Tuesday, October 29, 2013

First Solo Travel: Guimaras On A Budget Part 2

I went up early to catch the 9am boat as I have already planned my day ahead. I'm a fan of sponteneity, but for something like traveling alone for the first time, that wouldn't be a nice thing to do. LOL. I actually made second thoughts whether I'll go to Guimaras or not because I'm gonna go over my budget! First, the fare is quite expensive for a solo traveler; the only transportation to go around the island is via  tricycle and you need to talk to the driver where to go as the tours are included in the fare, then I wouldn't know if I'd stay in the island or not if ever the beach convinces me to do so, but thinking that I already paid for that day's room rent, I just let that thought slide.

So I woke up at 7am and prepared myself for my Guimaras beach tour, and I contacted Kuya Cherald, as he was the most referred tour guide in Guimaras by almost all of the travel blogs I've read. He said he couldn't tour me around, but he referred his brother instead for the same price, and he even gave me an mini itinerary for my short sidetrip.

 The boats on dock at the Ortiz Port.

I left the inn around 8am and crossed the street to ride the jeep headed for Timawa. I just asked the driver to drop me off at Ortiz, where I just need to walk a short distance to where the port is. The ticket fare is just 14 pesos and from Ortiz to Jordan Port, it only takes 15 minutes. 

I went on the boat, and it's bigger than the boats we took to Cagbalete Island. It's spacious boat can hold up to 40 passengers max and for safety, they have lifevests on board. The trip was fast and I barely even finished my drink when we finally reached the island, where Kuya Cherald is waiting for me so I can start my tour. BTW, though he's the most sought after tour guide at Guimaras, be a good traveler and don't ignore the other tricycle drivers on the island. They are also making a living and they all charge the same rate, so don't be afraid to ask them to take you on tour.

 Jordan Port, Guimaras

My tour starts at the Smallest Plaza. Yes, literally. It's so small, they claim it's on the Guiness Book of World Records as the smallest town plaza in the world. 

A statue of Jose Rizal stands in the middle and for some reason, the Ilonggos are a big fan of our national hero. I could see him anywhere in the city.

After a quick photo op, we headed to the Museo De Guimaras, but unfortunately it's closed due to renovation. T,T 

Our next stop was the National Mango Research Facility of the Philippines. It's like a big backyard full of different species of mango trees and the tricycle just circled around the around the area beside a small lagoon there. I also found out that bringing mangoes to the island is strictly prohibited. I guess it's something about ecological balance as Guimaras takes prides in breeding the best and the sweetest mangoes in the world. 

 I'd imagine how these mango trees would look like when they're in full bloom with mangoes and such.

Next we went to the Trappist Monastery, the only male monastery in the country. The church is closed for renovation (again) but the monastery grounds is open for sight seeing. It was so peaceful and the landscaping was beautiful, rows of tall pine trees beside the pathway will make you feel you're on a different place.

 Where am I? LOL.

A little trivia here, this Monastery is home to the Trappist monks who are known for their strict observation of the Benedictine rule, which is a list of instructions that was made way back in the sixth century for monasteries and keeping one's individual behavior at hand. I was free to roam the monastery grounds but was unable to see at least one monk or nun around.

 The facade of Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Abbey.

Just a few blocks from the monastery is their gift shop, where you can buy some goodies and pasalubong. Be a good traveler and help the monks make a living by buying their goods. I especially liked the Mango Biscocho and their Mango Jam. :D I also bought a pink rosary bracelet and a bark keychain that has a cross in the center for good luck.

 The Trappist Monastery Gift Shop

Last stop for the trip was of course, the beach at the Alubijod Cove, and the driver just dropped me off at the Raymen's Beach Resort. Upon entry, I paid a small fee and then I was free to roam around the beach just behind the resort area.

  Entrance to the beach area.

Raymen Beach Resort's rooms for rent.

Oh my God that beach was beautiful! Never mind the short distance between the shore and the resort grounds, but the crystalline blue water was so inviting! I haven't been into a lot of beaches but the sea at Guimaras seemed different from the others.

I walked along the shore and I think there's just three or four resorts along the Alubijod Cove. Doesn't matter where your tour guide dropped you off, you'll still end up in one shore anyway. A few tourists were at the beach at the same time and they're at the shade mostly because it was high noon when I got there. I also didn't go island hopping due to time constraints, so I just went beach bummin' for 3 hours hahaha.

I find those blending hues of turquoise and blues so soothing to the eyes so I couldn't stop staring at it, it's really like what you really see in a postcard! 

Boating/Island hopping rates at Raymen Beach Resort.

After a short lazy nap under the sun, I looked around and explored the area. The resort also offers boating/island hopping services that's I feel that I can't enjoy at this time because I'm alone and I've still got half of the day to go exploring back the Iloilo. So I asked Kuya Edwin (that's his name) to take me back to the port so I could continue my Iloilo trip. 

  The long road going back to Jordan Port.

I asked Kuya Edwin to stop at this area because I thought it seemed like a great view LOL.

Now for newbie solo travelers like me, here are a few tips that I'd like to share if you're going to explore Guimaras on a budget.

1. Decide whether you'd like to spend the night in the island or just make it as a your sidetrip to Iloilo. The tourist spots here can be reached within half day if you rent a tricycle.

2. Though the tourist spots are few and thinking of how long the trip was and how expensive the tricycle fare was as well, makes you think you'd just like to stay in the island instead. That's how I felt then, I didn't maximize what I payed for coz I just stayed for like, 3-4 hours in Guimaras. Anyway, feel free to explore and try island hopping!

3. You may talk to your tour guide where you'd like to go if you've done further research on the areas you want to explore. They will ask for an additional fee if you're going to somewhere far like the lighthouse or the falls. I didn't go there due to time constraints.

While at the boat, I thought that I should go back and explore it more. I missed some places like the Guisi Lighthouse and being a fan of anything waterfalls, I'd like to see the Sadsad Falls next time. Here's my itinerary and budget table during my solo trip!

ITINERARY - Thursday, October 17
7AM - Wakeup, prepare for Guimaras trip
8:45AM - Jeep to Ortiz Port
9AM - Boat onboard to Jordan Port
9:15AM - Arrival at Jordan, Guimaras
9:20AM - Start Tour
9:30AM - Smallest Plaza
9:45AM - Museo de Guimaras
9:55AM - Mango Plantation
10AM - Trappist Monastery
10:55AM - Arrival at Raymen's Beach, Alubijod Cove
1:15PM - Left Raymen's Beach
1:45PM - sidetrip, buy Pasalubong
2:30PM - Depart Guimaras
2:45 - Arrival at Ortiz Port, Iloilo

BUDGET (in pesos) - 841
8 - Ortiz Wharf to Jordan JEEP
14 - Ortiz Wharf to Jordan Port
500 - Trike tour
130 - Trappist Pasalubong
120 - Guimaras Mangoes
25 - Raymen Beach entrance fee
14 - Ticket (Jordan to Ortiz Port)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

First Solo Travel: My Iloilo-Guimaras Adventure Part 1

I first thought that solo travel was as frightful as it seems; but after flying away from my comfort zone to discover new adventures, I was wrong. It has always been the saying "stay out of your comfort zone" has proven itself during the course of my 3 days, 2 nights travel at the beautiful city of Iloilo and Guimaras.

This was actually a spur-of-the-moment decision between me and my travel buddy coz I should be travelling with her instead of just going solo for 3 days. After researching and planning itineraries taken in pieces from all those travel blogs I've read, I've finally mustered enough courage to just go and get ready to get lost. I also challenged myself to go on a VERY strict budget as I wanted to prove to myself that travelling doesn't need to be expensive. I'll show how I survived my short solo travel on just a 3,000 budget, but please take note that this is not for everyone, especially the prissy tourist who likes to travel in luxury. :P

DAY 1: Touchdown Iloilo

Not my inn, it's just one of those beautiful old houses at Iloilo city. :)

It was the shortest flight ever. I missed that orgasmic feeling when a plane takes off so I was hoping the travel time by plane would be much longer LOL but heck, it's just ILO to MNL. Anyway, I arrived in Iloilo around 3pm and headed to take the shuttle that would take me to SM City Iloilo where I could just get another ride downtown. It was a looong ride of 45 minutes away from the airport to the city. When I arrived at the SM City Terminal, I immediately rode the Baluarte jeepney coz it passes by at the corner where Ong Bun Pension House is at.

Now this pension house is not a hotel, but more of like a dormitory for students and some travelers who wanted to get cheap but secure accommodation. My room was located at the 5th floor so it was a test of endurance for my poor limbs each time I take that flight of stairs. When I get there I wasn't half surprised how my room looked (I researched it already :P), it was a small fan room with a single bed, cable TV and it's just a few feet away from the common shower room. I didn't mind because the WI-FI access is awesome and as long as there's internet, I'm happy. :D After resting for a bit, I headed outside to start my solo exploration of the city. At night. LOL.

I used Google maps to track down the popular eating spots downtown and luckily, Roberto's was near so I just crossed the street and walked just a few blocks away. 

This place is famous for its King and Queen Siopao, which I like to call the Tasty Mess because of how they present it. I asked for the infamous Queen Siopao, but sadly it's only available on certain days so I settled for just the King Siopao instead.

Ta-da! The King has been served! 

It's quite heavy than your regular siopao because it's full of fillings like pork adobo, ham, egg and that sweet special sauce that I know I'd never find elsewhere. The place is just small and they don't have an aircon and yes, they're really popular because customers keep on coming in to buy takeouts of their siopao.

Next stop for night would be the Iloilo River Esplanade. From Roberto's, I walked a few blocks back to take the SM City jeepney and just asked the driver to drop me off at the Esplanade, where I need to cross the highway to get there. It was night time when I got ther so it's perfect for a nightscape photography which I haven't done in years, oh my!

It's a long road stretching across the river, it's a great place for a family and barkada hangout, I've seen a lot in there. The paved roads lined with lamp posts made me think that I'm on a different country, I had to stop here and there just to take pictures of Mayoi, my travel buddy, to get a good angle to capture those pretty city lights. Along the area were bars and restaurants where you can relax and chillout, but I was too busy taking long exposure shots. LOL. 

After a handful of shots, I got hungry and again and went away to look for something to eat, and luckily I found Ted's Old Timer La Paz Batchoy just a few blocks away from the River Esplanade.

This is where I got my taste of the infamous authentic La Paz Batchoy. 

The restaurant isn't full when I got there, but the guard says the place gets jampacked during lunch and even in the morning, as they are open for 24 hours. I ordered their Super Special, the one with liver, pork insides and egg.

I also saw this mini confectionery bar beside the counter and as a sucker for anything red velvet, I bought the cupcake right away.

I always got time for dessert!

After a hearty meal, I rode a tricycle to head back to my inn as it took me a while to get a jeep from Ted's, coz they don't seem to pass by the area. Transportation around Iloilo is pretty simple and you don't need to be shy when asking for directions. Everyone is most likely to help you get on your way. Next stop would be my solo sidetrip to Guimaras Island! 

I'll post this in two parts of course, and as promised, here's my DIY IT and budget for my 1st day of adventure at Iloilo City! :D

ITINERARY - Wednesday, October 16
3PM - Arrival at Iloilo
4PM - Shuttle to SM City
4:15 - Arrival at Ong Bun, rest
6PM - Head outside for dinner/photowalk
6:30 - Snacks at Roberto's Siopao
7PM - Iloilo River Esplanade, nightscape shoot
9PM - Late dinner at Ted's Old Timer La Paz Batchoy
9:30 - Go back to inn

BUDGET (in pesos) - 630
330 - Ong Bun room rent 
85 - Roberto's King Siopao + Iced Tea
8 - Jeep to Esplanade (Take SM City)
130 - La Paz Batchoy + Cupcake
50 - Tricycle back to Ong Bun

I'll have to organize my photos for the next part of my adventure at Guimaras Island, which actually seemed just like a sidetrip haha! Check out my next post soon! :)