A three-hour drive from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, will bring you to the calm and charming Ha Long Bay. Located in the Gulf of Tonkin in northeast Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has withstood the test of time, and yes, naval battles and legends. Literally translated as “Bay of the Descending Dragon”, Ha Long Bay offers visitors a majestic view of naturally-formed limestone pillars and, if you have much time to spare, over 1,600 islands and islets. A popular way to enjoy the scenery is by taking one of the numerous Ha Long Bay cruises through glass-like waters (although it was a bit too green for me!) aboard these ships that looked like the ones used back in the 1900s era (my first thought was the Huckleberry Finn cartoons!), giving it an old world feel. We spent two days and a night aboard one (and I was happy to see two very able Filipina crew managers) and although we were actually working (yep, no kidding!), in that short time, I really got to appreciate the calmness (so unlike the 2Go weather fiasco!), majesty and beauty that Ha Long Bay offers to its visitors.
I know it’s already five months overdue but still, I would like to write a personal post about my 26th year, highlighting the travels I’ve had and the people I met along the way.
Contrary to my 25th year’s travels which were mainly as a solo backpacker or with a travel buddy, 2013-2014 was more of a group travel kind for me. It’s also during this span of time that I’ve met several important people in my life — from CouchSurfing acquaintances to really great friends, and from total strangers to favorite companions and partners in crime. And yes, ’twas also late last year that I met someone whom I’m looking forward to have more travels and adventures with.
As I’ve mentioned before, it takes a lot of willpower and natural beauty for me to be dragged out of bed at sunrise. Luckily, the scenery in Bolinao is one such wonder that I was able to force myself to step out of my room (I had to anyway coz it’s early work day for farmers’ training) at El Pescador Resort and watch the fishermen go about their business. The water was calm, except for the ripples from a fisherman’s small boat and nets being cast in the sea. It was said that before becoming a hotel and resort by the sea, El Pescador used to be a small fishing village, benefiting from the rich marine life of Bolinao in Pangasinan. It’s not exactly a swimming beach, especially with some kind of seawall separating the waters from the resort area. It is, however, still a nice sight to behold in the morning. I wonder how El Pescador sunset looks like, since Bolinao and Pangasinan generally belong to the sunset magic hour area. (Photo taken 08/31/2010)
I love eating and it’s my favorite part of work-related travel. You get to savor sumptuous and delicious dishes like fresh vegetables and oh-so-fresh-it’s-still-moving seafood! So, whenever we go on the field, we make sure to always sample the local specialties of the place and when we were in Capiz, it’s always seafood that we craved for!
You can find almost any seafood in Capiz. For how else can Capiz own the bragging rights of being the seafood capital of the Philippines?! From fish to oysters, squids to clams, shrimps to seaweeds, crabs to lobsters.
You name it, and you’d probably get the seafood of your choice. Unless of course it is of the “illegally for sale” kind. That’s another story.
Located in Western Visayas at the northeastern section of Panay Island (where you can also find Ilolo and Aklan), Capiz faces the Sibuyan Sea in the north and has numerous fish ponds in the locality.
A lot of seafood being enjoyed in Manila comes from Capiz, with the extra hundreds of pesos added per kilograms of course. Here are some of the great seafood dishes I’ve tasted in Capiz. I hope you enjoy the visual chow time! (Disclaimer: I like eating but I am not that good in describing. I’ll try my best but please use your imagination or previous foodie experiences!)
This is perhaps the most famous and the “fanciest but still looks like casual dining” seafood restaurant in the Capiz bay seafood restaurant area. It’s a bit more pricey than the “dampa” choices down the coast. I can’t tell you how much exactly coz I didn’t really pay for the food. Another perk of field work travel! Anyway, Coco Grove is also the place where celebrities and personalities visiting Capiz usually go to for their quick seafood fix. Photos below are what they offer (or at least what we tried).
There were probably other dishes we enjoyed that I forgot to take photos of coz I was already hungry. I think we also had nylon clam soup which is quite tasty! And perhaps some scallops too. Plus, you can order beer or coconut, which you’d drink from the shell itself!
Aling Bebing’s Seafood Plaza (Dampa style)
Since we were doing a series of farmers’ training at that time, we also had the chance to go for another round of seafood dinner by the Capiz bay area. This time, we went for the Dampa style at Bebing’s seafood plaza.
If you are unfamiliar with Dampa style of eating, it’s where you choose the seafood that you want to be cooked, haggle for the price, and tell the kitchen how you want them to cook it. It’s quite fun. I didn’t do the haggling per se but it’s fun to watch, and request for the food you want!
Eating at Aling Bebing’s seafood plaza is more casual than at Coco Grove. Both places have a great view of the beach/shore and you can feel the wind gushing. Aling Bebing’s Plaza’s style of bamboo flooring a little above the sands and closer to the shore was more breezy though. Making the seafood dinner more authentic and enjoyable.
So, what are you waiting for?! Book your flights to Roxas, Capiz or fly to Iloilo and Aklan and take a road trip from there. Or, if you really have a lot of time but not much budget, maybe try the 2GO ship option (I should try this too) or take the Roll-on, Roll-off (RORO) buses. I know it seems like great effort but hey, if you really want the freshest and finest seafood, there’s no other place to be than Capiz, the Philippines’ seafood capital!
Before the Wider Role of Volunteers training ended, each of the participants were given several VSO- and Philippine-related stuff. One of which, is a Philippine map packaged as a tourist information brochure. The first page of that brochure showcased the famed cobbled-stone path of Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
I even heard one of my co-volunteers-to-be exclaim that Vigan, as portrayed in the photograph, seemed like such a beautiful place. True enough, Vigan really did look amazing in that picture. It presented an old world charm that no matter how similar, still looked different from Intramuros’ streets and Iloilo’s old houses. There’s just something about Vigan, especially Calle Crisologo, that commands people’s attention and captivates hearts. I know so because I too, despite thinking that it may be an overrated form of admiration, felt transported back in time as I walked through the cobbled-stone street. Continue reading Walking through Vigan’s Calle Crisologo