–Avantasia from Avantasia: The Metal Opera
–Nightfall on the Gray Mountains by Rhapsody of Fire
The Metal Opera and Rhapsody of Fire are now officially my favorite travel music selections.
My apologies for the late update. The trip home from Pagudpud was rather taxing and knocked me out yesterday afternoon. Anyway, on with the story.
4/24 6:30 pm Arghs, Fil and Martin arrived at my house. It was still way to early to leave for the bus station, so we stayed for a while. We finally left at around 6:45.
4/24 7:00 pm We arrived at the RCJ bus terminal close to UST. We discovered that the person who took Fil’s call when she was making reservations made a very big mistake and scheduled us for the day before we were supposed to leave. With no certain seats on the bus, we decided to leave for another bus station. Thankfully, the nearby Florida bus lines had a trip that was leaving at 8:30 pm and had four empty seats that were all in the same row. Talk about the grace of God. That certainly was an answered prayer. After a quick dinner courtesy of Burger Machine, we departed at 8:30 pm as scheduled.
4/24 8:30 pm to 4/25 8:30 am Our trip from Manila to Pagudpud. The first leg of our journey was a speedy run down NLEX through Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac. After Tarlac we passed through the Ilocos region provinces: Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and finally, Ilocos Norte. Unfortunately our bus was not in tip top shape; we had to pull over four times as the engine’s fan belt had to be replaced and the air conditioning system seemed to pass out. Thankfully after La Union we no longer had any problems.
We highly recommend Florida Bus Lines despite this little problem we had. The one-way trip to Pagudpud from Manila cost only Php 600 (Approximately US$ 12 using an exchange rate of Php 49/$1). The air conditioning was cold (apart from the minor problem that was fixed quickly) and there was a small toilet on board the bus. The toilet is not a washroom but just that: a toilet. There is no sink with running water. (That’s a little too much to expect from a bus, don’t you think?) The toilet itself is a vacuum flushing apparatus that can take liquids fine. Please do Number Two before you take the trip as the toilet can only work so hard to flush your waste. Men might find using the toilet in transit a rather delicate operation that involves bracing oneself against the cubicle’s walls. Handholds are available but don’t help much. Toilet paper is also available for cleaning up, but again, Number Two is not allowed in the bus toilet, neither is the toilet capable of flushing solid waste.
In transit, we had several rest stops, each of which has a washroom (where you can do Number Two, just that I didn’t see what quality they had) and a small store where one can purchase snacks. Martin and Arghs found a balut vendor in the Tarlac stop. (I personally don’t care much for balut, but foreigners might want to try fertilized duck eggs.)
Our final stop was on the outskirts of Laoag City in Ilocos Norte, where the bus topped up its fuel tank. Ever wondered how much a bus pays for fuel?
The final town we passed before Pagudpud itself was Bangui. Among the sights to watch out for are Northwind Power’s giant windmills.
4/25 8:30 am We finally arrived after a 12-hour trip. Despite the frequent stops, we made good time (the driver tends to supercruise at speeds of over 100 kph once the roads are clear) and arrived exactly half a day after we departed from Manila. Steve Santos, owner of the Polaris resort we stayed at, was already waiting for us at the bus station when we arrived. He drove us to his resort in his van while telling us what we could do.
The beauty of the place speaks for itself. The sand is white and the water is crystal-blue, though the waves tend to be quite rough. I hear this is because Pagudpud is where the waters of the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean mingle. I’m not quite sure if this is also the reason for the water being very cold all day, even on a hot sunny day. High tide and low tide are not very different from each other; the amount of beach exposed during low tide is only about 6-8 meters further than the high water line. During high tide the waves are very powerful; some of them are around five to eight feet above the sea’s level and pack a punch that can knock one down if one is caught sitting on the edge of the water. The undercurrent is very strong; it can drag one a few feet if one is caught by the wave on the edge of the shore. During low tide, the waves are deceptively small; however the undercurrent remains powerful. Always swim in groups and stay as close to the shore as possible if one isn’t an experienced swimmer.
There are very few visitors during the week, which we all agreed adds to the beauty of the place. Municipal ordinances prohibit night swimming, pitching tents on the shore, and the use of videoke and karaoke machines past 10:30 pm. As such, Pagudpud is a very quiet location. If you’re looking for seaside orgies, go to Puerto Galera or Boracay. Pagudpud is not the place for you. The night life only picks up when there are special events held on the beach, but otherwise it is a very rustic sanctuary for people who appreciate the sun, sand and sea on their own.
The whole year (except for the latter half of December and Holy Week itself) is considered off-peak, and a such the rates are lower. We were originally going to be charged Php 2500 for a room for four people per night, but Fil was able to haggle this down to Php 2000/night. (US $ 40)
The accommodations are rather spartan (lol SPARTAAAAAAAAA), but while the rooms can be tight (ours was), they are all air-conditioned and the private bathrooms have working flush toilets, toilet paper, towels, and complimentary soap. Some of the rooms have varnished bamboo paneling on the walls, ours was just concrete painted a pastel blue, with matching curtains. Due to the air-conditioning, mosquitoes are not a problem in the bedrooms.
The ground floor is a dining area[pic]/living room[pic] with cable TV (limited channels, but you don’t plan on being a couch potato on the beach, do you?) and a small store[pic] that sells soda, bottled water, junk food and assorted trinkets. Be warned, though: this area is very dusty during the day (the wind is quite strong in Pagudpud and blows fine sand in) and may damage delicate electronics. I brought Naos (my laptop) and had to vacuum the sticky dust off. At night, the dining area is also besieged by mosquitoes. Bring mosquito repellant.
The food is cheap: Php 400 per viand (serves 5-6 people); veggie dishes for half that. The cost of rice is negligible. Breakfast is at Php 120 per plate (for one person). The food was of generally good quality: the beefsteak was rather oily, but the pork liempo was lean and full (completely unlike the oversized bacon strips we’re used to in grill restaurants in the city). I also recommend the chicken curry and pancit canton.
Alternatively, one can purchase food from the market and either have Polaris’s kitchen prepare it to your liking (for a fee: As low as Php 50 if you supply all the additional ingredients and spices, Php 120 if they buy that on their own). One can also purchase lobster and kuracha/alupihang-dagat from vendors who pass through the resort. The lobsters they sell aren’t that large, but the smaller lobsters are actually full of meat and have softer shells. Adult lobsters have thicker shells and are rather hollow. Lobster costs Php 450/kilogram, while alupihang-dagat (I really can’t tell what these things are called in English, they look to me like horseshoe crabs and Arghs says they’re called kuracha in his hometown down south, but the locals call them alupihang-dagat or sea-centipede) costs Php 350/kilogram.
Another [pic] of our crustacean friends before they met the steaming pot. On the left is the lobster, on the right is the alupihang-dagat.
After the pot.[pic]
Arghs playing with his food.[pic]
The staff in Polaris are very friendly and hospitable. Before we left, Ate Mean (Steve’s wife) told us about other things we could do in Pagudpud, should we come back. Polaris offers tours to Laoag, passing through the Wind Farm in Bangui and other locations including Paoay church. The tour costs extra, of course, but the cost is not prohibitive at all.
A tricycle tour of Pagudpud (including the nearby waterfalls) costs about Php 400 (or was it 600?). The trike driver also acts as a tour guide; Steve and Mean have two trusted trike drivers who they do business with. Steve and Mean drove us back to the Florida station in time for our 8:00 pm departure. The couple owns a small general merchandise store in the station itself, so they don’t really have problems with bringing people between the station and their resort; they don’t charge extra for this either.
All in all, this is a breakdown of how much I spent:
-Bus rides (to and from Pagudpud): Php 1200 total. (approx US $25.50)
-Room rental at Polaris: Php 2000 divided by 4 people: Php 500/night; Php 1000 for two nights total. (US $20.40)
-Food: divided among four people for three days and two nights (although Arghs skipped some meals); Php 750 total (US $15)
Grand Total: Php 2950 (US $60.20) for the whole trip. Snacks and drinks for the trip not included.
At less than Php 3000 for three days and two nights, it’s hard to find a better deal.
POLARIS BEACH RESORT
Saud Beach, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, Philippines
Steve and Mean Santos
Feel free to ask me any questions about the trip. Again, if you want a tranquil spot on the edge of the known universe, Pagudpud is the place to go, and Polaris is my villa of choice.