An island within a lake on an island within a lake on an island (Taal Volcano, Luzon, Philippines)

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October 8th 2009
Published: October 9th 2009
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(Day 552 on the road)Here is something I learned during the last year and a half of travelling in Southeast Asia: Whenever somebody claims to give you the "cheapest room in town" or a similar sounding offer, rest assured that there are much better deals to be had. This proved true once again when I shunned the guy who made just such a claim as I was looking for a place to crash in the unremarkable town of Talisay at the edge of Lake Taal. Just ten minutes later I found a much better deal, in terms of price, location and quality.

To reach Talisay, I took a combination of van, plane, jeepney, bus, jeepney and hitchhiking in a private car. Of that journey, the 47 kilometre bus ride (from Manila to a town called Tagatay) were the worst - it took three hours. If you break that down, that is an average speed of 15 kilometres per hour. Believe me, travel here in the Philippines is always veeery slow. There are two scenarios when it comes to travelling on roads in the Philippines: Scenario 1: The muddy dirt roads are so sprinkled with massive potholes that you can't go anywhere fast, even if the roads should happen to be empty. Scenario 2: The roads are actually paved, but inevitably the traffic is so dense that you are constantly stuck in massive traffic jams. Either way, it is pretty frustrating as you never seem to get anywhere.

Talisay is a pretty joyless affair, basically a collection of more or less ramshackle houses alternating with expensive resorts and hotels along a dirty road that runs parallel to the lake shore. But it is the stepping stone to the beautiful Taal volcano, my reason for coming here.

After securing my bed for the night I walked around the village to look for other people to share a boat out to the volcano the next day, but there were absolutely no tourists around. I woke up at six the next morning and spent another hour searching, but again to no avail. Thus I was forced to hire a boat by myself, but in the end managed to get a fairly good deal at 650 pesos for the round trip, down from the usual rate of 1500 pesos. The abundance of boatmen and the lack of any other customers was certainly in my favour.

Taal Volcano is an active volcano and located on an island in the middle of Taal Lake. Due to its proximity to the population around the lake it is being constantly monitored for seismic activity; the last (albeit minor) eruption happened in 1977. Inside the actual volcano is another crater lake, so it is a lake within a volcano island within a lake so to speak. And if you now consider that inside the volcano crater lake is another small volcanic island and that the whole thing is situated on the large Filipino island of Luzon, it is like this: An island within a lake on an island within a lake on an island. Bet you have to think about that one for a second or two, um?

After a twenty minute boat ride I reached the rim of the volcano just after eight on a bright and sunny morning, taking just under 30 minutes for the steep but pleasant walk from the shore up to the volcano. I was up there so early that I even beat the usual hawkers that man the stalls at the volcano. I thus had the whole area completely for myself, and savoured the peace and quietness up there, enjoying a relaxed breakfast of pastries I had bought at the local bakery in town before setting off.

By the time I left an hour later the first hawkers had arrived, and halfway down the mountain I encountered the first other tourists coming up on one of the many horses offered at the bottom. Shortly later it started to rain yet again, and I spent the remainder of my stay mostly by the covered lakeside bamboo hut of my guest house.

Next stop: Angeles City (Luzon, Philippines).

To view my photos, have a look at And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).


9th October 2009

your picture and storys never stop intresting me in this area
11th October 2009

A pity!
Talisay? Tagaytay is the better place to crash, and there are 3 roads leading from there to Talisay where you can take a boat to cross the lake towards the volcano. You'd be at the edge of the lake in well under 30 minutes from Tagaytay, where lodgings are so much better and where the climate and daily walks fare so much better. Tagaytay is one of my favorite places because the volcano views from the Ridge is so much better, and there is a wide range of choices for eats and lodgings. But you got a good deal on the boat ride, Ben! Business must be real slow, for them to take you at P650 solo. It usually costs 500 pesos (US$10) per person for 3 passengers on a boat. Guess you can't win them all! Take care.
15th October 2009

Good day boss
I am travelling to Philippines with some friends and I would like to know if the place is good for traveling after that bad weather. Thanks for your blog and may all your dreams come true. Peter Malta EU
15th October 2009

Hi Ben, first of all your a king!I was reading your travel stories about the philippines and left me thinking.I am ttraveling tp philippines next december but am confused to cancel the trip or not because of the disaster occurred.Since you are ecperience it can you please give me some info about the sitiuation. Thanks and good luck with your journey steve

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