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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Philippines Day 16: Legazpi, Cagsawa Ruins, Lignon Hill

We had to wake up very early (again) in the morning in Manila and had booked a shuttle to the domestic airport already the day before at the Microtel Mall of Asia. There was some kind of marathon to be happening in the streets, so they told us to go even earlier. That was a good thing, because at the domestic airport there were long queues for the check-in for our flight to Legazpi City. We were out of luck and managed to choose the queue that did not move forward at all. There was a family at the check-in counter with loads of luggage and after a time we looked at the clock and could not believe, when they hadn´t checked in after 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 50 minutes. This one family actually needed more than one hour to check in, while there was a long line behind them. In the meantime we thought about changing the queue, but frustrated people in front of us gave up before us and changed the queue, so we finally could move forward. What I couldn't understand was why the attendant at the counter couldn't clear that up so soon or at least let the others who have just one piece of luggage or hand carry to check in. It reminded me of another instance when we flew from Puerto Princesa to Busuanga with another airline.


We still made it in time to catch our 7.50 a.m. flight to Legazpi that we booked with Cebu Pacific. Traveling by plane in the Philippines is easy, except for the waiting. There are cheap flights by local airlines Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. When we landed in Legazpi after a short one-hour flight, we already saw the main attraction of the area, the Mayon Volcano which was partly hidden in the clouds.


We had booked four nights in a nearby hotel, the Vista Al Mayon, which is centrally located and relatively low-priced. With a cab we just needed like five minutes from the airport to the hotel and enquired by the friendly cab driver about day trips. He was registered, had a price list for day tours in the area and seemed nice and a reliable driver so we wrote down his number. It was great that we could already check in at the hotel. The room was small but clean with TV and a refrigerator. They have a big pool which would have been a plus factor but unfortunately it was occupied most of the time by groups of children though and is in front of a church center or something. If it's a consolation, you can readily see the view of Mount Mayon.


My friend was a bit shocked when he found out that Legazpi City has a non-smoking policy in public spaces (which means everywhere outside) with high fines and the hotel had no smoking area, so he had to hide behind bushes or anywhere whenever he wanted to smoke. Although I'm a non-smoker, I just find this regulation to be a bit excessive. I badly needed a cold shower since it was so hot that day and it was perhaps the hottest week (39-40°C) we were there. 

After some relaxing we stopped a passing tricycle from the main road in front of the hotel and took it to the nearby Pacific Mall, to get something to eat and do some grocery shopping. Prior to that, I've asked the woman at the counter of our pension how much the local transportation rate is. The tricycle rate should be 8 pesos for the first 4 kilometers. So a tricycle from our place to the city center should not cost more than 60 pesos for the two of us. When we got to the Pacific Mall, I handed out a hundred peso bill and the driver was waiting for me to get out of his tricycle. I generally don't mind paying a bit extra knowing how difficult life could be in my home country, but if people just assume that they could get away with their tricks, I'm surely not amused.


Back in the hotel we asked at the hotel to summon a cab for us to finally start the sightseeing. We settled for 1.500 Pesos (24 Euro) with the cab driver for bringing us to the Cagsawa Ruins just outside of the town and later to the Lignon Hill and then back, which was like a half day tour. The Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga are what´s left of the most violent eruption of the Mount Mayon yet, which took place in 1814.


From the Cagsawa Ruins we continued to Ligñon Hill. We walked up and were rewarded with amazing sights of the Mount Mayon. On top there are restaurants, even a zip line and to my friends delight a smoking area. We rewarded ourselves with a freshly opened coconut. We also met a nice group of Filipino teachers from Lipa and chatted a bit.


It was already soon getting dark (at around 6 p.m.), so we went to the Legazpi Boulevard for some night-shots of the Mount Mayon Volcano.


After that we headed back to the shopping mall for dinner.


The Mount Mayon so far is the most spectacular volcano we've seen and were really happy to finally be there. We were actually close to being there already three years ago, when a typhoon in Legazpi forced us to skip our plans in the last minute. But this time we were there outside the typhoon season that lasts roughly from June to November. You can actually also hike and climb at the Mount Mayon, but we didn´t want to, after last year there were fatalities after a minor eruption, that can happen anytime. 

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