Well, Cebu was fantastic. For years I had asked my friends who regularly play the Asian circuit what their favourite destination was, and usually the answer was Cebu. I wasn't able to make Season 2 or Season 3's editions, so I was excited to get to go this year.
Poker-wise, there was certainly nothing to write home about. I played two events and a total of 7 hours. I was comfortable and felt I played well in the main event, but I was a spaz and paid the price in the 6-max. I'm now 0-for-6 in 2012 in terms of tournament cashes.
But what a phenomenal destination. I actually spent only 3.5 days in Cebu and I definitely wish it had been more. I saved a bit of money by choosing to forego the Shangri-La Resort, where PokerStars put its qualifiers up, in favour of a 3-star room which ran me about $70 US (and where friends rented out the penthouse suite for only about $40 more). I have somewhat mixed feelings about this because while my hotel was good (and had massages on the 2nd floor for $3/hour), the Shangri-La is amazing. It's a gorgeous resort with lots of free activities and the service seems good as well. For those who have been to the PCA, I think the Shangri-La is everything that the Atlantis in the Bahamas should be, but isn't. The Atlantis has more attractions but the service is atrocious and everything is massively expensive. In Cebu, I found the service and atmosphere everywhere to be excellent.
At the resort, we did some free kayaking, I worked out a bit at the gym (also free), and rented some jetskis (not free, but not that expensive either). The jetskiing in particular was tremendously fun. I'd never ridden on one before, and was really surprised how fast they go. In fact, they go so fast and I wandered so far out that I lost track of where I was and had to ask some fisherman for directions back to the Shangri-La. All in all, I spent about 5 hours in the sun on Saturday and even got a little bit of sunburn for the first time in about 15 years.
And the food. Oh, the food. The Philippines is really not known as a culinary paradise, but man do these people know how to roast a pig. There was roast suckling pig at the Stars party and I had it on numerous occasions, but my favourite was a local place called Zubuchon, which served up this amazingness:
One blog writes: "Zubuchon’s pigs are not from commercial piggeries but are hand-picked from pigs raised in the backyards of certain individuals. They do not use MSG or commercial mixes for flavor. Instead, they use organic ingredients, including olive oil, local sea salt, home-grown lemongrass, peppers, green onions, and other herbs and spices."
Sign me the hell up.
Aside from the poker, beach and the food, there was also a street festival in progress that took place on the street directly in front of our hotel. I mean, really, really directly:
That's my hotel, and that's the party. Here's another shot:
Like Mardi Gras, without the nudity
It speaks to how busy I was eating that I didn't really investigate this street festival at all, but it seems like it would have been fun. I know it definitely made getting a cab a bit tricky.
All in all, Cebu was a great trip. It's not somewhere I'd want to spend a really long period of time, but it's such a great short getaway from Hong Kong and I'd love to do it again. If I were taking someone I were trying to impress, I'd consider staying at the Shangri-La and laze around the beach, but staying at any of the hotels nearby which are a third of the price (not just rooms, but food/massage/activities) and a 10-minute cab ride away are also viable options. Can't wait to go back!