The Oriental Hotel in Legazpi offers one of the best views of Mayon Volcano, the cityscape and the waters of Albay Gulf. This elegant and modern hotel located at the top of Taysan Hill, Sto. Niño, is not a place I would normally get to stay in if I was on my own for a budget backpacking trip. It’s the finest hotel in the Bicol region and the first all-season resort for leisure and business travelers, so I was very grateful for our luxurious two nights here for our Bicol tour. I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up to this kind of view?
The hotel has its own dining area called Jasmine located at the ground floor lobby, which serves Bicol Cuisine with an Oriental twist, which I got a chance to try the during coverage of the Magayon Festival last year. We got our specially prepared Bigg’s breakfast of hashbrowns, bacon, juicy franks and eggs served in one of the private dining areas.
After the filling breakfast, we headed to Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave in Camalig, Albay. The multi-level cavern gets its name from the Bikolano term Hoyop, which means “blowing air” reflecting the cave’s natural ventilation. Various structures have been built inside the cave “for the safety of tourists”, including stairways, walkways and a concrete rounded platform that locals used both as a disco dance floor and as an evacuation center. Though the cave looks really ravaged, it remains historically significant since it has stood witness to different events in Bicol from the Spanish times to recent history.
Then, it was off to a hearty lunch at Bigg’s Pacific Mall. While I find all of Bigg’s dishes delicious, I have to say the best meals for me were those with a distinct Bicolano touch. The laing-stuffed chicken cordon bleu managed to combine my all-time favorite cordon bleu from Bigg’s with laing, a Bicolano vegetable dish of taro leaves cooked in coconut milk. The dish, one of Bigg’s signature hometown meals, was developed for Bigg’s by Louise Mabulo of Junior Master Chef fame. I also liked the Pili Pie topped with strawberry ice cream.
After lunch, we were finally given the afternoon free to do souvenir shopping or sightseeing around Legazpi on our own. By this point, we felt we really needed to burn all those calories from the non-stop eating. Thankfully, we were able to get in touch with Motoragon, a bike shop on Rizal Street that runs Mayon Expedition and Bike Tours, to rent three bikes for me, Art of Outside Slacker and Anton of Our Awesome Planet, who joined us for his first trail biking experience.
We ended up biking all the way from the cycle center near our hotel to the Lava Wall at the foot of Mayon Volcano, which passes through the same route as the Mayon ATV tour that I got to try out last year. Having driven through the route by ATV, I thought I could manage to bike it, but boy, did I underestimate the terrain.
Biking over volcanic sand, rocks and dirt trails through dry riverbeds and forest trails proved to be pretty challenging. There were long stretches of the route where it seemed that the only option was to dismount and just push the bikes uphill. The bike tires kept slipping on the sand and I kept losing momentum trying to pedal up. During the ride, the weather also changed from scorching afternoon heat to overcast grey clouds to pouring rain in just minutes. Thankfully, after the last push through a singletrack trail amid coconut trees, I saw the familiar flags and the welcome hut that signaled we had reached the lava wall.
All the efforts paid off when we finally clambered up the jagged volcanic rocks piled up five stories high. For a few brief moments, Mayon gave us a glimpse of her beauty before shying away behind a thick veil of clouds and rain. The rain actually helped make the trail easier to navigate since the soil was more solid and easier to ride on. I had a blast going downhill. It was all worth it!
For a better account of biking in Mayon, check out this article by Outside Slacker.
We hiked back to the hotel in high spirits barely in time to head out for dinner with the rest of the group. We celebrated the great ride and tour with a very filling dinner of Cookies and Cream Shake, Korean Spare Ribs with Kimchi, Oriental Salad and a mug of draft beer while being serenaded with live music in Bigg’s Daraga branch. I finally felt like I earned my dinner!
Even though I’ve already been to most of the places around Bicol that we visited, it was a great way to reconnect with my roots. In between all those 30 plates, I got to revisit familiar sights, try out new adventures, and appreciate my home province of Bicol much better. Thanks to Bigg’s for organizing this tour and congratulations on your 30 years!
MORE PHOTOS HERE: TRIP HIGHLIGHTS: Around Bicol in 30 Plates
*Additional photos by OutsideSlacker.
Sidequest: Show Me the Money. 3 of 6. 100 peso bill with Mayon Volcano.