There’s a sense of freedom you get from going on a solo trip. You choose where you go, what you do and how you do things. Your successes are your own. Your mistakes are your own. It’s a personal learning experience that I believe everyone should at least do once in his/her life.
Going on a solo trip is a challenge I’ve set for myself this year. I used to be more adventurous (like 10 years ago!) but somehow I’ve become really lazy and dependent. It’s definitely time for me to push myself up and do something outside my comfort zone.
Southeast Asia is a good start for a beginner solo traveler. The locals are very warm and most of them speak English. I was originally thinking of going to Chiang Mai (Thailand) but my passport needs to be renewed so I opted for a local destination in the Philippines. I chose Albay because of Mayon Volcano. Mayon Volcano or Mt. Mayon is one of the famous volcanoes in the Philippines. It recently made the news because of an eruption last May 7 that killed some foreign tourists including their Filipino guide. Currently, Mt. Mayon is at Alert Level 1 and while I am hoping nothing bad will happen, I want to make sure to see it before something does!
About Mt. Mayon
Rising 2,462 meters from the Gulf of Albay, Mayon Volcano is the main landmark of Albay Province, Philippines. It is considered as the world’s most perfectly-formed volcano for its symmetry which was formed through layers of lava flows from past eruptions. It is the most active volcano in the Philippines having erupted 48 times in the past 400 years.
Mt. Mayon is a stuff of my childhood fantasies. There is a legend that this volcano rose from the grave of a beautiful lady named Daragang Magayon and the man she was supposed to marry. The couple tragically died while fighting for their love. It is said that the name “Mayon” evolved from Magayon.
My trip to see Mt. Mayon was a spur of the moment thing. I was just thinking I want to do my solo trip this June so I checked how long I need to just view Mt. Mayon. I googled and found that I can actually do a half day trip!
To start off, I need a flight. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (PAL Express) fly to Legazpi City daily. I picked the earliest flight (arriving 8:50AM) to go there and the last flight (leaving at 2:20PM) to go back to Manila. That gives me roughly 4 hours to go around the area!
From Legazpi Airport, I got on to a tricycle that will bring me around the three places I want to visit. I got a price of P500 (roughly US$12). In my research, I saw a blog that says it’s P300 in 2011 so I did not bargain anymore because it sounds just right to me. Other options are jeepneys, cabs or tourist vans (good for groups).
Ligñon Hill was my first stop. I was advised by the friendly tricycle driver that it is best to go here first to avoid the hot sun. The climb from the bottom to the top of the 156-meter high hill takes 20 minutes (for healthy people). I noticed I was the solitary tourist going up – other (smarter) visitors took a cab instead. Tip: Bring an umbrella or a cap and a bottle of water if you plan on walking!
For years, this hill has been an observatory for the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. The local government has transformed this as a prime destination for tourists featuring a 360 panoramic view of Legazpi city, Daraga municipality, Albay Gulf and Mt. Mayon and activities like zip line, hanging bridge and rappelling. GIven my limited time, I decided to leave the activities for another visit and just explore the top.
Entrance Fee: P20 per person
Cagsawa Ruins in the municipality of Daraga is a grim reminder of the 1814 eruption of Mt. Mayon – the most violent and deadly one to date. The remaining belfry is one of the most recognizable symbols of Mt. Mayon and can be seen gracing postcards.
A park now stands on the site of the Cagsawa ruins. It is one of the spots where you can get a good picture of Mt. Mayon on a clear day. It was a little cloudy when I went here so the peak of Mt. Mayon is covered. This is also a perfect place to buy native products and cheap souvenirs – shirts, lanterns, bags, local food and so on. I really had a great time interacting with the locals and got several good deals! I told my mom about this and she wants us to go here just to shop. 🙂
Entrance Fee: P10 per person
Built in 1773 by Franciscan missionaries, the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Porteria (Our Lady of the Gate) is another cultural and historical landmark in the municipality of Daraga. This was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum in 2007 as shown on a historical marker. The church underwent restoration to address its deteriorating because of age.
1st Colonial Grill
I asked the driver to bring me to the restaurant that sells Sili (hot pepper) ice cream. The place he brought me to is called 1st Colonial Grill in Legazpi City. The menu includes local classic favorites such as Bicol Express (a really spicy dish). It first got famous because of its signature dish – Tinapa Rice – which I did not get to try because I didn’t know about it that time. Oh well – one more reason to go back!
The restaurant is fully packed when I got there before 12 noon. I ordered one of their bestsellers – Five-Spice Grilled Chicken – and asked if I can have a sampling of different ice cream flavors. Lucky for me they said yes so I asked for one scoop of Sili ice cream, one scoop of Melon and one scoop of Pili Nut. The Sili ice cream was pretty interesting – it’s all sweetness when you take a bite, then the hot spice bursts in your mouth. It would be nice if I could buy a gallon to take home and get my unsuspecting friends to try it. Hahaha!
After lunch, I went to the airport for my 2pm flight back to Manila. I was there just on time before the rain started to pour . It stopped for a while so I took pictures of Mt. Mayon. I smiled to myself when I saw that I finally got a clearer image – I’m ready to go home!