This was my second visit to Philippines.The first one was more of a business visit alone. This time I was with my family and purely for vacation.
We took a Jetstar flight from Changi Terminal 1 in the afternoon on Christmas eve. The Christmas decorations on the airport were very beautiful. Articificial golden color giant water droplets were dancing on thin wires creating different shapes. The flight to Manila was smooth. We enjoyed some cup noodles on the way for 5 Sing dollars each which is reasonable I believe. Water was little expensive at 4 Sing dollars but had no choice but to pay for as nothing is free in a budget airline after all.
NAIA Terminal 1 in Manila is infamous for being the worst airport. I personally did not find it that bad. Immigration and custom clearance was smooth. Transfer to our hotel was pre-arranged by the hotel so we had no problem getting to the hotel. For first time visitors it is highly recommended to ask your hotel for the airport transfer as taxis in Manila are not 100% safe althoughi if you take ones which are designated for airport transfers it is relatively safe.
We had to wait for 15 minutes at the hotel reception for the check in as there were couple of people waiting before us for settling their bills etc and there was only 1 girl at the reception handling everything. After check in we ordered fried chicken and rice in the room as we were too tired to go out. It was really good although little dry for us as we are used to having some curry with rice. After the food we ordered Lechi Flan for dessert which is nothing but caramel custord. We liked it so much we ordered 2 more.
Next morning we took a taxi to Intramurous. This is a historical place in Manila which is a must see for any visitor. Intrmurous means inside the wall and that is what it is, a walled city. The place was really good and clean inspite of being so old. We hired a guide with horse cart to show us around as Intramurous is quite big place and we were not really upto walking 2-3 kilometers in hot weather of Manila. The guide was really nice and explained all places in detail and waited patiently for us to get down at each place and take pictures.
We were little surpised at the end of the tour when he asked us to pay 800 pesos instead of 400 we had agreed to initially. He said 400 is for 30 mins and he toured us around for 1 hour!! We ended up paying him 200 pesos extra! It is advised to clarify everything (including whether price is in pesos or dollars) when negotiating with tour guides or anyone else in Philippines as sometimes people try to take advantage of tourists although I believe it is not true always and some peole are really nice and honest.
After Intramurous we went straight to SM Mall of Asia by taxi. The taxi driver was really nice and we paid only 135 pesos to reach there. We spent the entire day there shopping and watched the Christmas parade and fireworks in the evening. After having our dinner at Bacolod Chicken in SM Mall we headed back to our hotel.
Next morning we took a cab to Tagaytay which is around 60 kms from Manila. Taxis usually charge around 2000 pesos for one way trip to Tagaytay but because there are no local taxis in Tagaytay we booked a taxi for whole 2 days and 2 nights at 5000 pesos plus the gas. It took us around 2 hours to reach our hotel in Tagaytay. The route to Tagaytay is really nice with some really picturesque places on the way.
Immediately on reaching our hotel in Tagaytay we headed to the picnic grove just opposite our hotel. The entranc fee is 50 pesos per person but it was really worth it as the views of Taal lake and volcano are simply beautiful from the place. The place has zipline and cable car and you can also do horse riding there. There are many huts created for picnic all along the slopes where you can enjoy your food with friends and family and enjoy breathtaking views of the Taal lake and volcano at the same time.
In the evening we went to Robinsons mall for some shopping and had dinner there at a Mexican restaurant. It was really nice! There is also a starbucks nearby! We really liked that place and stayed there for a while before retiring to our hotel for the day.
Next morning we headed to People's Park in the sky. This is the highest point in Tagaytay where you get an arial view of Taal lake and other areas nearby. We could not enjoy the view because of too much fog due to rain the previous night but it was really nice to see almost winter like weather in Philippines. There are few shops selling local handcrafts and other goods. You can also get some light snacks and drinks there.
After coming back from People's park we headed back to the city for lunch. There are many good restaurants in that area just before Robinsons mall including most famous Antonio's. We had lunch at Yellow cab pizza. They also have a garden area at the back in addition to indoor place in the front. The place is really beautiful with magnificent view of the lake and volcano. Having lunch in the garden with yellow flowers all around was really refreshing.
After lunch we went back to Robinsons again for some shopping and coffee at Starbucks. After shopping we were so tired that we headed back to hotel early and had our dinner in the hotel itself altough we really wanted to try out the famous Mushroom burgers. Maybe next time!
Next morning we left hotel very early to catch our flight to Kalibo for our next destination Boracay. More on that later!