Travel In 2011
A new year’s about to start so I’m plotting Q1 trips. First stop will be Bangkok in late January. I’ve never been to Thailand, but Christy has. I’ll probably sign up for a cooking class. She’ll probably learn Thai massage or something!
February is Taiwan month with our friend Nona, who will be our trusty interpreter. I’ve heard from other friends that a trip there could be miserable without someone to help you communicate with the generally non-English speaking locals.
But before the flight to Taipei, we’ll be spending a couple of days in Panaad, Bacolod City to watch the Azkals (Philippine National Football Team) play Mongolia in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.
As for March? We’re thinking of Donsol. I got to swim with the whalesharks last February with my friend Michelle, and I think it’s something everyone should experience. It’s one of the best ocean adventures anyone could have. And you don’t need to be a great swimmer. (If I could do it, anyone can!) This time, I’m going with a waterproof camera. In the meantime, here are some of the above-ground shots from my last trip…
Mayon volcano greets you when you arrive in Legazpi. From the airport, you can rent a van for the 1.5 hour drive to Donsol.
We stayed in Elysia, a resort that had just opened at the time. Nice place.
With a decent view of the sunset, too.
Five guests can fit in a boat. When you register at the Visitor’s Center, you’ll be required to watch a video about the whalesharks. You’ll be accompanied by a guide on the boat, who will tell you when to jump in and which direction to swim. Best to bring your own snorkeling gear for the sake of hygiene, but you can rent them too. Life vests are available on the boat. For the first couple of jumps, I hung onto the guide and got to swim alongside a 14-meter shark. Wish I had a photo from that moment!
Important! Do not touch the whalesharks. The guides get really upset when tourists violate the rules. They might cut your trip short. And they will likely report anyone to the office afterwards.
Best attire? Board shorts and a rash guard. Load up on sunscreen, too.
For meals, try BARacuda. Anyone can point you in the right direction. It gets packed, so try to make reservations in advance. You can drop by early in the day or a day before to do so. Just be very careful about what you order because their prices aren’t listed. Ask how much anything is before you order it. And if you’re offered more food, don’t think of it as their way of being incredibly generous: you will be charged for everything. But the grilled prawns are to die for, so even those that were cheated in the past return to BARacuda for a good meal. And you definitely won’t be cheated of any alcohol in their cocktails.
We also went to Amor for a meal. Takes a while but people swear by the local delicacy, kinunot, which is stingray cooked in malunggay leaves, chili, and coconut milk. It was all right.
Elysia has some decent food too. We tried their prawns and pasta there as well. Not as good, but good enough.
We skipped out on the firefly tour, which I might check out next trip. (You can sign up for that when you register for the whaleshark tour.)
Before flying back to Manila, we also dropped by the Cagsawa Ruins for another view of Mayon. Kids might hound you so you can get them to tour you around. Or to buy postcards. Kind of a hassle if you just want some quiet time to take pictures, but the knowledge the kids have of the place is kind of awe-inspiring.
You can also do a bit of souvenir-shopping here. Try the pili nut sweets.
Budget for the trip: Under Php10,000 for three days and two nights.
Managed to grab some shots from our boatmates, the Gaskins’ video. This was from our first whaleshark encounter: