Monday, August 05, 2013

Monday, August 05, 2013

Nice touch at the entrance to Baker's Hill

Yesterday, my nephew and his wife came to the house for a visit.  His wife is on her 7th months pregnancy and yeah as tradition dictates, she needs to move constantly, sort of exercise, walk more as it would facilitate an easy delivery of the baby when the day comes.  Sooo, we set off to Bakers Hill.  My nephew is a seasoned tour driver but this day he wants to play the tourist.

We hailed a taxi along the highway… errrr…. I mean a tricycle, the ever popular, locals favorite and dependable form of transport around the city.  You have to haggle for the cost as always with the driver of this 3-wheeled highway machine.  We got it for 60 pesos for the whole tricycle (3 of us) from Robinsons Place where we took our lunch at Chowking (local Chinese-ish fastfood) to Bakers Hill.  Not bad, I felt like I’m starting to get the hang of it – I mean haggling with tricycle drivers.  The first one was charging us 80 pesos, which means with this one we’ve saved 20 pesos, not much actually if you convert that to a western foreign currency, but if you’re planning to stay in this city for quite some time – or in my case – probably for a long long time, it’s gonna be a lot of savings if I’m going to take these tricycles on a regular basis.

The flower heart.

So now you know, the trick is – similar to Egypt and most other tourist destinations – HAGGLE… HAGGLE… HAGGLE!

It’s the month of July though so you know what it means in the Philippines, the rainy season, and if you’re sitting at the back of the driver, you’ll be exposed (your lower legs at least) to the drizzle, plus the agony of bending your neck a bit because the ceiling is low especially if you’re tall, and I’m just 5’ 8” tall.  From Rob (Robinsons) to Bakers Hill, the trip is about 15 minutes or less, the road is concrete all the way unlike some of (or maybe most) interior roads in the city, that means, it’s not bumpy.  The nearer you get to the place, the more the air is getting colder which of course is a relief. 

The fat baker statue.
I bet you know her.
Bakers Hill is situated on a hill top.  So what’s a Bakers Hill?

One of the things that comes to mind for some tourists who visit this place is their delicious “hopia”, a local pastry that originated from immigrants of Fujian province (mainland China) who introduced it into the country, in various flavours.   It’s being sold at the small bakeshop near the main entrance – very strategic location indeed.

Yet, Bakers Hill is not at all about the yummy hopia nor the devilish brownies nor the cheesy ensaymadas.  The hilltop attraction in Puerto Princesa is the best landscaped garden I’ve ever seen in the city.  The plants and trees are well arranged and contoured, some plants are rare species, mostly flowering and fruit-bearing.  Well-cared for by several gardeners, and there are themed gardens with several statues such as Marilyn Monroe, all the cast of Shrek, Snow White and her 7 dwarves and of course the iconic statue of the fat baker. 

Down inside the gardens you’ll find a cage of talking birds (Mynahs) who I’ve mentioned in my previous post (Crocodile Farm) were amazing birds, a colourful pheasant chicken, some majestic peacocks, geese, Japanese garden, orchid-roofed house, some beautifully recycled broken ceramics, beautiful umbrella-shaped trees, bonsai shrubs, ponds, an observation deck where the view of the ocean is visible, and several other interesting stuff.

There’s a nice restaurant, some drinks and bakery booths and the main residence – which is an architectural beauty itself - of the owner (I presume) just beside the gate and the souvenir shop.

The best thing is – entry is free!

The artist of this place is no less than the owner(?),a famous landscape artist named Shirley Flores.  Incidentally, her last name is so appropriate for her talent (flores is spanish word for flowers, right?).

When we arrived at the site, there aren’t much people around but it gets crowded in the afternoon when tourists in tour vans arrive.  I think I’ll be frequenting this place as it’s a good place to relax, maybe bring a book and sit at one of the wooden or concrete benches while sipping a cold bev sold at one of the booths.

I highly recommend visiting this place, you can either reach the place by booking the “City Tour” that cost 600 pesos and the Bakers Hill is one of the stop in addition to some other itineraries.  Or like I've mentioned above, if you’re the adventurous traveler, you can take a tricycle to take you there at 60 to 80 pesos depending on where you’re coming from.  From the downtown, it may cost probably 100 pesos for the whole tricycle, so if you’re more than a couple, say, a group of 4 it saves some bucks. Or if you’re into real adventure, you can take the shared multicab - pay 8 or 10 pesos - that runs along the highway bound for Puerto Princesa South Road, after Sienaville and Casuy Road will be the concrete road to Bakers Hill, just ask the driver to drop you off the road that goes to Bakers Hill.  And from the junction it will take less than 1 and a half kilometers walk to the place. It’s an easy leisure walk as the road is good.

And then, after your visit to Bakers Hill you can make a side trip to the nearby Mitra’s Ranch which is about 10 minutes walk passing by some spectacular mountain views and green plains.

Now, going back to the town or downtown.

From Bakers Hill back to the downtown or wherever your hotel/hostel/guesthouse is, there's a tricycle queue also waiting just outside the gate, but this time it’s more costly, 100 pesos for the whole tricycle or maybe a little more if you’re going back to the city centrum.  Try to haggle as usual, though in general they do have some fixed rate.

But before you head out, visit the bakeshop and pick some really delicious hopia, the brownies is yummilicious, the buttery slash cheesy ensaymada is to-die-for, and some truffles and other quality baked goodies too.  Surprisingly, they’re reasonably priced compared to some so so baked goodies anywhere else.  So pick a box or two – a great gift to your friends and relatives back home (or in Manila or wherever city you came from?) or you’ll regret it, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.


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