We said goodbye to Jessica and got our return flight from Puerto Princesca to Manila and went to the Mall of Asia with Claire and Dee as we only had a few hours left with them. We took advantage of the 99 peso lunch time deal at Pizza Hut and then cried as they sailed off in their taxi to the airport :-( Me and Kam were back on our own again and both felt a bit sad but we made our way to the victory liner terminal in Pasay to catch a bus to Baguio which is a city in the mountains north of Manila. After a bit of faffing around trying to get a ticket we managed to get on a bus, we thought the journey was only 4 and a half hours but turned into 7! It was quite a nice bus though with very cold air con, in fact we were so cold we were shivering, they had a nice film too not the usual violent ones you usually find for 99p in corner shop bargain bins! We went on a very posh highway up to Tarlac and then as it got dark we finally started climbing up lots of hills to Baguio, I think the driver was in a bit of a rush as he really sped up round sharp bends. We were quite glad it was dark so we couldn't see how high up we were! Finally we got there and we noticed how the temperature was a lot lower, people were wearing fleeces. We didn't have anywhere to stay but there was a tourist info place next to the bus terminal and we got a taxi for 50 pesos to a pension house. When we looked in the room it was pretty skanky and we wanted to look somewhere else but the driver wouldn't take us. We were a bit miffed because the room was fairly expensive for what it was. It was really damp and in a basement next to someone with their TV full blast. When we picked up the bucket to flush the loo their were worms underneath. We didn't sleep very well and everything smelt of damp. Our plan was to look around Baguio when we arrived but as we got there so late we didn't have much time at all. In the morning we got to see a bit of the city. It's all on steep hills and it reminded us a bit of India, it's the summer capital of the Philippines and is popular because of the lower temperature. After a bit of a walk around we decided to get the bus to Vigan. We made our way to the bus station and a rather intimidating man with a huge scar on his face said his bus was going there. We were the only people who got on at first and there was a far more popular Partas bus filling up next to us leaving at the same time. We tried to go the Partas bus but he said his was cheaper - we were a bit unsure and there was a horrible violent film playing inside. Luckily just before we changed our minds a few more people got on and we were off. The bus was fine and the driver was quite safe. It took about 5 hours to get there, back down the mountain and then north to Vigan on the west coast. Vigan has lots of buildings from the Spanish era , we expected Vigan to be a bit of a dump with a few nice buildings in the centre after reading Lonely planets description but we were so wrong! We got dropped off in the central old town and there was a lovely fountain and big white church. Then there was a market square which was closed off to traffic - the only form of transport allowed were horse and carts. There were a few shops but they were made to look like the old spanish buildings - even maccy d's! We didn't know where to stay but we had read about Grandpas Inn which is in an old mansion house. luckily they had rooms available and we got a cheap one with a shared bathroom, we then went out for the evening, all the restaurants had set up their tables on the street it looked really lovely and inviting. We tried some Filipino sausages which were very tasty and had some good mango shakes. There were hardly any westerners around, just lots of filipino families enjoying their Easter break. The next day we were off again, this time further north to a place called Pagadpud on the north coast. We left vigan early and got the bus to Laog and then changed buses to a really rickety old rust bucket to get to Pagadpud. We finally caught a tricycle down to Saud beach where after a bit of room searching we found a perfect place called Mick and JUns, the room directly overlooked the beach. There were a few other resorts and restaurants on the beach but it was very chilled out and again it was mostly full of filipino families which was nice, I think we saw one other westerner the whole time we were there. We had a few days here and one day we went to some waterfalls nearby, we had to get a guide she was called janet and was very sweet. We walked through some stunning rice paddies with lush green mountains behind and then through some forest area where we were greeted by the gushing noise of the falls. They were not anything spectacular but still very pretty and jumping in the pool was incredibly refreshing, there was a nutty family all jumping in from a high rock, we just wallowed about! After saying goodbye to Janet we went to a big road bridge which is a tourist attraction! It was nice and the reason it was built was that the old road snaked round the side of a cliff and a bus had rolled off straight into the sea so this was much safer - although some locals now use it as a racetrack which we witnessed as we were nearly mown down by 2 lorries going for it! We also went to blue lagoon beach, on the way in we went by a very rude rock formation (think naked lady bending over! ) Blue lagoon seemed to be dominated by a resort called hannas - it even had the name written in the hill like Hollywood. We had a very expensive snack there and went swimming, the beach was a lot nicer than saud, the water was very calm, turquoise and the sand was white, great for more khan wallowing. One night where we stayed they had hired a videoke, we were treated to very enthusiastic singing until 4am! That's one thing we have noticed in the Philippines - they love singing, and it doesn't matter if you sound like a Hoover with a blockage, they still sing their hearts out with much encouragement from their friends and family -it's really sweet. Our time in the Philippines was coming to an end, we had to make our way down to clarke airport north of manila which we thought would be best spread over two days. So we caught a tricycle back up to the main road in Pagadpud and waited for a few minutes until a really crappy old bus pulled up blaring out YMCA! We got on and after a few strange engine noises we stopped, there was the familiar smell of over heated engine. We don't know what they did but we managed to get going again, slowly crawling up hills - a fire engine sped by and then we saw a big queue of traffic not going anywhere in front, and nothing coming the other way. Everyone piled off the bus, it was obvious there had been some sort of accident - kam and some other curious souls went to investigate, I didn't want to so sat on the curb. SOme other people came back from the crash site and I could sort of understand that there was a leg injury involved. Kam eventually came back looking rather sick, he said the accident had happened on a bend with two lorries which looked like one was trying to overtake the other but something was coming the other way. One lorry had tried to pull back in quickly but had caught the other one, as they don't wear seatbelts one of the drivers and passengers were thrown sideways with one of their legs dangling out - this was then caught by the other lorry and severed off. Kam saw the remaining stub - the firemen were trying to weld the other person out, there was an English doctor with the leg injury man, they didn't have any morphine so could only give him oxygen. We thought we might head back to PAgadpud as the road would be shut for some considerable time but our bus driver said to get back on, so with gangnam style blaring out full blast we somehow did a 3 point turn and then went up a very gravelly narrow road and climbed up a cliff, people from the other direction had the same idea too -at one point (with a bon jovi power ballad collection blaring) we were dangerously close to a sheer drop-someone on the back seat was instructing the driver how close he could go with a big grin! We still made it to laoag, went for some lunch and then got a bus back to Vigan-there was only the VIP bus available so we had a very luxurious journey! In Vigan grandpa's inn was fully booked but we got a room in hem apartelle instead which was really clean, after dinner we had to get an early night as our bus in the morning left at 7am. Our bus left on time but as we were leaving the town we had to go through some sort of checkpoint where the driver had to show papers or license which he didn't have! Things got a bit heated between the driver and the checkpoint official and a little audience formed and us passengers gawped out watching too. As this was happening a funeral procession went by with beautifully decorated horse and cart, the audience turned round to watch it go by and then turned back to the driver drama which then thankfully ended shortly after the driver threw something at the checkpoint guy!
We then had a very dull 9 hour bus journey down to Dau bus terminal in Angeles city which is by Clarke airport, Angeles is the sex tourism capital of the Philippines so we weren't really looking forward to staying there. The terminal was pretty grim and we got a tricycle straight off to the Tune Hotel nearby passing by lots of seedy bars with sweaty old western men hanging around like vultures. It was evening by the time we arrived so after something to eat we headed off to bed and that was our last night in the Philippines!
We enjoyed this country so much, the people and the scenery are just beautiful - 6 weeks is nowhere near enough to explore this amazing place. Every time we hear a rooster crow now we will think of here and people singing out of tune! We had so much more to see but at least that is a good reason to return!!!
WE LOVE THE PHILIPPINES!!! :-)