Our captain had advised us that we could expect our two days in Manila to be very hot and muggy, so as we approached the port I had mixed feelings about it. I had an all day tour set for day one that was "out in the countryside" visiting a volcano so I was envisioning the worst - noxious gases and flowing lava. Wow. Was I way off base. In fact, the countryside was at a higher elevation and it was much cooler with a light breeze! And, the volcano is not spewing any gases nor spitting out any lava. It is a rather small volcano and it sits in the middle of a lake. And inside the volcano is yet another little lake. Bahahahaha. I had to laugh at how my imagination could take me in such crazy directions!
The countryside area is called Tagatay and it's a very popular weekend destination for the locals. While we visited on a Monday in relatively light traffic, our guide told us that weekends there is near gridlock traffic.
On our way to Tagatay we stopped at two places. The first was a little marina pond area with a section filled with thousands of koi fish. You could buy a bag of koi food and throw it to their waiting gaping mouths in the water below the boardwalk. It was quite a sight.
The second place we stopped was at a bakery, where our guide ran inside and came back a few minutes later with pieces of coconut custard-like pie. It's a favorite of the locals and was yummy!
At the top of the mountain is a 360 degree view. At the site there, is an abandoned unfinished building structure. In 1981, the wife of the current president, Imelda Marcos, had construction started on a lavish building compound that was to be guest quarters for heads of state from around the world, beginning with Ronald Reagan. However, there was a bit of political upheaval at the time, so Marcos just abandoned the project when Reagan's visit was cancelled. Today, it's a rusty old eyesore.
After taking in the gorgeous views and enjoying a short jeepney ride, lunch was the next thing on our agenda. Jeepneys are old jeeps that were left over from WW2 and "extended" in the rear much like some limos are "stretched" today. They act as local taxis in Manila and cost the equivalent of fifteen cents per two miles. Inexpensive but totally claustrophobic. Sardines squished in cans is what I am reminded of.
We ate lunch in a local restaurant sitting in a typical covered hut-like table, enjoying the cool breeze as we dined on fried fish, freshwater tempura style spinach, rice, vegetables and noodles. And beer. Non-drinkers had sodas and mineral water. Everything was delicious, especially the spinach.
After lunch it was time for our boat ride across the lake to the volcano. The Taal Volcano last erupted in 1977 but it is considered to still be active. Inside the volcano is another small lake! Is it a lake within a volcano within a lake? Or a volcano within a lake within a larger volcano still? Gosh, that made my head spin a bit.
We rode in a motorized outrigger type of canoe. A small shade canopy protected us from the sun bearing down, which was hot even though there was a cool breeze blowing. It took about twenty minutes to get across the lake. Once there, we got out and had a short walk about but there wasn't a whole lot to see. Unless you are going to take the hike up to the rim of the volcano to view the smaller lake, which takes about an hour, then there's very little around to support a stop. A small coffee shop and some old photos of the volcano during the eruptions during the 1900's.
After a short time, we returned to the canoe and returned to the other side of the lake and then settled into the van for the Long ride back to town and the ship.
Day two in Manila dawned bright and hot. I had decided to make it a relatively down day after the long day before, and so I joined Carol and Vinny and we got on the ship shuttle to a nearby mall. We all got pedicures at a nail salon, shopped a little and then had a nice lunch. We rode the shuttle back to the ship later in the afternoon. Sail away was at 5:00.
My next and last stop is in Hong Kong. I will need to say goodbye to my friends - both familiar ones and those new ones I have made these past 5 weeks onboard. Kind of bittersweet. I miss my family at home but I love cruising and traveling so much that it's always hard on both ends.