After our stressful time getting from Alaminos to Manila we decided to take it easy for a few days. Our first day back in Manila we decided to go check out the SM Mall of Asia. It’s a huge mall that has a ton of stores, an indoor ice rink, ferris wheel, fireworks on the weekend and lots of yummy places to eat. I enjoyed it mostly because it had all my favorite stores from my old Singapore days. We also went to the SM Hypermarket to stock up on some snacks and water.
The best part of our second stay in Manila was our trip to Taal Volcano near Tagaytay. Taal Volcano has an island in a lake, in a volcano, in another lake, in another volcano (nested volcano craziness)! We didn’t want to add more stress to our trip, so instead of forging our own path to the volcano we decided to book a private tour through our hotel. We met up with our tour guide and driver in the morning and drove about an hour and a half to reach the volcano. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic on the way and we only made one stop to take pictures overlooking the volcano so the trip wasn’t too long.
We arrived at a lakeside lodge where our tour guide had arranged for us to meet up with a bangkas driver who would actually lead us up the volcano. He asked us if we wanted to pay 500 pesos extra per person to get horses to ride up the volcano. We asked him if the hike was very long and he told us it wasn’t too long, just hot. We figured since we’re young and healthy so we wouldn’t need the horses. Even though he pushed back a little we still decided to opt out on the ride. The bangkas ride was loud and bumpy and I was a little annoyed that we kept getting splashed by water that spilled over the sides. We did get to see some neat things on the way. Portions of the lake were filled with wooden fish cages and there were also a lot of birds diving in to the water to catch fish of their own.
When we first arrived at the volcano, not getting horses seemed like a good decision. We walked through the village that housed the horse vendors and tour guide/bangkas drivers and the whole way was flat and there was a clear clean path carved out. Then we started walking through the brush and I thought a horse might be nice since the roads were spotted with manure and it really was kind of hot. Then we started the actual ascent up the volcano and opting out of the horses seemed like a really bad idea. Of course three horse vendors followed us about half way up the volcano shouting “You ride horse?!”. It was too late by then though–Jon and I had hit our stubborn rut and were determined to go up successfully by foot. The view along the way was great. We even got to see some vapor rising out of the rocks right along the path. Even though it was great it was still hard to focus on the sights since I was huffing, puffing and sweating profusely. See my quick deteriation:
We did make it to the top in one piece and we earned two very good tans along the way. The volcano itself was pretty cool. We weren’t allowed to go into the crater because of the time of day, but in the morning swimmers can go in at the far side of the lake. The majority of the lake is actually sulfur though, so it’d make for a smelly swim. The side closer to the viewing area was actually boiling (so obviously not for swimming). There was steam rising from the side of the volcano and we could see a group of scientists far far below taking readings from one of the stations setup below. The trip down the volcano was a lot nicer than the trip up!
Even though the splashing water from the bangkas ride had been a hassle on the way to the volcano, it sure was refreshing on the way back. After returning we were also welcomed with a delicious lunch which included steamed fish, rice, veggies, adobo and CALAMANSI!