Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bicol Escapade

Luxury of time - that's what we have on this 4-day journey. Us, being the always on-the-go type of travelers, can manage to squeeze in several stops in one day. With that, I managed to draft an itinerary where we get to explore the whole morning and slack the rest of the afternoon off. Here's what it looks like:

Day 1 - a whole day dedicated to relaxing, eating and just walking around the surroundings of the sea port. We tried the famous Bigg's Diner that night and I hate to say that we might have chanced upon their unsatisfactory night. It looked like they were understaffed. My husband already felt a little bit cranky because he had to follow up several times for a simple spaghetti to reach our table. We were told it would take around 10-15 mins for the pasta to cook up, but hey, it was almost an hour already. Oh my gosh, I'm ranting, sorry didn't mean to.

Day 2 - morning would be for Lignon Hill, Daraga Church and Cagsawa Ruins. Afternoon would be for a trip going to Donsol, Sorsogon and the rest of the day would just be for resting and walking around.

We arrived very early to catch the peak of Mayon. They say the peak is very elusive, I say there's a trick. Right after sunrise until around 9am, the peak is very generous in showing itself. From our inn, we rode a tricycle towards the hill's drop off point, fare is 70 Pesos. There's an entrance fee of 20 Pesos each but since we arrived before it even opened up, we were spared. We hiked the hill's peak together with local joggers. Mt. Mayon was not visible until you reach the other side of the hill. The moment I saw it, I was in awe. It was beautiful.

The view from Lignon Hill's peak.
After a quick rest, we descended and checked out another attraction inside the hill. Yes, inside. During the Japanese occupation, they dug holes on this very hill to make an intricate tunnel system. They used it to hide themselves in and to store ammunition. For a very minimal fee of 20 Pesos each, a guide toured us inside the tunnels. It was a bit creepy I guess.

We crawled inside that tiny opening.
Lignon Hill offered other activities too like zipline, hanging bridge and ATV ride. Ziplines, unless very unique, don't amuse me that much anymore.

It was still early in the morning when we hopped to our next destination. Legazpi's public transport is very efficient and people are very helpful that we were able to commute easily.

Daraga Churgh - the famous white-washed church

Cagsawa Ruins - a very post card kind of view :)
That concluded our morning. We then ate our lunch and packed our bags because we'll be on the move once again. We walked our way towards the terminal and rode a van going to Donsol, Sorsogon. Trip was around 2 hours and I can't remember how much the fare was (it's less than 100 Pesos, I'm sure).

We arrived at Donsol around 4pm. There aren't big hotels in Donsol, most accommodations are home-stays and dormitories. I specifically chose Aguluz Homestay because of its great reviews. We walked around town and observed the locals. They live a very simple life. We killed most of our time just sitting on one of the municipal hall's bench, watching some kids playing.

Day 3 - It was time for our most awaited Whaleshark interaction. Boat rental plus spotter fee costs 3500 Php for a maximum of 7 persons. We shared our boat with other tourists to cut the cost. We paid a separate 100 Php fee is for individual registration fees. *Random observation - I just noticed that ALL tourists were foreigners.* The tour was good for a 3-hour boat ride in which the boat will sweep the sea while the spotter finds any nearby whalesharks. Our hopes were up since it was a good season to find them. We searched and searched until our 3 hours passed by. I was in disbelief.. that was it? It was an awful expensive boat ride for nothing. I wasn't in a very good mood when we went back to the homestay. The owner, who is a charming old lady greeted us back and consoled our lowly spirits. She said she'll cook us a good lunch. She prepared a local specialty - pinangat na pagi (sting ray in coconut milk). It was a great food. We were about to leave after lunch when she asked us a favor. She wanted to give us a short seminar about some networking opportunity. Perfect! *sarcasm*. If there's one thing I loath more than an awkward human interaction is some forced awkward networking seminar. It burned an hour of our lives with something I couldn't care less. I politely smiled, gave her the ultimate rejection line of "We'll think about it" and left. It was 2 pm and the vans' last trip going to Legazpi City was also 2 pm. We were literally running when a very kind man gave us a ride on the back of his motorcycle. He was just a stranger who wanted to help and asked nothing in return. Thankfully because of him we were able to catch the last trip. Because of him, I still have a fond memory of Donsol even though we didn't see what we came to see. Because of him, my faith in humanity was restored. Suddenly, I wasn't in a very bad mood after all.

Day 4 - It was do or die. This day would decide if the whole trip was either a blast or just so-so. The whaleshark should have been the highlight of the whole trip but they were a no show so it all depended on this last activity - the ATV ride. Thankfully, it was intense!

We rode on rough terrains, drove up and downwards on 45 degree inclinations and even drove on shallow waters. It was bad ass and the reckless freak in me enjoyed every bit of it!

Right after our ATV ride, we ate and went right home. Luckily, Mayon volcano had a little treat for us - it's glorious peak showed as we ascended on to our flight. Awesome, just awesome!

To conclude, our Bicol escapade wasn't bad after all. Sure, we have other more memorable trips, but this one has its own charm. We were able to relax, meet some good people and eat our hearts out with new food finds. Mayon Volcano, with its mighty size and perfect cone, is a real charmer too. Next time, we'll be conquering the northern leg of Bicol region - Camarines Norte.