Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ilocandia Trip - The Best of Ilocos

I'm trying to improve my Trips and Tours page so now I'm adding new features such as Pasalubong GuideItineraryTravel Tips, Budget, and the most important Contact Numbers at the end of the post/entry. Enjoy!

My college friends and I caught a plane (Cebu Pacific) to Laoag at lunchtime to start our exciting long weekend last month. It was certainly an adrenaline-filled Ilocandia trip as upon arriving, we just had a good lunch (hello Poque-Poque Pizza!) and then went on to ride our 4x4's en route to Paoay Sand Dunes for our sandboarding experience.
Poque-Poque and Dinardaraan Pizza on the menu!
A 4x4 ride to the Sand Dunes to meet our fate!
From sandboarding about 2-3 hours, we rode a bus to Pagudpud and basked in the glory and beauty of Blue Lagoon (Saud Beach is the more commercialized beach in Pagudpud, we opted for the privacy of the former).

Sandboarding down the dunes.
Waking up to this scenery that is the Blue Lagoon. Fall in love!
We stayed at Pagudpud (Agua Seda Beach Resort) and started our tour. Yes, Blue Lagoon is as beautiful as you can imagine it to be. It is secluded and only a few establishments are in the area. Nonetheless, the sand is not as white and fine as Panglao nor Boracay, but it serves its purpose.

Abot Kaya Cave
The first stop of our Northern adventure is the Abot Kaya Cave (read that it means "hole in a mountain") and you need to walk through the rocks to get to it. Afterwards, we came to the end of the Philippine map - the famous Patapat Viaduct. The view was spectacular! After tons of photo ops at both places, we went to Kabigan Waterfalls, wherein you will pay a small fee for the tour guide. It's more like contribution to those who are taking care of the place. A short trek (made fun by your companions) will lead you to the hidden waterfalls of Ilocos Norte. You can swim in its greatness and relax with the sound of the falls.
Kabigan Waterfalls
Patapat Viaduct
From the edge of the country (can you hear Lady Gaga's song "Edge of Glory" right now? No? Hmm, maybe it's just me.), our van coursed through the roads and reached Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. As usual, I was just enamoured  by the sights that when I saw the lighthouse I immediately said aloud, "Isn't this the haunted lighthouse featured in the television?" My friends looked at me and then our tour guide retorted, "Ah, you saw that show too! Yes, this is it." I was not happy. Although the antique lighthouse bears spirits on its own, it was said to only make its presence felt to those who have sixth sense. Still, I was paranoid all throughout, haha.
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
I told you it's creepy!!! So scared like a kid.
It would really be weird if you won't take a photo of this. :)
And then we went farther, into the Kapurpurawan White Rock Formation. This scene almost made me ask, "Why is this place so beautiful??" and I prayed and thanked God for touching our technology-hardened hearts (there was no phone signal after all). You need to walk through a vast land of rocky terrain and slippery stones to get to the best view ever. 
Lovely sandstones.
View from the Rock Formation.
You have been warned. This place literally rocks!
Last stop for Ilocos Norte? The man-made powerful behemoths that are the Bangui Windmills! These windmills are situated along the shore as they generate energy for the neighboring town. Our tour guide parked right below one windmill and the moment we stepped out of the van, it was like Final Destination on steroids. The windmills are freakingly awesome and you'll have a sudden connection to your childhood self for some reason.

Bangui Windmills - Scream your childhood!
You have to hug this thing.
The sound it makes is perfect for LSS all the way. *whooosh*
We ought to ride a bus on the way home (yes it's now money over time as we're wannabe backpackers). There's a bus stop in Vigan, so all is not lost on the hopes of visiting Ilocos Sur! Hello Calle Crisologo! It's a long strip of cobblestones and Spanish-style establishments. There are tons of stores along the street and basically, the whole of Vigan is as old school as it can get. See their McDonald's? Yup. There was McDo during the Spanish regime!
All that this resto lacks are cobwebs. Wait, I saw a humongous spider inside.
Does that count?
Calle Crisologo
Jose Miguel Bautista dela Merced ate at this McDonald's. Who he is I don't know.

Pasalubong Guide:
- Vigan longganisa (your family and friends will kill you if you don't buy this!)
- Ilocos empanada
- Ilocos chichacorn
- Wine/s (I got wild berry wine and local cherry wine)
- Pagudpud keychains (those shells are cute)
- If you speak Tagalog will go gaga over their shirts (especially the green-minded ones, oh don't you dare deny it)
I bet you like the shirt. There are other designs as well.
- Mini Bangui windmills (great on your tabletop and for those boring moments)
Mini Bangui Windmill!! Cute!

Travel Tips:
- Pack on some trekking sandals or put on some drainmakers to make your trip and your feet comfy as you will trek on wet and rocky places.
- Sunblock is a must as well as sunglasses.
- Bring a small bag for your stuff, preferably a waterproof pouch for your money and gadgets.
- Bring water especially if you sweat profusely.
- When buying pasalubong for your team/officemates/blockmates, opt for food so you can also share expenses with your travel buddies. Being thoughtful need not be expensive!
- Enjoy the freaking view.

Our itinerary for the 3 days we stayed in Ilocos:
- 4x4 ride and sandboarding
- Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud
- Bantay Abot Cave
- Patapat Viaduct
- Kabigan Waterfalls
- Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
- Kapurpurawan White Rock Formation
- Bangui Windmills
- Calle Crisologo [Vigan]

Budget (it's like I'm practically showing you my dirty list of expenses):

- Flight Manila-Laoag: Php 1550 (Cebu Pacific)
- Bus Manila-Laoag: Php 700
- Paoay 4x4/sandboarding: 7500/9 = Php 937.50
- Bus Laoag-Pagudpud: Php 80
- Bus Pagudpud-Vigan: Php 100
- Pagudpud tour (van): 5000/8 = Php 625.00
- Pagudpud accommodations: 3750*2 (2 rooms for 2 nights) /8 = Php 937.50
- Bus Vigan/Pagudpud to Manila: Php 800
- Pasalubongs will really cost you a lot haha.

- Agua Seda Beach Resort (Blue Lagoon accommodation)
- Iloc-Trk (Kuya Lee @ 0929-813-8352) [Ilocos Norte Tour]
- Paoay Lead (Glenn @ 0908-885-3669) [Sandboarding]
- Paoay Off-Roaders and Adventure Group (Gilbert Santos @ 0928-9473518)

MORAL: The sun, the rocks, the windmills. The lighthouse, the sand, and the falls. The marvels of Ilocos Norte and the history of Ilocos Sur, this place is definitely an awesome mix of nature and man-made goodness at the edge of the country. You must be crazy not to visit this place.

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