Friday, April 6, 2012

Northern Hospitality: Rio Grande de Laoag Resort Hotel

Before detailing the different places we visited, I’ll describe the Rio Grande de Laoag Resort Hotel briefly. (I can try.) It’s such a nice quiet place, and as the name says, it’s a resort first before it’s a hotel, as such don’t go looking for 4-5 star lodgings. Its primary draw is that it’s more a nature type of accommodation, and the property is overlooking a river and you can even go fishing. There’s a nice function hall in the front. It’s really pretty at night with all the lights on. The décor is all Mediterranean and really rustic and idyllic inside.

 Rio Grande Front

 Rio Grande Front-Night

 Function Hall

The owner is really very hands-on and she sat us down and welcomed us herself and introduced us to her son and her staff, we even got those really nice hand-woven sashes made out of a native kind of cloth or fiber, I forgot what it was called. Also, what’s nice about it is that before we left Manila, I contacted the resort by e-mail to ask if they had internet access, and it was the owner herself who replied. I like it when owners or administrators go out of their way to take care of and attend to guests. But sadly there was no internet, because the resort is sort of at a dead end, and the hardline can’t reach their place, even their landline is wireless, so that might be a deal breaker for some people who can’t live without internet. But actually, it was just what I needed, a real vacation or break from reality for a few days, it really took my mind off school and all my worries, not having an internet connection, and just being cut off from my stressors. It was a sweet escape, in a sense.

Going back, the resort has your typical swimming pool and two villas and a club house. We stayed in a room at the main villa. There was even a personalized note waiting in the room wishing us a pleasant stay, that’s how quaint it was. Sorry, but I forgot to take pictures inside, but the room was clean, the beds and pillows were soft and the linens smooth and freshly laundered. Papa wasn't very comfortable though because he's used to their orthopedic master's bed at home, but my sisters and I don't have any problems with foam beds. There was a mini refrigerator and a TV, no cable though, and the airconditioning was a welcome relief from the heat outside. The bathroom was pretty standard, with a shower and water heater. The room was a little cramped for a family of five, especially with us three sisters sharing the bathroom, but we’ve stayed in even tighter spaces before, so it was alright.


Main Villa


Also, we brought lots of snacks and ate most of our meals outside, but our tour package came with two breakfasts, and we got Ilocano fare like eggplant omelette and dried fish with their native vinegar for the second day. Bad news for me since I’m a picky eater, so while the rest of my family enjoyed their meals, I didn’t touch the eggplant and the fish and only ate the egg and drank some coffee. On the third day they thankfully served me hotdog and a sunny-side up egg, and tapsilog to the rest of the family. Some nights we were tired from sight-seeing all day so we just came back to the resort and had dinner there, and they have pretty good bagnet, fried chicken, chop seuy or stir-fried mixed vegetables, and grilled hito or catfish. My family had pinakbet, which I also didn’t try. Maybe I am missing out, but there are just those foods that my constitution will not accept. But yeah, the resort’s food is pretty reasonably priced, and as long as you arrange it with their staff, most short-orders will be ready when you want.

There’s also a pretty killer view of the river from the club house. And it’s even more beautiful during sunset and sunrise. One thing I also noticed was the fragrance of ylang-ylang, or so I'm told, while walking from the front hall to the villas near the pool, amid the trees and shrubs. Even without a breeze, you can really take a whiff of that really good smell, very light and calming and soothing to the senses. It's like inhaling a light perfume.


River View



In addition they have very attentive and friendly staff who will really try to accommodate your requests and make you feel very welcome. They're all very fluent in English and Tagalog, I wish I had a word of Ilocano for them... Though unlike regular hotels, if you need something in the dead of night it's kind of hard to get a hold of anyone.

During our stay we were told a big group had just left, so apart from us there were very few other guests, but since the resort also has day rates, sometimes we would catch families going for a day swim or a picnic, as we were leaving or coming back from our tour outings.

The resort staff were also the ones to facilitate our tours, the staff being our tour guides and the transportation provided along with it. Our daily itinerary would consist of breakfast at 7 am and our day tours from 8 am to 4 pm. Perhaps my only disappointment (lack of internet aside) was that on our tour days we were always ready to leave at 8 am sharp. Unlike most Filipinos, our family doesn't run on Filipino time, we're very punctual, and we value our time highly, so I was put out when we sat around waiting in front for our tour guide and driver to get ready for well over 30 minutes on our second day. I spoke to the manager and she was apologetic and assured me it wouldn't happen again. But it did. I just don't like getting short-changed. Who knows when I'll get to visit Ilocos again? So I always want to maximize my stay and get my (my parents) money's worth, and be sure to see all the sights. If you run late, then you'll have to rush at the sites to visit. I was not pleased with that. They were the one who set the time for 8 am and we were held up our end of the bargain. Well, after all, it is Filipino time, and that prevails even in Ilocos, unfortunately.

Other than that, I was pretty much happy.


If you’re the type to spend most of your time outside the resort going sight-seeing the whole day, and you’re only after a comfortable place to sleep and bathe and maybe take a dip after a hot day, and if you like peace and quiet and lush greenery and nature vistas then the Rio Grande de Laoag is for you. If you like to hear birds chirping and frogs croaking, you've found the right place. But if you can’t bear to not have cable, internet, or room service, and house keeping at your beck and call, best bring your own broadband stick, or find another place to stay. I for one am a generally satisfied guest.

I really got what I wanted out of my stay there, I got to de-stress. What more can you ask for?

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