We spent the first few days in Manila exploring the city, eating local food and checking out our little apartment that we'd bought as an investment.
Highlights of the city included the Ocean Park, which had enough marine life to keep the kids occupied at least. To be fair, we were longing to leave the city as we wanted the real family vacation to begin...and that began in Tagaytay, where we were booked for the Taal crater lake boat trip that would end up with us doing a hike or ride up the volcano-within-a-volcano. On a donkey, no less.
Sadly, the strong winds and rain that the typhoon gifted us with meant all boat trips and hikes were cancelled. Instead, we opted for glamping ("glamour camping") at the Nurture Wellness Village. That too turned out not to be, as the grounds were too muddy for it to be truly "Glam".
So, we huddled in our family sized hut for one night, and popped out during the day for our 2-3 hour spa treatments. Thankfully those were not cancelled!
Lunch @ Josephine's
In spite of the rainy weather, we were able to make it out to some yummy places for lunch. Josephine Restaurant in Tagaytay had some pretty yummy dishes overlooking Lake Taal. It was a bit too misty to see much, but on a clear day we're told the views are awesome!
"Weather" or not we liked it...
Meanwhile, the kids got their first gust of what unfavorable weather looks like. We're fairly sheltered in Singapore (in more ways than one) and our extreme weather pales in comparison with a lot of other places in the world. Till this day, the kids still remember being terrified at the winds blowing in the glass door at the Starbucks that we took shelter in (okay, we were not really roughing it) and wrecking the sad umbrella we had with us. They were truly scared that it was the end of the world, which goes to show that we are truly blessed in the life we lead ordinarily.
This is one of the reasons we will continue travelling as a family, and as the kids gets older, to further and further flung places, to let the kids see for themselves what life is like outside of our little island state.
Taal, Batangas - Heritage Town
We decided to check out the heritage town of Taal (not to be confused with the aforementioned volcano of the same name in Tagaytay) - a tiny little town that's home to the largest Catholic church in Asia, the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours. Amongst some of the more interesting artifacts in this Basilica is a Mummified Cat on display (see picture above) - I don't know, it just struck me as a cool thing to take a photo of.
Our choice of accommodation in Taal was a quaint old set of homes called Paradores Del Castillo. The main check-in area and rooms were at one location, and the larger family sized apartments/villas were just down the road, which is where we ended up staying.
The staff were extremely friendly, and there were games for the kids to keep themselves occupied while we waited for breakfast to be prepared. A very cosy, family-friendly space, which I'd recommend highly if you wanted to check out Taal.
Note: there's not much else to see in Taal other than the Basilica especially when it's rainy! We also got lost trying to walk back to the hotel after dinner as there was no transport available that evening...a little frightening as it was pitch dark and we didn't have our data plans set up to find our way back! That's what makes most of these trips memorable though...!
On our way to the airport to head to Palawan, we stopped at a lovely hideaway called Sonya's Garden which houses a B&B, garden and organic product shop.
88 Hot Springs
As a bit of a random surprise, our driver took pity on our drenched Gaal/Tagaytay holiday and offered to bring us somewhere guaranteed to please. This surprise was none other than the Korean-run 88 Hot Spring resort in Calamba, Laguna - about an hour's drive Southeast of Manila.
The resort was pretty large, and it stopped raining long enough for us to try out the numerous hot spring pools, topping our day off with a Korean-Pinoy fusion dinner at the resort's restaurant.