Monday, January 5, 2015

Throwback Travels I: But Yo, Baguio!

My employer granted me an unpaid study leave for a month so that I could “get away from work, rest, and think of what it really was that I wanted to do with my career”. Within the period, I was able to go to Baguio (for the first time, believe it or not!) with my family and bonded with my high school best friends in Puerto Galera and other places! Was I able to study? Well, I read few chapters of the required texts.

Let me share with you our Baguio bonding with this blog entry.

The Departure

I bought our Victory Liner ticket a week before our scheduled departure to Baguio. The tickets cost P715 each for a deluxe bus that travels to Baguio nonstop. The bus had its own comfort room and offered free Wi-Fi access. Snacks and water were also provided. We left Cubao Terminal at 12:15am and arrived at Baguio at 5:15am.

Day 1 – January 20, 2013 (Sunday)

I tried sleeping inside the bus but I could not find the most comfortable position possible. Also, the temperature inside the bus was freezing. From time to time, I just stared at the windows and enjoyed the view. Going to Baguio was quite a breeze because as mentioned, the bus did not have stop overs.

The key to our room
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Kuya Jhong, a “tourism frontliner” who offered us hotel accommodation and tour service. Kuya Jhong seemed to be a cheerful and trustworthy person, so we accepted his offer. He drove us to Hotel Henrico – which was a mere five-minute drive from the terminal – and paid him P50. Our original plan was to check in at 2pm in another hotel and do some of the tour in the morning. Good thing, the hotel allowed early check-in. Thus, we could take some rest before we tour Baguio. The hotel cost P2,200/night for the room that was good for 4. The rate was inclusive of one free breakfast per pax.

Despite its affordability, the hotel was rather clean and presentable. Moreover, it had free Wi-Fi access at the cozy lobby! I was wondering why the room we occupied did not have an air-con – oh yeah, we were in Baguio and the temperature was nearly freezing me, hahaha! Even the water in the shower felt as if it was melted ice!

Hotel Henrico's facade

We slept until 8am and had our breakfast at the hotel. At exactly 9am, we started with our city tour, with Kuya Jhong as our driver/tourguide/photographer. The entire day tour cost only P2,500.

Itinerary at the back of Kuya Jhong's business card

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto

Our first stop was at the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto. Going there was not an easy task – we had to climb numerous steps to reach the actual site of the grotto! Up there, we prayed and of course, had our photos taken by our driver cum tourist guide.

Posing at the Lourdes Grotto

It was in this place where May tried out a Baguio delicacy – Strawberry-flavored taho!
Strawberry-flavored taho

Easter Weaving

The next in our list was Easter Weaving where we expected to see natives weaving fabric. However, we were not able to see them since it was Sunday. So we just enjoyed looking at the colorful woven fabric on display. I was also able to buy two bags of mountain tea leaves (Php 50/bag), which, according to the sellers, could only be purchased in Baguio.

A parade of woven fabric

Bags of Mountain tea
Tim-Awan Village: Garden In The Sky

From Easter Weaving, we drove to Tim-Awan Village where we saw amazing art installations, paintings, sculptures, and native houses. Since my May and Ferdie (her boyfriend) were celebrating their anniversary, I suggested that they avail of the “painting” services of a reknowned artist, Juan Franco Sabado.

Tan-Awan Village
John Frank Sabado sketching May and Ferdie
Bugan + Gatan
Don't you find this creative, huh?!

Strawberry Farm

We headed next to the famous Strawberry Farm. Nanay was excited to experience picking strawberries herself. At the entrance, we were given baskets. We filled the boxes without knowing that what we were supposed to pay for was Zesto boxes cut in half! We were not even told that each box would cost us Php 400. All the while, we thought that the the Ph 400 was for the two boxes we brought! So we paid Php 800 for the two boxes we filled!

Nanay picking strawberry

Outside the farm was a line of stores selling souvenirs. It was where we bought our pasalubongs –  shirts, ref magnets, and bottles of stawberry jam and wine.

The stores outside Strawberry Farm
Chinese Temple

Afterwards, we went to a Chinese Temple and took our photos there. The view was amazing; it was as if we were in a foreign country!

At the Chinese Temple

Lunch at Hai Dan, Camp John Hay

Our brief stay in Camp John Hay was spent at Hai-Dan, a Chinese restaurant where we had our sumptuos lunch. 

At Hai-Dan, Camp John Hay

Mines View Park

We went to the famous Mines View Park next where we saw breath-taking view of the mountain ranges from the viewing deck. Tourists also pose with gigantic dogs (St. Bernard, I suppose). Numerous goods and souvenirs were being sold, as well.

Baguio City's Mines View Park

Mines View Park

Good Shepherd

Right after visiting Mines View Park, we decided to drop by Good Shepherd, a place where delicious delicacies were being sold. We bought ube jam and took photos of the beautiful flowers blooming in their garden.

Good Shepherd

The Mansion & Wright Park

We also visited a famous historical Baguio landmark, The Mansions. Across The Mansion was the Wright Park.

The Mansion

Wright Park

Baguio Botanical Garden

The last stop of our tour was at the Baguio Botanical Garden, where we saw various art pieces, memorial parks (Japanese and Korean, among others) and of course, flowers.
Baguio Botanical Garden 

Monk statues

Night Market

We went to our hotel, paid Kuya Jhong, and had our dinner there. We rested for a while and got ready for our shopping – yes, at the Night Market (Ukay-Ukay)!

The night was vibrant because of this night market. People were busy digging through the goods and haggling for the price! I bought 2 bags and a sweater, while May and Ferdie bought jackets. It was an experience, indeed!

Baguio night market

Day 2 – January 21, 2013 (Monday)

Kubong Sawali

On our second day, we had our lunch at Kubong Sawali, where we ate Sinampalukang Manok, Sizzling Pork Sisig, and Blue Marlin Steak Rice. We also had Banana Split for dessert. This meal cost us only Php 1,070!

Kubong Sawali Restaurant

Pilak: Silver Craft and Gift Shop

We did not have our tour guide anymore so we just hire a cab to bring us to where we wanted to go. First stop was at Pilak, where we Nanay bought a pair of earrings.

Pairs of earrings

Burnham Park

It was January, barely a month before the Panagbenga Festival. Baguio City was preparing for this annual event frequented by thousands of people. Part of the preparation was ensuring that the celebrated Burnham Park was in order. Thus, on our visit, the man-made lake was drained of water! We just spent the afternoon biking and strolling around the park. We also visited a garden and were amazed by the different flowers of Baguio!

Burnham Park sans water

Biking at Burnham

Baguio Public Market & SM Baguio

We went to Baguio Public Market and bought fresh vegetables. Then, we had our dinner at Greenwhich Pizza, SM Baguio. I was not surprised  that SM Baguio did not have aircondition! The natural temperature of the city took the job!

At Baguio Public Market

SM City Baguio

Sharing slices of pizza at Greenwich, SM Baguio

My first time in Baguio was memorable indeed since it was spent with the people I truly love. This would not be the only time I would visit the lovely place. I just hope that urbanization would not destroy the beauty of the city.

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