So today we are heading to our final “new” location of our entire trip. The plan was to catch the 10 AM bus and we should be in Laoag by lunch time. We all got up and went to breakfast about 8. Afterwards we went back and packed up to go to the bus station. I actually like riding the busses here, so far ours have always been on time, had great AC and sometimes even wi-fi! We checked out at about 9:30 walked a block down the beautiful cobblestone streets and caught a trike to the bus station. By now we were 4 people 4 suitcases and at least 4 other various bags. The tricycle driver said no problem and preceded to take our luggage and strap it onto various parts of the tricycle. Lyn, Domingo and Modesta got in the side car and of course the “Ogre” got the usual seat behind the driver. After about 10 minutes we were at the bus station. With the help of the driver we unloaded and went to the waiting area. You can see the tricycle by clicking here. Here we were told that there were plenty of seats on the bus and that it should be there about 10:05. The security team that told us this also asked us what we were going to do in Laoag and once we told them our plans they said they had a relative that drove tour vans and that they could pick us up at the bus station and then the next day tour us for 8 to 10 hours in a private van for about $60. We probably could have worked out something cheaper but sometimes if you book through the hotel it can be more expensive. Anyway it also included dropping us off at the airport the following day so we went for it.
The bus came pretty much on time and we were on our way by 10:15. The ride would be about 2 hours but because we had a lot of seats open on the bus we stopped for anyone that waved us down. It was actually fun pulling into all the stops. The ride was smooth and Lyn and I had front seats so we had view great. These seats became very entertaining because every time we passed slower traffic we would be greeted with a full window of full on oncoming traffic. Busses demand a little more respect so most of the time everyone would move out-of-the-way. We had lots of what we would call in America super close calls but I get the feeling every move we made would have just been considered normal day over here! Anyway after about 2.5 hours we arrived in the city of Laoag! This city is getting close to the most northern tip of the Luzon and a city that I have been looking forward to visiting. We were picked up in an old van and taken directly to our hotel. This hotel was called the Java hotel. It was another $50 a night hotel. This time I had reserved two rooms and when we arrived they let us go ahead and check in a little early. There was a wedding about to happen so there was a lot going on with guests and pictures. The hotel itself had a Polynesian look and feel about it. You can see a short video of it by clicking here.
Once we checked in and got settled Lyn and I decided to get our clothes washed one more time. Lyn had noticed a laundry along our route from the bus station. While Dominga and Modesta were getting settled Lyn and I got our Laundry and went out front and flagged down a tricycle. Like I have said before every area’s tricycles are slightly different and for some reason on these tricycles they made the side cars just a little smaller than any that we had been in so far. When it was just Lyn and me we usually both ride in the side car. When I got in this one it was super tight but still fun. The driver took us to the laundromat that we had seen but it said it would not be opening til next week so he took us to another one and it also was opening next week. Crazy! Anyway the driver took us to another one that was open but they hand washed everything and could not get it back to us the same day. They were nice enough to tell us of another laundry that machine wash and dried. We went there and they agreed to do our Laundry and have it ready by 5. It was out $6 total. Awesome. When we got ready to head back the driver told me to tell the next driver that the laundromat was across from Jollibee. He also told me to take a picture of Jollibee so the driver would know exactly where to take us. Super helpful! Anyway he dropped us back off at the hotel and we decided to just eat at the hotel. The Restaurant was open air and had a fun tropical feel to it. We all had a great meal and decided to take a nap. Our big touring day will actually be tomorrow so there was no need to run around this afternoon. Besides this hotel was worthy of just hanging out and enjoying it.
About 4:30 Lyn and I flagged down another tricycle showed the driver the picture of Jollibee and about 10 minutes later we were picking up our laundry. We decided to walk around the downtown area a bit and then head back. We looked for an ATM but could not find one so we grabbed another tricycle and asked him to take us to an ATM on the way to the Java hotel. He agreed and when I was climbing out of the side car to get money from the ATM I literally almost stepped in to a bucket a fish that a lady was selling on the sidewalk. (Love this place!) When we got back to the hotel it was time for dinner. The next day would be Lyn’s birthday so we decided to celebrate it that night since we knew the restaurant would be nice. We had a great meal that included singers serenading the birthday girl with Happy Birthday and What a Wonderful World. You can see a short video of the singers by clicking here. What a great way to celebrate Lyn’s birthday! After dinner we called it a night and headed to bed about 10. The next day would be an all day touring day with us ending up flying to Manila at 9:30 PM. This was going to be one full day.
The next morning we had a great made to order breakfast and about 8 AM our driver for the day showed up. He came in a nice enough van a little worn and torn but nice over all. The only problem was that the AC was not super cold. It did work but it took a long time to cool down. In Laoag the sites we wanted to see where very spread out. We planned to go north to Pagudpud Ilocos Norte which was about two hours north of Laoag. There we would visit Saud beach which also is nicknamed Boracay of the north so hopefully we would finally see a beautiful beach that the Philippines are known for. On the way there we would stop at the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations, Wind Farm and finally Saud Beach. After that we would drive all the way back to the south of Laoag and visit the Malacanang of the North, St. Augustine Church and then grab dinner and head to the airport to catch our 9:30 PM flight. Wow this was going to be a big day!
We headed out and just enjoyed all of the beautiful views that sometimes included views of the ocean. We drove for about an hour and stopped at the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. The driver dropped us off at the entrance where we jumped on a quick trike ride to the top. As you can imagine the views where awesome! This lighthouse was built-in 1892 and is still in use to this day. After we took a bunch of pictures we came down to the souvenir area. While Lyn and her sisters were shopping, I went to buy a coke zero. While I was in line I saw lady making empanadas. It was too close to breakfast to have one but it was interesting seeing her making them. You can watch a short video of her by clicking here. After the girls were done shopping we got back in the van and headed north. The next stop was the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations. After the driver dropped us off we walked down stairs towards the ocean. The entire walk was covered by trees and the shade and breeze felt really good. After about 100 yards the trees opened up and we were rewarded with a view of the rocky coastline as well as the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations. We were presented with two options. We could walk to the formations or for about $2 each we could ride a horse. Really the horses were more like ponies so there was no way I was doing that. Actually we all decided to walk as it was not that far and we could really use the exercise after riding in the van. The walk had beautiful views of the surrounding area. We took lots of pictures and after about an hour we headed back to the van. The next stop was a beach on the way to Saud that actually had giant wind mills on it like the ones you see out west in the USA. The driver dropped us off on the beach and this was the first beach that we could actually stroll on. The beach was beautiful and had lots of pebbles on it. We decided to all take off our shoes and take a walk in the surf. Kind of cool to say we dipped our feet in the South China Sea. After collecting a few pebbles we headed back to the van and started to go north again to reach our most northern location of Saud beach in Pagudpud. We really got to take in the beautiful ocean views on the way.
Finally we arrived at Saud beach and were truly blown away by its beauty. This was the type of beach that I was hoping to see in the Philippines. There was a nice beautiful sandy beach and the water was multiple colors of blue with nice calm waves. Up and down the beach where beautiful palm trees and boats and people. Actually there was only about 20 people on the entire beach area and they all appeared to be locals. Hopefully you can tell by now that this beach was awesome in every way. Lyn and I took our shoes off and took a stroll, pictures and just enjoyed it. So wish we had a few more days to stay here and properly enjoy this beautiful area. After about 45 minutes we got back in the van and headed back towards Laoag. The plan was to hit the Jollibee drive through on our way to Malacanang of the North. We needed to be there by 3 to be able to see it before it closed at 4. Since it was Sunday they were only open for a few hours.
We drove and grabbed our lunch at the Jollibee as planned and ate it on the way to the Malacanang of the North The Malacanang of the North was the home of President Ferdinand Marcos and his family when he visited the Ilocos Norte. It was beautiful but not opulent like you might think it would be. It had huge open windows and beautiful views of a lake. It was really interesting to tour the house and learn about some of its history. We spent about an hour here just taking it all in. You can see a short video by clicking here. (That would be Ferdinand Marcos not Fernando as I stated ion the video. Sorry!) After we were done touring we decided to get some ice cream before we got back in the van. There happened to be a cart near the exit that was selling “Scramble“. This was something I had never seen before. We went and ordered three and I watched them make it. I could not tell all of the ingredients but it did have shaved ice, banana flavoring,chocolate syrup, condensed milk and strangely powdered milk. Once you scrambled it all together it was really good! Just the perfect thing we could do to cool off. We all sat in the shade for a bit and just enjoyed this delicious treat. I think I actually like it better than Halo Halo…and I love Halo Halo! 🙂 Will have to try both again soon to really make a final call ha ha!
After that we got back in the van and headed to Paoay to visit the St. Augustine church which is a UNESCO world heritage site. The church was actually stunning inside and I felt like we were in Europe while we toured it. We burned candles in honor of Lyn’s parents. We took the time to sit in the church and just soak it all in. After we toured the church we toured the grounds and took several more pictures. By now it was about 4:30 and too early to have dinner so we asked our driver if he could take us to a market area where we could look around before dinner. He actually suggested a mall area in downtown Laoag and had us there in about 45 minutes. This turned out to be a great idea because they had a food court we could use as our base while some of us would go out and shop. It also had awesome air-conditioning. We sat around and talked and also took turns looking around. While Lyn and I were walking around people kept asking us if we wanted a free massage. I know there is always a catch but there was one super nice lady that kept asking us if we would have one so finally I said we would as long as she knew there was no way we were buying anything. She said that was fine and took us too some chairs and proceeded to have her and one of her coworkers give us a great leg and foot massage with this device that they were selling. It was awesome! So relaxing after touring all day. The conversation turned away from sales pitch to one of just friends talking. Next thing I know we are exchanging FB information and Lyn is now friends with her on FB. I tell you we keep meeting the nicest people and this was just another great example of it. Anyway when we got back to Lyn’s sisters, since we were at a food court we all just bought what we wanted for dinner and met back at the table. Earlier Lyn and I had been looking for a place to charge her phone when a nice lady running the empanadas stand said there was nowhere for us to charge in the mall. Lyn told her about going to the airport later and really needing to charge her phone. The next thing I knew the lady took Lyn’s phone behind her counter and charged it for her for over an hour. That was so helpful to us that I made sure we bought some food from her and I bought one of her empanadas. It was delicious and just another example of the kindness of strangers. We all ate our diner and decided to just head to the airport early.
We arrived at the airport to find out that they only had one airline. We were through ticketing and security in about 15 minutes. This airport appeared to be new and they had AC, free filtered water and wi-fi! No problem hanging out here for two hours. The flight to Manila was only going to take about an hour and 15 minutes. That kind of blew my mind because to get from Manila on our way here we had taken an 9 hour bus ride, 3 hour Jeepney ride, 9 hour car ride and 2.5 hour bus ride. Anyway Lyn’s sister Modesta had never been on a plane so she was a little nervous but also excited. Our plane was on time and we had a very smooth flight. We landed about 10:45 and then grabbed a cab to our Airbnb that I had reserved months ago. Our cab only cost us about $3 and our room was only about 10 minutes away. This Airbnb was not a hotel obviously and it had a remote owner so I had a little concern on getting in the place. The owner gave me such good instructions that within 15 minutes we were in the room and getting ready to get a good nights sleep. This was studio apartment that only had one bed but also had a futon that we could roll out on the floor. The cost was about $46 which was pretty good for this location in Manila. It was actually perfect as we would have to take Lyn’s sisters to the bus station around 9 in the morning. We all were asleep by 11:30 so thankful that we made it here safely and just plain thankful for being able to spend so much time with Lyn’s family. Tomorrow we will be actually be heading towards Greensboro! Thanks for reading!