When the summer heat wave gets to you, it’s time to hit the beach or run to the mountains. Lucky for a group of bloggers, myself included, the mountains were calling us last March 2016. We eagerly packed our bags after receiving a more than welcome invitation to spend some time at Azalea Hotel and Residences in Baguio. The 6-hour trip was a good time to catch up on sleep after getting up at 4am to catch the 6am shuttle service. Along the way we bonded with new blogger friends who turned out to be a fun bunch to be with, they were a laugh trip from beginning to end.
The trip was fairly smooth until we got to Baguio city when we experienced the traffic. The one lane road up the mountain delayed our expected time of arrival, a minor hitch to the fun days ahead that the team of Azalea had prepared for us. When they planned the amazing itinerary for us, there was not much time left for sleep because of the delays in between. But who is complaining. I, for one, appreciated the time and effort they put in to allow us the chance to make the most of our stay, to experience all that Baguio has to offer family vacationers.
As expected, I got a little nauseous from the trip but I was able to get over it after an hour of taking in the cool Baguio air. There was an initial thrill I felt being back in Baguio after several years, I love the cool air, the laid back feel, the Benguet coffee, the fresh vegetables, and the memories of earlier childhood years.
We had lunch at the main restaurant, Tradisyon, and had our fill of Filipino comfort food before we began with a tour of the hotel with our hosts and crazy-fun companions Paul and Mika. They showed us the family rooms that included a kitchenette and dining area along with a board game playing area, the two-bedroom suites that had enough space for private parties, the dining area, and the lounge area. The rooms were spacious enough to chill without wanting to leave the room anymore. The suites assigned to us were heaven, I immediately wanted to savor the soft bed and warm shower the moment I got there. But since I enjoyed the company I was with, I decided that sleep can wait. Yeah, I can sleep anytime when I get back home, the next three days would be chilling with new friends experiencing Baguio the Azalea way.
So after the tour, we headed out to ILi-Likha Art Village and Tam-awan Village, the “in” places to hang out and chill when in Baguio. The Ili-Likha Art Village is a stand out structure with a “ruins” type of feel, like a day after an earthquake feel. It’s like having coffee with friends under a rubble or heap after the city was wiped out from a Hiroshima-type of bomb. Almost everything is re-created ART. Every part of the structure has a story, something to talk about. Music from native instruments will give you that Bohemian feel. You can purchase original art pieces or have tattoos done. Organic dishes and drinks are served as well. Food and coffee are reasonably-priced. A bit strange but interesting “trip” to have coffee there. That is how I can personally describe the experience but you must check it out for yourself, just make sure to watch your step with all the twists and turns.
The Tam-awan village is another cool place with it’s 360 degrees sunset view. Their turmeric tea and coffee costs a mere P30, it won’t cost you much to hang out there at all. An artist’s paradise indeed. You can even have your portrait sketched for a minimal fee. If you are into new, interesting coffee shops beyond the “starbucks” feel, then this is the place for you. And with its low prices, you can have more than one or two drinks if you plan to stay long.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, we proceeded to the night market after having dinner at Tradisyon back in Azalea. Excitement overload! This simply proves that 3 days of stay in Baguio is not enough to fully enjoy the experience. So after a filling meal of pizza, pasta, and a chocolate cupcake, it was time for the ukay-ukay shopping challenge.
We had to come up with a summer outfit worth P500 and take OOTD (outfit of the day) photos around Azalea premises. The best photo wins an award on the final day. So afer an hour of looking around and haggling, we finally wrapped up by 12 midnight. Resisting the urge to continue with personal shopping, we kept in mind that we had to be up by 4:30am the next day for our hiking activity.
Though we aimed to be up and
ready by 4, we actually left by 5:15am which left us limited time to climb up Mt, Jumbo before sunrise. Our ever-concerned driver took the extra effort to make sure we got to Mt. Jumbo as soon as possible. The trip going there was just as exciting as a Harry Potter scene, riding that bus that can squeeze almost anywhere at light speed. We were all awake and laughing all the way there. He is one of the nicest drivers I’ve encountered, he really made sure we didn’t miss our sunrise even though it was our fault for being late.
The hiking trail for beginners was a challenge for first time climbers like me. I panted all the way to the top, and kept skidding all the way down because my converse just didn’t have traction with the sandy slope. Just like any mountain-climber would say, it was all worth the effort when you reach to the top and take in the beautiful sunrise and view. I kept taking photos non-stop to capture the moment and for an entry in the next Azalea challenge. The place is a camping site and has an entrance fee. We had a picnic breakfast there as well. (Mt. Jumbo got its name from the old Boyscout Jamborie.)
When we reached the bottom, we proceeded to the strawberry fields to purchase fresh strawberries and salad greens, We tried the strawberry ice cream, but I missed the strawberry taho. From the strawberry fields, we went horseback riding from Wright Park to Camp John Hay for our picnic lunch.
With the crazy-fun bunch and our hosts so engaging, time simply went by so fast. We freshened up at Azalea before dinner and acoustic music at Tradisyon. Each group prepared their own version of salad for yet another Azalea contest to be judged before dinner. Our group learned that a salad without dressing will not win regardless how nice it looks in pictures.
After dinner and discussions on love problems, we had personal time to walk around and some of us decided to check out the night scene outside of Azalea, We dropped by The Camp, one of their nightspots, and take a peek at the supposedly haunted White House, before walking past The 50s diner to SM Baguio and Session Road which took 30 minutes of leisure strolling. Funny, but it seemed like it took a shorter time to get to session road by walking than taking a ride. Then we decided to simply take the cab back to Azalea for P50, blogger Tony’s treat..
We had the morning to linger in bed, enjoy our rooms and enjoy a breakfast buffet at Tradisyon in our own time. For those who wish to buy pasalubong, a shuttle was available at 9:45am which took us to Mines View Park, Burnham Park, and the Public Market. We had lunch upon returning to Azalea then it was time to get packing for the trip back to Manila. We all gathered at the lobby after for the announcement of the winners of the contest. Our group won the OOTD challenge with blogger Nicole as our model.
I didn’t realize that there can be a lot of action in laid-back Baguio. It was fun especially if you are among good company.
And the award for the best 3-day Itinerary goes to . . . Team Azalea!
For more info, visit their website at www.azaleabaguio.com