Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tagaytay - Taal Lake and the Volcano

My aunt is here visiting me in the Philippines. She arrived last Friday and hence had to plan something out for the weekend. I initially had planned a trip to Palawan which is a beautiful beach destination in the south of the Philippines. I however realized that two and a half days would not be enough for the beautiful island and besides the heat would get to us (It's summer already here). Hence, I thought of going to Tagaytay as I'd never been there and it would be a perfect way to take a break from the heat.

We set of by car from Makati. Taking the skyway will get you there quicker especially if it's the weekend. We got there in about two and a half hours and went around looking for hotels to stay in. There are so many hotels in Tagaytay. Most of them are pretty expensive (Starts at around 2000 pesos). The more expensive ones overlook the Taal Lake which is beautiful. But those places are recommended only for couples who want to relax in their rooms. For tourists, you should look around for bargains as the room's only to crash in. We found a place for 2500 pesos. We were so tired that we just took it. And then I realized the next day that we could have bargained and got the same room for less. 

Anyhow, we went to sleep early as we wanted to wake up quickly in the morning to go see the volcano crater. We woke up early and left to see the volcano. One needs to take a boat to get to the volcano. I would advise that you don't pay for the boat in the hotel as they would ask you for a minimum of 2500 pesos and that is too much. The hotel guy makes a cut from that. So go straight to the ferry point or to the tourist office. There would be a number of boatmen there. You would most probably be let of at their mercy to negotiate a good price. If you are lucky, you should be able to get a boat for 1500 pesos. The boat ride is about 45 minutes and you get to the Taal volcano.

Now the ride to the top of the volcano has to be done on a horse since it's pretty steep and there aren't any proper roads. Now, all of the horses and their owners have their own little mafia running here and hence you would have to get it from a single counter. They will try to charge you around 800 pesos per horse along with a guide. If you say, you don't want a guide, they will say that govt. rules state that you have to take a guide! But if you try bargaining, you should be able to get a deal at about 500 pesos per horse with guide. The ride up is pretty steep and knowing a bit about handling a horse will help a lot in getting up the hill. The ride up should take about 20 minutes on the horse. I did see a few people walk up but I would advise you agains't doing that as the terrain ain't too easy and the route can get very dusty in the heat. I bought a huge sun hat to keep the sun away.

Once we were up, the local vendors come running to ask us to buy our guides (Who mostly come running up along with our horse and us) a soft drink for around 50 pesos. Smart move, coz being human, we generally say yes. And the guide gets a cut out of that too. 

We then climb a few stairs to look at the beautiful crater which has water collected in it. It looked like a lake. We were surprised and worried when we saw that the water was hot since there was steam towards many areas of the crater! So, it was still active. We had some tender coconut water there and took a small walk around that area and took some pictures of the crater. 

We set back down on our horses. The journey down can be even more tricky since the horses tend to move faster. And there could be times when you feel the horse is going to slip. But there's nothing to worry if you hold on tight I guess!

We set back the same way - Took the boat back and then got into our car and went back to the hotel. Once we were at the hotel, we started looking at our Lonely Planet and also spoke to the driver to see what else we could do in Tagaytay and realized there was nothing else to do other than visit nurseries and a zoo! We really weren't interested in that and so in an instant we started evaluating where else we could go. 

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