreen and moisturizer that makes you look like a swamp monster.

After lunch we went to the Eco Theme Park.

After lunch we went to the Eco Theme Park.

We saw people riding a monorail that didn't go very fast, but they didn't have to walk uphill either.

We saw people riding a monorail that didn’t go very fast, but they didn’t have to walk uphill either.

The main reason why we came here was to see the waterfall.

The main reason we did the hike was to see the waterfall.

Our driver turned into our tour guide and took us to see a Palau Bai home. These homes were used like a city hall to discuss all matters for the villagers.

Our driver turned into our tour guide and took us to see a Palau Bai home. These homes were used like a city hall to discuss all matters for the villagers.

We saw some World War II machinery that is still laying around the island.

We saw some World War II machinery that is still laying around the island.

A Japanese bomb from WWII.

A Japanese bomb from WWII.

We were looking for souviner items to take home on New Year's Day and many shops were closed. Our driver/tour guide took us to the jail to check out their gift shop.

We were looking for souviner items to take home on New Year’s Day and many shops were closed. Our driver/tour guide took us to the jail to check out their gift shop.

 

Palau is beautiful with hundreds of these small islands in the middle of the ocean.

Palau is beautiful with hundreds of these small islands in the middle of the ocean.

One day we were able to have lunch on the boat in this area that was secluded and peaceful.

One day we were able to have lunch on the boat in this area that was secluded and peaceful.

On our way back from a dive our boatman took us over by the famous Rock Arch of Palau.

On our way back from a dive our boatman took us over by the famous Rock Arch of Palau.

We had a great time doing six dives together and creating wonderful memories.

We had a great time doing six dives, seeing another beautiful country, and creating wonderful memories together.

More photo of Palau here.

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Bohol Island Get-a-Way at Eskaya Resort

February 27th, 2016 No comments

In October we had a date night to attend the American Women’s Club of the Philippines annual Hoedown. There we won a free two-night stay at the resort Eskaya. Since we knew that we were relocating the beginning of January, we only had one weekend when we could use this vacation. Our kids skipped the last day of school, which was just a half day, so we could catch a flight to head to the island of Bohol and use our voucher at the resort. The shuttle ride from the airport was about 20 minutes and the resort was nice. Each villa had it’s own private pool, plus the main pool and the beach front. This was the third time that we were at Bohol, so we didn’t do the normal tourist sight-seeing things. Instead we hung out at the resort one day and went scuba diving the second day. On the third day we went to Church and then flew home. We don’t have many photos of this vacation since we were using our GoPro…and on our last dive the GoPro broke off the stick and fell to the bottom of the ocean. Good times.

Boarding the plane looked like this since they had the AirCon blasting, but it was hot and humid outside.

Boarding the plane looked like this since they had the AirCon blasting, but it was hot and humid outside.

Getting ready to land in Bohol.

Getting ready to land in Bohol.

Eskaya Resort is on Panglao island of Bohol.

Eskaya Resort is on Panglao island of Bohol.

Blake liked the golf carts that we came across often and had to sit in them and "drive" for a while.

Blake liked the golf carts that we came across often and had to sit in them and “drive” for a while.

The main pool at Eskaya had a kiddie pool in front of the main pool. Basically our family was the only one using it during our stay.

The main pool at Eskaya had a kiddie pool in front of the main pool. Basically our family was the only one using it during our stay.

Our private pool that was just outside of our villa.

If we didn’t want to be in the main pool, we could use our private pool that was just outside of our villa.

Mosquitos were a problem at the resort. We all slept under mosquito nets and the resort burned mosquito coils for all of the villas.

Mosquitos were a problem at the resort. We all slept under mosquito nets and the resort burned mosquito coils for all of the villas.

Before leaving the island, we found a local LDS church and attended their sacrament meeting, which happened to be the Children's Primary Program, which was fantastic.

Before leaving the island, we found a local LDS church and attended their sacrament meeting, which happened to be the Children’s Primary Program, which was fantastic.

Dubai

December 1st, 2015 No comments

After spending two solid days in Abu Dhabi with our friends Kym and Will, we drove the 90 minutes or so to see our other friends in Dubai for three and a half days. We first met Carey and her family at church in the Philippines where they lived near us for a year and we became fast friends. Our kids were very excited to visit with them again and play with their toys and dog. Carey acted as our tour guide and babysitter when we needed one. It was wonderful to be able to reminisce about friends and the Philippines with their family. After spending a week in the UAE during the cool season I would be willing to move there.

Most of the ride from Abu Dhabi to Dubai looked like this...a lot of nothing but sand. After living in a concrete jungle for three years, I think this view is beautiful.

Most of the ride from Abu Dhabi to Dubai looked like this…a lot of nothing but sand. After living in a concrete jungle for three years, I think this view is beautiful.

Sometimes we came across these air conditioned bus stops.

Sometimes we came across these air conditioned bus stops.

Filling up your car in the UAE is time consuming. Since there aren't a lot of gas stations in the country, you wait in long lines to fill up your car.

Getting gas in the UAE is time consuming. Since there aren’t a lot of gas stations in the country, you wait in long lines to fill up your car.

We made it to our friend's home and it was great to to see them again and the kids couldn't wait for their kids to get home from school.

We made it to our friend’s home and it was great to to see them again and our kids couldn’t wait for their kids to get home from school.

We left the kids with our friends and Matt and I had another date night at the Mall of the Emirates. Matt tried snow boarding, and I watched the penguin show sinec I have only tried skiing once in the fourth grade and that wasn't a fun experience.

Our first evening in Dubai, we left the kids with our friends and Matt and I had another date night. This time at the Mall of the Emirates. Matt tried snow boarding at Ski Dubai, and I watched the penguin show since I have only tried skiing once in the fourth grade and that wasn’t a fun experience.

We had a delicious dinner at ? where we were also able to watch people who were at "Ski Dubai"

We had a delicious dinner at Karam Beirut where we were also able to watch people on the slopes at Ski Dubai.

Day 1

Our tour guide, Carey, had us walking a lot on our first morning.

Our friend and tour guide, Carey, had us walking a lot on our first morning.

Culture breakfast. We ate the traditional food that Emerati families would eat and then we were able to ask any question to our hosts about the country, culture, or anything else on our mind. Yummy food, very informative and fun.

First stop was to Al Bastakiya area to attend a culture breakfast at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. We ate the traditional food that Emerati families would eat and then we were able to ask any question to our hosts about their country, culture, or anything else on our mind. Yummy food, very informative and fun.

We walked to the water taxi area to rode the boat for a short ride to cross the water so we could see some souvenir shops.

We walked to the water taxi area and rode the boat for a short ride to cross the Dubai creek so we could see some spice souk & gold souk.

GOLD ring that is big enough for a giant!

GOLD ring that is big enough for a giant!

While the older kids stayed home to play with their friends and toys, Blake joined Matt & I at the Dubai Mall where we took him to his first aquarium.

While the older kids stayed home to play with their friends and toys, Blake joined Matt & I at the Dubai Mall where we took him to his first aquarium.

Blake wasn't sure about this glass flooring where there were large fish (maybe some sharks) underneath.

Blake wasn’t sure about this glass flooring where there were large fish (maybe some sharks) underneath. He was too scared to walk over the clear areas.

While waiting to watch the Dubai Mall fountain show, Blake was making friends.

While waiting to watch the Dubai Mall fountain show, Blake was making friends.

Duabi Mall fountain show is only about 7 minutes, but was fun to watch and to see Blake enjoy the lights, music and water.

Duabi Mall fountain show is only about three minutes, but was fun to watch and to see Blake enjoy the lights, music and water.

Night view of the Burj Kalifa after the water show.

Night view of the Burj Khalifa after the water show. We actually watched the water show twice before heading home.

Day 2

Our friends got us 9am tickets to go up the tallest building in the world, The Burj Kalifa.

Our friends got us 9am tickets to go up the tallest building in the world, The Burj Khalifa.

You don't actually go all the way to the top of the building, but still at 452 meters, we made the records books.

You don’t actually go all the way to the top of the building, but still at 452 meters (494 yards), we made the records books.

Our kids looking out at Dubai from the Burj Kalifa

Our kids looking out at Dubai from the Burj Khalifa

If the Burj Khalifa had a voice, this what it would say.

If the Burj Khalifa had a voice, this what it would say.

We had time to spare in the afternoon, so we went to the "Atlantis" hotel and walked around their aquarium.

We had time to spare in the afternoon, so we went to the “Atlantis The Palm” hotel and walked around their Lost Chambers Aquarium.

In the late afternoon we got picked up in a 4-runner and headed out to the desert to experience a desert safari. Blake stayed home with our friends for the evening since he was too young.

In the late afternoon we got picked up in a four-runner and headed out to the desert to experience a desert safari. Blake stayed home with our friends for the evening since he was too young.

There were so many cars there to do "dune bashing." It is like a roller coaster ride in the car and air is let out of the tires for this experience.

There were so many cars there to do “dune bashing.” It is like a roller coaster ride in the car.

We stopped and watched the sunset during our time of dune bashing.

We stopped and watched the sunset during our time of dune bashing.

We arrived at the "Arabian Nights Tour" dinner location where hundreds of people gather for a buffet dinner, entertainment and a fun experience. Mason quickly made friends with the majority of the kids there and they all played tag.

We arrived at the “Arabian Nights Tour” dinner location where hundreds of people gather for a buffet dinner, entertainment and a fun experience. Mason quickly made friends with the majority of the kids there and they all played tag.

Mom & daughter henna.

Mom & daughter henna.

Camel ride was short, but now we can say we rode a camel in the desert.

Camel ride was short, but now we can say we rode a camel in the desert.

Farley family as Emirates.

Farley family as Emiratis.

Day 3

In the Middle East, Fridays are the Sabbath day. So we got to attend church with our friends inside this villa that is their church building.

In the Middle East, Fridays are the Sabbath day. So we got to attend church with our friends inside this villa that is the LDS church building.

After dinner we drove about 15-20 minutes and pulled off on the side of the road and picked a "camp ground" area in the sand dunes. Matt caught this small lizard with his bare hands.

After dinner we drove about 15-20 minutes and pulled off on the side of the road and picked a “camp ground” area in the sand dunes. Matt caught this small lizard as it was zipping over the sand dunes.

After dinner we drove about 15-20 minutes and pulled off on the side of the road and picked a "camp ground" area in the sand dunes. We got to watch the sunset with friends.

We got to watch the sunset with friends.

We built a fire in the sand and made s'mores.

We built a fire in the sand and made s’mores.

To end our Friday Sabbath, we went home and decorated Halloween sugar cookies.

To end our Friday Sabbath, we went home and decorated Halloween sugar cookies.

Day 4

We woke up early and went to the JBR beach where they "mow" the sand. We spent a couple of hours there playing in the water and enjoying the company of friends.

We woke up early and went to the JBR beach where they “mow” the sand. 

We spent a couple of hours playing on these inflatables in water and enjoying the company of friends.

We spent a couple of hours playing on these inflatables in water and enjoying the company of friends.

Mason got to help carve a pumpkin since it was Halloween. Poor boy is 6 years old and that was his first time to "carve" a pumpkin.

Mason got to help carve a pumpkin since it was Halloween. Poor boy is six years old and that was his first time to “carve” a pumpkin.

We had such a fabulous time being with friends and exploring Dubai.

We had such a fabulous time being with friends and exploring Dubai.

More photos of Dubai here.

Abu Dhabi

November 24th, 2015 No comments

We have now lived in Asia for three years. Two years ago a good friend from Texas moved to Abu Dhabi and I wanted to go visit her. Then, when another family that we met in the Philippines moved to Dubai, I knew we couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit them both by taking advantage of Manila’s direct flights to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I had been telling Matt for nearly 18 months that I wanted to spend our fall break visiting these friends and exploring that part of the world. We had never been to the Middle East and were told that in October the weather would be cooler. So off we went, and the weather cooperated and we all had a wonderful time being with friends and exploring the UAE. Many thanks to our fabulous host in Abu Dhabi, Kym, for taking such good care of us and being our tour guide.

Philippine Air has a direct flight from Manila to Abu Dhabi that is nearly nine hours. To upgrade to business class is rather inexpensive for this flight, so that is what we did and even 16 month old Blake knows this is the preferred seating.

Philippine Air has a direct flight from Manila to Abu Dhabi that is nearly nine hours. To upgrade to business class is rather inexpensive for this flight, so that is what we did and even 16 month old Blake knows that this is the way to go.

We made it to Abu Dhabi where our friends were waiting to pick us up.

We made it to Abu Dhabi where our friends were waiting to pick us up.

Day 1

View from our friend's condo of Abu Dhabi.

Part of the view from our friend’s condo in Abu Dhabi.

First place to visit was the Grand Mosque.

First place to visit was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Inner area of the Grand Mosque. Kalani was a little bit upset that women had to wear long sleeve shirts, long pants and cover our heads, but the men could wear short sleeve shirts and didn

Inner area of the Grand Mosque. Kalani was a little bit upset that women had to wear long sleeve shirts, long pants and cover our heads. Whereas, the men could wear short sleeve shirts and didn’t have to cover their heads.

Amazing chandeliers are inside the Grand Mosque.

Amazing chandeliers are inside the Grand Mosque.

We had lunch at a yummy Lebanese restaurant.

We had lunch at a yummy Lebanese restaurant.

We strolled along some malls and found a few "spices store". So many different types of spices before they are grounded up.

We strolled along some malls and found a few “spice stores”. Pictured: so many different types of spices before they are ground up.

We are friends from Texas, so we had to snap a photo in front of a Texas Roadhouse restaurant.

We are friends from Texas, so we had to snap a photo in front of a Texas Roadhouse restaurant…Blake’s never been to Texas, so he isn’t in the photo.

Farleys are in Abu Dhabi

Farleys are in Abu Dhabi

We didnave the

We were too tired to go inside and explore Ferrari World, but we made it to the entrance.

Day 2

We spent the morning exploring the UAE Heritage Village.

We spent the morning exploring the UAE Heritage Village.

Family photo with the Abu Dhabi skyline.

Family photo with an Abu Dhabi skyline.

Our first time seeing a camel up close. Mason was very comfortable being around it.

Our first time seeing a camel up close. Mason was very comfortable being around it.

Lunch at a Mexican restaurant where all of the staff were Filipinos. So of course they helped us take care of Blake so we could eat.

Lunch at a Mexican restaurant where all of the staff were Filipino. So of course they helped us take care of Blake so we could eat.

We had an appointment to visit the Falcon Hospital and learned a lot about falcons. If they are wearing a falcon hood they are calm.

We had an appointment to visit the Falcon Hospital and learned a lot about falcons. If they are wearing a falcon hood they are calm and can go on an airplane with their own passport. (in their own seat!)

Blake wasnt too keen on

Blake wasn’t too keen on being this close to a falcon. It was such a neat and educational experience for all of us.

Date Night at the Emeritus Palace. There is a strict dress code to enter, but you can never dress too fancy there.

Date night at Emirates Palace. There is a strict dress code to enter, but you can never dress too fancy there.

ATM machine where you can buy gold is inside the Emerites Palace.

ATM machine where you can buy gold, inside the Emirates Palace.

Night view of Etihad Towers that are across from Emirates Palace. The towers were used as a filming location for the 2015 film Furious 7. In the film, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) steal a Lykan HyperSport and drive it through three of the towers

Night view of Etihad Towers that are across from Emirates Palace. The towers were used as a filming location for the 2015 film Furious 7.

More photos of Abu Dhabi here.

Malapascua, Philippines

November 23rd, 2015 1 comment

In late September we had a couple’s get-away to Malapascua in the Philippines to do some scuba diving. We had obtained regular certification about six weeks previous to this trip and are trying to cram in as much diving as we can while still in the Philippines since the diving is so great here. Matt really wanted to go to Malapascua to see the thresher shark. Not only did we see the threshers, but we also saw some white tip reef sharks, sea snakes, eagle ray, octopus, cuttlefish, lion fish, nudibranch, eels, etc. We completed our Advanced Open Water and Nitrox Air certification and did seven dives in two days. (It was our first time to use a GoPro while diving and now have bought a red filter so our future photos should look better)

Link: Video of Thresher Shark Encounter

Within a couple of hours of arriving at the resort we were already in the water doing our first night dive where we saw this octopus and other sea creatures.

We woke up at 5am two days in a row to see the rare thresher shark.

We woke up at 5am two days in a row to see the rare thresher shark.

We took a boat to Groto Island and found some white tip reef sharks.

We took a boat to Gato Island and found some white tip reef sharks.

We watched this really long sea snake rise from the bottom of the ocean floor.

We watched this really long sea snake rise from the bottom of the ocean floor.

We saw various sizes of cuttlefish.

We saw various sizes of cuttlefish.

After seven dives in less than 48 hours we are now certified to dive down to 30 meters 100 feet).

After seven dives in less than 48 hours we are now certified to dive down to 30 meters (100 feet) and to use Nitrox air which allows us to stay under water longer.

We rented a motor bike and drove around the island of Malapascua. Not many roads are paved.

We rented a motor bike and drove around the island of Malapascua. Not many roads are paved.

We found this make-shift basketball hoop nailed to a coconut tree.

We found this make-shift basketball hoop nailed to a coconut tree.

Even on a small island in the Philippines, basketball games are still played.

Even on a small island in the Philippines, basketball games are still played, with or without shoes.

We wanted to get to the lighthouse, but were not certain how to actually get there since there was no visible road when we got near.

We wanted to get to the lighthouse, but were not certain how to actually get there since there was no visible road when we got near.

These kids became our guides and showed us how to get up to the lighthouse through some foliage and brush.

These kids became our guides and showed us how to get up to the lighthouse through some foliage and brush.

These plant was growing all around the light house. The red color on the leaves make it look like it is a flower from a distance.

These plant was growing all around the light house. The red color on the leaves make it look like it is a flower from a distance.

It was long weekend to be able to spend time together as a couple and enjoy a new hobby of scuba diving together.

It was long weekend to be able to spend time together as a couple and enjoy a new hobby of scuba diving together.

More photos of Malapascua here.