A Travellerspoint blog

Onwards to the Philippines

Manila and Lake Taal

sunny 34 °C

Back in Lahad Datu we prepared ourselves for a night bus that would take us west, back to Kota Kinabalu (KK) where this saga started almost a month ago. Preparation consisted of drinking whiskey with lemon tea and eating one of the top burgers that I've ever got my chops around (4 patties, an egg, cheese and four layers of bread combined with an outrageous combination of condiments blew both my and Mike's minds). Unfortunately the bus made excellent time and dropped us at a town somewhere outside KK at about 4am. A local youth with a pimped up Proton raced us into KK with the happy hardcore tunes blaring. After some strong coffee and a walk around a market (once it had opened), where I copped myself a toad that had been turned into a horrific looking purse, we said our (emotional) goodbyes to Mike and headed for the airport.

At 2pm we landed in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. As soon as we left the airport the contrast between where we'd landed and where we were a couple of hours prior was huge. Suddenly we were smack bang in the middle of a stiflingly hot, manic city. Jeepneys (colourfully decorated old Jeeps left by the U.S. Army after WW2 and then converted into a form of public transport) crowded the streets blaring party music and adding to the cacophony with liberal use of their horns. It hadn't taken long to witness the effects of both Spanish and American occupation of the Philippines on the culture of the place. After a month of slow-paced travel, this was exciting.

9068077768_0e08c127fc.jpg
9065847723_e2b06f7200.jpg

We enjoyed the trappings of city life for a while. We dined on pizza and Korean bbq and even went to the Cinema to see a rather poor film about using magic to commit serious robberies (Now You See Me - 5/10 - fell asleep a bit). After a couple of days in Manila, however, we were pretty tired of the place and decided to head south to the Philippines' second most active volcano.

Taal volcano used to be a pretty big deal until it exploded with such vigor that it blew itself apart forming a huge lake with nothing but the top of it's cone remaining in the centre. A bus and a motorcycle-sidecar combo took us to a restaurant in the town of Tagaytay that overlooked the lake. These motorcyle-sidecar things are genuinely the most nerve-wracking of all the modes of transport I've used in my life so far; riding at the same height as all the bull bars of cars around you isn't a view that puts one at ease. Despite this, we enjoyed the stunning view and dined on a classic Filipino dish consisting of beef stewed with marrow bones, which create and extremely rich sauce, known as Bulalo.

9068082306_1ef032aa4a.jpg
9068091316_1cd6cfaab7.jpg

A Jeepney and another, more prolonged, motorcycle-sidecar journey took us to the rather interestingly named 'People's Park in the Sky' (sounds like a euphemism for some kind of communist heaven). It's innocently enough just a hill that gives great views for miles and miles in all directions (we could make out smog-covered Manila 50km to the north), it has, however, seen better days. A huge concrete playground complete with a Japanese-style bridge over nothing in particular and even a small-scale attempt at a Roman theatre were particular favourites of mine. Further sidecar and Jeepneys took us to a hotel on the side of lake Taal where a considerable storm would confine us to our room, forcing us to resort to a tin of tuna and peanut butter for dinner.

9065862615_f0d69489d1.jpg
9068094244_417751339d.jpg
9068097734_357863074a.jpg

The following morning was much calmer and we made our way around to the other side of the lake where we'd climb Mount Maculot - Google it and you'll be greeted with news stories of someone who died climbing it a couple of months ago. The idea was that it'd provide yet more top-drawer views. It was a short but very steep climb through forest and then dense grasses which sliced us up nicely. While no foreigners were climbing the mountain that day, many a Filipino climber stopped us asking for a photo. We reached the summit at the same time as quite a large group of Filipino climbers who marked the event by whooping and hollering for a solid five minutes. Thankfully, the views did not disappoint.

9065887331_fe540f746a.jpg

We left the mountain and continued south on yet more Jeepneys and sidecars until we reached Batangas, a port town from which we'd cross to the island of Mindoro and the final part of this tale.

Posted by Monsk 06:47 Archived in Philippines

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint