Days 7-8: **Due to a temporary lack of internet access on a paradisiacal island resort, this post has come to you a bit later than planned. But it’s ok, we made the most of our time there.** Leaving Mindoro behind, we were due to make our way to Legazpi in Southern Luzon.
The calm after the storm
After a breakfast of pancakes and coffee with evaporated milk (it’s sometimes hard to find fresh milk, or even long life milk) we took the large ferry back to Luzon Island. Locals wandered throughout the vessel, whereas we stayed put with our bags and watched the blue hazy mountains pass by. As we drew closer, we passed the shore and for the first time since arriving in the Philippines, the sun began to shine.
We took the bus to Manila and when we arrived it was already around five in the afternoon. We asked to be taken to a hotel which seems reasonably priced online, but when we walked in we realised it was out of our budget. The friendly porter found us a taxi with a meter however, and we made our way to the Red Planet, a funkier Asian version of a Travel Lodge it seems.
The next day we were due to join a tour for a flight down to Legazpi in the Bicol region. We woke at 5am and took the elongated trip to the airport. It wasn’t till the plane was boarding that saw what must have been our group. We finally met up with them as they were seated on the row behind and we saw three smiley faces looking back at us, one holding up the sign ‘Travel the Unknown’ — the tour we had booked with. Bryan our Filipino tour guide told us of their typhoon dodging escapades around Northern Luzon.
Arriving in Legazpi
When we arrived at Legazpi, the palms had been whipped into a frenzy and the sky was ominous and dark. After a short phone call, Bryan told us that another typhoon was on the way and that nearby Mount Bulusan had just erupted. Having barely enough time to digest the news, we were whisked straight to Ligñon Hill for a view of the famous conical Mount Mayon volcano – the most active one in the Philippines. Unfortunately it was covered in a thick carpet of clouds, so we headed on to the Cagsawa Ruins – the remains of a 16th-century Franciscan church, backed by rice paddies and fields of carabao. From there we visited the Spanish style 17th century Daraga Church, one of the most visited in the country.
Trying Bicol Express in Legazpi
Tired from the early start and long journeys, we were happy to sit down to some local cuisine. I was recommended to try the Bicol Express, a typical dish from the region and different to most Filipino cuisine. It’s made from pork, shrimps coconut milk, garlic, onions and chilies.
Later we were dropped at the luxurious Hotel Siama in Sorgoson, around an hour a half south of Legazpi City. We were pleased to discover it had a gorgeous swimming pool and giant hammock. Decorated with wicker furniture and muted beige colours in the bedrooms it oozed clean, chic design.
After a short time to relax we were taken for our next activity – a rafting experience with Buhatan River Eco Adventure. Curios as to what this new adventure entailed, we readied ourselves for a few bamboo poles strewn together and a stick to navigate with. We were, however, pleasantly surprised that the ‘raft’ looked rather luxurious, decked out in oversized cushions and a wooden table laden with Filipino snacks.
Nibbling on boiled peanuts and milk powder snacks, we slowly ebbed away from the jetty. The peaceful motion of the raft took us past banks of lush green palms, with the sound of acoustic tones from the resident troubadour in the background. As we sank into the cushions during the smooth passage, we occasionally spotted the odd bird – iridescent kingfishers or elegant white egrets.
We chatted amongst ourselves on the floating raft when we reached the riverside restaurant. We gladly ate the local spread and drifted back the same way we had come. It was dark now however the banks were set alight by the frequent flicker of fireflies, which added a magical aspect to the trip.
If you’d like to find out more about what we get up to in the Philippines, check back here for updates on our ‘30 Days in the Philippines‘ tag.