The weekend before Easter we ventured out on our first family holiday. We hired a car and a driver from Viajero Rent-A-Car and set off on our adventure to Baguio.
Baguio is about 240km North of Manila. The drive, with about 1.5 hours break, took roughly 7 hours. For the first hour, we were hostage to Manila traffic but after that we flew along the various tollways (NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX) at a decent speed. The last hour or so was a windy climb up the mountain road to Baguio.
Everyone I met who had been to Baguio only had positive things to say about it: Baguio’s so lovely, the taxi drivers are so honest, the air’s so fresh, it’s cooler than Manila… But other than that I didn’t really know what to expect. I was surprised when we first entered Baguio – it’s very hilly, and very built up. But not built up in a Manila-skyscraper kind of way. Built up in the sense that all the hills seem to have buildings clinging to them. But there are lots of pine trees and lots of parks too, so it didn’t feel stifling (other than in the very busy city centre). The air is much fresher than in Manila, and it was definitely cooler than Manila is.
We stayed in the Chalet Baguio Hotel, located on Upper Military Cutoff Road. Another building built into the side of a hill, you enter effectively on the 4th level and a lot of the rooms are on ‘Lower Ground’ levels. The best views were from the rooms on the 4th level – below that, whilst you still have windows looking outside you can’t see much. The lower rooms are also loud as the karaoke room (de rigeur for hotels in the Philippines) is on the lowest level. On our first night we were slap bang right above the karaoke room. Luckily it didn’t go on until 2am, even though it could have done as that was closing time.
Whilst in Baguio we explored the Botanic Gardens, Camp John Hay, Wright Park and The Mansion. It was great to be able to walk around in green open space. The Botanic Gardens are small, but have lots of pretty plants and flowers. They are not the most manicured Botanic Gardens I’ve been to, but people were very happy wandering around. The terrain is pretty rough, even the paths. Luckily our buggy has big wheels, and Eilidh seemed to enjoy the 4×4 bumpy ride by going to sleep.
Camp John Hay was a former US Military base, and now has lots of open space, hotels and some shops & restaurants. We only had a small wander around there as it started bucketing with rain. We did discover a great restaurant inside Le Monet Hotel where we had lunch on both days we were there. The seats were more like sofas so Eilidh could lie on the seat between us, which she enjoyed, meaning we could have a relaxing lunch.
Wright park is very small, with a long body of water, and at one end, over a main road, there is The Mansion. The Mansion is the official summer residence for the President of the Philippines. Maybe they were trying to recreate the Taj Mahal effect of having the building reflecting in the water of Wright Park? Anyway, it sort of works. But the water was a very rusty brown colour. I had someone ask me why it was that colour. I thought he was going to tell me, but it turns out he didn’t know either. Rust? Dust?
So it was a good trip, even though the journey there and back was long. It was refreshing to get out of Manila and great to see another part of the Philippines.
We hired a car with driver from Viajero Rent-A-Car:
+63 918 948 21 91
+63 905 288 21 56
+632 836 79 97 / +632 890 01 68
Rm 401-B 4/F RCI Building
Rada Street, Brgy. San Lorenzo
Makati City, Philippines
The route from Manila took us on the North Luzon Express Way (NLEX), and then onto the SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway), then onto TPLEX (Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway), and then the MacArthur Highway onto Kennon Road. Baguio is well signposted.
We stayed at the Chalet Baguio Hotel (http://www.chaletbaguiohotel.com/)