HOSTEL REVIEW: The Circle Hostel Baler, Philippines

The Circle Hostel Baler

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.

European road trip, part II

European road trip, part II

European road trip, part I

FRANCE AND ANDORRA

From Monaco we went to Cannes where we wanted to… I guess to walk on the red carpet at the Palais des Festivales? Anyway, there just was a sailing festival so we couldn’t get there and we rather continued to the west.

Marseille and Cassis

We arrived to Marseille and we lost a lot of our time as we found out in the evening. We just visited the port, had lunch, bought some souvenirs but thanks to terrible traffic jams we spend there a lot of hours. In the port we have discovered an ad for cruises to the bays near Cassis in the National Park Calanques and we wanted to see it on that day. But Cassis is kingdom of one-way streets that successfully confused our GPS so we broke these rules and drove by ourselves. Unfortunately it’s not possible to go by car to these bays and the sun didn’t want to stay longer with us. So we just went to watch the sunset above Cassis and then to find some place to sleep somewhere nearby Saint-RĂ©my-de-Provence.

Saint-RĂ©my-de-Provence, Orange and Pont du Gard

Saint-RĂ©my-de-Provence was, in change, kingdom of markets and tasting of all sorts of food. Cheeses, salami, fruit, turrĂłn. And, of course, lavender (we didn’t tasted). From the markets we went to explore the Roman Colosseum from the 1st century in Orange. And after that to Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard to which we wanted to get for free by not making eye contact with the staff. But the staff made the contact with us.

Saint-Guilhem-le-DĂ©sert and Pont du Diable

The last stop of the day was the small town Saint-Guilhem-le-DĂ©sert with the bridge Pont du Diable. From there we went to the coast towards Carcassonne, where we wanted to sleep on the beach. First, we arrived to Bages where Dexter could joyfully throw dead bodies into water and that place didn’t have much in common with the coast. Eventually we got to the beach in Narbonne and finally used the grill we had with us all the time.

Carcassonne

Surprisingly there is no entrance fee when entering the fortress town of Carcassonne. But if you are interested in a castle tour you have to pay. In case you are not an EU citizen under 26. I missed this criterion a few months ago and the lady at the cash desk didn’t want to beg about this. So while waiting for others I walked through the city and according their words I made a good decision because I could visit more places in the fortress. The only thing about Carcassonne I didn’t like was the commercialism and dozens of souvenir shops.

Andorra

Across the Pyrenees we headed to the capital city of Andorra – Andorra la Vella. Somewhere near the border we enjoyed nice traffic jam and right behind the border we chose paid tunnel. On the way back we realized that it was stupid idea because we skipped only short section with hairpin turns and we missed beautiful mountain scenery. After the tunnel we went only through valley. I liked Andorra la Vella so much I can imagine to live there for a few months. BTW, one guy in Monaco told us to not go to Andorra because it’s boring and ugly. Well, Andorra was the most beautiful small country we’ve visited during our Eurotrip. From Andorra there are only two roads out – back to France and to Spain. Due to shorter distance to the highway we chose the same route back. But this time we avoid the tunnel and enjoyed the ride above clouds at sunset.

SPAIN

Yes, at late night we arrived to Spain. And that’s because… To arrive to San Sebastian, while looking for a place to sleep pass the ghostly lighthouse and in the end slept in the car near the beach (but it belongs to a road trip, right?). And in the morning back to France.

FRANCE

Hendaye

I wanted to visit Hendaye for one reason – baguettes I’ve enjoyed two years ago. At the same time we needed wifi for finding accommodation close to the ocean somewhere near Hossegor and Seignosse. It wasn’t easy because it was expensive/far away/people didn’t respond, but finally we managed to get some great accommodation in Hossegor.

Hossegor and Biarritz

It was beautiful house in a pine forest with swimming pool and Japanese garden (Do you want $20 credit on Airbnb? So click!). The owners, a married couple, took really great care of us and they were well traveled so we had a much to talk. E.g. they spent a few years in Lebanon and Japan in which they fell in love so we had a room with Japanese elements. And why Hossegor? Because of surfing and Surf-Trip.cz! The waves wasn’t so good for my (in)abilities and the fish that can kill you? Weever, which according to Wikipedia, killed about one man. Anyway, the pain caused by stabbing wasn’t very pleasant. Then the coast guard explained me what was going on.

Gouffre de Padirac

We left Hossegor in the afternoon and headed back to the east. We spent the night in the tent near Gouffre de Padirac where we were going the next day. Gouffre de Padirac is a chasm and caves in which you ride a boat. It looked kind of like in Jurassic Park.

SWITZERLAND AND LIECHTENSTEIN

The same day we arrived to Saint-Julien-en-Genevois on the border with Switzerland, built the tent on the French side and to the toilet we went to Switzerland.

Geneva

In the morning we visited Geneva for a while, looked to the UN and Lake Geneva and then we headed to the easternmost part of Switzerland.

Lauterbrunnen

The first stop was 297 meters tall waterfall Staubbachfall in Lauterbrunnen. From there we continued to the most famous Swiss waterfalls.

Rhine Falls

First we arrived to the Rhine Falls from the south side where is also a viewing platform. Surprisingly, here you pay the entrance fee. Probably before you enter the area of Laufen castle. But in our case we thought that the cash desks are there only because of cruises. And because nobody had checked the tickets we got to the viewing platform for free. What does it matter that it was weird there were turnstiles. But also opened wheelchair doors next to them so we could walk through it. So we saved 5 francs.

Then we crossed to the north side to Neuhausen am Rheinfall, where it’s not possible to get so close to the waterfalls. And along the way there we were stopped by police for the first time. Probably because they noticed us staring on them when they drove against us. Or they were interested because of passenger without seat belt? In a while they were right behind us with lit police beacon. Luckily it was just a routine check without a fine, we talked about our trip and when they saw our stuffed trunk we didn’t have to show it.

Sankt Gallen

From waterfalls we headed to our final destination – to St. Gallen where my friend KaÄŤka, who is in Switzerland at Erasmus this semester, provided us accommodation. Actually I didn’t see much of St. Gallen, but I visited a lecture at the university. In German language.

Vaduz a Malbun

From St. Gallen we made a trip to the last small country. Liechtenstein offers mainly Vaduz and mountains in which we chose ski resort Malbun. By visiting Vaduz we probably increased its population by a few percent, we visited the square of this capital village and then we rather went up into the mountains. Around the Vaduz Castle, which is still used by Liechtenstein’s Princely Family so it’s not accessible for public, through many other villages to Malbun.

And that was it, the next thing was just to get through Germany to Brno without any scheduled stops. A bit of statistics?

We drove more than 6000 kilometers. Fuel cost us less than €480, we spent millions by paying toll. We slept 9 times in the tent including 3 nights in camps. Once in the car. Three nights at our friends, two via Airbnb and one at the hotel. 10 countries in 17 days.