Tag: luzon

Sagada – Caves, Food and Fresh Air

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Sagada is one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines. I really loved it because it’s temperatures are cooler than the rest of the Philippines, making it the perfect temperature for a Brit like me.

Sagada is a village in the Mountain Province, north of Manila. It’s surrounded by mountains and caves, making it perfect for tourists looking for outdoor activities.

Activities in Sagada

When arriving in Sagada, all tourists must register and pay 35PHP at the tourism office. They’ll give you a receipt and a list of all the tours on offer, with prices. You need to hire a guide if you want to do any activities or walks.

I did the caving short course, which was 500PHP. This tour takes place in Sumaguing Cave and takes between an hour to an hour and a half. The walk to the cave takes just under an hour and there’s an option to get a shuttle for 300PHP. There’s really no need to get a shuttle because the walk to the cave isn’t difficult.

On the way to Sumaguing Cave, I saw hanging coffins and rice terraces. I also stopped by the entrance to Lumaging Cave where there are stacks of coffins.

 

Hanging Coffins Sagada

Hanging Coffins in Sagada

Sumaguing Cave has three stages. The first bit is the ‘slippy bit’. The type of rock combined with bat guano makes for a slippery walk into the cave.

The second stage is the rock formations. There’s loads of different rock formations and the guide told me the names of them. The most famous is the Kings Curtains. A bit of imagination was needed when my guide was showing me the rocks.

The third stage involves going through some water up to your chest. I ended up falling into a deep pool so got completely drenched. This bit was optional for those who don’t want to get wet. When I left the cave I was completely soaked and a few worried people asked whether they would get soaked.

Food in Sagada

I found Sagada to have some of the best food in the Philippines. Every restaurant I ate in had great food.

My favourite place was Gaia which is a vegan restaurant at the bottom of Sagada with amazing views of the rice terraces.

 

Rice Terraces Gaia Sagada

View from Gaia Cafe, Sagada

 

Other restaurants I visited include, Kimchi, Yoghurt House, Sagada Brew, Masferre and Bana’s Cafe. All restaurants had great menus.

Getting to Sagada

I was in Subic Bay before going to Sagada, so for me the best option was to get a bus to Baguio then another bus from Baguio to Sagada. I stayed a night in Baguio because of the bus times.

Returning from Sagada was much easier because there’s a direct Coda Lines bus from Sagada to Manila. The bus leaves Sagada at 3pm daily and goes via Banaue, arriving in Manila around 2am. I was lucky enough to have 2 seats to myself plus Coda Lines provide passengers with blankets. A one way ticket costs 720PHP.

Any questions? Anything to add? Let me know your thoughts…

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Puerto Galera – Beaches, Waterfalls & Drag Shows

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Puerto Galera was my first opportunity to visit a Filipino beach. We’d decided to stay on White Beach simply for its beautiful white sand. We stayed at Summer Connection for two nights, which is at the far end of the beach. White Beach isn’t particularly long so it was very easy to go to restaurants and bars at night.

On the first day, we relaxed on the beach. There were a few people trying to sell things to us, such as massages, earrings, bracelets, shrooms(!) but no one was particularly pushy.

We headed to the restaurant next to our accommodation for dinner. Whilst there, a Filipino man, who we think worked at the restaurant, started playing some songs for us on his guitar. One of his songs was about a guy named Billy who he’d had a great night with but the following day Billy completely ignored him. We walked further down the beach and saw that there was entertainment in a few bars. We got an early night because we’d spent the night before on the night bus from Banaue.

 

Talipanan Falls

Talipanan Falls

 

On the second day, we went to Talipanan Beach, which is much quieter than White Beach. We also went on a walk to see Talipanan Falls. We took a Mangyan guide which cost us 300PHP. On the way back from the falls, the guide took us to see a Mangyan village school. The teachers and the pupils were lovely.
In the evening, we went to a bar in the middle of White Beach (I honestly can’t remember the name) as we’d seen some performers there the previous night. There was a drag performance, some young guys doing a dance routine to Beyonce and some fire performers. All in all, it was a lot of fun. The entertainment was totally free (although you’re expected to tip the performers) and it was the busiest bar on White Beach.

How to get to Puerto Galera

From Manila, it’s simply a case of getting a bus to Batangas, then getting a ferry over to Puerto Galera. Buses to Batangas can be found at the Cubao bus terminal. We got a package deal from a hotel which included the bus and ferry. It cost 800PHP which is pretty expensive for such a short journey.

 

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Mt Pinatubo

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I had to get up at 4am to hike to the top of Mt Pinatubo. 4am. A time normally reserved for waking up for early flights or returning from a night out. The reason for this is that Mt Pinatubo is kind of difficult to get to on public transport, even from nearby cities. This involved:

  • A tricycle from the hostel in Angeles to the Dau bus terminal
  • A bus to Capas
  • A tricycle from Capas to the tourism office for Mt Pinatubo
  • A 4×4 from the tourism office to the bottom of the hiking path
Mt Pinatubo

Interesting rock formations on the way to the start of the hiking trail

By the time we started walking it was after 7am. Fortunately, the walk wasn’t particularly challenging. There were a few river crossings and the path was uneven with rocks, stones and boulders. I managed not to fall or step in the river despite being one of the clumsiest people ever to live.

Mt Pinatubo Crater Lake

Mt Pinatubo Crater Lake

We made it to the crater lake at 9am. We’d seen reviews on TripAdvisor from people saying they’d eaten their lunch at the crater lake. Either they set off much later than us, are very slow walkers, or they eat lunch at a weird time. Anyway… the crater lake was nice. Unfortunately, no swimming is allowed in the crater lake but it still looked amazing.

I wore trainers to hike in which were more than adequate for this trail. As I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t particularly demanding. We saw a few people wearing dust masks but I honestly don’t think they’re required because it wasn’t too dusty. I also took water, some snacks to eat at the crater lake and of course, my camera.

This hike was great and I was surprised at how easy it was. Definitely worth seeing if you’re in the area. Although, if you’ve only got chance/time to see one volcano from Manila, I would say that the Taal Volcano is much easier and cheaper to access.

It’s possible to take a day trip to Mt Pinatubo from Manila, more details can be found here..

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Taal Volcano – An Easy Day Trip From Manila

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The Taal Volcano is the smallest volcano in the Philippines and is actually a volcano within a volcano (sounds a little Inception-esque). It’s easily accessible from Manila, but we decided to stay in Tagaytay.

Getting to the Taal Volcano

Staying in Tagaytay made it easy to get to the Taal Volcano. We could see the Taal Volcano from the hostel we stayed in. We got a trike downhill to the edge of Taal Lake and got a boat over to the volcano. We were offered the chance to go up the volcano on horseback but declined because the horses didn’t look like they were in the best condition. We were also offered a guide but refused because the volcano is only 311m high. How hard could it be?!

The Ascent

The ascent to the crater lake was not difficult and took around 40 minutes at a leisurely pace. We set off around 2pm so the sun was blazing. Add that to the fact we were walking on an active volcano and I was probably 50% sweat by the time I reached the top.

 

Taal Volcano crater lake

Me at the crater lake

Once at the top, the crater lake looked amazing. Definitely worth the sweaty, dusty 40 minute walk to the top. On the way down we stopped for a coconut water/beer. This was probably around halfway down and the views of the lake from this point were fantastic.

How much did I pay? 

  • 200PHP – Return bus trip Manila -Tagaytay
  •  100PHP – Return trip on a tricycle from Tagaytay to Taal Lake
  • 500PHP – Return boat ride to Taal Volcano
  • 100PHP – Tourist fee on the island

I was in a group of 4 so the tricycle & boat prices are what we paid individually.

All in all, visiting the Taal Volcano is a great way to experience the countryside of the Philippines without straying too far from Manila.

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Batad Rice Terraces

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The Batad rice terraces were my first experience of Filipino life outside of Manila. And what an incredible first impression of the Philippines!

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Getting to Batad

The easiest way to get to Batad from Manila is on the night bus to Banaue. This should set you back 450PHP one way if you buy the ticket directly from the bus company, Ohayami. I’m terrible at sleeping on night buses so I was awake for the majority of the journey. This wasn’t helped by the drivers insistence on playing a Phil Collins concert DVD, at a loud volume, until the first stop after midnight and the freezing temperature of the bus. All I can say is take warm clothes & ear plugs!

The bus should arrive in Banaue between 6-7am depending on the bus you catch. From there, you can get a tricycle to where the road ends before Batad. There were two of us and we paid 300PHP based on what other travellers had told us. Leaving Batad, we managed to get a jeepney which was much cheaper. After the road ends there’s a 15-20 minute walk down a muddy path to Batad.

The Rice Terraces

Once in Batad, we checked into Simon’s guesthouse. The accommodation is basic but comfortable. We paid 500PHP for one night’s accommodation. Simon’s also doubles as a restaurant and has a decent menu. Simon’s also has great views of the rice terraces:

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Getting a guide to take you around the rice terraces is easy and should cost around 800PHP. I’m not sure whether it’s possible to do the walk without a guide, however, I would recommend a guide because walking around the rice terraces can be slippery and are very narrow in some parts. The first stop is a lookout point across all of the Batad rice terraces, which will give you spectacular views:

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The second stop is a waterfall which you can swim in if you like (it’s freezing). Overall the tour took around 3 1/2 hours, including a stop for lunch.

It’s possible to visit the Batad rice terraces without staying overnight in Batad or Banaue as the night bus leaves Banaue around 6pm. The Batad rice terraces are an amazing site and I would honestly recommend them to anyone visiting the Philippines.

 

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