Friday, March 20, 2009

Taal Volcano

Last weekend we took our first trip out of Manila. We headed South to Tagaytay, where one of many town slogans is:"Probably the most Pleasant City in Asia!" (probably!) to see Taal Volcano and the province. The weather was much cooler and we enjoyed the fresh air. We hired a local guide off the side of the road, and she showed us down the mountain where we had a delicious lunch and hired a boat that took us across Taal Lake so we could check out some volcanic action. Tagaytay is mountainous and full of pineapple farms and the original town is now underwater with the churches and houses still standing in the middle of the lake. It was a lot of fun seeing so many fields of pineapple everywhere. It really was one of the most beautiful places we've seen, and we can't wait to go back.

Our little hut where we ate our lunch. We had a great view of the lake and the volcano while we ate.

Steve practicing local rude gestures with Truman and our guide, Lang looking on.

Truman and Henry enjoyed playing while we waited for our food. This is the boat we took across the lake to a dead volcano that was adjacent to Taal Volcano.

Chicken Adobo for lunch.

Here we all are on the boat! I am very happy we didn't have to put those life vests to the test, as they were little more than crushed styrofoam cups sewn in orange fabric. I'm not certain they would actually float.

If you can tear your eyes away from Henry's sweet little face you can make out Taal Volcano in the background.

You can't tell from the picture, but getting drenched while riding the boat was probably the highlight of the day for Truman.

We made it across!

Henry riding up the volcano with one of the guides from the place where you rent the horses. Most of the horses seem like they are in fairly good shape. The horse Henry was riding was so small and skinny, it made me sad. The people on this island are either horse jockeys or fishermen, so the horses are one of the primary ways they earn their living. They live without electricity and the children have no schools. We were by no means the only tourists on the mountain, and the horses were very busy. I figured Henry riding this little one was better than anyone else. These women could not understand why I wouldn't ride this skinny little horse up the steep narrow path! After our ride the horse was done for the day.

Enjoying ice cold coconut milk at the top. Here you can see the volcano's own crater lake featuring an island within a lake within an island within a lake....

Heading back down. The view was incredible.

Truman riding with his guide...

...and Henry with his.

The steep ride down.

The houses at the base of the trail.

The road there and back was lined with vendors selling everything from corn and fruit to furniture.

Scooters are a good way for the locals to get through traffic. This one is much nicer than most. Sometimes there are entire families on one bike. I need to try and get a picture, because it really is unbelievable.

Steve buying 'senorita' bananas and pineapples.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Heart of Manila

Today we visited an area of Manila called Divisoria. It was loud, it was smelly, it was pretty overwhelming. We all loved it.

Like all of our adventures it started out with a taxi. When flagging down a ride, it's always a gamble. We've never had to turn down a taxi because it was in such bad condition, but some are much nicer than others. We had a great taxi on the way there. It was a newer car with ice cold AC, very clean and comfortable. The ride was about a half hour and our driver was happy to point out the sights along the way. We returned home with a few minor purchases: Broccoli, a couple pounds of apples, and a Barong for Henry. Our taxi for the way home had the usual friendly driver, but also came with what seems to be a somewhat common phenomenon: the super-duper overwhelming air freshener (I'm pretty sure that's the official name of this particular scent), and an engine that idles so slowly it seems always on the brink of giving out. Also, no suspension. Did I mention it was a half hour ride? Never the less, we were happy.

Here are some pictures:

No need to leave the car to do our shopping! This man knew his target demographic and was trying to sell Henry toy airplanes and globes. Little did he know, Henry doesn't carry cash.

Do you like how I'm cluelessly walking in front of the pedicab? If I was in the way, the guys would make really loud kissing sounds. Henry is pointing out a big flat of mangosteens.

This guy came over from his stall to pose for the picture. I'd say he's a natural.

In this picture you can kind of get an idea of how much we were stared at.

This boy was so adorable. He kept watching me take pictures, so I asked him if I could take his picture and he was happy to pose and very proud of his picture when I showed him. He was walking with his sister, but she was too shy to pose.

Truman wanted his picture with the Jeepney. Despite the begging from both boys, we've yet to ride one.

The streets were crazy! They were packed full, and then out of nowhere a jeepney or a taxi would come through.

My view from the backseat on the way home. I don't know if you can read the sticker on the dashboard, but it says "clean fuel" with the picture of a green tree next to it. It's nice to know the black smoke coming from the back of the car is "clean".

I guess the clean fuel isn't doing the same wonders for the car as it is for the environment. Here the driver is trying to speed up the idle. The silhouttes in the back are me with the boys waiting patiently in their, um, carseats. Steve had been through this before, so he was able to reassure us and jump out to take a quick picture. We were on our way in no time!

A Coke a Day Keeps the Bad Trip Away! Who knew?