Away for the Weekend: Legazpi City (Albay) and Misibis Bay (Cagraray Island)

I have always been intrigued by Bicolandia; her fertile volcanic soil, rich heritage and uniquely fiery cuisine. Bicolandia is a dream destination for any savvy traveler or newbie explorer. You will never run out of places to see, activities to do or food to try.

Fortunately, we were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to explore Legazpi City and Misibis Bay. This trip allowed us to be both sides of Bicol — its rich past and progressive present. Of course, one must pay tribute to the Daragang Magayon, the breathtakingly beautiful Mayon Volcano, Bicolandia’s iconic landmark.

We arrived early at Legazpi Airport. Once outside, we were greeted by a multitude of barkers who will offer taxi, van and tricycle services.We spoke to a van owner who was willing to take us around the most popular destinations in the city for P2,500. Not bad, considering that it will be a whole day trip.

6d87b-dscn6717Upon arrival at Legazpi Airport. Beautiful Mayon at the background.

Before proceeding, we left our bags at Balay dela Rama, a well-known bed and breakfast in the city where we were initially checked in. Yes, “initially” because we transferred to another inn. More about that here.

DSCN6726Balay de la Rama Bed and Breakfast

After depositing our bags, we asked the receptionist for a recommendation on where best to eat. She gamely suggested Biggs Diner which is located just at the city center and accessible via tricycle.

We got two trikes and, in less than 30 minutes, we were at Biggs Diner. Now, this restaurant is one fine gem. You will immediately fall in love with its retro look, the typical image of an American diner you see in movies. The walls are embellished with classic movie posters and antique items. Even the seats look classic!

I got myself rice, bacon and eggs, and strong coffee, of course. My wife got rice, sausage and eggs. We were famished so we ordered an extra bowl of goto. This goto deserves an honorable mention. It had slivers of ox tripe and it smelled of fragrant ginger. Most special about is was the generous chicharon toppings. Truly warming and filling!

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Breakfast at the popular Bigg’s Diner.

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One of the antique pieces adorning the wall

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DSCN6758The retro diner vibe is alive!

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Old typewriter

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Breakfast

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Goto topped with chicharon

After our hearty breakfast, our driver, who arrived a few minutes before we finished our meal, suggested that we go see Daraga Church first. Daraga Church is also known as Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church and Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church.

This centuries-old church is perched atop a hill, so to get there, one must climb a tall flight of stairs. This baroque church is stunning! From the church square, one will get a good vista of Mayon as well as the vast landscape surrounding the volcano.

558a2-dscn6767Daraga Church at the background

Of course, no trip to Legazpi is complete without a trip to another Bicolandia landmark — Cagsawa Ruins. This is the remnants of an old church which was buried during Mayon’s strongest eruption during the 18th century.

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At Cagsawa Ruins

Our succeeding destinations in our itinerary were Ligñon Hill Nature Park, which provided another vantage point of Mayon and then to Vera Falls. There was really nothing extraordinary to see here.

DSCN6841From Ligñon Hill

DSCN6852At Vera Falls

We also visited San Juan Bautista Church in Tabaco City which is another must-see religious structure in Legazpi. Of course, there’s no better way to experience the culture of the region than to have a taste of authentic Bicolano delicacies such as Laing, Bicol Express, Tilmok (steamed crab meat with coconut milk), Pinangat (meat with shredded taro leaves and chillies, wrapped in a taro leaf and steamed in coconut milk) and Kinunot na Pagi (sting ray meat cooked in coconut milk). The flavors of which are much deeper, bolder, richer and spicier.

DSCN6909My plate of Bicolandia’s iconic dishes

While in the city center, try the halo halo at DJC restaurant. This halo halo, brimming with delicious ingredients and topped with cheese will surely satisfy your taste buds.

DSCN6922DJC halo-halo

Our last stop for the day was Embarcadero de Legazpi, the city’s famous waterfront development. It’s basically just a department store with an activity center built beside the Legazpi City Harbor. Nothing much to see here, just shops and restaurants.

0c4ad-dscn6916Embarcadero de Legazpi

We returned to Balay dela Rama to check in but, due to an unfortunate turn of events, we had to cancel our booking and transfer to Neuhaus Inn. But, as mentioned earlier, more about that in a separate review. The owner of Balay dela Rama was gracious enough to drive us to Neuhaus Inn. The next day, we woke up excited for our next destination. Why not, were able to book an overnight stay at the luxurious Misibis Bay courtesy of a Deal Grocer promo. To get to Cagraray Island where Misibis Bay is located, we arranged for a pick up service. An hour before our indicated time of departure for Misibis, our mini bus arrived at Neuman Haus. Inside the bus, bottled water, a jar of choco chip cookies and an Evian spray was waiting for us. The more or less one hour ride to Misibis Bay was all worth it when arrived the resort. It was lovely! We were greeted by resort staff dancing to an Ibalon song. Check in was also a breeze.

DSCN6935DSCN6928DSCN6925DSCN6949DSCN6947The resort was truly a luxurious island playground that will surely relax and recharge you. We immediately deposited our bags in our rooms and changed to our swimming gear to try the pools. Everything inside the resort looked lovely! Truly a place for complete relaxation and fun. One cannot get enough of this place. Explore the place well because there to maximize usage of their free amenities like the gym, karaoke room, and gaming room, to name a few.

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Comfortable queen-sized bed. The native bag is free

DSCN6975DSCN6980Crab Tree toiletries

I would like to write more about the activities that can be availed of in Misibis Bay but that warrants a separate post as this article is getting quite lengthy already. I will also discuss our dining experience in Spice Market in that article. Already, I am listing other great destinations to visit in Bicol. Sorsogon or Camarines Sur perhaps? Wherever it is, one really cannot get enough of Bicolandia.

bcbc8-dscn7071One of our dream destinations – Misibis Bay

3a3f5-dscn7033Serene

Tips:

1. There are vans for rent in Legazpi City which can take you around the famous tourist spots in the city.

2. While in Legazpi City, complete your experience by dining in at Bigg’s Diner and trying the famous halo-halo of DJC. You may also want to try the Sili (Chilli) Ice Cream which, however, we did not get to do.

3. There are year-round Misibis Bay promos at Dealgrocer. You can still enjoy frolicking in this luxurious playground even while on a budget. 4. Bread at Spice Market Restaurant in Misibis Bay is free.

5. If you are on an even tighter budget, you may want to bring food with you in Misibis Bay.

FOOD: Premium Buffet at NIU by Vikings

Prepare to be greeted by the opulence and premiumness of this place the moment you set foot inside. It’s like a five-star hotel restaurant with well-chosen pieces of decors, posh vases, rich leather couches, comfortable sofas, and wooden chairs and tables. The interiors are illuminated by exquisite lights that are neither too bright nor too soft.

I began my culinary journey that evening with slices of rib eye steak smothered with truffle gravy, slices of fresh salmon, cheesy baked oysters, herbed steamed mussels, chunks of lechon and juicy shrimps. I consider the rib eye steak and baked oysters as the star. I like how the rib eye was perfectly cooked and tender. It was salty, which I liked, but the flavor was further enhanced by the gravy. The baked oysters, meanwhile, was well-cooked but still juicy.

20141114_195959Rib eye steak with gravy and lechon chunks

20141114_204953Slivers of fresh salmon sashimi, mussels and baked oysters

20141114_204946My second plate with another helping of rib eye steak, grilled shrimps and mussels

We also tried lobster in miso soup. It’s also very nice with its light soup that cleansed and balanced the palate. Big crabs are also available which are best steamed and topped with toasted garlic. The claws are winners — filled with juicy and tasty meat. Open the shell, and feel your cholesterol level go up just by looking at the rich crab fat.

20141114_205622Lobster soup

20141114_204936Steamed crab

20141114_205012_3Happy eating!

I saved some space in my tummy for dessert. I only had two in mind, ice cream and leche flan. I got pistaschio and cappucinno ice cream flavors and I never regretted it a bit. Superb! Next, I headed to the halo-halo bar where I took chunks of leche flan swimming in caramel sauce. It was also perfect — with its firm texture and rich milky-egg taste. It was heaven in each spoonful.

Drinks were also free flowing, whether it’s wine, beer or juices. I tried several juices and iced tea from the bar.

Because it’s premium, price is also high. It was around P1,500++ per head. Service is also very fast and efficient.

FOOD: My Singapore Food Street

This is another restaurant that holds a special place in my memory because this is the first restaurant where we had dinner a day after I proposed to my then fiancée. It was a random choice because we wanted to try something different. Thus, when we saw My Singapore Food Street, we did not have second thoughts. I did not know how Singaporean cuisine should taste like so I could not comment on how authentic the food was. In fact, I still don’t know up to now. So this review will revolve only on how the food tasted

The place is a little crowded that night. Upon entering, you would immediately be greeted by the open kitchen where they prepare the orders. The wooden chairs and tables looked comfortable but we got a seat in one of the sofas. We looked at the menu and there were a lot of interesting Malay-sounding cuisine. We placed our orders for Croquettes, Nasi Goreng Meal, Black Pepper Beef and Prawn Mee Noodles.

c8bddef80e164ad636b388d12f643118_1411883939_200_thumbOur orders

3674131f519fc555185a43b5b49d354d_1411884654_200_thumbNasi Goreng meal

The Croquettes were good appetizers, the texture was ice with the crisp shell and warm soft mashed potatoes inside. However, it tasted ordinary. It was calling for more spices, seasonings and spinach leaves. Don’t eat too much of this as you’d be already too full to eat your meals.

9dff6173d4d747a03605ecd397218ad6_1411884213_200_thumbCroquettes

The Nasi Goreng Meal had a lot potential had there been more balance in taste. The rice tasted a little bit too salty, like there was too much soy sauce in it. Alas, the taste of the other ingredients failed to stand out. The Pork Satay, meanwhile, was under-seasoned but it would have tasted better with peanut sauce. The Black Pepper Beef was very tasty but, again, it did not offer anything new. It was a familiar taste that can be had anytime at the cafeteria.

b79f5f44908033dbfb4183578a535829_1411885159_200_thumbBlack Pepper Beef

The Prawn Mee Noodles was amazing with a strong shrimp flavor, similar to the taste of many shrimp heads that are slowly-boiled for a long time. The noodles are thick, firm and likewise tasty.

91ce96a33329f7d2298b52d859fd4d20_1411883716_200_thumbPrawn Mee Noodles

65aaa08618072cb1f659c2ee59eab130_1411885701_200_thumbIt was still a good experience, definitely satisfied my curiosity for Singaporean cooking. It’s also very affordable at around P500 for two people.