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Taking Tagaytay and Mt. Taal in less than 48 Hours

After months of no travel and in a sudden desperate need of being somewhere but in between work and school, when my sister mentioned that she and her friends were planning to go to Tagaytay, I immediately wanted to tag along. Petty, huh? Little sister having to tag along with her elder sister. Kahiya! :)

However, my parents aren’t that open to my traveling yet. In fact, the first words that come out of my father’s mouth whenever I mention a place – any place is: NPA. Shhh! Our secret. I understand, I do, how worried they are especially since they’re OFWs working in a different country and they don’t get to spend a lot of time with us.

So, when I told my sister I wanted to go, she told me to tell my mother. And I opted to tell my mother just before we leave (so she won’t have any choice and she won’t have any chance to say anything that may ruin the weekend for me). Bad choice. Well, then, any choice would’ve been bad except if I decided not to go, and at that moment, I really, really wanted/needed to go. So I did despite my parents already showing angry signs over text. (Tigas ulo! – I’m a hard headed person).

My sister likes to plan. She plans trips before they go and even if I’m the one studying tourism, she’s more into planning than I am. When I decided I really would go (just the night before), she had already made plans and booked hotels for us. All I needed was money to tag along. That was no problem. I just got my money from Odesk that day.

At 5am, we met up with Leslie and Princess (my sister’s friends) at Starmall’s waiting area for the Batangas headed air conditioned van. If I remember correctly, to Tagaytay cost P175.

The ride felt pretty long and I hadn’t slept much the night before. I spent the 2-3 hour drive (and 30 minutes wait for passengers) pretty much asleep.

I woke up and we were along the hill up to Tagaytay. I’ve been to Tagaytay twice before (only through during retreats) so I thought I recognized some places. We had gone through Olivarez already and was now driving along the road straight to Batangas before we were able to stop the van. We got down in front of Mushroom Burger which was in my sister’s itinerary. Did I mention I don’t like mushroom? Well, I don’t. However, since I didn’t have that much choice and there didn’t seem to be any other restaurants just down the road, I had to eat along with my sister and her friends.

I don’t remember what I ordered anymore, but I do remember that I actually liked it. Remind me not to judge a restaurant by its name! I do remember finishing my sister’s mushroom burger too (and I hate mushrooms!)

After we had our breakfast, we waited for a jeep to take us back to the center of Tagaytay.

Mind you, if you’re commuting Tagaytay, it’s a little hard to get around because jeeps are rare in some places and tricycle drivers are really hard to deal with even if you’re a good negotiator. We rode a jeep to Olivarez and another one to 5R Rooms – which is a highly recommended hotel/motel/apartelle in Tagaytay.

5R Rooms is located at Brgy. Sungay West, directly in front of the road going to Picnic Grove and Palace in the Sky as well as the shortcut to Talisay, Batangas (to Taal Volcano).

 

 

We were booked in a standard room costing P2000 per night. It had a double bed and a mattress on the floor that was large enough to fit two people. The room was air-conditioned with a television and it had a nice bathroom. It was either this or another room with less space.

 

Jeep rates range from P8 – P10 depending on how far you’ve come from. From the rate we were going today, I could tell we weren’t really going to budget much especially without our own car. That was one of our biggest mistakes. It’s really hard to get a ride from Tagaytay to Taal Volcano (so okay, we weren’t prepared enough) and we had to hire a van from our hotel to the jump off to Taal.

We agreed to a whopping P1500 for a van to Talisay inclusive of the boat, entrance to the resort – and that’s it. At first thought, P1500 is too high and being unprepared and all, we didn’t know how much it should’ve cost. There are packages from Manila that only cost P1200, so P1500 from Tagaytay is already too much. Damn 5R and their package rate although I have nothing against their hotel because the room was really nice. P1500 didn’t even include lunch, mind you, so we kind of starved after.

***UPDATE: P1500 is an okay amount, because I forgot it included the boat (supposedly for 6 people). Boats cost P1500+ It was just expensive for us because there was only 4 of us. ***

We left 5R for Taal at around 9am; I think and reached the jump off at 9.45am. We took some pictures and made a mistake of not buying water beforehand.

 

I seriously didn’t know what Taal volcano was going to bring. I didn’t realize what kind of hike it was going to be and how exhausting the climb would end up. So we took some pictures and got into the boat across the Taal Lake. Unlike what others said with Taal Lake being smelly, that morning, it didn’t seem to be the case. In fact, I enjoyed the ride, it was beautiful and the air seemed fresh. Our boatman was nice; he told us some stories about the lake, that there was a legend about some snake or something which immediately got me scared (I hate snakes!).

None of us were dressed for hiking.

Anyway, we reached Taal and we didn’t expect that we were going to have to hire a guide to go up. How sad was us spending P1500 for no guide? Anyway, we decided not to hire a guide because there were a lot of tracks along the way from the horses. We trudged along up, me just wearing shorts and step-ins. Along the really dirty path, filled with horse manure and mud, we began our trek.

 

Before this day, I’ve only really climbed Makiling which was really not much of a climb because we only got halfway and only until the hot springs. I was wearing doll shoes then. Did I also mention I have really bad asthma?

We climbed the really rough road up. The road really wasn’t friendly, it was steep, rocky and smelly. We opted to go up, still. We all weren’t girly girls so the challenge was great.

 

 

The trek going up Mt. Taal can be divided into three. The first part was the really rough road consisting of steep slopes, rough rocks, smelly ground and muddy surfaces. It’s hot at this area and really secluded because there wasn’t enough space for both horses that come along and the people that hike. This part lasts for about 20 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on how fast you hike.

Then, when you’ve reached a certain height, the area will be greener and more trees and you can see the lake from here. The scenery is beautiful, the air is fresh and really cool, especially after such a tiring hike up. This hike is short because soon you’ll see your way up to the summit which is the third part of the hike.

The next part is the really steep hike. Before you get there, you’ll reach a grassy field with its track blanked out by the horse shoes and it’s now a little dusty. It’s really hot in this area and it’s not just because of the fact that there are no trees anymore but because you’re nearing the summit. You’ll also see steam coming off some rocks. Then, the really steep climb comes up. Really, if you’re experienced in hiking and climbing, this part should be the only hard part. It’s seriously steep and slippery and you’ll practically have nothing to hang onto except each other and the tiny rocks that will hold your balance.

As we went along up, after resting in the fields, we watched the horses go up, with foreign tourists. Good for them, they had no problem going up. It costs about P500 per horse and around the same for a guide up. We met some climbers along the way, foreigners who are really fast hikers. We stopped for a bit of rest and drank our slightly thinning bottle of water.

When we were all ready to go up the summit, we headed along, I went first. My sister kept asking me if I was okay because I’m asthmatic and she was worried aside from the hike but from the sulfur that can be slightly smelled from our area then. I had never felt better. I was on a new adventure and I was loving it. I lead the way up and only stopped to check them out before reaching the steep road up.

After a bit of a fight with the road, balancing, the rocks, my weight and the sun, we had reached the summit of Mt. Taal – okay, so it was just where everyone looks down at the pool below. Still.

We didn’t really have plans to go down to the pool, although we could and my sister’s friends weren’t feeling the hike anymore. We loved the place though. Aside from the new adventure, it was beautiful from above. The pool-like sulfuric lake below was colored green. It looked a bit dirty with mud along the sides but a local explained it was from the recent volcanic actions Taal had been showing.

We wanted to buy water but the price was almost 500% of the price in the city (P50 for a small bottle). So instead, to pretend we weren’t thirsty and all, we took pictures and enjoyed the scenery. It doesn’t smell sulfuric much at the summit, although, if you’ve lived in an area of volcanoes when you’re young, you’d probably recognize the slight stint of it.

There was a nice wind at the top and we enjoyed the wind and the view of the Taal Lake.

We didn’t stay at the peak for very long, just about 30 minutes or so before we went down. I was nervous going down of slipping but the steep road was over before we knew it. The road down was a little longer than the road going up for me (I don’t know why), I was faster than my sister and her friends and my sister was still enjoying the road down, talking with her friend (they were under an umbrella), I, however, was melting under the sun.

We had gone back to the jump off by 12.30pm and we had reached the end of our Taal adventure. I could already feel the heat of sore muscles on my thighs and legs. We went back to the hotel, took a bath, changed and had lunch before we left for Picnic Grove and Palace in the Sky in the afternoon.

Picnic Grove was only a P8 jeep ride from 5R so it was very convenient. We only took some pictures and decided to leave the zipline for the next day (there were too many people lined) and went on to Palace in the Sky which is just another jeep ride up another steeper road. It was already around 4pm so our visit was going to be short unless we wanted to walk around in the dark (no thank you, ghost much?).

Palace in the Sky is a beautiful tourist spot on top of a mountain in Tagaytay. Also called People’s Park in the Sky, it overlooks Tagaytay, Batangas and the Taal Lake. The unfinished mansion of former President Ferdinand Marcos had been made for the visit of former US President Reagan and his wife. The visit didn’t push through, however, because of the problems the Marcos’ were having. This mansion, built to be magnificent, is now unfortunately an unfurnished building with an amazing view of the sunset. The lower part of the building is also filled with souvenir vendors so you can also scout there for things to bring home. The building may not be as magnificent as it was meant to be, but a visit to the Palace in the Sky can never hurt. Besides the history of the place, the beautiful scenery and the fresh wind is refreshing.

We ended our tour at around 5.30pm. It was already getting darker and even if it wasn’t a very sunny day at all, the sun came out for its traditional beautiful sunset. Unfortunately, my camera had already died. Too bad.

It’s a little harder to get a jeep to ride back to Olivarez so you’ll have to walk – sometimes all the way down to the terminal, which is quite far. Lucky you if there is a tricycle passing by willing to take you on – and if there is one, a tricycle with a good price. We walked all the way to the terminal and got on a jeep to Olivarez.

We planned to have dinner at Leslie’s, a nice, overlooking restaurant with good food and music just along Aguinaldo Highway Crossing where all of the nice restaurants are located (for a good Taal view). Leslie’s is located along the major road (a few blocks from Dencio’s) and just across the bar we were supposed to try out that night (forgot the name). It was already dark, so we couldn’t really see the volcano nor anything else outside. We were seated away from the windows so I didn’t really get to appreciate the scenery much.

Leslie’s is famous for their Bulalo. They’ve got really good reviews online and my sister was excited about trying out their food. From the outside, the place didn’t really look like much. Inside, the ambience was really nice and cozy. There was a lot of people that night and it took us awhile to get a seat, but it was okay. The tables are made of Narra wood, I think, they were big and heavy, but it went along well with the light yellowish lights. They took our orders and we literally ordered a lot. I mean, a lot. This is my fault for not blogging sooner. I don’t remember again what I ordered, but I did enjoy our dinner. They had really big steaks, the Bulalo was huge and the servings were to die for. I think I ate for three people that night. Maybe more. But I am naturally matakaw so, I can’t really say. It was probably the hike. Our meal cost around P2000+ that night and there were only 4 of us – all girls! Food trip much?

I really wanted to stay out that night, after all, it was going to be my first night in Tagaytay that I wasn’t in a convent or doing any kind of spiritual seminars. My sister and her friends were tired so they felt like skipping the bar. A little disappointed, I wasn’t as adventurous as I am now than I was at that time, so I went back to the hotel with them for an early night (it was only 10pm, I think). We watched TV and went to sleep.

Although we had an early night, our hike had us up late at 7am the next day. I could already feel my limbs through my skin. Yep, they hurt.

We took a bath and visited the Church just next door before going back to Picnic Grove for our zipline and souvenirs. The Zipline at Picnic Grove is 300 ft above the ground and 250m long. For a one way ride, it costs P200 on a weekday and P300 on weekends. 2 way rides cost P300 weekdays and P400 weekends. These rides come with a free souvenir photo and frame. Since we had already spent a lot the night before we could only afford one ride. I went alone because Princess didn’t want to ride. Even if I was in a dress, I still went on the zipline, lying down. You can experience the zipline two ways, you can lie down, like you’re flying or sitting up. Since I was in a dress, I had to lie down, although I doubted I would like the experience.

The ride was short, but it was so worth it. I thought I was going to spend the whole ride screaming, but instead, I loved it, with the beautiful Taal just below, the Taal Lake and the vast forests under you, the Zipline was a worthy P300 ride. If I do come back to Tagaytay, I wouldn’t mind doing the Zipline again. For a few seconds, it was only you, the wind and the scenery.

The end of the ride wasn’t nice though, there’s a stopper at the end of the cable and since I was a loner on the ride and I’m really thin, I bumped into the stopper so hard, it pushed me a few feet back. Not a good experience.

Leslie, my sister’s friend had to be back by 2pm, so we only had little time. We didn’t even get to visit Bag of Beans. After buying some more souvenirs, (this is where I bought my Agimat, a necklace costing P170 with my birthstone, that I kind of consider lucky) we went back to the hotel, checked out and rode a jeep to Olivarez for lunch.

We ate at Eli’s this time, just near the center, across the midsection, if I remember correctly. They had a small restaurant, with a nice enough view of Taal Lake. We only spent about P200 each on this meal. :)

By the way, this happened on August 14, 2o10.

We caught a bus back to Cubao at the Olivarez square in front of 7/11 and spent less than P120 to Cubao.

Brenna is the sole owner of The Philippine Travelogue, an online journal of her travel adventures and experiences. Brenna is a freelance writer, online marketing and social media specialist and a blogger with a constant itch for adventure and thrill. For inquiries, suggestions and invitations please send a message.

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