Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Warning: I did not enjoy my time in Vigan so my opinions in this post may not be to your liking. I hate crowds which has been a common theme in most of my posts but I respect the tourism industry needs these crowds. I do not mean to bash Vigan, if I ever come across that way, especially since I was not able to explore its entirety. I think the city is lovely at its core. I’m just writing about what I experienced and what I felt while I was there.

I wanted to spend the New Year somewhere where there were people. I imagined I would join a gathering on a rooftop to watch the fireworks. So I decided to go back to Baguio on New Year’s Eve and celebrate 2015 there. Well, I just stayed in my hotel room at midnight watching the fireworks from the balcony. So much for spending time thinking about it.

On New Year’s Day, I checked out from the hotel at 8am and rode a taxi to go to the terminal of Partas. I was hoping they would have hourly trips to Vigan but they didn’t. I had to wait for a bus bound for Laoag that was leaving at 10:30am. The fare from Baguio to Vigan was P330 or something around that amount.

I arrived in Vigan around 4pm. I think it was in front of the plaza where I alighted but I think Partas also has a terminal. I got on a tricycle that took me to my hotel for the night, Ciudad Fernandina. I paid P20 which I think is the regular tricycle fare in Ilocos.

When I got to Ciudad Fernandina, I immediately asked if they offer guided tours to guests. They have. P1500 for a Vigan walking tour, P3500 for a Laoag tour and P6500 for a Pagudpud tour. The tours include vehicles but still seem steep.

I almost took the Vigan walking tour but I was glad the guide wasn’t available. The receptionist suggested I just hire a kalesa instead at P150 per hour. This did not seem to be the rate on the street though. Later that day, I overheard a woman asked a kalesa driver (or operator or horseman or whatever) about their rate and she was told P1500 for the whole tour.

Ciudad Fernandina is located at Calle Mabini near its intersection with Calle Crisologo so the Vigan heritage site was just right around the corner. I booked a standard room here for P2700 per night. Yep, I wasn’t on a budget mode when I booked a room online. But they had a nice cozy room complete with basic amenities.

I decided against riding a kalesa. I thought it would be too much attention parading around in the middle of the streets. I might get anxiety attacks.

After arranging my things in my room, I set out to walk around the city. The moment I turned the corner to Calle Crisologo, I saw chaos, as in there was a multitude of people. I felt I was in a mall that was having a sale. The crowd was just suffocating.

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It was frustrating at times because there were people taking their precious time photographing each other with the subject on one side of the street and the picture taker on the other. I couldn’t just stroll around mindlessly without photobombing someone.

I think beneath all that crowd was a charming Spanish-era city. The kalesas themselves were iconic if only they didn’t dye this horse’s hair and vandalize his body.

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It was also a little off-putting to see a Max’s restaurant and Mang Inasal at Calle Crisologo. Their buildings looked so shiny and new that they ruined the vintage feel of the site.

After walking along the street for an hour, I went back to Ciudad Fernandina for dinner. Although the food was within reach budgetwise, the beer was not.

I made sure to enjoy my sleep here. If I can’t have a good time in Vigan (my definition of “good time” may be different from yours), I might as well just enjoy my sleep here, so I slept for a good ten hours.

At 7am, I went out of my room to have breakfast but the restaurant wasn’t ready yet so I just went back to Calle Crisologo. There was a smaller crowd this time and I savored the parts of the street that were quiet and less crowdy.

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I also took the time to buy some Vigan shirts as pasalubong for my family back home. It was ironic that Vigan was my least favorite of all the places I went to for this trip but it is where I bought the most shirts.

I was thinking of going to the bell tower of Bantay or to Baluarte but then one is just another man-made, although vintage, structure, while the other has, I believe, non-endemic wild animals confined in a limited space, something that I’m not comfortable with.

At 10am, I checked out of the hotel and set off for Pagudpud.

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