Tag Archives: accommodation

Sagada, Mountain Province: Marlboro Country (Sea of Clouds)

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Sagada, Mountain Province: Marlboro Country (Sea of Clouds)

While I contemplate on how I should blog about our whole Sagada trip, I thought this one deserves a solo post. We went to Sagada last February and this was on top of our list. Who wouldn’t?! Have you watched the movie, “That Thing Called Tadhana”?! And I tell you, this does not disappoint!

Our “sea of clouds” experience was a choice between going to the famous Kiltepan viewpoint or Marlboro Country. We chose the latter despite being more “challenging” since most tourists would choose Kiltepan and besides wanting good photos, we want to savour this experience as much as we can.

We woke up early and departed from Coffee Heritage House at around 4.30am, drove around 20-minutes and parked at the side of the road. Unless you’re driving a 4×4, the trek would take around an hour from the road to the top of the mountain. It was really dark and we only depend on our guide’s spotlight and our phones’ flashlight. The path is a long rough road, some parts are muddy and slippery. I can still say it’s manageable having two kids in tow, we were able to reach the top of the mountain. Difficulty level is easy but will somehow test your stamina, climbing and going down slopes. I almost quit in the middle of our climb but I would never want to regret not seeing the “sea of clouds”.

When we finally reached the top, there were small groups of tourist already, gathered around a bonfire. It’s very cold and chilly up there. There’s a mini store that sells lugaw (porridge), cup noodles and coffee to name a few.

We waited until sunrise and started to marvel at what we saw! Indeed it was “sea of clouds”. I will never forget this experience and I was really happy that I continued the climb, at least up to the drop off area. We started taking pictures, ate our lugaw and just continued to marvel the experience.

We declined our guide’s suggestion to go at level 2 and 3 viewpoints since we’re already exhausted but the view that we had was already enough to amaze us! We stayed a little bit more and started the trek down when we regained our energy. Going down the mountain was way easier, since you don’t have to walk in the dark anymore.

Definitely, one for the books!!!

Tips:

– Wear comfortable pants (over shorts) and rubber shoes, you’ll be walking in between bushes and it can be muddy at some point.

– Jacket! Do not underestimate the chilly wind up the mountain.

– Flashlight! You’ll need it on your way up.

– No (makeshift) CR, do your thing before your trek.

– Tourist guide is required (around P600). No entrance fee, aside from the one-time environmental fee paid at the municipal office.

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Sagada, Mountain Province: Coffee Heritage House

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Sagada, Mountain Province: Coffee Heritage House

We went to Sagada last 18-20 February. The place is beyond words -breathtaking!

We searched every homestay, hostel and hotel before our trip because we initially want to go over the holiday (Chinese New Year). There are no vacancies, thus we have to move our travel period to Sunday.

We checked Coffee Heritage House (CHH) and besides the good reviews, we’re also drawn by the nice pictures of the place.

Here’s an honest review, please note that these are just facts that could aid fellow travellers.

1. Reservation/Booking

We searched online but since I don’t want to book using our credit card, we called the mobile number posted in their website. We were able to avail the 25% discount posted for private room. That includes 3 persons (including our 9yo son), while our 7yo stays for free (bed sharing). Booking includes free continental breakfast. We settled 50% downpayment through online bank transfer. Upon our arrival, we were asked to settle the full amount since they were not informed about our downpayment. That’s the time I learned that all their online transactions are handled by Booking.com, so best to keep a copy of your deposit slip or in this case, screenshot of your online transfer. The issue was settled after a while, so no big deal. Price range is around P2000/night for private rooms. P1000/BED for dorm type rooms.

2. Hostel/Room

The hostel/building is cozy. You will find the pantry & lobby in the 2nd floor. There’s a fireplace, which they light up every night. Everything is generally clean. You have to take off your shoes before entering, there are slippers available though. Bonfire area available and can be used at night.

The private room is cement finished, paint on one side of the wall only. Not sure if it’s still in the works. Dont expect too much, there are no room amenities (eg. TV, WIFI, radio, AC, etc.). Just beds and lights, some makeshift (cement finished) table corners where you can place your bags. Toiletries not available, not even hooks for towels inside the room.

Note, this hostel only have shared toilet & baths, regardless if you booked a private room or dorm type rooms. I checked with their reservations officer and she said they have around 10 T&B. We didn’t experience queues since there were few guests that time and we take showers late at night. Hot shower is available, but you have to control and set water volume to low (heater unable to heat high volume of water). No hot water in the tap. T&Bs are generally clean, can be messy at times so be respectful to your fellow guests and clean as you go.

Bed can pass hotel quality, comfortable matress and pillows, sheets are clean. However, we woke up the 3rd day with bedbug bites. My hand’s still swollen and itchy while typing this blog (picture added under customer service).

Room can be hot in the morning, unable to check fan availability, you can opt for open windows but it can be dusty when the wind blows hard since the private room windows are ground level. Hard to open windows at night (no screens) cause there are lots of insects, considering this place is surrounded by trees.

3. Location

Far away from the town proper and far means around 20mins away. If you don’t have a car, you’d need to walk from the main road as there are no means of transportation going to the hostel. If you have a car, note that there are rough patches so if you’re driving the “lowered” one, that might be a problem. Main road to hostel is dark, you have to rely to your headlights or lights from the houses at the side of the road. Note: one way, so slow down when passing curved roads. We learned from our tour guide that this is part of the farm-to-market road of the Gloria administration.

This place is perfect if you want to stray away from the city buzz and explore the mountainous side of Sagada. I also observed that it’s way cooler here compared to the town proper. Really quiet and peaceful at night.

Open parking is available around several meters away from the building. If you arrive late at night, flashlights will help since the surroundings are not well-lit or no lights at all.

4. Food

We were dead hungry after our 13-hour trip, so we had lunch first. Menu is limited so if you’re staying for a couple of days, you can opt to go out and try other restaurants. They have all-day breakfast which comes with meat-veggies-black rice. Food tastes fine but a bit pricy running at P220-P250 per order.

There are welcome drinks too but limited to choice of coffee or mountain tea.

We also tried some of their pasta which comes with toasted bread, price range is the same. Etag carbonara is a must try since they use traditionally preserved meat which is known to the Mountain Province.

Breakfast is free. Continental breakfast includes toasted bread, egg, choice of 2 spread (try their bugnay spread which is made from wild berries). I forgot to take pictures!

If you’re a coffee lover, prepare to splurge P95-P150 for a (small) cup of coffee outside your breakfast set. Pantry also closes 9pm, no more orders after that, keep snacks that you can nibble at wee hours.

5. Customer service.

If you’re looking for hotel type service, this is not the place for you. No room service. No special treatment of that sort. Sometimes, staff won’t even smile at you if they meet you at the corridors. You can say it’s pure accommodation, service is available in the pantry area only. Best to manage your expectations.

Front desk is okay, I cannot say that we had a warm welcome, just so so. When we arrived, no one helped with our bags even though they were joking around by asking the other staff to help my son with his load. Front desk officer helped though when we were about to enter our room. They were able to arrange a simple request and got us a tour guide.

When I feedback about the bedbug bites and showed them my hand as well as my son’s finger, the desk officer apologized but such a drawback to say that “they do not have control over the insect”, which I think can be improved by saying, “but rest assured we will check or clean the room”. After all that is our last day and they will benefit from the feedback.

Overall, this hostel is okay in terms of peace and quiet. But customer service can still be improved. Lighting and road condition (rough with chances of “balahaw”) can also be improved in the parking area.

Rating: 3/5

Coffee Heritage House
Sitio Nadatngan, Brgy. Madongo
Sagada 2619 Mt. Province
Philippines

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte: Saud Beach

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Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte: Saud Beach

Summer is here so I thought of sharing our Ilocos trip last May 2015.

During our Pagudpud leg, we stayed at Saud Beach and checked in at Chalet Bami.

We went to the beach around late afternoon after the much needed rest since we’re very exhausted from the long travel from Manila and numerous stop overs to see tourist spots en route to Saud.

This part of Pagudpud is more crowded or jam packed, accommodations vary from hotels (I didn’t see posh hotels), transients and even quite a number of home stays (private houses which offers a room for you to stay for a low cost).

The beach is around 2-3 minutes walk from our lodging. Not a problem at all. You will enter a gate leading to the beach.  I was surprised how white and fine the sand is!

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Fine white beach. Lots of sea weeds.

But here’s the catch, when we went last year the waves are huge. There were lots of sea weeds floating and being washed ashore. And when I say lots, there are piles of sea weeds everywhere. The water though is not clear nor blue, but it may be because of the strong waves which stir the sand causing it to look a little bit roily.

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View of the windmills from afar.

Since we have kids with us, we didn’t swim further away from the shore and instead we just built sand castles and played in the sand.

My favorite part? What can be more beautiful than watching the sunset in the beach!

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Notes that may come handy:
Best to keep an eye on your kids, waves are huge.
No entrance fee, more of a public beach.
There are stray dogs in the beach, though I think they are used to the everyday crowd.

Traveled May 2015, details may vary.

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte: Chalet Bami

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Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte: Chalet Bami

Summer is just around the corner! The cold wind is gone and up came the sun, literally! I just thought about posting a blog that could be useful this season. For those who want to go to the beach up north, then you can consider going to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

Travel may cost your time so better plan during long weekends or holidays, it may take you 10-12 hours from Manila. Quite a number of sights worthy of stopover too, so consider leaving early.

Just a note that I’m sharing our 2015 trip so details might stray from current time. Best to still check ongoing rates and updated hotel policies.

We browsed through a lot of hotels and homestays sourcing for the most inexpensive but good and clean one. Chalet Bami is located at Saud Beach, not located in the beach itself but 2-3 minutes walk won’t hurt you. I contacted them through their Facebook page and behold the owner sends timely replies in good English! What surprised me more? They didn’t even asked for a down payment, which is very rare nowadays. I’m quite skeptical at first but I must say communication is their asset. On our way I still called to ensure the reservation is in place.

When we arrived, we were immediately escorted to our rooms. Not extravagant just the basics but very clean! No smelly aircon, no smelly rags and no smelly sheets! I’m more particular about the toilet/bathroom, but then again it is clean! The 2nd floor room also has its own veranda. Aircon works well. They do not offer free toiletries and towels so better bring your own.

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Photo from Chalet Bami FB page

Wi-Fi is available in their lobby area. Unfortunately I do not remember using it or noting how the speed was, etc. They do not have a restaurant so food service is not available, but they have a common kitchen/dining area which you can use for free (also clean by the way), with stove/condiments/utensils. They also have a grilling station at the back. Mineral water and coffee are free of charge too.

We settled our payment before check-out. This hotel is definitely worth every buck (range is P1500-4000 depending on room type/season). We’re pretty much satisfied and would surely consider going back.

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Photo from Chalet Bami FB page

Again, please note that details may have changed as we were there last 2015.

For more info, you may contact them through their Facebook page – Chalet Bami.