start my Baguio adventure than with a road trip!
I listened to all the advice from friends, colleagues and gathered from the internet and decided to travel via the Marcos Highway – a trip now made much easier by using the NLEX and the SCTEX which
takes you almost all of the way to Tarlac on a beautiful highway, leaving the congestion and bumper to bumper traffic of EDSA far behind. Unfortunately, once you reach Tarlac the
journey becomes slow owing to the many motorized tricycles, buses and the usual traffic associated with the Philippines and its congested highways. But I had all the time in the world and chose
to enjoy the scenery, sights and sounds of these unfamiliar cities instead of becoming impatient and spoiling the trip.
when you are looking for the Marcos Highway on recent maps). Having earlier decided that it was wiser to tackle the Marcos Highway I stuck to my plans, especially as there had been
significant rains in the days prior to my road trip – and Kennon Road is known to be treacherous for landslides.
I thoroughly enjoyed the slow, steady and steep climb towards my destination and some of the views are breathtaking. My only wish is that more thought had been given to the possibility that tourists may wish to pull over and enjoy the views in safely designed viewing areas – but no such luck. This is one of the most scenic roads I had been on in the Philippines and places I could pull over and enjoy the view and perhaps a cup of coffee were nil. Another perfect tourist opportunity lost.
The hotel, despite the appearance of a cosy log cabin, is massive and the rainy season offers you with a choice of rooms as there are not many other guests. I was very happy with the one chosen for me – on the fourth floor, with my own balcony facing the pine forest and the Lost Cemetery (more about the Lost Cemetery later). The room has plenty of space with two spacious beds, comfortable mattresses and pillows, a kitchenette and honesty bar in the fridge, well-equipped bathroom, big screen TV with multiple satellite channels, wifi – and an unforgettable view. Note that I did not mention an air-conditioner – considered an absolute necessity in most hotels in the Philippines – but not in the mountains of Benguet. With only the ceiling fan I was kept at a wonderfully cool temperature whenever I was in my hotel room.
The next morning was sunny and, dressed in jogging gear, I began an early morning exploration of the hotel and grounds. Situated on the backside of the hotel are beautiful gardens fronting the al fresco dining area – at the front is the parking lot and main entrance. The one side – where I was fortunate to have a room, faces the forest and the other appears to be under renovation. I would always suggest asking for a room facing the forest and preferably on the fourth floor and with a balcony. I think the rooms facing the garden may tend to be noisy unless on the top floor where I am sure the view would be
Baguio label) so I stocked up on a year’s supply .
accessing the entrance because of the renovation work I continued on into the city centre and a visit to the legendary Burnham Park. It was interesting driving in the city centre as in Manila and surrounds you are doomed to doing battle with tricycles and busses whereas in Baguio, owing to the steep hills, there are no tricycles but seemingly thousands of white taxis – and you do battle with them instead. It was pretty easy finding parking around the park assisted by roadside helpers to guide you into a parking area – and NO parking meters or paid parking – wonderful!
I happily gave the money instead to the person who guided me into the parking and, I am sure, kept watch over my car as when I returned I was greeted with a friendly wave and he helped me maneuver out of the parking bay and back into the traffic and endless white taxis.
Burnham Park is a pleasant retreat from the busy city centre and does give Baguio City and added attraction having the green and open space readily accessible to all of its residents. The body of water is clean and attractively surrounded by weeping willows giving the scene an almost English countryside feel. The only distractions from the potentially beautiful pastoral scene are the garishly painted and decorated boats that are for hire on the lake. The whole scene would look so much more attractive with some simply painted rowing boats for hire, but instead there are garishly painted giant swans and other unidentifiable but unattractive water craft disguised as water creatures that do nothing but spoil the potentially peaceful scene. What could be a peaceful escape from inner city life now resembles any one of the congested roadways in the city itself.
4. A totem pole featuring many important American and Filipino historical characters that somehow played a role in Camp John Hay
discover is, like much of the Philippines, the Kennon Highway has the potential to become one of the most scenic roads in the world but it is spoiled by tatty roadside stalls, shoddy little shops offering anything and everything – another tourist opportunity spoiled by lack of foresight and proper planning. But if one casts one’s eyes further than the immediate roadside but looks up at the awe-inspiring soaring peaks, the deep gorges cut by strong flowing streams one can forgive, just for a moment, what man has done to the beauty God created.