It was one Throwback Thursday when a friend posted an old picture of us in Baguio circa 99, several comments followed rekindling the memories until a plan was hatched on that FB thread to revisit Baguio the following week.
How did we make the most of our short stay in the City of Pines?
SATURDAY6:00 AM : Northbound via SCTEX
We left Quezon City and headed North via SCTEX (Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway) at exactly 6 in the morning on board a comfy ride with a driver in tow. The ride was fast with almost no traffic in sight once we entered SCTEX.
8:00 AM : Breakfast at Max, Hacienda Luisita Tarlac
We stopped by at Hacienda Luisita Tarlac to have our breakfast at Max. It took me a serving of garlic rice, fried egg, chicken longganisa and a cup of brewed coffee to finally say my morning is complete and my friends each had their champorado which they feel were incomplete without a serving of "tuyo" on the side. Max restaurant might consider a slight change on their menu next time :-).
10:30 AM : Reached La Union Arc
After one hour and a half engrossed with the chit chats we resumed our road trip and reached my most missed arc bearing the word " La Union" by 10:30 AM, it's actually my hometown which I've not visited in more than a couple of years.
11:30 AM : Baguio via Kennon Road
I don't remember ever passing Kennon Road going to Baguio, so this is officially my first time to see the LION's Head and a photo op definitely followed. And I think I'll be passing Kennon road on my next trips to Baguio, well except on rainy days. It wasn't as dangerous as the thought I had in mind and the views of the mountainsides, waterfalls and pine trees are very refreshing, add to that is the fact that it's the shortest route to Baguio however a 15 pesos toll fee must be paid.
12:00 Noon : Bargain hunting at Mile Hi Center, Camp John Hay
We reached Camp John Hay by this time and the first activity we had when we saw the numerous branded outlet stores lining up at the Mile Hi Camp John Hay is to go bargain hunting but not the ukay ukay style. I think Camp John Hay is the best place to experience Baguio :)
1:00 PM : Lunch at Forest House Bistro Cafe
We drove a little pass Camp John Hay to Forest House to have our lunch at this very cozy ambiance resto place. I was actually hoping to stay here for a night but their 4 bed and breakfast rooms are always occupied. Most of us had steaks which I believe is their specialty. I got baby back ribs and it was juicy, tender and tasty and very filling leaving me full even up to dinner. After the chit chats to the max, with one friend who ditched the plan to join us on the last minute became the main topic of our convo and unfriending him on FB seemed to be the funny plan to teach him a lesson became an agreement :) Well, it has an expiry period and as of this writing it already ended ;)
2:30 PM : Pasalubong shopping at Good Shepherd Convent
We headed to Good Shepherd to buy our favorite pasalubongs from Baguio. The most requested are the ALFAJOR cookies with caramel filling (this is my fave), Ube Jams and the Snowball cookies. You'll actually spend more than a thousand if you buy all the delicious goodies from there but you are doing a good deed because you're helping their vocation of sending their Cordillera youths to school. It's also where you can buy a cup of civet "alamid" coffee at a lesser price of 75 pesos per cup. If you're intrigued with the taste, its like any strong brewed coffee, just don't mind how it was processed instead just take note you're sipping the most expensive variety of coffee beans ;).
3:00 PM : Checked in at Hotel Veniz
We checked in at Hotel Veniz for a night stay. The place is strategically located in the downtown area and places of interest in Baguio are easily accessible on foot. The amenities are fairly decent (with no ghostly sightings heard of, hehehe) and the room rates are very reasonable that include a buffet breakfast for two which was ample and more than satisfying considering we only paid 1,800 a night, good for two pax. We rested a bit and set the alarm at 6PM to remind us of our dinner plan.
7:00 PM : Session Road and Baguio night chill
Walking the whole stretch of Session Road until O Mai Khan was the plan to feel Baguio's night chill but the uphill walk until SM left most of us gasping for breath and so with the remaining 20 meters left, we all boarded our ride and in no time reach the venue of our dinner, O' Mai Khan.
7:30 PM : Dinner at O' Mai Khan Grill and Hot Pot
O' Mai Khan was already packed when we arrived but our gracious host made an early reservation. The place looked like a popular dining hangout and also my first time, it was really a treat. Their specialty is Mongolian barbecue buffet and hot pot. I thought O' Mai Khan was related to Genghis Khan as what the pictures posted on their walls seemed to convey but my inquisition revealed that O' Mai Khan is a derivative of the Ilocano word "umay kan" which means please come over, well, I've heard that quite a million times in our household ;) . We enjoyed the dinner treat and happy to meet our nice and gracious host and his family courtesy of our friend. Food is tasty, healthy and priced reasonably, no wonder the place is packed. And if you're looking for sweets, please try their calamansi pie, its perfect for my taste, sweet and tangy.
9:30 PM : Back at Hotel Veniz
I was hoping to go ukay ukay hunting just within the vicinity of our hotel and I heard it's open until wee hours but the exhaustion finally caught us and found my room mate snoring once she touched the bed. So I called it a night, took a long hot shower and tune in to Abbey Road on cable tv with John Mayer featured and that capped my night until I doze off.
6:00 AM : Early morning walk at Burnham Park
Woke up early to feel the morning breeze and what better way to do so is by strolling at Burnham Park which is just a few steps away from our hotel. The place looks better from the last time I can remember and I saw quite a number of joggers, health buffs and tourists that early in the morning. Bought a cup of strawberry taho from the first vendor I spotted, sat in a corner and savor the moment while watching a colorful looking group strut their aerobics steps. Also spotted a vendor selling some silver jewelry and bought a strawberry designed bracelet and a rose themed set of earrings, necklace and ring all for just 200 pesos, what a steal! I happened to be the first customer. :)
8:00 AM : Back at the Hotel Veniz for Buffet Breakfast
I ring my room mate friend since I can't enter our floor without a key card and that woke her up, told her to follow me at the Hotel Cafe for our breakfast and did the same for our couple friends on the other room. I was more than satisfied with the breakfast buffet selection the hotel offered, not expecting that they can serve this range for the price we paid.
10:00 AM: Check Out and Stopovers
All packed and ready to go back home, we checked out and stopped by at Camp 7 to buy fresh fruits and veggies and a stop over again at the Lion's head to buy the better tasting strawberry taho.
We actually timed our arrival at Urdaneta City, Pangasinan to coincide with lunch at Matutina's Seafood House. The place is full and more are coming in and so we were directed to the annex area where we devoured the fresh seafood, Pangasinan style.
Baguio or City of Pines or Summer Capital whatever name you wish to call it remains the ideal place to spend a quick getaway, revisiting my roots, rekindling memories and still savoring the many flavors the place has to offer.