Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hiking Taal Volcano

Taal Crater Lake

Taal Volcano is considered one of the most DEADLIEST volcanoes in the Philippines. It is the 2nd most active volcano with currently 33 historical eruptions. I first heard of Taal Volcano from my cousin who encouraged me to take a trip to Tagaytay. I had a few days to spare in Manila before going to Palawan so I decided to make the trip. From Baclaran where I was staying, we took a bus from the Coastal Crossing Bus Terminal and it took about 2 hours to get to the Oliveras Bus Terminal in Tagaytay. From there we took a Jeepney for 8 pesos each to OMP Hostel "Our Melting Pot" which was about 3-5 miles away. OMP was a great place to stay because it was like a mansion turned into a hostel. The current hosts told me that it used to be a place for Seminarians to live while they were studying. OMP Tagaytay is still currently a non-profit and benefits the Christian organization.

Oliveras Terminal
Oliveras Terminal Tagaytay

OMP Tagaytay
Our Melting Pot Tagaytay

I did some research before leaving Baclaran just to find out what there was to do. According to Lonely Planet, the main attraction was Taal Crater Lake and Volcano. Tagaytay is also known for having the best "Bulalo", which is a brothy soup made with beef shanks and marrow bones. Another thing that was on my list to check out was the "Palace in the Sky", also known as "The People's Park". This park was the old summer home of the late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and his family. The palace is atop the highest point in Tagaytay City and the views were absolutely amazing!

Bulalo at Eway's - Tagaytay
Bulalo at Eways Tagaytay

Palace in the Sky View Point
Palace In The Sky

 One Legged Balance Push Ups - Palace in the Sky
People's Park Tagaytay

We also planned on zip lining at Sky Ranch, but never got around to it because on our last day, the rain started coming in hard. We were however able to stop by Sky Ranch to sight-see and I noticed that there was a Krispy Kreme Restaurant there, how evil =) Sky Ranch is a great place for families and kids because the facility was like a miniature theme park with rides and restaurants. It was packed during the weekend as most of the people from Manila tend to take a weekend getaway out to Tagaytay to relax, and even hit the "Casino Filipino" which was just down the street from Sky Ranch. What I like best about my trip to Tagaytay was that the city was very clean compared to many parts of the Philippines. In Tagaytay, they are really focused on keeping the city "green". I just wish that they would do this for the rest of the Philippines.

Sky Ranch Zip Line - Tagaytay
Sky Ranch Zip Line Tagaytay

Hiking up the the Taal Crater was really hot! To get there, it was as easy as taking a jeepney. The jeepney from Oliveras Terminal to the transfer point was only 8 pesos. But from the transfer point to the boat docks was a little pricey. It was slow season, so the route going to the Talisay Market and Boat Docks was not a busy route, I imagine during peak season, it would be more cost-effective. From the transfer point to the boat docks, it costs us 100 pesos each (6 people minimum) If we had 8 people, that rate would go down to 50 pesos each, and of course the more people, the lower the cost.

It took about 20 minutes from the transfer point to the boat docks. From there, we had to take a boat to the island to hike up Taal Crater. The boat was 1500 pesos for 6 people, but we only had 3 people =), so we ended up dividing the 1500 three ways. That was the round trip rate. Once you get to the island, there is a entrance fee of 50 pesos, and from there you can either hire a guide, horses, or just hike it up yourself on foot. The guide costs 500 pesos for a group, and if you want to horseback, that would run you another 500 pesos. Before trekking up Taal, there are also some vendors there selling drinks and snacks, but there are also vendors on the top as well.

Taking the boat to Taal Volcano
Taal Lake Boat Ride

The hike takes about 35 minutes if you are constantly moving and not taking breaks, maybe even 25 minutes or less if you're an elite athlete. If you take breaks, it's about an hour up, and an hour down. Along the way, there are some great photo ops, but it's better to wait because the views from the top are all you need. Once you make it up there, you can buy more snacks, beverages, and upgrade to the Red Lava hike which has even more amazing views. I paid the 50 peso upgrade and took some awesome shots, and even did a headstand on the rim of the crater. It was bananas YO! =)

Snack Vendor at Taal Volcano Entrance
Taal Volcano

Taal Volcano by Horseback
Horse Hire Taal Volcano

Running down Taal Volcano
Taal Volcano - Crater Lake

If you are a budget traveler, this trip might be a little costly to you because of the transportation fees to get there. I mean we went up to Banaue to see the Rice Terraces which is considered the 8th Wonder of the World, and we did the 2nd Day Trek for free! The first day we paid only 600-700 pesos each for a guide, but it was worth the 7 hour/10+ mile hike. Be prepared to spend a few bucks to see Taal Volcano, because it's all run by the locals all trying to earn a living. I think there is a company that does a tour package, but it seemed even more pricey. Tips are encouraged but not required, but some of them make you feel bad if you don't. Coming from the hospitality industry, I understand the tipping culture and always make sure to tip someone who has earned it.

Taal Crater Lake

Headstand on the Taal Crater Rim
Taal Crater Lake

In closing, I'm glad that I made the trip to Tagaytay. I didn't have a chance to workout at any of the gyms, but I did workout in my room while my cousin slept =). There are a few gyms around the area, and most of them cost about 50 pesos (a little over $1 US) for a day pass, not bad at all. Till next time, stay active my friends!

Our Melting Pot Tagaytay

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