11.01.2012 – 12.01.2012 Cloudy/Rainy 32 °C
Tagaytay. We left Borneo with heavy hearts having enjoyed our time there immensely. On reflection it was a fantastic country to visit despite Sepilok being a bit crap, it’s a Malaysian jungle of attractions, things to do, see and eat and was well worth going but the time had come to return to the Philippines.
We landed at Clark airport and seamlessly slipped through immigration, baggage collection and customs and jumped on a jeep for D’au bus station where we would grab a bus to Manila and then to Tagaytay to see Lake Taal. The first bus wasn’t a problem, if a little uncomfortable but the second one, Manila to Tagaytay was proving more difficult to track down. We were in Pasay, the place to be if you need a bus but couldn’t see any for Tagaytay. We eventually stumbled across one and flagged it down but it carried on because it was full so we decided to walk where it had come from and lo and behold there was a small bus station out the back of a McDonald’s with a 500 metre long queue of people waiting for buses to Tagaytay and the places in between. Fuck standing in that. We went for a Big Mac. By 9pm the queue had finally gone. We managed to get on a bus and at last and we’re on our way. 10:30 we arrived in Tagaytay, and there was nothing about, not even anything moving. It was like a bomb had gone off and we were dropped off in the aftermath. To top it off, it was freezing, something I really didn’t expect. Because of this I let a tricycle driver who approached us talk me into taking us to a B&B because he said the hotels were 2000P+. We pulled up outside a house down a dark side road off of the main one. A guy comes out and the tricycle driver pipes up with ‘these are looking for 1000P room’ despite me telling him we had finished with his services. Great, he now had given the bloke an indication what we were willing to pay. I bartered but he would only drop to 800P but we wanted 500P. It was a room above a house and it was nearly 11pm, and we were leaving early because we wanted to get to the lake. At 800P we told him to poke it and walked off. The tricycle driver wouldn’t leave us alone for the first 100 meters or so of our walk back towards town until we got a bit stroppy with him and he buggered off. We then went in Fat Bills, an English gaff that looked more expensive than we wanted to pay but not too much and out popped a Filipino pissed out of his head. We just managed to get two and eight out of him, which I presumed meant 2800P. We left. Next up was the Oriental Inn, with a guy coming out to meet us and telling us rooms were 1500P. I repeated the ‘it’s late, we’re leaving early, we don’t want air con or breakfast’ routine and he said speak to his manager. Out comes a rather small Chinky bird that spoke fairly good English. She said she could drop to 1300P but this was nowhere near good enough for us. We said thanks and left. Next up was the Fortune Duck Residence Inn down a side road. We rung the bell as the sign instructed on the gate and out came a young Filipino fella. He told us he could give us a room for 1000P straight off so that was good, I hadn’t even started bartering yet! He showed us the room and it was unbelievably nice for the money, even had a welcome pack of 2 real size unopened toothbrushes in. The things that make you happy when you’re travelling! I asked him if he would take 800P because we were leaving early and he agreed. Splendid. This room was a bargain for 800P as oppose to the flea infested shack above the blokes living room we were offered to start with. There we had a cold (because of the freezing weather) but comfortable nights kip. The aircon didn’t come in very handy.
Next morning we were up and out the door of the Fortune Duck by 8:15 (I would certainly recommend this place if you are going to Tagaytay) and jumped on a jeep for town, 40P. On the way we were handed money off vouchers for McDonald’s (convenient) so that sorted breakfast. Next we had to get to the lake. Walking along the road we were mobbed by trike men that offered to take us down the windy road for 100P. We said OK but we don’t want a boat or anywhere to stay or anything else they had to offer, just the tricycle ride. ‘Yes yes yes yes yes’ we got back in quick succession. The tourist police are next to us and tell us not to worry, that these blokes can be trusted and that they will give us a personal escort to the lake. ‘Great’ we said. Before they could set off though we’ve burned off into the distance and swung sharply right into a petrol station just to definitely make sure we lost them. We knew there would be a hard sell at the bottom. A bloody long drive down a snaking hill we pulled up on to someone’s drive. Me and B looked at each other both thinking ‘here goes’. Out jumps a small Filipino guy with a curtain like haircut from the 1990s, offering us a boat ride. We thought we’d entertain them and asked how much? ‘Step inside’ was the reply. He then went into a 2 minute speech of what he offered in his package to the lake and back. ‘2 packages, A is 3500P and B is 8500P’ he said. Haha, we actually laughed at him. ‘Just the boat 1800P’ he said as we were walking out. ‘1500P’ he shouted, ‘OK how much you want?’ I made up that I knew someone who got their boat ride for 1200P ‘OK, I can give you that’ he said. Agreeing straight away confirmed we were being ripped off. These people must think you’re born yesterday. Walking down the road another guy, Vincent, says he can do it for 1000P which we say we’ll come back to if we don’t find cheaper. We carry on and find one for 900P, docking from the back of the guys house.
Setting off in a glorified canoe, complete with worn wood and hole in the bottom with jug to bail the water out, I wasn’t too happy but that’s what you get for 900P I suppose. The journey was choppy to say the least and we quickly worked out what this old piece of green tarpaulin we were given was for. Arriving soaked (I could ring my T-Shirt out) we were swamped by touts trying to flog us a horse for the walk up the volcano. We paid our entrance fee (entrance fee – for a volcano?), 50P each and decided against the horse, 1, because we thought the walk would be more fun, 2, we could use the exercise after our Maccy D breakfast and 3, it was 500P each for the horse. On reflection I think it was the right decision. We were offered a guide for 500P too as ‘there were many routes’ up the volcano but vetoed this too – surely you just head up right? However we caved in when one of the guides followed us round the corner and said he would take us up there and back for 200P on the quiet. Fine by us. It was a bit of a slog but not too difficult. 45 minutes approx it took, taking the occasional rest stop which our guide, Gulian, was more in need of than us. We asked him how many times a day he walked up the mountain as he stood panting, with a slight bend in his posture and his hands on his hips. ‘Twice a week’ he replied in broken English. He was in worse shape than me, although he looked trimmer. He’s obviously happy with his 200P side deals and as long as he can eat he was happy.
Walking past steam and burning sulphur about half way up was cool. God knows what would happen if this thing erupted, I was thinking. Upon reaching the top I was relieved as I was starting to tire, plus I was beginning to think this was an awful lot of effort to see the top of a volcano. As we peered over the edge the crater was about half full with bright green water and you could smell the sulphur in the air. Again there was steam coming out from various rocks and white sulphur was scattered about. Taking a few photos and admiring the view (which was good but not breathtaking) we hopped back down and boarded our boat to get back to Tagaytay. The ride back wasn’t half as wet, partly because we knew what to expect and partly because it wasn’t as choppy.
We hung around for an hour for a jeep to Talauan (60P) where we jumped on a bus headed for Cubao (200P) each. Verdict: Just about worth the effort but, as I’ve said before, like most things in the Philippines, it’s vastly built up to be amazing, which it certainly is not.
12.01.2012 – 15.01.2012 Cloudy/Rainy 30 °C
Manila/Dagupan. We hung around Manila for a few days mostly because my Dad had some virus and due to go back there, we thought better of it until he gave us the all clear. Staying at the trusty Adriatico Pensione Inn again in Malate, we had a boozy night, sampling the areas bars etc and spent a day at the Robinson Mall round the corner. God – we live life on the edge!
We left after three days bound for Dagupan for the last time and knowing the poxy five – six-hour bus journey would be my last gave me some satisfaction. We collected the bit of gear we had left at my Dads to save weight before going to Borneo and set off after a night there. Borocay – here we come (again).