Amelia and I caught the first bus that came by to Vigan, from the main road running through San Juan. It was a rickety old bus with no luxuries whatsoever, and the driver was completely covered in oil too! We were unsure if we would actually make the hundred odd kilometres to Vigan. It turned out we didn't... not because it broke down, but because for some reason or another we were told to get off and transfer to a minibus. It was an odd situation, the bus assistant even transferred the money to the minibus driver. Another hour down the road we were chucked off a second time, and again onto another minibus! We finally made it to Vigan around lunchtime.
'Chowking' is an Asian fast food franchise in the Philippines. It's not bad for fast food, better than your average, greasy, Chinese takeaway back home, that's for sure.
Not having a room booked, we went trotting the cobbled streets of Vigan in the midday heat. We hunted high and low, finding most were too expensive or the ones we could afford were rundown, dirty and unwelcoming. After roughy two hours searching in the midday heat, we found a rundown place called 'El Juliana'. Before agreeing to stay we always ask to check the room. The room was small, fairly clean and came with breakfast, but what really sold it to us was the lady mentioning they had a swimming pool! Not a luxury we often see on our budget!
One tends to work up quite a sweat in the midday heat carrying fairly heavy rucksacks! So after a quick change into our swimmers we went off to find the pool for a nice refreshing dip.
You wouldn't believe the state of this pool, it was by far the most disgusting swimming pool I have ever seen! It looked like it hadn't been used for years, there was what looked like mould on the surface and it was covered in bird faeces. It was that dirty you couldn't even see past the surface. Needless to say I jumped in... not really. We went back to the room for a pathetic shower and off out to explore.
Vigan, with its Spanish colonial influence and cobbled streets still intact (after World War II) is a fairly unique city in the Philippines.
We'd heard that there was a famous local dish to try, so we found some street food stands next to Plaza Burgos. The dish is known as 'empanada'. It is a turnover with a filling of eggs, Vigan 'longganisa' (sausage) and vegetables wrapped in a rice flour shell. Some say it's a Filipino version of a taco! It was full of flavour, but being deep fat fried it was heavy going.
At 19:30 Vigan has a fountain show next to 'St Paul's Cathedral'. The show felt very americanised, almost Disney-esk but then a lot of things do in the Philippines. It'd been a long day, so after an unsuccessful hunt for a buko shake (coconut shake) we went back to our room.
Our bodies seem used to waking up early these days, we awoke around 6-7am to make the most of our day. The 'free' breakfast, was a choice of either longsilog or.... longsilog (a Filipino breakfast consisting of a small sausage with a fried egg and rice). We left the hotel to find 'Bantay Bell Tower' - just outside the city, it supposedly had a good view over Vigan. But we were unimpressed to be honest. The main building that stood out was a colourful fast food restaurant known as 'Jollibee'! To the surprise of most tricycle drivers, we walked just over one kilometre back to Vigan, and to an old mansion called 'Syquia Mansion'. The mansion used to be the Vigan residence of President Elpidio Quirino. It was well maintained, and had pristine antique furniture. The floors were so highly polished, you could see your reflection!
The next stop was the 'Crisologo Museum', which was the home of the late Congressman Floro Crisologo and his wife Carmeling, a former governor of Ilocos Sur. It contains memorabilia and old newspaper articles and pictures of his assassination - very gory!
Wanting to try some more famous local dishes we opted for 'okoy' - a deep fried pancake made with local shrimp. Very strong flavoured shrimp, not something I'd eat again. To take away the lingering taste, we had some empanadas with their standard table condiment of chilli vinegar - a very nice combination.
One of the most attractive streets in Vigan is 'Calle Crisologo'. When walking down this old quaint street you really do feel like you've gone back in time. It's a cobbled street with only calesa (horse-drawn carriages) and pedestrians permitted. It's also lined with many historic buildings ranging in condition, and plenty of quirky little antique shops.
We found some snacks, rice in bamboo shoot and coconut cake, and made our way back to the room to pack before check out time.
Our next destination.. Sagada.