OVER THE SAND DUNES

Welcome to my first trip this year, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur! We “planned” this trip late last year when one of my best friends, Sam came back to the country after being away for five full years. If you ask me, I don’t remember how we came up with Ilocos as the place to visit but it really was one for the books. I say “planned” because we basically just decided about the place to visit but the real planning of itinerary and all that’s needed to be done happened just the day before we flew from Cebu (I do apologize if you’re one of those amazing oc travellers who plans every single detail waaaaaay ahead of time. I mean that’s why you call it planning right?!)

Despite our being un-plan-ful (nope, I didn’t made that word up), we did have something in mind. It was just the execution of these things that have a little bit of delay, so we did researched the place, the best way to maximize our time and which places or activities we shouldn’t miss. To know more about our little adventure and how we survived it even though we’re a bunch of introvert dependent anxious brats (okay that’s just an overkill) just keep reading!

This itinerary is designed for 3 days two nights.

We assumed booking a flight early increases the chance for the fare to be cheaper so that’s what we did. We booked our ticket via Cebu Pacific Air last October 2018 for our January 2019 trip. The fare was Php 5,519.28 for all three people, back and forth Cebu – Clark and vice versa. We didn’t purchase baggage allowance because we told ourselves we’re a light packer (and we are, really).

The next thing we did was figure out the best route to save time (and energy) travelling back and forth. According to our “research”, the best way is to tour the north first and then south after. So we booked our hotel in Laoag and Vigan through Travelbook.ph

C E B U to C L A R K

Our flight from Cebu to Clark was 5:30 PM, we wanted to make this trip to be as raw as it could so instead of riding a taxi or grabcar to the airport we decided to go for MyBus at SM City Cebu MyBus Terminal. We arrived there around 3pm because it was raining plus heavy traffic, we got the tickets for the Mybus 3:20pm trip, but then Janine needs to withdraw some money from the bank so she went inside the mall (it is a bit of a walk from the terminal so…) so the bus arrived at 3:15 pm, Sam and I decided to just get in the bus and wait for her inside, it was a minute before 3:20pm that we told kuya driver that we still have a friend on her way to the bus but kuya was such a … disciplined person, he told us that at 3:20 we are leaving. Then 3:20pm came at last and Janine was nowhere to be found, we have to sadly roll our luggages out of the bus, but in slow motion here comes Janine running for her life so really we didn’t end up getting off of the bus but we did stand the whole way to the airport because there were no seats anymore. ugh.

We arrived at the airport with less than 30 minutes to spare due to the nonstop rain and traffic, we already checked-in online but here’s another rock in the road, we almost had overweight baggages but we did get through it, what we didn’t get through was the over 100ml skincare products that aren’t allowed for hand carry baggage. *deep breaths* boy did we overlooked that. We put our heads down and went back to the check-in counter to buy extra baggage. All this back and forth, and we’re still in Cebu. We promised ourselves that on our way back, we’d be more chill because we’ll have plenty of time before our flight. *promise this won’t happen again*

In Laoag City, we stayed at the West Gate Hotel, it wasn’t really our first choice, we tried booking the Java Hotel but there wasn’t any available rooms for our chosen date so the next recommended hotel was this one but I think it was actually a blessing in disguise because the hotel has a flexible time for check-in. They count your first 24 hours as your first day then you could just pay a hundred pesos per hour for the exceeding hours of your stay. It was a perfect rule because we arrived at around 3:30 am (Friday) so the scheduled check-out was 3:30am (Saturday). When we arrived at the hotel they couldn’t find our paid reservation on the system even though we already provided the reference/booking number but they were so considerate that they gave us our keys to let us rest and deal with it in the morning.

D A Y 1 – ILOCOS NORTE

We woke up around 7am, and had breakfast around 8am. When we went to the reception area of the hotel, we asked for directions but the owner of the hotel referred us a package with a car (plus driver and gas) that would take us to the tourist spots (and even local favorite spots) for only Php 3,500.000 the whole day and we could stop wherever we want to stop along the trip.

On our first day we decided to tour first the northern most of Ilocos. Our first stop was at Cape Bojeador Light House. The view was breathtaking even though we didn’t go up to the lighthouse itself because some of the locals said it’s not allowed, still the view was already beautiful. We didn’t stay long because there really wasn’t much to do up there but it was a great tourist spot to visit. Next was the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation where my heart ached for the beach because of the fresh air and the lazy vibes it was giving me. It was also there at the Kapurpurawan Formation where we first tasted their very delicious Empanada paired with the best Buko juice I ever had. I don’t know maybe it was the heat of the sun or my very hungry stomach but it really was one of my favorite meal there. Then, the Windmills of Bangui that made me want to just sit there (after taking a hundred selfies because…*natural light*) and do nothing.

I had a one bad major headache during this trip, I think maybe it was because of the heat of the sun, but I don’t know every time we take photos it just goes away. HAHA. After we ate lunch at Hannah’s Beach Resort and after I bought a few meds for my headache (and dying cold), we went to our last stop which was the Patapat Bridge.

We finished the whole north tour by 3:30pm. We took a rest at the hotel and went outside for some chill night, one of the owners told us to go to their IT Park / Robinsons. We found a lot of food spot there as well as Milktea!

They didn’t have a lot of cafés or milktea shops there but the traditional Moonleaf was there so it’s better than nothing.

D A Y 2

We started our day early to squeeze our time in Laoag and Paoay so that we could maximize our time in Vigan. We decided to have our breakfast in the car (we hired the same kuya from our first day to give us a short tour in Laoag and visit Paoay Church before taking us to our hotel in Vigan).

We only went to the Laoag Plaza and the Sinking Bell Tower that morning then we went straight to Suba Paoay Sand Dunes.

The sand dunes experience was Php2,500.00 for one hour per 4×4 with unlimited sandboarding. So I guess you could fit more than 5 people in a 4×4 and it would make the cost cheaper, but on our case we were only three so haha (Thank you @awesamantha!) It was such a crazy ride going to the sand boarding area, the kuyas there were very friendly and accommodating and surprisingly good at taking our photos! I feel like they know our phones better than we do.

Each of us tried sand boarding level 1 (yea, even Janine HAHA) then Sam and I tried to sandboard together at the 2nd level where I ended up tumbling over her hahaha it was such a fun experience. I feel like it’s one of the highlights of the trip. After the sandboarding experience and all the photoshoot and slowmo jumpshots we rode the 4×4 again, I thought it was just a detour drive but there was so much more to see after the sandboarding, the driver took us to the different sites where they kept the props of the movies that shoot their before like the classic Filipino movie “Himala” and others that I’m not familiar with anymore haha There was also a beach there and boy do I love the breeze.

After the sandboarding, we went to Paoay Church and walked down the aisle without looking back because our tita souls believed in those kind of beliefs. We also bought some souvenirs from the church. We also saw the Herencia Cafe just across the church. Now that I think about it, I kinda regret not trying the infamous cafe knowing that we had enough time in Vigan.

Ever since I was young, Vigan has always been one of my dream destinations because of its historical vibes but my mom was never one that brings me to her trips because I get the worst motion sickness every time she brings me so I could only dream on getting over this weakness when traveling. Now the time has come haha and here I am!!!

We decided to chill by the pool while waiting for our room to be ready.

We arrived at Hotel Luna, and I was so amazed. I LOVED THAT HOTEL. The room was gorgeous, the location was so on point because it was near Calle Crisologo, we had many perks as well. They also let us check-in early, so we had time to freshen up and get rid of all the sand.

We first explored the museum inside the hotel which was also located on the same floor of our room! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to enjoy it that much because there was a pre-wedding photo shoot going on and it was just so hassling on our part because they were every.where. They were even outside our room door. literally outside. We felt like there was no room for us there, I mean I get that you only marry once (supposedly lol) but we would only be at Ilocos once too (because let’s be real, the travel is so tiring. I couldn’t even imagine doing it again.).

Anyways, we went to explore the city walking. We went to Cafe Uno/Kusina Felicitas and ordered their local foods, the ilocano pinakbet and poqui poqui. It was reaaaaallly good cause honestly I thought I wouldn’t like their local dishes since I’m not that adventurous when it comes to food (or life at all).

We wazed our way to Calle Crisologo, it took us a long time to find it just to discover that it was just a block away from our hotel. ugh. Turned out waze used the car route. On our way to finding the famous street we saw the Syquia Mansion and my friends promised me we’d visit later if we have more time but we ended up missing it, I’m not really heartbroken about it because it was a humid day and I was losing my energy.

We wanted to have really nice photos together but we didn’t have a photographer so we were having a hard time, plus the people were I don’t know how to explain it but they were giving us the looks that made us feel uncomfortable. But we finally had the courage to ask someone else to take our photos together, so we at least have these photos of us three together.

I was really disappointed because I thought they were very used to tourist but then that was how they acted. I didn’t really enjoy our day stroll then we also didn’t find something to buy so we went back to the hotel and decided to shoot at the hotel deck.

Around 4 or 5pm, we went to Vigan Cathedral to participate in the anticipated mass leaving our cameras behind, bringing only phone and money so we really felt like locals there. We planned to watch the light show at Plaza Salcedo so while waiting for 7:30pm we went back to Calle Crisologo to see how it is at night. There were more people and less stressful watchful eyes. We tried the dirty ice cream and finally bought a souvenir for the trip. Janine and I couldn’t make this trip pass without visiting their National Bookstore!

We explored the city at night, it was better than our early afternoon experience. Then finally we went to Plaza Salcedo where we enjoyed the light show, and also ate one last Empanada (but it was not as good as the one in Pagudpod).

The trip was one for the books, and I just love having people who understand that a very hectic itinerary is not what we need in life. We just wanna enjoy the trip and not stress about the time and the destinations left unchecked. I would also not forget how every morning before we start our lakwatsa, Sam would provide us her newly discovered vitamin C candy-like thing. Such a tita.

On our last day, I thought that we had it all together because we woke up early, then we had our buffet breakfast in the hotel (which was reaaallly delicious). We check out at the hotel to go to Partas Bus Station where we would take a bus for a 5-hour travel to Dau Bus Station then 20 minute drive to Clark Airport where our 7:30pm flight awaits. But here’s what happened:

The 9:30am bus left the bus station exactly 9:30am but the bus kept on stopping anywhere as long as there is a possible passenger like they don’t have a certain bus stop? I don’t get it. Then there was this under construction road where there was heavy traffic! We got really worried because we realized that we finished 5 movies inside the bus (including the one repeated movie, one 3-hour korean action movie, Jumanji, I forgot the rest). Plus we were really hungry because we estimated to arrive in Clark around 2pm so maybe we’d just have late lunch there but we arrived at Dau Bus station around 7pm. 7pm!!! Plus the 20 minute drive to the airport, I couldn’t breathe.

Actually, nobody was breathing inside the airconditioned jeepney. There were only two other passengers inside the jeepney with us, two men who also have the same flight with us. They’re also really late and not breathing. Then we were almost almost almost at the airport when the traffic light turned red, and it was red for the rest for 5 or 10 minutes. I think it was freaking broken. When we arrived at the airport, everything was fast forward. We were literally outside and we could hear the speakers announcing our name, we barely made it to the security guards and they already knew it was us being announced. They help us, we were so breathless and panicked and really out of poise. Then there were some issues in checking in our pieces of baggage because the girl said the thing was already pulled out, I don’t know what’s pulled out just let us check-in because dude we already checked-in online and we still have 15 minutes to spare so give us that 15 minutes. Then I was finally in, my goal in mind is that I would go there first so that there would be one representative to talk to the people there that “we’re here! don’t leave us!” but then there was another booth inside, asking us to pay for the terminal fee, so I tried to pay him but he need the ticket but the ticket was with Janine so I shouted at the tunnel-like pathway and told Janine to walk faster but then she told me (and girl, I would never forget the worried look in her face) that Sam tripped herself. I was shookt HAHA I was worried, it was funny, it was just crazy okay. And remember I said earlier that we won’t repeat what happened to the airport before? Well, we got it worst now. So anyway, the plane didn’t leave us and we went home safely. We had our lunch at 11pm I think in Cebu, inside the car. The end.

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