Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Weekend Getaway: Manila, Philippines (November 2013)

I was in Manila, Philippines for work in November and I finally got time to write about the little weekend trip I took to to Tagaytay and Batangas.

Taal Volcano from Tagaytay

I was actually there the same week when Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit.  Friends and family was concerned since they were never too sure if I am faraway enough from the epicenter of the typhoon.  The typhoon was devastating but I was fortunate that Manila was not severely affected.  In addition, I have friendly co-workers and friends who took care of me during my stay there. 

Arriving in Manila.
It was hard to believe it was only the Sunday after Typhoon Yolanda hit!

Walking to the nearby restaurant for food on a Sunday night.
To be honest, it was a little creepy,

The political tension and natural disasters has put many people off from traveling to the Philippines.  However, everyone I've met is very hospitable and friendly and the countryside is scenic and very relaxing.  I am impressed by the quality of food even though I did get food poisoned twice from the water and the ice.  The Philippines has the best ube (taro) ice-cream on the planet (and the locals LOVE buffets...  coffee is very good here too!)

I tried the national dish: Adobo
It tastes like my mom's famous Braised Pork Belly (燜五花腩)
only hers was better ^^|||
Don't miss out on the crabs when you are in the Philippines.
They are so fresh and delicious you will regret if you didn't try!
On the boat going to Taal.
So relaxing and the weather was perfect.

my #1 choice when it comes to ice-cream
Buffet is considered a feast in the Philippines.
It's where they go whenever they wanted to celebrate something
The beer that got me sick...
(it was the ice)
Delicious coffee
I was actually more impressed with the china

On the other hand, traffic in Manila has to be one of the worst of all the places I have been.  (It beats Bangkok!)  It took hours to go anywhere and in some cases, it was faster to walk!  The long time spent in traffic really killed all the joy of traveling.  It makes complaining about the buses in Macau trivial :(

Weeknight traffic...

...Monday morning traffic

but nothing compares to Friday night traffic >.<

If I have to pick one thing that represents the Philippines, it would be the Jeepneys (and ube ice-cream).  According to Wikipedia, Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines.  They are known for their crowded seating and kitsch decorations, which have become a ubiquitous symbol of Philippine culture and art.  Jeepneys were originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from World War II.  The word "Jeepney" came from the combination of the words "jeep" and "jitney", a small bus that carries passengers on a regular route with flexible schedule.  I jokingly said if I have the money, I probably would buy a Jeepney and called it the Auditor and paint calculators and abacus on them with this in large type "If you hit me, may the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) be upon you."  HAHAHA!


Anyways, Tagaytay and Batangas are popular weekend destination from Manila as they were only an hour away (traffic permitting).  Tagaytay is next to Lake Taal and gives you the picture perfect view of the Taal volcano.  From Tagaytay, you can take a boat to travel to Taal and ride a donkey / pony up the volcano.  Batangas on the other hand is a relaxing town by the beach.  It's not Boracay quality but it's a decent place to chill and relax after a busy work week.

Taal Volcano

We were driving around looking for the boat ride place
there were many eager locals wanting our business but none of them chased us a mile like this kid did

I am so glad I got my local friends with me...
We took the pony toward the volcano.
It had an eruption recently so part of the crater was destroyed
(and no tourist is allowed to go down the crater anymore)

The ride was bumpy and I wouldn't advise it if you are heavy.
You will have to ride with the pony handler on some parts so I can't say it was comfortable...
but it was an experience :)
This girl is only 18 and she already have a 1 year old baby! @.@
Beautiful tree along the way
We really lucked out on the weather!
This is the crater I was referring to
The hotel we stayed in Batangas.  So 70s... :P
Amazing view at the hotel
I could have vegged here all day 
My friend suggested we go check out the private beach in Batangas so off we went
it was a 2 hour drive!!!

I am glad it did not disappoint
We just lounged here all afternoon enjoying the sound of the waves
She went swimming and I napped :)
Woke up to yet another beautiful sunset
so romantic

I definitely enjoy my visit to the Philippines and if I ever return to the Philippines, I wish I will have the opportunity to visit Boracay and Palawan.


P.S. Don't forget to check out my posts on the food I tried while in the Philippines!

Brasas (delicious Spanish tapas @ the Podium, Ortigas)


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