17.12.2011 – 20.12.2011 Sunny 25 °C
We set off once again after recharging our batteries in Dagupan, for Baguio, getting a bus for 110P each. A short three-hour bus ride later we were dropped off at the Victory Terminal and went to find a hotel. We quickly discovered that going that close to Christmas wasn’t a great idea as three bed and breakfast type places we checked out had no rooms available, full up with Filipino trolls on their holidays, and the hotels were 1000P+ per night. We found one in the end though called the Benguet Prime right in the middle of town on Sessions Road. They had rooms available for 2000P per night after a quick haggle we got them down fifty percent to 1000P a night. Couldn’t have been that busy. The room was adequately priced at 1000P because of the location but paying anymore wouldn’t have been good value. The boating lake, the SM Mall, the Baguio Museum and Mines View awaited us. You can go horse riding through the mountains and I’m told there is archery and shooting ranges around although I have never seen them personally. Camp John Hay is also there although I’m not sure what is there. The SM was OK, in comparison with MOA in Manila though it is a poor substitute but is nicely situated on top of the hill and makes a half decent day out. The Baguio Museum wasn’t fantastic but had some interesting information about the Igorot tribes around that area and how Baguio is the way it is with models over the years. The boating lake was, well a boating lake, 60P an hour and you get to row around a lake, quite fun, and finally a jeepney ride away is Mines View, a tourist spot created out of nothing, really. I forget how many times I have been there and it doesn’t change apart from the locals adding new schemes to part you from your peso’s (this time it’s posing with big St Bernard Dogs, Shetland Ponies with pink manes and dressing up as Igorots for photos). Mines View is basically a lookout over a canyon-esque valley with a market selling all things to do with Strawberries and Peanuts. You can also get plants and locally grown corn on the cob – which does taste great. Keepsakes such as t-shirts and key rings are also available and the vendors try their best to get you to buy. Apart from that, Baguio is pretty much a usual Filipino town. It does have a slight university feel to it as most of the inhabitants are around that age but they need to introduce a few coffee shops with Wi-Fi before it takes it to that description. Baguio could be a good stop on the way to Kabayan or Banaue. Not really worth a special trip though. Much cooler than the south which is nice in the day, gets refreshingly chilly at night.
20.12.2011 – 29.12.2011 Sunny 28 °C
Patar Beach. We love Dagupan! Another week or so spent there incorporating Christmas and a day trip to Patar. Christmas wasn’t great, it’s just not Christmas when it’s hot although we did have a roast chicken dinner, Christmas Eve was dull, none of the happy vibes you get in England, just a few pissheads shouting ‘Merry Christmas Joe’ at you, and Boxing Day is non-existent. Drove three-hours to Patar Beach one day in between Christmas and New Years to see what it was like. The problem is, once you have been to Borocay, you compare all beaches to it, and nothing competes. It was OK, had a BBQ on the beach and spent a few hours lounging around. Not worth the three hours from Dagupan through Aliminos and Bolinao to get there though. Go to Borocay.
29.12.2011 – 31.12.2011 Sunny 32 °C
Subic Bay. We left Dagupan bound for Mabalacat bus terminal also called D’au (200P), to switch buses to one heading for Olongapo (140P), the nearest town to Subic Bay. Subic is split into two areas, the free port zone where only certain cars are allowed, they have their own taxi’s and you have to pass through a checkpoint when walking in on foot, and Zambales, Subic Bays, well, bay. The beach part of Subic and a small town. This was all explained to me by a tricycle driver upon our arrival in Olongapo in hope of him nabbing us for a ride, I suppose. We said thanks and pissed off in search of dinner.
Full up on grub we grabbed a jeepney to Zambales for 20P to look for a hotel. A fifteen-minute ride or so culminated in us being dropped off in a high street, well-lit but not much around, except, strip clubs. Thinking we got out a bit too soon or a bit too late and had hit the red light district, we walked a bit further. It was all the same. There were wall to wall strip bars and massage parlours all with scantily clad dressed girls hanging around outside yelling ‘Hi Mam, Hi Sir’ at you when approaching, whether you were on the other side of the road didn’t seem to bother them.
We found a place to look at next to a bar called the Emu. When we went to look at the room we followed the receptionist passed the cloaked door of the Emu and realised it was another strip bar, but it wasn’t until we got upstairs we found the room was directly above the Emu’s main performance area. Fuck that. We continued our search. Strolling down the road, B ignoring the hookers and me the opposite, we found a hotel called The Abon. 500P a night and no strippers, we took it, dumped our bags and went to see if there was anything to this place apart from strippers. There wasn’t, or if there was, we didn’t find it. All in all it was a bit rough. I like a strip club as much as the next bloke and B isn’t one of these stuck up cows, she’s quite open-minded, I even dragged her into one in Thailand but this place was too much on the side of seedy. Old white men were the only tourists in town and they were either gawping at naked brass’ or had one on their arm, some of them a third of their age at least. We got out of there the next morning and headed for the free port zone.
Unfortunately that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be either. I’d heard stories of zip lining, feeding Tigers and amusement parks as well as the old American Airbase being converted into a hub of restaurants and hotels for foreigners. This was a misnomer. There is a Safari available sure, and you might be able to feed tigers there but I didn’t see anything about zip lining and the airbase had a few crappy looking restaurants and some well overpriced hotels (4000P a night one wanted and it wasn’t even nice). These too, are dotted about over such a distance you need to take a taxi to get round everything, and then of course when you get in a taxi the first question you’re asked is ‘where to?’. My reply would have been ‘no idea’ had I taken one. A car would have been handy but really a car and a tour guide’s needed. After our 4000P quote for a hotel we headed back into Olongapo to get a hotel, where we found one for 800P a night, much more our price range. We whiled away the afternoon and evening raping McDonald’s Wi-Fi as the hotel connection only worked in a 4×6 foot lobby and that contained a counter, a TV with a Filipino soap opera on and a dozy receptionist in it. At least we were off to Borneo the next day. I wouldn’t bother unless you have a car, some patience and a bit of cash. For the Zambales side, you need to be single and either drunk and/or a bit of a pervo (unfortunately I was neither drunk or single and one out of three just doesn’t cut it).