Family trip: Baguio, Vigan, Laoag (Part 3)

We were lucky. While most people make their travel and lodging arrangements for their Lenten trips months ahead, despite making and confirming reservations the day before the trip, we were still able to get hotel rooms. A lot has to do with the fact that while most vacationers begin their Lenten vacations on Wednesday afternoon, we were able to leave the city on Tuesday evening. Getting to our destination a day ahead was a huge factor.

So, we were able to book at the Igorot Lodge in Baguio. For two nights. I had been there before (a planning conference); so had Speedy (a conference as well). We knew what to expect and we weren’t worried. In Ilocos Sur, I was able to get a room at Mel-Sol’s Tourist Inn located five minutes outside of Vigan. It was recommended by a hotel that was already fully booked. I called up Mel-Sol’s, I was told they had an available room with its own bathroom (very important), cable TV and Wifi (very important to my daughters), and it was good for four. P2,900.00 per night. Not bad, I thought. I had to make a deposit at a BDO Antipolo branch, call back with the details and the room was ours for two nights. Speedy made the deposit, I called Mel-Sol’s back, got a confirmation and that was that. We left the city with CONFIRMED hotel reservations.

We reached Mel-Sol’s an hour or so before sundown on Thursday. I checked the room before letting the girls get out of the pick-up to make sure that the room wouldn’t elicit complaints. The room was spacious, not five-star rating but that was okay, the bathroom was spacious, the TV was there… We checked in.

After putting down her bags, Sam looked for the TV’s remote control. She found it, tried to turn on the TV but the remote wasn’t working.

When Speedy checked the aircon, he discovered that the swing function wasn’t working and the vents were pointing toward the closets rather than the beds.

There was a phone in the room, I dialled “0″ (isn’t that the number for the front desk of any hotel?) but I couldn’t get through.

Then, the phone rang. What did we want for breakfast — longganisa, tocino bangus… We made our choices and before the guy at the other end of the line could disconnect, I told him about the aircon and the remote control. Could they send someone over?

A guy came over. He tried the remote, declared it wasn’t working as though we didn’t already know that. He checked the aircon, said the swing was broken (weren’t we the ones who told him that?) but not to worry because the room would get cool sooner or later.

I could only roll my eyes. I told myself not to be too choosy, we did make last minute reservations, and the TV remote and aircon issues were minor inconveniences. I mean, how much time would be spend there anyway when the plan was to simply to have a place to sleep for the night. Well, two nights, actually. Still, Sam was whining that we look for another hotel.

Less than an hour later, we were off to Vigan. For food and photography. We ate well, we took great photos, we walked the length of Calle Crisologo and parts of Plaza Burgos, I went to a number of hotels to ask if there were vacancies, found none… we were tired. We needed sleep. So we drove back to Mel-Sol’s.

The horror began. When Alex used the toilet, the darn thing wouldn’t flush. Knowing that dialling “0″ won’t get me anywhere, I went to the front desk (or was it Speedy who went that time?) and asked to have someone look at the toilet. A girl came to our room — with a plunger. She used the plunger, the toilet flushed and she told us she’d leave the plunger in the bathroom and we could just use it if the toilet wouldn’t flush again.

I felt the heat going up my head. But I kept my mouth shut. Sam was again insisting that we look for another hotel and I reminded her that we already tried and found none. She said we could search the web and then call the hotels to inquire. I had already done that routine before we left for the trip but, as Sam pointed out, there might have been cancellations… So, I said okay, we could try. That was when she discovered that the Wifi connection wasn’t working. I went to the front desk again, complained about the internet (that was part of the package we paid for, after all), I was told that they did not turn it off but couldn’t explain why we couldn’t get a connection. In short, Sam’s idea wouldn’t work because we couldn’t get an internet connection.

I took a shower. That was when I realized that the tissue holder was broken. There was a towel rack above the mirror (who would hang a towel there and cover the mirror?) and the toilet paper was perched on the towel rack. The soap dish was pointing downward, put the soap on it and the soap simply followed the laws of gravity and slid to the floor.

In other words, my patience was wearing thin. Still, we all managed to sleep (except Sam, I think).

We were up early the following morning since the plan was to leave for Laoag right after breakfast. We would bathe, eat breakfast and go. Sam was the first to the bathroom. No water. I went to the front desk again and was told that their water tanks were empty and were still being refilled. How long are we talking about here? I asked. An hour? Two hours? They couldn’t answer.

We had breakfast (part of the package). The food was terrible. Bad quality AND badly cooked. Whatever. At least, there was coffee. Even if it was just 3-in-1. I took the cup of hot water and was about to pour in the contents of the 3-in-1 packet when I saw little black things at the bottom of the cup. Was that soil? I called the waiter, asked for a replacement, had my coffee and all the while trying not to lose my temper.

We went back to the room, packed then I went to the front desk to pay the balance for ONE night’s accommodation. Others were there ahead of me. PEOPLE WERE LEAVING. When I told the manang we were checking out, she clasped her hands to her breast, sighed with eyes closed… She was actually relieved — thankful — that people were leaving? And there was no apology whatsoever. Not for the broken remote and aircon, the faulty toilet — not even for the lack of water. We left not knowing where we’d go. We drove to Vigan, stopped at every decent-looking hotel that we passed, asked about vacancies… It was hot, we hadn’t bathed, it was doggone awful.

Then, a miracle happened. A room. Someone checked out early. In a large two-story centuries-old house that had been converted into a hotel. Hotel Salcedo de Vigan. It was beautiful.

VERY CLEAN. Not just the room but the common areas.

Above, the spacious common (smoking) area on the second floor.

That’s the door to our room.

Beautiful solid wood floors, large windows, MODERN bathroom with MODERN plumbing and hot and cold water. VERY CLEAN. Dial “0″ and the front desk answered. TV’s remote working. Wifi good. Okay, so it was a bit more expensive. P4,300.00 if I remember correctly because they had to bring in two additional beds — and I mean real beds, not just foam mattresses.

We had room service (food was so very delicious), we took our sweet time bathing… it wasn’t until 2.00 p.m. that we were able to leave for Laoag. We didn’t get to see all the places we wanted to see because we lost the entire morning but we did manage to get to the Cape Bojeador lighthouse for some fantastic photography.

The Ilocos Norte photos tomorrow.

  • Lerker

    Hi Miss Connie,

    My friend and I just returned from our Baguio-Vigan-Laoag trip. I used your blog post as a guide. While we did not copy everything, we used your post to get a general feel for what activities where were going to do and what places we went to.

    A couple of things though:

    1. Baguio was disappointing. It was nice at night but come morning, it looked like a mountainside shantytown. It rained while we were there and I was actually scared of a landslide.
    2. Mines View Park was a succession of souvenir shops from the street down to the viewing area. I felt that the sellers distracted from the sights. Too much.
    3. The food in Ilocos Norte is masarap. I swear. I can’t even decide whether I like Vigan Empanada or Laoag Empanada more.
    4. Vigan was charming. Although, like Mines View Park, I hated that Calle Crisologo was one long street of souvenir shops. :(
    5. The Marcos Mausoleum was simply creepy.

    Thank you Miss Connie for detailing your trip. It was what inspired us in the first place. We took a plane from Cebu to Clark then rode a bus to Laoag from Clark. Worst 9 hours of our life. Hahaha.

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      I guess there’s no all-positive travel experience. But great that you enjoyed Ilocano food. That was the highlight of our trip too. :)

  • Bontoc Family

    Dear Connie Veneracion,
    We wish we read your experiences at Melsol earlier, they really distroy 2 day’s of our trip in Ilocos, I can add, dirty swimming pool,loads of red ant’s around the pool, loud music till deep in the night/morning and a bunch of drunken people in their garden at night, they took the initiative to wake us up 2 times at 7 am for breakfast, my wife ask them why you call us for breakfast? their answer was that they want to prepare it! but we want to have our breakfast later and than it will be cold already, we payed and left the hotel without breakfast as fast as we could.
    Regards, Bontoc family

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      I hope you were able to find other and better accommodation.

  • Jenny

    Have you tried balay da blas? is it already fully booked at that time?

  • Mark

    I was smiling as I read this Ms Connie , it was as if I had dictated some of my less than happy experiences with places such as you describe. But it’s all part of the adventure, lol.You were lucky with the second place and no doubt it made up for alot.

  • curiousGirl

    haha. kakahigh blood nga talaga pag ganyan. The price of P2,900 for a hotel is already cheap, so you would be very lucky to have even a 3-star experience- pero problem syempre is that they advertised the amenities for the room. So parang pangbingwit lang ng customers, pero they don’t really care about following thru once you’re there.
    Baka hinde lang kayo ung nagrereklamo- most likely they recieved numerous complaints already, that’s why they’re so happy at people leaving..

  • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

    Funny to look back to experiences like that but while you’re living the experience, my goodness, it’s a nightmare!

  • http://titorolly.blogspot.com rolly

    Seems like you’ve mellowed down! The Connie I know would have been fuming mad after having gone to the front desk and still nothing happened.

  • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

    False advertising, right?

  • Josie

    We plan to go to Vigan on our next visit home and I’ve been checking online for places to stay there and finding it difficult to decide because of the mixed reviews of hotels. But, after reading about your stay at Hotel Salcedo, we decided we’re going to stay there too. Thank you for your honest comments, Connie, I always find them helpful..