Late 2011, I and one of my best friends since high school (let’s call him V) got to talking about Vigan and that it’s one of the top Philippine destinations in our travel bucket list. We got really pumped up and a plan was hatched. We would visit Ilocos, particularly Vigan, on my birthday and we won’t be stingy. It would be our official first out-of-Cebu holiday and we should enjoy it so much we would have work and problems amnesia for 5 days!
You can read the summary of our itinerary and breakdown of costs here.
Once V and I set our minds to something, we usually follow through. So I researched like crazy, my OCness really came out, whew. We saved money for half a year to fulfill the plan of experiencing as many things in Ilocos as humanly possible within 5 days. July 19, the day before my bday, came and we found ourselves on an AirPhil plane bound for Laoag. That was V’s first plane ride ever and I’m sure he’s hooked (as am I).
Laoag is the gateway to the rest of Ilocos. Whether you wish to visit Vigan or Pagudpud, you have to start in Laoag. We hired a tricycle from the airport to our accommodation Balay da Blas and made a serious mistake right away. We got scammed by the tricycle driver. Booo!
Common sense just abandoned us; instead of making sure first that the fare from airport to our hotel was reasonable, we got into the tricycle right away as it was raining hard and inexperienced travelers as we are, we were still feeling overwhelmed at that moment. Needless to say, the driver quoted us an extortionate amount upon arrival and was ready to cause a scene if we weren’t willing to pay. Our holiday wasn’t really starting on a high note.
Thankfully, the lady at the Balay da Blas front desk came out and helped us deal with the tricycle driver. We still paid a high amount of Php200 but that’s better compared to the Php300 he asked initially. Note that the trike ride was less than 30 minutes. I think Php100-150 would have been the more correct fare.
But anyway, not wanting to allow the bad weather and horrible tricycle driver put a damper on things, V and I shrugged these off and processed our check-in. Balay da Blas is a really wonderful hotel. Offering modern rooms with just the right touch of traditional décor, the place really took good care of us, even giving us a room upgrade on our 2nd night there for no extra charge! I’ll write a more detailed review about this place later for they sure deserve it.
Anyway, nothing much happened on this day. It continued to rain as we took our dinner at a nearby Jollibee. It was already decided that we’ll do the food trip the next day at Vigan so that’s why we just satisfied ourselves with fast food at this point. After dinner, V and I took full advantage of the room we shared, that is to say I spent more than an hour with the hot shower while V monopolized the movie-filled laptop I brought. What were you thinking just then, hmph? Our standard double room with two single beds cost Php 1,200 per night and it was located in their Ilocano Moderne building (they had a traditional Ilocano/Spanish building where interior décor was more, well, traditional).
Our first day in Ilocos, specifically in Laoag, was good although uneventful (apart from the extortionate tricycle driver encounter). We slept early to make sure we had enough energy for the next day – celebrating my birthday at Vigan!