Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Luljetta's Hanging Gardens and Spa


While everyone was getting all creative and crazy with their Halloween costumes and parties, I chose to celebrate the holiday differently. Away from the crowd and the city, I had a pleasant stay at Luljetta's - the first and only hanging gardens and spa in the Philippines.
We took a GrabCar from Taguig to Antipolo. We left at 11:00 AM. The travel time was about 2 hours since it was in the middle of the holiday rush, and everyone was leaving Metro Manila and were either driving to the cemeteries or their respective provinces. Earlier that day I went to get my hair braided in Flair BlowDry Bar. I did not have to deal with my usual bump of a bun, and I was able to rest my head comfortably during the ride.


We arrived around lunch time and sure enough, my boyfriend, Prashant, was hungry. We had to check-in first and get our luggage sorted. This is when I realized that Luljetta's was part of a bigger resort, Loreland Farm. The entire area was divided into the 1) main farm resort, which had several accommodations (which was where we were staying for the night), restaurant, cottages and pools, 2) Luljetta's, the hanging gardens and spa, and 3) Camp Tipolo Adventureland, an activity ground for team-building.




Back to my hungry boyfriend. After checking in our room, we proceeded to meet Ms. Dimple, the person I spoke with regarding our visit. Her boss, the owner and marketing manager of Loreland Resort, Ramon MariƱas, offered us the Hanging Gardens Getaway package, which included access to the Hanging Gardens facilities: locker, sauna, Dr. Fish Spa, jacuzzi, hydromassage pool, infinity pools, and meditation lounges, for a total of six hours. With it came the four course wellness menu, which my boyfriend happily devoured.



We had our meals at the Hanging Gardens restaurant. We were served salad, soup, pasta, dessert, and drink. Truth be told I wasn't expecting the food to be really good, so I was pleasantly surprised! I loved the creamy mushroom soup and crabsticks salad. Prashant loved the red sauce pasta (which I think was marinara). The drink was slightly sweet with a hint of ginger. It reminded me of the local salabat. We had a custard-like dessert to finish. It was a little too sweet for me but the entire meal was both healthy and tasty! I would later find out that most of the ingredients used for the dishes are grown locally within the farm, hence the name Loreland Farm Resort.

With energy to now wander and enjoy the other facilities, we went to the locker room and changed into the batik, traditional bath robes provided by Luljetta's. At this point I would like to share how life  (or my life rather) would have been so much easier had I chosen to wear flats or even tsinelas for this trip. Navigating through the hanging gardens involved a lot of walking on mostly rocky stairs, and some sections were steep and slippery. But I had my good boyfriend around, and he went for a 5 minute trek back to our room in Loreland Resort, and picked up the pair of sandals I brought with me. 

We could not decide which pool to visit first but we were deliberately trying to avoid other people, haha! We ended up trying out the hydromassage pool.



At first I wondered what was special about this pool. The bubbles were stronger in some areas. There were scattered nodules that let out water in a higher pressure. I stayed next to one and I could feel a light and relaxing massaging sensation. We spent a few minutes there as we were excited to see more of the place.



We tried the Dr. Fish spa next. I recall seeing two smaller pools with the Dr. Spa label on it. We spent time on the one next to a meditation spot. There were other meditation areas where they had relaxing music playing, and a cold supply of lemon water for refreshment. I know I had to sit in the pool and let the fish nibble on my feet, you know, the kind you see in travel shows? I tried doing it but whenever the school of fish would gather around me, I felt panicky. I calmed myself down for a few minutes. I got distracted fixing the camera while I was in the pool, and there they were with their little fishy mouths on my skin! Of course these weren't piranhas. It did not hurt. It was almost ticklish. I just could not stand what I call the fishes' "cute bites".



We wanted to check out the biggest infinity pool, the one with view of the city, but we decided to enter the Buddha Room room first, which overlooked the infinity pool, and of course, the city. It was a pretty spacious room decorated with "zen" furniture. As with all the other meditation spots, this room was intended for relaxation. 


Finally it was our turn to use the infinity pool! I say turn because I wanted to enjoy the pool alone, with my boyfriend, and there were a few people who were in the pool earlier. I truly think the facilities at Luljetta's are best enjoyed by couples or small groups, since it does aim to provide a peaceful environment and relaxing experience.



It was a pretty simple infinity pool. The highlight was the scenic view of both lush greenery and the city below.



When we finally had our share of pool-hopping, we wandered around some more, and stumbled upon the spa area, which has the sauna and jacuzzi place. It was simple and serene. I loved the white tents and green plants. 



Both my boyfriend and I regretted not venturing into this spot earlier! We preferred the spa area more than the pools. We spent time in the sauna and jacuzzi. It was the perfect way to wind down.



We booked for Luljetta's Signature Massage that evening. While it was not a stressful travel, Prashant got a little tired from all the stairs we had to climb. We waited at Luljetta's reception area, which also had a cafe. It had a majestic view of the horizon. 


Of course I could not let the day end without a proper outfit snap! I have been wanting to wear this dress for so long. I thought of wearing to a beach, but I am not really fond of sunny beaches.




Our day ended with a dinner at the Verde Restaurante. We had the Chicken Pork Adobo and Binagoongan Rice. The lack of photos should be proof enough of both our combined hunger and the dishes' delectability. Even Prashant who is not really into bagoong or shrimp paste, loved the fried rice. As for me, I enjoyed the simple "home-cooked" quality of the adobo. The comfortable dining experience was a perfect way to conclude the relaxing day we had at the spa. Moreover, after tasting the food served at the restaurant, we were now looking forward to having our complimentary breakfast there in the morning.




For our free breakfast, I had the daing na bangus and Prashant had the pork tocino. Mine tasted simple, but the tocino was a little tough to chew. Perhaps these were all cooked in the morning and just reheated before serving? We came in at the last hour of breakfast time. Maybe that was why the food was not as fresh. How I wished we could have the adobo from last night!

We were checking out that day so we had to meet our generous host, Ramon, for a short interview.


As with anything that strikes my fancy, I love getting to know the meaning and/or history behind a name. That said, I was curious to know why the spa was called Luljetta's. Ramon explained that Luljetta was the Spanish version of his mother's name, Lolita. Imagine my surprise that the Japanese street fashion that once inspired me, Lolita, was namesake to the person who has painstakingly supported and helped Ramon in building the hanging gardens and spa of Luljetta's. All thanks to his loving mother who put together this convenient escape from the city, Luljetta's has now been around for three years, offering the renewing comfort of being one with nature, without having to travel far away from Metro Manila. As I have mentioned before, the natural element of the spa is not only confined to its environment but is also extended to the dishes served. Majority of the ingredients used for the hanging gardens restaurant are grown within Loreland Farm Resort itself. Walking around the vicinity, it is easy to become curious about the local plants, especially when they are labelled with their names and medicinal uses.


To be honest, I find Luljetta's to be a simple concept. Antipolo is readily known for its heights and lush greenery, and to create a hanging gardens resort from its landscape is both clever and practical. But this is the charm of Luljetta's. When you spend the majority of your time in a city of high-rise buildings, around-the-clock schedule and fast-paced life style, and of course, the inevitable pollution, you appreciate the simplicity, cleanliness, and innate naturalness of being in a place such as Luljetta's. The green environment immediately cools your eyes. The extensive use of water in pools invite you to refresh yourself. The wooden furniture reminds you of uncomplicated, provincial life.  Finally the scenic view is a powerful reminder of disconnectedness of oneself from the city. (And this is all the more effective if you voluntarily turn off your gadgets during your stay!) No matter how temporary, this separation implores you to slow down and meditate. And you should. 

These are elements lost in the city. And this is exactly what Luljetta's offers you, without the hassle of extensive planning, as you would when you travel long distances. Sometimes it is even the trip itself that brings about stress. Let's be honest here - some people are worrywarts and when we talk about plane travel, there's just about a million other scenarios of what could go wrong, conveniently playing at the back of our heads (missed flights due to terrible traffic, lost luggage, and worst of all, the "laglag bala" /bullet planting modus operandi in our very own airport)! But Luljetta's solves this for you by being easily accessible. 


Needless to say, I immensely enjoyed my time in Luljetta's Hanging Gardens and Spa. After about an hour of travel on an easy Sunday morning, we were back in Bonifacio Global City. We still had the rest of the day to spend at home, but it helped a lot to be recharged just in time for the weekdays. 

Of course, before leaving I had to make and take as much memories as I could, especially when I was wearing a dress I made...




and when I had the love of my life with me.

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