Taal volcano must have been a beautiful and scenic place; there must have been some interesting urban legends and narratives surrounding the area, but instead this story tells a different kind. One I do not enjoy to write.
Upon arriving in Olivares, Tagaytay (the entry point from the main road for those who are coming from Manila), different tricycle drivers flock upon our group to sell their service. We settled with 250php.
Once in the registration area, the staff told us that Calauit trail is closed. We wanted Caluit trail because that trail leads to the crater lake, but because it is closed we settled with another trail wherein the last part is just on the viewing deck. That costs us 2000php for the boat ride and the mandatory guide. The boy we had as a guide was adorable, but we didn’t need him as the trail was very straightforward. No one could possibly get lost there – especially with the crowd of tourists and local sellers around.
Our group’s consolation was the bumpy boat ride since we all agreed that it is the most enjoyable leg of the trip – aside from each other’s company of course! Hahaha! Even if it was only a lake, the waves were big enough to rock the boat to our satisfaction. By the way, there are two lakes in Taal, one is the first lake from the boat station to the foot of Taal, and the other is that of Taal’s crater. That’s why it is called as a lake within a lake.
At our boat’s destination, an old man was very nice to put a bench connecting our boat and the dry part of the ground. We obliged to pass by that bench of course, only to find out that walking through that plank will costs us 50php each – also known as the landing fee. We were all taken aback, we could have just jumped from the boat, that’s just mere 5 inches of seawater. I don’t suppose it could hurt us.
Our group was beginning to feel how much of tourist trap this place is, but we were still doing our best to stay courteous and amiable. A group of guys approached us and tried to sell their tour guiding services using the Calauit trail. We probed because we were told earlier that it was closed. They agreed, but they said we can still use it for additional 2000php. We (now annoyed) declined the offer. An old lady then approached us for a 10php registration or environmental fee each – I wasn’t sure anymore. She then tried to persuade us in getting a horse saying that it was impossible for us to get to the top without one. We just laughed and walked on.
We arrived at the viewing deck in no time. It was piece of cake.
Along the way, a lot of horse dung were lying around. There were also locals selling refreshments and horseback riding services for a steep fee. Some were selling souvenirs and some were insisting on taking our photos using our camera. I do not know why. There were also those who were asking if we wanted to play golf in the area – I do not know how either. It was like a market place – complete with filthy wrappers on the ground. I observed that some locals were too persistent (to the point of rudeness) on foreigners. It was almost harassment. A pity this place is.
Upon heading back to Olivares, the only tricycle driver in the station was asking 500php from us. We asked him how come the fare changed from 250php to 500php when it’s just the same road back. He said it was uphill this time. We naturally didn’t buy his bullshit and walked until we found the next tricycle driver whom we managed to negotiate 300php with.
Over all, if the local government and locals themselves do not sort this tourist trap issue, then this place is not at all worth visiting – considering all the other beautiful places in the Philippines. Places with locals who are warm, friendly and genuinely helpful.
Currently, I do not recommend a visit to Taal volcano to anyone. Should the wind change direction though, I would be more than happy to do so.
See you around!