We arrived in the Philippines around 1 a.m. but for the first time we knew exactly where we were going and exactly who we were looking for. My cousins Steve and Karen were standing at the exit of the Manila airport Steve was wearing an oh-so-familiar St. Louis Cardinals hat, and it felt comforting.
Steve and Karen live in the Makati (one of the many cities that make up Meto Manila) and we were driven by their personal driver to our home-base during our stay in the Philippines. They were so truly amazing. They welcomed us into their home, provided drivers for all but a few days there, they fed us multiple times, showed us around & suggested must-see things and provided us with this beautiful day trip from Manila. I don’t think we could ever say enough thanks to the two of you guys and I hope to someday repay that kindness, if not to you personally, by following your example and helping other young travelers.
TAGAYTAY is just over 30 miles away from Manila and it’s surprisingly cooler than the swelteringly hot capital because it’s at a slightly higher elevation. While we were driving up our amazing driver, Ed, was the perfect tour guide. We asked if we could stop at one of the many fruit stalls that lined the streets and so we stopped here and tried some fruits and bought treats for the family.
We bought a bag of bananas, pineapple and loads of jackfruit – YUM!
TAAL VOLCANO was the ultimate goal of our journey, so when we could finally see it from a distance, Ed found the perfect spots for photos (he said he does “tour” all the time) and he definitely knew the right spots.
PEOPLE’S PARK IN THE SKY A.K.A. THE PALACE IN THE SKY is a park that was built from an unfinished mansion on top of a mountain in Tagaytay. We paid our tiny entrance fee and then rode a jeepney to the top of the mountain. Along with the unfinished mansion to explore, there are loads of stalls selling sweets & trinkets all around the park.
The road leading to the Palace in the Sky
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sample local treats, and we were lucky enough to have Ed with us to tell us what we were about to consume.
Left: Yema – tart-like treats with a hardened sweet center. Middle: Sampalok – this is a sour candy made from a fruit that’s been dried and dipped in sugar. It has a gummy-like texture but be careful not to eat the seed(s) inside. Right: Espasol – sticky rice rolled into a ball with coconut milk and then again in a type of flour. « The tarts were my very favorite local sweet of the whole trip. »
GETTING TO TAAL VOLCANO:
Steve & Karen arranged for our journey to the volcano which involved the car ride to Tagaytay, a boat ride across Taal Lake to the base of Taal Volcano where we rode a horse up the volcano only to see another lake inside the crater of Taal Volcano. What a day!
These are the boats that we took across the lake. It was breezy and peaceful moving out on the water – be prepared for some splashing!
Crossing the lake to the volcano
Once we got to the island, we got our horses (which were very tiny) and we were led up the dusty dirt path to the volcano. People along this trail sell masks for the dust. Stacey got one & I didn’t, and I feel like it isn’t necessary because I felt fine afterward and my face wasn’t covered in dirt.
Smoke comes up through the cracks in the earth because of the hot magma boiling underneath
Closer to the top, the dirt turns to a reddish color
Once you get to the top, there is a beautiful lake inside the crater. It’s such an unreal-looking place. This is the main crater of the volcano and I read on Wikipedia that this lake is the “largest lake on an island in a lake on an island in the world.” Almost sounds like a tongue-twister, eh?
Here you can see some of the sulphuric rock and smoke coming up
Stacey and I went out to see “real lava” this red rock is what they were referring to, but I was a little sad to not see lava spitting out of the volcano.
These are some of the shops selling souvenirs & cool drinks. Luckily we had some fruit from the stands earlier and Karen sent us with multiple water bottles.
My faithful steed
More smoke puffing out with another portion of the volcano behind it
Finding our boat and walking on the sandbag bridge out to it.
PINEAPPLE PLANTATIONS line the streets just outside of Tagaytay. I vaguely remembered that pineapples grew this way, but I had never seen it up close. So, when Stacey and I mentioned that to Ed, he pulled the car over and walked into a pineapple field. We looked at each other, hoping this was okay and decided to follow him.
This is how the pineapples grow (the two little things below the pineapple will be pineapples as well!)
How cool is that?!
This was an the first of many incredible adventures in the Philippines and left my wanting more & more adventures there. I’m so excited to share the other Filipino adventures we had in our two weeks there. Stay tuned for more starting on Monday!
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