1. Marvel at Mayon. No trip to the province of Albay will be complete without seeing its famed volcano. If the temperamental Mayon volcano isn’t hiding behind a shroud of clouds, you can see it as soon as you fly in to Legazpi City. Go close and head off to the Cagsawa Ruins, which is what remained of Cagsawa Church when Mayon erupted back in 1814. Nowadays it’s a tourist haven, popular for getting that shot of the perfect cone in the background of the church tower.
2. Get on the ‘Love Boat’. If you are spending the entire weekend in Albay, then reserve with the Tabaco City Government’s organised island-hopping trip around Albay Gulf. Of course, don’t expect any vessel like the swanky Love Boat from the classic series. It’s more of a tongue-in-cheek reference, with all the adoration directed toward the view—the calm waters and the limestone karsts.
3. Seek solitude or adventure. While you’re on your island-hopping trip, you can include a day trip to the upscale Misibis Bay Resort. If the outdoors or whizzing by a zip line is more your thing, try the trails and outdoor fun at the facilities of Cagraray Eco-Energy Park. Both are on Cagraray island.
4. Swim with the sharks. Well, the whale sharks. The gentle giants, which are found in the plankton-rich waters off Donsol, Sorsogon, have become a major tourist attraction. To increase your chances of seeing them, best to go from November to May when they feed. You need to register and reserve a boat at the Donsol Tourist Center (a day before if you’re going during the peak season of April and May). Each boat carry a maximum of six people and there’s a Butanding (whale shark) Interaction Officer who will spot the whale sharks and tell you to jump into the water once said whale shark is spotted. And then a lot of crazy swimming ensues. Once you jump in and see the whale sharks, all the crazy swimming will be worth it.
5. Eat your heart out! If the weather isn’t cooperating with your holiday plans, you can always find comfort in Bicolano food. Albay, specially Legazpi City and Daraga, has plenty to offer when it comes to eating. Since most of the travel guides will introduce you to where to get home-cooked Bicolano favourites, we recommend you try First Colonial Grill, one of the Awardees for Albay’s Best. Here, the musts for adventurous eaters are Bicol Express (pork cooked in coconut milk and chillies) and Kandinga (minced pig’s lungs, liver, and heart, cooked in vinegar and swamp cabbage stalks). For dessert, try the Sili Ice Cream, with the velvety texture of ice cream and the bird’s eye chilli (sili) flavour that surprisingly go well together.
Another affordable introduction to fusion Bicolano cuisine can be had at the Jasmine restaurant of The Oriental- Legazpi. Go for the Bicolandia Tasting Plate, consisting of many local favourites. There, you can also have one of the best views of Mayon and the city.
How to get there:
There are flights from Manila to Legazpi and Naga, but the most budget friendly and easiest mode is getting on any of the Legazpi-bound buses at the central bus terminal behind Ali Mall in Cubao, Quezon City. It takes a night’s sleep from Manila to Legazpi so it is best to travel in the evening so you wake up in your destination.
Where to stay:
For a classy, full service hotel, check out The Oriental Hotel – Legazpi, Taysan Hill, Legazpi City. Visit their website at www.theorientalhotels.com. On a budget? Try Mayon View Apartelle, Pag-asa, Rawis, Legazpi City. Call +63 (52) 482-0463, SMS + 63 (920) 9329581 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries and reservations.
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