Philippines, Luzon, Ilocos Norte ~ 17th May – 20th May 2012

Day 1

I took the mid morning flight to Manila since the bus schedule is in the evening.

Upon reaching NAIA at 1400hrs, immigration and custom is pretty fast. My first stop is to go to Cebu Pacific to upsize my luggage. When I do the booking for this flight, I remembered very clearly that I have set my luggage for the SIN-MNL to be 15kg and MNL-SIN 30kg. However, due to some error when processing the online payment, the screen returned to the payment page. However, I did not check the details and proceed to make payment again. Unknowingly to me, the luggage settings have been set to 20kg each for both flights. Now I got to fork out more money to fix this!

The Cebu Pacific office is located in T3 near to the International check-in row. You will need to take a number and wait for your number. If you need a ticket quickly, there are counters that deal with it quickly.

I up-size my luggage from 20kg to 30kg and the cost is P490!!! I handed P1000 to the staff but the staff only returned me P220. I did not check as I am in the hurry. With this silly mistake of mine, I lost some money. Damn!

This trip is a super kuripot trip. That is why I did not take a flight to my destination.

From NAIA, I took a bus out of the airport. The fare is P20. The bus used is quite small and non-air-condition. The first stop is at Baclaran and the second stop is EDSA.

I drop off at EDSA and walk to EDSA station. Paid a ticket to Doroteo Jose station and walk to Florida Bus Terminal which is about 1.5km away.

By now it is already 1720hrs. I enquire at the ticket office to Pagudpud. As I do not know how to pronounce Pagudpud, the staff has difficulty understanding me. Finally she said Ilocos Norte? I said yes. She then said the ticket is at another station. My mind went blank. I was thinking is it at Pasay or Cubao. I start to get worried as I am running short of time. I as her where is the other station? Is it at the opposite of this station? She answered yes. I was relieved.

There is actually another Florida station just right across the road. I do not know that there is another sales office there.

Again at the ticket office, I try to pronounce Pagudpud. I do not know Pagudpud should be pronounce as Pa-Good-Bud or Pa-Good-Put. I told the girl at the counter, “I need a ticket to Pa-Good…….” And I stop there. She looked at me blankly and said “Bud?” I said yes!

The fare is P800 and I remembered from other blog post, the fare should be P700. So there is an increase in fare. Well, inflation kicks in and this is the result.

I quickly walk along Arsenio H. Lacson Avenue to get a quick bite and return to the bus station.

The bus leaves on time at 1900hrs and we reach pass by Angeles in 90mins and reach Bantay at 0330hrs.

The bus driver made a few more stop and we reach Pagudpud at 0700hrs; 12 hours exactly.

Day 2

I walk around the disembarkation and locate a group of trike driver near to the Town Plaza.

I enquire do they provide tour and they quoted the Northbound and Southbound tour at P600 each.

I agreed and off we go.

The first stop is Kaibigan Falls. To reach the falls, one has to trek for 30mins. I told the driver to skip this as I am too tired for it.

Next is Patapat Viaduct. I am not overly impress by this but looking over the bay with the sea breeze blowing, I really like that.

The driver brought me to Batay Abot Cave. I do not know what is so special about this. To me, it is a hole in a rock.

Blue Lagoon is the next stop. The beach looks quite nice with Hannah’s Resort as the background. The beach looks blue enough but not as blue as I expected. The beach is littered with seaweeds and this make the beach look less appealing. From afar, the sea does not look clear. However when I step into the water, the water is actually quite clear.

The driver than said that we will proceed to the Southbound tour.

Strange that the driver did not bring me to Timagtang Rock Formation, Agua Grande and Don Hermanos Islands.

However, I have looked at the pictures in the Internet and wasn’t that impressed by it. I told the driver to bring me to Saud beach.

Many people compared Saud beach to Boracay and it is said to be Boracay of the north. On my way to Saud beach, three are signs that says Saud White beach. Now the word white beach makes me have a certain level of expectation.

I really do not know is my expectation too high or what is mentioned on the web is fake. The beach the driver brought me is not impressive at all. I paid P20 entrance for it.

Firstly, the beach is not white or at the least when the sun shines on it, it does not blind my eyes like the ones I saw in Station 3 of Boracay.

Secondly, the beach is full of bancas. This makes the beach looks very cluttered.

The water is pretty calm and it will be good for a swim. There are huts on the beach for rent and I even saw someone cooking food.

By now I was wondering did the driver really bring me to the Saud beach. The beach I saw in Malcapuya Island is better than this “Saud beach”.

I was actually quite disappointed. I stayed for about 10mins and left.

The southbound tour is my main interest. The first stop is Bangui Wind Farm.

The time taken to the Wind Farm is pretty far. Please do not attempt to go there by yourself. I know some travelers have been there by public transport but it is not easy to find. You will need to travel into a dirt road and after some turns, you will reach the middle of the wind farm.

I am actually amazed by the wind mills. I was told that they are about 23 storeys high and provide 40% of Ilocos Norte power. There are a few vendors selling souvenirs and I actually find them quite nice.

The wind is not strong when I was there so only a few wind mills propeller rotate. Standing there, flanked by all the wind mills, enjoying the sea breeze….. I really like it.

We then make a move to the next stop. The driver stops by and asks me whether I want to go to see the rock formation. This is where I made a mistake. I thought the rock formation he mentioned is Timmangtang Rock Formation. What he actually meant is Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. I would like to visit Kapurpurawan Rock Formation but I missed it. Next time then.

Then we proceed to Burgos Lighthouse (Cape Bojeador).

According to Wiki, “Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, also known as Burgos Lighthouse, is a cultural heritage structure in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, that was established during the Spanish Colonial period in the Philippines. It was first lit on March 30, 1892 and is set high on Vigia de Nagparitan Hill overlooking the scenic Cape Bojeador where early galleons used to sail by. After over 100 years, it still functions as a welcoming beacon to the international ships that enter the Philippine Archipelago from the north and guide them safely away from the rocky coast of the town.[2]

The light marks the northwesternmost point in Luzon. The northeasternmost being Cape Engaño Lighthouse in Palaui Island, Santa Ana, Cagayan.”

After some photos, I ask the driver to bring me to a place where I can take a bus to Laoag. He mentioned that he can bring me to the National Highway to wait for the bus and the trip will take about 30mins with a fare of P40.

When the word National Highway is mentioned and since that it is a National Highway, I would assumed it to be a 3 lane or at least a 2 lane road in each direction, street lamps and side barricades in certain parts of the highway and emergency phones along the way just like NLEX.

When the driver drops me off, it is actually a small road with one lane each way. The lane is quite narrow too. So this is what they mean by National Highway.

The driver wait with me for the bus to Laoag and we chat.

From our conversation, he told me that his wife is a domestic helper in Singapore. She has been there for 12 years!

The bus is travelling at a high speed and it almost just zoom pass us. The trike driver is fast enough to spot it and flag it down for me.

The bus that I am in is a non-aircon bus. It is cramp and the bus is not that big. I sat at the end of the bus and the driver keep looking at me via the rear mirror. He seems to have an impression that I am not going to pay for the fare.

Finally the bus conductor came and collect the fare from me.

Soon we reach Laoag. Once you alight, there will be many trike drivers approach you asking whether do you need their service.

I just walk around and decided to explore the town by foot. I saw the bell tower from afar and walk towards it.

“The Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag City in the province of Ilocos Norte is one of the first things you may spot upon entering the city proper. It’s a massive 45-meter bell tower said to be one of the tallest bell towers in the Philippines and was built by the Augustinians in 1612.

The tower has earned its “sinking” reputation because it is so heavy and it was build on sandy foundations that it has consistently sunk into the ground. Stories mention that a person on horseback could enter the tower with ease back when it was built. Now, a person of normal height has to bend down just to enter the vaulted entrance.”

I just walk around the town. I noticed that kalesa is also a common sight in Laoag.

As my backpack is getting heavier, I decided to find a hotel. I get a trike to bring me to Texicano Hotel and wanted to charge me P15. I read from other bloggers mentioned that a short journey should cost P10. So is it inflation again but P5 increase?

Actually the journey is not that far. Since I am a stranger in the strange land, I am at their mercy. The hotel is just a few blocks away and I reach there within 5 mins. I just resign to my fate.

I do not have any booking with the hotel. So I am a walk-in customer. They do have single bed for P310 per night with private bathroom. Again, I read it before that the room is actually P300. Now is P310. Inflation? However, this is more convincing as they publish the rate at the reception.

I was given room 310 which is facing the small alley near to the main road. It is a little noisy. The room comes with a fan, a table and a bed. The pillow is razor thin and there are no towel. For P310, I can’t ask for too much.

I lie down on the bed to take a rest. While removing my spectacles, the screw of my spectacle broke. I try to remedy it by using a tape to go around the joints. I then remember seeing one optical shop. After settling down, I took to the streets again looking for the optical shop.

I found it and the staff attended to me quickly. They brought my spectacles inside and fix it within a minute. I did ask them how much they charge and I think they are caught off guard. The staff said P20 and I just pay up. I am glad that there is a spectacle shop here even I notice that Filipinos have a very low rate of myopia.

I walk out of the shop and saw a many trike waiting for passenger. I approach one of them and ask them how much do they charge to bring me to the sand dune and back. The driver was surprised and told me to take a bus instead. I insist on taking a trike and he quoted me P200. I did not bargain.

The time needed to reach the sand dune is about 10 mins. I know that here are sand dune activities there like sand boarding and 4×4 ride. I am not too keen about it but I am interested to see it in action.

The sand dune is quiet and deserted when I reach there. It is just sand and more sand. The weather is very hot too.

I am disappointed that there isn’t any 4×4 vehicles. I did see some kids playing sand boarding. The sand dune silence is broken with their laughter.

I stayed at the sand dune for about 20 mins and left.

I went back to the hotel and took a shower. By now the sky is dark and I went out again to see how the town look like in the dark.

When I walk in the streets, I am surprised that by 2000hrs, most of the shops have closed! Only the major or some of the smaller stores are open.

However, the public market is bustling with activities. Many people are selling their stuff there; mainly seafood and vegetables.

I just took some pictures and return to my hotel for my much needed rest.

Day 3

Yesterday I did ask the staff of Texicano where is the bus terminal to Vigan. Their answer is just “take the trike to the terminal”. Seems like the terminal is a distance away.

I woke up at 0530hrs as I wanted to set off early for Vigan. So I hail a trike and ask him to bring me to the bus terminal. Driver quoted P15 I said ok.

Gosh, the terminal is just 2 blocks away! It must be I have a face of a sucker.

I was quoted P100 for the trip to Vigan and I also know that the trip is about 2 hours.

The bus used is similar to those for the Pagudpud to Laoag journey.

The bus travel on the National Highway again. As the bus travel, more people came on board. When the bus is almost full, I noticed that I am the only person that open the window. The rest of the passenger has the window shut. I bet the passenger sitting behind me is cursing and swearing about me.

The bus reach Vigan at 0810hrs. The bus conductor pointed to me the direction to Calle Crisologo. I thank him and walk to the pointed direction. However, I got a feeling that is wrong. After venturing down about for a few minutes, I turn around and walk the opposite way. True enough, Calle Crisologo is at the other side.

After asking a few people for directions, I finally reach Calle Crisologo.

I would say that it is a very nice street. It gives me a feeling of those olden times. The buildings, the road and the atmosphere are very nostalgic.

Though the streets is filled by some vendors selling souvenirs, but it is still not too commercialised. However, I hope it can be a bit more lively. One good example is Macau’s Senado Square. Though it is filled with shopping but it still maintain the old Portuguese feeling with the wave-patterned mosaic of coloured stones.

I stayed for about two hours and decided to leave Vigan for Manila. I took a trike to Partas bus terminal.

I was told that the bus will leave at 1100hrs. You do not need to buy a ticket at the ticket booth. You pay the fare when you are in the bus. Before the bus arrive, the staff will shout the destination and you will be given a small piece of paper with a number on it. This will allow you to board the bus just like a reservation system.

Also, the bus to not start from Vigan but Laoag. So whether can you get in the bus will depends on how many empty seats when the bus reach Vigan from Laoag.

Also the piece of paper with a small number does not guarantee that you will go up first. The staff will still have the divine power to decide who go up the bus first.

By the time it is my turn, the staff says no more vacancy but I can see many passengers without numbers went up first.

I was then offered a standing vacancy. I was thinking he is expecting me to stand 8 hours all the way to Manila? The staff said I will need to stand about 30 mins. When there are passenger alight, I will take over the empty seat. I agreed and big mistake.

The bus arrive only at 1130hrs and leave at 1200hrs.

Around 30 mins into the journey, the driver make the first stop for a break. After the break, someone is going to alight soon and a seat is vacated. The conductor then assign me a seat at the last row of the bus which has a elevated view.

The journey continue uneventful. When we are crossing the Tagudin bridge, I saw what is happening in front of the bus since my seat is elevated.

I told myself “Shit, he is not going to make it!”. Before I realise, a loud bang is heard and all the passengers in the bus was thrown forward. I saw the windscreen shattered but fortunately it did not break apart.

Everyone is taken aback and wondered what happen.

Our bus has hit the Viron Transit bus in front. I saw the bus driver is still moving and seems like everyone is alright. The bus driver and conductor get down the bus to assess the damage. After some time, we were told to get down the bus and the conductor contacted the HQ for advice.

After 30 mins there is another Partas bus bound for Manila and some passengers manage to continue the journey. For the remaining passengers, we have to continue to wait. We were then told to wait at the La Union side. We board the bus and the driver drove us a few hundred meters down. Another bus arrive at around 1600hrs and we finally get to continue our journey.

Contradict as it seems, the bus that we are transfered to played a movie and guess what is the name of the movie? It is “Die Another Day”.

One thing I dislike about Partas bus is that the driver made many stops. I have read in a another blog that the time needed to travel from Vigan to Manila is about 8 hrs and the traveller is also using Partas bus. However, our driver seems to make a stop every one hour. By the time we reach Manila, it is already 0030hrs Sunday!

Another thing I noticed is that in Philippines, seems like there is only one driver throughout the whole journey. There isn’t any secondary bus driver. This also applies to the Florida bus I took as well. I find that this is really dangerous and if the driver is over stretch, we are all dead meat. I hope they will adopt what we have here is that for those long journey, there should be at least two drivers to rotate.

Day 4

I tried to get a cab from Partas terminal in Cubao Quezon City. At 0030hrs, many cab chose not to turn on the meter. Even if they will to turn on, they wanted the passenger to add P50 to the fare.

As I am tired and hungry, I agree to it but ask the driver to bring me to a Jollibee Drive-Thru. Unfortunately he can’t find it and I ask him to proceed to the hotel in Malate.

While we are add St. Andres Market, I saw the market is still open and there is a 24hr Jollibee.

I ask the driver to let me get my food there and we then proceed to my hotel.

I reach the hotel at around 0100hrs. The check-in is pretty fast. I got a good deal from Agoda at SGD55 for 2 nights stay complete with 24hr wi-fi and aircon for each day. You will be given the number of towels of your stay. For me, I got 4 towels since I book a double bed as they assume there will be two guest. Youi will be given an electronic key where you need it to access the lift and the room and also to turn on the utilities inside the room. You will need to remember to ask the staff to give you the password to access the wi-fi.

The room assigned to me is on the 7th level. Room is tiny but still decent. There are no bath amenities like towels. The shampoo and soap is pack together with the towels inside the bag.

Water pressure is good but the hot water is a little weak but still acceptable. Room is clean and all the electrical points and lights are working fine. There is actually a folding table for your use.

There is a electronic safe which I like it a lot. Riveria Mansion charge a night stay at P2150 but does not have a room safe.

After I settle my meal, I decided to go to St Andres market to buy my stuff. It is already 0200hrs then and I walk to the market. It is a little intimidating but since I know my way, I hasten my pace to reach the market quickly. Along the way, several people offer girl-services to me but I reject them all.

The market actually open 24 hours a day but only the stalls selling fruits are open. I bought my stuff and took a trike back to the hotel for P40.

Back in the hotel, I pack my purchase and it is already 0300hrs. I decided to have a drink at one of the cafe. Tune Hotel is located on a dark side of Mabini Street. It is still alright if you are walking to the hotel at 0200hrs but after all the bars around it has closed at 0300hrs, the vicinity will become darker.

I still decide to try my luck. I brought little money with me, just enough to buy a drink. I walk to the cafe uneventful. At around 0400hrs, I decided to return to the hotel. This is where a little trouble start.

I need to walk a stretch of road that is dark before reaching the hotel. A lady saw me and start offering her service to me. I rejected her repeatedly but she still pester me by holding on to my arm. Fortunately I am only about 20m and I quickly walk into the hotel. Close shave and guess I will not be doing this again.

I did not sleep at all so I decided to go to Divisoria for a walk. Seems like it is a “back to school” season. Many stalls are selling stationery, bags and other schooling stuff.

I stayed there about 3 hours and left. For the rest of the day, I just spend a few hours in Mall of Asia and in the room waiting for my flight at 2130hrs.

I cannot say that I am very impress with by Pagudpud. However, I must admit the Southern bound tour attract me more. Travelling along the coast line is also good.

I feel that Laoag does not have much to offer to me. It is just another town.

I love Vigan especially Calle Crisologo and hope to go back there again.

If I have to travel to Ilocos Norte again, I will travel to Pagudpud and take the Sounth bound tour. Then I will go all the way to Vigan bypassing Laoag and stay a night in Vigan. This is to experience Calle Crisologo at night. I will tour Calle Crisologo in the morning and make my way back to Manila.

I am surprised that I have only spend about SGD170 (P5700) for the whole trip including the hotel in Manila but exclude air tickets.

In short, I still have an enjoyable trip though the 13hr bus journey back to Manila almost drive me crazy.

More pictures available here.

18 thoughts on “Philippines, Luzon, Ilocos Norte ~ 17th May – 20th May 2012

  1. Hope you go back again to Vigan to immerse yourself in this small city and discover its beauty….Vigan is home away from home and I guarantee you that you will enjoy your stay there. …from the culture,the food and the hospitality of the people.

      1. Your adventure or misadventure was indeed fascinating….you had a lot of guts,,,patience and I guess, even a sense of humour to deal with it…I’m from Vigan and although I’m in another country right now…the place will always be home to me….are you from another country as well?

      1. eh…girl cant stay at the place where have girls want to make business har??haha…erm..makati also have o..i do saw it..but guess not so much as ermita..haha..

  2. Will be going to Manila this December with Singaporean friends and I plan to bring them to Baguio and Vigan, found your sitw will researching about Ilocos Norte. I admire your courage traveling alone. Hehe. Happy trip.

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