a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Backpacking in Bicol - Some Travel Info

Hello!

I just came back from a four-day backpacking trip in Bicol. Me and my friend Julienne were able to explore Sorsogon and a bit of Albay. People in these areas are one of the warmest people I have encountered in my entire life and I hope I can go back some time soon. I particularly liked Bulusan in Sorsogon because of its beautiful, very plush rice fields. People there seem to be smiling all the time – the people in the resort, the children walking to school, even people catching the jeep. It’s like everyone has a reason to smile and everyone carries a beautiful aura. 

We were also able to encounter a lot of interesting people in Amor Farm resort in Donsol where we checked in for two nights for the Whale shark encounter. Majority of the visitors in that area were foreigners. We met an American, Koreans, Chinese, French and Polish people. Actually, we hardly saw any fellow Filipinos except the locals and the crew from the ABS CBN who were filming the whaleshark interaction. Most of the travelers we met were serious backpackers who have been all over the world. Talking to these people was an enlightening experience. We were introduced to each other’s cultural eccentricities and other stuff. This backpacking experience has certainly helped expanded my views on life and the way I travel.

I will write about my experiences in another post. For the mean time, let me share some information on getting around Sorsogon and Albay. Hope you will go here too and experience the wonderful people and sights in the Bicol region. I certainly have to go back here because I still missed Catanduanes, Masbate, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur – the other provinces in the Bicol region.


TRIP ROUTE :
Destinations:
Sorsogon: Dancalan Beach, Mt. Bulusan, Donsol

Albay : Tabaco, Tiwi


February 6, 2008 – Wednesday
8:00 PM - Departure from Cubao bus station to Irosin (Sorsogon) via Silver Star Bus; Please take note that the buses to Bicol region do not make trips the whole day so it’s better to call the bus companies prior to departure. Siler Star Bus Rate : 750 pesos/head (air-conditioned; no restrooms; 4 stops for restroom breaks); Cubao Bus station is located at the back of Ali Mall ; If you’ve never been there, just ask the security guards in the area for directions for the buses bound for Bicol; it took us about 20 minutes to walk from the MRT station to the bus station

NOTE : We were also told that bus fares to Bicol vary whether it’s peak season or not; during the peak season - that would be during the holidays and summer (April-May), bus rates are higher.


Some Information on bus schedules :
There are tons of buses bound to several provinces in the Bicol region but the ones I asked were:
Penafrancia Bus LineP: +63.2.913.1528+63.2.736.4101Legaspi (Aircon) : daily 730 am; 6pm; 8pm ;9pm ;10pm
Isarog Bus LineP: +63.2.913.3551
Legaspi (Aircon) : 730pm (1 seater); 830 (2 seater)


February 7, 2008 - Thursday
9:00 AM – Arrival in Irosin, Sorsogon; Ride a trike to Irosin Public Market
9-9:20 AM – Breakfast at El Amigo Kitchenette in Irosin
9:20-10:15 AM – Travel from Irosin to the town of Bulusan via Bulusan bound jeeps (Fare : 18/head)
10:15 AM – Ride a tricycle to Bulusan town proper to Dancalan beach (7 pesos per head);
10:15 AM – Free time in Dancalan Beach
Dancalan Beach
Very nice beach, the pics and videos I have uploaded cannot justify the beauty of the place. Sand is almost white; ideal place for snorkeling; very quiet place.

Rates :
Entrance Fee : 10 pesos
Cottage (With roof and table) – 100 pesos/day
Rooms : quite expensive – 1000 pesos for 12 hours so if you stay for 24 hours, that would be 2000 pesos. It’s kinda outrageous considering that it’s a government owned resort and there are other resorts and lodging houses in the area that are charging much cheaper.
11:30 AM – Ride another trike to Villa Luisa Celeste Resort (6 pesos per head); stayed there for a night


Rates at Villa Luisa Celeste :
800 pesos net per room (cheapest room available which is good for 2-3 persons; air-conditioned; has own private toilet and bath; bigger rooms available at a higher price;) Other amenities : own beach front; swimming pool;
85 pesos/set meal (one main dish; big serving of rice; dessert) – you have to give a heads up as soon as you check in so they can prepare for it.


My Experience : the owners especially Luisa Frayna, were very warm and accommodating. Her dad even gave us a ride to Lake Bulusan. The accommodations were clean and their meals are well-proportioned; taste is good, it’s made for international pallet.


CONTACT INFORMATION : Celeste Frayna -- +63920-9077950Luisa Frayna -- +63920-9060969Villa Luisa Celeste -- +63910-6512447


February 8, 2008 – Friday
Destination : Lake Bulusan and Donsol, Sorsogon
7:00 AM – Hitched a ride to Lake Bulusan
7:30 AM – Arrival in Lake Bulusan via resort owner's vehicle. If you’re not that lucky, you may hire a tricycle to take you there for 300 pesos round trip; 150/trip; we were told that it’s very safe to walk from the main road towards lake Bulusan; If you decide to walk, it may take you an hour or more from the Mt. Bulusan signboard.
Entrance Fee : Lake Bulusan – 10 pesos/head


WHAT LAKE BULUSAN OFFERS :


A 360 degree picturesque view of the lake; you can even trek the area around the lake for about one hour and a half (that’s including the time to take pictures); you can also rent kayaks in Brgy. San Roque if you want to ride one. You may coordinate with Eileen for the kayaks (please send me a message for her cellphone number)


10:30 AM – Depart Lake Bulusan via motorbike ; we originally planned to walk from Lake Bulusan to the main road but we saw this guy with a motorbike setting up his fishing gear near the like and we decided to negotiate with him for a ride to the town where we can board a trike back to Irosin. We paid him 50 pesos for that challenging ride to the tricycle station; ride took around 10 minutes;
11:30 AM – Arrival in Irosin Public market;
11:00-11:40 AM – Lunch in El Amigo Kitchenette near Irosin Public Market; This is a good place to eat. The food seems clean and food is priced reasonably – around 40 pesos per rice meal or even less for mami and other soups.
11:40 AM – 1:00 PM – Bus Ride from Irosin to Sorsogon city
1:00 PM – 2:20 PM – Bus Ride from Sorsogon City to Pilar
2:20 PM – 4:00 PM – Jeepney ride from Pilar to Donsol town proper; ask jeepney driver to drop you off at the Donsol tricycle station
4:00 PM-4:15 PM – Tricycle ride from Donsol to Brgy. Dancalan
4:15 PM – Early Registration for Butanding Interaction
4:30 PM – Check in at Amor Farm beach resort
Rates :
Cheapest : 800 pesos net – good for two persons; fan room; double sized bed with private toilet and bath; food not included

Amenities : Can arrange vans and other tours such as Butanding Interaction and Firefly watching; has its own restaurant which is open from 6AM-11PM; the food they serve is quite famous among tourists because of its excellent taste, reasonable price (most expensive in the menu is 150 pesos excluding liquor) and most of all its excellent customer service; less than 10 minutes away from the Butanding Interaction Center on foot.


My Experience : If I return to Donsol, I will definitely book here again; food is great; place is very quiet and the staff are so friendly and treats you well – not like those other resorts who give preferential treatmet to foreigners. They don’t even expect you to give them tips. The whole place is filled with shrubs, flowers and trees. I slept very well here – mattress is very comfy and beddings are clean.
Other Tours You May want to Try : *Fireflies watching – 1250 pesos/boat; if you are traveling alone, you may coordinate with the resort and ask them to include you with the other groups so you can share the cost with them; each boat can accommodate upto 5 persons so that’s 250 pesos/head
Manta Bowl Tour Package – since I don’t do SCUBA diving, I didn’t inquire anymore but this seemed like such an interesting trip. In this tour, you get to dive with Manta rays.
For Booking and other inquiries, please contact :
Agnes - 0917-694-1687


February 9, 2008 – Saturday
6:00 AM – Wake up call;

6:45 AM – Breakfast at Shoreline beach resort; we had kinunot – shark meat served with coconut milk (don’t be alarmed, the shark they serve is different from the endangered species of sharks), sayote chopseuy and rice. Food here is a little more expensive than the one in Amor Farm. Shoreline is a new resort which opened last year. We talked to the manager, room here is at 1,500 per night (airconditioned).
7:30 AM – Walk to the Butanding Interaction Center; make arrangements with the staff to include us with other groups so we can lessen the expenses (boat is at 3,500 pesos which seats about 7 people plus 4 boat crew) ; if you can gather 7 people in a group, you will only pay 500 pesos for the boat + 100 registration fee (for Filipinos, 300 pesos for foreigners) + 300 pesos (snorkeling gear which includes a pair of fins, goggles, and masks; if you already have a mask and snorkel but no fins, you may rent a pair for 150 pesos – good enough for the entire day
8:10 AM - Search for whale sharks; a plus – we saw four dolphins


February 10, 2008
7:00 AM – check out at Amor Farm; board tricycle to Donsol town proper
7:15 AM - ride private vans to Legazpi City (I forgot the exact rates; it’s less than 50 pesos/head); They will be waiting for the van to fill up with passengers so if you’re catching a flight or bus trip, better allot an extra hour for this.
9:15 AM – Legazpi City; from Legazpi City van terminal , walk towards the Airconditioned buses terminal
9:20 AM – found out that we missed the last morning trip to Manila which leaves at 9:00 AM; the next earliest trip back to Manila will be at 4:30 PM.
11:00 AM – Ride a private van to Tabaco City (my friend’s hometown)
11:45 AM – ETA : Tabaco City; lunch in Chowking Tabaco City; Dropped by Jules’ house; From Tabaco City, we rode a jeepney to Tiwi, Albay
1:15 PM – Arrival in Tiwi, Albay, snack time in DJC – Tiwi’s most famous halo-halo restaurant.
5:00 PM – Depart Tabaco City for Manila via Goldline Bus (Fare is at 600 pesos – airconditioned with toilet; two meal stopovers – one in Naga and the other one in Lucena City; two stops for gas)


February 10, 2008
4:30 AM – Arrival in Manila
IDEAL POCKET MONEY FOR THIS TRIP : 6,000 pesos (includes food, accommodation, snacks, some shopping, butanding interaction )


OTHER SOURCES :
http://www.wowbicol.com/whaleshark2.htm
http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Asia/Philippines/Province_of_Sorsogon/Donsol-1400509/Restaurants-Donsol-BR-1.html
http://bicolhomepage.com/contents/july07/villa_luisa_celeste.html


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