Let me start by saying that I am not a prolific traveler. Most of the time, I would go on a tour once a year–but not really required. But after paying off my credit card debts and to celebrate my 28th birthday, I made sure that I will make it a blast. Hence, the reason why I chose to tour Batanes.
I only see features about Batanes in documentaries and magazines. The show of iconic Ivatan vakul headdress and kanayi vests, the stone houses, and the mystery of its silence always arouse my hunger to be in this place. And I couldn’t see myself celebrating these simple milestones anywhere else.
First, PAL wouldn’t yield on your preferred dates. Or perhaps it is just me. But if luck is on your side, then you can get one.
Second is SkyJet. By the way, apart from giving one of the lower fares compared with Cebu Pac, they also offer a Birthday Promo.
It was the initial deal that I was rooting for since the date that I’ll be booking was actually my birthday. But I was disappointed at how SkyJet suddenly changes their rates minutes after you checked on their site. Plus, it is quite hard if you don’t have a credit card and you would be using a debit card or cash payment option. It was such a hassle. Thus, I just set the idea of getting the airfare from them. But then again, if luck is on your side, then you can get one.
Last is Cebu Pac. They’re my lifesaver. Instead of taking chances on the first two options, I ended up getting airfare from Cebu Pac.
My best friend made the booking via Traveloka. The two-way flight was P8,665.72. So it was like P4,332.86 each flight. Fair enough for a fare to Batanes, right?
DIY Or Travel Agency?
It really depends on how well you’re able to cope up with traveling to a new place. As an introvert, it is quite hard for me to talk to people. That’s why I’ve decided to look for a travel agency that can give me a competitive package for a Batanes trip. There are quite a handful of options that you will find online. I chose Chanpan Tours and Services. By the looks of it, they offer a private tour which for a reasonable price. Also, you can check their Facebook page and you can see that they have an update feed as well as reviews. So it builds up their credibility. They also answer fast via email.
Here are the Tour Packages that Chanpan offers.
By the way, we got the 4D/3N Eco-Tours. But we upgraded it to a private tour so we added P1,000/pax. So a total of P8,500/pax.
- They have a great tour guide. Ours was Arnel Comaya who happens to be a great photographer too. And he’s very kind. I heard from one of our lodge’s FO that he is actually Chanpan’s best tour guide. So if you plan to go there, you better ask for him to be your tour guide.
- They reply in a timely manner, most of the time, to your queries.
- They’re nice. I bet all Ivatans are.
- They have nice vans with ready umbrellas.
- They would be on time if you tell them that you don’t practice Filipino Time.
- The tour guide really knows what he’s talking about.
- Not all on the itinerary were visited. Hence, I suggest that you print a copy of the itinerary that they’ve given so you have a checklist if you are on track.
- They were informed that I am a vegetarian but the first day’s food served were not. So I resorted to Pancit Canton–which is also my favorite. But of course, not healthy. They did their best to provide vegetarian meals on the succeeding days.
Part of the package that we paid with Chanpan is the accommodation. They are actually partnered with Marfel’s Lodge. It is a cozy lodge to stay in with a mini honesty store that you can buy goods from. On my first day, which was my free time so I don’t have a tour yet, they actually checked on me if I was OK since I haven’t gone out of my room. It was a nice gesture, actually.
- Fair price for a lodge.
- Clean rooms (except for something that I’ve noticed that I will discuss in the cons section).
- Good signal for my mobile data (both Globe and Sun). By the way, there are no establishments that I’ve been to with a WiFi. So go there with your own data.
- Daily cleaning of the room.
- Very approachable staff.
- It is near the airport and a souvenir shop.
- Near Pension Ivatan which has been my go-to place during dinner for vegetarian meals.
Note: Before I say this, I would like to say that this con might not be something so major and that the pros compensated for this.
- While everything that you can see in your room is clean, what you do not see normally is not. I’m quite an OC person since I clean my apartment myself. So I make sure that I dust off everything regardless if visitors can see it or not. When I tried to turn on the AC, which was quite high, I stepped on my bed to reach it. When suddenly, I glanced at the cabinet beside it. Lo and behold, the top of it was so dusty and seems like not been cleaned for months already. The AC was near the cabinet and quite high so the dust could be blown towards us. But then again, it isn’t major (well, for me). But sometimes, the things that you cannot see are the measure of the cleanliness of a place.
With the beauty of Batanes coupled with the great experience that I had with both Chanpan and Marfel’s Lodge, I would definitely recommend it to my friends and those reading this blog. They delivered (mostly) what’s written on their website. And more importantly, their warmth transcends them being a paid travel agency and lodge.
If you want to get to know more about their services, you can check their websites and social media pages.
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