July 08, 2014

Vigan, Philippines

I woke up very early today, packed my bags, checked out of the hostel, and took a taxi to the airport. Once at the airport, I found the Cebu Pacific ticket counter and requested a seat on the flight to Tagbilaran for today, which I had tried to purchase last night but their website could not accept credit cards at the time. Now that I was trying to book the flight at the airport, between the booking fare and baggage allowance, I was asked to pay 1,300 pesos more. Since I had no desire to pay more than their website quoted me last night and I felt it wrong to do so on account of their own website’s poor maintenance, I decided to take a bus to Vigan instead. It is a fantastic feeling not to be tied to one course of action and to be able to choose another at any moment, as well as to deprive a poorly run company of my money, which I would’ve been more than willing to hand over if the price had been fair. So goodbye Chocolate Mountains and the soon to be extinct tarsiers; hello to the old Spanish colonial buildings of Vigan and beaches along the China Sea.

I then took a taxi to the Partas bus terminal. The taxi driver originally quoted me a price of 500 pesos, I told him I would pay the price on his meter, he said his meter was broken, I said I only ride in taxis with working meters and threatened to get out, he pressed a button on the meter machine, and presto!, it was working again. We reached the bus terminal and the fare ended up being 225.50 pesos, he told me 250 pesos, and I paid exactly what was displayed on the meter ignoring his bullshit. Once again, my preconceived notions in regards to taxi drivers has turned out to be true; they are certainly the lowest human life forms on the planet and they could use a good flogging now and then to set them straight. Where is a Captain Bligh when you need one?

The bus to Vigan left the terminal at 08:05 and we were soon heading north. Along the way we passed by many small poverty stricken towns, rice paddies, farms, mountains, a few rivers, and occasionally a view of the sea. The landscape was very lush and green and was enjoyable to gaze at. Unfortunately, this bus stopped constantly. It stooped every ninety minutes or so for passengers to get off to buy food, drinks, and to use the comfort rooms (the name for restrooms in the Philippines – these were simple toilets one had to pay two to five pesos to use, they were not the Imperial Japanese-style comfort rooms we read about in World War Two history books). The bus also stopped at many points along the road to drop off and pick up passengers (anyone wanting a ride north); instead of a concrete schedule with drop-offs and pick-ups at designated bus stations, anyone along the road who waved the bus down could get on as long as seats were available. Also, almost every time we stopped, vendors would board the bus to try and sell us their drinks, peanuts, pork rinds, chicken, rice, etc.; they would walk up and down the aisle exclaiming what goods they had in hand despite the fact we all could clearly see what they were trying to sell (this tactic was used throughout China as well, with vendors yelling out to anyone who passed by as if that would magically work to get us to buy their junk); because of this, it proved difficult to get any rest during the bus ride. Also, all the stops greatly impeded our travel and what should have taken seven hours to reach Vigan, instead took eleven hours and some change.

Banana ketchup and other sauces found in Max's restaurant.
Banana ketchup and other sauces found in Max’s restaurant.
Looking down from the balcony at Max's at Calle Crisologo.
Looking down at Calle Crisologo from the balcony at Max’s.

By the time we reached Vigan (19:20), I was irritable and in a foul mood and it was dark outside. I grabbed my bags and walked toward the old part of town. I tried three hotels, until I found one with a low enough price to match my budget. I the dropped my load, grabbed my camera, and headed out to eat dinner. I ended up eating at a chain restaurant called “Max’s”, which was founded in 1945 and specializes in fried chicken. I had the sisig, garlic rice, and iced tea (I’m not a fried chicken fan). It proved to be rather delicious and they also had a banana ketchup that I tried out on the rice just to taste it, though it would probably match best with fried chicken. After dinner, I took a night stroll down the adjacent cobblestone street and admired the colonial buildings along the way. The street was for the most part quiet and there were not a whole lot of people outside which made the walk all the more enjoyable. I then went back to the hostel and eventually slept, looking forward to exploring this city which was already perceived to be cleaner, quieter, and not nearly as disgusting as Manila.

Calle Crisologo at night.
Calle Crisologo at night.

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