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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tagaytay Backpacking Adventure!

                     

They say, you’re not a certified travel adventurer if you never tried backpacking!

The idea of backpacking does not confine mainly in mountain hiking, trekking unexplored trails and valleys or diving a cliff. It also refers to travelling without a well-coordinated and organized travel plan, you're just out there and see what you'll be getting. 

Most travel bloggers defined backpacking as travelling to a place you have never been before without a proper itinerary and travel organizing and planning, no hotel booking, no tour guide, no specific budget, you'll just go to a place, explore the area, sleep anywhere and find out what you’ll discover.

My first backpacking adventure!
At the Picnic Grove with my bestfriend, Rowena Tagaan

Backpacking is every travel blogger’s dream, because it reflects freedom, courage and extraordinary determination plus there are lots of things to share in the travel diary. Somehow, it defines one’s ability to handle complications and discomfort of being in a completely strange place without anchors, without no one to turn to and without the presence of luxury. For thrill-seeking travellers, backpacking is an ultimate blaze of adventure.



I am no exemption. I also dreamed to try backpacking and experience what’s life beyond fears of getting lost. It’s a crucial test of my courage and strength and how sharp and tough I am when confronted with risky and obscure encounters in a totally different place.

Last weekend, March 29-30, together with my friend, Rowena Tagaan, finally I was able to fulfill this dream! And because it’s our first time to try this adventure we chose a place that’s not too threatening to first time travelers – Tagaytay! ^_____^

We’re not familiar where to catch a bus going to Tagaytay so we ended up like Dora the Explorers haha! I’ve been in Metro Manila for just nine months so I’ve no idea where to go and Rowie is not a sort of person who loves exploration, so we’re in the equal footing of discovering stuff.

We went to Araneta Center Terminal in Cubao looking for a bus going to Tagaytay but we were told the terminal no longer accommodates routes bound for Tagaytay, we proceeded to EDSA still we got the same response. Finally, the dispatcher told us to go to Coastal Mall. And there you go, the adventurers got the first taste of getting lost finding a bus haha!

We boarded a bus liner going to Tagaytay at the coastal mall around 1:00 PM, we’d no lunch so we just agreed to take a bite the moment we arrive in Picnic Grove. My friend kept on asking where to go first, what hotel we’ll be checking in. I told her we would just find something affordable around the area to spend the night. We would also disembark at the Tagaytay Rotonda which I have no idea at all where it is, I just got the information from the internet. From there, we will determine where to go.

And yeah, did I told you I was not familiar with Tagaytay Rotonda? So as our bus travel progressed from one hour and forty minutes to two hours and a half I began sensing that we already passed the Rotonda and we’re edging on the danger zone of being lost again. When we asked the conductor, indeed my intuition proved true! LOL!

Rotonda in Tagaytay is at Olivarez and we almost reached Mendez by that time! We alighted at the unfamiliar place to get back to Olivarez, we asked someone how to get there, a lady told us to go to the opposite side of the road and wait for PUJ, while crossing the street, we could not help but really laugh hard with our bloopers! But that’s what adventure is all about, you've got to be courageous in order to discover something and I love the idea of discovering things because there are so many lessons to learn and knowledge to gain!

We finally arrived at the Olivarez terminal and the driver told us to catch a jeepney ride with a signboard of People in the Sky to get to Picnic Grove. So there we go, after almost 40 minutes we finally arrived in the Picnic Grove. After entering the place, the first thing we looked was a restaurant because we’re very hungry, it was already 4:30 PM. But it seemed there was only one restaurant inside the area – Alamat Restaurant which offers sets of menu with eye-popping prices! Duh!!

PICNIC GROVE

For travellers, the only thing I can suggest is really bring food and drinks when visiting Picnic Grove, because meals here are ridiculously expensive! Gosh!! One serve of vegetables (without rice) alone costs Php 200.00! What’s with that high-heaven price? Argggh! We ended up sharing one serving of vegetables hehe! One fresh buko juice will cost you Php 45.00

Picnic Grove is not your typical, you know, ideal mountain resort stuff, it’s just a small area composed of rolling hills, pavilions, tropical plants with horse-back riding and sight-seeing of the Taal volcano crate as the highlights. If you have this child-like sentiment, you may try Kite flying hehe!

Picnic Grove! 
From the name of this landmark itself, it is easy to predict
that the best thing to do here is having a dry picnic.
It is surrounded with rolling hills and pavilions, you can bring food and drinks,
visitors are free to cook their meals along the pavilions, there are available
spaces for grilling meat and seafood. The best time to visit this place is around
afternoon when the sun is not at its harshest rays.

After exploring the area for more than 10 minutes, I felt I had enough, my stomach lurched in queasiness as I walked around the slopes, we just arrived from a tiring travel so I was a little bit disoriented. Fascinations lost, the smell of the horse was too much for my woozy stomach and the 5:00 o’clock afternoon sun was pricking on my skin so we decided to leave the area early.

We originally intended to proceed to People in the Sky, but we were told that the park’s closing time is 5:00 PM, and it was past five when we left Picnic Grove, so the next step we’re supposed to take was look for a transient inn. But we saw this attractive offer for a room to stay from someone outside the gate of Picnic.

We talked to a lady and we found out there was a room for two on the slope of the mountain, just a walking distance from Picnic Grove, overlooking Taal Lake, it’s ideal for backpackers who just want to stay overnight and enjoy the scenic environment, room per night is only Php 500. Since we’re really into this backpacking adventure and eager to discover many amusing things in life, we gave it a go.

We’re just so adventurous really, because we never felt any doubts, worries or fears going to this very remote area to spend the night. We knew no one in the neighbourhood and the place is completely stranger to us but we never thought of any sinister things of disaster that might happen, we just want to enjoy the moment. We walked few miles, passed the rugged slope and felt the spooky silence in the environment before reaching the hilltop.

The location is a bit far from the highway and very laid back. The topography is in a very provincial setting, lush tropical plants, plateau, native shanties, no signs of modernity, no electricity, no buildings, we saw only one small hut store selling basic commodities. But we’re not afraid, in fact we love it because aside from cutting more than half of our travel budget, the room is facing the breathtaking Taal Lake. There’s a view deck within the area where visitors can freely use. This top deck will allow visitors to marvel the panoramic view of the Tagaytay skyline.


The room where we stayed overnight on the hilltop :-)

But don’t expect too much from this accommodation. If you are a techy person who seems cannot live without the blinking and snarling of electronic gadgets, this is not for you. The room has no electricity, we were only provided with two candles and a match. Naturally, there were no toiletries and bath towels, the room has this yucky container of water for bathing and a small bathroom which I did not dare to look, afraid I might see horrid insects in the corner, I did not bring a candle to light the area when I used it. LOL !

So readers, if you are looking for a comfortable accommodation and not a backpacking adventure then look elsewhere. Anyway, there are lots of tourist inns and hotels in the area.

Surprisingly, we had a wonderful experience, we laughed on top of our lungs! We frolicked in the view deck like we owned the world! We’re like children again, as if the magic of innocence never ended. 

We loved the kind of freedom we had, freedom to live, freedom to explore the world! We jumped, we giggled, we cartwheeled, we talked ridiculous things,  haha! That was totally amazing!
Candle lit dinner!


Beautiful morning!

During the night, we had this candle lit dinner in the view deck, no, not that sort of a romantic thing you imagined in a restaurant where a boyfriend is ready to pop a question, it was a candle lit dinner probably because there was no electricity and we were forced to use a candle haha! But it was truly a magnificent experience, having dinner outdoor overlooking the Taal Lake before the stars and the sleepy sky where the evening air was whooshing like an intrepid intruder to two girls who had never into a romantic candle lit dinner in life. 
Having fun at the viewdeck ^_____^
Witnessing the beautiful sunset at the view deck facing Taal Lake

And while lighting the candle, covering it with our hands while squeezing the kalamansi juice to our soy sauce, we kept wondering if that sort of romantic eklavo would ever come in both our lives. We talked about it endlessly during the night and burst into laughter. 

As the breezy air became extremely aggressive making us to chill in cold, we decided to go back to the room and slowly felt the discomfort, but we tried ignoring it and went to bed right away.

Lessons we learned: Always look on the brighter side of life, don’t count the bad things, only the good ones. What do we expect for a 500 room per night for backpackers? Naturally – inconvenience haha! But we dared because we’re into this adventure thing.

My comments: Picnic Grove is very ideal for dry picnic, yes. So to ultimately enjoy the area, bring food and a sheet/cloth to spread on the ground, try also Kite flying it’s a little bit fun. There are lots of souvenir’s shops around the area. The only warning I can give you is that foods are really expensive inside.

You have a choice to rent a pavilion or a cottage inside the resort or just bring sheet to spread on the ground while you are enjoying the scenic environment.

Good things about Picnic Grove: If you are a nature lover, you will really admire this place, you’ll get a beautiful view of the Taal Lake and the volcano. The place is surrounded with trees and tropical plants. The landscape is so cool and soothing.

There are lots of vendors, agents (seemed-like, but don’t worry they are not swindlers) offering for a boat ride activity to Taal lake and a room to stay overnight. They serve breakfast and dinner too, just inform them ahead of time. Our dinner meal consists of two rice and two grilled liempo Php 150.00 all, which is not bad :-)

Entrance Fee at the Picnic Grove: Php 50.00

Nearest landmarks:
·     View Park Hotel – just in front of Picnic Grove
·     Keni Po Tourist Inn
·     Famous Inn (Transient hotel)
·    Adam’s Café
·    Bistro Restaurant
·    Our Lady of Manaog at Tierra de Maria
·   Development Authority of the Philippines
·   People in the Sky

PEOPLE'S PARK IN THE SKY

Amusingly, despite the bizarre accommodation we had, we slept soundly and walked up feeling great and refresh! The bright morning sunshine beckoned in the horizon somewhat telling us that everything is perfect and right. We took a bath early and later our coffee and bread were delivered at the doorstep. We brought it to the view deck and spent another round of giggling embracing the warm sunshine and soothing morning air. 

At the small ground of People's Park in the Sky

We got to see the breathtaking view of the Taal Lake and the volcano crate, the beautiful morning sunrise stirred our energy and rejuvenated our mind to be inspired more and to be thankful that God indeed shows miracles everyday in so many ways. He let us see and appreciate the beauty of the environment, provides us another day to live, to dream big, to seize opportunities, to experience life in a more meaningful way, to be hopeful, to enjoy the details of circumstances and to be optimistic!

An hour later, we changed clothes and prepared for our next stop: People's Park in the Sky. Unusually and with all our oddness, unlike other backpackers, we decided to wear a dress for this day adventure, even in the middle of our backpacking exploit, we wanted to remain fashionista haha! And maybe, we’re just some of the fewest lady backpackers in the world who wanted to keep in touch with our feminine side in the middle of adventure J

We arrived at People’s in the Sky around 8:00 in the morning, and by the time we entered the place, I began to feel this strange phobia deep inside, you know, I am a little bit acrophobic, that is, having this fear in heights stuff.

People in the Sky is on top of the Tagaytay vista and my energy started to sink the moment I looked back at the cliff. I tried to remain calm and continued walking to see the place, the unfinished, dilapidated mansion of former Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos.

My Comments: It’s a breezy place, but poorly managed. The structures are already decaying and the whole place is a bit messy. From the entrance gate, visitors must have to walk at the spiralled road to reach the area, it’s a bit effort on the knee part, so not good for senior citizens hehe! But there are jeepneys available at the entrance area where drivers ready to take visitors on top at an affordable rate. (Php 40.00 per group of four persons)

Good things about People's Park in the Sky:
Visitors are greeted in the doorstep with a tower wall of the mansion where a large statue of Jesus Christ erected. On top, there’s a prayer area for our Lady of Fair Love.

Upon reaching the mansion, visitors will enjoy the beautiful scenery of Tagaytay uplands, the topography of the entire city and the neighbouring towns is a sight to behold! The Tagaytay vista is so breathtaking and spectacular. There’s a small park on the ground of the mansion, a little bridge and a simple garden with pavilions where visitors can take a rest and enjoy the spectacular view of the Taal Lake. There are food stalls and souvenir’s shops around the area.

Entrance Fee: Php 30.00
Jeepney fare from Picnic Grove to People in the Sky: Php 8.00
Opening time is 7:00 in the morning and closing time is 5:00 in the afternoon

Our Lady of Manaog at Tierra de Maria

After staying for forty minutes at People’s in the Sky, we left the area for Our Lady of Tierra Madre. Special note to travellers: In order to really save, do not hire a tricycle going to Manaog or Picnic Grove, they charged higher rates almost four times the normal PUJ fare, just wait for jeepneys, transportation fee is only Php 8:00.

Our Lady of Manaog is just a walking distance from Picnic Grove. No Entrance Fee. It’s more like a praying/healing worship place. Inside the chapel, you can write your intentions and drop it at designated drop boxes near the religious statues.
At the adoration chapel of Our Lady of Manaog at Tierra de Maria

There’s a wishing well at the entrance area, according to the epitaph, it’s a Wedding at Cana wishing well, so I assumed this is for people who are tirelessly seeking a partner in life lol! You can make a wish here, nothing is wrong with it anyway, I even make a wish for myself, not sure if Rowena did the same thing hahaha!

There’s a souvenir’s shop of religious items also. I bought one for myself, a bracelet rosary with intricate beads depicting the image of Mother Mary. According to the lady inside the shop, this bracelet rosary was imported from Italy and the beads are really authentic, so I did not mind the price and just bought one as a gift to myself because my birthday is about to come (April 3) and the last thing I want to do is really give myself something very special and this is timely because this bracelet rosary directly imported from Italy!

Best religious finds at Our Lady of Manaog
A bracelet rosary composed of delicate beads from Italy! 
The beads feature the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Chillin at Adam's Cafe just in front of Our Lady of Manaog

I find this bracelet ultra-lovely, it has a small crucifix attached and a gold-plated embossed of Mama Mary’s face, plus each bead features the image of the Blessed Mother, this is one of the most special and sentimental finds I have in my travel adventure.

SKYRANCH

We went back to the rented room to check out then we’re off to Sky Ranch. Again, another adventure because we’re clueless were to catch a ride, we’re not familiar with the location, the only thing I know, this attraction is located at the Aguinaldo Highway en-route to Nasugbu, Batangas!


Sky Eye, the highest Ferris Wheel in the Philippines

At the ground of the Super Viking ride

We rode a PUJ from Picnic Grove to Olivarez Plaza. From there, we caught another PUJ ride (on the opposite side of the road) with a sign board Nasugbu, Batangas via Mendez. Finally we reached the area. We dropped by at the Praying Hands to take a pose for souvenir J then walked a mile to Robinson’s Supermarket to withdraw. BPI atm is located at the second floor of Robinsons.
My friend, Rowie Tagaan

We walked back to Sky Ranch. It was around 12:30 noon, so we decided to take a lunch first before proceeding to the ticket booth. When I am very hungry, the only thing that always crosses my mind is to gorge oriental foods J so we chose Tokyo Tokyo.

After lunch and resting for about 10 minutes, we got in and so surprised to know that the entrance fee of Sky Ranch is only Php 50.00 even though it was weekend! I thought it was Php 100.00

It was a grueling Sunday afternoon and my skin seemed roasted under the harsh heat of the summer sun, still it did not prevent me from exploring the area, walking around and wandering inside the amusement park. There are cottages/pavilions inside but these are not free, visitors must pay for it, so we just strolled around and took pictures. We did not avail any of the rides because it was extremely hot and the temperature was repulsive, we might get headache if we would push through.

After staying for just 15 minutes, we left.

My comments: Sky Ranch is not yet fully developed. The area is just very small with a horse-back riding activity located near the park. Inside the amusement park, rides are very limited. There are food stalls inside the small park. High end restaurants and food chains are located within the ground of the ranch before you enter the park.

Good things about Sky Ranch:
·         Sky Eye – This is the tallest Ferries Wheel in the Philippines 
       Amusement rides inside the park that adults and children will enjoy
       You can get a closer look of Taal Lake and Volcano
       Horse back riding at the nearest ranch

Entrance Fee: Php 50.00 (excluding the rides)

Each ride costs Php 50.00 while Sky Eye is around Php 150.00
Overall: Sky Ranch attracts visitors maybe because of the hype of the Sky Eye as the country’s tallest ferries wheel.

If you want to experience the best of Sky Ranch, visit this area in the mid afternoon and stay until evening, the environment is cool, breezy and relaxing and the sparking lights at night offer the best opportunity for souvenir’s taking.

PINK SISTERS

The last stop of our adventure.

From Sky Ranch highway, we went back to Olivarez terminal, then rode another jeep going to Dasmariñas, Cavite because this will pass to the crossing where Pink Sisters convent is located.

You maybe wondering why we had included Pink Sisters in our backpacking activities, hmmm, because we just love it, and it’s a little crazy going to another place on a Sunday without passing at any religious landmarks.


Rowie posing in the beautiful ground of Pink Sisters

We wrote our intentions and prayers and dropped the sealed envelope in a designated box (near the right wing of the chapel). We only had few minutes here because we’re extremely tired. We visited the convent’s souvenir’s shop and the garden then went off to the road to catch a bus back to Manila.

We had a full day indeed and a fascinating experience of exploring the place with no guide except sense of direction and courage. 

Backpacking adventure is very exciting, amusing and thrilling, plus the discovery and experience are so fabulous and memorable. Life itself is a beautiful journey and those who don’t dare to take an adventure has never fully live life yet! So start taking a daring adventure now!

MAP of our TRAVEL and BUDGET:

From Cubao, Quezon City to Coastal Mall: Bus going to Baclaran    
From Coastal Mall to Tagaytay: Depends on where you would want to go first:
·     If directly going to Picnic Grove, drop by at the Olivarez terminal
·     If directly going to Sky Ranch, choose the route going to Mendez and Nasugbu, Batangas, Sky Ranch is just along the highway.

The expenses we incurred for this adventure (in Philippine peso) per head excluding expenses on souvenirs shopping:

Bus fare from Cubao to Coastal Mall: 35.00
Bus fare from Coastal Mall to Olivarez, Tagaytay: 74.00
PUJ from Olivarez terminal to Picnic Grove: 11.00
Entrance fee in Picnic Grove: 50.00
Lunch at Alamat Restaurant: 165.00
Room for rent: 250.00 (per room is 500 good for two persons)
Dinner (we requested food delivery from the owner of the room): 85.00
(two rice, two grilled liempo, one bottle of mineral water = 170.00)
Coffee in the morning plus bag of pandesal = 35.00
PUJ fare from Picnic Grove to People in the Sky = 8.00
Entrance fee = 30.00
PUJ from People in the Sky to Manaog = 8.00
PUJ from Picnic Grove to Olivarez terminal = 11.00
PUJ from Olivarez to Mendez (Sky Ranch) = 8.00
Entrance Fee at Sky Ranch: 50.00
Lunch at Tokyo Tokyo = 99.00
PUJ from Sky Ranch to Olivarez terminal = 8.00
PUJ from Olivarez to Pink Sisters (Dasmariñas signboard) = 8.00
Bus fare from Pink Sisters to Coastal Mall, Mania = 72.00
Bus fare from Coastal Mall to Boni, Mandaluyong = 20.00

TOTAL EXPENSES: 1,027.00

Remember, our accommodation is cheaper, if you want to travel in comfort, try looking for tourist inns and hotels around Brgy. Sungay, this location is just around Picnic Grove. The accommodation rate per night of these inns ranges from 1,000 per room to 4,000.00.
·         
For pasalubong purposes, a budget of 1,000.00 is just enough or you may increase it for a comfortable shopping spree.

Some of the most famous local delicacies sold around the tourist attractions in Tagaytay are the following:

  •     Colette’s Buko Pie (very famous because of its yummier taste!)
  •       Aspasol (more like Tikoy)
  •     Piñato (peanuts)
If you’re a coffee lover, don’t miss Bag of Beans along Aguinaldo Highway. I heard they are offering freshly baked goodies and pastries and this cafe  is quite famous with their luscious and aromatic coffee beans, their coffee varieties had been receiving great hype among travellers. I was just wondering why we forgot to drop by at Bag of Beans. We’re planning to go back there some other time because we missed lots of interesting landmarks.

In our next travel to Tagaytay, we’re planning to visit the following places:

  • ·            Bags of Beans
  •        Sonya’s Garden
  •        Ilog Maria Bee Farm
  •        The Puzzle’s Mansion
 

3 comments:

  1. good eve, saan po yung recommended ninyong mura na pwde ko po matuluyan sa tagaytay. plan ko din po kasi pumunta doon next month. thanks

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  2. I haven't been to Tagaytay, anyway, my husband and I planned to go to Tagaytay for our honeymoon and the most affordable one that I have searched was Keni Po. Moon garden is a very nice place but according to some reviews it is quite far from the places those that have mentioned above, so I guess Keni po would be a good choice. I think ^o^

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great adventure! I recommended this Tagaytay Hotel - Summit Ridge, on your next trip.

    ReplyDelete