Saturday, July 21, 2018

Weekend Escape to Foggy Tagaytay

Picnic grove fogging morning

Even during foggy day, Tagaytay has not lost its charm. It is still a lovely place to loosen up and chill with friends comes weekend. A city of wonder where the elements of nature abound, this quaint place with unspoiled culture has great restaurants, stunning scenery of nature, rolling hills and gorgeous villages.

Indeed, Tagaytay is one of Philippine's most glamorous cities, in the same manner as Florence, or even Sienna, to Italy. Its panoramic view never bores visitors no matter how many times one had seen the place. It has always something new to surprise guests, may it be a latest destination or a newly opened restaurant.

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With its cool weather and breathtaking vista, it is impossible not to fall in love with the natural beauty of this romantic city. And with marketplace junctions almost dangling on the cliff, overlooking valleys, lush greenery and the Taal lake, Tagaytay is one place you would never get tired paying a visit.

Picnic grove Tagaytay

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With all the frills of a well-deserved holiday trip that Tagaytay potentially offers, it is the easiest choice of people from Metro Manila to hop in for a quick getaway. Closer to home, the travel does not require a lengthy preparation and elaborate itinerary. You can just pack your things, go there and wander and still enjoy the adventure.

I've been to Tagaytay a couple of times and still never felt weary of its beauty. I still got the feeling of being there for the first time. The element of surprise is always there. Maybe because the place has so much to offer to nature lovers and gourmand travelers.

I love surprises and I am always excited to try new experiences in traveling. I am a DIY traveler who welcomes challenges during my trip, it makes the adventure more exciting and worthy of a book than when the travel is comfortable and luxurious. I like the thrill of discovery, it provides more learning and allows myself to unearth my courage how far I could go.

Almost zero visibility due to thick fog

I am already used to an inconvenient travel. I normally have inconvenience experiences in my trips (got lost in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia, slept in a cot at Saigon airport in Vietnam, soaked up in rain in Hongkong) and I welcomed it as part of the adventure. I am more excited with the learning I would gain out of the discomfort. And this latest Tagaytay weekend escape provided me, yet, with another inconvenient experience - the bad weather condition. Still, I enjoyed the trip. Perhaps because I was with the people whom I love to be with in travel.

This getaway actually had been in the minds of my colleagues long before the weather bureau of the Philippines forecasted an angry monsoon visit in PAR. With the date already fixed, putting it off was not on the cards. And just like most group outings where the initial planning saw a multitude of colleagues joining the trip, then disappear one by one as the date of travel edges closer, we were extremely reduced to a small group when the day finally came. We were only nine (out of almost 20) taking the actual travel.

We left Manila after our shift under a mild weather. The afternoon was not terribly humid but warm enough to feel some discomfort inside the MRT going to Pasay. But when excitement for a fun trip with friends starts to build up somewhere inside your ribcage, the discomfort is nothing but a black pepper accidentally springled into your ice cream. Just take the pepper and enjoy the ice cream. 😝 This is how I would exactly describe my feeling that afternoon while at MRT.

We had our late lunch at McDonalds before hopping in on a bus bound for Nasugbu. And it was half past 3:00 in the afternoon when we left Pasay.  Traffic started getting dense when we reached Imus in Cavite. The anticipated travel time of two hours became three, finally reaching Tagaytay at 6:00 in the evening.

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It was drizzly when we disembarked at the intersection in Mendez. The descent of the twilight fog blended on the splinter of rain, shrouding the environment with a biting cold atmosphere. Still, I was in my usual travel gear - shorts and sleeveless (a travel getup I learned from European travelers 😂

In all my leisure trip, I never wear pants (except in Macau because casino malls required visitors to be in casual/smart attire), I find it uncomfortable to move around with pants, so I always chose light clothes. It also saves my energy from carrying heavy bags. However, it was raining when we arrived in Tagaytay and the night was getting colder so I was compelled to put on my jacket.



Our first stop was at the Skyranch for dinner. But the rain made it difficult to freely explore the area to look for a nice dining area. I could not also think of any fascinating restaurant around this amusement park. Skyranch looks like a wrong place to visit when your only purpose is to eat.

I guess Twin Lakes is more ideal for gourmand travelers because it has an upmarket food strip along its commercial complex. But it was already night time so we stayed at Skyranch with our roving eyes, wondering where to spend dinner.

Tagaytay is known for its savory bulalo (a Philippine specialty dish made of stewed beef shanks and its marrow bones, simmered until fats blended on the broth) so we resolved to sample a bulalo for dinner. It was in Tagaytay where this special Southern Philippine dish touted to have been originated and not in Batangas.

While at Skyranch, we asked a tricycle driver where we could possibly find a good place to have a bulalo dinner, he suggested to visit a part in Mendez where bulalo restaurants mushroomed in the area.




It was just a short ride from Skyranch and before thunderstorm could catch us on the road we found ourselves thronging to Bulalo Capital, a two-storey restaurant with a dim, open interior and a plain furniture. For backpackers, this is a good place to wrap up the night with a warm dinner.

At first I thought it was a bar. Or perhaps it was really a resto bar haha! There were sets of drinks and a karaoke lounge. Some sinister thoughts started crawling in my mind because I don't drink alcoholic beverages, not even beer. And my friends might end up grabbing some bottles. Thank God they did not. 😄



I love this group because I shared the same level of fun and interest with them. We are orbiting in the same wavelength. They are easy to go with. They are the kind of friends I would love to go on a long road trip somewhere with a full tank of happiness.

At Bulalo Capital, indeed, we had plenty of fun. Despite the angry weather outside, our appetite remained unaffected, both for food and conversation. And as rain heavily lashed through, our vibrant mood for fun talk and humor was deeply picking up. And we had a warm conversation with lots of laughter that night.

Generous serving at Bulalo Capital



Bulalo Capital offers a wide selections of shared meals, with special sets fit for diners who will come as a group. For this dinner, we chose a set worth Php3,500.00. Inclusive of two servings of bulalo, rice, pancit, fried chicken, shanghai lumpia, two large bottles of softdrinks. And boy, it was enough! In fact, we took home portions of the meal selections we did not finish.

We saved a lot during this trip because we did not book a hotel for our overnight accommodation. We stayed at Aira's relatives who owned a property in Tagaytay. They were so kind enough to welcome us into their home, providing us all the necessary hospitality we could ever think for a typical Filipino family. We had a comfortable stay that night. Thanks to Aira and her relatives for this free accommodation and for welcoming us into their house with so much kindness.

Rainy evening dinner at Bulalo Capital

At early dawn, a heavy downpour broke off, which did not subside until morning. And much to my chagrin, it worsened the cold temperature of Tagaytay. When you are on a trip, bad weather is the last thing you could ever think of to happen in the world. It will not only give you a tantamount level of discomfort but also will force you to cancel all your plans dotted in the itinerary to avoid soaking up in the rain. Luckily, we did not have a strict time table, we were just there to strike anywhere and go to wherever we want to go.

The area leading to picnic grove was totally blurry, thank God there was no roadblocks. It was my first time to experience such weather. I have not seen an environment covered with dense fog such as this weekend trip in Tagaytay.





When we arrived at picnic grove, the surrounding appeared as though it had been smothered by a thick smog. A greyish pattern of hues covered the entire area, we almost did not recognize the ferris wheel in front of us.




But the good thing with the atmosphere during this trip, though it was practically foggy, downpour was on and off. It did not go beyond than occasional splattering. It thoroughly subsided when we reached picnic grove. So we still had a good shot taken with the environment.

This thick fog makes you think there was a heavy downpour.[/caption]


Normally, when the weather is at its worst and the cold atmosphere prevents everyone from enjoying the place, people do not come usually to amusement parks or to any outdoor destination to have some dry picnic. I was surprised to see a throng of crowd coming to picnic grove with children in tow. We were fidgeting with other visitors in the narrow eco trail.

Picnic Grove basically is an outdoor park and the usual activities you would normally experience during the visit are related to outdoor adventure - horseback riding, eco trail hike, zip line ride, nature tripping.

Way to eco trail. Slippery but not dangerous for a hike adventure


We took the eco trail hiking adventure. It was damp but the area did not pose any danger to hikers. It was well-maintained with safety support protecting the trail. In fact, the area can be enjoyed during rainy days even with kids around. Just take extra precautions.



The trail has a lovely rose garden overlooking the wood bridges and verdant tropical scenery. During our visit the baby pink roses were in blooms which added a pretty backdrop to our photos. The trail has also a viewdeck where everyone can stop and marvel at the breathtaking sight of nature.




The Eco trail is a 500-long mile curve surrounding the forest reserve of picnic grove. The tranquil scenery reflects a sense of calmness from deep within. Everyone who loves nature will surely appreciate this area.



The trail has been supported with wood bridges for a more comfortable walk under the canopy of nature. Lush tropical trees covered the whole area, making the hiking experience practically cool and cozy.




A zip line ride is also available here but none of us expressed interest since it was raining and the misty atmosphere might have a bad repercussion for this extreme activity. We just went on with the hike until we reached the picnic ground. Picnic Grove entrance fee is only Php50.00 with free entry to the eco trail and picnic ground.

The eco trail ends up at the picnic ground with a stunning view of Taal lake. The thick fog however obscured the view of Taal, we saw nothing but a misty view of the horizon.

At Our Lady of Manaog

We intended to visit the Japanese garden after picnic grove. It's a public garden built in honor of the Japanese and Filipino friendship which was established following World War II, a horrific period in history where Japan savaged the Philippines.

Based on my online research it was just right beside the picnic grove, however, to my disappointment, we were told that it was already closed for reasons I could not understand. For someone like me who adored all things Japanese, it was a bit of a frustration.



So we moved back and dropped by at Our Lady of Manaog, next only to picnic grove. We went inside the chapel for some spiritual contemplation. Then met Ms.Joanna Portales outside the chapel.

After some discussion where to go next, we agreed to travel back to Skyranch for our brunch. Actually, we did not have much plan where to go next other than eat 😂. It was almost 10:00 in the morning and hunger pangs started to build up, definitely thinking where to go next, other than a restaurant, seemed out of the question.

Lunch at Skyranch KFC with Ms.Joanna Portales joining us

We waited for the boys, who had gone somewhere, to join us for lunch. At Skyranch, all restaurants sounded unimpressive when you are trying to balance the flavors and the budget. But we did not have any other options though. It was either we were tired to move a little farther or hungry enough to think of any other pleasing resto.


As with everyone who could not decide where to eat, we ended up choosing an unlikely place a traveler could ever think during an out-of-town trip - fast food. I remember dining also at McDonalds during our Hongkong trip in 2013 and I regretted the decision because it prevented me from experiencing the real Hongkong and discovering the local dish.

But it was all what we could think at that moment, to have lunch and enjoy a familiar food. It was a fair choice for each one of us. But I only chose pasta and mashed potato because I don't like the chicken selections at KFC.

As a travel blogger for 8 years I always find it odd to dine in a fast food when taking an out-of-town trip. It is always an unspoken rule in traveling to try local dishes of the place you are in to delve better into the local culture. But during this trip we were already tired and extremely hungry to think of local dishes to try. 😂



We wrapped up our adventure with a pizza bite at Greenwich in Olivarez, a special treat courtesy of Ms.Joanna Portales, one of our leads.

So cool! We're very grateful with this pizza treat, Thank you Ms.Joanna!!!😘 We left Tagaytay at 2:00 in the afternoon aboard a bus bound for Pasay.

It was a fun adventure with colleagues I love to go with. And despite the fog tempest, I enjoyed the trip. Hope we could embark into another leisure travel somewhere in the days to come!

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