Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mabuhay Maynila - Taal Volcano

I must say that the highlight of our trip to Manila in December 2008 is the visit to Taal Volcano. We went there on Day Two of our stay there. An exhilarating experience that no money can buy.

We were asked to get ready at our inn by 6 in the morning since it will take about 2hours to drive to Tagaytay from Manila city. But it was a Sunday, so traffic jam was not really an issue although we reached Tagaytay at almost 10 o'clock. My friend, Badong helped us get a rented Avanza at 2000 Pesos. His friend, R.A. drove us the whole day.

Tagaytay is a hilly area. If you are Sabahans, it's like going up to Kundasang. Our first stop was to Caleruega. It is a serene place where most Catholic devouts come for retreats, seminars or simply to relax and witness God's beautiful wonders. It has a chapel which is favoured for wedding ceremonies. The scenery is simply breathtaking.

A mini structure plan of Caleruega. Seen here is the main entrance to the Caleruega.

In front of the Caleruega chapel entrance.

Some framed photos of couples who have gotten married at the chapel.


The Caleruega area is surrounded with greenery and fresh chilly air.

In front of the Transfiguration chapel.

And inside.

After the visit to Caleruega, we stopped by at one of the road side restaurants. When it comes to food, we trusted our Pinoy friends to decide what's best. I couldn't remember all the food names except for Chicken Adobo which is still the best Adobo I've tasted so far. I mean, I've tried the Adobo cooked by pinoy in one of the Filipino restaurants here in KK but none can compete with what we had while we were in Tagaytay. Then, there was this beef broth with veges in it that was super delicious. We forgot the name of it. Something like 'sup tulang'. No photos of the food managed to be taken cos we were really occupied with eating. And since the weather was quite chilly there, the food requires no delay in eating. Ha!
Photo of the smaller crater from the place where we had our lunch. The bigger crater? It's the whole land and lake that surrounded the smaller crater (the one with hills). Read more about Taal Volcano HERE.

Stomach filled. Now, we are ready for Taal Volcano!

Our visit, or rather, hiking, to the Taal Volcano was guided by my online buddy, Duni and Badong from Manila. Duni is hailed from Talisay, a small city in Tagaytay that locates Taal Volcano. His aunt runs a place that specialize for guided tour to the Taal Volcano, right down to the crater.

Since our boat wasn't ready until 2 hours later, Duni brought us to his parents home which was on going renovation.


I was told that we have to cross a lake to get to the smaller crater but what I didn't know was that we were going using this boat!

It wasn't really scary initially but somehow, the weather was kind of rough that day. Wind was blowing hard. Even with rain coat readied, the splash of water still got through and inside, getting our clothes wet. HOWEVER. That was a very adventurous boat ride I have ever experienced. I mean, we were like shouting, trying to veer out our fear but in the end, our shouting were more like enjoying ourselves to the max. You know, like riding on a roller coaster, sort of.
All wrapped up in rain coat. The boat ride from the jetty to the smaller crater takes about 20 minutes.

I never ride a horse before so when I was told I can actually ride on a horse to ascend the hill, I thought, why not? Price per horse per return trip is 500Peso.

My horsie named Brando.

Finally, after 40 minutes hiking up the hill, we reached the top of the smallest of the crater. However to get up close with the boiling 'lake', one must hike down for another one hour journey. We didn't.



For people who don't fancy hiking during their vacation, this kind of activity won't please them much. But for us, I think it was the best that we have had while in Manila. To actually be on top of an active volcano, you can't tell that often to your friends, can you?
Me and my Pinoy friends at Taal crater!

On our way back, descending the hill on foot. I felt it would be a waste to not experience what it's like to hike on foot on an actual volcano trail!

Steam was actually coming out from this hole. Goes to show that this volcano is still much alive and kicking.

The trail along the path going up and down to the Taal crater is actually formed by the hot larva that flowed down when the volcano erupted years before. Amazing huh?

We tried to stay back until sunset but Duni said it was not advisable to cross the lake when it's already dark. So we had to get back to shore quickly before dark falls.
Wet again.

We head back to the city. On our way, we stopped by one of the small town along the way to shop for extra clothes. Apparently, Jeanette (another friend) did not bring spare shorts. While she went shopping for shorts, we took the opportunity to get our very own Fear Factor episode - eating Balut!

I only had a bite of the Balut. Ain't that bad, really.

We reached Manila city around 9pm. Had a quick shower and change clothes at our inn while Badong and the rest waited outside. We went for dinner cum supper at San Miguel by the Bay, a long stretch of esplanade at the back of Mall of Asia (4th largest shopping mall in the world).



We had sisig on the first day we were in Manila. It was superb. So we asked for Sisig again on the second day. This time, sizzling Sisig.

And oh...Crispy Pata.

Badong thought of getting us to see Christmas lights display at one village in one city which I have forgotten its name. The village is famous for its Christmas lighting displays during the months of '-ber' leading up to Christmas where the whole village would be lit up with colorful lights and Christmas ornaments. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were told that the lighting display was switched off at 10pm to save energy. Apparently, there's a hike in electricity price during our visit to Manila.

We bid our good night and farewell to Badong, Duni, Jeanette and R.A. and thanked them for the hospitality that they rendered us for the whole day. We ended the day exactly before midnight. Exhausted but happy.

Summary of our expenditure:

Rented car (Avanza) - 2000 Peso + 500 Peso that I tipped for R.A. as our driver the whole day. (approximately RM175)

Boat ride and tour guide - Ampara Resort@4000 Peso. (approximately RM280)

Horse fee - 500 Peso + 300 Peso (Alvin decided to get one half way up).

Food - roughly 1800 Peso for 6 pax for each lunch and dinner. (approx. RM252)

Next up, will be our visit to Intramuros.
Stay tune!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sunrise in Kuala Penyu

I have to post our trip to Kuala Penyu although it has been two years since we went there. I just thought this gem must be revealed.

We went there to attend hubby's colleague's wedding. Our memories of Kuala Penyu was vague since we haven't been to Kuala Penyu for more than 10 years (I guess). So we decided to stay there for one night. Just to see what Kuala Penyu has in store for us.

We went there via the Beaufort road from Kota Kinabalu. The journey took us roughly about 2 hours. There are two routes to reach Kuala Penyu. We took the one that required us to board a ferry.



Welcome to Sawangan Beach!

We stayed at Sawangan Beach Lodge which is owned by a very friendly local couple, Mr & Mrs Migin.
When we were there, we could only see two chalets provided. However, I found this site that belongs to Sawangan Beach Lodge and they have a 'bungalow' now, besides the two chalets. Great!

Our hut that is called 'Mel'. :)

The sea shells decoration on the bathroom wall was done by the owner herself, an art enthusiast. In fact, there were two lovely paintings that hung on the bedroom wall were painted by her. By the way, Mrs Migin's name is Victoria Kouju. Those from Penampang might know her well. :)

Well equipped for a small hut, on an isolated area I must say.
Mosquito net, fan as well as an air-conditioner.

Sawangan beach has not been well-developed into a tourism area. Yet. Only a certain few and of course the Kuala Penyu people know about this place. Not many come here other than the anglers or school goers doing their camping activity or those aiming for quiet and tranquil stay, out from the hustle and bustle of the city. However, if you are here for the right purpose, you will definitely enjoy what Sawangan beach has to offer.
The Sawangan beach jetty is, in my opinion, makes this beach unique from the rest. Its long straight wooden planks stretched to about 500metres (or maybe more) long towards the sea. A perfect venue for catching up the sun rise like just we did when we were there.

While we were enjoying sun rise, we noticed a freshly-dead squid that measure as long as my hand; from the tip of my longest finger to the wrist. I have not seen a squid that big so yeah, I got myself taking picture with it.
As to how it could got onto the jetty from the sea, that is still a mystery to us.

Thank goodness for timer setting on our camera, we could take picture together at the Sawangan jetty.

Going back, we followed the same route. This time, we lingered a little while more and played silly with just about anything there, including this one below. :)

If you are thinking to do pre-wedding photos and want something different, this might be a good destination to go. Just make sure you have made reservation to Sawangan Beach Lodge so that your stay there would not be as miserable as you think.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Away on high land

This was our second family trip in December 2008. After Kudat in 2007, I thought it's best to go to Ranau this time. So off we went there for a night stay.

Our brief itineraries:

Travel date: 22nd December - 23rd December 2008
Transport : Own - 2 vehicles to accommodate 8 people including two children.
It was a two and half hour drive from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang.

Stayed at : Mount Kinabalu Heritage hotel (formerly known as Perkasa Hotel Kundasang)

First Day:
We arrived at Poring Hot Spring before noon time, about 3 hours drive from Kota Kinabalu.
Since it was weekend, the place was packed with locals as well as tourist.
All wanting to shower themselves in the famous Sulfur water, the hot spring, the natural hot water that come from under ground. We managed to earn two bath tubs and soaked ourselves inside the warm water while waiting for the rain to stop pouring.
I even managed to dip inside the freezing Rock Pool water. Not long, just enough to wet myself before i turned to the more comfy warm bath tub water


The Poring bamboo, commonly found here. Hence the name of the place, Poring.

Walking to the hot water site.


River stream that looked so tempting to splash in.

The source of the natural hot water. It is believed that you can actually boil egg here by just drowning it in the water. Of course, for hygiene purpose, they do not allow it there.

Japanese tourist enjoying their tea while soaking their feet in the warm sulphur water.

Three people inside, the max. :)

Hungry stomachs after the hot water bath.

Our hotel room. Recently refurbished with free wifi.

Final Day:
After having our complimentary breakfast at the hotel, checked out and straight to Kundasang War Memorial site. It is located just across the road after descending from Mt Kinabalu Heritage hotel.

The entrance to the War Memorial.

The reason it was built.

Pictures of soldiers who have died during the marches from Sandakan to Ranau were placed nicely by family members who visited on annual basis.


Tending to the garden.

One part of the garden.

A very catchy signage at the entrance of one of the garden. Very Sabahan. :)


Overlooking Kundasang valley.

On our way back. Since it was month of December, local traders took the opportunity to sell Poinsettia flowers at RM12 per pot and above depending on pot sizes.

Although it was just a one night trip, we enjoyed it  nonetheless. Hubby and I are planning to visit Ranau again to specifically visit the tea garden in Kundasang.