Jun 8, 2011

Turquoise Waters, Coconut Palms & Orange Sunsets: Pagudpud

The thing about independent traveling is that it can be hard work; it actually takes a lot of effort to organise your own transportation, accommodation, and even figuring out where and what you are going to eat.  Add young children into this scenario, and the effort level multiplies. Whenever you move/change locations, it means having to figure this out all over again.  For the past 7 weeks since leaving Sihanoukville in Cambodia, we haven’t been in one place longer than 3 days, so we were due to find a nice place somewhere here in the Philippines to ‘have a holiday’ from our supposed holiday.  And we did, in Pagudpud.

Remember the local guide who we met in Bontoc, Francis Pa In?  When we picked his well-informed brain about where to go for a good beach in northern Luzon, he pointed us to Pagudpud, in the northwest tip of Luzon Island.  Our version of the Lonely Planet didn’t mention it, but often this is how we travel—on hearsay!

So from Vigan, we had to first catch a northbound bus for 2hrs, then change buses (with a tricycle in between) to another one for another 2.5hrs.  When we finally arrived in Pagudpud, without having an idea of what to expect nor any information on accommodation, or even a map of the area, we turned to the gang of tricycle drivers who were waiting at the terminus to offer us their opinions.  We told them what we were looking for: inexpensive accommodation preferably on the beach.  They took us to Jun and Carol’s Beach Resort (‘resort’ is again used quite liberally here) at Saud White Sand Beach, where we got the best value room since arriving in the Philippines—a good size room with 2 double beds, AC, cold water shower and bathroom attached, wifi in the restaurant downstairs and our own deck facing the water.  All this for P800/$18.65 USD per night.  Mind you, if we wanted hot water and a TV, it would have cost us P1500/ which was a bit out of our budget!  (Yasmine wasn’t too happy about the cold water showers!)

The view from our balcony, 180 degrees

 White Sand Beach is a wonderful crescent-shaped stretch of beach, lined with ‘white’ slightly coarse sand, coconut palms and about 8 beachfront ‘resorts’, ranging from Jun and Carols, up to a 4-star resort with a pool at P5,000/$116 USD + per night.  It’s a popular destination for the Filipinos, and although it was fairly quiet when we first arrived on a Thursday afternoon, by Friday the weekenders began to arrive and we were so glad that we got here early to have secured our room!  There was still plenty of room for everyone on the beach though, which was also surprisingly free of any hawkers or commercialism.  And by Monday, we had the beach to ourselves.  The water at Saud White Sand Beach is some of the most beautiful that we’ve had the pleasure to have been in, rivalling that of Thailand and Mexico for sure.  It is a wonderful shade of turquoise so clean and clear that you could see the bottom at least 7 feet below.  Most days you wouldn’t even notice any difference between the ambient temperature and the water temperature.  Even Yasmine loved it, once she eventually got in that is!  

For 7 days we relaxed here and got into a much needed slow routine that involved lots of swimming, unstructured play (girls), afternoon naps (Yasmine & Jim), catching up on writing (Jess), drawing and creative work (girls), and some attempt at educational stuff for Maddy.  And of course eating 3 delicious square meals a day at our favourite retaurant, the Emohruo Beach Restobar .  A great routine for everyone!  We also made friends with a Canadian-Filipina from Calgary named Nelly, who’s returned to her roots here and escaping the rat race and building her dream—Casa Victoria Beach Resort, which is going to be a much-needed ‘value’ accommodation located right at the best part of the beach (completion date early 2012).  She kindly drove us to visit the nearby famed ‘Blue Lagoon’ as well as to other sights around Pagudbud, although in the end, we do think Saud Beach is the best.

That's Nelly and her new rooms being built.

Skinny Dipping at the Blue Lagoon

We’ve heard many people compare Pagudbud to Boracay Island (where most tourists to the Philippines go) and say that Pagudbud is at least as nice if not better as it’s not as expensive or as crowded.  While we haven’t been to Boracay, we’re sure glad that we’ve had the chance to experience some of the Philippines’ renowned beach scene here at Pagudbud.   And the nightly sunsets over the water while we ate our dinner were the icing on the cake.  Now, on to tackle Manila....

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