Now living in the Philippines, I usually take every opportunity to explore what is on offer here. And I'm usually not disappointed. I've included many photos in this travelogue, since pictures are always far better than words.
In my first article about the Philippines - The Philippines Lifestyle: An Expat Safe Heaven? - I described the Philippines from the point of view of moving there to retire and live; I described reasons, the lifestyle in detail, the dos-and-donts, the costs as well as showing a little of the vast beauty of this small archipelago. In this article, I'm just going to enjoy myself - and I will be describing the beautiful Hundred Islands region of Pangasinan, a very different holidaying experience but one that was very rewarding for me. And so cheap !!
Private beach in the Hundred Islands.
To go to the Hundred Islands was a spur of the moment decision between myself and a German friend. We were both a bit bored and wanted some sort of exploring adventure. In no time at all we were out on the main Manila highway road, heading South from San Fernando in La Union, not knowing really what would happen on this first time experience to The Hundred Islands. The drive itself was relatively easy and only took about 4 hours to complete with "some minor detours" since there are no such things as proper roadsigns in the Philippines. We turned off after the town of Agoo and came into the flatter regions of Pangasinan - very green, beautiful and seemed perpetually covered in palm trees. We headed westward and passed through the towns of Madelin, San Fabian, Dagupan, Sual, Lingayen and then suddenly we rose up into a large craggy expanse of mountains - but only for a short while - before descending once again into the lowland valley regions of Aliminos and The Hundred Islands.
We left our houses at San Fernando and managed to do the journey in just less than 4 hours(we arrived at about 1:00pm). First thing we did was to roust out and check the hotels. The cheapest of these was about 1000 pesos a night($20 or £15) for a good double room. But, though nice we opted for the Vista de las Islas Hotel, this cost 2000 pesos a night($40 or £30) - but I managed to haggle the receptionist down to 1700 pesos easily because I knew that it was low season for hotels there.We also wanted a nice pool area and this was the only hotel with a pool. I would say that this was a four star hotel - and probably the best in the area. We were only staying one night so I thought, what the heck, splash a bit.
From Maxine's, looking towards the Wharf and Market.
The "Vista de las islas" Hotel.
To be honest, the wharf and hotel areas were a bit of a disappointment - there was no sandy beach area just low rocks, although we were quite happy splashing in the pool, singing Videoke by the poolside that afternoon and sipping beer in a very beautiful setting. Later that evening we headed off to a restaurant called Maxine's, a remarkable hotel and restaurant with freshly caught, fish, crab and lobster of all types and cooked any way you wanted it. Maxine's is an open restaurant, where you actually eat over the sea. We feasted on Tiger prawns, milkfish, chicken, calimari and I forget what else - the whole night - with all the drinks - cost about 900 pesos each(£13 or $18.65). The meal was so good, we had breakfast there the next morning and, again, were not disappointed with the American breakfast.
Looking from Maxine's to the East.
Pool and Clam...
Next morning, bright and early, my German friend and I hastened to the small bungka area after breakfast and we hired a large bungka boat(like a tri-maran) for a half-day for 800 pesos($16.58 or £11.64) - you only pay 1000 pesos for all day - very cheap indeed.
Typical Hundred Islands Bungka boat.
We headed out in the large bungka boat, and chugged fairly quickly into the Hundred Islands group. It was all remarkably stunning and different - there was a cafe and swim/surf area on this island, caves to explore on another island, picnic areas and small private beaches - lots of them. There was even a shallow coralled area between some of the islands where you could snorkel and explore. And if you get bored with this - then just tell your bungka taxi to take you out to seaward for some deep sea big game fishing - for the likes of swordfish, shark, durados, huge tuna, barracuda etc., and all fairly cheaply done. This was a remarkable trip for me - I'm not very good at flouncing in the sun just sunbathing - I prefer to do things fairly actively. And at Hundred Islands you have every opportunity to be active, never boring. (See all the photos in the album up top).
Open-air breakfast at Maxine's with a cool and very forgiving breeze....
*All displayed photographs were taken by me at Hundred Islands and are part of my collection.