Type : Cultural
Best Date : December
Expense :  Fair
Things to do : Kalesa (horse drawn calash), Dine, Visit Museums, Shop
Points of Interest: Sycquia Mansion, National Museum of the Philippines, Crisologo Museum, Plaza Burgos, Calle Crisologo, St Paul Cathedral, Bantay Church, ect


Vigan city is the capital of the ‘Ilocos Sur (South Ilocos)’ region in the Philippines. The city is very popular for its old Spanish buildings that have been preserved through the years. Vigan is also known for the ‘calesa’ (horse drawn carriages) rides through the city. Now the historic city is a UNESCO world heritage site and many tourist flock to see the only Spanish styled colony in East Asia.

The Place

Vigan city is the Philippines most preserved Spanish colonial city and tourism here is large because of its architecture, culture and culinary influence from its past. There is plenty to see and do here but all can be done in one single day through riding a ‘calesa’ which costs 150php/ hour (equivalent of £2/ hour). The Calesa do a circuit of all the attractions in the city and allows you to get down to roam and take photos (just like a hop-on and hop-off bus).  Usually a full circuit will take 1-3 hours depending on how long you roam at each point of interest.


The Calesa starts beside ‘St Pauls cathedral’, and as the ride starts you pass around the city’s ‘Plaza (Plaza Burgos)’ this is where the evening ‘Light and fountain show’ takes place at around 19:00 everyday of the week. This show lasts about 20minutes and is very busy full of spectators so an early arrival is advisable.

After riding past the plaza in about 5-10minutes you arrive at the first stop ‘Bantay church’ or ‘St Agustin church’  and its ‘Bell tower’. The church is free to enter however its bell tower requires registration and a donation which could be as much as you want. The bell tower once served as a watch tower for pirates during the Spanish colonial era.

Next is the ‘National Museum of Ilocos’ and the ‘Old provincial jail’ both which requires registration but no fee and donations are required. There are plenty of cultural and historic objects and artefacts of this the Philippines and the Ilocos region.

The ‘Crisologo museum’ is next followed by the ‘Syquia mansion’ which is now dedicated to the Philippines late president Elpidio Quirino, who was born in the city.  The Crisologo museum is also a place with many different memorabilia from Philippines past. Furniture, paintings,different artworks and even vehicles are seen here.


After that you ride through the ‘Calle Crisologo’ the old Spanish street which in my opinion is the highlight of the tour. At any point you may ask the coachman (horse drawn carriage driver) to stop so that you may take a photo (but not to roam). Here there are plenty antique shops, bakeries, restaurants, hotels and bars all in older Spanish styled buildings.  I believe this street is the cover attraction of the city and it is busy throughout the day.

Lastly you are dropped off where you got on beside ‘St Pauls cathedral’ also known as ‘Vigan cathedral’ another of many UNESCO world heritage sites across Ilocos.  The ride took 2hours paying a total of 300php (equivalent of £4), you may or may not give a tip if you want. The Calesa ride is an invaluable way of transport in the city and the price is nothing compared to the gain of experience. Positives of the ride were its ease, cheapness and its uniqueness, whilst its negatives are little in smell of the waste (horse) and fumes of vehicle on the road.

In conclusion, Vigan is for tourists more fascinated about history and culture as there are no adrenaline activities here. Hotels here are fairly cheap but there can be the odd expensive ones, whilst restaurants are vast. A good place for families and groups in my opinion.





Type : Activities / Cultural
Best Date : March- June
Expense :  Cheap
Things to do : 4×4, Sand surfing, ATV, Sand Dunes, Visit Churches
Points of Interest: Malacanang of the North,  Paoay Church, Paoay Lake, Paoay Sand Dunes, Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Centre, ect


Paoay which is in my opinion more interesting than its neighbouring city of Laoag. Having much more fascinating attractions such as the ‘Marcos Presidential Centre (Malacanang of the North), Paoay church and the Sand Dunes, Paoay is an increasing popular destination in the ‘Ilocos Norte’ Region.

The Place

I visited Paoay as a half day excursion from where I was staying in Laoag. I simply just asked a tricycle driver to take us to all the points of interests in the region for a standard agreed fee. Here is where we got to:

‘Paoay Church and its Bell Tower’ also known as the ‘St Agustin Church’ is another of Philippine’s UNESCO heritage site. Built in 1710 the church is particularly special due to is 24 buttresses in its side. Still hosting masses, this church is popular for tourism due to its beauty and historic significance.


‘Paoay Lake’ which is the largest lake in the province of ‘Ilocos Norte’. Shaped like a horseshoe. Legend has it that there was an ill-fated village which was submerged underwater by god as punishment and after the floods disappeared it left the lake, which we know today as ‘Paoay Lake’.


‘Malacanang of the North’ which has a entrance fee of 20php was the official residence of Ferdinand Marcos’s family during his reign as president of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. Today the building is used as a presidential museum of culture and history, with many of the late presidents furniture, artwork and projects that were both successful not. Built for Marcos’s 60th birthday by the Philippine tourism authority at the time, the building has been refurbished and now visited by masses who want for tourism and educational purposes. Special events such as weddings are also hosted here.


‘Paoay Sand Dunes’ which is the centre point for adrenaline in the province with its 4×4 trail, ATV and sandboarding activities. It costs 2500php (£35 equivalent) for the 4×4 trail which rides up to 5 people and includes unlimited sandboarding. The 4×4 buggy is brilliant and very fun, there are plenty of uphill, steep downhill and plenty of bumps within the trail, I can only describe it as an enjoyable rollercoaster and you can feel the G-force whilst standing and no seatbelts. Throughout the trail there are stops (3 in my count) to take photos and take a little breather whilst enjoying the panoramic views. After the whole trail which lasts about 12-30 minutes you are dropped off the sandboarding area which is a steep downhill slope. You are able to stand or sit if you wish whilst sandboarding, but it is advised that standing are for those who already know how to skate or snowboard as it can be very dangerous.


Overall ‘Paoay’ is culture, religion and adrenaline altogether in a small region of Ilocos Norte. It is not too expensive to roam here with a tricycle and tickets to attractions are not too expensive, however activities are a little different and can be a little pricey. Paoay I believe is underrated and should be a more popular destination in the Philippines. I highly recommend this place.


Type : Cultural
Best Date : April- June
Expense : Cheap
Things to do : Just roam and eat, visiting neighbouring towns.
Points of Interest: Tobacco monopoly monument, Bell tower, Rizal amusement park, Museo Ilocos Norte, ect


Laoag is the capital of the province Ilocos Notre (North Ilocos) a medium sized provincial city famous for its Spanish upbringings just like many cities and towns in the Ilocos region of the Philippines. 

The Place

Laoag is Ilocos Norte’s capital city but in my opinion not the best for tourism. It is very small and compact unlike its neighbouring cities and towns in the province.

Firstly my first impressions of the city were brilliant, it is very spacious, quiet in the day and somewhat busy in the evenings due to the night market. The city has a large Robinson’s Mall, centre of both ‘Laoag city’ and ‘San Nicolas’  which is unusual for a provincial city, furthermore its mall is very modern and has high class shops and restaurants such as Guess, Lacoste, TGI Fridays, Starbucks and many more. Centring the city is the ‘Bell tower’ unofficially known as the ‘Sinking Bell Tower’ which is a beautiful building left by the Spaniards. Other than that there are not many to see and do in the city but many do go to ‘Paoay’ for many different sites and activities.

In conclusion Laoag is a good centre point to stay in the province of Ilocos Norte but you may want to travel around neighbouring cities for more to see and do.  Laoag is normally just the hub of where tourists arrive or depart from the province as many bus stations, hotels and resorts reside here. A nice place to dine and roam but for me a day or two is enough for this city and anymore may result into boredom.



How do you travel?

Do you buy cheap airfares or pay the price for the experience?

There is now the popular arguments between family, friends and even oneself on whether to travel cheaply or pay more for the added perks on flights. We know there are two types of carriers, “standard or premium airliners” which we recognize as flag carriers and even somewhat being the symbol of aviation in its country, secondly the increasing popularity of “budget or low cost airlines” the companies giving passengers very cheap tickets for bare necessities (no thrills as its known). I work for an airline and I know that the battle of the skies is difficult for every carrier out there. Its simple the more passengers the higher profitability which will also illustrate its reputation.  Wealthy carriers are consistently advertising, upgrading seats, product and services, lowering prices also comes to the equation but only to an extent and with unfavourable consequences. Budget airlines spend less which enables them to lower tickets, this results in no food (buy on-board), less legroom (more row of sellable seats), undesirable airports and many more. Standard and budget airliners are now far apart on the service it offers, for us as passengers there is now a huge choice and it is something that divides opinions. So what is your method in flying?

Budget/ Low cost Airlines (Flying Cheaply)

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Spend less money (more for the holiday itself)

One of two reasons I believe people travel with budget low cost airlines, is the price. There are many people who believe that air transport is only a small part of the holiday and would rather spend more on hotels and activities than a simple flight. Furthermore if the flight is only 1-2 hours there is no real effect on sitting in a budget airline than that of a more luxurious one.

Only pay for what you need

There is plenty of aspects on a standard airline company that an individual traveller doesn’t desire, such as insurance, food and even baggage weight. This is something budget airliners capitalises on and gives passengers the choice to pay for only the services you require, which is popular amongst many youthful travellers who aren’t swayed by insurance protection or seat choices, this is normally known in aviation as ‘no thrills’ flights.

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Less Comfort858694_10152371049080818_6060944143834133079_o.jpg

Everybody has heard the saying that ‘you get what you pay for’,  which is true when it comes to spending on flights. Easily seen when you book economy, business and first class within a single carrier and somewhat true when choosing between standard and budget flights. Cheap airlines usually only incorporate the essentials (the product required by law) which are very basic seats, a stowage and a toilet (no thrills as they call it). Take note low cost airlines have also been looking at the possibility of charging to use toilets but were unsuccessful due to various laws. Leg space is also affected and many (not all) budget carriers give the bare minimum required by the law, in order to increase the number of rows which will fit more people

No Baggage Allowance

If you know about aircrafts, you would know that weight is a big issue. The heavier the plane the more expensive fuel it uses resulting in higher costs, reason why many airliners are strict on baggage weight. Cheaper budget airlines do not give complimentary baggage weight as these need to be purchased, usually at a high cost.

Undesirable Airports

Getting away from huge costs and taxes reputable airports demand are something low cost carriers prefer to get away from. This enables them to avoid charges such as parking and facilities, overall lowering ticket prices to sell to customers. However although very attractable to customers at first (due to prices), these airports may be further and somewhat difficult to get to, resulting in further costs and unnecessary journeys to and from the airport.

Less protection

Many have experienced the undesirable event of delays, cancellations, overbooking, missing a flight and even damaged luggage’s. Many budget carriers do not include protection for these in your ticket bill, and again would require to purchase if you want one, some being very expensive.


Standard/ Premium Airlines (Pay for the experience)



Better products, comfier and more convenient

Standard or more premium airlines attract their customers for the product and service they offer. Leg space and recline are usually the simple advantages from budget to premium airliners, however the seats itself could be more comfier (leather, foam, ect). Long-haul flights (on standard/ premium flights) usually have IFEs (In-Flight Entertainment) which budget carriers do not equip themselves with due to its initial and running costs. Simpler products such as storage, tables and arm rests are also usually enhanced (depending on airline carrier) and probably the most important in the modern world are charging points which are now being increasingly introduced in all tiers on these airline companies. Furthermore these airlines also lend blankets and pillows for extra comfort something that low cost carriers do not.

Meals and giveaways

Depending on the journey and duration of flight the airline would offer complimentary meals, it could be breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack depending on the time of the flight. Two meals may be offered for longer long-haul flights depending on the carrier. Amenity kits are sometimes offered on standard airlines but on budget carriers food and amenities must be purchased.

However take note that even premium/ standard carriers are starting to roll out a buy on board system (buy your meals) on short haul routes this is a model that may increasingly be popular and even the norm in the future.

Higher Standards

For premium and standard carriers, their brand is most precious, to attract customers means to give customers the best they can give. Usually the products on more expensive carriers are steadier and more robust, generally made from better quality materials. Inflight meals are also of better quality than what you can get in low cost carriers as their budgets for these would be paid for in the ticket prices. Furthermore Staff appearance (uniforms) are usually better and more fashionable than that of budget carriers and their training are far better which would results in better customer service.

Standard Baggage

Depending on the airline you travel with, there will be complimentary baggage weight for you to use (usually 20kg-40kg), this is something that is not included in cheaper carriers and thus an advantage for premium and standard airliners.

Choice of classes

If money is not a big barrier for you, standard airliners offer different classes and tiers, these have different products, services and food, something that budget airlines don’t offer. Depending on your standard of life, to be able to choose your tier and how much money you want to spend is another advantage over cheaper airlines with only one standard cabin and layout.



More expensive

Probably the only big disadvantage of standard and premium airlines, is the cost of their tickets. Usually double or sometimes triple of that on a budget airline the price is usually the big reason why many turn away from high end carriers.


There are positives and negatives flying both budget/ low cost and standard/ premium airlines, it just depends on the type of traveller and travel you are or having.

On a personal view, I am content to fly with both low-cost and standard airline companies for shorthaul flights but would edge more in favour for expensive carriers for long-haul flights as long as I am happy with the service I can get.

I wouldn’t mind flying budget/ low cost for Journeys less than 2 hours (short-haul) such as domestic routes or flights to neighbouring countries. These routes are too short for me to care about the service I receive as I usually just fall asleep for the duration of the flight without needing to eat, drink or entertain myself. My only disadvantage would be the airports I may likely be arriving or departing from as it may be too far and inconvenient for my target destination. However if the price difference from budget to standard are not too great then I would spend that bit more for the extra perks.

On longer (long-haul) flights I would pay the price for the extra service and comfort provided by standard/premium carriers. This is because travelling to the likes of Dubai which is 8hrs or Hong Kong 13hrs (from London), is just way too long for no thrills. Simple aspects such as blankets, pillows and meals would benefit largely in a long flight, likewise a big advantage are the IFEs  (In Flight Entertainment) which would largely entertain anyone for many hours. Furthermore to be able to eliminate the fuss of further spending before , during and after the flight (on long journeys) would make travels so much better knowing everything is paid for in advance and all you need to think about is the holiday ahead.

So in conclusion, the most important aspect of the flight for me is the experience and not the money I spend as I’ve always seen the flight as a part of your holiday (the beginning). However if there is very little to no difference on the flight experience I am choosing from, then why should I spend just for the sake of a brand.