Friday, May 29, 2015

Travelling Northern, Western, Eastern Samar

With most number of islands in this archipelago lying in the Visayas, it might be a logical conclusion to say that the better beaches are in this region. Within the visayas, Samar is among the less talked about destination when it comes to travel, and as some people say that it makes a good share of the country’s great beaches, not so many people chose this destination, it might be a great place indeed.

The Samar Island is divided into 3 provinces: Northern, Western (which is commonly what is referred to with "Samar" and Eastern Samar).

For beach goers, those who’d like a picturesque selfie, or underwater shots, or snorkelling, Northen Samar is your best bet. In fact, if not Northeastern Palawan, beaches between Sorsogon and Northern Samar would make it to the clearest waters of the Philippines.

Towards the east is Biri Island boasting of its rock formations.  It takes about half day to travel from Allen to Biri, and the walk from the shore to the rock formation might eat some time. It is not possible to do all 5 formations in just one day. 2-3 days perhaps in case you’d like to see all spots. Swimming is not a fancy in this area too. The most inviting water would have been in the port. It looks really nice, except that it might not be a delight to think that you are swimming between boats or next to household stilts. The one near the rock formation would have been the best, but water is too shallow.

Going south, you have the cities of Catarman, Calbayog (a possible jumpoff to Biliran’s Maripipi Island which gets you to Sambawan island) and Catbalogan. There are some nice private beaches on the road from Allen to Calbayog.  From Catbalogan, you may get to Borongan (and then to Guiwan) or Tacloban (and again to Guiwan or other Leyte Destinations).

Borongan and Guiuan are both surfing paradise, though guiuan will have a lot more than just surfing, as opposed to borongan. Guiuan would have caves, a lot of mangroves, flat (0 wave) beaches on the other side (as opposed to the side facing the pacific).

A bridge (saltwater channel) in Guiuan is a swim spot for locals

waves of Guiuan, Samar

waves in Borongan, Samar

Between the cities of Samar (Catarman, Calbayog,  Catbalogan, Borongan and Guiwan), I thought I most enjoyed Borongan. First, for P150, my accomodation was a delight. The room in an old wooden building, just with the right elevation, 2nd floor, with a window facing next to a clean and fresh river; Then the city and the accomodation is a walk away to the bay, which is a hangout place. The city, being next to the sea, is also not so humid. Plus, there are plenty of places to eat. The other cities are the same kind of city you can imagine.

Calbiga (an hour away from Catbalogan) would have been a good destination for caving and the waterfalls. However, tourism policies don’t suit solo travelling. Permit fee of P500 is a killer; needless to mention the caving packages.

Meantime, travelling between cities is a breeze with the transport operators Grand Tours, Van Van’s and Dup Tours; Samar-Leyte’s van transport I would say is the best in the Philippines. Passenger capacity is just 3 per row, unlike 4-5 in some places (especially compared to the Cotabato-Pagadian route where sometimes they put 3 passengers plus driver in the front row. Fares are another thing; Apparently, they are cheaper than the LTFRB tariiffs (and Cotabato-Pagadian again being the worst for P350 fare for less than 200km distance). They also leave on time, with or without the van being full.

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