"You won't know that because you are foreigners"

Trip Start Feb 10, 2013
1
7
72
Trip End Sep 18, 2013


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Flag of Philippines  , Luzon,
Saturday, March 2, 2013

"You will get to the bus depot and the man will say Tagaytay, Tagaytay! He will say it twice but you won't know that because you are foreigners!"

The words of a very helpful (if not slightly unwittingly racist) taxi rank organiser at Manila airport.....we had decided to add a brief stop heading out of the wonderful Palawan and on to the area of Mindoro. A nice easy plane ride from Puerto Princesa to Manila and the plan was to get a public bus down to a town called Tagaytay south of Manila. The reason being the beautiful Lake Taal. So upon arrival at Manila airport (after an irritating situation where my rucksack had broken, thank god for cable ties I had stowed away!) we tried to find a taxi to get us to the bus depot in Manila to take us onwards and we met a very friendly guy who was organising taxis out of the airport and after several minutes chatting away he uttered those wonderful words scripted above that will probably stay in my mind for a long time and has caused us much amusement since!

Needless to say, I call it a bus depot...imagine a very busy dual carriageway in the centre of a massively overcrowded and polluted city with maybe 20-30 jeepneys (to be explained later) and a handful of coaches stopped at the side of the road...chaos..however we remembered our bit of advice given to us by Mr taxi man and listened for the call: "Tagaytay, tagaytay!". It was like a bell ringing out for us! Hopped on to find acaoch that seated maybe 50 people with around 70 people on it....fun times! This was our first taste of public buses in the Philippines although once out of Manila the crowded bus thinned and we were able to spread out a bit more. Still not quite fitting in transport built for Pilipinos but oh well.

After a few hours we were at our destination. Tagaytay. The town itself sits on a large ridge which overlooks the colossal Lake Taal. The lake was formed by a huge eruption of the volcano which flooded its crater and sealed it off from the sea. In the centre there is the tip of the volcano rising out to form the aptly named Volcano Island. This is the one and only reason to visit this are and Bankgas and trips to the island run daily, one of which we jumped on to the following day and headed out over the lake to Volcano Island.

So a quick hop over the lake to the island where we were greeted by several Philippinos and sat down at a table to chat to the manager who offered us two horses to ride up the volcano. Initially quite an expensive offer was made, however only having a small amount of cash on us we politely declined saying we would walk..."how much do you have?" I told him (obviously minus a few bob!) and he said that he'd accept that, no problem...at half the original offer! There is a difference between prices here for certain things, one is Philippino price for locals, and the other is American price for foreigners and they are quite open about it...think we got the Philippino price on this one :-) We mounted our steeds (well...tired looking donkeys really) and with our guides began the treck up to the larger crater of the two. It was immense to see the two guides, both women one in her 50s and my guide at least 60+, march up the mountain with us whilst we were taking it easy in the blistering heat and sun. They do this maybe three times a day, an hours hike up a dusty mountain trail and back down! Very impressive. Speaking of the dust it was a weekend so because of it's close proximity to Manila, Tagaytay is a popular destination for Manilans wanting to get away for the weekend which made it very busy...and very dusty...lucky we weren't walking!!!!

However, despite feeling a little guilty for both horse and guide we reached the top and boy was it worth it. The crater held a lake inside it of stunning beauty and the view from the top across the lake in 360degree panorama was simply breathtaking, seeing Tagaytay sitting on the ridge on one side, the other, smaller crater on the island on another and the rest of the lake with surrounding land...we were standing on the summit of an active volcano more than 500,000 years old that towered out of it's own giant crater lake. Breathtaking! Even more amazing was some Philippinos were offering you golf clubs with which to hit golf balls into the craters lake below...very bizarre but quite funny! The ride down was a little chaffing but no problem although I think we offended a local when he had printed a tourist photo of us and we had to decline as we literally had no cash on us!

Back across the lake to the town and we walked back to our accomodation along the ridge, managing to catch some incredible photo opportunities along the way and walking past the fruit stalls lining the road selling all sorts of crazy fruit but mostly juicy pineapples....which got our appetites flowing! We decided to head into Tagaytay town which is very developed with fast food joints such as Jollie Bee and noodle shops etc none of which served any real vegetarian food apart from french fries! It's a little hectic. Oh well, there must be some place we can get Lucy some pasta or lettuce or something along those lines....within 30 seconds we had found a turkish owned kebab shop and tucked into humous, pitta bread and kebabs! Who'd have thought it....love kebabs. One more night and then on to Puerta Galera so a nice early evening walk back to the hotel gave us a very interesting sight of the pollution over Manila. We were maybe 50km away and because we were slightly higher in altitude we could see the glowing smog on the horizan sat like a nighttime blanket over Manila, quite a sight after the outstanding natural beauty of Lake Taal. Well, sleep, then tomorrow we have to figure out how the hell to get to Puerta Galera, someone will help I'm sure :-)

Until next time,

Paalan
Da Perkins
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