Thursday, November 29, 2012

Traveling back in time: Vigan

I've always wanted to visit Vigan. My trip here was actually a year in the making. Anywee, for a brief history of this place click this.

Vigan means Bigaa

Left manila at 9pm by bus and arrived 5am the next day. Since we visited the place during an off peak-season there wasn't much passengers inside the bus so my friend and I was able to sit in the front (and practically own the remote control of the TV!). It was a long 8 hours trip but it was comfortable. I recommend taking Dominion bus because the terminal is just a block away from Calle Crisologo so we were able to take pictures right away (out of excitement!) before we start looking for a place to stay.

Walking along Calle Carisologo is like being transported back in the past, I imagined myself wearing a baro't saya with a matching umbrella hurrying to get home because it is already past curfew (haha!).There are few joggers and some kalesa that passes by but all in all the place was very quiet. The whole area was well preserved, the road was still old school bricks and cement, too bad that the local government only maintained it's original beauty on only one  street because it would have been way better to preserve every road they named "Calle". Well, some of the newly constructed building try to look century old too, but the paint color they used did not compliment at all (imagine seeing color blue and red). Moving on, the houses along that famous road are still well preserved, at present they are now being used as antique stores, souvenir shops, coffee shops, and museums.    

Finding a place to stay is not difficult since there is one in almost every block. We stumbled upon Vigan Hotel, Cordillera Inn, which offered affordable rooms. There is also a dorm type that is 229/night walking distance from the World Heritage Site, if you are in a very tight budget this place will do, locals call it "white house". But we ended up staying at Grand Pa's Inn along Calle Bonifacio, the cheapest they have are fan rooms that is 720pesos/night (shared bathroom) and  920pesos/night (own bathroom). I was a bit dismayed to find out that all of the fan rooms are occupied (by some foreigners!), so my friend and I ended up staying at an Standard Air con Room good for 2 at 1720pesos/night. All rooms comes with free daily breakfast, cable TV and wifi but the cable only have few selected channels and the wifi was a bit defective (we had to stay in the receiving area to get good signal). Don't worry much about wifi because almost all of the restaurants and coffee shops around Calle Crisologo offers free wifi.

Room No. 17 Grand Pa's Inn

White House - a dorm type transient house

After a few hours we decided to walk along Calle Crisologo to experience what it's like during daylight, I was a bit surprised to find out that some of the stores won't open until 12nn, I realized that since we went there during an off-season, there isn't much tourists too so indeed there is no reason for store owners to open up early. Walking along we passed by some closed furniture shops and noticing that most of them just leave some of the furniture outside, amazed how some owners are not worried about their products being stolen.

Playing "Vigan's next top models" in a closed shop

Since it is already past 1pm and we weren't hungry yet, we stopped by Mocha Blends for an afternoon coffee and took advantage of their free wifi. We asked the lady from the store what places would she recommend for first time tourists like us, she told us to visit baluarte, the bell tower and the hidden garden. And we are more than happy to obliged.

Places we visited:

Baluarte a sort of mini zoo that the city have, I'm surprised to see that despite of the fence they put in, all the animals can freely roam around the place e.i., ostriches, sheeps and donkeys. I think visitors can even touch them but I did not dare.

Bell Tower located a few meters besides St. Augustine Church, is best visited during day time. Free entrance. Composed of thick bricks made of clay with a perfect view of the City.

Hidden Garden I have no idea why they called it "hidden", I also forgot to ask. Free entrance (again!). You can see almost all kinds of plants there is that grows in Philippine weather. It was well arranged with pathway-like-maze for all visitors. Observers must remain only to observe because the plants are not to be touched unless you are buying them.

Before I end just additional tips: kalesa drivers offers P150/hour for a tour around the City while tricycle drivers offers P140/hour. I suggest don't take any of this since you can actually ask a kalesa driver if you can take picture of their kalesa and horse for free. For going in different places pay the tricycle driver per ride, if they say that they will wait for you immediately decline because this means that you agreed to pay them by the hour (without knowing it), this almost happened to me :( 

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