At the peak of the typhoon season in the Philippines, which is August, why on earth would anyone plan a trip to Bicol region? Bicol is one of the typically hard hit areas by typhoon due to its geographic location. Honestly, decisions are sometimes made based on what seat sale is available, so yeah we went for it. Thank God, the weather was beautiful, it was like summer in August.
Touchdown Legazpi airport, the stunning Mayon and its perfect cone welcomed us. After grabbing a quick breakfast at the airport, which was delicious and filling by the way (airport food is highly recommended), we rode a cab to our AirBnb – Belando’s Place. The selling point of the accommodation is the view of Mt. Mayon. But in our unit, there wasn’t even a tiny peek of it. Regardless, the place was clean, new, and the landlady was welcoming – bang for the buck at PHP 3000+ for 4, for 3 days and 2 nights.
Public transportation-wise, the city is dominated by tricycles and jeepneys, and buses for long-haul trips. Buses to and from Manila are aplenty, I think travel time would be around 10-12 hours though. Given our limited knowledge of the area, our basic commuting mantra is to always find our way back to the Legazpi Grand Terminal, but at some point we realized that some places are actually nearer our AirBnb, and we just made an unnecessary “tour of Albay” with that strategy #LessonLearned.
The highlight of our trip was the 4×4 ride to Mt. Mayon. Initially we also considered the ATV ride, but being first timers, and being informed that the route would be around 18km long with all that rough terrain, and very hot weather, we opted for the 4×4 instead. The boring option? I was wrong. Since we were not in control of our ride, the driver would deliberately drive through rocky paths to make the trip as crazy as possible. It was fun, it was thrilling, and I would like to do it again!
After the ride we did a trek up the Mayon Helipad, traversing the hardened lava, which are now big black boulders. 2006 was the last time Mayon erupted, and as our guide said, the area used to be a coconut plantation but it was all wiped out. At least, now they have another highlight for tourists. And as for the helipad, guests of Balesin would land there via chopper. How “sosyal”.
I forgot all about the tough ride, hot weather, tiring trek – the view was stunning. We spent a couple of minutes enjoying the view and taking photos of course, before trekking back down, and riding our 4×4 back to the site.
With all that physical activity, we sure were hungry. We had lunch at 1st Colonial Grill, a famous chain in Bicol, but the foodtrip is another story. Next, we rode an ordinary bus to the so-called Black Sand Beach. The waiting time for the bus to be filled with passengers is around 30 minutes, plus an hour for the bus ride, plus around 30 minutes for getting lost and, another 30 minutes for the tricycle ride to one of the beaches. Hell, it was so hot! I think the tricycle driver did not quite understand where wanted to go so we ended up here:
Not so nice, and there would’ve been other better beaches.
Day 2 is for Sorsogon. Considering our epic bus experience, we decided to take the UV Express instead to be more comfortable. Sorsogon is only an hour away, plus another hour for the jeepney ride to Irosin, where the hot springs were. We alighted the jeepney then rode a tricycle for another 15 minutes to get to the hot spring resort. We were in awe of the tall coconut trees that lined the path going there. It’s like Nami Island Pinoy version – instead of gingko trees, we had coconut trees.
There were two pools in the area: lukewarm and hot. Hot is 35-37 degrees Celsius, and lukewarm around 25 degrees. Finally some well-deserved R&R after another commute adventure.
On our way back, we wished we could have slept while in the UV Express, but our driver seemed to be a Fast and the Furious cast wannabe. We were scared, but fortunately we made it back to the Grand Terminal safe and sound.
To cap off our short Albay vacation, we went to the Cagsawa Ruins with the hopes of taking the typical touristy shot with Mayon and the bell tower. Unfortunately, Mayon was shy that day. Nevertheless, we just enjoyed the park, and ate delicious snacks such as Choco Chili Shake and Tinutong na Bigas ice cream.
Surprisingly, we saw this while on our way back
In case you are curious, here is the breakdown of travel cost in PHP, per person:
|Roundtrip Ticket (Cebu Pacific)||1980|
|Cab to/from AirBnb||120|
|Entrance to Lignon Hill||25|
|4×4 Mayon Ride||1200|
|Bus to/from Black Sand Beach||40|
|Trike to/from Black Sand Beach||50|
|UV to/from Sorsogon||185|
|Jeep to/from Irosin||100|
|Trike to/from Hot Spring Resort||40|
|Jeep to/from Cagsawa Ruins||40|
|Entrance to Cagsawa Ruins||10|
I have yet to see other provinces down south, but comparing it to let’s say Bacolod or Cebu, Legazpi is more laidback. At around 7pm even on a weekend the city is very quiet. Good mobile data signal is difficult to acquire as well, forcing us to go offline, which made navigating a bit challenging. In a way, it was actually good also – we just slowed down and veered away from the fast-paced and always online city life that we were used to. We just had the perfect chance to appreciate Mayon, its perfect cone, and all that is beautiful, quirky, and exciting that surrounds it.