HOORAY! This was the day I had been waiting for months!!! FINALLY we were leaving for the one and only…* drum roll * Batanes..!!!!! * audience cheering, confetti flaring, me doing cartwheels on a string of rope *
Batanes is the furthest North province of the Philippines. We flew from Manila in the wee hours by SEAir to Basco, on the Batan Island, and it’s the capital of the province.
About 1,5 hours of a little bit delayed flight and we were there. Scenic – and by that I mean GOERGEOUS – landscape was seen from the airplane since about 15 minutes before we landed. Oh fudging heck, it was exactly what I expected, and the awe was even more than I thought I would be feeling. Exaggerating? No I’m not. Boyo, on the other hand, couldn’t help but sleeping even until we landed, it annoyed me because I had nobody to share the excitement with!! Oh Boyo, how could you??
|Getting closer to Batanes|
|Batan Island viewed from the plane|
Anyways, the flight was alright, there was only one stewardess on duty, so she was kinda hassled with the mic while showing passengers the safety procedures with all the safety jacket and all. But all went well. The fan at each of the seat pocket kinda made me wonder.. “Is the flight air conditioned?” haha.. turns out, it was, thankfully. And turns out, Batanes produces fans made of some sort of rattan just like the ones in the seat pockets, but I don’t think it was a freebie. Or was it? Darn, I just left it where I found it.
|Local craft, fans|
The runway was surrounded by mountain views. The airport was really small and things were done manually, like baggage check and baggage collection. The toilet was clean, as everything else was. I had a hunch this was gonna be a lovely stay :D
Finding a place to stay
We didn’t make any reservation because we found it hard to find any cheap-enough lodge that was bookable via internet. So we took a pedicab and asked the driver to take us to an address on our lodge list. First up: Ivatan Lodge.
Hm, I expected something nicer than this, so I insisted to look at some other places. There was one place called Shanedel’s Inn with a nice back terrace facing the sea, but the room was badly ventilated and I think it was the [asbes] roof that made it so hot, an electric fan just wouldn’t do it for us. All the air conditioned rooms were fully booked.
So we took a room at Ivatan Lodge, PHP 400/ night. It is government owned, and the ladies who run it were very nice and friendly. Fortunately, it was quite a windy season, so the night was quite cool with only a help of the electric fan.
|The reception area|
|The common room|
Marlboro Hill & a ride around the hill
Our first sightseeing was the Marlboro Hill. Look up Batanes on Google image and you’ll see many results containing the picture of this vast green hill. It was also the reason that I took this trip in the first place. Batanes hasn’t made it into the top natural tourism sites of the world, so when people see the photos of it they would most probably think they were taken in New Zealand or Ireland. Well I’ve never been to either, so I wouldn’t actually know.
|Filling the tank before the ride to Marlboro Hill|
Anyhoo, we took a pedicab (also known as tricycle) to Marlboro Hill. We settled with PHP 300 / a round trip and it took us about 2 hours in total. The view along the whole trip was MARVELOUS. Hills, cliffs, ocean, mountains in the distance, oh it was a sight for even perfectly healthy eyes! And for a place as unknown as this, I was quite surprised that the roads were all asphalted well. I guess it’s not so off-the-beaten-track after all, huh?
|Carefully find a spot among the caraboo's poops|
|Pondering what's the meaning of life|
The Marlboro Hill itself was named after, obviously, that cigarette brand with cowboys riding horses on vast hills in their commercials. The actual name of the area was Mahatao, if I’m not mistaken. But what’s in a name, right? (Seriously, this saying doesn’t apply to Lord Voldemort..).
|The road around the island|
Our pedicab driver couldn’t wait longer than 30 minutes, so we had to make the most out of it to enjoy the awesome view. Of course we took pictures, but we also made time to sit, lie around on the grass (with caraboos’ shit all over, eeww!!!) and just enjoy the moment. It was a sunny day with the right amount of windiness, and summer was the perfect time to visit this island.
At only 2 PM we were back in Basco. We didn’t really know what else to do ‘cos we had arranged a longer tour around the island the next day. So we decided to walk around this small town and sightsee.
|Jeepney, the local transportation that we didn't have a chance to hop on.|
There weren’t many people we met on the streets, probably people were working inside buildings. It was a hot day, we got sweaty from walking around, so a little of Philippines local delights did it for us: cold San Miguel beer. I’m not really a beer drinker, but I just had to take a sip or two out of curiosity. It was actually good, I kinda liked it, but I didn’t even finish the first can.
The day was so hot that we couldn’t continue our walk. Boyo took a long nap at the lodge, I wished I could too, but somehow I didn’t. I took a walk again by myself later in the afternoon, without any certain destination. I ended up watching the fun that local children were having at a port nearby. They were canonballing, laughing, with grown ups working with containers and stuff in the background.
|Fun in the sun|
|2 children consoling the crying mother :(|
Carl’s Canteen was our choice of lunch place after settling our bags at Ivatan Lodge, which was located only about 3 minutes walk from the canteen. The food was good (and we were extremely hungry!), the whole meal cost us PHP 250 for two. They served several kinds of food, which sorta reminded me of Indonesian food back home, but a bit blander. This way I had to say that Indonesia has better food than the Philippines. * fist in the air *
At night, we had dinner at a place located a stone throw away from Basco Church. The food was good, and it was funny that the canteen shared building with a stationery store. Hm, a simple version of high-end bookstores that usually have cafes in them.
|Eating in a stationery store :))|
Our favorite diner was Zan Tan cafe, only a few buildings away from Ivatan Lodge. They serve spaghettis, sausages, fries, cooked instant noodles, hot drinks, cold drinks and a lot more, as well as free wi-fi connection. Yes!! Not wanting to hassle myself with a local cell number, I had to rely on wi-fi and my iPod to get in touch with family and friends back home. I mean, I gotta let Mom know that I was doing fine and let my Twitter ‘followers’ know how fabulous my vacation was! * wanna throw up? I don’t blame you * Just kidding!! :)))
|Zan Tan cafe at night|