Posted in adventure, driving, travel

Car, Boat, and Horses… and also the Heat… The Tagaytay – Taal Crater – Puzzle Mansion Trip

Almost 3 weeks ago, my former kgb_Philippines colleague, Emjhay, contacted me, asking for interesting tourist locations in Laguna and a cheap hotel (or motel) to stay in for a few days. She and a friend of hers were planning to have a mini reunion/tour and I suggested some places as well as my cousin’s house (located just behind our home) for transient occupancy. After some decision-making on their part, their plan pushed through, but, due to some time-constraints, there have been some change of plans. I became part of their travel adventure as a tour guide (who knows some things, but most of the time pretends to know a lot of things because I’ve read about it on the internet). Her friend came from Bataan and they had a meet up in Pampanga. They arrived in Calamba around midnight, Sunday, 9th of May. Day 1: First day of the trip was Sunday morning in Nuvali. Nothing much to say about this trip. We ate lunch at Paseo De Santa Rosa and then went to Nuvali in the afternoon. It was a walk around Solenad 1 and the lake. We didn’t had the chance to visit Republic WakePark and The Marcos Twin Mansion nearby because we went to Nuvali via public commute.

Eating Bulalo and Liempo at Paseo De Sta. Rosa's well-known outdoor eatery.
Emjhay, Mheck, and me, eating Bulalo and Liempo at Paseo De Sta. Rosa’s well-known outdoor eatery.
Resting at EvoLiving Center in Nuvali
Resting at EvoLiving Center in Nuvali
Outside EvoLiving Center in Nuvali
Outside EvoLiving Center in Nuvali

Day 2: I was hesitant to bring a car because the car’s evaporator has a hole and the A/C is inactive, but since we were able to handle the heat from day 1’s travel, we think it’ll be just fine. On the 2nd day of the trip, we went to Tagaytay with plans of multiple stops to the tourist spots of Tagaytay like Picnic Grove, People’s Park in the Sky, Sky Ranch, the famous Starbucks in Tagaytay, Taal Volcano, and The Puzzle Mansion. Due to an unfortunate event requiring Emjhay to go home ASAP, we had another time limitation that day and ended up picking Taal Volcano and The Puzzle Mansion as our target destinations. After eating lunch at McDonald’s, we searched nearby the Tagaytay Rotunda for a boat ride to Taal crater. We found a guide who took us to an agency in Talisay, Batangas for a package tour. And that trip from Tagaytay to Talisay was a treat for me. That was the first time I drove on Tagaytay-Talisay Road, and the experience was like being in Initial D (you know, the manga and anime about touge or drifting in the mountain pass of Japan). There are so many twists, turns, and U turns and those warning signs like ‘Dangerous Curves Ahead’ and ‘Prone to Land Slide,’ fuels one sick, adrenaline rush ride.

Initiating D! for Drift or Drive!
Initiating D! for Drift or Drive!
Caution: Some parts of Tagaytay-Talisay Road is still under construction. Drive carefully.
Caution: Some parts of Tagaytay-Talisay Road is still under construction. Drive carefully.
Dangerous Curves Ahead.
Dangerous Curves Ahead.
More like 'Sexy Curves' to me.
More like ‘Sexy Curves’ to me.
Makes you wanna drift! Unfortunately, I'm driving an FWD car with an Auto transmission =(
Makes you wanna drift! Unfortunately, I’m driving an FWD car with an Auto transmission =(
“Danger. Prone to Landslides.

Dunno how small hatchbacks like the Wigo, Celerio, and Mirage can handle the curves, but the old 1.6 liter Honda Civic I’m driving handles it with power (and the brakes, though not in optimal condition anymore, handles it fairly). I love the scenic view and the fun curves of driving on Tagaytay-Talisay Road, it’s a memorable experience. Too bad I don’t have a GoPro or a good dash cam to record the driving experience. I was also very careful at driving that I only used my XPERIA Active to take snapshots while still focusing on the road (also, the photos taken was the uphill drive, going back to Tagaytay from Talisay, Batangas).

We took a package worth 3500 pesos which includes the boat ride and the horse ride to the crater. Boat travel is estimated to be around 15-20 minutes depending on the speed.

Boat ride to Taal Volcano. Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
Boat ride to Taal Volcano. Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
a view from the left side of the boat (going to the crater).
a view from the left side of the boat (going to the crater).
A view from the right side of the boat (going to the crater).
A view from the right side of the boat (going to the crater).
a view of Binintiang Malaki. Take note that this is the most visible crater from Tagaytay and this is just one of the 47 cones and craters of Taal volcano and not the volcano itself.
A view of Binintiang Malaki. This is the most visible crater from Tagaytay and this is just one of the numerous cones and craters of Taal volcano and not the volcano itself.

Take note of the photo above. A lot of people (including us) made the common mistake of identifying this as Taal Volcano because it is the most visible crater seen from Tagaytay. But, this is actually Binintiang Malaki, one of the many cones and craters of Taal Volcano. We went to the actual Taal Volcano island and the crater lake.

When we arrive at the island, a kid welcomed us by pointing a DSLR camera and took a photo. That is a form of business at the island and is only optional. Most of the stuff for sale at the island like face mask (for use to cover your nose and mouth from the dust en route to the crater lake) and beverages are expensive, but understandable because they transport the items from the main land or city.

The horse ride took 20-30 minutes depending on the horses and how the handlers control them. The route to the crater lake is easy and can be done on foot, but since we took the package tour and it was very hot at the time, riding a horse is the better option.

A horse ride to the crater. Face masks are optional and hats are available for rent. Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
A horse ride to the crater. Face masks are optional and hats are available for rent. Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
And I thought Batulao was hot and dusty last month. This takes it to another level. Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
And I thought Batulao was hot and dusty last month. This takes it to another level. Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.

We arrived at the crater and all I can say is that it was very relaxing and one of the most scenic view I’ve ever seen. The crater lake is beautiful. Too bad we can’t go down to the crater lake, but the view is rewarding enough. The water is green and boiling. Too bad I didn’t bring my 16mm lens for this. There’s a sari-sari store for refreshment and a fresh buko juice will cost you 50 pesos.

That Island in the crater is called Vulcan Point. Cool name, huh?
That Island in the crater is called Vulcan Point. Cool name, huh?
Sucks to bring the wrong lens. The Sigma 30mm f/2.8 was mounted on my Sony NEX-5n, so my panoramic view was an epic fail on my book.
Sucks to bring the wrong lens. The Sigma 30mm f/2.8 was mounted on my Sony NEX-5n, so my panoramic view was an epic fail on my book.
A view of the souvenir and sari-sari stores around the lake. Fresh buko juice for 50 pesos.
A view of the souvenir and sari-sari stores around the lake. Fresh buko juice for 50 pesos.
edge of the crater
edge of the crater
Lake water is green and boils constantly (According to wikipedia, Taal Volcano is the 2nd most active volcano in the Philippines).
Lake water is green and boils constantly (According to wikipedia, Taal Volcano is the 2nd most active volcano in the Philippines).
A view of the path/route from shore to crater (and vice versa).
A view of the path/route from shore to crater (and vice versa).
Panoramic view of Binintiang Malaki crater. Again, that is not Taal Volcano, just one of the craters, we're standing on Taal Volcano.
Panoramic view of Binintiang Malaki crater. Again, that is not Taal Volcano, just one of the craters, we’re standing on Taal Volcano.
The Sky Ranch and the Sky Eye Ferris wheel (and some building structures, possibly condominiums) can be seen from a distance.
The Sky Ranch and the Sky Eye Ferris wheel (and some building structures, possibly condominiums) can be seen from a distance.

And now for some selfie, groupfie, and individual photo time….

Emjhay, Mheck, and Me. With Vulcan Point photobombing. Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
Emjhay, Mheck, and Me. With Vulcan Point photobombing. Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
Nice view. The background, I mean. Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
Nice view. The background, I mean. Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
Emjhay staring at Binintiang Malaki (Big Leg). Me staring at the camera <_< Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
Emjhay staring at Binintiang Malaki (Big Leg). Me staring at the camera <_< Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
Emjhay's colorful world.
Emjhay’s colorful world.
Mheck capturing Emjhay's colorful world.
Mheck capturing Emjhay’s colorful world.
My world... wait, you're leaving =(  Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
My world… wait, you’re leaving =( Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
One last groupfie... Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
One last groupfie… Photo credit: Mheck Balingit.
But before we leave, here's a shot of my reflection on a travel buddy's sunglasses. (just like the one I did from the Batulao trek).
But before we leave, here’s a shot of my reflection on a travel buddy’s sunglasses. (just like the one I did from the Batulao trek).

It’s hard to say goodbye to such a beautiful place, but we’re on a tight schedule and had to leave early. The horse ride back to the shore was much faster. There was a foreigner who preferred to walk back instead of taking a horse and he was assisted by one of the natives. I must say, the natives of the island are kind people, they’re not like others whom, when refused or ignored, will say or do something bad or rude to you. In fact, we encountered some more natives carrying a stretcher to assist the foreigner. Although they will likely get paid for it, it’s the effort of helping someone for a small fee that counts. Also, before we got back to our boat ride to Talisay, a kid approached us, selling us the photos they took at a discounted price of 100 pesos for 4 photos. My buddies doesn’t seem to be interested, then the kid lowered the price to 50 pesos because they’re going to disposed of the photos anyway, so Emjhay bought it.

Going back to the shore is faster, ETA 15-20 minutes.
Going back to the shore is faster, ETA 15-20 minutes.
Some of the stones and ground here emit low amounts of sulfur dioxide.
Some of the stones and ground here emit low amounts of sulfur dioxide.
Going back to the shore....
Going back to the shore….
Despite the heat of the summer, there were still numerous foreigners visiting the crater lake.
Despite the heat of the summer, there were still numerous foreigners visiting the crater lake.
The shore again. Going back to Talisay.
The shore again. Going back to Talisay.
Good bye, Taal.
Good bye, Taal. Photo credit: Our boat operator.
Boat ride back to Talisay.
Boat ride back to Talisay. Photo credit: Our boat operator.

So, we got back to Talisay and took the awesome Tagaytay-Talisay road again. The car still handles the uphill with ease (this is why I love a 1.6 liter sedan). The temperature does start to heat up though (we have yet to resolve a problem with the temperature management), but the car did not overheat because I was controlling my acceleration properly.

Our last stop was The Puzzle Mansion, the Guiness World Record holder of the largest jigsaw puzzle collection. It was a bit hard to find, so we asked a few people, and like the natives of Taal Volcano, I have to mention the kindness of people in Tagaytay. These people are so courteous.

The Puzzle Mansion has a big land area and has a swimming pool and some rooms within the vicinity. The entrance fee is 100 pesos. The Mansion has 2 floors, the puzzle collection at the ground floor and the puzzle store at the 2nd.

The steep entrance to The Puzzle Mansion.
The steep entrance to The Puzzle Mansion.
The entrance to the mansion starts here.
The entrance to the mansion starts here.
Photo credit: The Puzzle Mansion's resident photographer.
Photo credit: The Puzzle Mansion’s resident photographer.
Inside the Puzzle Mansion. Phto Credit: Mheck Balingit.
Inside the Puzzle Mansion. Phto Credit: Mheck Balingit.
One of the biggest puzzle in the Mansion.
One of the biggest puzzle in the Mansion.
The Puzzle Mansion contains a large collection jigsaw and 3D puzzles.
The Puzzle Mansion contains a large collection jigsaw and 3D puzzles.
It was certified by Guiness World Records with the title 'Largest Collection of Jigsaw Puzzles' on November 29, 2012.
It was certified by Guiness World Records with the title ‘Largest Collection of Jigsaw Puzzles’ on November 29, 2012.
A 3D puzzle.
A 3D puzzle.
A puzzle portrait of the beloved Pope John Paul II.
A puzzle portrait of the beloved Pope John Paul II.
The largest puzzle in the mansion.
The largest puzzle in the mansion. 24,000 pieces.

Overall, it was a great trip. Sure it was very hot even in Tagaytay, but the trip to Taal Volcano and the driving experience at Tagaytay-Talisay road was worth it. I was very tired when I got to the office (I have a shift that day), but I feel good. Thanks to Emjhay for this trip, it was a very memorable experience.

Want to tour Laguna’s tourist spots, but hotels and motels too expensive for you? Looking for a house for rent in Laguna that offers transient occupancy? why not try my cousin’s house? Emjhay and Mheck did. Here’s the video link for a tour: https://www.facebook.com/giancarlo.rodil/videos/1088919344458117/?l=7577686450845203669

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