I can’t believe I pulled it off. I know it isn’t much of a feat, but for someone who panics a lot, feels helpless in a lot of situations, overthinks every bit of life, this solo adventure used to just be a scary thought. Now I don’t even remember why I’m scared.
I decided to backpack across Bicol, mainly because I wanted to travel and it was the cheapest flight I could find. I wanted to know what solo traveling meant. I have read a lot of posts on it and met people who have done it saying it is a great experience–something you must do at least once in your life. And so I did.
For weeks, I did my research. I read blogs, itineraries, websites of what to see, do, and eat in the Bicol Region or Bicolandia. I originally planned to go to Sorsogon, Legaspi, Caramoan, and Naga but realized five days isn’t enough to appreciate what each place has to offer. I decided to settle for Legaspi and Naga and find places in between. Thanks to these awesome bloggers, I was able to map out where I wanted to go.
Instead of making a comprehensive itinerary, I decided to list the places I want to visit with an estimate of how much time I can spend in each of them. I also took mental notes of how to get to each of them, keeping in mind that adjustments are to be expected.
And so my adventure begins.
On my way to Legazpi aboard a plane, I knew of two things I have to see from up the sky–Mt. Mayon and the chocolate hills of Albay–Pili hills. Fortunately, the guy next to me, Patrick, to whom I introduced my self, helped me spot these things. Unfortunately, my camera was in the stow away cabin so I wasn’t able to take photos. I ended up asking Patrick about food in Bicol and how to get to my first stop–Ligñon Hill.
I have three stops in mind for my half day in Legazpi– Lignon Hill, Cagsawa Ruins, and Embarcadero de Legazpi.
From the airport, I walked past the cabbies and vans offering rides for I read they are quite expensive. As Patrick advised, a tricycle would be the better option to Ligñon Hill. The short tricycle ride cost 50 pesos. The hill is actually close to the airport but is on the other side of the runway so anyone who wants to get there has to go around the runway to the foot of the hill.
The climb to the top of the hill is quite steep–a reason why a lot ride cars. In fact, even with cars, signs are posted advising motorists to drive only in the lower gears of primera and segunda. The entire climb is around 800 meters and depending on your pace (and fitness level) it can take you around ten to thirty minutes. As I entered the path to the hill, I paid an entrance fee of 20 pesos (25 for foreigners) and bought two bottles of water from a mobile store a little bit past the entrance.
The walk to the hill is entertaining–you’ll see a good sneak peak of the city view plus a lot of couples either sitting by the sides of the road enjoying the view or pushing each other to finish the walk.
After two stops and several couples, I reached the hill and had to pause and revel in the view.
There are several things you can do on the hill– zipline, shop, have a picnic, or simply enjoy the view. The heat can really be scorching so bring your umbrella, hats, or shades.
From the foot of Lignon Hill you can ride a jeepney and ask to be dropped off at the Shell staion at the “Junction.” From there, walk to the market and ride another jeep to Daraga and ask to be dropped off at the Cagsawa Ruins. From the main road, take a short walk to the ruins or you can opt for an ATV (4×4) adventure. There are at least three companies in Legazpi offering this unique way of experiencing Mayon and one of them is the Bicol Adventure ATV which you can find near the ruins. There are several packages you can choose from but since I only have a few hours to spare I decided to take the Php 699 package which is an hour long ride to bring you a bit nearer to the volcano and then to the Cagsawa Ruins. There are other options such as riding to the lava wall or to Mayon itself.
After around and hour of ATV and visiting the ruins of the Cagsawa church (which contrary to what a lot of teachers told us didn’t really get buried in lava), I headed back to Legazpi to see the lighthouse in Embarcadero de Legazpi. From where you got off the jeepney to the ruins, you can cross the street and ride a jeep to Legazpi. This will bring you directly to the plaza.
Embarcadero de Legazpi is a port with mall and a lighthouse. Since I got there past dusk, the port isn’t that alive as you might expect of any port and though it was still quite early (around 7:30 pm), stores were already closing. Nevertheless, I did appreciate the night view of the lighthouse but would suggest you visit it when the sun is still up.
For dinner, I decided to check out Small Talk Cafe. It is a jeep away from the LCC mall nearest to the Embarcadero. Located at Dona Aurora St., it is a quaint restaurant that offers an array of authentic and infused Bicolano food. I had a mouth watering Adobong Manok sa Gata which I paired with garlic rice ( most restos in Bicol usually serve rice shaped like Mt. Mayon).
If I wasn’t craving for rice from all the non-stop walking to explore Legazpi, I would have tried their Pinangat pasta which has great reviews from locals and tourists alike. Price ranges from 200 up, specially if you’re on your own. Most dishes are good for two or more, but since I was doing it solo, I ended up finishing the entire Adobo dish.
From there, I decided to walk to the Mayon Backpackers Inn where I spent the night. I got a bunk bed in a dorm room of six for 350 bucks. They have free Wi-fi in the lobby and a desktop computer you can use. They also have free coffee or tea for breakfast. You can also pick a book from their shelf and trade in yours. If you’re on a budget, this is a great place to stay. The downside, if you get a top bunk, the bed tends to be creaky so each move you make might disturb the one underneath. Also, if you have allergic rhinitis, you might want to pop an antihistamine as the pillows triggered my allergies.
The best part of the inn however is how you’ll enjoy the conversations with the people you’ll meet there. I met a Filipino from Baguio, a Westerner, and Robin and Tom from the United Kingdom. Robin told me about how he and Tom were backpacking across Asia, how they were traveling from Legazpi to Sorsogon, then to Masbate, and then to Aklan to catch the Ati-Atihan nefore they head back to Manila. We exchanged notes in traveling and talked more about the Philippines. They did mention Filipinos seem to be “extra” nice. I really wish I took a selfie with them as the first backpackers I met as a solo traveler (Here’s a shout out to Robin and Tom!). From then on, I took selfies with people I met across Bicol.
After checking the net for the next day’s route, I slept with so much excitement. So this is what it feels like to travel solo. Four days left!