My knees are practically touching my chin, my hip bone wedged into the side of metal bars and my spine jarring with every movement. No this isn’t some bizarre torture, I’m voluntarily ensconced in a tricycle on the way to Taal Volcano. If you are now thinking three wheelers with pink handle bars and glittery decorations, think again. In the Philippines, a tricycle is a motorbike and sidecar.
Bearing in mind the average height of a Filipino, my husband and I are both uncomfortably stuffed into the tiny seat part praying the journey to the crater will soon be over, part wanting it never to end so stunning are the views we glimpse through the dense jungle foliage lining the crater sides.
The Taal Volcano
Eventually, we chug into a small town lining the lakefront and negotiate a fare for the boat crossing to the crater within the crater. This volcano not only has the smallest crater in the world but is also unique for its small island in the middle which houses a tiny caldera of emerald tinged water emitting sulphurous fumes.
Note: we paid 2,000 for this fare but the starting price was 3,500 and frankly I think you would get a better deal if you asked the tricycle driver to deposit you on the quayside. There you will find tonnes of boats to choose from and you can play the competition off against one another.
Hiking to the crater
The crossing takes around ten minutes and upon arrival you pay a small entrance fee of 50 pesos. Should you wish to avoid the hike, you can pay an additional 500 for a horse ride to the top. We opted to hike so we could take our time and estimated it was a few kilometres. Suggestions that this is an arduous 4.5km trek are designed to encourage you onto horseback . It took us around 40 minutes and I am far from my fittest so there is no way this was anything like that distance.
It’s a beautiful hike with views of verdant palm forests plunging down towards the lake. Glistening deep blue waters shimmer in the sunlight and wisps of smoke hover above the hillside, a constant reminder that you are in fact on a live volcano. I half expect to emerge to a blood red cauldron of a bubbling caldera rather than the emerald green mini lake which greets us.
Undoubtedly it is spectacular with serene waters lapping the banks giving little hint of the fury lying below. A tiny rocky outcrop sits proudly in the middle like a sentinel guarding its treasure. We stand in silence admiring the view until we realise it’s time to descend before dusk arrives.
Taal Lake from Manila
A trip to Taal Lake is a must for anyone heading to Manila but be warned, it needs deep pockets or a bucketload of patience. Neither of these comments apply to me! My site isn’t called Travel The Globe 4 less for nothing and if I can find a way to experience something by taking a DIY approach I will. I pride myself on finding a bargain, negotiating hard and spending as little as possible to build my memory bank of travel treasures.
Public transport distaste
If I’d believed our hotel concierge I would now be $496 lighter. He was not at all keen that we take public transport, attempting to deter us with stories of multiple changes. My eyes lit up at the thought of a fun challenge (remember my trip to Matka Canyon) and the chance to experience every conceivable transport option in the Philippines.
Not to be deterred I asked the concierge at our next destination. He handed me a scrap of paper with a long list of instructions which had me wondering if I was a glutton for punishment liable to get lost in the jungle. I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of heading out on a mini adventure however and soon pushed such thoughts to the back of my mind.
How to DIY a trip to Taal
If you too want to save money and head to Taal independently, rise early, pack your patience and make sure you have this post saved to your (link to Saul app – look at examples).
Step one – take a van to Das Marinas
Pick up a van from South Station in Alabang or the nearest station to your digs. You may have to ask around to find the right van but everyone is helpful enough.My written piece of paper came in handy when it came to this first part of the journey.
Jump onboard and expect to wait. The van will only leave when it is full and I mean FULL. There will be at least three more people than there are seats and you may feel rather like a sardine once they finally decide to take your money and hit the road.
The van whizzes down the highway on a quest to relive fast and furious. Swerving erratically around offending vehicles, it eventually slows into a parking lot by the Das Marinas shopping centre, a rather less grand affair than the Greenbelt where the occupants disgorge in haste to stretch their cramped legs.
Cost: 100 peso for two
Step two – take the bus to Tagaytay
Head up to the main road and turn right. You should see a bridge crossing and the buses pull in underneath. Destinations are clearly signposted and once onboard take a seat and a conductor will come and take your money.
Cost: 64 peso for two.
Step three – tricycle from Tagaytay
As you jump off the bus at the Rotonda in Tagaytay (just below the big roundabout) you will be on the receiving end of a barrage of jostling locals wanting to take you to the lake. The only way to get there currently is by tricycle as jeepneys have been prevented from descending due to falling rocks. Reassuring I know to think that the tin can of a tricycle might be your only defence against an onslaught of tumbling rocks.
Cost: 100 pesos
Note: on the return journey they may try to charge you considerably more but simply be firm. We were told three hundred initially but paid two to compensate the driver for the strenuous drive up the mountain!
|Descent by tricycle||100|
|Ascent by tricycle||2,00|
This converts into less than fifty pounds based on conversion rates of around 56 peso to the GBP, saving hundreds of pounds. Admittedly it takes more effort but surely that is part of the fun?
What do you think?
Would you prefer to pay for an organised tour and avoid the hassle or save money and take the adventurous route? I would love to know your thoughts.