La Union,Vigan, Pagudpud
August 2011


This is an abridged description of a trip to La Union, Vigan and Pagudpud in Northern Luzon in August 2011. The intention is to give a firsthand personal experience of how we, Joy and I, traveled to this northern part of the Philippines, this time not by flying or public transportation but by driving by car all the way from Manila.

We have visited most of the places before (see Philippines Sep 2008), but this time we stayed in different accommodations, with some exceptions.

There is another exception: first we went a little down south from Manila to inspect the very much acclaimed beach, the Laiya Beach, but it was a disappointment as you will see.

Since this is not only a travel report but also a personal memory album, so don't complain that Joy is often standing or sitting in the way while taking the photos.

If you want to see all the enlarged photos only then just hit Photo Gallery

How to get from Berlin (or Frankfurt) to Manila

As far as I am concerned I was not coming directly from Berlin to Manila this time but actually started in Manila right away.

There are many ways to get to the Philippines. I prefer the 4-star Qatar Airways (they rate themselves 5-star). They fly to Manila via Doha, thus changing planes only once. Some people seemed to have some problems with them, but I could never complain (never delayed, no charge for excess weight, and they even put me once into business class without surcharge). Gulf Air would be my second choice. But my last flight was with KLM from Berlin via Amsterdam to Manila for 1040 Euro for the yearly ticket.

Laiya Beach

This is an excerpt from the Zest Inflight Magazine:

Imagine being blindfolded and transported to a place; then taking your eye cover off, you find your bare feet touching fine, white sand. Looking across the horizon, you behold the bluest of calm, cool waters. Where would you think you were? Boracay, perhaps. Palawan, maybe -- same blue, quiet waters, but this land is utterly untouched unlike Palawan's "managed" developments. Where am I? Ask no more. You're at Laiya Beach, two and a half hours drive or 160km from Manila. Laiya is a long stretch of beach with sandy shores and gentle waters, backdropped by a majestic view of Mt. Daguldol. This beach community was a well kept secret among camping circles until the recent infrastructure developments that made it easily accessible to all vacationers.

Yes, Laiya Beach can be reached by land, but not as easily as the following description suggests: Head to the south from Manila using the South Luzon Expressway all the way down to Exit Lipa. From Lipa to Padre Garcia, from there to Rosario and farther on to San Juan and then to Laiya. The problem was which turn to take in the labyrinth of streets while passing through the towns mentioned.

That we are in Laiya we only recognized from the bill board signs of the resorts at the side of the road. In order to get to the beach we had to enter one of the resorts. We tried the
Laiya Coco Grove Main Resort
Laiya Beach, Batangas
They offered us a tree house for 2300 Peso (38 Euro) per person, though with full board meals. You can also have a dorm for 1675 Peso (28 Euro) or a "better" accommodation for up to 2930 (49 Euro) per person.

Ok, from here on I will only state the prices in Euro for simplification. I took the average exchange rate of 60 Peso to the Euro valid at the time we went on this trip.

After having inspected the place, we decided not to stay. Firstly, it was a little overpriced; secondly, the restaurant didn't look nice. Thirdly, the beach was ok but no cozy facility to relax. Fourthly, the seawater was not clear at all, so snorkeling was no option. Fifthly, beside one couple there was nobody else around. Sixthly, there was also nothing where you could go around town. We were told that there is a coffee shop serving a good Cappuccino, but only on weekends.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

A resort at the Laiya beach with supposedly tree houses
But just a simple room on stilts with a limited view blocked by a tree
Back on the road we were looking for the coffee shop in question, but it turned out to be a small super market with a coffee corner. No café, no restaurant around. And we wanted to eat some lunch. So we headed to the next resort which was the
Kabayan Beach Resort
Laiya Beach, Batangas
The cheapest room did cost 67 Euro, but for two people. A food package for dormitory type accommodation was available for 15 Euro. Also all overpriced. Most cottages could accommodate up to 15 persons. So do not come here during holidays and the vacation season from April to June, it will be overcrowded with many clans with all the noise attached.

The next resort does not look better but each one has a swimming pool
The Laiya beach to the left The Laiya beach to the right.
We have seen enough. But now we had to eat something in the restaurant, which didn't look very inviting, more like an eatery. The prices though were restaurant prices: A continental breakfast for 2.50 Euro and the Philippine Pancit dish also for 2.50 Euro. We were hungry but couldn't finish all, because we lost our appetite. So it would be a good diet to lose weight if you stay here for a longer period.

Anyway, soon after our "sumptuous" lunch we decided to drive back to Manila. We rather stayed at home and saved a lot of money, by the way.
Not much to do around here except for a turtle ride?

San Fernando

Next day we drove up north to some better places we know from a previous trip. The resort we found was not only much better than the ones in Laiya, but also much cheaper. It was the
Sunset Bay Resort
Canaoay, San Fernando City
La Union
Tel.: 00637-2607-5907
The cottage room with aircon, hot water, cable TV and DVD player came up to 26 Euro. The food prices were modest. For example: A big American breakfast for 3.50 Euro. And for the rest look for yourself.
What a place to relax
Swimming in the pool or enjoying the sea
Our room with a terrace in a nice decorated garden
Eating breakfast in the morning Drinking cocktails in the evening
Ok, there are also some bad sides of some ugly sights just beside the paradise. Run-down picnic huts and a deserted concrete construction hiding behind an ugly wall.
A stroll along the beach: an old house and a concrete hideaway: a different world
Another lot hiding what? But open minded fisher folks
The people, though, do not care about their environment. They are poor but seem to be happy.
Friendly people every-where But about the garbage they don't care


We didn't stay long in La Union but drove around 180km north until we reached Vigan. Look up my report of September 2008 to read more about this old Spanish town and the
Villa Angela Heritage House
26 Quirino Blvd, Vigan City
Ilocos Sur
Tel.: 00637-7722-2914
where we stayed again. And this time we really slept in the same bed as Tom Cruise slept while he made the movie "Fourth of July". That room was for 41 Euro a little bit more expensive than the others but also more comfortable. Breakfast was also included for two.
What a difference: Back in Villa Angela with its antique interior
We slept in Tom Cruise's bed and ate at the antique dinner table
Tom Cruise with landlady Dynasty of the landlady
Spanish kitchen American breakfast
A must: to visit the old city A must: to buy some souvenirs
But this old heavy stuff nobody wanted to buy
A pity: many houses falling apart because many owners don't care
But the church is being repaired And the altar being kept shiny

On the way to Pagudpud

We drove the 160km to Pagudpud leisurely through the countryside, which really became more beautiful once we passed Laoag, the provincial capital of Ilocos Norte. Just before we reached Pagudpud we saw the only windmill energy park in the Philippines.
The beautiful country-side Passing the only windmills
Selling the only windmills in the Philippines

Arriving in Pagudpud

Finally we reached the most beautiful beach, in my opinion, in the Philippines. This is really like a South Pacific Island idyll. Boracay, the prime vacation island, was once like that but is now too overcrowded. When will that happen to Pagudpud?
Finally reaching Pagudpud with a sandy and a rocky beach
Another difference is that Boracay was once "detected" by foreign backpackers and thus also had cheap accommodations, though it became expensive now and the real backpackers are long gone. Pagudpud, on the other hand, started with the "detection" by Filipinos and has thus overpriced accommodations from the beginning. Dark and shabby rooms for 30 Euro, beach huts or apartmens between 40 and 60 Euro and more. I did not meet any backpacker.
This cottage was overpriced And this also was too expensive
High prices for high and low rooms The best house was not for rent but private
It actually was not the high season when we were there, but the resorts kept the same high prices all year round. The crowd on the beach was also not the reason that fully booked accommodations keeps the prices high, because the crowd consisted mostly of pupils and students on a daily outing. They were all gone in the evening. Though, I continued my search for a reasonably priced stay. Having inspected some six resorts I finally found the best and inexpensive room at
Jun & Carol Beach Cottages
Saud White Beach Cove
Ilocos Norte
Tel.: 0063-919-640-5630
They had the best value for money rooms for 20 Euro. It had aircon, cable television, hot water and a balcony in front where you can sit and enjoy the sea view. And you know what? This was the only place where I also met other westerners. So they knew what's best, too.
"Then we found our domicile: Jun & Carol A room with balcony and underneath our car
After we settled down in our domicile we went on an inspection tour to find out what has been changed in three years. So we also paid a visit to the
Saud Beach Resort
Ilocos Norte
Tel.: 00632-928-9853
where we stayed before. It's still the best place at the Saud Beach in Pagudpud. Our price was still unchanged: the honeymooner's suite for 77 Euro. The cheapest would also come up to 60 Euro. Prices I didn't want to afford now. So did many other tourists, because all cottages were empty.
Visited our old cottage at the Saud Resort where we stayed three years ago
But walking on the beach and swimming in the sea and relaxing on some facilities was still for free.
Natural art Enhanced art
The most perfect beach with crystal clear water
Inviting hammock for relaxation
And what a beach. This is like a South Pacific beach you ever dreamed of: a white sandy beach fringed by tall palm trees and crystal clear water. And it looked like being stranded on a deserted island, because no human being was to be seen. Of course there was a fishing village in the back only to be assumed by the fishing boats in front. Take a look for yourself.
Palms swinging in the wind but this is still holding to the ground
I wonder how they can hold on Hold on to survive and thrive
Most palm trees grow up almost straight This makes a perfect south pacific sight
But watch out for falling coconuts Some have already rolled to the sea
Boats of the fishing village makes it all very idyllic
The last house at the fishing village then after that there is nature pure
More nature in the back-waters unspoiled flora and maybe fauna
Slowly heading back to civilization also back to our accommo-dation
It must have been a lucky constellation that the sandy beach was not spoiled too much by resorts and restaurants. They were mostly located on the rocky southern part of the beach. So were our guesthouse and our favorite restaurants next door. One of them was the restaurant of the
Terra Rika Beach & Dive Resort
Ilocos Norte
Tel.: 0063-920-255-8377
with good food. One of the local favorites is Bagnet, a special pig knuckle dish, which did cost 6.60 Euro for two. Soft drinks came up to 0.67 and a San Miguel Beer for 0.83 Euro.
Back to our favorite restaurant besides inspecting the vendor's wares
Just sitting down and looking out to the sea What the man caught with a small net I could not see
Watching the sun go down
In the evening we preferred the restaurant of the
Evangeline Beach Resort
Ilocos Norte
Tel.: 0063-908-8637-564
right at the waterfront. Not only that but also right on a sandy patch of the beach, where we asked our table to be moved. Then we chose a fish from the fresh catch of the morning to have it grilled to our liking. It was big enough for two and did cost only 4 Euro. Rice and veggies and drinks added up to another 5 Euro.
Our final dinner on the beach Waiting for our fish grilled to perfection
Ok, that was Pagudpud. A real nice place to relax. I hope it stays that way and does not become another overcrowded Boracay.

La Union

On our way back to Manila we stopped and stayed overnight at our "old"
Bali Hai Beach Resort
Paringao, Bauang
La Union
Tel.: 00637-705-0877
where we "resided" before. The room rate for the cottage is still 26 Euro including a heavy breakfast for two. But it's actually not a place for a longer vacation anymore. The recent typhoons took their tolls by washing the sand off the beach. Whatever is left is more so occupied by fisher boats "parked" on stilts. No way to have a stroll on the beach. Though, there is still a nice swimming pool and the possibility to hire a boat to get to the crystal clear water around Poro Point for snorkeling and fishing. For more information look up their internet site.
Stopover at Bali Hai in La Union The blue green sea is a painted wall
The pool is still inviting but the beach is not
That's the end now of another trip in the Philippines. There could have been seen and done a lot more on our way. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more all about the places we have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the internet.

© WEW Tours

Created September 2011