Taal Volcano, Manila

While we were on the way to Kota Kinabalu during May – 2009, we have read about Taal Volcano in the Tiger Magazine. Immediately we decided to go there. We planned for a Manila trip for the coming long weekend during August. Thanks to Surya’s friend who suggested not to waste long weekend for Taal Volcano as its just a day trip from Manila. I then did some more research and with some help from Surya’s friend we finally decided up on an itinary just for a weekend trip. We booked the tickets to Manila for July 24th weekend. Below are the details about the trip.

Day 1 (25th June 2009)
While searching for the accommodation, I came across a blog in which I read about the Taal Lake Yacht Club. This was very near to the Volcano. It was in Tagaytay town. We had no clue what kind of accommodation we were going to get. After some emails and enquiries with Peter and Ronnie, we decided to stay there. 25th at 4.30 AM we landed in Manila airport. We came out of the airport and looked around for a placard of my name. We got into our taxi which we booked before hand. It was a 90 minute ride to Tagaytay town. We stopped over for breakfast at a very scenic restaurant. After breakfast we headed to Taal Lake Yacht Club.

When we reached the club we were not sure of what was in store for us at the club. We waited for a while to get the rooms and also for the arrangements for the trip to Taal. When we were asked to move into the room, we were all excited to see the lake right through the room. Accommodation there was terrific and at a very affordable price. We just paid 2300 Peso for 7 people, which is just 10 dollars per person per night stay for such a luxurious stay. After changing clothes and taking some pictures we headed for our boats in which we had to ride for around 20 minutes. These boats are called as “bangkas”.

Taal Lake Yacht Club offers two different treks. One is the most common ‘tourist trail’ and the other they offer is called a ‘secret trail’. We opted for the second one which would actually let you go all the way into the crater and even swim in the lake. We were charged around 2500 Peso per boat which also included charges for the trek. Once we reached the foot of the volcano, we were asked to pay 90 Peso per person as landing tax and also 50 peso per boat for the parking. Once we reached there we were literally harassed by the people selling us the horse rides to the volcano. We firmly said no to everybody and started off the trail without wasting any time. As most of us (other than swetha and srini) have already done the Kota Kinabalu trek, this walk was very simple for us.

As we were walking all the horses were coming behind us in order to convince us for a ride on their horses. That day we were the only visitors to Taal Lake from that route. After going for 1 KM, Swetha couldn’t walk further as she was not accustomed to such a physical exertion. We then took a ride of horse for her. They charged 600 Peso for that. I gave my bag to Swetha to hold while I walked with equal pace with the horse. The trail was steep and was a bit tough for those who are not fit. It took about 45 minutes for us to reach the top. We stopped in between for some pictures too.

Here once we stopped at the top to see the Lake and the world’s smallest volcano, before we could actually enjoy the experience we were in yet another tourist trap. The guy at the shop asked if we were looking for some drinks. When we said no then he asked “would you like to buy your driver some drinks?”. At that point we cannot straight away say no and hence we had to buy a drink for the driver and then for all of us. The rates were hiked up there and they sold a tiny bottle of water for 50 Peso.

After the exhausting climb and harassment of the vendors and tourist traps everybody forgot what has happened once we got the sight of the gorgeous lake inside the crater. At that moment we felt very nice as we have seen that in a magazine and today we were actually standing there. It would be tough to describe how beautiful it was up there and how surreal this experience was for me. We then started our down trail towards the lake in the crater. As we went nearer and nearer to the lake we could smell the steam coming out of the gas vents here and there on the volcano. Once we reached near the lake we went near one such vent to see how water was boiling. We took some pics near that and went and touched the water in the lake at one end. It was very hot and we would definitely get burns if we stay longer there. After photo session, our guide took us to a place where we all could get into water and have a acidic water bath. It was fun.

After half an hour of just chilling in that warm water and staring at the magnificent view we finally decided to head back. The way back up was a bit tough but was worth the pain. From the middle point the way down is more relaxed and we can appreciate the scenery more as we see Taal Lake. After another 30-minute steep and dust-filled trail down, we reached our bangkas. We drank one coconut each and then boarded the boat and headed back to Taal Lake Yacht Club.

The whole trek lasted about 3 to 4 hours for us (including boat ride to and from the island). We wanted to take bath immediately after reaching the Club. But once we saw the food we changed the idea and started to eat. No one liked the food and hence we just had a minimal food and then thought of all the possible activities we could do there. We were offered sailing, wake boarding, kayaking and pool. As it was almost 3 by then we planned to play pool for sometime. I, Swetha, Nagaraj, Surya and Santosh played pool. We had some beer along with the French Fries. The French fries with Mayonnaise here were the best we ever had till date. At around 5 we went for 30 mins sleep. We got fresh and we left for the Casino in Tagaytay. As everyone was hungry we wanted to have something for dinner. Our driver suggested us to check out the pizza at “Yellow Cab”. Frankly speaking that was the best pizza I had in last 2 years.

After having pizza we went ahead for casino. None of us were dressed properly, but then Surya used his MBA skills to convince them and we all entered the casino. We took 50 coins for 500 Peso. This time we all played at the slot machine. Everyone lost money other than Swetha and Nagaraj. They were able to recover the whole loss and we got back our 500 Peso. We stopped playing once we got back our money and left home and the next day we had to start very early for the Pagsanjan Falls.

Over all the day was great and going up to the Taal Volcano was an incredible experience.

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