Vigan Again

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Happy April, everyone! So for my first post for the month, I'll be telling you about the last leg of my solo backpacking trip in Luzon, where we continue on to Ilocos Sur. This was my third trip to Ilocos Sur and it has always been one of my favorite places in the Philippines.

From Ilocos Norte, I boarded a bus that will drop me off at the town of Bantay in Ilocos Sur. The trip took almost two hours. From the drop-off in Bantay, I rode a tricycle that took me directly to the transient house in Vigan where I will be staying for one night. It was around 8pm when I arrived and as much as I would love to go out, I was too tired that I ended up going to bed early.

I woke up the next day feeling well-rested and energized for my tour. Initially, I planned to go on a tricycle tour of Vigan but since I wanted to spend less, I opted to go on a DIY tour. From where I was staying, I rode a tricycle that took me back to Bantay so I can see the Bantay Church and its famous bell tower.
 Bantay Church, also known the Saint Augustine Parish Church, was established in 1590.
Its belfry served as a watchtower for pirates back in the Spanish colonial era, thus giving
it and its town the name "bantay" meaning to "guard".

From Bantay, I then started my walking tour. It was a ten-minute walk back to Vigan. I visited Calle Crisologo, the Syquia Mansion, the Crisologo Museum, and the Pagburnayan Pottery, all on foot and in that order. The walk from one attraction to another took no more than ten minutes. It saved me from costly tricycle rides and it gave me a good exercise too.
 Calle Crisologo, or Mena Crisologo Street, is the most iconic attraction in Vigan because 
of its Spanish-style heritage houses lined along the street. These houses were built 
during the Spanish colonial era and have survived the test of time. A lot of these houses
were reconstructed and now house souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants, while maintaining their facade, making it a huge tourist attraction.
 The Syquia Mansion was the house of former Philippines president Elpidio Quirino 
when he married into the wealthy Syquia family, through Alicia Syquia. It now stands 
as a museum filled with old furniture, artifacts, and memorabilia of the family.
 The Crisologo Museum was built in honor of Floro Crisologo, who was a known
congressman in Ilocos Sur. The museum was established after his assassination.
Pagburnayan Pottery is a famous attraction in Vigan where tourists can see 
hand-crafted earthenware clay pots being made.

It was nearly lunch time when my walking tour was finished. My next stop is Hidden Garden. Since this place is a bit far from the city proper, I rode a tricycle to take me there. Decorated with pots and various plants, the Hidden Garden is a great place to chill and dine with its colorful yet relaxing ambiance. Yes, dine. Because did I mention that it serves sumptuous food?
Here's what I had for lunch at Hidden Garden: Vigan empanada, bagnet with 
fried rice and egg, and hot chocolate.

I rested a bit after eating all that food before heading to the next place on my itinerary which is the Baluarte. I took another tricycle to get there. The Baluarte Zoo is a wildlife sanctuary and facility, owned by Luis Chavit Singson, who is an Ilocano and a politician here in the Philippines.

That pretty much concluded my day tour of Ilocos Sur. From Baluarte, I rode a tricycle that took me back to Calle Crisologo where I went on a quick kalesa ride. I also hung out at one of the local coffee shops there to waste time away and bought some souvenirs before going back to the transient house.

Now, to give you an idea, a tricycle tour around Vigan costs Php600 to take you to all the attractions that I visited, excluding the kalesa ride. Because I went on a DIY tour, I ended up spending only Php380 and that's including the kalesa ride.

Before leaving Vigan, I had a quick dinner and then went to the Plaza Salcedo to see the Dancing Fountains Show, which starts at 7pm everyday. It was so beautiful that it is indeed a must-see.

After the show, I started my trip back to Manila by boarding a bus. As the bus was leaving Vigan, I smiled to myself, still in awe of everything that I saw and experienced. Shortly, I fell asleep. 

Travel Notes:

How to get there:
  • Best way to travel to Vigan is by bus. From Manila, the travel time is around 8 to 10 hours depending on the traffic and the number of stopovers. Hourly trips are being offered by Dominion Lines and Partas. Bus fare is around Php700 for regular and Php850 for deluxe.
Where to stay:
  • There are several hotels in Vigan, that's near the city proper. One that I would recommend is the Cordillera Inn, which is located along Calle Crisologo. I stayed there a few years back and loved it because its interiors and furniture have that Spanish-era feels.
  • Alternately, you can also stay at transient houses if you are on a budget. During my backpacking trip, I stayed at Nikaira Transient House, which I would recommend because of its gracious hosts and its proximity to the city.
Expenses:
  • Accommodations - Php300 per night for a fan room at Nikaira Transient House
  • Total tricycle expenses - Php200 (rides range from Php15-Php50 depending on location)
  • Bantay Church and Watchtower - FREE
  • Syquia Mansion - Php50 entrance fee
  • Crisologo Museum - FREE
  • Pagburnayan Pottery - FREE
  • Hidden Garden - FREE entrance, but you have to pay for the food
  • Baluarte - FREE
  • Kalesa ride - Php100 (Php150 per hour for a tour of Vigan but I bargained for a half hour ride because I've already been to the attractions)
  • Food - meals range from Php100 to Php200

That's about it for Vigan and for my solo backpacking trip. Traveling alone helped me to learn more about the things around me. But more than that, it helped me learn more about myself. It was indeed a great experience, one for the book and one that I would definitely go on again.

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