HOSTEL REVIEW: The Circle Hostel Baler, Philippines

WHY BALER?

Baler is a place where surfing started in Philippines. Because of the filmmakers of war movie Apocalypse Now who left there surfboards after filming so locals could start to learn. Over time Baler has become a surfing destination where surf competitions are also held. I stayed for only one day and two nights at The Circle Hostel because of my flight from Philippines back to my country. It definitely worth for a longer visit.

THE CIRCLE HOSTEL

The Circle Hostel is a network of hostels in Luzon island and you can find them in surf destinations. Besides Baler they are located in Zambales and La Union.

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[fac_icon icon=”map-marker” color=”#ff5353″ color_hover=”#ff5353″] Buton Street, Brgy. Sabang, Aurora, Baler, Philippines
[fac_icon icon=”phone” color=”#ff5353″ color_hover=”#ff5353″] +63 917 501 0235

STAFF, FACILITY AND ATMOSPHERE

You will feel really comfortable during your stay and you will be surrounded by friendly atmosphere of staff and other travelers who had headed there also for surfing. The staff can advise you with current surfing conditions, trips around or transportation to Manila. I found my surfing buddies (from Sweden and Philippines) right in the morning so it was not boring in the waves even I sucked that day. But as they say at the hostel “The best surfer out there is the one having most fun!”. And I had. I really liked the colorful interior full of creative drawings from travelers. And you can also enrich some free spot with your work! I did not manage to make it so maybe next time.

You can stay in a classic mixed dorm room with three bunk beds. Each is equipped with mosquito net for a quiet night without unwanted visitors and you can also find lockers in the rooms. But you have to have your own lock. They offer also female dorm rooms. Other options are rooms for two persons or sleeping in hammock. There are a lots of bars around thanks to their loud music and karaoke you will not get much sleep. So bring your own earplugs. Another disadvantage of the rooms is absence of power outlets but you will find them in common areas in sufficient quantities. Check the rates and availability on http://www.baler.thecirclehostel.com/#reservation.

Tidy and clean showers with toilets are shared by all guests and they are divided for men and women. And you can enjoy shower with hot water!

If you want to cook your own meal you can use the furnished kitchen, just remember to clean up after yourself. For relaxation you can use hammocks, a place with beanbags next to the small skating U ramp or you can climb the stairs to the spacious chill area full of beanbags, hammocks and tables. At both places there is plenty of power outlets. You will not find WiFi there, you need to use your mobile data.

 The price includes breakfast which is served from 6:30 (surfers need to wake up early) and it consists of pastry, peanut butter and bananas. There is also free drinking water so don’t worry about buying bottles. They will also gladly prepare coffee for you and you can buy some other refreshments from the current offer at the reception.

Since this is a surf hostel you can rent there surfboard  and the offer surf lessons with instructors. During my stay the surfboard was for 200 pesos per hour and lesson for 350 pesos per hour.

SURFING AND SURROUNDINGS

As I wrote, the main activity in Baler is surfing. The main season is from October to April but you can surf there during the whole year. If you can not get the required equipment at the hostel you can borrow it at many other places around the beach. The Sabang beach is only few steps away and there are four spots nearby: Sabang Beach (beach break, suitable for beginners), Cemento Beach (reef break, for advanced surfers), Charlie’s Point (beach break) and Lindy’s Point (rivermouth break).

And if you don’t surf you can visit 65m tall banyan fig tree in Aurora (Giant Balete tree, Millenium tree), Ditumabo Mother falls, exploring nearby beaches or go hiking to the nearby mountains.

 HOW TO GET TO BALER

In Manila take a bus from Cubao bus terminal (there are more terminals according to bus company). Direct connection should be offered only by Genesis at unpleasant times: five connections between 12:30AM and 5:30AM. You can book the tickets online on https://www.pinoytravel.com.ph/ (at the latest 3 days before departure), the price is around 700 pesos, as an origin choose Cubao, Quezon City, Metro Manila and as a destination choose Baler, Aurora. But you can get to Baler also during the day. Also from one of the terminals in Cubao or Pasay (I went with Five Star company for 185 pesos but Victory Liner and Baliwag Transit also should go there) take bus to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija where you will change to shuttle bus/van to Baler for 200 pesos. Just ask the driver or local people. From the bus terminal in Baler take a tricycle to the hostel for 15 pesos.

From Baler to Manila there is also five direct buses. The first at 4:30AM and the last one at 3:30PM. You can buy the ticket in advance at the bus terminal in Baler. Or you can go with the change in Cabanatuan again.

My first solo traveling. To Philippines!

Budapest is becoming my regular place from which I leave in February. 9th February 2014 to Israel, 9th February 2015 to Sri Lanka and 9th February 2016 to Philippines. I really don’t choose these dates! But this time it will be little bit different.

I was thinking about traveling abroad to completely unknown country for me for about last two years. In summer I went to Georgia for two months but I was there on EVS with 9 other people so it doesn’t count.

Last year in May there was really good deal from Cebu Pacific and the tickets from Dubai to Manila cost only about 55 euros. So I bought it. My three other friends bought the tickets with me but in the end they were too lazy to make web check-in. And that’s how my first solo trip was born.

I spent one night in Budapest through Couchsurfing. I found one Georgian girl and even her status is “maybe accept guests” I had to try it. And it worked! Georgian hospitality is even out of Georgia. Ada lives in Budapest for six years. She studied there and now she works there. At her apartment Ada’s friends visited us, we had lovely dinner and lot of fun. We also diagnosed Georgian syndrom. It means you want to go back to Georgia as soon as possible. I hope me and her Romanian friend are an adequate sample.

In Dubai I arrived to the Dubai World Central airport. Some sheik needed new airport which will become the biggest in the world. But now it looks just like it’s in the middle of nowhere, 60 km from Dubai, only with low cost airlines, metro doesn’t go there and probably won’t in the future. Now I’m in the maze called Dubai Mall because my Couchsurfer’s apartment is nearby. I’m again on Couchsurfing here and right from my bed I can see the Burh Khalifa. And before midnight I’m finally going to Philippines. Or I hope so, Cebu Pacific doesn’t follow departure times so much.

This is going to be really low cost trip. I’m going only with backpack up to 7 kg, all 7 flight tickets cost me about 310 euros and I’d like to not pay for accommodation too much. The next few days I managed to to find hosts on Couchsurfing so it’s great. For the first time I will get absolutely outside of my comfort zone. But I’m really looking forward to meet new people while backpacking. And after this I’ll be prepared for a few months of backpacking in Southeast Asia where I want to go after graduation. Should I rather write my diploma thesis right now? Ah, the sources won’t run away.

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