“I'd rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.”
― Lucille Ball

Sunday, May 13, 2012

River Cruise

Starting point for the river cruise
Mayor Lim of Dagupan City launched the idea of a river cruise in Dagupan in early 2011 and it was implemented July 1st the same year under the name "Dawel River Cruise". It was my intention to use it as one of the outings when my family was on visit Christmas last year. However it didn't fit in the schedule finally.

As my sister- and parents-  in-law came over from the US to the Philippines two weeks ago, I offered them to do the river cruise. So we went yesterday. It is really a Filipino style outing, I tell you why.

The day before I went there to inquire for details, like days of operation and departure times, number of persons, price. It was quite simple, they have 3 boats, actually catamarans (two hulls) and on top a kind of bahay kubo. It's a free service from the city and intended to stimulate tourism. Times of departure are 9.00 am and 2.00 pm, every day of the week. They have 2 different sizes of boats - two for ca. 25 persons and one for 40-45 persons - and no need to register in advance, however as we found out later you can do it.

So we went with six persons for the afternoon trip and we were there sharp 2.00 pm. It's actually Arellano street, next to San Marino place, under the Dawel river bridge, north side. There were already some people waiting on the big boat. They have a small fridge for water and soft-drinks, so we bought some bottles and waited for what would happen. But nothing happened and after one hour I went to the group of people who were supposedly part of the organisation. Seven people in some sort of uniform and 2 guards, doing nothing other than talking and even two sleeping on one of the unused boats.

When I asked one of the persons what was happening and why we are not going for the cruise, he said that they are still waiting for a group to come. I said that it was not acceptable as they told me the day before that the cruise starts at 2.00 pm and the weather looked as it would start raining soon. And I advised them that if the group was late they could tell them to come back next day and be on time next time, but this is Philippines and time is flexible here (sharp is not used I guess), so I was not sure they would listen to me.

Five minutes later they decided to go with one of the smaller boats, so we changed boat and after 5 minutes we went off. The tour is about 45 minutes, following the Dawel river. There seem to be 7 rivers in Dagupan that end up in a big delta near the sea. It looks a bit like the delta of Bangkok with its khlongs. I lived in Bangkok before and did quite some river cruises (see my first post)  including the khlongs, even with a bicycle on the boat.

There was not really much to see, just water and river dykes with greenery and behind them all kind of fish ponds. These are mainly for bangus (milk fish) and telapia. Dagupan is famous for its Bangus festival each year and the main breeding and delivery location for bangus in the Philippines.

Pillars in the river
At one place in the river there were remainders (4 pairs of pillars) of what I believe was once a railway bridge. There used to be a railway from Manila to San Fernando, La Union via Dagupan. Remainders are still found along the McArthur highway and in Dagupan, like a railway crossing on A.B. Fernadez Avenue, not far from this place. The line was closed in 1988 because of major damages from floods and typhoons.

After 20 minutes sailing the boat makes a U-turn and takes the same route again back to the starting point. That's it and that's all. But Filipino like it, perhaps because it's free.

During the trip there is music what I don't like, as on the water it should be quite to enjoy nature. And two times there was some kind of explanation about the trip and/or the scenery, but the first time it was in Tagalog and I don't understand it, the second time it was in English, but the guests on board were talking so loud that I couldn't really understand it.

When we went back home I was asked by may asawa if I liked it and I couldn't hide my disappointment, so I said that it was not very impressive. And she agreed. We both expected the cruise to be done at the other side of the bridge. From there you can go into Dagupan center, even stop for a drink at one of the hotels and see the many fishing and other boats cruising in this area. You even can go to the point where the river enters the sea. That would be a much more exiting trip. Be aware that the boats cannot pass the bridge as the bridge is too low, so if they plan to do cruises at the other side of the bridge in the future they have to build new boats.

If I recall my Bangkok river cruises, that was really exciting, fast sailing in a kind of banka's without the side floats, changing scenery's, even large water lizards could be seen. But of course it was not for free. Anyway, if you ever come to Dagupan, try it yourself.


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