We arrived very late at night in Pagudpud… it was pitch black and the sky was utterly breathtaking. Seriously beyond words (see pics!). The stars… I could not quite believe it (living in cities like New York and Shanghai you can sometimes forget how magnificent the night sky can be).
Waking up the next morning I was once again a little surprised… as I again stood standing and looking at something beyond words… a pristine white sandy beach, all to ourselves.
I could not think of a better place to drink $1 beers.
I experimented a little with super long exposures (up to an hour!), some were hit, some were miss.
I am going to keep the description short, because I think the photos speak for themselves, what a stunning place. Write it down, Pagudpud. Not the easiest spot to get to (but that is part of the reason it is so striking), as we had to fly a tiny propeller place to Laoag City, then take a local bus a couple hours to the very most northern tip of the Philippines (map). The bus dropped us off on the side of the “highway” (1 lane in each direction), pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was COMPLETELY DARK. Pitch black. Luckily a friendly (and slightly drunk) man and his friend stopped their jeep (to our anxious waving) and then offered to drive us to our “hotel”, it was the only car we had seen since a good half hour down the highway. As I mentioned before, when we arrived I couldn’t quite take my eyes of the sky. Breathtaking.
This day was spent cruising around the northern bits of the island… checking out a couple waterfalls and heading down a treacherous little path to Bottle Beach. It was however meant to be a day spent chillin’ on the beach, but as you can see in the photos, the weather wasn’t very much in our favor. Added to this treachery were of the storms that had passed the days before we arrived, the currents were treacherous and it was strongly advised not to head into the water (and when the nearest hospital is several hours away on another island, you tend to listen).
I had read about Bottle Beach prior coming to the island, and that it was only reachable via a 3hr hike… but I saw a sign pointing in its direction and went for it. Of course the ”road” was rather unpaved and filled with mean gullies up and down the steep slopes and even had to traverse some streams (hey, the motorbike was a rental after all!) into the tiny cove that protected the small and serene beach.
“Bottle Beach” got its name as prior to the path we took, the only way to find it was a rocky hike with bottles on sticks as markers that pointed the way down to its shore. On the last stretch coming near the beach I even had to blaze my own trail, as the road had been swept out by flooding… 2 other tourists left their bikes there, waddled across and walked the last stretch… not me! Where there is a will, there is a way… so I blazed my own path through the swampy land and luckily made it to the beach (the 2 others asked how the hell we had managed, haha!).
What an amazing little beach. I could easily spend 2 weeks here with a couple good books, a couple cases of beer and a tub of sun screen.
The first couple waterfalls weren’t all too spectacular, but the last one I thought was out of this world. Not the falls themselves (“Phu Dang”), but the vegetation and remoteness of it was amazing. I found that the tree in that last image was something straight out of a Hobbit novel.
I still prefer my name for Holland Village… SHANGSTERDAM.
Holland Village [map], another housing project part of the “1 City – 9 Towns” initiative the Shanghai Planning Commission set up in 2001. Designed by Dutch architects, this project, like Thames Town (see my posts of Thames Town here and here), is not quite a success, partly because it is located too far away from the city (20min walk to metro, then over an hour to Peoples Square), and partly because Chinese tastes do not suit with Dutch architecture, nevermind the price tag of 35,000RMB per square meter. Hardly as intricate as the “British” Thames Town (not even a single bike stall!), but definitely worth a visit and walk around. Just about as much as a ghost town as the “British” Town, but a few more locals walking around, as Holland Village (aka Shangsterdam!) is better integrated with the surrounding town of Gao Qiao, whereas Thames Town was a seriously locked-down housing complex (with only 2 entrances/exits).
To visit Shangsterdam, you can easily walk from the North Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone station, the second to last stop on line 5. Then an easy, and picturesque (see previous post) 20min walk following the river through traditional Chinese streets and you’ll eventually see the windmill located on an island in the middle of the river you’ve been following.
During the Chinese New Year holiday we hit up Gao Qiao, located on the northern tip of Pudong, just over an hour north via subway from downtown Shanghai. Our mission was “Holland Village,” a residential complex built by Dutch architects to reflect living in Holland which is part of the “1 City – 9 Towns” initiative. On the 20min walk from the metro station to this new town, we were fortunate to follow along a picturesque, and relatively traditional Chinese street.
This was the highlight of my trip to the Philippines.
Sagada is only a couple hundred kilometers from Baguio City but the trip still takes several hours. In part because the roads aren’t straight for lengths exceeding 4 meters, and because it isn’t always paved. In the hours on the trip, we must have passed at least 12 landslides that had partially or completely blocked the road (but had since been reopened, or were still in the process of being cleared of debris). However, the typhoon that hit 2 weeks later, made Sagada inaccessible from Baguio, thankfully we were lucky.
Don’t let the images fool you, it is completely DARK, that water is FREEZING, and there were two people ahead of us throughout the… uhm, spelunking? So you can use them as a size reference in regards to the size of the cave (and thankfully their lantern lit up more of the cave).
The first cave is a burial site (see all the coffins piled up?!), whereas the second is the infamous Sumaging Cave. We descended for over an hour, though spaces smaller than a manhole, waded through areas where the water was 1.5m high (freezing, mind you), to absolutely massive spaces. All the way at the end we came to “the swimming pool.” I can tell you that my hair and skin have never felt so strangely smooth and clean as when I came out of that superbly fresh water. Despite the temperature of the water, and the fact that you can’t see your own hand, I would do it everyday if I could.
For a while I’ve been meaning to hit up the Suzhou Creek artist area and the infamous Moganshan Road (“the graffiti street of Shanghai”).
So after work on Monday I did exactly that, although rather obviously by then all the galleries and shops had long been closed down, so another visit will have to be made… but at least I got some good flix!
Huai Hai Road is dubbed “Shanghai’s 5th Avenue“.
It is also the main street I walk along if I decide to hike it to my office, here’s a map to explain.
The blue line shows my path to/from work/home, and the fat green line is from shoot #1 (pictures 1-8) on a Sunday, while the purple line is from shoot #2 (pictures 9-14) taken the next day after work.
ps- can you spot the ghost dog?