After arriving in Hong Kong, we suddenly found out that there was a four-day long weekend at the end of September for the Chinese mid-autumn festival. This led to some last minute scrambling to find a cheap last-minute vacation destination. The winning location, the Philippines, not Manila as you might expect, Angeles City, a small town about 2 hours north of Manila in Central Luzon.
We were only in Angeles City to sleep on Friday night before taking a bus to Baguio City. As you can see from Google Maps, this is only a 164km travel that should take just over 2 hours. In reality, it takes close to 5 hours on a very windy, sometimes narrow mountainous road. We spent the afternoon touring around Baguio, which is by nobody’s definition a tourist hotspot. We were the only two foreigners in the whole city (or at least that we saw) as we went to the central park, the local market and explored around. We had dinner at the strangest (rustic, woodsy/village – themed restaurant) vegetarian restaurant. We are now struggling to describe the very cool décor in words and unfortunately it was too dark for pictures. After, we stopped off at a local bar playing live music (including a few country songs – we heard live music at three different places in the Philippines and two of them had country music!) where Vid picked up a 20 year-old guy in front of me. While this was a little awkward, it was nothing compared to later that night when she got an in-room Thai massage on the bed with the female-masseuse on top of her, while I had no other option but to lie next to her (watching sports on TV)!
The next morning we took another bus further north to Sagada (Northern Luzon), where we explored some extremely awesome caves. The first 100m of steep decent was a little rough (sharp, slippery, bat-poop/mud covered rocks). After that, we got to take off our shoes and descend for the last 50m on smooth rocks that were covered by running water and waterfalls. The calcium covered limestone rock was eroded in many places by the falling water, leading to some amazing rock formations.
We also saw several rice terraces in Sagada and Banaue (home of a UNESCO world heritage site), with many of the pictures taken from our jeepney as we travelled across the mountainous country-side. In some places there were falling rocks that had completely covered a full lane of the road. In other places there was only one lane to start with and in others there was barely anything you would call a road!
After a marathon overnight bus ride back to Manila, we spend our last couple hours touring around Manila. The US, Canada, Australia and the UK had all issued travel advisories for the city a couple of days earlier (specifically Pasay city where the bus terminal was). We survived without incident.
The strong American influence was evident almost everywhere in the country, from the TV stations and music to the acceptance of American currency. Our point of entry in and out of the Philippines was Clark Airport, a former US military base.
The return back to Hong Kong felt a little weird as it was the first vacation we had been on where we didn’t return “home” afterwards. That being said, we are definitely still looking forward to many more “weekend vacations”. Next up…Singapore!
Check out the rest of our photos on Facebook: Philippines 2012