Bike Adventure: Ambon-Ambon Falls, Laurel, Batangas

With the extended summer season, a group of friends and I wanted to do another short trip. In the past, we’ve done day rides to different waterfalls in Luzon. The problem though is that aside from the distances and elevation traveled, most of the time, trips would entail hikes limiting our appreciation of these landmarks of nature.

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This time, we set an overnight bike trip to Ambon-Ambon falls in Laurel Batangas, which is approximately 70km from Las Pinas (about 85km from Manila). Since one of our friends comes from the area.

For the first day, several riders and i met in Molito Alabang to pedal our way to Tagaytay. The fastest route was through Paliparan heading to Silang. Reaching the roundabout of Tagaytay city early afternoon, we went down via the Sampaloc road, an approximately 15km descent to Batangas.

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The meetup

Upon reaching Talisay, we pedaled our way to Laurel, Batangas (about 8 km and left our stuff in one of our friend’s house) and proceeded to the falls.

riding to the falls is both a rewarding yet physically challenging experience due to the mixed terrain of gravel, rock and mud and several stream crossings. This went about for approximately 2km. Good thing weather was dry and heading to the falls wasn’t much of a problem.

Hike, Bike, Hike

 

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otherwordly groupfie (courtesy of Ferd Mangubat)

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To end the first day, we spend the night at our friend, Ferd’s house on top of the mountain.

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dinner is served

The next day, we got back home by pedaling our way up to Tagaytay via the Sampalo-Talisay Road which is 15km of mostly climbs. The early part of the day was really hot but rain fell early afternoon making the climb more manageable. Heading home was a breeze as we simply backtracked our way.

Pic with Ferd’s Dad and Nephew at the house on the top of the mountain

Climbing home

Rider Notes:

  1. bike hikes can be demanding as you need to dismount constantly on varying terrain. In this case, it was good that we used slippers or sandals during the trek to Ambon-Ambon falls.
  2. It is advisable to make the trip 2  months after the rainy season as the falls wasn’t too strong during the summer. In fact, some friends said that the there isnt any water in the falls during the peak season of summer.
  3. Bringing a light bike helps when you carry your rig around during the hike. It is advised to set your bike rackless for trips like this.
  4. I’d say Ambon-Ambon falls is a good day trip if you’re looking for a good challenging ride with a taste of varied terrain in your adventure.

 

Strava route for the trip: https://www.strava.com/activities/1584026203

Featured image courtesy of Ferd Mangubat

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Lobo-Laiya, Batangas biketour

It’s been 4 month since I did a biketour and I’ve been itching to do a short one before I go from a year long break for work.

Since I started doing long distance trips in 2015, I’ve heard of this famous route among mountain bikers-the laiya-lobo loop in Batangas, Southern Luzon in the Philippines.

Perhaps what makes the ride special is the coastal route and challenging off road sections of this loop…so with some friends, we decided to do this trip in a shortened fashion by starting at Lobo and ending in San Juan, Batangas.

We left Saturday early morning and took the bus  at South Station Alabang (we took the Goldstar bus and they charged Php180-ticket and bike storage included)

Starting in Batangas City Grand Terminal we headed to Lobo Batangas and passed by a Church up the hill…the climbs and pavement were fine though we got stuck when rain hit hard…

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At South Station Alabang
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At the Batangas City Grand Terminal
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with the gang (L-R Fechi Fajardo, Arnel Marasigan & Arnie Herrera)

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loving the climb and view
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The Statue near the Chapel 

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Good thing it was early afternoon (about 230pm) when we reached Lobo town proper and had late lunch…we got to Punta Malabrigo Beach Resort in Lobo Batangas at 5pm and enjoyed the beach.

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at the beach

 

One of the nice things in this trip is that this was the first time that we got supplies from the town market and cooked our meals (thank goodness to our companions Arnie and Fechi for cooking our dinner and breakfast the next day!)

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a well cooked meal!
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a rare unicorn! hahaha

The next day, we headed to Laiya and this is where the (off road) adventure began…

The Malabrigo Lighthouse, Lobo Batangas

Aside from brutal climbs, we had to contend with off road terrain but we were rewarded with a great coastline view of this place. Though weather was generally pleasant there were stretches where we needed to stop and take a break from the intense heat…

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Loving that climb

Off road cycling (Courtesy of Fechi Fajardo)

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With Fellow Surly fffinas member- Jong who did a camping trip with his son
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Lunch
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Finally at Laiya!
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Loading our bikes at the Alps Bus

We were able to reach San Juan Batangas around 430pm and took the bus at the Alps Station and got back to Alabang around 730 in the evening.

Though we only traveled 110km in total, the off road section which spanned about 20-25km was a great but physically challenging experience and I look forward to doing more off road tours in the future.

Ride Notes:

  1. Many recommend the full loop which is about 270-300km if coming from Manila (distance depends on where you’re coming from) but I believe the off road sections will definitely be a test of physical endurance as the terrain can vary from light to harsh (fireroads, rocky paths filled with goatheads which are notorious in causing flats and even unfinished pavement). Therefore, it is strategic to get to Batangas City or San Juan via bus to conserve that needed energy for the climbs and off road sections.
  2. Very few stores can be seen along the way and therefore it is important to stock on water and small snack items to keep you going.
  3. Punta Malabrigo Beach resort charges 2500 for a night good for 4 people in its cottage. You could also camp for a cheaper rate as they have a wide variety of options. We just got a room since weather wasn’t really all sunny.
  4. There are very few restaurants along the way and it’s advisable to get food to cook from the public market in Lobo Town Proper.
  5. Suspension forks will be a great plus as the rocky terrain will definitely shake your body during the trip.

Here’s the strava route of our trip if you’re interested in doing this as well

https://www.strava.com/activities/1143153528

A visit to Decathlon Philippines

I first visited Decathlon earlier this year when i was in Singapore. A friend told me that this superstore had a range of sports gear for different activities at friendly prices. Since ive been on the look out for small parts for touring, i wasnt disappointed with Decathlon’s inventory (got my bikestand and cage mounts here!). This month, Decathlon opened its first branch in the Philippines and didnt disappoint. Occupying a large area on the second floor of Festival Mall, Alabang, a couple of friends and i visited the branch.

True enough much like their Singapore counterparts, Decathlon Philippines had a wide variety of sports items (even horseback riding!) at friendly prices.

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They carry the Quechua brand for camping and outdoor gear

For the bike tourer/cycling enthusiast, the house brand called BTWIN has decently priced bikes with satisfactory specs (i predict these can even rival the budget friendly Trinx brand that’s popular in the Philippines). What appealed to me is the large inventory of small items for the bike tourer-bags, accessories such as bike stands, pump, and even cages as well as racks. In addition, the camping gear section also has budget friendly items -sleeping bags, tents and hammocks which may be expensive in some stores.

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What i found also appealing is that the staff were really courteous and spent time talking to us about our gear and cycling trips. hopefully, in the years to come, the staff will maintain this to attract more customers.

While i cant say that the cycling/touring gear will be topnotch as opposed to established brands (dont look for ortliebs, revelate designs or a Surly here), Decathlon addresses the needs of those wanting to try bike touring or even bike to work at very minimal cost…so go check it out!

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the hundred peso bike pump!

 

 

Bike Touring the Philippines: Leg 4 (Cebu)

On our way back home from Cagayan de Oro, Northern Mindanao, we took a boat to the Island of Cebu, which is located mid-east of the Philippines. As a center of commerce in the Visayas, it is to a certain extent modernize yet keeping the countryside charm which every biketourer clamours for. In this entry, I detail our experience in this leg of our Philippine bike tour in Cebu

Day 20 Cebu port to Argao (Approximately 68km)

We arrived early morning (about 5am) at Cebu city port taking the Cokaliong liner (Php 890 per person, economy accommodation) and proceeded to southwest to Argao. Though we initially planned to just stay at Carcar City, our ride was quite fast compared to the previous days since the terrain was straightforward. Very few climbs and weather was perfect. Though we encountered moderate traffic in the city proper, we eventually speed past the slow build-up of vehicles as we went away from the center.

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heading south (courtesy of Rahnel Sison)

The day was special as we dropped by the popular Carcar city public market. For those (un)familiar, Cebu prides itself of its native Lechon (roasted pig) and we were told that Carcar public market sells them at a cheaper price and are very fresh from the grill (Php300 per kilo). After lunch, coffee and a nap at a nearby café, we headed to Argao, Cebu and ended up staying at Looc Beach Resort.

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Carcar City Market
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inside the market where the good stuff is!

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Jun excited for this roasted delicacy!
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Our accommodation for our first day in Cebu (1100 good for 4-5 persons, fan room)

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Jun and Rahnel by the Sea, Argao Cebu (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

Day 21 Argao to Oslob (approximately 52km)

Though it was hot that day, we managed to ride out early and enjoy the countryside. Heading south meant getting farther, deeper into the province where the sea and heavy patches of trees were commonplace. We spent time at the town of Boljoon which had an old church  and school constructed in earlier times. Eventually we reached Oslob and stayed at a pension home.

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early ride out (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
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en route to Boljoon, Cebu
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Boljoon Town Proper
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Old school built in the 1900s

 

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our accommodation at Oslob (1,000 Php good for 4 persons, airconditioned room)

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Spanish Era Buildings in Oslob
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the old town buildings

 

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at the Oslob Museum (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

Day 22 Oslob to Santander port (approximately 34km)

The next morning, we decided to go around town and enjoy Oslob. Though we weren’t really in to the Whaleshark offering, we wanted to go to Tumanog falls only to find out that trips there via motorcycle were a ripoff. Instead, we went around the old buildings such as the church, old town walls built during the Spanish era. In the afternoon we proceeded to Santander port to take the next boat to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental.

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en route to Santander (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
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S(Trolling) by the sea
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off to the next island

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Rider Notes and Reflections:

 

  1. I’ve biked in Cebu a few years ago and this province remains to be one of those havens for cyclists due to the many tourist spots and trails one can visit.
  2. As far as taking boats are concerned, the Cokaliong liner remains as the best so far as the boats are “bikefriendly” (plenty of ramps, accommodating and helpful staff and very clean and spacious)
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at the ship by Cokaliong Liner

3. In terms of cuisine, you might find food in Cebu a bit salty and you would need to brace yourself for this as the food experience might be a bit awkward at first.

4. I was a little disappointed with our experience in Oslob as tours offered by the locals change in prices and are aimed at foreigners. For instance, as claimed by the caretaker of our pension home, the motorcycle ride we were supposed to take at Tumanog falls costs just 50 pesos but when we got to deal with the drivers, they claim it is Php150. Morover, though many suggested the whaleshark tour, we weren’t in favor of it as it is against sustainable tourism practice, -feeding the whalesharks-effectively disrupting their natural patterns of living.

5. I’d say, this leg of the biketour is the start of our “food coma” as cuisine is definitely memorable as with the remaining destinations of our tour going home.

6. for the previous leg in our tour, check this out https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2017/04/14/bike-touring-the-philippines-leg-3-bohol-cagayan-de-oro/

7. The Santander port is a small and you may need to seek the help of locals who can direct you to the area. The fee for the trip from Cebu to Dumaguete is 70 Php.

 

Rack it up: A Visit to Ryan Blanco’s Workbench Fabrications

Let’s admit, if you’re living in a developing country, a bike tourer has limited options when it comes to quality gear. While there are some stores that carry things you need, the prices are quite high which can turn off those interested in the discipline.

Enter Ryan Blanco’s Workbench Fabrications.

Ive heard of his works from fellow cyclist/tourer JT Tanangonan and I was amazed by the craftsmanship done on the racks.

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JT’s Surly Straggler with a Customized Front Rack (can carry large and heavy cargo and that Pizza we’ve always wanted, Courtesy of Ryan Blanco/JT Tanangonan)

I got in touch with him and was quite surprised he was my student in 2nd grade way back early 2000s!

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Fitting a prototype with Rahnel Sison’s Soma Saga

In November, friends and I got to visit his workshop and saw his custom creations…

saw some of his samples

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As a biker, he has that keen sense of detail and finishing industrial design, he puts his knowledge to work by building wonderful racks for different kinds of bikes…

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his own restored and custom works
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nice classic steel bike!

Using cold steel for his creations, his racks may be a bit heavy for the weight weenie, but these are definitely bombproof! Also, he gets to have these powercoated for custom colors you want.

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It starts with the fit (using a Conquer Dispatch Pannier)
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he does everything from fitting, cutting, welding and the works!
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quite busy and critical on details

There are two things that make Ryan’s works worth checking out…these are definitely custom fit for your rigs as he puts his personal touch in these designs-works of art I’d say

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sampling my low rider rack for the Surly Crosscheck
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newly painted front racks
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my own custom made low riders

And best of all, his prices are very much affordable- expect to pay way less (I’d estimate these are 30-50% less) than those branded racks out there

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Custom rear rack for Jojo Siscar’s Tutubi Carabao (Courtesy of Ryan Blanco/Jojo Siscar)

So what are you waiting for? Drop him a line and check his stuff out!

https://www.facebook.com/theworkbenchfab/

Bike Adventure: Manila to Vigan, Ilocos Sur

The heritage site of Vigan represents the blending of cultures (Asian-European) that is worth visiting among the different places north of the Philippines. The classic architecture as well as unique food and cultural experiences offered in the city should be part of the tourist’s long bucketlist.

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Classic Calle Crisologo

Last December 2015, we had a chance to visit the city as we were heading to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. Though I had enjoyed Vigan a few hours, I missed the opportunity to get to the know city more and with that in mind, several friends and I decided to head out to this wonderful city for a multiday tour.

Day 1 (Manila to Urdaneta, Pangasinan, approximately 200km)

8 of us converged at the Valenzuela town center as we took the national highway route (the most common one if you intend to go north). Our target for the day was Urdaneta, Pangasinan-roughly around 200km from my place (Las Pinas City)…

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Her first time to do a multiday tour and she has to have that arch collection!

We rode out early and had breakfast at the lugawan near the arch of Bulacan…

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Lugaw and other sides at Bulacan

Moving on, we got past Bulacan and Pampanga with relative ease given that the heat wasnt too much and traffic was fine…Unfortunately, one had to back out somewhere in Angeles due to an emergency…

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Pampanga

Of course, one of the dreaded stretches of this route Tarlac City-this is my third time to pass here and the heat and lengthy flat sections just made us want to end our trip immediately.

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the ever ‘exciting’ entrance of Tarlac city (you gotta love the heat and lengthy stretches of flat roads urgh!) (c) Rahnel Sison

Moving on, we arrived at Urdaneta Pangasinan around 8ish-and spent the night in M’s motel (700 per night good for 2 people-the place was ok since youre just after a shower and decent sleep)

Day 2 (Urdaneta to Taguiden, Ilocos Sur, approximately 140km)

To start our day, our fellow cyclist from our local bike group invited us for breakfast at his place at Pozzorubio, Pangasinan…Aside from exchanging stories and enjoying food, we also  talked about different builds and potential tours in the future…we left a little bit before lunch time…

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our host picking us up at Pozzorubio

 

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breakfast at our host’s house
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ride out for day 2

Though we got past different towns easily, it became a bit difficult at La Union (Bacnotan-Sudipen) as the roads became narrower and by nightfall, several buses and trucks were out-good thing, we reached Taguiden, Ilocos Sur in one piece and checked in at Edibel inn (the place is just plain terrible-no light in the bathroom, plenty of mosquitoes and weak airconditioning!)

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The entrance to La Union
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Agoo, Pangasinan
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the Church at Agoo

Day 3 (Taguiden, Ilocos Sur-Vigan, Approximately 90km)

Some of our friends rode early but I and another ride cyclist rode out late as we waited for another biker who needed to make up for lost distance from yesterday’s target…the exciting thing about this day is that not only did we reach our destination but also had fun checking out the wonderful seaside sites, and other structures before the city of Vigan…

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60km away from Vigan
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Located at Candon City, You should try their papaitan and caldereta-highly recommended!
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taking a rest at a police station in Santiago Ilocos Sur
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Loving the seaside

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A few Kilometers more before Vigan
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Finally Reaching Bantay Church, Ilocos Sur
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The Entrance to the Heritage City of Vigan
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Vigan Catherdral
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classic architecture 
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Along Calle Crisologo
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must try-Longganisa from Vigan!
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Native Delicacies, Okoy and Empanada
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a must try restaurant!
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Bagnet from Cafe Leona is a winner!
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Photo Op with the former Governor of Ilocos Sur
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gotta love the horses

Rider Notes:

 

  1. Though some groups who earlier toured Vigan claim that you can reach the place in two days, it is sensible to schedule it with an additional day to address concerns about delays in the trip. Again, based on personal preference, I’d rather spread my effort out equally in a number of days rather than burn ourselves out just for the sake of reaching the place in the shortest time possible. Having an additional day allows you to adjust your itinerary (our day 2 target was Candon City but ended up 20km short-which was fine since we only needed to travel a shorter distance for the third day).

 

  1. One of the new things we’ve experienced here is that we were invited by bikers based in certain areas-such as the case in Pozzorubio. In cases like these, it is nice to accept invitations as this helps widen your network of friends along the way. Of course, it would be rude and disrespectful to simply eat and run-so hang out a bit, tell stories and plan bigger trips with them! Too bad we weren’t able to meet bikers from Agoo who also wanted to see us-perhaps next time.

 

  1. There are several transient houses in Vigan which charge really low rates (in our case, 500 with breakfast-very nice place and highly recommended!)
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transient house where we stayed-very roomy and clean! they serve breakfast too!

 

 

  1. If you want to get home by Bus, take the Partas Bus line. This is my second time to ride their buses and the trip was pleasant and quite fast-consider leaving early evening since traffic is lighter. Also, leaving late evening allows you to tour the place. In this case, we  enjoyed moving around Vigan, taking pictures and choosing the best restaurants in town
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The Large Partas Buses can accommodate the storage of your bikes going home

5. Budget is key in this trip. Though it is sensible to allot 300-500 for your lodging be prepared to shell out as much as 700 at La Union (if you intend to stay for a night) as decent places here seem to charge a bit higher-again, based on preference, I’d rather spend a little bit more for decent sleep rather than save up a few hundred pesos and deny myself of comfortable rest.