February 10, 2009
In "South Pacific," Bloody Mary sings of "your own special island." Well, my Bali Hai is a place called Cebu in the Philippines. More precisely, it's called Mactan Island and the hotel-resort where I stay is appropriately named the Shangri-La.
Never mind that the great explorer Ferdinand Magellan met a bloody end there in 1521 (something to do with a trade war between rival rajahs), today's shores are highly hospitable to business and leisure travelers.
Cebu is famous for its natural beaches, sweet mangoes, rattan and buri furniture, guitars and costume jewelry. I can attest to the high quality of the craftsmanship.
Just 15 minutes from Mactan-Cebu International Airport--my direct flight from Hong Kong takes less than three hours--the Shangri-La provides the perfect antidote to a week of hard bargaining in the "Fragrant Harbour."
The amenities abound here: five restaurants to choose from, including Italian, Chinese and International. Banana boat rides, scuba diving, and parasailing are offered, and of course, there's plenty of pampering at one of Asia's most luxurious spas.
Fresh orchids bloom in the rooms, patios overlook the blue-green Visayan Sea, home to the world's largest concentration of marine life. Several outdoor pools beckon, and lots of open spaces for relaxation.
At the poolside bar, lovely ladies dressed in saris ask for your order in mellifluous Filipino English.
I've found my little corner of paradise. Where's yours?