Philippines – Luzon – Legazpi / Donsol – 2nd Feb ~ 5th Feb 2012

This trip is almost a disaster. Nothing seems to go right. Right from the beginning from booking of air tickets to departure back to Singapore.

2nd Feb

I fly to Manila by PAL. PAL is selling their one way ticket to Manila for SGD$145 and Cebu Pacific is selling SGD$147. I guess this is a no brain-er.

My original flight is 3rd Feb 0030hrs. However, PAL made major adjustment to their flight time and they rescheduled my flight. As a standard procedure, they let me choose my preferred flight time. So I bring forward a day to 2nd Feb but depart at 1955hrs.

Flight is smooth and since it is a full service airline, the seat pitch is better. Landed NAIA T2 at 2330hrs.

Since I am in the middle of no where and my next flight is 0605hrs, I wonder what can I do at this hour.

I give myself two options; one is to wait for the airport shuttle to take me to T3 or to wait for the shuttle bus to Resort World. Which ever comes first, I will board it.

Before my departure to Manila, I have already check with Resort World on the waiting area in NAIA T2. The staff replied me is to wait at Bay 14. At 0011hrs, I saw a Resort World bus but it did not stop at all! It just went straight! I was pissed. To make it worse by 0045hrs, none of the shuttle bus appear. I was by then tired and sleepy. By 0100hrs, I have decided to book a room in Sogo to catch some sleep.

I took the airport taxi to Sogo at Malate. When I board the taxi, I find the meter suspicious. After travelling for a minute, I told the driver to turn on the meter. He then press a button and show P70. I can see that the meter has already been running for some time. Also, the fare is not shown on the meter at all! After waiting fruitlessly for an hour for two non-existence bus, I am pretty mad. If this driver is going to rip me off, I will just tell him off.

When we reach the destination, he told me the fare is P368. Ok, I was mad this time. I told him I know how much is the fare and I just gave him P200. I told him this P200 can bring me all the way to the American Embassy. I just grab my things and get off the taxi.

It is a bad start for the trip.

At the hotel reception, I told the staff I just need a room to crash in. One of the staff keep trying to up sell me the Premiere room. I said I wanted the Econo Room only. I told him firmly I wanted the Econo room for 3 hrs. By then it is already almost 0130hrs.

For those who do not know about Sogo hotel, they are mainly a short time hotel, if you know what I mean.

For me, I just wanted a place to crash out. For some unknown reason, I cannot get to sleep. So I toss and turn. By 0230hrs, I finally start to feel sleepy and is about to close my eyes.

And can you imagine what happen? A few rooms away from me, a lady start to moan and shouting loudly during her sex session. To make it worse, her moaning is not sexy at all!!! I was thinking “Come on, give me a break!!!!” This goes on for about 30mins or more. By the time she stop, it is already 0310hrs and I am supposed to check out at 0345hrs.

By now, I am tired and hungry and I can’t even get a good sleep. If I will to fall asleep now, it will be worse. I am quite worried about the activities that I am going to engage in later due to lack of sleep.

I check out at 0345hrs and took a cab to NAIA T3. During the journey, the taxi driver keep telling me that I will need to top up $50 as this is an airport service. I just keep quiet.

The fare is P124 when we reach the airport. I gave him P140 and I feel that I have already given him too much. For me, if the driver did not ask for tip, I will give it to him automatically but not for such driver.

He ask me why I gave him P140 only? I ask him how much is the fare on the meter. I then slam the door and leave.

I had enough for the night and I am not interested in getting any argument.

3rd Feb

I check-in my flight and just wait. The airport terminal fees for domestic flight is still P200. I just bought a pastry from Mister Donut for my breakfast.

Fortunately the flight is on time. I thought things are turning better.

When the plane start to approach the airport, I saw thick clouds and I hardly see such thick clouds before. This spell bad news for me.

Thick Clouds

When the plane fly below the clouds, the clouds are dark!

I was thinking, “There goes my beautiful sight”.

When the plane approach the airport, the sight that I am really anticipating is not there.

It is raining when we land or I should say drizzling. I look back and see Mount Mayon is almost totally covered with fog.

After getting my luggage, the driver, Mike from Ellis Ecotel is already waiting for me. Prior to my arrival, I have already told the hotel to bring my bag to the hotel but drive me to the Grand Bus Terminal. They even assured me that I will be given a luggage tab. I ask for further assurance to give me a call when my bag reaches the hotel. They agree to it and I am very pleased with the service.

I ask Mike how is the weather in Legazpi for the last few days. Mike said that it has been raining for the last four days! I ask him how is the weather in Donsol. He said he has no idea.

After dropping me off at the Bus Terminal, I look for the van that will take me to Donsol.

By the time I reaches there, there are already about 10 person for the van. The driver says he needs two more passenger. The price of the transport is P75. After waiting for some time, I suggested to the rest of the passenger to top up the fare and set off immediately or continue to wait till lunch. We ask the driver how much do we need to top up. The driver said it will be another P15 per person, making it P90. All of us agreed and off we go!

On the way to Donsol, it is still drizzling. I am a bit hesitant whether should I go for the Whale Shark interaction but since I am here already and it is still affordable, I might as well try my luck.

The journey took about an hour plus and the driver drop us at a junction. For those who wanted a room, there is a “hotel” just at the junction where you alight. It will cost you P500 per night per room with no hot shower.

By now, the sky and weather look more promising.

I then take a trike to Donsol Visitor Center for P30.

When I reach there, I quickly ask is there any boat going out for the Whale Shark Interaction. The staff said they still lack of one passenger. The price for a boat is P3500 excluding the registration fees.

The staff ask us are we alright going out at 5 passengers meaning each passenger must pay more. I am alright but one person back out and we left with four. Some of the passenger protest so we continue to wait.

Finally, two Chinese national that come with us on the same van arrived and they made up the rest of the passengers.

So each of us pay P584 and P300 for registration fees. So off we go!!! Just for your info, you have to watch a short safety video before setting off.

You will also need to rent snorkel gear that consists of the mask and fins for P300.

By now, the sun was shining bright but the wind is pretty strong.

We were on the boat for almost an hour but we could not spot any whale shark. All of us start to lose hope. The boatman has brought us very far from the pier. Finally we spotted one!

The BIO told us to get ready and since I am still like a zombie, I requested a life jacket as I am afraid that I am even too weak to float.

Everybody quickly jump down into the water upon the BIO’s command. The water is very cold!

One thing to take note here. When you jump down form the boat, be aware of your surroundings. One thing is to note where are your team mates; swim towards them. Secondly, when you just jump into the water, you are practically below the banca supporting pole. Do not let the pole to knock on you else it will be disastrous!

By now, everyone is racing to see the whale shark. It is very short encounter and I did not get to see it. Out of the six passengers, four of them see it and I was one of the two who did not manage to catch it.

The sea is also very choppy and you get wash away easily. The BIO also have to catch my hand and drag me to the side of the boat.

In the water, you must be able to recognise which is the boat you belongs too! Imagine having to do this in choppy waters!

I was very disappointed. The other who did not catch it is a Westerner. He jump down without a life jacket and he is struggling to get back up. The BIO have to pull him out of the water. He later put on the life jacket.

On the banca, the four passengers were discussing excitedly what they saw. They are all excited and I for sure is depressed. I told them maybe I should paint white spots on my body and swim in the sea. They can take a picture of me and this is the new version of the whale shark. They all laughed hearing this.

The BIO continue to look for the whale shark. We then spotted another one. Again, we all jump down and I use all my might to swim towards others.

I finally saw one!!!! The large whale shark just swim in front of me. Though the water is cloudy, I still can see the white spots and the shape. Though I am still unsatisfied, but it is better to see none at all. I was obviously thrilled. I finally got my P1000 partially worth!!!!

This is the last encounter we have. After this, it is time to go back to the pier.

One tip is if you are not familiar in using fins, do not use it. It will actually slow you down.

There are basic shower facilities at the Visitor Center. So I took a quick rinse and quickly take a trike to Donsol bus terminal. One important thing to take note. I was told that the last van that leave for Legazpi from Donsol is 3pm. So make sure you make it on time.

I manage to get some sleep in the van. When I alight at the Grand Bus Terminal in Donsol at 1545hrs, my plan is actually to go to either Cagsawa Ruins or Lignon Hills.

However, it is still cloudy so I drop the idea. Furthermore, I am still feeling tired. Instead, I just walk to Pacific Mall for some shopping.

There is actually nothing interest me there. I just want to look for Bicol Express. I am hungry as I did not have any food since 5am. I finally found a stall that sells Bicol Express at the food court so I have some there. It is really nice; spicy and delicious. The mango milkshake is nice too!

After my meal, I bought some pastry from Red Ribbon for the reservation staff; Miss Christine Tacorda of Ellis Ecotel. She has helped me with my reservation and have been so patient with all my queries for a room that cost only P1100.

I then took a trike for P30 (I found it a bit too high) to Embarcadero where Ellis Ecotel is located. Embarcadero is actually a shopping mall and Ellis Ecotel is located within it.

I have search through TripAdvisor for a decent hotel in Legazpi. Seems like all budget hotel have some problems. The expensive one like the sister hotel of Ellis Ecotel, the St. Ellis is going to cost me an arm to stay there.

I finally found Ellis Ecotel though it is above my budget, I took the plunge as it is still new.

The entrance of the hotel is strange. It is inside an amusement park. The path that leads to the front desk is a little dark. To my surprise, after so long since last August, they are still renovating the hotel.

I have reserved a single room for P1100. This includes airport transfer and breakfast. They have rooms with view of Mount Mayon but that would cost more.

The room is decent and not small considered for a single bedroom. All things looks new and it has a rain shower. Toilet is clean but one thing to note is that there is actually a kerb between the shower area and the toilet. They should put a coloured strip on the kerb to alert guest. Water pressure is good and hot water is consistent.

The basin is located outside the toilet. The finishing of the vanity top’s side is not smooth due to poor workmanship. Cable TV selection is good. They even have Bollywood channels!

Bed is comfy but I would prefer them to remove the plastic sheet that is covering the mattress.

The door lever is a bit hard to operate. The door is operated by a key card and you have to flash it across the sensor. After which you have to press down the door lever hard to open the door. They should make a door lever easier to operate.

The staff of the hotel is very friendly. I even have the chance to meet up with Miss Christine Tacorda and we exchange a few pleasantries.

I walk around Embarcadero and found that it seems the children playground is the main attraction. There isn’t many shops but some of them a pretty high-end like Columbia sportswear where I bought a cap for P990.

I walk outside Embarcadero and the wind is very strong. As our country hardly experience anything like this, so to me it is considered strong wind. I felt cold but the wind is very refreshing. Looking over Albay, it is a good break from the skyscrapers.

Feeling tired, I decided to go for a massage. There is a spa beside the entrance of the hotel. If you decided to ask for room service massage, it will be P900 and if you will to go to the center for a massage, it will be P800; a hundred peso different for a 90min massage.

I initially ask for room service but the staff keep persuading me to come to the center instead. I was wondering why are they doing this. Are they afraid that I will do something nasty to their therapist?

I finally agree to do the massage at the center.

The massage center is decent. Clean and tidy. I was given a shorts that is 3x the size of my buttock. I ask them is there any smaller ones? They said no. So I got no choice but to wrap a towel with my underwear on. Strange feeling.

My massage therapist is actually from Cebu and she is only 20-year-old. Her massage is pretty good but the head hole of the massage table is a bit small.

I chatted with her on her life in Legazpi like how did she ended up in Legazpi instead of Cebu. I ask her how much is her daily wage and she told me it is P247. My jaw almost drop when I heard this. This is the lowest I heard so far. I thought P375 for a factory job in Laguna is low enough but P247?

The massage ended with me feeling a little more relax. The wind outside is till strong and drizzling. I then have my dinner at Bigg’s and I choose to sit at the open air area; enjoying the wind.

My day ended with me watching History Channel.

4th Feb

I deliberately chose woke up at 0530hrs. I took my camera and waited at the sea wall. Dawn broke and all I see is clouds.

Disappointed again, I walk along the sea wall. I saw fisherman selling their fish. A big fish cost only P120! Here we need to pay easily like P400!

I walk to the end of the sea wall and frankly speaking, this is the best site to view Mount Mayon in this area. You have almost a clear view of Mount Mayon but unfortunately it is still covered with clouds.

After staying for 30mins hoping the cloud would clear, I gave up. I walk away from the sea wall and walk towards the fire station.

Here I see some residents playing by the little beach they have. Strange that the sand are black but I can see that the kids are having a good time.

Along the way, I saw kids looking for scraps like metals and plastics. I really pitied them. They will really look hard for scraps and they will walk along the road to search for them.

After some time, I have given up hope on having a good view of Mount Mayon. I walk back to the hotel and ordered my complimentary breakfast; American breakfast with omelet.

The omelet is very delicious. I wonder is this the result of my hunger.

I spend the rest of my time in the room watching movies.

By 1300hrs, I check out of the hotel and took the airport transfer to the airport.

The airport is very small and cramp. The departure area is filled to the brim. Here I saw two girls watching the video they shot during the whale shark interaction. the video is so clear and it shows the whale shark swimming gracefully.

I am so filed with envy. I got depressed again.

How I wish I have the same luck as them.

The flight was delayed a little but we still reach Manila on time. When the plane departs from Legazpi, I saw Mount Mayon from the air. It is still covered by cloud but I could see some portion of the peak.

Bye bye, Mount Mayon. I hope to have better luck next time. Seems like I have some unfinished business in Legazpi.

In Manila, is it the usual things that I do. I only go to MOA to stock up some Filipinos food. I also manage to catch a glimpse of the fireworks at 1900hrs.

I again stayed at Rivera Mansion. They finally fix the no-signal issue at the low floors but Internet is still chargeable.

5th Feb

I met up with my Filipina friend in NAIA T3 to come to Singapore together. However, she is stuck at immigration and one of my bags is check-in with her! This is due to the fact that my luggage is overweight by 13kg! So the Cebu Pacific staff is kind enough to transfer my bag to my friend though this is not allowed due to we have different bookings.

Finally I have no choice but to leave my friend back at the airport and the departing gate of the flight has changed from Gate 115 to Gate 110. These two gates are the extreme ends of the terminal. I am the last second passenger to board the plane.

So I leave Manila without one of my luggage and my friend.

So as you can see, this trip is filled with many little misfortunes. They are not great enough to create great misery for me but seems like this trip is not smooth at all. Mother nature is also not on my side this time.

I will return to Legazpi. The people are so friendly there and the city is so laid back. I don’t think I see any building that is more than 10 storey tall or maybe I did not look hard enough. Traffic is light and the city is facing the sea. Also, I just love Bicol Express.

Maybe some of you are curious why I am so keen to see a volcano. Well, Mount Mayon really looks pretty with a nice backdrop. Look at the picture below, isn’t it awesome?

If given enough days in Legazpi, I would plan my itinerary as follow.

Day 1 – Arrive In Legazpi in the early afternoon. Go to Donsol. Firefly tour at night.

Day 2- Whale Shark Interaction. Afternoon back to Legazpi. Cagsawa Ruins and Lignon Hills.

Day 3 – ATV at Mount Mayon. Fly back to Manila in the afternoon.

Though none of the objectives fully met, however the friendlinese of the Bicolanos that I encounter leaves a deep impression on me (or maybe I am lucky).

I really hope to see you again, Legazpi.


3 thoughts on “Philippines – Luzon – Legazpi / Donsol – 2nd Feb ~ 5th Feb 2012

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog. I also wanted to see the whale sharks and get near them. I just been to Lignon Hill, Embarcadero and Cagsawa Ruins. We never had a time to go to Donsol… This gave me an idea of how to go there and how much will i prepare… I love their Bicol Express, they taste like no other! Chilis are like decoration but give so much appetite… Thanks again!

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