"Just walk to the end of the road and there you can catch a bus. It should only take you 1/2 a day or so."
So duly armed with the directions above myself and another person I'd met at the hostel I set off on a journey from Manila to find and explore Lake Taal, a volcanic crater lake within a crater lake just south of Manila.
I was a little apprehensive about the brevity of the directions, but didn't get much more information on further enquiry and neither did my guidebook have any useful information on the topic. Perhaps it was just that easy - or not ... We hit our first snag at the end of the road - which bus, and going in which direction were we supposed to catch? We tried to ask some passersby, but they didn't seem to know where we wanted to go. What to do? Well, as the LRT (overhead rail transport line in Manila) was above us we decided to walk along it to find a station. Perhaps we'd find some-one there that could help us? Fortunately there was someone - and we got the directions written down ... LRT to Buendia, bus to Santa Rosa, jeepney to Tagatay and then I thought we'd be okay to make our way to Talisay. It seemed easy enough, except that Buendia bus station and LRT station are 2 different places, but fortunately we found this out only one stop past the bus station and it was easy enough to double back. At the bus station we had no problem getting a bus and the driver dropped us off at the jeepney station in Santa Rosa. So far so good :) My apprehensions about the journey were dissipating and I was beginning to relax a little. The jeepney ride was slow as well as the bench hard and after about an hour we arrived at Tagatay where we had the choice of paying a tricycle or waiting for the jeepney to fill up. The tricycle drivers however were not willing to bargain - the price was pretty much set - so we decided to grab some food and wait for the jeepney to leave. Unfortunately it went without us :( so in the end we gave in, paid the asking price, and took a tricycle down the sheer cliff sides that were once upon a time the inner wall of the crater. It was now 2pm and it had taken us a lot longer to get there than I'd been led to expect so was a little concerned about time as I didn't want to travel back after dark.
Finally we arrived at Talisay and were dropped off at a hotel where we had to negotiate our boat ride across the lake to the inner volcanic island (my best tip for negotiation ... always be prepared to walk away empty handed). So a choppy boat ride later we arrived on the island where we made our way on foot to the top of the rim of the inner volcano. We were able to hire some scraggly looking horses, but decided to walk. We explored the crater rim for a little while and then made our way back to the boat and a very choppy ride back to the shore. Back on the shore we decided to take a walk and explore as well as looking for the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology which we duly found and spent an interesting half hour or so perusing the displays. Shortly after that as we were walking back to Talisay a woman ran out into the street and invited us into her house for some food, which we did.
View Lake Taal Adventure in a larger map
Our return trip turned out to far simpler than the trip out. We caught a jeepney in Talisay that took us to Tanauan City where we were dropped off exactly where the bus to Manila picked us up. I returned to Manila elated at an unexpected adventure that involved 6 different modes of transport (and that excludes the horses), meeting local Fillipino's and sharing food with them, all shared with a new friend met on the road.