The last time I was in Baler was about a year ago during the annual Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day celebration.
Over the last weekend, for the first time in world history, I drove to Baler. Took us about 5 hours, driving straight from Cainta to Sabang Beach. CJ and I started out at around 3.30am and got there by almost 9am. It was quite a pleasant drive. There was just a point when I got a little bored because we were driving very early and nothing exciting was going on along the highway. But the views were amazing – sunrise colors, lush green mountains, rivers, quiet little towns and barrios.
It was CJ’s first time going to Baler. We had originally planned to take the Joy Bus, but decided on it too late for the Independence Day Weekend, and we couldn’t find any seats. All for the best I think since we were able to do our own pace, take in the sights and had a really good time bonding while driving.
And then Sabang, Baler.
So many things have changed in the span of 1 year! Some good and some bad. And here are my take-aways:
FIRST STOP: CHARLIE DOES DOES IT!
I remember when I first went to Baler and I saw this little shack right by the beach. Surfboards stacked around it. Local surfers chillin inside or outside by the door. And for P300 you can get surfing lessons.
Now Charlie Does is more than just a little kubo. It is probably the coolest, hippest hangout café in the whole of Aurora. I kid you not. They have a low-key but clean-lines ambience – so it can cater to the hipster backpacker and even to the eager, spending tourist.
I have tasted Charlie Does coffee before and had a sample of some of the craft beers they offer, so I decided this time around I was going to sample the food. The café is run by “Ground Swell”, whose chef came up with these neat, ingenious, easy-serve and healthy entrées that are in glass jars that you just heat up either with hot water or in the oven for a few minutes. My favorite would have to be the eggplant lasagna. Healthy and filling and yummmmmmm!
The layout at Charlie Does has greatly improved too, making the reception/hang-out area even more inviting and airy.
They also have quality merchandise.
Charlie Does also houses Lotus, which makes hand-shaped surfboards. Directed and run by a surfboard-making guru from Hawaii, Lotus can make your special board the right way. (facebook.com/lotushandshapes)
I think the best part about the new and improved Charlie Does is the Hotel-Motel Charlie Does Inn… and yes that is the complete name. Always in on sustainable development, super husband and wife team, owners Joe and Alex Cole, used three 2nd hand container vans and transformed them into comfortable fan rooms.
The Hotel Motel on the outside.
And here is how our “deluxe” room was…
We had our own little backyard!
If you ever decide to stay at Charlie Does Inn, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- It is not a fancy schmancy hotel. They will provide you with nice clean towels, comfortable pillows, a flat sheet and a bed. Bring your own toiletries.
- Charlie Does is geared towards sustainable living. Throw your trash in the proper place. Wash your feet before you enter the space. Help keep it clean.
- Be mindful of your neighbors. While you most likely will be roomed next to other like-minded, chill and anything-goes kind of peeps, you should still be sensitive to their privacy and comfort.
- Justice is BLIND. Yes, he is, and he is the sweetest Labrador retriever ever. His bark packs a wallop, but that is as far as he goes. Do not be disturbed if he finds his way in-between your legs. He goes for a swim in the ocean often, so he may be wet for most of your visit. Everyone, including guests kind of take turns watching him, like the unofficial mascot of Charlie.
CJ and I were definitely satisfied with our stay. It was cheap and cheerful, clean and convenient.