Sunday, March 18, 2012

Loca Over Ilocos

It was my third time and I still love it the way I did the first time I set my feet on its land; Ilocos is really one of those places you want to keep coming back to.
I can’t even distinguish Ilocos Sur from Ilocos Norte being the no- sense of direction person that I am. We set to Vigan first rather than heading to the beaches right away. There's more to Vigan than just exploring the Heritage Street which looks like your bigger Intramuros. At P150 per hour calesa- ride we got to see The Hidden Garden, few minutes away we headed to the place where pots are made then to Baluarte, one of Chavit Singson’s houses which is open for public viewing, (did not look as well maintained the first time I got there though) and Ramon Magsaysay Museum. I tried what everyone has been raving about- Ilocos empanada, this seemed to me as your local Lumpiang ubod but fried not in a lumpia wrapper but in the not so usual- empanada wrapper whatever that is called. At Cafe Leona's, a restaurant which is a few- minute walk within Heritage, I gobbled Bagnet and Vigan Longanisa which is the best tasting- longanisa I should say.

To explore other places in Ilocos Norte we stayed at Currimao at a friend's house, an hour and a half ride from Vigan and hired a van (we just payed for the gas though since he is my friend’s friend, yiha). I was able to see Marcos Presidential Museum in Batac, Malacanang of the North which was the residential house of late Ferdinand Marcos in Paoay, the old Church in Ilocos Norte which name I don’t recall yet you can see the picture below, the Fort Ilocandia Resort in Laoag, Cape Bojeador in Burgos which is the highest lighthouse in the Philippines; the last two mentioned places being my favorite. If you do know someone in Currimao kindly beg them to tour you around as the houses in the place they called Seawall are in front of a beach. Yay, we swam there, the waves are too strong to swim on though yet there are rock formations within the beach you can hold on too.

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation on the left, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse on the right.

Malacanang of the North.

Fort Ilocandia Resort: open for public viewing at no charge.

In Pagudpud, I got to conquer both Saud and Blue Lagoon- the two beaches Ilocos brags about, the two beaches every travel bloggers out there would be proud to have experienced relaxing on. Blue lagoon is a haven in itself, I felt like the sands are finer in Blue Lagoon than it was in Saud, it’s not a long stretch of beach though and since it sits on the west, you can’t have a feel of the perfect sunset, this, you can have in Saud. If you would like to enjoy the beach with less crowd then Blue Lagoon is the one you have to try if you don't have ample of time to try both. From Pagudpud's main town, Blue Lagoon is the farthest beach designation from the town proper of Pagudpud as another blogger exclaimed, and our one- hour trip from Pagudpud proper towards Barangay Balaoi, where Blue Lagoon is situated, proved that statement true.

First beach from Saud, 2 photos from Blue Lagoon (below).

We stayed at
Hanna's Beach Resort, it's a beach- front resort which looks like an urban subdivision (imagine a group of small houses clustered in an area) plus the green scenery (grass surrounding the houses, coconut trees, and stuff usual resorts would have), the cheapest rate one can get is 2K a night and if you'll go there during peak seasons you'd have no choice but to get the higher rates like 3K a night. Kapuluan Vista Resort seemed like a charm since the structure has a vintage or "Vigan- like" aura but the only available room at the time was the dormitory. There are "homestay houses" within the whole stretch of Barangay Balaoi and as I read once, price would start at 3h a night, I guess it's as good as staying in a resort minus the amenities yet we really wanted to relax and to try out a resort in front of Blue Lagoon.' The tip is to make a reservation before heading to the resorts right away, and ask a hotel representative over the phone if they have discounts (we were told we missed the 20% discount).

Oh man they caught stingray?

If you want good food with a reasonable price don't buy from Hanna's though as you'd feel like your robbed after eating a meal or two (7h for a simple breakfast for two comprising of Tapsilog which you can enjoy for 1h per head in Manila). There's this store near Hanna's where you can have the owner cook you food. We ate lobsters I guess it was half kilograms and prawns and fish in sweet and sour (the fish are fresh from Blue Lagoon, the store owner buys it directly from the fisherman of Barangay Balaoi), the cost did not even come close to a thousand! The owner was a good cook it's as if you ate at those fine- dine restaurants in Manila.

I spent the first 3 hours of my stay in Hanna's just sleeping as the Vigan- Pagudpud trip wore me off. I got to try the beach at 4pm and I would not say this really is your ‘Boracay protégé’ but close enough, sands are still finer in Bora where you could just sit around or lie down without feeling any roughness. Yet I wanted a calmer place with the sounds of the waves alone so it definitely felt good, therapeutic it was.

On our last day of stay at Hanna's we hired a tricycle to take us to the tourist spots and it cost 8h. We went to the Patapat Viaduct, the 4th longest Beach in the Philippines. The scene was breathtaking, just along the side of the road you’ll see the Mabugabong Falls, a mini hydro electric plant. After that we went to Bantay Abot Cave, a cave like the ones you'd Explore in Puerto Galera but bigger and it has a hole in the middle, offers a great view of the sea as well. We also went to Paraiso ni Anton, a mini fall where you can drink water coming directly from the mountains. Natives say this is a healing water. We took some pictures in Aqua Grande, nothing so special though, it looks like to me a deserted place which someone placed a covered place to sit on for tourists to have a great view of the sea and the rocks before its wide vast. We also went to Kapurpurawan Rock Formation (my friend says Kapurpurawan means ‘kapuputian’), it was a 10- 15 minute walk to get the rocks per se. I have never seen anything quite like it, it resembles the slot canyons like the ones in the movie 127 hours though it's not a canyon but a simple rock formation you can easily walk on. Our last stop would was the Windmills in Bangui; picturesque. I was really out of words when I saw it and I just kept walking watching the waves on the blue water and feeling the wind on my face. We did not get to try Kabigan Falls which the driver said is a 45 minute trek for fast- paced walkers, tired as we were.

Patapat Viaduct shows a good view of the sea.On the side of the road you'll see the Kabigan Falls (right picture posted below

Above: Bantay Abot Cave

Paraiso ni Anton:

Aqua Grande: nothing grand though so this can be missed. Below: breathtaking view of the Windmills in Bagui.

Instant beach experience: Seawall, Currimao, Ilocos Norte, my friend's house is facing a magnificent view.When going back to Manila from Pagudpud, I don't suggest boarding a plane if you are on a tight schedule (say you'd go back to work immediately after the vacation). From Blue Lagoon towards the airport you'd hire a tricycle for P300 to take you to the spot where you can ride on a Bus towards Laoag, from Laoag you'd take another tricycle for P150 to take you to the airport, the transfers were really exhausting. Another thing to note is that unlike the airports that we know, Laoag Airport does not sell any of Ilocos specialties or any souvenirs so buy pasalubong at the market first before leaving.If you want to try both Saud and Blue Lagoon, I am suggesting you stay at Saud first, stay in the beachfront resorts and from there hire a tricycle or a van that could give you a tour to see Kabigan Falls, Patapat Viaduct, and all other spots I mentioned. The drivers would allow you to enjoy Blue Lagoon for an hour or two so by doing this, you get to try both Saud and Pagudpud without having to pay room rates at your selected beach front resorts on both beaches (Say just stay in Arinaya beach resort for two days then spend the second day on a tour to see Blue Lagoon, without having to pay costly room rates in Hanna's like 3K a night).

I can't wait to go back. It takes a lot of effort to go back to work immediately so always always allow at least two days to rest after the trip before going back to 'reality.' Haha.
Next project: re- visit Mount Pinatubo, gotta take good pictures.

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