A memorable hike to Taal volcano

You can find the post here. Unfortunately, the tool that I used can not be embedded here on WordPress. You are gonna love it!

https://sway.com/s/8ADWyGn4uefh68H8/embed

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La Paz Sand Dunes of Laoag

(Read it on MultiEMOtions Android App)

WARNING: This post is full of dirt, dust and dry air. Keep yourself hydrated while reading.

While heading towards Pagudpud from La Union, I had to have a transit at either Vigan or Laoag. Because the bus was already running late than what I had anticipated and it would be evening already regardless of the city I choose, therefore I opted for Laoag because it was nearer to Pagudpud. After reaching Laoag. the most budget option I could find to stay was the Taxicano Hotel which is a decent place to stay and geographically very convenient to go around Laoag city. However personally, I don’t think that there are a lot of places in Laoag city to hang around, but there is a place worth your time just outside the city. It is called as La Paz Sand Dunes.

As the name says, it is a place full of sand but as this is a place near the shoreline, you can also expect to see a good view of water, sun and clouds. From the Laoag city, I opted to take a tricycle to reach La Paz Sand Dunes. You can either ask the tricycle driver for a round trip price and he can wait there till you go around. However, I just asked him for a one sided trip which cost me 150 PHP. It is around 6 km drive from the city to the dunes.

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This is the place where our tricycle driver dropped us off. There is a small camp here from where you can rent ATVs or the jeeps which can take you around the dunes. There is no to almost no information at the tourist information center.
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Check the prices. If you have got a budget big enough, go for it. I opted to walk by myself. It was tiring, but it was obviously more fun. Though I wish to have a ATV ride, still. It would have been a little different too.
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View of the dunes as you will walk more into it. Luckily the day was cloudy (rather not too sunny) otherwise the experience could have been really heart WARMING 😀 This place is quite big and you really need some time to walk around. And as the sand makes it a little hard, ensure that you have some snacks and water with you.

I started walking to my left from the spot where I had started. Though at some point, dunes did not seem to end however, you can see the water while standing at a height. Could it be a mirage? Not really. Your eyes are not deceiving you. As the sand ends, there is an ocean of water to look for.

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Not a pretty beach to have fun for sure. But the sunset at this point would surely be worth watching, I missed it for sure. But the cloudy sky made it really beautiful at that point of time in the day.
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These are the clouds I am talking about. This picture was taken before I reached the shore and you can see the water at the horizon. My eyes are absolutely fine 😀 While seeing this now,  I wonder how terrible photographer I am.

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After spending some time at the shore, going back was equally a job as challenging as was to reach here. However, I was not any less excited.

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I leave my trails here for sometime until someone else (or an ATV or 4*4 or even a pile of sand) walks over it. Can you see the end of sand in this picture? I guess no!

After reaching back to the camp, I found that there was no tricycle driver available at that time since most people usually prefer to take a round trip. For this reason, I opened my HERE maps and started walking towards the city because I had earlier spotted that at a distance of around 1KM from the dunes, I can still get a lot of tricycles. Luckily even before that, I spotted a tricycle driver who was coming towards the dunes and was fortunately available. When I asked him about the price, he just asked for 40 PHP to get me back into the city. May be that was an advantage of getting a one sided trip from Laoag to dunes.

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Last picture taken from La Paz sand dunes as I leave back to Laoag city. And the road still doesn’t end.

Surfing adventure in La Union

I have always loved water sports. If I remember it well, I was around 12 when I first went to a water park and that is where I had my first experience with water (in a way different than usual). Rides, waves, fountains and it was all great fun. But I consider water parks to be an indoor and closed place. Sporting out in the open water is much more than that. I got the first opportunity when I was an exchange student in Taiwan. Since this is an island, there are a lot of places which offer water sports. I had gone to the place called Kenting and had my first adventure with water sports. There is a thing about water sports. It takes courage to do them. I have fear of water and I can not swim so I always make sure that either I have a life jacket or I do not go in depths more than my throat. Once these conditions are settled, the time spent in water is worth remembering. I overcome my fear and challenge myself to do the things I have not yet done in my life.

La Union is a province in Luzon, Philippines. It is mainly known for surfing because the waves in San Juan (a city in La Union) are very ideal for surfers, at least for beginners. There are a lot of beach resorts and surf lesson providers on the main beach of San Juan.

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Morning view of the beach. The surf lessons usually start from 7. So I made sure that I am before that to capture some silent shots. I was expecting to see the sunrise but I should have carried a compass to realize that I was in a wrong direction LOL
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You can see these huts and that is where you can find a lot of instructors sitting around. For every resort, there are particular instructors. They all should be equally capable as they have grown up between these waves.
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Ah! This girl loves surfing too. Well, who would not? Everyone in San Juan loves to surf. Once you go there, you will fall in love as well.

I reached the beach around 10 in the morning. One of my friend from La Union had already told me about two instructors, Royd and Ray, who can be found in Sebay. I started looking for Royd after reaching and he was there in some time. It costed us 200 PHP per hour for the board (It is 500 PHP for half day and 800 PHP for whole day) and another 200 PHP per hour for the instructor. In all, I took lesson for two hours so all the surfing for me was covered in 800 PHP. At the beginning, Royd taught me few basic positions about how to get on and lay down on the board.

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This is the normal position where the board is balanced in water by our body itself. You can see Royd in the picture. Can you?

The next step is when you will stand on the board. Usually the surfers paddle by themselves to get some speed. But in my case, Royd used to give my board a push before the wave strikes and I had around 2-3 seconds to stand up on the board. This is one of the difficult tasks as new surfers usually fall before they even begin to stand. However, after (not) a lot of trials, I managed to just stand on the board. But the thing was not yet over!

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Trying to get hold on the board without falling. A guy can be seen at my back who is about to stand. Royd told me some useful points about the body posture which really helped me to avoid the instant fall.

But even after managing to stand on the board, the chaos of the wave behind me always got me falling again. I remember Royd telling me that don’t let the water get you off the board so easily, fight to stand. And it really inspired me at that time and that is when I learned to balance myself while standing on the board.

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Hell yeah! The boy is in full flow. I do not have the video but I was moving my body as per the direction the wave was trying to move me. And this is the moment it felt absolutely wonderful and my trip to La Union really paid off.
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And every fall tells you to get up again. But time’s up LOL. My surfing hour was over with this last ride. I can not wait to have the board under my feet again.

By the time I had taken shower, I was extremely hungry and therefore walked to the nearby restaurant called Surf Shack and ate like anything. This is a good place to eat, I will recommend it well. Apart from La Union, there are other places to surf in Philippines. But if you are in Luzon, do not forget to either go to San Juan or Baler as they offer you an experience worth remembering.

Morning continues in Rizal Park

After spending around two hours in Intramuros, I was still not completely tired and hungry partly because it was quite cool and breezy as the sun was still hiding behind the white clouds. I checked on my phone to see the nearest attractions to the place I was standing at and it turned out that we were quite close to Rizal Park about which I had already looked over the internet.This park is named after Jose P. Rizal who was one of the revolutionaries in the history of Philippines. You can often see Rizal Street in many cities of Philippines as well as you can see his portrait on the 1 peso coin.

Rizal park is a wonderful place to be in the morning (and probably it should be a good evening spot as well). It has a beautiful scenic view inside and a lot of people either exercising or playing could be seen in the park.

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The view from the entrance. It has quite a long pathway and on the right, there was an open air theater followed by a Chinese garden and ultimately followed by the Memorial of Jose. P. Rizal
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The Filipino flag stands tall amidst the fountains. Aerobic tracks hit the morning to encourage the people wandering around the park and for those who are getting fitter. It makes quite a beautiful view. I stayed myself down for a while to just stare at it.

Moving on! Since this park is dedicated to the memory of Rizal, there is a memorial situated at the end (from the direction in which I entered), it has a nominal entrance fee of 20 PHP (which becomes 10 PHP for students). Rizal was executed in the open by Filipino soldiers and this order was issued by Spanish government which ruled Philippines at that time. There were Spanish soldiers present at the moment of execution in case if Filipino soldiers would had opted to step back.

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The scene of the execution and the pain could be clearly seen. There were soldiers, priests, dog and a commander to the best of my knowledge in the crowd you see at the back of Rizal. This scene was the reason for my visit to Rizal Park.
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A closer look at the executioners. There was no way that he could escape. Rest In Peace, Courageous Rizal J.P.
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It has been over a century. The location is the same and it can easily make you see what exactly happened.

But his sacrifice did pay off and today at the present, Philippines is independent and honestly, it is a wonderful country. I absolutely loved the people and I will admit here that they do look a little bit like us, Indians. The first two places I had been to in The Philippines were not just historical, they had been maintained to look beautiful and that is what I loved most about them. I am not a very history-loving type of guy but the flavor of nature and beauty added to it made me to like it in a very special way.

A morning well spent in Intramuros, Manila

(Read it on MultiEMOtions Android App)

The time was about 3 AM when my flight touched the Filipino sand. It was not a peak time and therefore it took me only around an hour to get through baggage claim, immigration, currency exchange and all sort of stuff. It was still way too early to head outside. I had to wait for another hour as the MRT and LRT trains start their way off at 5 in the morning. In this time, I roamed across the Manila airport, eating bunch of stuff and getting myself to look fresher after two hours of sleepless flight followed with another two dizzy hours at the airport.

Finally the clock hit 5 and I was all ready to leave the airport to experience a brand new country waiting for me. I had already planned about the places I am gonna be on my very first day in Philippines (Thanks to my Filipino mates and of course, the internet). My first stop was going to be Intramuros, one of the most famous places in Manila from a historical as well as touristic point of view. For someone going to Intramuros for the first time, the easiest and cheapest option would be to board the LRT going to the Central terminal. I boarded the LRT from EDSA station and the fare to central terminal was 20 PHP. After getting there, tricycles (one of the most famous mode of local transportation, the other being jeepney) are right at the exit of station to take you to Intramuros. But I instead chose to walk my way because that is more fun. Since I had already downloaded the offline version of HERE Maps for Philippines, I felt absolutely no problem in walking around and to finally reach Intramuros.

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As I set towards the Intramuros, there were a few eye catchy spots on the way. This one looked like something related to the history of Philippines. Unfortunately, there was nobody at that time to ask it out.
Not too long before I reached the gates of Intramuros. A beautiful entrance! Isn't it?
Not too long before I reached the main gate of Intramuros. A beautiful entrance! A warm welcome! Isn’t it?

Intramuros stands for “Inside the walls” so one can expect walls and something inside them. One can imagine it to be a big rectangle though there are a lot of streets inside this rectangle. As I got inside the entrance, there was a way to get on the top of the walls to my left. For quite a long time, I walked along these walls. These walls are really thick and old. One can even see canons and some old rooms which would have been there in the old times.

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I am right now on the top of walls. Looks like land? Doesn’t it. This is the thickness and you can see the canons I am talking about. Since the city used to be inside these walls, therefore there is no doubt it needs a protection like this.
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A random picture while walking along the walls. I love taking pictures of signboards and banners, I can’t deny!

My Filipino friends have noted some places down for me inside Intramuros. They were Manila Cathedral, St. Augustin Church, The Governor Palace. I tried to made sure that once I am inside these walls, I do not miss streets which have these places. Since I was quite early in the morning so I did not expect much from these places and to be honest, I did not had a lot of enthusiasm to check these places in detail. But as I reached there, it turned out to be more beautiful than I thought. And I just wanted to sit there for a while, to gaze at them and appreciate their uniqueness.

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The beautiful cathedral! It’s architecture, it is mindblowing! It is tall enough as could be seen from the dome on the left. I love the symmetry this building displays from the front.
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The (grand) palace of governor. Looks so royal. doesn’t it? Unfortunately, one can not get inside.
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St. Augustin Church! One of the famous churches in Manila. It was early in the morning and there actually were some people inside the church. Tourists are not allowed inside when the mass is going on. So I rather stayed outside.

I spent around 2 hours inside the walls, in the Intramuros. Being early in the morning, one can avoid sun and even spend more time to be inside the places I had been to and to explore even more. By the time I was leaving, I could see a lot of students going to their classes and then I realized again that I have just started my vacations and I have to get the most out of it. Philippines welcomed me with its beautiful historical introduction, churches for what it is well knows as and much more things to be happened in the coming days.