10 Tips for Touring Ilocandia*

*Or at least the original parts of it… it just sounded better than spelling out Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Originally published October 31,2011

1. Have an enthusiastic travel partner

To me, the ideal vacation is an exciting mix of spontaneous adventure, uncertain outcomes, good luck and blissful relaxation. All of this is most made possible with the help of a balanced, enthusiastic travel partner- in this case, my mother.

But also balanced with quiet composure now and again.
Enthusiasm embodied!

 

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2. Stumble upon a helpful guide

Travels are often about finding the right people to show you what to do, where to go and how to get there. On the first leg of our trip, we owed our sanity to a tricycle driver, named Raffy, who helped us overcome several obstacles and see the sites of the Ilocos Norte region.

We hopped in a tricycle to get from the airport outside Laoag to our hotel on the other side of town. Unfortunately, the hotel was closed and empty when we got there…
So, Raffy helped us out and took us to the retro Hotel Tiffany for the night.
And the following day, took us on a tour of the landmarks around Laoag.

 

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3. Savor the local cuisine

Between our oddly timed travel itinerary and jet-lag driven appetites, we ate at a variety of establishments and sampled a wide-array of foods:

Indulge in delicious fluffy pancakes for breakfast at Kapuluan Beach Resort in Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud.
Picking up some Jollibee take away for the bus ride from Laoag to Vigan.

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4.Pay your respects in the house(s) of God

Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur are famous for Spanish influenced churches and bell towers that miraculously have not been destroyed by natural disaster, occupation or time.

The beautiful Bantay bell tower that you can still climb for a breathtaking view of Vigan and the surrounding countryside
Picturesque Paoay Church- built short and stout with beautiful buttresses to help survive earthquakes.
The Sinking Bell Tower at St. William’s Cathedral in Laoag
The Bantay Cathedral outside Vigan

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5. Take time to talk to the animals

Sometimes the little things set the tone for a large trip. For us, some of the little interactions that we had with animals throughout the week really enriched our experience.

We found some kids by the church in Laoag.
Their mother bleated loudly and quickly chased me away from her babies.
A horse named Pamela and her driver showed us around Vigan in a Kalesa.
Poodle puppies Derek and Ziggy escorted us down the beach in Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud.

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6.Live it up like Tom Cruise

It never hurts to feel like your living life with the ranks of the rich and famous.

Tom Cruise stayed at the Villa Angela Heritage Hotel while filming for the film “Born on the 4th of July”
They have the photos to prove it.

 

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7. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty

You’ll miss out if you aren’t willing to bobble around on some unpaved roads try your hand at some arts while visiting the local weaving and pottery factories around Vigan.

 

Try weaving your own fabric.
Admire the large earthen pots at Rowilda’s Pottery Factory.
Try and throw your own pots.

8. Discover your dream house

Perhaps easier said than done and very subjective- but I managed to fall in love with the Syquia Mansion in Vigan. Located along one of the main roads, one would never guess its immensity from its modest frontward appearance. One inside though, the immense rooms, antique wooden furniture and indoor courtyards are exquisite. The grandson of the original owners now only resides in “the tower” (bottom right) and the rest of the house is open for tourism.

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9. Travel like a local

Sure you can hire a private car to take you around Region I without any fuss- but you can only access so much gazing through glass windows. After taking planes, buses, tricycles and kalesas, I submit the best way to get around Region 1 is to experiment with different modes of transportation:

Though it’s not very spacious, these little vehicles can travel pretty much anywhere.
In a tricycle, you’re literally in a covered side car right next to the driver’s speeding wheels.

 

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10. Relax and appreciate the abundant aesthetic beauties

Remember to stop and enjoy the beautiful landscapes around you and the vibrant natural colors.

Coral beach in Blue Lagoon
Our back terrace at the zen inspired Kapuluan Beach Resort
One of the many species of flowers growing in the resort’s vast garden
A fisherman preparing to hoist his net in the sea
Washed up pieces of coral
Some of the giant wind turbines in Bagui
The surf crashing on the shore
Blue Lagoon

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