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BICOL: Awesome Journey to Bicolandia (Infographic)

Our Awesome Planet in partnership with Caltex presents Awesome Journey to Bicol Infographics:Your Awesome Journey to Bicol
(Download: Awesome Journey to Bicol PDF File for Printing)

Awesome Journey Infographics Series:

BICOL LOVE
written by Anton Diaz for the Awesome Life Planner 2012 

Unique cuisine, fun adventure destinations and the ever-majestic Mayon Volcano await you in Bicol. The best time to go would be during the summer months when you can also travel all the way to Donsol to swim with the whale sharks. To get to Naga or Legazpi City, you can take a 12-hour road trip or a one-hour plane ride from Manila. 

8 Compelling Reasons to Visit Bicol

1. Climb Mayon Volcano!

When we were kids, we often drew volcanoes as perfect triangles with perfect cones. Beholding Mayon Volcano, as it towers over the Bicol region, is like seeing those childhood drawings come to life. You can hike the lava trail or go up to the halfway point of Mayon. The best viewpoints are in Daraga Church and the zipline in Lingon Hill.

2. Swim with Whale Sharks in Donsol! 

Donsol is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the Philippines, thanks to the whale sharks. There are only a few places like it in the world where you can have a face-to-face encounter with these gentle giants locally known as butanding. Plan your trip during the summer months of March to May, when you have a higher chance of seeing them as they swim near the water surface to feed on plankton.

3. Indulge in the BEST Halo Halo in the Philippines! 

For me, DJC Halo Halo has the best halo halo in the country. Besides its signature cheese topping, what makes it memorable is the special ice they use (rumor has it that it is made from coconut juice). Whenever we are in Bicol, we always make sure to set aside time for this halo halo stop.

4. Experience Misibis Bay Resort!

Misibis Bay Resort is a luxurious playground in Cagraray Island in Albay. Here, you’ll enjoy good buffet food, nice relaxing villas with urban amenities, and a variety of exciting water or adventure sports. I personally recommend the Hobie Cat ride, the Eco Park tour with Zipline ride, and the relaxing Sunset Cruise.

5. Go Wakeboarding in CamSur

Bicol is not just for nature lovers, it's for adrenaline junkies, too. The CamSur Watersports Complex, with its internationally recognized Wakeboarding Park, has become a must-visit spot in the region. CamSur is credited for making wakeboarding popular in the country and more accessible to Filipinos.

6. Explore Caramoan! 

Caramoan is an undeveloped paradise made famous by the Survivor reality series in Gota Beach. We love the island-hopping tour of Matukad Island, Lajos Island and Manlawi Sand Bar. The Caramoan experience is not complete without climbing all the way to one of the largest structures of Mama Mary, which overlooks the Caramoan Peninsula.

7. Savor authentic Bicol Cuisine!

The food in Bicol is quite unique because, unlike in other provinces in the country, a lot of gata (coconut milk) and spicy ingredients are used. On your trip, you have to taste the local Laing and Pinangat. Other must-tries are the Kinunot, Kinalas and Toasted Siopao of Naga Garden. Don't leave Bicol without purchasing their Pili Nuts, be it in Pili Bar form or just Salted Pili Nuts from either RPM Pili Nuts or J. Emmanuel Pastries.

8. Discover Calaguas! 

Calaguas is the last frontier in Bicol. The undeveloped beauty of Mahabang Buhangin on the island draws people to its shores. To get there, you sit through a two-hour boat ride from Vinzons Port near Daet on sometimes-rough seas. There’s no resort yet, but this place is popular among backpackers and those seeking their own The Beach experience.

 

Where/What to Eat

Naga City

  1. Kinalas and log-log is a popular, local soup noodle dish available in turo-turos in Naga. Think of it as a combination of Bulalo and Palabok. The noodles are added to a meat broth that's been slow-cooked for hours with skinned pig or cow’s head (hence the term “kinalas” na mukha ng baboy/baka). A special brown sauce, which differs with each kinalasan, is added and finally topped with slices of meat. Best eaten piping hot, it is usually paired with Banana or Kamote Cue. Feel free to add calamansi, roasted garlic, spring onions, patis and/or chili.

    The kinalasan recommendations vary, depending on who you talk to. But we were told that the best ones are Enting's Kinalas (along the main highway), Nonoy’s Kinalas Baka (in a home-based nipa hut), and Kinalas Twin (on Dayandang Street).
  2. Naga Garden, located along Evangelista St. near Plaza Quezon, is a food institution in Naga. Although it has a carinderia/old-restaurant feel, it is known for having the best toasted siopao in town. Laing and other Bicolano specialties can also be ordered here.
  3. Bigg’s Diner is the “Jollibee” of Bicol, serving the best crispy chicken and burgers in a diner-inspired fast food joint. Bigg’s Diner Express in Naga is open 24 hours and the go-to place for take-out food at night. The most popular stopover is the Bigg’s Diner in Pili because of its clean restroom, free Wi-Fi and convenient location along the highway going to Albay.

Camalig, Albay

  1. Let’s Pinangat is said to offer the best Pinangat, a native dish of ground meat or seafood wrapped in whole gabi (taro) leaves that is slow-cooked in gata (coconut milk) and secured lightly with coconut leaves. Some add chili to make it spicy, while others use young coconut to make it really yummy. In Manila, it is popularly known as Laing, which is basically an unwrapped version of Pinangat.

 

Legazpi City, Albay

  1. Small Talk Cafe is the famous home-style cafe where you can eat Bicol's specialties with a twist. It is known for its Bicolana Pizza (Pinangat Pizza) and Bicol Express Pasta. This is not a place for authentic local dishes or getting your dose of spicy food.
  2. Waway Restaurant is a popular cafeteria-inspired resto in Legazpi. Here you can indulge in authentic, home-style Bicolano dishes like the Bicol Express and Pinangat.

  3. 1st Colonial Grill is the best place for dessert. Try their Sili Ice Cream and Tinutong Ice Cream. Beside it you can find Bicol Blends Cafe, which serves a spicy Sili Milk Shake. :)

 

Tiwi, Albay

  1. DJC Halo Halo originated in the remote town of Tiwi in Albay. A lot of people love it because of the balanced taste of the sweet ingredients with the top-secret fine ice and toppings of cheese. :) Since Tiwi is a bit out of the way, the most accessible branch is in Naga City. They also have a branch in Legazpi City already. 

Donsol

  1. Barracuda Bar is the best dining spot in Donsol because of its gourmet, fresh seafood grill experience in a bahay kubo ambiance. Start with a fresh serving of salad, a main dish of grilled seafood that has been prepared minimally in the Mediterranean way, and end with cocktail mixes from Juliet, the bar's dynamic host, cook and owner.
  2. For authentic Bicolano dishes, you can try the Kinunot in Amor Resort, or the home-cooked meal after the Firefly Watching Tour in Donsol River.

 

Caramoan

  • Caramoan Bed and Dine (formerly Kamalig) and Lutong Bahay are the best places to hang out and eat the local cuisine in the small town of Caramoan.

 

Where to Stay

  1. Avenue Hotel (Naga) - This is the best hotel in Naga with its urban amenities like free Wi-Fi, cable TV, a swimming pool and a gym. Here you can also enjoy continental and local food. It is located in Magsaysay Avenue, the center of nightlife in Naga.
  2. Camsur Watersports Complex (Pili) - If you are after a weekend of wakeboarding and water sports activities with the family, CWC has a variety of cabins, villas and accommodations to suit any budget.
  3. Hotel St. Ellis (Legazpi City) - This is the best hotel in Legazpi City in terms of ambiance, friendly staff, cleanliness of the rooms and location of the hotel. 
  4. Vitton Resort (Donsol) - This ever-expanding resort is right beside the Donsol Tourist Center. You can conveniently board the boat directly from the resort for your whale shark watching activities. The food options here have improved, and they also have a swimming pool with a nice view of the sea, where you can hang out after your busy day.
  5. Gota Village Resort (Caramoan) - The production crew of the popular Survivor series stays here during the filming of the show. When there is no filming going on, it is open to the public and makes an ideal jump-off point for exploring the different Caramoan Islands. The other recommended accommodation options in the area are Rex Tourist Inn and La Casa Roa Hostel.
  6. Misibis Bay Resort (Cagraray Island) is a luxury beach resort where you can live it up in a villa (which has free Wi-Fi, a TV and swimming pool), enjoy a mix of eco tourism adventures (i.e. zip line through a lush forest) and water sports activities (i.e. hobie cat sailing and a sunset cruise), and indulge in gourmet international and local food. It is one hour away from Legazpi City by land.


What to Expect (on the Road Trip)

I like going on road trips to see the countryside and discover hidden surprises along the way. There’s a certain feeling of freedom you get when you’re just driving to get to your destinations, not knowing what to expect at each turn. You should consider going on a road trip if you have more than 4 people joining you. 

Legazpi City is 538 kilometers from Manila, while Donsol is 50 kilometers away from Legazpi. My typical fuel consumption with a Honda CRV is 9.3km/L. You can assume you would need two full tanks of gas for your entire road trip to Bicol.

Your cost for the road trip = (<Total KM> / <Fuel KM/liter>) x (cost of gas P/liter)* 

*not considering the maintenance of the car and the “pagod” factor of the driver


From Manila to Bicol

It is recommended that you leave as early as you can for Bicol at around 4 a.m. so that you can drive through the heavy traffic areas of Sto. Tomas in Batangas, Alaminos, San Pablo in Laguna, Candelaria and Sariaya in Quezon without any hassle. The scenery gets interesting once you reach Atimonan, Quezon because of the awesome view of Lamon Bay. You then drive along the coast through the towns of Plaridel, Gumaca and Lopez, Quezon.

I love road trips to the south because of the chance to savor the famous Cocido or Sinigang na Isda of Lita’s in Gumaca, which is about 4-6 hours away from Manila. If you leave Manila at 4 a.m., you will arrive at around 8 a.m. If you leave at 6 a.m., you will arrive in Gumaca at around lunchtime.

Gumaca is usually the recommended food stop before reaching the Bicol area. You should refill your gas in this town (it has all the major gas stations) before continuing on your road trip. The last recommended gas stop is in Calauag, Quezon, which is the town after Lopez.

After Gumaca, you drive all the way to Naga, which is about six hours away via Rolando R. Andaya Highway (popularly known as Quirino Highway). You can stop along the way to buy interesting fruits that are in season, recently harvested and sold beside the road.

 

From Bicol to Manila

Before heading to Manila, you should decide whether you'll drive during the night or spend the night in Naga and leave early in the morning (around 5 a.m.), which is what I would recommend. Make sure that you have a full tank of gas before you leave Naga since the next gasoline stop will already be in Calauag or in the Gumaca area.

As you make your way back to the metro, you're sure to pass by our favorite food stopover on this route, JIJF Lutong Bahay ni Inay. It is one of the best Crispy Pata places in the Philippines. You have a choice between dining at the newer branch in San Antonio Village, Candelaria (which closes early in the afternoon) and the original branch in the town of Candelaria. (Call them for reservations: +63 42 585 7486.)

Then, when you get to Laguna, drop by the original Colette’s main outlet in San Pablo for their delicious Buko Pie. If the season’s right, you might also be able to buy your fill of lanzones and rambutan in the area, too.

As with any road trip, expect both fun adventures and misadventures. You just have to focus on the journey, marvel at the places you're visiting, appreciate the people you're with and cherish the memories you're making. Happy Trip!

Awesome Journey Infographics Series:

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Full Disclosure: The Our Awesome Planet's Awesome Journey Infographic Series is in partnership with Caltex Philippines. We are not connected with the establishment featured in this infographic or any organizations promoting it.

P.S. Feel free to repost this Infographic, just credit the source by linking back to this blog post.

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Hi Anton! Try Shibuya Japanese Burger along Magsaysay Avenue near Landbank Rotonda. We've just recently opened last September 2013 and starting to create a food buzz in the city, and hopefully in social media as well.

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