Friday, May 3, 2013

Manila Part 3: Taal Volcano Finally!

It has been quite some time since I blogged about my adventures at Manila. I last stopped here and talked about my time at Intramuros but in this post I would finally get a proper "roadtrip" by visiting the famous Taal Volcano and Crater Lake. The Taal Volcano is supposedley one of the smallest active Volcanoes in the world so I had a chance of being turned into some Nando's creation during my time there! Today was also the last day staying at Marikina hotel as I surpised everyone by insisting that we stay in the slums tonight!

Levi's and his safe no frills driving got us safetly to small little town of Barangay Buco which was famous for the Buco pies! Buco pies are delicious coconut pies which I last tasted when my nanay visited us in 2009! Unfortunately, I was on tight spending as I didn't know what the day's spending would amount to and we didn't have time to visit the money changer! It was good that we scrimped though as I realised that I would have to pay for all of us on the Journey to the Volcano town!

The town of Barangay Buco!
Custard Apple breakfast along the way...


The view from the drive through the steep roads


stopped for a pee

We stopped by to have another traditional meal of filipino cuisine as I again noted that pork or chicken adobo did not have the same exact taste across many stalls and towns. The pork adobo we tasted was fashioned to the local's tastebuds and this made eating adobo like something new! I had my favourite pumpkin and long bean dish again though and that smacked of goodness. I even got adventurous and went to try some Filipino cobra energy drink! We then stopped by a mini shop (that reminded me of singapore mama shops) to shop for some basic provisions like snacks and drinks in case we hungry at the Volcano.

choosing our breakfast!

on my right is my favourite veggie dish!

rise of the cobra?

old school provisions shop
The journey to the Volcano started with a boat ride to the town at bottom of the Volcano... There were many boat houses along the stretch of "coast" and at levi's expert advice, we drove as far as possible to be directly opposite the volcano town instead of being perpendicular to it. Good man that Levis as we saved money! The final cost was around 1200 pesos for a two way trip to and fro from the Volcano for 4 of us... This was compared to the 1500 pesos that was offered to us at the first few boat houses!

these were the boats we took!
So off we went on the simple boat and sped across to the other side. I didn't really expect my trip to have an element of water but here I am again surrounded by water ;) That good man Levis was hiding behind some canvas though... it seems he was not a very watery man.

After reaching the island, I had a really really brief time feeling I was at some "Pocahontas" movie set.... but that was soon eroded when we saw the usual - locals trying to milk tourists and it seemed although we looked like a filipino group, the locals tried the same ploys and tried to sell us overpriced straw hats and face masks! I actually bought two face masks for 100 pesos and regretted it later when the so called dangerous volcano fumes were pretty... cute.

instant pocahontas feeling and de feeling


In anyway, we were soon faced with a decision to either walk to the top of the Volcano or to do it on horseback. And again the intriguing feeling of Pocahontas plus wild wild west movie set came right back into my mind... until we saw the horses or rather should I say ponies. We were then convinced to get ponies as the climb was too tedious and the weather was too hot. We were to also leave Nanay and daughter at the town as the trip was deemed too tiring for them. I reluctantly agreed to the pony as my knee was still injured and the price of 1200 pesos per poney was a little too steep! The first 10 minutes were filled with apprehension and amazement as both me and Levis had our cowboy moments. Well, it was my first time actually riding an actual animal so you couldn't really blame me.

Levis seemed skeptical!


well blur photo and closed eyes. Only photo I got of myself
 But it soon dawned upon us that these ponies were undernourished and they could barely take our weight! They often veered off and their handlers responded by violent beatings. This was harsh to see but it was important to see that this was their livelihood. These people depended on the animals. It was later on that I got to chat with my handler that I realized that they didn't treat their animals well because the last time they tried to establish a "good beginning" by doing things proper, the Volcano erupted and their livelihoods were gone just like that.... so now they try to just get by and make a quick buck hoping that the Volcano stays silent for as long as it could!

As we trotted along, another realization hit me... people including kids and elderly were actually walking up the Volcano and suddenly it seemed that it wasn't that steep or far off actually! I guess me and Levis had fallen into the "tourist trap!"... I poked Levis on this point throughout the trip on this and he always gave the blank look saying he also feels like a tourist before chanting "We are tourists we are tourists!".... Good man that Levis... relaxed, easy going and a true filipino! I could imagine him humming to the bob marley's everything's gonna be alright song!

Taal was everything that I hoped for though. Not a single fish was given to me as I trudged along the beaten paths with a coconut in hand and my camera strapped around my neck. I took in the sights deeply and felt grateful to be able to realize a scene I saw on Google Images. Time stood for a moment as the hot sun beat upon me, the silent wind ruffled my hair and the crater lake water glistend in the sun.

picturesque taal!

literally rolling hills!



wandering the area with a coconut in hand!
I even took to some flimsy wooden watchtower structure which creaked as I ambled up! I wandered away from the crowd into a lesser taken path and found a nice spot where I "cam whored".

I really wanted to shout I'm the king of the world! But nvm hahaha
the less beaten path


so close to the edge...

Great experience!
Well time doesn't stop for you forever so we took in the sights for the last time and rode our way back to the town where we found nanay and daughter sipping some cordial. They were making friends with the local and laughing heartily as they conversed in tagalog. I looked at Levis and told him... "See, the women are happy too!" and we chanted together "We are tourists we are tourists...." Hahaha......

Thus ends the roadtrip to Taal Volcano!

Pity that this was blur but it summarises my whole trip to Taal!
The next part of this series would be the final part and will be about living in the slums... and my first experience of the infamous balut and red horse beer!

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